Focus (Le Corbeau, #1) ✓

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8. Catharsis

Even with the promising chills of fall, the sun shone boldly onto the earth. Le Corbeau was predominantly religious and most of the townsfolk, especially the elder generation, came home from their Sunday services. The heat was intolerable and I couldn’t stand to wear anything else but a white, flowy dress.

Borrowing John’s car, I drove to the Atlas’ home with determination. I wanted to talk to Bruce, especially after my mental breakdown. If I didn’t set boundaries, too many strings would get too attached. Soon, they’d form a web I’d be trapped in and it’d be hard to escape. Your time here is temporary. Your time here is temporary. The mantra was a distant echo. Stepping foot town after seven years, it was difficult to repeat those words. It was the Bruce effect, certainly.

I remembered the Atlas’ having barbeques every Sunday. It held memories I treasured through my morbid childhood and teen years. Many cars crowded their front lawn so it was difficult to find some parking. Locking the car, I sauntered towards the front door but I didn’t get the chance to climb up the steps. He appeared at the threshold.

“I was going to invite you over,” Bruce murmured huskily, raking his eyes over my body lazily. “Since yesterday-“

“I know…” I bit my bottom lip, dropping my gaze to the ground. “Can we talk?”

He narrowed his eyes, interest sparkling in his grey pool, and closed the door which cancelled the conversation floating through the house. Jogging down the steps, he towered over my body - he was so close I shivered at the electric current passing between us. Taking his hand, I pulled him away, sitting on the curb. He lowered himself next to me, his arm brushing my shoulder innocently.

“What’s wrong?”

“This thing between us, it’s temporary... right?”

He absorbed my words and I turned to meet his piercing gaze. The muscle in his jaw throbbed with tension. His silence felt like an eternity.

“Stay with me,”

I scoffed sadly. “You’re asking a lot by saying those words,”

“I don’t understand,” Shaking his head slowly, his brows pinched into a frown. “Why leave? This is your home,”

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I gathered the courage to confess my distant behaviour from this town. He deserved to know who he wanted to stay with. Would he think I was crazy? Seeing your dead father sounded crazy. Involuntarily, I trembled at the image of his rotting corpse and my mental breakdown. I was a grenade - I could explode any second.

“My dad was Bipolar 1… I think it’s a family thing,” I whispered, my eyes locked on our entwined fingers. “For some people, with their mood swings, they might feel elated but with him, he only experienced extreme rage. He-”

Tears stung the corners of my eyes as an overwhelming sense of sadness invaded my body. I wasn’t prepared enough to tell this story.

“What is it?” He asked softly.

“I think I was ten when he tried to beat my mom with an ironing board,”

“What the fuck!” He hissed, recoiling from me in disgust. A single tear broke through the wall of my emotions and I wiped it away harshly. I tossed a tentative glance at him.

“Ever since his death I’ve been seeing him,”

Confusion crossed his handsome features. “Like hallucinations?”

I nodded. “He OD’d when I was eighteen and I blame myself. An hour before, I told him I wished he was dead, that he was a waste of a man and a father,”

“Jesus, none of that was your fault. He was a grown ass man and capable of making his own decisions.”

“I’m just like him. When I'm manic, I feel this overpowering sense of rage sometimes and I don’t know how to control it!” Frustration built inside me. Why couldn’t he see it? Why couldn’t he understand?

“I’m not stupid; it’s what draws me to you. It’s beautiful,”

I stared at him incredulously. Both his hands held my face and he leaned forward, pressing his lips to mine in a sweet kiss. His touch was so powerful any sense of despair dissolved, consumed by his essence. The whole world stopped for a split second.

“Atlas, we need you inside!”

Tearing my lips away, I looked at Mikey who stood by the front door with his arms crossed, flashing a smirk. A blush burned my cheeks and I turned away from them both, staring at the concrete ground. Bruce growled in frustration.

“You couldn’t wait for five fucking minutes?”

“No, you dumb fuck, everybody’s hungry and Jonah is asking for you,” I peaked at him over my shoulder. His dreadlocks were loose and his beard was trimmed a few inches from his jaw.

Bruce looked at me. “Join us,”

My eyes widened. “No, I can’t-”

“Yes you can,” He beamed as he lifted me to my feet. “We’re having a barbeque,”

“He’s a pro, you’ll regret missing it,” Mikey said and re-entered the building. My brown eyes clashed with Bruce’s grey irises in worry.

“I’m not much of a people person,”

“You work in a bar,”

“I have to make money, somehow,” I argued back. “I’m awkward around people and Salice was literally the only friend I ever had,”

He cocked his head to the side with a knowing look. “It’s time for you to make more friends,”

“Bruce-”

Ignoring my protest, he dragged me towards the front door. There wasn’t any effort needed though; he was too strong. I didn’t want to entertain the idea of being at his home, watching him, watching everyone, acting like a happy family. A dull ache formed in my chest.

