Read The Way Home Online

Authors: Irene Hannon

The Way Home (4 page)

BOOK: The Way Home
9.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Lord, I need Your guidance,
he prayed.
I want to do the right thing, but I need direction. I need to know Your will. You know I want to go home, that my heart is most at peace in the mountains. But maybe my dad's needs and my work here are more important. Please help me make the decision that best serves You. And, Lord—please do it soon. Because I feel like a man in limbo. I'm torn between two worlds, and I don't think I can give my best to either until this issue is resolved.

Chapter Three

A
my took one last look in the mirror, nervously brushed a stray strand of hair back into place and glanced at her watch. Cal Richards was late.

For a moment she wondered if he'd stood her up, then quickly dismissed her doubt. There might be many things she didn't like about the assistant prosecuting attorney, but somehow she sensed he was a man of honor who played by the rules and kept his promises. If he was late, there was a reason.

Amy had no idea where they were going for dinner, so she'd chosen a middle-of-the-road outfit—nice enough for a dressy place, but not too dressy for a casual restaurant. She looked at herself critically. Since the only pleasant thing Cal Richards had ever said to her related to her appearance, she'd taken pains to look especially nice tonight. Her fashionably short, slim black skirt and two-inch heels enhanced the line of her legs, and the jade-green, jewel-neckline
jacquard silk blouse softly hugged her curves and shimmered in the light. A wide, black leather belt emphasized her small waist, and a clunky hammered gold necklace and matching earrings added an elegant touch. She'd softened her usual sleek, businesslike hairstyle by blow-drying her fine hair into gentle waves that fluffed around her shoulders, and she'd added a touch of eye shadow that brought out the green of her eyes.

Amy studied her image for another moment, then gave a satisfied nod. This was definitely the right look, she decided. She could be any young woman going out on a Friday-night date. The fact that there was an ulterior motive—well, if she was lucky, Cal Richards would quickly forget all about that.

The doorbell rang and Amy's pulse kicked into high gear. She forced herself to take a couple of deep, steadying breaths, squared her shoulders, plastered an artificial smile on her face and then walked purposefully toward the door, determined to give this evening her best shot. As she reached for the knob, the image of a boxing match, complete with a gong followed by the voice of an announcer saying “Round one,” suddenly flashed through her mind. An appropriate analogy, she reflected, her lips quirking wryly. Then, with her adrenaline pumping for the battle of wits ahead, she opened the door.

The sight that greeted her instantly wiped the smile off her face. It appeared Cal Richards had already fought round one—and lost. His tie was askew, his hair was mussed and he was holding a bloody hand
kerchief to his nose and sporting a rapidly blackening eye.

She stared at him speechlessly for several seconds before she found her voice. “Good heavens, what happened?” she finally sputtered, her face a mask of shock.

“Where's your phone?”

“What?”

“Your phone. I need to report a mugging.”

Her eyes widened. “You're kidding!”

He glared at her, his voice muffled behind the handkerchief. “Do I look like I'm kidding?”

“No. I mean…I can't believe this! Look, come in. Sit down. Are you all right?” She took his arm and guided him toward the couch, pushing the door shut with her foot. Once he was seated she scurried for the portable phone and handed it to him. “I'll get some ice. And a towel.”

“Don't bother.”

She ignored him and headed toward the kitchen. By the time she returned, the phone was lying on the coffee table and he was trying vainly to staunch the flow of blood with his very inadequate handkerchief. She thrust the towel into his hand.

“Here. Use this. And tilt your head back. Then put this on your eye.” She placed the ice bag in his other hand.

“Has anyone ever told you you're bossy?” he grumbled, wincing as he gingerly settled the ice bag against his bruised skin.

She grinned. “I think my sister might have said that a few times through the years.”

“Well, she was right. Listen, the police will be here in a few minutes. I'm sorry to put you in the middle of this.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Two thugs jumped me in the parking lot. I didn't even see them coming,” he said in disgust. “I'm usually more alert than that.” And he would have been tonight, too, if he hadn't been so preoccupied with this obligatory date, he thought ruefully.

Amy frowned and sank into the nearest chair. “I've never heard of anything like that happening here before.”

“There's always a first time. No place is really safe, Ms. Winter. You ought to know that. You cover the crime beat.”

