Read For You (The 'Burg Series) Online

Authors: Kristen Ashley

For You (The 'Burg Series) (8 page)

BOOK: For You (The 'Burg Series)
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“Girl –” Meems started again.

“I need to get to the bar.”

I moved and they stepped aside. They knew me, they knew when I meant what I said and when I meant business.

I gave a wave to Meems and Jessie walked beside me the short distance to J&J’s.

“When’re Jack and Jackie getting here?” Jessie asked.

Morrie had called them from the bar yesterday morning about two seconds after Alec had walked away. They were driving their RV up and were on the road by yesterday afternoon. Depending on how hell bent Dad was to get here, they could arrive at any time. I figured Dad was probably pretty hell bent and they could be crossing the town line as Jessie and my boots hit the sidewalk.

“Any time now.”

“That’ll be good,” Jessie murmured as I opened the door to the bar.

I didn’t agree with her.
 

Mom and Dad were going to feel the same pressure Morrie was feeling. The pressure to keep me safe. The pressure to keep me from feeling this weight hanging so heavy over my head, knowing, any time, without any control had by me, it could drop, crushing me underneath it. The pressure that was there from Alec and me, the pressure they felt in the short time before I found Pete, the pressure they felt in the short time I remained home after Pete was gone. The pressure of wanting with everything they were for Alec and me to go back to what we had, wanting it so much they’d be willing to
make
it happen, the pressure and disappointment of knowing they had no means of doing it.

Morrie’s head (and everyone else’s in the bar) came up to look at me when Jessie and I walked in.

I had no idea when the bomb would drop. Last night Morrie told me that Alec told him that Angie’s note was going to remain under wraps and any chats he had with anyone I’d put on my list he’d do his best to keep under wraps too.

Alec was good at a lot of things. He’d been an All-State tight end. He’d gained a partial scholarship to Purdue. He’d graduated top of his class at the Academy. He’d crawled out from under the stench of his parents and been a kid, and now a man, that people respected. He was good at being my brother’s best friend, another son to my folks. He was a good cop. He’d even been a great boyfriend, the best, until he’d stopped being that.

But this was a small town. He wasn’t
that
good.
 

Then again, the last person who wronged me breathed through a tube for a couple of days, courtesy of Alec, so who knew?

I split from Jessie who went straight to the bar. I went to the back, secured my purse in the office and went behind the bar.

My departure from Morrie’s apartment meant he’d had to open up for once.

My longer-than-usual stay away, due to moving in with Jessie, having a shower there and getting ready to tackle the day there then having to call Pete’s bitch of a Mom in Mimi’s office meant I was in a lot later than usual.

When I hit the back of the bar, Morrie said, “Feb –”

“Save it,” I didn’t even look at him when I spoke, “you need to give me time.”

That was all I was willing to say but I felt his relief because me asking for time meant him knowing I was holding a grudge but also knowing I’d eventually let it go.

“I don’t know about you but I need a drink. Meems’s coffee is the bomb but it ain’t gonna cut it right about now,” Jessie announced.

Joe-Bob laughed at Jessie’s comment.

Joe-Bob was a regular who planted his ass on the barstool by the front door at noon, opening time, every day and didn’t pry his ass from that stool until closing time unless it was to take a leak or wander down to Frank’s restaurant to eat a burger. Hell, he’d fallen asleep at that stool more times than I could count.

We left him to it. He paid his tab at the end of every month, though God only knew how he managed that. Things were rough for Morrie now that he was paying rent, helping Dee with the mortgage and paying child support. It was sad and it was wrong but Joe-Bob was now beloved by Morrie. His tabs were helping to keep two roofs over Morrie’s kids’ heads.

I didn’t laugh with Joe-bob, got Jessie a drink and then got down to work. I spent that time, like last night but more so today, trying not to think about Angie, about the note, about Alec, about whether my cat Wilson would make Jessie’s husband Jimbo sneeze or about anything at all.

About an hour later the door opened and Alec and his partner Sully walked in.

Unable and maybe unwilling to stop it, I felt my jaw move in a nonverbal greeting, the way it always did when I saw Alec. Always and forever. Since I could remember.

I used to do it because it made him smile at me, a smile I hadn’t seen in years, a smile that others saw and it was handsome so I was sure they liked it, at least the girls. But they didn’t get it. They didn’t get how precious it was. They didn’t understand, it not being directed at them, what that smile could do. The power of it. It was like every time he smiled he’d opened a chest of treasure and said, “All this is yours.”

Now I did it because it made his expression change. He didn’t smile but there was something there, not treasure but precious all the same. It was nostalgic in that painful way nostalgia could be, but it was still precious and addictive, like a drug. I’d forget between times, but when he walked in, the craving would assault me, too much to fight, I was jonesing for it. So I went after it, lifting my jaw then his face would change and I’d allow myself half a beat to drink it in before I looked away.

Even after all that happened, today was no different.

Quick as I could, the second I got my Alec hit, I looked at Sully and understood why he wasn’t around yesterday.

He looked like hell. Brimming eyes, red rimmed nose and he was carrying a tatty tissue which had been overused.

“You need hot, honeyed water,” I said to Sully when he hit the bar, hot, honeyed water being what Mom used to make Morrie and I drink when we had a cold.

