A Beauty Uncovered(4)

By: Andrea Laurence

 But what was even worse than that was the expression of pity that inevitably came. Brody knew there were people with worse injuries than his. Soldiers came home from the Middle East every day with burns that covered over half their bodies. They didn’t hide away. Some were even outspoken advocates, role models for other victims. People were inspired by their strength to look beyond their scars.

 That was a noble choice, but it didn’t suit Brody. He hadn’t been injured serving his country, and he wasn’t interested in being the public face for acid burn victims. Being pitied one person at a time was bad enough. He couldn’t take the massive public wave of sympathy all at once. He supposed that was why he’d gained a reputation of being not just a recluse, but a real bastard. He didn’t like being that way, but it was a necessity. People didn’t pity the villain, even if he was disfigured. They just figured he got what he deserved.

 Turning back to the monitor that showed Samantha and Agnes going over some files, Brody sighed.

 Looking at a beautiful woman, then having her look at you like you’re some kind of sideshow freak… Brody didn’t want to deal with that any more than he absolutely had to. And that was why he’d opted not to go out and introduce himself yet. Let her think he was rude. Everyone else did.

 He was enjoying watching her from afar and not knowing what she looked like when she was horrified by his twisted and scarred face. She would be here for nearly a month, so Brody would probably go out eventually. But no matter how long he waited, she would still be beautiful and he would still be…what he was.

 A loud ping from one of his computers distracted him from his dark thoughts. Spinning in his chair, he rolled over to one of the six machines that surrounded his desk.

 The alert chimed after his web crawler software finished running one of its queries. He’d designed a system that scoured the internet daily for any searches or mentions of several things, including his given name, Brody Butler. The results were filtered to exclude any duplicates or mentions of the various Brody Butlers that he’d established as someone else.

 From there, he’d review the results for anything questionable. Anything that might cause him or his foster family any grief. If someone, somewhere, was looking for him, Brody would be the first to know. He was a very private man, and he didn’t want his past interfering with his present. It was the reason he’d taken his foster parents’ name after high school. He wanted to put his childhood behind him. He wanted to start fresh and be a success because he was smart and savvy, not because people felt bad for him.

 And for some reason, he worried that if someone connected Brody Butler and Brody Eden, it would lead to more questions about the past than he wanted to answer.

 Blame it on his childhood, but Brody never let his guard down. If something could go wrong, he was fairly certain it would. His brothers accused him of being pessimistic, but he preferred to be prepared for the worst. He hadn’t been able to stop his biological father from beating him, but he had always been mentally and physically ready when it came.

 So, like he had as a child, he slept with one eye open, so to speak. His eye was on the internet. If someone was looking for him, the internet was the smartest place to start. And he would be watching and waiting for them.

 “So what have we here?” Brody scanned over the report and breathed a sigh of relief. Someone named Brody Butler had driven his truck through a convenience store window in Wisconsin. False alarm. No one was looking for him today. Or yesterday. Or the past five years Brody had been watching. Perhaps no one ever would.

 His former identity had vanished after he’d graduated from high school. He was simply another kid lost in the foster system. Not even his real parents had looked for him. His father had limited access in prison, but his mother had never tried to contact him, either. Given that she had chosen to side with her abusive husband over her scarred son, that was just as well.

 Brody wasn’t sure he would ever understand women. He was smart, caring and successful, but most women didn’t see anything but the scars. And at the same time, his mother was attending every parole hearing, waiting for the day his abusive father was released from jail and they could be together again.

 It was better he stay in seclusion, he decided. Women, beautiful or otherwise, meant nothing but trouble and pain. He was certain that his new assistant was no different. She was a novelty, a shiny new toy. It wouldn’t take long before the shine would wear off and he could put his focus back on his work.

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