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Cannon: Chapter 20

PERSEPHONE

Raised voices tumbled through the half-open window of my old room in my parents’ house, so I set my coffee down in a hurry. When I heard Owen—Cannon’s nephew—start wailing, I rushed outside, not even bothering to shut the door.

Early morning light illuminated the dark scene—Cannon’s father, somehow on my property and yelling at Lillian, who tucked a crying Owen behind her back.

“You get your no-good piece of shit brother out here right now!” Cannon’s father yelled, jabbing a finger toward Lillian. “Or I swear to God I’ll—”

“Excuse me,” I cut him off, stepping between him and Lillian, so close I had to push his hand away so it didn’t touch my face. “I’m not sure how you got on my property, but you’ll be leaving now.” I typed a fast text to Gerald, knowing he’d make it around to the back of the estate in minutes.

He sneered. “I had an invitation,” he said, waving a familiar piece of cardstock between us. “Some Ms. Conroy sent it to me. Security didn’t think twice. Dumbasses.”

My heart clenched—Ms. Conroy was my mother’s personal assistant. She must’ve overlooked the fact that this man was definitely not family. Fire boiled in my blood as his eyes fell back to Lillian, who stood trembling behind me, her eyes drenched in panic, fear.

“Fetch him,” he said to her. “Now.”

I glared at him before turning to Lillian. “Take Owen inside,” I said, motioning to the main house where a proper security detail would be waiting. Not to mention the handful of Reapers who’d gathered to scarf down the brunch spread we’d served in the formal dining room. Not Cannon, though, but I assumed—or hoped—it was because he was on his morning run.

She hesitated, her eyes darting between us. “I’m fine,” I assured her. “Please, Lillian. Get Owen a second breakfast or some chocolate milk.” The little boy stopped crying for a moment upon hearing that, and Lillian nodded as she scooped him up and hurried toward the main house.

Cannon’s father moved to follow her, and I stepped in his path, putting my back to the main house but effectively stopping him. He glared down at me, surmising my tiny frame which he easily towered over.

“I’m not afraid of you,” I said, though adrenaline rushed through my veins. All I had to do was keep him occupied long enough for Gerald to get my message, or for Lillian to alert the house—where half the Carolina Reapers had slept last night. “And I don’t know how you came by that invitation, but it clearly wasn’t issued to you. Only family was invited.”

“I am that boy’s family.” He scoffed. “Blood.” He shook his head. “I should be ashamed to admit that too. He’s the laziest, most arrogant piece of shit there is. Won’t even take care of his kin. Problematic. Always has been. That’s why his poor sister never got adopted when I lost my rights. Every bad thing in her life and mine is because of him. Because his stupid mother spoiled him rotten. I tried to make him a man, but he never did listen. And that temper of his?” His eyes trailed the length of my body, and suddenly I wanted a second shower. “You’re hiding bruises under that pretty little sundress, aren’t you?”

Rage, unfiltered and undiluted rushed through my blood, my soul.

“Shut your ignorant mouth,” I snapped. “Cannon is a hundred times the man you’ll ever be, and thank God for that. He’s your opposite in every way. Brilliant where you are dim.” I stepped toward him, my anger radiating off of me in waves. So much the man retreated a step. “Compassionate where you are cold.” Another step, another retreat. “Perceptive where you are oblivious.” I stopped, glaring up at him, my fists shaking at my sides. “Worthy where you are not.”

He clenched his jaw, his face turning ten shades of red.

“You are nothing. And he is everything, and I swear to the Lord above if you don’t get the fuck off my property, I will use all my considerable power and connections to ensure you never live another easy day the rest of your pathetic life.” My heart galloped so fast the words came out a little breathless, but no tears pricked my eyes. I stood my ground, held my spine straight.

His eyes lifted up and behind me, but I didn’t dare turn around in case it was a trick to cause me harm. “I promised you this reckoning would come!” he snapped, still looking over my head. “This is what you get for turning your back on your family.” He pointed down to me. “Marrying a heartless little upper-class piece of ass? I at least thought you were better than that.” He moved to step around me, and I finally turned to see Cannon standing there, fists clenched at his sides, but his eyes? They were on me…shock and awe and disbelief and pain churning in their dark depths.

I spun back around to face Cannon’s biological father, and I moved on instinct, on the sheer will of my soul that screamed to protect him.

“Don’t speak to him,” I said, stepping between him and Cannon. The man reached for me, and I tilted my head. “I dare you to put a hand on me. Go ahead,” I urged, my entire body shaking with adrenaline. “See what happens.”

He paused. In my peripheral vision, not one or two but four Reapers rushed toward the scene.

“Axel,” I said without having to look at the giant to know he’d made it to my side first. “Would you and Lukas please help remove this man from my property?”

“With pleasure,” Axel said, and Lukas nodded as they rounded on Cannon’s father.

“Don’t you put your damned hands on me!” he yelled, but I eyed him.

“Resist, and I’ll phone the police.”

He stopped his struggle, and Axel and Lukas herded him toward the front of the property where I could see Gerald and two of his security detail rushing for us.

Logan and Connell flanked Cannon’s side, but it wasn’t until I watched Axel and Lukas hand off his father to our team that I could truly look at Cannon.

Frozen—the man hadn’t moved, save for the tremble in his fists and the tick in his clenched jaw. I sighed, flashing a grateful look toward Logan and Connell, who were clearly there to help him if he couldn’t hold himself back from the violence I knew surged through his veins. I nodded to them both, and they understood the silent plea, turning around to meet up with Axel and Lukas closer to the house.

I breached the distance between us, slowly, as if approaching a feral jungle cat. Close enough to touch, but I didn’t…couldn’t. “Cannon,” I said, sighing. He’d shown incredible restraint, locking himself down from going after his father…especially after his stream of foul words.

I waited—not reaching for him, not pushing him—simply waited in silence with him as he collected himself. As his breathing evened out. The rise and fall of his chest relaxing as the seconds ticked by. My own heartbeat had yet to calm, and I wrung my hands in an effort to stop their shaking.

Cannon moved then, some leash on himself dropped. Gently, he held my hands palm up, tracing the lines with his thumbs, massaging them until the trembling had soothed. Something heated and electric pulsed between us, between those innocent touches, and I looked up at him, my eyes pleading. Words, there were so many words I needed to say, wanted to say, but my emotions clogged my throat until I could barely breathe.

He took a step back, letting my hands fall to my sides. And that step back felt like an ocean between us, a raging sea I needed to cross but had little strength to do so.

“You haven’t called off the wedding,” he said, glancing around the property like the band might start playing Here Comes the Bride at any moment.

“Neither have you,” I answered, my voice cracking. Our eyes locked, and the charged emotion churning in his sparked something right down to my soul. Some inner piece of himself I had never seen before and couldn’t decipher. The wall gone, I stared at him and begged for understanding. For that common ground we had not so long ago.

“Cannon,” Anne’s voice was soft, apologetic as we both turned at the sound of her approach. “Lillian is asking for you. She’s really upset.”

Cannon turned back to me, a battle raging on his features.

“Go,” I said, nodding toward the house. “She needs you.”

Not that I didn’t need him, but I’d never keep him from his sister. Especially after what just happened, Lord knows what she was going through right now.

He nodded, and jogged up to the house, leaving me alone with my sister.

I turned my back on her, prepared to return to my room, and simply focus on breathing for the next few hours.

“Sephie,” she said, stopping me. “Wait.”

I paused, turning toward her. “What is it, Anne?” I sighed. “Want to get a few more jabs in before I put on my dress?”

She stumbled toward me, her navy pumps sticking in the lush grass. “No,” she said, chewing her bottom lip. “I wanted to apologize. About the toast, about the fitting…about everything, really. I’m sorry. At first, I was happy to hear you’d gotten hitched in Vegas, it meant you were human. Like me. But then with everyone so excited and amped up and throwing this big wedding for you, I was jealous. No one has ever made that fuss over me and my marriages.”

I arched a brow at the plural use of that word, therein lied the reasoning for no one getting excited.

“I know,” she pressed on. “None of mine have been serious. All on a whim like everything else in my life. I thought this thing between you and him was the same thing. I didn’t realize…” She sighed. “I didn’t realize how much you truly love that man.”

I swallowed hard, nodding at the truth I couldn’t possibly deny.

“He’s the best person I’ve ever met,” I said.

“And he brings out the best in you.” She smiled. “Not that you could get much better than you already are.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Seriously, though, Sephie,” she continued. “I’ve never seen the fire in you like I have since he’s been around. It suits you.”

“Thank you.”

“And,” she continued, swallowing hard as her eyes filled with tears. “I know you still hate me for not getting tested—”

“I don’t hate you,” I cut her off. Severely disappointed? Exhausted from trying to help her and getting my hand slapped away? Sure, but never hate.

“It’s okay. I…I’m trying to do this thing where I tell the people I trust the truth.” She laughed darkly. “Only thing is, I don’t trust many people anymore.” Something distant churned in her eyes, and I reached for her hand. She let me take it, brushing away some tears with her free one. “I did go to the doctor,” she said. “But it was…well, it was for something else. And he told me that some of my nightlife activities—and my dependency upon them—made me an unfit match for Mama. Not only that, he said if I kept up with my ways, I’d be dead in a year. Something about my liver levels—”

“Anne,” I gasped, throwing my arms around her. “We’ll get you help. You could’ve come to me. Why didn’t you—”

“Because I didn’t want you to see me like this,” she said, squeezing me harder. “I’m a fucking mess,” she admitted. “More than you’ll ever know.”

“Let me help you,” I pleaded, breaking our embrace to meet her eyes.

“I hate myself because what if I could’ve been a match? What if I could’ve been the one to save her, and I couldn’t because of what I’ve done to myself.”

“You can’t think like that,” I said, my voice soothing. “She’s getting what she needs now. So, we’ll have to focus on you.” I raised my brows, a desperate, silent question.

She nodded. “I’m ready. To get help. If you’re willing.”

“Always,” I said, already thinking of the best rehab and therapy clinics I could enroll her in. And, selfishly, I hoped she’d let me in on what fueled this decade of madness in the first place.

Anne opened her arms. “Sisters?”

I wrapped her in a hug. “Sisters.”

She blew out a breath and wiped under her eyes. “Good, now that that is done with,” she said. “All I have to do is get back in Father’s good graces. I suppose not drinking at your wedding will be the first step.”

“Sounds like a good one to me.”

“You ready?” she asked. “For today?”

I took in a slow breath, checking my heart. I hated that I didn’t know if Cannon would decide to leave me to walk toward an empty altar, but I knew in the depths of my soul that I loved this man—for better and for worse. And when you love something that deeply, you show up for them. Every day. Even if you don’t know if they’ll show up for you.

So, I’d show up.

And I’d keep loving him, keep showing him he was worthy of love until the day he told me to stop. Until the day he told me he didn’t reciprocate.

Which he hadn’t.

Despite all the drama we’d gone through, he’d never, not once said he didn’t love me.

And for now, that was all I needed.

“I’m ready,” I said and turned toward the house where I had a wedding dress waiting for me.


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