Summer Lovin': A Wounded Hearts Novella (6 page)

BOOK: Summer Lovin': A Wounded Hearts Novella
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Chapter Eleven

R
ebecca was actually
glad they had to spend the night in the hospital. The whole episode in the alley had shaken her up more than she’d let anyone know.

Especially Mitch.

He’d resembled an avenging angel bursting out that door and racing to the rescue. Her heart beat a little harder. Thank God they didn’t have weapons. As it was, he had a lump the size of a tennis ball on his forehead. By the time the ambulance delivered them to the hospital she’d been worried about his pallor, but none of the nurses who cared for her could fill her in on how he was doing.

By morning she was seriously frazzled. And sore. And she had the headache from hell. Right now nothing sounded better than a hot cup of coffee, some breakfast from Grace’s diner, and a long soak in a bubble bath. But first she had to know about Mitch.

She’d just levered herself gingerly up in bed and dropped her legs over the side when the door swung open and he stepped in, charging the room with his presence.

He hesitated when he saw her, a flash of relief turning his lips into a near smile.

“You’re up.”

He let the door slide closed, sealing them in together, and moved to her side.

“You look like shit.” He accompanied the words with a tender kiss to her forehead.

Flustered, she yanked the blanket over her bared legs and used her free hand to try and pat down her bedhead before meeting his gaze. Her eyes widened as she took in the purple coloring that spread upward from his left eye to an impressive sized goose egg.

“Oh, Mitch.” Helpless tears formed. She feathered his cheekbone with her fingertips. “I’m so sorry.”

He captured her hand and brought it to his lips, releasing her with a gentle squeeze. “You have nothing to be sorry for. I’m just glad I decided to follow you.”

Yeah, she was too. Chills broke out when she thought of what could have happened. She shivered.

Mitch glanced around until he spotted a throw blanket folded neatly on a nearby chair. He picked it up and wrapped her shoulders. “You totally rock that hospital green.” He grinned.

Grateful for the added warmth, Becky smiled back and struck something of a pose. “You think?”

Mitch’s gaze dropped to the gaping V in front. His attention heated her more than any blanket could do. “Oh, yeah.”

Uncomfortable, she changed the subject. “Did you get a good look at the guy who hit you?”

Mitch shook his head, wincing a little. “No, but I think I know who it was.”

“The same man from the school yesterday.” She twisted her hands in her lap. “He recognized me right away.”

Mitch swore. “Shit, I knew that guy was bad news. Did you tell the deputies when they came to get our statements last night?”

“It was Jack, and yeah, I told him,” she answered. “He said he’s working on it.”

“Damn rights, since the guy is practically his family.” Mitch paced the room.

Rebecca frowned. What was that supposed to mean?

“I think you better explain.”

Mitch stopped in front of her and lifted her abused hand in his. “I thought he seemed familiar. It took me a while to figure it out, but then I remembered.” He met her confused gaze. “Did you know Jack’s first wife, April Montgomery?”

A picture of a beautiful blonde came to mind. She’d been a senior to Rebecca’s junior, but still in the same school. They hadn’t been friends.

“Yeah, I remember her. She was part of the “
I am
” crowd.”

Mitch looked at her quizzically.

“You know.
I am
the prettiest.
I am
a cheerleader.” Becky flipped her hair in an imitation of a ditzy chick. “
I am
too good for you.”

Mitch smirked. “Yeah, that’s the one. She has an older brother. Guess who?”

Rebecca’s eyes widened.

Mitch nodded. “That’s him. Peter Montgomery, asshole, jackass, and all round dipshit. I guess he hasn’t changed.”

A young nurse entered the room and strode over wearing squeaky white shoes. “How are we feeling today?” she asked, her eyes going to Mitch for a flirtatious second before she focused on the monitors.

“The doctor should be in soon, then we can remove this…” She lifted Rebecca’s hand with the IV attached, “and get you on your way. Sound good?”

Relieved, Becky gave her a friendly smile. “Better than good. No offense, but your coffee doesn’t hold a candle to Grits and Grace’s.”

The nurse laughed. “No offense taken. I go there all the time myself.” She glanced at Mitch again, cleared her throat. “Okay, well… I’m just going to check on my other patients. Give me a shout if you need anything.” She wrote a quick note on the chart, opened the curtains to let in a stream of light, and left the door open a few inches on her way out.

Rebecca grinned. “She liked you.”

Now it was his turn to look uncomfortable. “I never noticed.”

Rebecca decided to let him off the hook and returned to their previous subject. “What do you think the connection is between Peter Montgomery and Tommy?”

Mitch shrugged. “Father? Uncle maybe?”

“He didn’t really act like a father. More like a guardian or something.” Becky thought about how scared Tommy had been. “Whatever the case, I hope Jack can help Tommy. I hate to think of him with that man.”