It probably had no medicinal effects at all except those wondrous ones only mothers could generate. Mothers who gave a shit about their kids and took care of them when they were sick like they were the most cherished things on earth and the world would not be right until her kid’s cold went away. Mothers like my Mom.

“I need hot, honeyed whisky,” Sully told me with a smile.

I could do hot, honeyed whisky. I would have to run down to the corner store to pick up the honey but it was only six doors away.

“You on duty?” I asked.

He gave me a look, it wasn’t a bad one. It wasn’t pitying or filled with blame. It was one filled with concern and a hint of understanding.

“Feels like, this case, with this cold, I’ll be on duty until the day I die.”

“I’m sorry, Sully.”

“You apologize again I’ll ask you over for dinner.”

That made me laugh, the first time I’d done it in over twenty-four hours and it felt rusty in my throat.

Still, Sully’s wife Lorraine was a shit cook. She was famous for it. Ever since she brought a half-dozen casseroles to the high school band’s pot luck fundraiser the first year they were married and gave food poisoning to half the band and some of the town.

The extra late afternoon bodies filling the room and the work and likely Alec being there made me feel suddenly hot.

I pulled off my sweater to strip down to the tank underneath as I replied, “I swear, I won’t apologize again.”

Sully’s laughter was muffled by my sweater being over my ears.

Alec’s comment was not because the sweater was off by the time he said it.

“What happened to your arm?”

I dropped my hands, my sweater still in both of them, and looked at my arm. Morrie’s fingerprints were clear as day, purple and blue and looking angry.

Fuck, but I always was an easy bruiser.

“Shit,” Morrie muttered, eyes glued to my arm.

“Shit, what?” Alec asked, his gaze swinging to Morrie who looked just as guilty as he was.

“Alec,” I said.

“Colt,” Sully said.

“Shit, what?” Alec repeated, ignoring Sully and me, looking pissed.

No, looking murderous.

I’d seen him that way once. I was barely conscious then and it scared the shit out of me. I was fully conscious now and worried I was about to pee my pants.

“Alec, don’t –” I tried.

Morrie tore his eyes from my arm and looked at his friend. “Colt –”

“Shit, what?” Alec cut him off, totally ignoring me. “You do that to her?”

Sully got close to him. “Colt.”

“Please calm down, it was not a big deal,” I tried again.

Alec ignored me again. “You put your hand on her?”

“Let’s go to the back, talk,” Morrie suggested.

“That why she moved in with Jessie and Jimbo?” Alec asked.

Oh Lord.

I’d never lived in a city. Even when I was travelling, trying to find a way to get back to myself, I picked small towns. I did this because you were never faceless, not for long. You were never a number. When something happened to folk in small towns, the entire town felt it. Even if you didn’t know someone, just knew of them, or a bit about them, you felt it when something happened. You sent a card. You gave them a smile when you saw them or someone who cared about them, a smile that said more than “hello”. People looked out for one another. You were friendly even to people you might not like just because it was the right thing to do and you’d likely see them again, maybe not the next day, but soon. And their kid would go to school with your kid. Or there would be a time when you knew you’d need their kindness or you’d give them yours.

But sometimes living in a small town sucked.

This was one of those times.

“Really, guys, this isn’t the time –” Jessie entered the conversation and she was just as unsuccessful as Sully and I had been.

“Your job was to keep her safe,” Alec told Morrie.

“Colt, trust me, we don’t want to talk about this,” Morrie said back.

“Jimbo can’t keep her safe. He wouldn’t have the first clue,” Alec said.

“Excuse me,” Jessie put in.

Alec’s eyes cut to me. “You stay with Morrie or you stay with me.”

“Alec,” I said.

“Colt, man, you know that can’t happen. You’re primary on the investigation,” Sully reminded him.

Alec was single-minded, not moving his eyes from me, he’d made a decision. “Morrie fucked up, you stay with me.”

“I’m not staying with you.”

“You aren’t staying with Jimbo and,” his head dipped to my arm, “you aren’t staying with Morrie.”

“She’s fine with us,” Jessie said.

“She can’t stay with you, man, you’d be yanked off the case,” Sully told him.

Alec bit his lip then looked at Morrie. “Explain why you marked her.”

“Like I said,” Morrie was now getting pissed, “let’s go in the back.”

“Explain why she’s standin’ there with your mark on her after what she went through yesterday,” Alec pushed, already pissed.

“Dude, as I said –”

“Explain why she lived through that asshole usin’ his fists on her only to have her fucking
brother
mark her.”

The bar, already on silent alert, everyone listening in and not hiding it, went wired.

Not me. I felt something else. Something far from pleasant. Something that made me feel sick.

 
Morrie’s voice was vibrating when he warned, “Colt, don’t compare me to Pete.”

“You aren’t explaining.”

“What’s goin’ on here?” my Dad said as my cell phone at my ass rang.

No one had noticed the door open. No one had noticed Mom and Dad walk in. No one.

Dad was looking between Morrie and Alec, his expression the same as it always was when he had to wade into one of their arguments or one of my arguments with Morrie.

Mom’s eyes were on me.

I wasn’t thinking. I should have said something, defused the situation. At least greeted my Mom and Dad who I hadn’t seen since Christmas and it was now March. But instead I pulled the phone out of my back pocket, flipped it open and put it to my ear.

BOOK: For You (The 'Burg Series)
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