She sighed. “Look, can we move past the ‘Mr.' and ‘Ms.' business? It's starting to seem kind of silly.”

Even with only one good eye, his piercing gaze was intimidating, and she shifted uncomfortably. But instead of responding, he suddenly closed his eyes and leaned wearily back against the couch.

Amy frowned. He looked pale. Maybe he was hurt worse than he was letting on, she thought worriedly as a wave of panic swept over her.

“Look, Mr. Richards, are you sure you don't need an ambulance or something?” She rose and hovered over him nervously.

He opened his good eye and she thought she saw a glimmer of amusement in its depths. “Just make it Cal. And no, I'll be okay. But thanks.”

The doorbell rang, and with one last worried glance at him, she hurried to answer it.

For the next few minutes she stayed in the background while the officer and Cal spoke. They obviously knew each other, and their mutual respect was evident. Cal described the two young men as best he could, told the officer they'd only been interested in the hundred dollars in his money clip and roughing him up a bit, and once more declined medical assistance.

“I've been taken care of,” he said, directing a brief smile toward Amy.

“Okay, then.” The officer stood and closed his notebook. “I'm awfully sorry about this, Cal.”

“It's not your fault, Mitch. You guys do the best you can. You can't be everywhere at once.”

There was a warmth in Cal's voice that Amy had never heard before, and she looked at him curiously. Up until now, she'd only seen two sides of him—the incisive prosecuting attorney at work in the courtroom, and the reticent, abrupt, potential news source who held her profession, and as a result, her, in low esteem. This human side, this warmth, was new. And quite refreshing. Not to mention appealing, she realized with a jolt.

“We haven't had much trouble in this area before.” The officer frowned and sent a troubled look toward Amy. “Have you heard or seen anything suspicious recently, ma'am?”

“No. Never. But I've only lived here six months.”

Mitch stared at her for a moment. “Aren't you on TV? One of the news shows?”

“Yes.”

“This would have to happen on my beat,” he said in dismay. “Listen, you're not going to…”

“No!” Cal and Amy answered in unison, and with equal vehemence. He sent her an amused look and she flushed.

“There's more important news to report than a mugging,” Amy said with a shrug.

“Yeah.” Mitch frowned and turned his attention back to Cal. “This was probably just a freak incident. Still, we'll beef up patrols in this area for a while. And if we get any leads on those two, we'll let you know.”

“Thanks.”

Amy let the officer out, then returned to the living room. Cal was standing now, the ice pack still clamped against his eye, but his nose had stopped bleeding. “Could I use your bathroom? I'd like to clean up a little.”

“Sure. Right down the hall.”

She watched him disappear, then sank onto the sleek, modular couch. She'd speculated all week about how this evening would play out, but never in a million years would she have dreamed up this scenario!

Cal was gone a long time, and when he returned the only lingering physical evidence of the mugging was the black eye. Aside from that, he looked great, she realized, getting past his face for the first time all evening. His dark gray suit sat well on his broad shoulders, and she figured he must put in time at a gym to maintain such a trim, athletic appearance. De
spite the trauma of the past hour, his white shirt still looked crisp, and his elegant red-and-navy-striped tie was now ramrod straight. He'd restored order to his thick, dark brown hair, as well, and for once his brown eyes seemed friendly rather than adversarial.

“Feeling better?” she asked.

“Much. I rinsed out the towel. It should be okay after it's washed, but I'll be happy to replace it if you prefer.”

Amy waved his suggestion aside. “Don't even think about it. I'm just sorry about all this.” She sighed and leaned back. “Well, so much for our date.”

He weighed the ice pack in his hand and raised his brows quizzically. “Are you calling it off?”

She looked at him in surprise. “Aren't you? I mean, you were just mugged! You can't possibly feel like going out.”

He shrugged. “I'll admit those two thugs hurt my pride. And my pocketbook. But not my appetite. And I still have my credit cards. I'm willing to give it a shot, as long as you don't mind being seen with a guy who has a shiner. Besides, this way I can get all the unpleasantness out of the way in one night—a mugging and this date.” His teasing tone and crooked grin softened his words.

