Authors: Sherryl Woods
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” the woman said grimly. “You just get on back here as soon as you can.”
“Wait,” she said when Henrietta was about to hang up. “What happened? Who shot him?”
“That son of a bitch Lyle Perkins did it.” She hesitated. “Heâ¦” Her voice choked up. “He got Barbara Sue, too.”
“Dead,” she said, her tone flat. “Barbara Sue is dead.”
The phone dropped from Megan's fingers. Watching her anxiously, Todd reached over and picked it up. As if from a great distance, she could hear him talking to Henrietta, asking questions, murmuring replies. Then he hunkered down in front of her.
“I'll charter a plane. You can go straight to the airport from here. I'll pack up whatever you need from your place and bring it out later.”
Megan nodded again.
“At this rate, we probably ought to buy a plane,” he said, his gaze fixed closely on her as he dialed the charter company.
“Do it,” she murmured. If she was going to be jetting back and forth across the country at the drop of a hat, she'd better have a plane and a pilot at her disposal.
Todd took one of her icy hands and held it as he made the flight arrangements. By the time he'd hung up, she could feel the warmth returning.
“You sure you're okay?” he asked. “Want me to ride out to the airport with you?”
“No, just stay on top of things here and fly out later.”
“He's going to be just fine,” Todd reassured her. “Henrietta saidâ”
“Henrietta's not a doctor,” Megan retorted, then stared at him, feeling utterly bewildered. “Barbara Sue is dead.”
“Lyle, too,” he added. “The sheriff got him.”
Tears spilled down her cheeks. “What about those children? What will they do now?”
Todd returned her look, his own expression just as helpless as she knew hers must be. “Go, Megan. You'll do what you can for them when you get there.”
She was still numb as she left the office. She caught a cab in front of the building, then went through the motions as she made her way through the airport terminal to the waiting charter jet. The trip west seemed to take an eternity, though it was only late afternoon local time when she arrived. A driver was waiting for her at the airport.
“I'm sorry. I don't need a driver. I'll just rent a car,” she told him.
He smiled. “The boss said you'd say that and I was to give you this.” He handed her a note.
Megan, I know you think you don't need a car and driver on your own home turf, but I think you do. Just this once listen to me. Todd.
She gave the driver a rueful look. “Lead on.”
“This way, ma'am.”
He pulled up in front of the hospital in Laramie a few minutes later. “I'll be right here, whenever you're ready to leave.”
“You're in a no parking zone and I could be here for hours,” she pointed out.
“I'll be right here,” he repeated.
“I hope you find that your friend is doing fine,” he said.
“Me, too,” she whispered as she went inside to find Jake.
She found him sitting up in bed and yelling at the nurse to get the blasted needle away from him.
“Well, that answers one question,” Megan said briskly as she walked into the room. “You're going to live.”
“I will if they stop pumping me full of drugs,” he grumbled.
“It's for the pain,” the nurse said.
“The only pain around hereâ”
“Enough, Jake,” Megan said, crossing the room to silence him more effectively with a long, lingering, life-affirming kiss. “Do you have any idea how glad I am to see you?”
A discreet cough interrupted Jake's reply. Megan turned to find Henrietta sitting in the corner. She stood up.
“I'll be going now that the big guns have arrived,” she said with a wink at Megan. “Keep him in line, girl, before they decide to toss him out on his rear end. Trust me, if he has his way, he'll hobble out of here despite doctor's orders.”
Megan followed her to the door. “Thank you for calling me.”
“What else would I do? I'm just sorry it came to this. It's all my fault for dragging Jake into Barbara Sue's troubles in the first place. Me and my meddling.”
“You didn't meddle,” Megan said adamantly. “You cared. How are the kids?”
“Janie has them at her place. I'll go by there and get them.”
“What will happen to them?”
“I don't know. Barbara Sue didn't get along all that well with her sister and that's the only family she had left. I'll shoot somebody myself before I let them wind up with Lyle's mama.”
Megan squeezed her hand. “We'll think of something. Just give them a huge hug from me for now.”
After she'd gone, Megan walked back into the room. She took a good long look at the bandages on Jake's leg and the cast that went from ankle to thigh.
“You're a pretty picture,” she observed.
“And you're a sight for sore eyes. You didn't have to rush home. I was in good hands.”
“Oh, yes,” she corrected. “I did have to rush home. I had to see for myself that you weren't at death's door. Do you know how many times on that long flight I panicked? I was terrified that Henrietta had lied.”
“Henrietta? Not a chance. That woman wouldn't know how to sugarcoat the truth.”
“She was scared, though. I could hear it in her voice. And she's blaming herself that Barbara Sue is dead.”
“Why on earth would she think a thing like that?” Jake demanded. “This was Lyle's doing, every sorry, sordid bit of it.”
Megan shuddered to think of how much worse it could have been. Lyle could have taken Jake down with them. She sat gingerly on the side of Jake's bed opposite his injured leg. Only when she had his hand firmly tucked between hers did she begin to relax just a little.
“I've been thinking,” she said slowly.
“Heaven help us.”
“Hush. I'm serious. Do you think Henrietta would be willing to take the kids? They're at home with her and I can see she loves them.”
“I think that's what Barbara Sue would want,” Jake agreed. “We talked about that very thing when she was in jail, though neither of us could have predicted that these would be the circumstances.”
“It's a lot to take on at Henrietta's age.”
Jake grinned. “Don't say that to Henrietta. She may be sixty, but she thinks she's thirty. She has the stamina to raise two kids.”
“Mrs. Perkins will fight her for them,” Megan said. “She'll claim they're all she has left of her precious boy.”
“I think the rose-colored glasses are off in the legal system where her son is concerned. I'll help Henrietta if she decides she wants those two children to stay with her.”
“Then she can't lose, can she?”
“You know, darlin', I'm delighted that you have so much faith in my abilities as a lawyer, but I was kind of hoping that your interest in me was more personal.”
“Personal?” she echoed, being deliberately vague.
“You know, a daddy for Tess, a husband for you. Something permanent that no one can rip apart.”
“An interesting idea,” Megan said, surprised to find that the prospect of marriage didn't terrify her half as much as it once would have. “Are you sure you're up to it? Tess and I, we're a lot to take on.”
“Maybe I'm not up to it right this second,” he
conceded. “Give me a couple of days, though, and I'll be waiting at the church.”
He would, too. And he would be waiting at the airport when she needed him to. He would be there for her forever. She was just beginning to realize how vitally important that was.
Megan slid down until she could lie next to him with her cheek resting on his chest. Satisfied by the reassuring beat of his heart and the warmth of his arms around her, she uttered a soft sigh of contentment. The future was taking on a shape far different from the one she'd had in mind even a few short weeks ago, but it was every bit as exciting. She could have it all, if that's what she decided she wanted.
“Maybe Tex knew what he was doing, after all,” Megan whispered.
Jake laughed. “Oh, darlin', there was never a doubt in my mindâor hisâabout that.”
Copyright Â© 1999 by Sherryl Woods.
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