“Come on, it’s not that bad,” He mused and wrapped his arm around my waist. “It’s a tradition we do every Sunday after services,”

“I didn’t take you for a churchman,”

“I’m not,” He squeezed my hip. “But a lot of the older folks are and they’re here,”

We entered his home and the warm scent of barbeque filled my nostrils. My stomach clenched in hunger, snarling viciously and Bruce threw his head back with loud laughter. The tips of his fingers touched my chin, forcing my head back so I’d meet his amused eyes.

“No crying in here, you hear me?” He muttered, wiping a stray tear from my cheek.

With a shaky breath, I nodded. “Okay,”

We sauntered into the kitchen where some people were but most were out back, sitting around a long wooden table. Most of the kids were in the garden playing around, doing summersaults and chasing each other. Jonah was among them but when his eyes landed on his uncle, his friends were quickly forgotten and he rushed over to us.

“Bwuce!” He shrieked, unable to pronounce the ‘r’ properly.

He caught everybody’s attention and Bruce outstretched his arms and absorbed his nephew’s weight when their bodies connected. He chuckled deeply and dragged his hands through Jonah’s hair.

“I’m back! I’ll whip something up for you little ones to eat. Just give me a few minutes,”

Jonah whined a little but nodded. He watched me from the corner of his eyes, recognition sparking in the depths of his azure eyes. His small smile banished any frustration he felt seconds ago.

“You’re my mama’s friend!”

“Yeah, I am. Do you know where she is?” I asked, noticing her absence.

He frowned in thought and I refrained an ‘aw’ at how adorable he looked. “She went somewhere with Woff,”

“Wolf?” I corrected and he nodded. It was Bruce’s turn to frown. I didn’t need to divulge what they may be doing. Wolf’s crush on Salice didn’t go unnoticed. He didn’t make an effort to hide it unlike me. Nevertheless, my efforts made it obvious I was attracted to Bruce.

He kissed Jonah’s cheeks and patted his back. “Go to your friends. Your burgers won’t be long,”

He ran away just as fast as he came. Bruce shook his head amusedly and grabbed my hand, walking further into the garden and past the wooden table filled with people. Mikey was near the barbeque, trying to read the instructions on the manual. Bruce snatched it from his fingers roughly and shoved him away.

“Move on, fucktard,”

“Hey!” Mikey bellowed, holding up his arms in surrender. “One of us gotta feed the kids,”

I snorted in a un-lady-like manner. He walked away, leaving us alone and I folded my arms, watching the barbeque cautiously as if it offended me. I couldn’t imagine myself trying to roast some beef burgers or chicken – I’d probably burn the house down!

Bruce cocked his head to the side, eyeing me quizzically. “Why do you look like someone killed your cat?”

Gasping, I scowled at him. “I don’t… I’m just going to watch you, okay?”

His eyes darkened with mischief. “Do you find it sexy when a guy cooks for you?”

“People are waiting for their food!” I rolled my eyes, exasperated and the mischief in his eyes darkened to storm grey.

He lit up the stand and leisurely placed the meat on top of the grill. Grasping my forearm, he pulled me forward until I stood right in front of him, my back to his front. His large hand enveloped my small one, coercing my every move as I tossed over the chicken. It sizzled loudly and my skin prickled at the satisfying noise.

“It’s already been seasoned, courtesy of Salice,” He whispered into my ear, kissing the crook of my neck. “None of that ‘white people don’t season their chicken’ bullshit,”

“I didn’t say anything!” I exclaimed in mock defence. He chuckled into my skin.

“You’re half Arabic,” He stated and I surprised he knew. Salice probably told him.

“Does my name give it away?” I asked sardonically. His hands slid up my body until they reached my breast and he pinched my nipple hard. I squealed, my body jerking as I flipped over the chicken. He stifled another round of laughter and I elbowed his stomach.

“You have amazing tits,” He hummed seductively. Peeling my back away from his body, I glared at him.

“I’m trying to concentrate,” Avoiding the eyes of our audience, I paid attention to the grill.

He didn’t listen to me at all. Throughout the grilling process, he didn’t keep his hands to himself which weakened my body. It was difficult to concentrate on the grill yet I managed to not burn the meal somehow. The kids were getting restless so I served them whilst the elders got their own meal from Bruce. Right after everyone was sorted, Wolf and Salice entered the garden by the side door with cardboard boxes full of drinks.

Salice saw me and screeched in surprise, dumping her box on top of Wolf’s and ran to me. She crashed into me and wrapped her legs around my waist, her arms draped over my shoulders. Her koala embrace was so tight I struggled to breathe. Nostalgia consumed my thoughts the longer we stayed like this.

“You’re here!” She pulled away to meet my gaze. “When was the last time you came here?”

“I was probably seventeen, I think,” She untangled herself and dropped to the ground to her normal height.

