Reign of Brayshaw (Brayshaw High #3)

Promised to Collins.

What the hell?

As in, what, an arranged marriage?

What is this, the fucking stone ages?

The boys’ uncharacteristic silence has unease swimming in my gut, but I refuse to allow Rolland to see it, so I put a foot forward and walk in the room, glancing around the office I’ve never set foot in before today.

It’s everything you’d expect from a rich man’s private space, thanks to stereotypical movies and magazines.

Bourbon in the corner, textbooks from the floor to ceiling that have probably never been read, but someone takes the time to dust so it seems they aren’t for decoration. Cherry wood and leather all around, a golden cased globe at the edge of the desk and box of cigars on the other.

I could roll my eyes right now it’s so unoriginal. Nice and expensive, but unoriginal.

I drop onto the ottoman, cross my legs and lift my hands as to say lay it out for me but nobody says a damn word. They stand there frozen.

“So, we’re back to keeping secrets now, are we?” I ask, arching a brow.

Rolland sits up. “This is Brayshaw busi—”

I start laughing, cutting him off and Rolland’s eyes narrow. Mine follow.

“In that case, why don’t you spell it out for me real slow, Rolland, so I can soak it in.”

“Just because you—”

“Stop,” Royce barks. He shifts, stepping toward him. “You don’t get to insult her to save face right now. You fucked up. Own it. It’s not her fault who her mother is.”

The crease in Rolland’s forehead intensifies, and he sits forward, so I do the same.

“Raven,” he starts. “You’ve come to learn pieces of your life you didn’t know existed, but you don’t know everything yet. Right now, we’ll require you to do as asked while we work out some things.”

“Like how you plan to get me to agree to jump ships?”

His head tips to the side the slightest bit, the vein in his neck, much like the one in Maddoc’s, pulsing against his tan skin as he attempts to read me.

“You’re trying to come off authoritative, but I’ve never been one to listen, so all you’re doing is irritating me. Not that you care, but I think you’re a lying piece of shit, Rolland. You may not be able to read me, but I can you and it’s obvious you’re giving half-truths, not the full thing.

“I only caught the tail end of the conversation, but I can tell by the struck look on their faces this is far more than a pass off. Still, I guarantee there’re missing pieces and you won’t give them until you absolutely have to, when it serves you best.” I push to my feet and glare down at him. “That’s one way of being a shitty leader, allowing your men the chance to be taken off guard. Again.”

Their eyes are on me, but I completely ignore the boys, who have yet to volunteer any information.

That’s okay, though. I’m not mad at them for it, I trust their reason for the silence they’re giving me. It doesn’t mean I won’t find the answers myself, even if I have to be a sneaky bitch to make it happen.

“And you think you’re strong enough to give full disclosure where disclosure is needed?” Rolland challenges.

“You think they’re too weak to handle it?” I throw right back. “Or maybe your fear comes from the unknown. Maybe, the things you know will shake your world up a little more than you’re willing to allow.”

“Don’t assume to know all there is to know about me.”

“Don’t assume I’ll let you decide a damn thing for me,” I spit right back. “Collins Graven can go fuck himself, but careful, asshole, or you’ll be right there with him.”

With that, I turn and walk out.

And damn if they don’t let me.



Fuck!

Royce flashes for the door, but Captain slides in front of him, halting his advance.

Royce whips around to face me, throwing his arms out. “You really not gonna go after her, what if she dips right fucking now?”

“She didn’t hear everything.”

He gives a humorless laugh. “No, she didn’t, other than the fact that she’s the future Mrs. Fuckhead Graven! Oh, and we’re fucking hiding something from her!”

“It’s the only way.”

“I fucking know, man! But that doesn’t mean she won’t leave us because of it! We said no more secrets, no more solo moves. This shit? This is what leads her to go all Raven.”

The panic in his eyes causes a cramping to shoot through my chest. Her leaving wouldn’t only wreck me, it would fuck us all.

I walk to him and hold his glare with mine, my hands firmly grasping onto his shoulders. “Royce. She will not fucking leave us again, not like this, not without solid reason and fact. She almost lost us too this last time. She won’t risk it again, not without complete fucking assurance.”

“She won’t even be mad at us,” Cap whispers, overwhelmed. “That’s not who she is.” His glare moves to our dad and mine follows.

Shame washes over his face, tightening his features as he looks to Royce, realizing the distress this is causing him. He looks to Cap next and holds his stare, and I’d swear regret fills his eyes next.

What was that?

Finally, his stare comes back to mine.

“This wasn’t a contract I made,” he says quietly. “I was just a kid, running deals and trades back then, proving myself. Raven’s grandfather is the one that set this up. He only had a son, who married a gold-digging junkie, and the two had Ravina. They both died along the way from drugs and Ravina was left in his care.

“He called up Donley, put Ravina on the table for his top man to take. Donley only wanted it if she was in love with the man, he wanted an amicable marriage – a real marriage, not one for show – between the families, so he added the clause that Ravina, on her own and without influence, agree. It was his way of assuring it wasn’t a move against his people.

“His boys and ours, Ravina included started going to the same parties and functions. They were allowed at Bray events at the school. Everyone started making friends with everyone and things looked good for the town. Peace among us all.”

That explains the photo in the yearbook.

But, wait a fucking minute...

“Top man to take,” I repeat, stepping forward. “Are you telling me Felix Graven wasn’t Donley’s son, that Collins isn’t Graven blood?”

Our dad nods. “Felix Graven wasn’t Graven at all, he was a runner between families.”

“An outsider.”

“He chose them?” Royce asks.

“In the end, yes, but I believe it was simply because he’s the one she fell in love with. All he had to do at that point was accept the position. Like I said, he was a nomad, stayed out of both the families’ ways but thrived in our town. With Graven, he would be the lead. His decision was instant.”

“Why were we not told this shit?” Royce shouts, angrily.

“At the end of the day, it’s irrelevant. He was Graven, his son Graven, just as you three are Brayshaw. We live by the name, the name is who we are.”

“What happened with Ravina and the marriage, did she not want it?” Cap gets us back on track.

“Oh, Ravina wanted the marriage,” Dad scoffs. “She wanted to be waited on and showered with gifts and praised for her beauty. She didn’t get that at home, she had unlimited income, but was invisible to her grandfather, and our love for her, mine and both your fathers” —he nods toward my brothers— “wasn’t enough for her. She didn’t believe in our feelings, thought we cared because we were forced to being, we were men of Brayshaw, but that was so far from the case. She wouldn’t hear it though.

“Felix Graven, however, was desperate to have her, and he let her know it at every turn. He was a few years older, so he used that appeal to win her over. I said he didn’t hesitate to take the offer once he had her heart, and he didn’t, even left his pregnant fiancée to be with her and without a second thought.”

“Collins’ mom?”

“Yes. He didn’t hesitate to decide, was willing to throw his unborn son away if it meant he got to marry Ravina.”

“He was obsessed with her.” Royce frowns.

“He was in love with her.” Our dad’s eyes cloud with memories. “She was as captivating as her daughter. People fell at her feet from a simple smile. Only it wasn’t just her beauty. She was kind, forgiving. Good. Untouched by greed.” He looks to me briefly. “Untouched by a man.”

A virgin Brayshaw.

He continues. “Ravina had an innocent soul once, very much a contrast of her daughter in that sense. Raven was born jaded, but Ravina, she was turned that way.”

“You have to know Raven isn’t a virgin.”

He nods. “Collins wants her regardless.”

“Is that his call? That’s not what they were promised.”

“A fact Donley doesn’t seem concerned with this time around.”

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