“Jack and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, but he’s a solid guy. There’s no way he’ll let a child get injured on his watch.” Mitch squeezed her hand. “We’ll get this jerk, honey. Don’t worry.”

Rebecca hoped he was right. There’d been something about those two last night, that even now froze the blood in her veins.

Chapter Twelve

T
ommy glanced to the right
, made sure the coast was clear, and waved at his brother to hurry up. Jasper grinned. No doubt this was all a high adventure in his mind. Tommy rolled his hand at him to get a move on. Jasper nodded and stood on tiptoes to reach the shiny red apples in the bin.

Laughter rippled nearby.

Tommy’s heart jumped into his throat. He turned and peeked around the next aisle; two teenagers stood in front of a row of magazines giggling over the muscled men on the front cover.

Girls.

A thunderous boom behind made him duck until he realized the noise came from the row where his brother should be. Afraid to look, Tommy peered around the corner and his eyes almost bugged out of his head.

Jasper sat on the floor looking stunned, surrounded by a sea of red. The apple bin lay smashed on its side nearby. The two girls raced past, kicking the fruit aside until they could kneel beside him.

The one with blonde hair leaned over and gave Jasper a quick hug. “Don’t cry, little guy. Accidents happen. Mr. Lee is really nice. He won’t be mad as long as we clean it all up.”

She turned and caught Tommy’s eye. “You just going to watch or are you going to help us here?”

He straightened as though he had a broomstick shoved up his spine. Who did she think she was? He’d been taking care of his little brother all the years she was probably playing Barbie.

Embarrassed, he stomped over, picked up an apple, and took a big bite out of it; even though his stomach churned so bad he thought he might puke.

“Quit your cryin’, Jasper. It ain’t gonna help.” He avoided his brother’s wide-eyed gaze and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “Git up now and give me a hand. I’s told ya not to play around them bins.”

“But…” Jasper started to protest until he caught his brother’s glare and subsided into silence. He climbed sullenly to his feet and began to gather apples into a tumbling pile.

“You don’t need to be mean to him. He’s just little,” the teen scolded.

“And cute,” her friend added.

A shuffling step interrupted their happy little group. “What’s a happen here?” Mr. Lee, the store owner, came trundling down the aisle, a scowl creasing his already ancient-looking face.

Jasper dropped the fruit he’d been holding and edged behind his brother. Tommy stood taller and attempted to widen his shoulders. He hid the bitten apple behind his back and tried to look innocent. If the old guy called their uncle, they’d be dead for sure.

The blonde girl stood and moved between him and the storeowner, her ponytail swishing back and forth like a horse’s tail. “I’m sorry, Mr. Lee. I grabbed an apple from the bottom and it avalanched. I should have known better.”

Tommy’s mouth dropped open. She’d covered for him.

Mr. Lee tsk, tsked and shuffled by to straighten the bin. He wasn’t much taller than Tommy and grunted trying to force it upright. Tommy pushed the apple into his brother’s hand and hurried forward, brushing by the flowery smelling girls. Mr. Lee gave him a grateful glance—and didn’t that feel great considering he’d just been attempting to steal from the man—and they both put their shoulders to the heavy wooden crate. It crashed down and rocked for a breath-stealing second before settling into place.

“You good boy,” Mr. Lee huffed and gave him a toothy grin. He bent with more agility than Tommy expected and tossed him an apple. “You too skinny. Eat.”

Tommy caught the fruit and tried to swallow past the hard lump in his throat. He turned away from the teen’s soft brown gaze and surreptitiously wiped the moisture from his eyes. He put the apple away in his pocket for later and began gathering the fallen fruit and placing them gently in the righted bin. Jasper joined him first, then the girls.

Blondie met his gaze and smiled. “Hi, I’m Tina.”

His face turned hot. He ducked his chin. “I’m Tommy, and this here is Jasper.”

“You guys new to town? I haven’t seen you around.” She dropped an apple in the bin, dusted off her hands, and waited for an answer.

Jasper looked at him nervously and Tommy gave his head a slight shake. “Yeah, we just moved here.” He answered, and hoped she’d let it go. Of course she didn’t.

“Where are you living? I been here my whole life so I know most areas of town.”

“Tommy,” Jasper said.

“You’re kinda nosy.” Tommy tried to change the subject.

Tina giggled. “I’ve heard that once or twice,” she said good-naturedly.

“Tommy,” Jasper whined.

“What?” Tommy snapped, turning to glare at his brother. Jasper pointed, and Tommy’s stomach plunged down to his toes. A man built like the Hulk stood beside Mr. Lee, and he had a gun.

