Read Devil May Care: Boxed Set Online

Authors: Heather West,Lexi Cross,Ada Stone,Ellen Harper,Leah Wilde,Ashley Hall

Devil May Care: Boxed Set

BOOK: Devil May Care: Boxed Set
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Chapter 1

 

Fiona Mackintosh moved across the gift shop, picking up items that were out of place and putting them back in their proper spots. She paused to straighten a stack of birthday cards that had gone askew. The overhead lights caught the crystal beads of a display of bracelets and glittered as she approached. She moved the bracelets, spreading them out evenly along the bar they hung from.

 

The clock clicked over to 9 p.m. and it was officially closing time. She flipped over the sign on the door, locked it, then went behind the counter to take care of the cash register. After taking the drawer to the office, she counted and jotted numbers into the books, making sure everything came out perfectly. She took the time to sort the money just how she knew her manager, Sue, liked it, turning all the bills to face the same way, unfolding the dog eared corners so that the stacks sat as neat and flat as possible inside the safe.

 

Next, Fiona made a note of several items that she noticed were running low and should be ordered soon. This wasn’t part of her job exactly, but she found ways whenever she could to go above and beyond, hoping to earn the position of assistant manager, which had been vacant for some time now. She thought Sue really liked her from the way she always took time to explain things and teach her. She always complimented Fiona’s displays and often noted how good her work was.

 

She locked the office door with a hopeful glow in her heart. She could really use the pay raise that came with the assistant manager position. It hadn’t been easy moving here. She knew no one and had her daughter to think of. Who would watch Sophia while she worked all day? But Red Hills had been the picture of southern hospitality when she’d arrived, bruises still visible around her eye and on her cheek from her ex, Sam.

 

It had been Sue who first helped her. Fiona had rushed into the gift shop to buy an umbrella in a sudden downpour. Sophia had found her way to the toys and was begging for a new doll when Sue came to ask them if they needed help. Fiona knew she couldn’t afford the doll and had to take it from her four-year-old with tears in her eyes. Sue had seen this and given her the doll. They’d chatted a bit and before she knew it, Fiona’s life story was poured out on this poor woman.

 

Sue lived alone and insisted that they stay with her until they found their own place. For three weeks, Sue and Fiona got to know each other. Fiona started working at the gift shop, and a neighbor watched Sophia during the day. Life had finally started to come together. Now Fiona and Sophia had a tiny apartment. It wasn’t much, but it was theirs, and they had worked hard to make it home.

 

As she walked back through the store, Fiona’s eyes fell on the display of dolls that Sophia had so loved, and she smiled, thinking of how Sophia hadn’t let the pink-dressed, yellow-haired doll go for days. She was likely sleeping with it right now, clutched tight to her chest on Jeanine’s couch, waiting for her mommy to come and take her home.

 

Fiona flicked out the lights and set the alarm before locking the door behind her. In her car, she blasted music and sang along, enjoying the cool evening air tossing her hair around. She turned left and onto a stretch of highway that was heavily wooded. She was on guard for animals on this street, glancing often at the sides of the roads for glowing eyes that might run in front of her.

 

She glanced to the right and saw a mound on the ground. At first it looked like a dead animal. She couldn’t make out any part of it, but as she got closer and the object was washed for an instant in bright headlights, she saw a boot.

 

It had happened so fast that she had already passed the spot before she realized it was a person lying there. She pulled into the gravel, stomping hard on her brakes.

 

With her phone tight in her hand, she approached the person. It looked like a man from what she could see of his blond hair and jeans. But there was no movement, and she didn’t want to run up to a dead body in case it was a gruesome sight. Her stomach already felt queasy with the thought.

 

“Hello?” she called out tentatively when she was about twenty feet away.

 

No response. She tapped the flashlight feature on her phone and shined the light on him. It definitely was a him. Blood trickled from multiple places on his face. He’d been beaten badly. His eyes nearly swollen shut, his lip split and thick, purple splotches across his cheek bones. The sight gave her chills, thinking of how many times she’d had injuries like these after a night of Sam’s anger.

 

She inched closer, trying to see if his chest was moving.

 

He lay on his side, half curled into a ball. His black shirt was torn and shiny with blood. His jeans, also ripped in places, were dirty and bloody. A black leather jacket was hanging from him in shreds.

 

“Can you hear me?” she asked.

 

She knelt down beside him, afraid to touch him. His chest didn’t seem to be moving. With a shaking hand, she pressed her fingertips to his wrist. She found no heartbeat. But then a soft wheeze came from his mouth.

 

“Oh my God, are you still alive?”

 

He made a ragged coughing sound and moved his arm a few inches.

 

“Just hang on, I’ll call 9-1-1.”

 

He said something. She couldn’t make it out, but the sound was so insistent, that she paused.

 

“What did you say?” She leaned closer to his mouth.

 

“Don’t.”

 

“Don’t? Don’t what, call 9-1-1?”

 

“Don’t call,” he wheezed.

 

“But you look like you’re about to die. You need to get to a hospital.”

 

He took a shuttering breath and pushed himself up with effort to a seated position. Blood gushed from his nose and he spit out more blood.

 

Fiona put her hand to her mouth and had to look away. She had napkins and tissues in her car and got up to dash over and bring them to him. She handed him the napkins, but they were soaked through within seconds.

 

“Please,” he said, half whispering. “Get me out of here.”

