Hometown Hero (Hometown Alaska Men Book 2) (4 page)

BOOK: Hometown Hero (Hometown Alaska Men Book 2)
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Damn. There would be no peace tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

"Any plans tonight?" June asked.

Tawney slid onto a bar stool. Her eight-hour shift at The Junebug was over. The bar had been busy all afternoon and evening. Her bone spurs throbbed. She wanted nothing more than to go home to her cottage and soak her aching feet.

"Just me and a tub of hot water." Tawney unrolled the napkin taped to her silverware.

June placed an order of salad with grilled chicken in front of Tawney. "Here you go."

"Thanks." She appreciated her one free meal per shift. Helped with expenses. Tawney dug into her salad. "How about you? You working until closing?"

"Nope." June took the stool next to Tawney. "Debbie's on tonight. I'm beat. I'm going home and watch a little television. Rick comes on shift soon. He's got the place covered."

Tawney smiled. "Sounds heavenly." So far her shift had not overlapped with Rick's. She had no idea if June was keeping them apart on purpose, having Tawney work days and Rick work nights, or had Rick requested they be on separate shifts? Probably.

"Tips good today?" June asked.

"Yep." Tawney sipped her water. "Might be able to afford cable soon."

June smiled. "Well, I'm going to tie things up with Rick and head home. Have a good night, Tawney."

"You, too." Tawney gave June a wave. She finished her salad. Picking up her plate, she left the dish in the kitchen and went into the backroom to get her coat.

Cold air bit at her cheeks as she walked. Halfway home tiny snow pelts started, the icy chips stinging her face. Tawney thrust her hands in her pockets, glad she didn't have far to go. Water lapped at the pier, keeping her company. She had the cottage in her sight when she spied Rick exiting his place.

Yep, right next door.

They met at the mouth of their joint driveway, their outdoor lights illuminating them.

He wore a blue knit cap and a black jacket. The rugged look worked for him.

"On your way to work?" she asked, knowing full well he was.

"I am. You just get off?" He took his hands out of his pockets.

"I did. Long day. I'm beat."

He grinned. "My day is just starting. Talk to me about a long day around 3 a.m."

She smiled back. "Can't wait until June puts me on the late shift."

"You going to the O'Briens' party tomorrow?" Rick asked.

"You know I am. Star would kill me if I didn't show up."

"Thought I might swing by and offer you a ride."

"Thanks, but I can get there on my own."

He smiled. "There's no sense in taking two cars. The roads are icy, plus it will be dark when we go home. The roads here can be dangerous to a novice snow driver. It's best if you don't drive alone."

"I grew up here, remember?"

"You've been gone a long time."

She got lost in his eyes, eyes that reflected the exact colors of the bay on a cloudy day, stormy green and gray. An unwelcome jolt of sexual awareness caught her off-guard. Why him? She didn't understand physical attraction, but she understood enough to know that Rick Tabor's physical appearance turned her into a fool. She felt eighteen again, sick with love for him. Love based solely on the way he looked, on the way his looks made her feel.

"I'm riding with Brandi and Bud," she lied, thinking she needed to call Brandi and make the ride happen now. "Thanks for the offer though. I'll see you there."

"If you're sure?" he asked, sounding disappointed.

"I'm sure. Look, I'm tired and it's freezing out here." She turned toward the cottage. "See you tomorrow?"

"Count on it."

The richness of his voice added to the physical ache he caused. She'd never been quite good enough for Rick, and they both knew it. Tawney and her sisters had been considered white trash to some, and Rick's family had been no exception. Destiny's daughters were good enough to bed, but not good enough to marry. The remembered hurts filled Tawney's chest. Without a backward glance, she let herself into the cottage.

She didn't need or want a man, especially a former police officer, in her life. Rick had been right about one thing, it was safer to navigate the icy roads with a partner. Tawney didn't have a phone, but tomorrow she'd use the phone at The Junebug and call Brandi to secure that ride.

Decision made, Tawney turned the water on in the old clawfoot bathtub. Minutes later, she sank into the warm water, Rick Tabor forgotten.

*    *    *

Tawney reached for Will, taking the baby from her sister Brandi. "He's grown so much, Bran."

