Authors: Alison Mello
Forever My Soldier
Love Conquers Life, Book 3
By Alison Mello
Forever My Soldier
Copyright © 2016 by Alison Mello.
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: August 2016
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
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It’s Black Friday, and Patty has been pacing the house since about eight. I wish there was something I could do to calm her down because she’s driving me a bit crazy. I’m in the kitchen making some pancakes and eggs for breakfast when she finally takes a seat with her laptop at the snack bar.
“What are you up to, baby?”
“I’m checking out Facebook,” she says without looking up from her laptop.
She mentioned a few minutes ago that she was keeping an eye on her fan page for discussions about the schedule for today’s shopping trips. I place her coffee beside her laptop. She glances over at it and says, “Thanks, honey. I know I’m probably driving you crazy and I’m trying not to worry, but it’s hard.”
“I know it is, baby, but you need to walk into the two stores like you have no fear in the world because he wants to see you scared. He’s probably feeding off of it.”
I turn to her with two plates in hand. I place hers on the side of her laptop and then sit next to her with mine.
“Any word online?”
“No. People have clicked ‘like’ on the post and some have said they are going to support the cause, but that’s about it.” She takes a bite and continues. “This is delicious, honey. You’re really getting the hang of making breakfast.”
“Great. Now, if I can learn how to make dinner, I can really surprise you.”
She leans in to kiss me on the cheek and then says, “We’ll start working on your cooking lessons again next week, but know that I enjoy cooking for you. It’s not like you
to learn to cook.”
“Well, I’m glad you like cooking for me because I don’t see me becoming a chef anytime soon. Though I do have fun when you teach me, and I really would like to be able to surprise you with a nice meal sometime.”
“Some things are hard to teach you to make because I don’t measure anything. I have an idea of how much of certain ingredients to use, and I put it together,” she says while eating.
“I hope to be able to do that to some extent, but I should probably start with some cookbooks or something first.”
She giggles. “That might be a good idea.”
I nudge her. “Are you making fun of me?”
“No, I’m saying that you can’t throw a bunch of spices into something. You should get an idea of what cooking is like first. You will learn what you like and what you don’t. If you mix the wrong seasonings together, it won’t taste good.”
“Okay, okay,” I say as I leave the snack bar to rinse my plate and put it in the dishwasher. I’m happy that I’ve managed to distract her a little so she could eat.
She closes her laptop and says, “I’m going to go brush my teeth and throw on a little makeup and I’ll be ready to go.”
“Okay, baby. We have a little time, so no rush.”
Once she’s out of the room, I snag my phone to check it. It’s been vibrating in my pocket, but we both try to refrain from using our phones while eating.
Derek: How is she?
Derek: Bella is worried about her.
Carter: She’ll be fine. There’ll be people watching over us.
Derek: Good, see you guys soon.
I’m sitting on the couch, watching the news when Patty comes walking into the room. “I’m ready, honey.” She sits beside me and places her hand on my leg.
I look into her eyes as I bend down to plant a small kiss on her beautiful lips. “Let’s go have some fun!”
“Have you heard from Derek? Are they still meeting us?”
“Yes, I have and yes, they are.”
She takes my hand as we walk to the car. The doorman tips his hat as we walk out, and we both nod back. When we get to my Jeep, I open the door for her and she climbs in. I can see her looking at her keyed car as I get into the driver’s seat.
“Baby, we’ll get that fixed this week, okay?”
She gives me a small grin and a slight nod, and then she turns to look back out the window. I back out of my spot and drive toward the first store. She’s quiet the entire way there. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s nervous or because she’s mentally preparing, but I say nothing, hoping she’ll work out her thoughts.
We pull up to the store a few minutes later. This one is a small local tory store versus the next one, which is a big chain toy store.
“Ready?” I ask as I scan the parking lot for anything suspicious. There are no cop cars in the lot, and we have no idea what Ben is driving, so it really does me no good to be looking around if I don’t even know what to look for.
She finally looks at me and says, “Ready. Let’s go buy some toys.”
For the first time today, she starts to look excited. I get out of the car and walk around to her side. I open her door and take her hand as she climbs out of my Jeep. We’re walking across the parking lot when Derek and Bella come walking up alongside us. Bella and Patty hug while Derek and I shake hands, and we walk into the store together.
The manager happens to be near the door as we enter, and there’s a gentlemen from the local paper standing beside the manager with a camera, waiting for us.
“Carter, Ms. Fitzpatrick, so nice of you to join us. Are you ready to take some photos in front of the tree now?” the manager asks.
“Please call me Patty.” She grins, reminding him to use her first name.
He nods. “My apologies, Patty. Are you ready?”
“Sure, that sounds great.”
The four of us pose in front of the tree. Then the manager jumps in, and we take a few with him. I explain to him that Derek is my boss, and they add his name to the write-up for the local paper. Bella, excited to shop, gets us a cart while we pick a few name tags off the tree.
We start walking around, looking for the things that the kids want. One of the children we picked has mittens and a hat on the list. Patty spots some and picks a few them from a children’s section on the way to the toy department. As we’re approaching the board games in search of a requested game, we hear a female scream. Poor Patty nearly has a heart attack until she realizes it’s a fan.
“Ms. Fitzpatrick, you really are supporting this event!” The fan says, full of excitement.
Patty smiles. “I am. How did you hear about the event?”
“From your blog, of course! I follow you on all of your sites.”
“That’s great! I see you picked a tag off the tree.”