 

She looked back to her car, which was about thirty feet ahead. He didn’t look like he’d able to walk that distance, and she wasn’t strong enough to help him much.

 

“Hang on.” She returned to her car and backed it up slowly, craning her head around to see how close she was getting to him.

 

He pushed himself onto all fours, pausing to breathe through the pain. He crawled over to the back door. Fiona opened it for him, pulled Sophia’s car seat from its place, and dashed to the trunk to get the blanket she kept there for times when Sophia got cold. She spread the blanket over the backseat and stood back awkwardly as he pulled himself up and into the car.

 

“Can I help you somehow?” She wasn’t sure where he was injured and didn’t want to just grab him somewhere it might hurt.

 

He didn’t answer. Shaking, he pulled himself up onto the seat and slumped over. She closed the door behind him and got into the driver’s seat.

 

“You need a hospital badly.”

 

He was still bleeding, pressing a dripping napkin to his nose. She handed him the rest of the napkins. The cluster of bright white turned red almost instantly when he held them to his face.

 

“No.”

 

He coughed, splattering blood all over her car’s seat. Fiona swallowed hard and tried not to let her stomach turn over.

 

“They’ll kill me,” he said.

 

At first, she thought this was ridiculous. If you were hurt that badly, you needed a hospital. That simple. Whoever had done this surely wouldn’t kill him while he was there. But then she thought of the last time Sam had landed her in the hospital. Her friend had taken her to the hospital against her wishes. Sam had come into her room and almost suffocated her to death before a nurse happened to come in. Then Sam had quickly moved the pillow behind her head, making it look like he was the perfect husband, trying to make his clumsy wife more comfortable.

 

If whoever had beaten him had left him for dead, then he was right. If they knew he was alive, if they drove by and found him gone, they would check the hospitals first. It wouldn’t take much in his condition to kill him. She wouldn’t do that to him. She remembered how terrified she had been to wake up in the hospital when she thought she was safe at her friend’s house, and how the terror had multiplied when Sam entered the room, his face full of rage. She would not do that to this man.

 

With a deep breath, she pulled back onto the road and drove to her apartment building.

 

 

***

 

 

Fiona and Sophia’s apartment was what people called “shoe-box sized.” She was grateful to have two bedrooms, but there was hardly enough space for the bed and a dresser in each. The kitchen held only a small wooden table and four chairs across from the short counter. The counter space was filled with gadgets—a two-cup coffee maker, toaster, dish rack, microwave, and a small candle. There wasn’t much counter space left for anything else. But it had a window over the sink and the fridge was a decent size. And it was included when she moved in.

 

The living room was the biggest room, though it was only big enough to hold her couch, a coffee table, and the stand that held the little TV. She’d managed to shove a tall plant in the corner to give the place some life, and a few photos hung on the wall. But the one free corner was full of Sophia’s toys, as was her bedroom. The bathroom had a full-size tub, luckily, with a shower head at the top, and just enough counter space for her to spread out her makeup while she got ready in the morning. Despite its size, she loved it because it was theirs and theirs alone.

 

She lived on the second floor, and as she looked back at the man in her backseat, she wondered if he’d even be able to get up that many steps. Her parking space was forty feet from the door.

 

“Are you going to be able to walk?” She turned in her seat to look at him. “I can try to pull closer.”

 

He looked up at her and blinked, his eye a small split as he coughed again, wincing and holding his side. That was enough to make her decision. She backed out of her parking spot and pulled up as close as she could to the door.

 

Fiona came around to the back door, opened it, and looked over him. What if her neighbors saw her helping this bloody man to her apartment? She didn’t have much of a choice at this point. He pushed himself up to a sitting position and scooted to the edge of the seat until his feet touched the ground. He tried to stand, but groaned and clutched his stomach where the blood shone red through his shirt.

 

She leaned in and put her arm around his shoulders, then pulled as he tried to push up. He got to his feet shakily and shuffled a step forward. Fiona positioned herself under his shoulder carefully and he leaned heavily on her to shuffle to the door.

 

Once she got him inside the stairwell, she leaned him against the railing. “I’m sorry, I have to move my car. I’ll get in trouble if it’s there too long.” Not that her landlord would kick her out over it, and he seemed to like her just fine, but Fiona was somewhat paranoid about messing things up. Or about letting someone down. The years of Sam’s yelling, his control over her every move, living every second to appease him, had done its damage. She was working through it, Sue often playing therapist over coffee in the early mornings before the shop opened, but the instincts to please and the fear of failing were still rampant in her every thought.

 

She dashed back outside, moved the car back to her spot, and took the blanket from the backseat. When she picked it up, she was horrified to see several blood stains on the tan car interior. How would she explain this to Sophia? For now, she moved the booster seat back over it and hurried back to the building.

 

Fiona wrapped him in the blanket and took her place again under his shoulder as they went step by shaky step. After the first set of stairs, she wondered if he’d make it up another. But there was nothing else to do but try.

 

“Almost there. Come on, just a few more steps, you can do it.” She tried to push him up as much as possible, but he was heavy and solid.

 

Finally, his foot stepped on the landing and he shuffled to her door. She unlocked it, got him in, and relocked it, making sure the deadbolt was secure. Someday, she hoped, she would feel safe. But today, with the added possibility of people coming after this man, was not the day to leave the deadbolt unlocked for even a minute.

BOOK: Devil May Care: Boxed Set
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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