"I know, right?" Brandi said as she shrugged out of her jacket. "He's at a super fun age. Not yet crawling and he loves to be cuddled." She leaned in, kissing Will on the cheek. "Mama loves you so much."

Will smiled a toothless baby smile. Unable to help herself, Tawney kissed the top of the baby's soft hair. She inhaled. Did anything smell better than a clean baby?

They'd been at Star's for just a few minutes, long enough to get inside.

"Let me hang up our coats and I'll be back," Brandi said.

"Okay."

Tawney crossed the foyer, Will in her arms. A crush of people filled the living room. Looked like the entire town had turned out for the party. From across the room, June waved at her. Tawney smiled.

"There you are," Star said, coming up behind her. She reached for Will's hand. "Hey, Will. Who's the best looking guy here?"

Will smiled at Star.

"That's right, it's you." Star laughed. "There are drinks and food in the kitchen. Let me take Will so you can at least get a beverage." Star took the baby from her. "Come on."

Tawney followed Star and Will. In the kitchen she found Trudy tending bar. Ron stood nearby holding a baby, his son, Daniel. Ron was talking with Cade and Rick Tabor.

Tawney considered doing a U-turn and heading back the way she'd come when Ron said, "Tawney. We missed you the other night. If we'd known you'd come home we would have given up dinner at Trudy's parents' place."

Unable to make an exit now, Tawney was forced to acknowledge the group. "How are you, Ron?" She gave Ron a hug. "Trudy."

"You look fantastic," Trudy said, her arms tight around Tawney. "Welcome home, my friend. I feel so blessed. First Star, now you. Soon the girls in this family will outnumber the men!"

"Thanks." Tawney smiled. People really were nice here. She'd forgotten what it felt like to be known, remembered. It wasn't half bad.

"You remember Rick?" Ron asked.

"I do," Tawney said, meeting Rick's gaze. Darn, why did he have to look so good? Her blood revved, speeding through her veins like a race car at the Indy 500. Her cheeks heated. Could he tell what kind of affect he had on her?

"We've managed to bump into each other several times since Tawney's come back to town," Rick said smoothly, as if she didn't bother him at all. "I guess you haven't heard that we both work at The Junebug and we share a garage wall."

"You don't say?" Ron's brows came up. He looked from Rick to Tawney.

"I thought I told you that Rick joined us for dinner the night we found out Tawney was in town?" Cade said.

"Did you?" Ron asked. "I think I'd remember that. In fact, didn't the two of you date in high school?"

"Briefly," Tawney said, at the same time Rick said, "Yes."

"Didn't you get arrested?" Ron grinned. "Yeah, I remember now, you guys got picked up for being drunk and disorderly, right?"

Brad joined the group. "What did you say, Uncle Ron? Drunk and disorderly?" He grinned from ear to ear. "Cool."

"I don't think Brad needs to hear the story," Rick said. "It was one night, one mistake. It shouldn't define the period of time when we dated. There were other, good times, right, Tawney?"

"I don't remember," she said, not about to take a trip down memory lane. No matter how many good times they'd had, she hadn't been good enough to be his wife. Pain as fresh as the day he'd left her at the altar stabbed her in the heart. Why couldn't she let it go?

Trudy stepped in, clearly in-tune to the discomfort Tawney felt. "Come with me. Let's get caught up. I want to know everything about your glamourous life."

"Absolutely," Tawney said. She'd had enough of the police officer turned bouncer.

Trudy pulled Tawney to the breakfast bar. "Let me get you an adult beverage."

"Bless you," Tawney said. She needed a drink. Rick Tabor had driven her to drink as a teenager, and he was still doing it now. "I'll have a glass of red wine."

"Coming right up." Trudy poured the wine, sliding the glass to Tawney. "I was so excited when Star told me you were here."

"It's great to see you," Tawney said. She'd always loved Trudy. They'd been in the same class in high school. They'd been friends.

"Star tells me you're here to stay," Trudy said, sipping her own wine. "I don't know how you can give up your glamorous life for this place, but I'm so glad you did. I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too," Tawney said. "And believe me, my life was not glamorous. Dancing in the show was hard work."

