Page 96 of Hopeful Hearts

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“I heard there was a party?” Austin stood on the doorstep holding a basket full of fruit Jen had obviously prepared. He looked out of place, holding it. All tattoos, muscles and grapes.

“We can’t have any trouble,” he warned. “Emmet’s only just come home.”

“Yeah, Callie told me. I bumped into her at Coast, and she said he was coming home today. I’m not here to cause trouble, Brodie. I just want to pass this on and give my well wishes in person.”

“Your parents are here,” Brodie pointed out.

“I figured they would be.”

“You didn’t exactly part on good terms,” Brodie stood his ground and Austin took a step backward.

“Honestly, I just came to pass this along. Last time, was a lot to take in and you may have noticed that me and emotions don’t pair well together. I understand you’re looking out for everyone. Give this to Emmet, please.”

He held the basket out to Brodie, who stepped aside.

“Get in here,” he commanded. “You should give it to him yourself.”

Austin looked taken aback, but nodded a silent thank you and stepped inside.

“Austin,” Sophia flew straight over with the same panic in her eyes.

“Can we start again, Little Soph?”

“For real?”

He shrugged in response, and she flung her arms around his neck. Austin wasn’t a hugger, but he put a reluctant arm around her shoulder and patted her on the shoulder.

“Emmet's over there. He’ll be so happy you’re here.”

“Good to see you, again,” Brodie said as he held a bottle of cold beer out to Austin, which he accepted.

“What made you come back?” Sophia asked as he lifted the bottle to his lips and swigged a mouthful of water back.

“Honestly, I don’t know. When I bumped into Callie, I was planning some snacks for the road and getting the hell out of here. Then I heard about the party and felt like leaving was the wrong thing to do.”

“I’m glad you didn’t go.”

“Maybe I could give the whole family thing a whirl, after all.”

“You’re in too deep to leave now. You gave me a kidney for Christ’s sake. And you’re here on a really important day for Emmet.”

“Yeah, I’m here, but don’t get too excited. I have no clue how to be part of a family.”

“You’re already doing it,” Sophia grinned. “That’s all you have to do. Show up and keep showing up. The rest sorts itself out.”

“Austin?” Mel interrupted the trio and rushed over to see her son.

She eyed her son, her body language becoming guarded.

“I was thinking about what you said. It takes me time to wrap my head around things. That’s why I left so abruptly. Anyway, if it’s alright with you guys, I’m going to stick around for a bit.” Austin said.

“In the bay?” Mel asked in disbelief.


“You’re not leaving?”

“I figured we should probably get to know each other, seeing as we’re–family.” He said the word “family” reluctantly.

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