Chapter Thirteen

W
hen Jack Garrett
entered the Pine Bluff Corner Store on his way home from work, the last thing he expected to see was his daughter in the midst of what seemed to have been an apple free-for-all.

Just once couldn’t his day be normal?

Sighing, he stepped forward to offer a hand and that’s when he noticed the two young boys. The youngest was chomping his way through an apple twice the size of his grubby hands, reddish-blond hair sticking straight up in the back. The other kid looked to be a couple years older with bedraggled clothes and dirty brown hair. He was grinning at something Tina must have said as he carefully set a couple pieces of fruit in the bin.

She smiled back, and Jack’s stomach dropped into his shoes. They wore the exact same expression. These were April’s kids. Mitch was right.

The older one turned just then and got an eyeball full of Jack and his holstered weapon. The shock would have been comical except for the fact he could relate. He was feeling a little—okay, a lot—flummoxed himself.

Tina noticed him and ran forward. “Hi, Daddy.”

At the same second, Jack saw the kid perform a set of hand signals worthy of a pro baseball catcher. The younger one nodded and disappeared around the bottom of the aisle.

Shit.

“Hey, hold up there,” he called, and took a step, only to almost land on his ass when an apple rolled under his foot.

The older kid, seeing his chance, turned and dived around the end of the bin.

“Stop,” Jack yelled, arms flailing as he tried to regain his balance.

“Daddy,” Tina cried, screeching to a halt looking dazed and bewildered.

Join the crowd.

Mr. Lee was chanting some kind of Chinese mumbo-jumbo, his frail arms crossed and head bobbing up and down.

“Dad, wait.”

Jack grabbed his cell and dialed the station. “Not now, Tina. I’ll explain later.”

Much later, if he had his way.

“You read my mind,” Laurel purred. “Grab some strawberries and whipped cream on your way home, honey. I have plans.”

Oh, yeah
.

“Do you always answer the phone that way?” He smiled, momentarily lulled by the image she’d placed in his head. “What if it wasn’t your husband?”

“Oops. Jack, is that you?” she teased.

He laughed outright, then got reluctantly back to business. “We’ll talk about your insubordination later. Right now I need you to send a car to the Corner Store, stat.”

“Oh, Jack. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, just walked in on a bit of a disturbance.” He picked his way more carefully through the little red landmines waiting to trip him up. “I need someone to help take statements, that’s all.”

He’d have to tell Laurel and his daughter the whole story at some point, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Hey, Tina, guess what? You have a couple of step-brothers.

Color him excited.

He caught a glimpse of blond hair near the paper product aisle and snuck down the cat food row to catch him on the other end. Except he must have made more noise than he thought, because when he rounded the corner he was met by a hailstorm of TP.

What the…?

A roll bounced off the top of his head and tumbled down his shoulder, leaving a trail of white tissue in its wake. His eyes narrowed. This was getting out of hand. The culprits stood about five feet away doing an impressive job of holding him back—for the moment.

He raised his arm as a shield and forged ahead, refusing to be outdone by a snot-nosed brat. And that’s where he made his mistake.

* * *

M
itch opened
the door to the grocery store and couldn’t believe his eyes. It looked as though a bomb had gone off. Apples lay all over the produce section and Mr. Lee rocked back and forth yelling something in Mandarin that made no sense at all. Something about guns and kids and toilet paper?

It was like a scene from
The Twilight Zone
.

He glanced out the glass door and made sure Becky was still in the truck. Last thing he needed was her getting hurt again. Her gaze was on something in her lap—cell phone probably—so he headed straight for Tina who was wringing her hands and staring toward the back of the store.

“What’s going on?” he asked, nodding toward the mess.

She turned a distraught puppy-dog gaze on him that about melted his heart.

“My dad thinks two boys did this deliberately, but they didn’t.” Her tone said her dad was an idiot sometimes. Mitch couldn’t argue the point. “He chased after them, even though I tried to tell him.”

He knew he should have stopped at the supermarket instead.
Dammit.

“I’ll see if he needs a hand. You take care of Mr. Lee, okay? And if you see Miss Sorenson come in, keep her here.” He waited for her to nod her understanding then hurried in the direction of war-whoops and crashing shelves, not sure what to expect.

It sure wasn’t finding Jack on his ass, a shelving unit across his legs, and unraveled toilet paper decorating his head and shoulders.

Mitch skidded to a halt, a slow grin lighting his lips. Jack looked up from where he’d been trying to extricate himself from the mess and swore.

“Hey, big guy. Life got you down in the dumps? Just try a roll of this, it’s guaranteed to cushion your fall.”

“Oh, you’re a barrel of laughs,” Jack growled. “Help me up.”

Mitch pulled his phone out and snapped a couple quick shots first.

Never know when they might come in handy.

BOOK: Summer Lovin': A Wounded Hearts Novella
13.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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