"I’m sure it was," Trudy said. "Still, from where I sit Vegas seems so exciting."

Tawney smiled. "I guess the town does have its perks."

"So you're staying in June's rental place?"

"Yes. I’m loving it. It's so different from Vegas. It's peaceful. Beautiful. I feel safe there."

Trudy frowned. "Did you not feel safe in Vegas?"

"Not like I do here," Tawney admitted.

Star and Brandi joined them, and for Tawney, being with her sisters and Trudy had a healing effect. She needed these women, women who had her back. She accepted another glass of wine and a plate of food. She mingled with June and Roy, the cook from the bar. She renewed old acquaintances. And she had another glass of wine.

Midway through the third glass, she realized she'd had too much to drink. She located her coat, and snagging a bottle of water, she let herself out onto the back porch. She glanced over at the tree line that separated Cade's place from the mobile home where she'd lived with her Aunt Patsy and her sisters.

Tawney headed for the trail. She sipped water as she walked. The moon was out, reflecting off the snow, giving off a natural light. Someone had trimmed the brush and trees, making the trail wide and easy to navigate. Solar lights lit the way. The cold air felt like heaven against her wine heated cheeks. When she cleared the trail, she stopped. Holy cow. The mobile home was gone. The footing was in place for the new house that Cade was building for Star. By summer's end her sister would be living in her very own dream home.

Tawney walked around the footing. To her it looked like one level, maybe ranch style, but big with several bedrooms. Room for lots of babies. How lucky was Star to have a place to belong and have a normal family who loved her?

Tawney wanted those things, too, but she had no idea how to get that type of love and security. Fox Lassiter still invaded her mind and filled her with fear. She'd driven clear to Alaska to get rid of him. She'd cut all ties with her old life. Was it enough? Would it ever be enough?

The fifteen thousand she'd gotten from pawning the emerald ring would only take her so far. She had a job now. A place to live. She was the working poor. If she had kids they'd qualify for free lunch. She could probably get food stamps. Like mother, like daughter. Ugh.

But she had her sisters. She had family here. And she prayed that Fox Lassiter would never figure out where she'd gone.

Cold seeped through her jacket to her bones. Overhead, the stars glittered, the sight so beautiful she spent several minutes staring. When her neck got a crick, Tawney headed back to Star's place, her head clearer now.

Back inside, she was shrugging off her coat when Rick said, "There you are. We've been looking for you."

"You have? Why?"

"Brandi and Bud had to leave. Will spiked a fever. They tried to find you, but I told them to go, and that I would drive you back."

"Is Will okay?" she asked.

"They think he might be teething," Rick said. "You were outside?"

She rubbed her hands together to warm them. "I walked over to Patsy's place."

He nodded. "Looks different."

"Yes, it does." She still held her jacket, like a shield of protection against her chest.

"You okay?"

He studied her as if he were looking for clues to her mental state.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Her arms tightened on the jacket.

"Oh, I don't know, bad memories?"

"Is that what you think?" she asked. "I loved my Aunt Patsy. When we lived with her life was great, normal, safe."

"I didn't mean anything," Rick said. He scrubbed at his chin. "Man, you're easy to rile up."

"You rub me the wrong way."

"I wonder why?" he asked. "Maybe we have too much chemistry, all of it bad."

"Maybe we do. Excuse me." On that note, Tawney left him. She could feel Rick's stare like a hot brand on her back.

They had chemistry all right, and if she weren't careful she was going to get burned again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

Rick stole a glance at Tawney.

Her full lips were pursed. Her eyes stared straight ahead, past the windshield and onto the dark road before them. Her knees were locked together, and he wondered what it would take to unlock those long legs of hers.

He frowned. Not his business.

She didn't want to be trapped in the Jeep with him. Her dislike for him was written like a roadmap to hell all over her pretty face. He knew he should stay far away from her, but whenever he was around her he found himself volunteering to come to her aid, even after she'd made it clear yesterday that she didn't want to ride with him.

What he hadn't done yet was apologize to her. So far the moment hadn't been right.

BOOK: Hometown Hero (Hometown Alaska Men Book 2)
13.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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