Amy stared at him. He was actually smiling at her! Genuinely smiling! And suddenly her pulse did the oddest thing. It started to race. Not the way it did when she was nervous about confronting a hostile source for a story. No, this was altogether different. This was almost a pleasant sensation. And why on
earth had a thrilling little tingle just run up her spine? Good heavens, if she didn't know better, she'd think she was attracted to the man! Which was ridiculous. After all, this wasn't even a real date. It was a strategy. And she would do well to remember that, she admonished herself.

Amy swallowed and tried for a flippant tone. “Putting my date on par with a mugging isn't the most flattering comparison I've ever heard.”

He smiled again. “You must admit there is a similarity. The muggers wanted money, you want information. But I guarantee they were more successful than you'll be.”

“Maybe I should resort to strong-arming, like they did,” she replied pertly, getting into the teasing spirit.

He eyed her speculatively, the quick sweep of his gaze lingering just a bit too long on her shapely, crossed legs. “Unless you're a black belt, I don't think that will work. Or maybe you're referring to something besides physical force,” he countered with a lazy smile.

Amy stared at him. The man was actually flirting with her! The buttoned-up, stuffed-shirt, play-by-the-rules assistant prosecuting attorney was letting his hair down! The transformation in his demeanor was amazing! Apparently he had a sense of humor after all.

Or did he? she wondered, her eyes suddenly growing troubled. Maybe he
wasn't
teasing. Maybe he was hinting that he might be willing to answer her questions if she cooperated in other ways. He
had
made it clear that he thought she was attractive. He hadn't
struck her as the type to even think along those lines, but, after all, she hardly knew him. And it wouldn't be the first time someone had suggested such a thing. She just hadn't expected it from him, she admitted, oddly disappointed. He seemed somehow to radiate integrity and honor and…well, goodness, corny as that might sound.

Amy hoped her first impression was right, that his last remark had just been innocent flirting, but in case she was wrong, she needed to clarify the parameters of this date right now. She rose, tilted her chin up and gazed at him levelly.

“Look, Mr. Richards, don't get the wrong idea. I—”

“I thought we were past the ‘Mr.' stage.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know what you're thinking right now, and I might be jumping to conclusions, but let me make something very clear. I want to find a way to make my coverage on the Jamie Johnson story stand out. I want that very much. Enough to go to some pretty extreme lengths, including spending five hundred dollars for a date with a man who dislikes me on the slim chance that I might get some piece of information I can use. But I don't intend to make a…personal…investment in this story. That's not my style. It never has been, and it never will be.”

Now it was Cal's turn to stare. Good heavens, did she really think he was insinuating that for the right “personal investment,” as she put it, he might be willing to offer her a few crumbs of information? What kind of man did she think he was? he thought
indignantly. He opened his mouth to set her straight, then suddenly recalled some advice Gram had once offered, which had always held him in good stead: Think before you speak. And put yourself in the other person's shoes before jumping to conclusions.

He stifled his sharp retort and instead took a moment to study the woman across from him, looking for the first time past her superficial beauty. There was spirit in her deep green eyes, and intelligence and sensitivity, he realized. Her posture was defiant, but the subtle quiver in her hand as she reached up to brush a stray strand of hair back from her face was more revealing. To the world she might appear brash and assertive and so ambitious that she was willing to push the bounds of ethics for the sake of a scoop, but suddenly he knew better. Amy Winter had principle. And character. Yes, she wanted success. But not at any price.

He admired her for that, admired her for setting clear boundaries and taking a stand. After all, she really didn't know him, he reminded himself, and the crime beat was filled with seedy characters. With her looks, she'd probably been propositioned more times than she could remember as a trade-off for information. Once more he felt a surge of anger. Not
at
her this time, but
for
her. She'd obviously been subjected to offensive behavior and suggestions often enough to make her suspect his motives.

Instinctively he reached out to touch her arm, but at her startled jerk, he withdrew his hand immediately. He could feel her tension quivering almost palpably in the room. She was like a young colt, he
realized. Skittish and suddenly unsure and ready to bolt at the slightest provocation. It was not the behavior he'd expected from the sophisticated, glib, always-in-control newswoman he'd encountered up until now.

BOOK: The Way Home
9.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne
Blood Knot by Cooper-Posey, Tracy
What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas
For Frying Out Loud by Fay Jacobs
The Eternal Enemy by Michael Berlyn
Texas Secrets by Jean Brashear
Secondhand Heart by Kristen Strassel
The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari