Hearts Asunder 10

Chapter 11

AJ barely had time to ask what went missing from the box when Jasonís closed right fist connected with his jaw. He fell to the thick grass, his hand covered his throbbing cheek. Instinctively his tongue moved to the injured side of his mouth. The bitter taste of blood covered his tongue. "What the--"

"You son of a bitch. You just couldnít stay the hell away from her, could you?!"

AJís eyes widened. Jason was clearly enraged. Was he talking about Keesha? AJ scurried to stand as Jason charged toward him. Not quite to his feet, he lost his bearings as Jason tackled him to the ground. Jason kneed him in the stomach before following the blow with a right cross to his mouth. AJís neck jerked from the impact of Jasonís fist. Pockets of pain erupted all over his face.

"You want to kiss something, you rotten asshole. Kiss this." Jason delivered blow after blow to AJís face.

The smack of his brotherís fist against his lips and cheek stirred a defense mechanism deep inside AJ. This was definitely about Keesha, and he wasnít about to sit there and take the assault lying down, such as it was. If Jason wanted a fight, heíd give him one. Battling the throbbing pain and Jasonís weight on his chest, AJ managed to push his brother off, rolling him to his side on the ground. He wasted no time in charging the younger man and throwing him to his back where he returned his own round of punishing blows. His fists were flying as if on autopilot. AJ had no clue where those skills came from, but he was receiving a great deal of gratification watching blood spill from a mouth and nose other than his.

"Stop it! Stop it at once!" the frail yet adamant voice of Lila Quartermaine demanded. The hum of her electric wheelchair grew stronger as she made her approach to the fighting brothers.

The next punch scheduled for Jasonís face was stopped mid-flight. AJ got off his brother, smashing his knee into the manís midsection on the way up. He brushed the grass blades off his clothing. "Iím sorry, Grandmother. You shouldnít have witnessed that," AJ said, attempting to catch his breath while shifting his paining jaw from side to side.

"Grandmother, I heard--" Ned words stopped when he took in the sight of his bruised, battered, and bloodied cousins. "What the hell happened out here?"

AJ stared daggers Jasonís way. "Ask him!"

Jason managed to stand, clearly favoring the area AJ landed his parting knee shot. AJ smiled, glad his brother appeared to be feeling as much pain as he was. "You know damn well what this about," Jason shouted. ĎLooks like you lost something, Jason.í I know thatís what you want, but itís not gonna happen. Do you hear me?! Youíll never have Keesha. NEVER!!"

AJ had no idea Keesha had been there when he made his remark, but he could see why it provoked such a reaction in his brother. Still feeling his own anger, he went for the jugular. "You wanna bet!"

The two went charging for each other again. Ned quickly interceded as arms and legs flailed about. "Okay, thatís enough! AJ, you go in and clean yourself up," Ned said pushing him toward the house. "Itís going to be hard enough explaining these cuts and bruises to your parents without a bloody visual. Go!"

AJ pushed the manís hand away. "Fine." He looked over his cousinís shoulder to his wounded brother. If he wanted to make this fight for Keesha heart a battle, he was more than willing to comply. "We arenít done yet."

"You got that right," Jason snarled, taking another wild swing at his brother.

Ned grabbed Jason by the shoulders. "Calm down," Ned demanded through gritted teeth. "You are upsetting Grandmother."

Jason pulled away from Ned and turned to the rosebushes.

"AJ, please, go," Ned directed.

"Iím going." AJ winced as he walked into the house. His lips felt like they weighed a ton and the fresh cuts burned as though doused with salt. He would go and clean himself up, but his next stop was Ward House. He needed to see Keesha and hear her side of what went down with Jason. Maybe, when all was said and done, the happiness in his heart would override the physical agony he was experiencing.

~*~

"Jason, dear, tell me what caused this horrible scene between you and your brother. I cannot tell you how it broke my heart to see you two fighting like common street urchins."

Jason didnít turn around. His body felt like it was being pricked with a million needles, and a blinding rage consumed him. He couldnít bear to face Lila while in his current mental and physical state; it would only exacerbate her already frayed emotions. "Iím sorry, Grandmother, but I canít talk about it right now. Iím terribly sorry you had to see that and it upset you. I never meant for any of that to happen," he explained in his best even tone.

Ned released a long groaning sigh. "Look, Grandmother, let me talk to Jason alone. Iím sure you could use some rest after everything."

"I am feeling a little tired," she answered.

"Do you want me to call Reginald?"

"No, dear, that wonít be necessary. I can make it alone."

Several moments later Ned cleared his throat. "All right, Grandmotherís gone now. You wonít be able to dismiss my questions as easily as you did hers. Now, what the hell went on out here? I have never seen behave like this!"

Jason turned to Ned. Even through his teary vision, he could see the anger that burned his cousinís dimpled cheeks and the disappointment in his eyes. "I never dreamed I could behave like this." He looked down at his bruised knuckles. "I swear, Ned, I have never felt anger like before in my life. And the truth is, Iím still angry. I could rip AJís head off."

"Looks like you almost did, but you didnít exactly walk away unscathed, either," Jason flinched as Nedís fingers grazed his jaw. "From what I gathered this is about Keesha. Jason, what happened?"

"AJ happened. He finally did it."

"Did what?" His eyebrows shot up. "He didnít sleep with her?"

Jason shook his head. "No, he did something much worse." Salty tears burned his battered face as they rolled down his cheeks. "He has her believing sheís in love with him." He pressed his hand to his eyes. "Oh, God. The woman I love thinks sheís in love with my brother."


~*~

Keesha raced into her grandmotherís house and headed directly for the stairs. She was amazed she got home in one piece as her blinding tears refused to cease. She couldnít let her Granny Mae see her like this, even when all she wanted to do was bury her face in the womanís lap as she assured her everything would be okay.

"Keesha, is that you?" Mary Mae called from the parlor.

"Yeah, Gran Mae, itís me." She sniffled as she stopped at the foot of the stairs. "Iím feeling a little tired so Iím going up to my room."

Mary Maeís shadow appeared on the wall next to the stairs. "You donít sound tired, baby, you soundÖ upset." Concern darkened her brown eyes as she studied Keeshaís face. "Baby, whatís wrong," she asked, approaching her granddaughter and delivering comforting strokes to her back.

"Everything, Gran Mae." Keesha flung her arms around Mary Maeís shoulder, tightening her grip with the hope some of her grandmotherís strength would seep into her body. "I donít know what Iím going to do."