“I did. I wanted to help.”
“What’s your name?”
“Carter, can you text me that name,” she says to me, turning back to her fan. “I’ll tell you what, Terri. Send me an email with your address and I’ll send you a signed copy of my latest book as a thank you for supporting this cause.”
“Really?” she asks as she lights up brighter than lights on a Christmas tree.
Patty smiles and says, “Really. Thank you for supporting the cause and for being a great fan. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have some shopping to do for these great kids.”
“Of course. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.”
“You’re very welcome.”
We walk away, and as we do Derek looks at her. “I can’t believe how well you handled that fan. That was really cool to witness.”
“What do you mean?” she asks as she puts the game we were looking for into the cart.
“You looked so happy to be talking to her. I don’t know how I would feel if some stranger interrupted my day while I was out in public.”
She shrugs. “It rarely happens, and honestly, I think it’s pretty sweet. Think about it. I wrote a book that touched that woman so much, she follows my blog and has come here to support a cause because I’m a part of it. That’s pretty powerful. Being recognized by her makes me feel pretty good too.”
Bella smiles proudly at her best friend as they walk through the game section. Patty’s throwing extra games in the cart for various ages. They get to the doll aisle and instantly turn into little girls. Derek and I are laughing as Bella and Patty playfully hold hands and skip down the aisle. They each pick a doll and place them in the cart.
“Baby, remember we have one more store to go to and we have to be there soon.” She smiles and shrugs like the hundreds we’re dropping here is not a big deal.
We talk as we move toward the registers at the front of the store with our cart pretty full of stuff. On the way, she spots another rack of cute hat and glove sets. She adds a few to the cart because they’re colorful but unisex and she can give them to anyone who needs a gift. When we get to the register, the photographer snaps pictures of Patty and me at one register while Bella and Derek purchase some of the items at the next register. Once we’ve paid for the gifts, we walk them over to the tree and place them underneath. As we do, again I can hear the camera going off. They’re making a really big deal of us making these purchases to support these local families, and my only hope is that it brings more people in to do the same.
We all shake hands with the manager, and I let him know that I’ll be in soon to check on things. As we’re walking out of the store, Bella says, “Hey, the four of us should plan a big wrapping party to go through and wrap all of these gifts and then the day before Christmas Eve we can hand them out together.”
“That is a great idea!” I say as we get to my Jeep. “Are you guys going to follow us to the next store?”
“Yeah, we’re right behind you,” Derek says. He takes Bella’s hand, and they walk off to his car.
I start the Jeep and grin as I look at Patty out of the corner of my eye. “You looked so happy in the store, baby.”
“I was. I really like doing things to help people. I feel like my mom does good things with her events, but only for the attention it gives her. I like to do it because I like helping people in need. Veterans, they hold a very special place in my heart.” She winks at me and then looks back out the window as we drive toward the next store.
When we pull in, I notice a few cars are following us. I can see one of them is Officer Phillips, and I know the other is Derek. I don’t really care who else is following us because as long as Officer Phillips is here, we’re safe.
I find a spot and cut the ignition. Turning to Patty, I yet again say, “Ready?”
She smiles and nods. I know she is, but really I want to give the officers a chance to take their place. I lean over to kiss her and tell her I love her. I get out of the car to walk around so I can open her door. I take her hand, and as we start walking toward the door Derek and Bella again meet up with us.
When the four of us get inside, the manager is at the door, waiting for us with yet another overly excited reporter. This reporter is a female, and she’s practically drooling over Patty and her work. Patty takes a personal picture with the reporter, and then the reporter gets to work taking pictures of us in front of the tree and picking tags. We finally go into the store to do our shopping.
Like she did at the last store, Patty walks around and puts extra stuff into the cart. The items aren’t on our tags, but she has such a good heart she wants to make sure there’s plenty to go around. I have an eerie feeling as we walk around, and I don’t know if it’s because Ben didn’t show up at the last store, or if my senses are right and he’s here. Every time Patty busies herself with a toy, I start scanning the store.
Derek nudges me and whispers, “What’s wrong?”
“Something’s not right.”
I see the officer who’s been following us and it makes me feel a little better, but I still feel like things are not on the up and up. Patty and Bella start moving to the next aisle ahead of us. I turn to Derek and nod in their direction. “Let’s go.”
As we start to meet them, I hear Bella and Patty scream. I look down the aisle, and they aren’t there. Now I’m panicking as I run to the next aisle.
Ben is holding Patty with a gun to her head. Bella has been pushed to the floor and is crawling toward Derek and I. I’m frozen as I try to evaluate the situation. Derek and I are toward the end of the aisle, and there’s a huge bin of balls right behind him, which does me no good. I don’t have any weapons on me and clearly I can’t lunge for him because he’ll kill her. I feel like time has stopped. As I’m looking around, Derek grabs my arm, ensuring I don’t screw this up.
Ben is whispering something in her ear. I can’t make out what it is, but she’s shaking and a tear runs down her cheek. Ben is a mess. The bags under his eyes make him look exhausted and unstable.
“Please, Ben! Let me go.”
“No. I love you, and I’m going to show you that. I want to show you that I can be gentle.” His voice is harsh. Tears run down his cheek.
“Holding a gun to my head isn’t being gentle, Ben.” Her voice shows she’s clearly shaken up.
People are standing around everywhere, watching to see how this story is going to play out. They’re so stupid! They should be running and taking cover. This guy could lose it at any time.