“It was great then, everything is the same except Bruce is on the grill and he doesn't ditch us to hang with the guys,”

“Yeah,” I whispered, finding him across the lawn. As if he knew we were speaking about him, he glanced at our direction and held his stare until I looked away. “Honestly, this made Sundays my favourite days,”

“Mama!”

“Mommy duties,” Salice she rolled her eyes mockingly. “I’ll be back and we’re going to re-live our early days tonight!”

Salice kissed the top of his head and dragged him away to change his ketchup-stained shirt. I didn’t miss the way Wolf’s eyes followed after her. It could’ve been a simple scan around the garden but he didn’t look away - that was his mistake. He caught my stare and I raised a brow that said ‘I saw you’ and he stared at his beer sheepishly. When was he ever going to admit his feelings?

Bruce took long, powerful strides to me with a frown of disapproval. He had a plate of his own meal. “You’re not eating?”

“I wanted to make sure everyone had their food first,”

His features softened as he took my wrist, heading for the table. There was a seat available and he plopped down with a grunt. He tugged my arm and I fell into his lap. Biting into his chicken aggressively, he offered it to me and I scrunched my nose.

“Eat,” He persisted and bit into the chicken tentatively. I widened my eyes at the burst of seasoning pleasuring my taste buds. “It’s good,”

“Oh god!”

His chest vibrated with hidden laughter and he kissed my forehead. “Eat up, with the kids there wouldn’t be seconds,”

I obeyed his orders eagerly and if Bruce was lucky, he was able to get a couple bites in. I took a few swigs of his beer before eventually getting my own and him, another. Soon, the sun disappeared into the horizon as twilight approached. A few of the elderly retired for the day but Mrs Porters. She was a very talkative woman and didn’t get the hint whenever I tried to end the conversation.

Bruce became restless at this point and I couldn’t keep track of Mrs Porters' words with his fingers dancing around my knees.

“I have three granddaughters and they are all in their teens,” She said out of the blue.

“How sad,” I murmured. Was that supposed to be a bad thing?

“They are wild at that stage of their lives, it’s like rebellion is embedded in their system,”

“Those were the days,” I blew a breath out of tedium before drinking the last of my second beer.

“I suggested to their father to send them to an all-girls, Catholic boarding school but he refused,” She said outrageously.

His hands crawled up my bare thighs and I tensed, gripping the beer tightly. I shivered when his hot breaths fanned my ear, lulling me into seduction. A small moan broke free.

“Are you okay, dear?”

“Y-yeah, I need to go use the bathroom,” I stood abruptly and rushing into the kitchen, searching for the bathroom.

Within seconds, I found it and entered with a deep breath. Turning on the faucet, I splashed cold water on my heated face. I didn’t get a chance to have a moment to myself as Bruce barged through the door, shoving it shut. His eyes mirrored a storm wreaking havoc and they targeted me.

“Come here,” He demanded, curling his fingers around the nape of my neck and our lips collided in a heated kiss.

“Stop…you have guests to tend to,” I breathed against his cheek, gasping for breath.

“Salice can take care of them,” Gripping the back of my thighs, he lifted me on the counter, shifted my panties to the side and impaled my cunt with his thick, hard cock. My mouth formed an ‘O’ as he pumped in slowly, teasingly and he bit down my bottom lip.

“You’re so fucking beautiful,” He whispered, gradually increasing the rhythm of his hips. “You’re perfect,”

Tears pooled my eyes at his words and I bit his shoulder harshly that I drew blood. He grunted at the pain and bent his knees as he ground his hips against my tender bud. Our breaths intermingled and my skin was scorching due to the friction caused by our bodies. A few more strokes later, I came around him, hard, I clutched onto him as if he was my lifeline. He gripped my waist, holding me upright as he worked his way to his high.

He jerked violently before pouring inside me with a deep moan. Catching my breath, I peeled away from him, moving to the side and he slipped out. He grabbed a clean towel next to him and cleaned the both of us.

That was the best quickie I've had so far.

“I’m on the pill,” I mumbled and he tossed the towel into the laundry hamper. He stared at me before nodding.

“I’m never this careless when it comes to sex,” His husky voice ricocheted around the room. “Can’t think straight with you,”

I could say the same. Kissing his jaw, I fixed my dress as he tucked himself back into his jeans. I grinned, feeling like we’re horny teenagers that couldn't get enough of each other. One corner of his lips tugged upwards into a half smile.

“I’ll fuck you every day if it means I get to see that smile,”

A knock resonated throughout the bathroom and I stared at Bruce worriedly as he froze. The door handle jiggled violently before another round of knocking. Inhaling deeply, I marched to the door and opened it to find Mrs Porters. Crap! A grimace broke through my smile as she gazed at me.

“McKenna, dear, are you done?”

“Yeah…” I left the bathroom, not bothering to close the door as I walked away. By her gasp, I knew Bruce exited the bathroom and a laugh broke free. He caught up to me and snickered as we went back to the garden.

I hadn’t laughed that much in the twenty-five years of living.

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