Authors: Rita Sawyer
“Damn Scarlett, it’s like you’re leading a double life. I’m almost jealous.” Darcy could hardly believe everything Scarlett had told her.
“I know, but it won’t be for much longer. I plan on telling everyone by the end of the summer.”
“Why then? Wouldn’t it be easier for you if you just told them all now?” Darcy figured it would at least cut her driving time in half.
“Yeah, it would, but I’m just not ready.” Scarlett turned off the main road onto the side street that led up to her house.
“Well, I’m willing to keep my mouth shut until you say otherwise.” Darcy sighed and let her head fall back against the seat.
“I’m sorry I wore you out so much today.” Scarlett’s laughter didn’t sound like she was sorry.
“It’s not your fault. If I hadn’t snuck out with Thomas last night, I probably would have at least got a little sleep. Then I would have given you a little competition at the mall.” Instead, she’d just barely kept up with her.
They’d hit just about every store, and just when Darcy had thought they were done, Scarlett took her to a huge art supply store. Darcy couldn’t stop gawking at everything. Scarlett didn’t have the same problem since she had been there so many times. She had made her way through the store stopping only when she spotted something she needed or wanted. In the end, it had been at least three hours before they were ready to walk out the door.
Once they reached the registers, things had taken a sharp, dangerous, and unexpected turn. As the girl rang them up, some guy came over to talk to Scarlett. Though they walked a few feet away, Darcy could tell they knew each other well. The guy kept trying to touch Scarlett’s hand or arm, but she kept herself just out of his reach. Something was up there and before she left Darcy was going to find out what it was. After all, Scarlett was her baby sister and she wasn’t taking any chances with her happiness. Unlike their brothers, Darcy would stay calm and only ask enough to make sure she was okay.
“Oh shit!” Scarlett’s squeal had Darcy bolting upright so fast she felt something pull in her neck.
Their brother’s trucks were all parked in Scarlett’s driveway. Along with the police cruiser belonging to Rhett’s friend, Kyle. This couldn’t be good. Maybe leaving their cell phones behind hadn’t been such a good idea. It had felt good at the time, but now Darcy wondered just how much trouble they were in. Scarlett rolled to a stop beside the cruiser and shut her SUV off. Darcy reached for her door, but Scarlett grabbed her other arm stopping her.
She looked over and Scarlett said, “Darcy, whatever happens, just follow my lead.”
“Scarlett, is there something else going on you aren’t telling me?” She may as well know what she was getting herself into.
“Kind of. We can talk about it later. Right now, I figure we’re in for a long boring lecture.” Scarlett let go of her arm and moved towards her door.
This time it was Darcy who stopped her. “Why do I suddenly have the feeling this isn’t the first time this has happened?”
“It’s not.” Scarlett didn’t elaborate, but she didn’t have time before Rhett whipped open her door.
“Damn it. Where the hell have you been?” His tone turned what could have been a simple question into a demand.
“We went out and did some shopping.” Scarlett glanced over at Darcy and gave her a quick wink. “We both got pedicures and Darcy got her nails done. It was fabulous. Why are you all here?”
“Don’t you play dumb with me.” He took a step closer as he spoke. “I told you the last time you disappeared with no warning that it was the absolute last time.”
“Which is why you upgraded my phone to one with built in GPS,” she countered with a smile.
Shit! Darcy hadn’t known there was a power play going on. Though even if she had, she would have chosen Scarlett’s side. Her brothers were going to have to learn to back off at some point. Why not now?
“That’s right, but that’s not why we’re here. You’re silent alarm was going off and since you didn’t answer the house or cell phone, Kyle had to check it out. When he was done, he called me to see if I knew where you were.” Hearing his reasoning Darcy had to admit he had a good reason to be concerned, this time.
“Kyle,” Scarlett shouted as she swept past their brother to where the officer was standing talking with Jarrett and Cale. “Is everything okay?”
Darcy didn’t miss Scarlett’s glance at the garage. Their brothers, however, were all oblivious to it. Darcy scanned the yard for Thomas, but he wasn’t anywhere she could see. She tried to ignore the bitterness she felt. If he wasn’t here, where the hell was he? She felt a little guilty for expecting him to be there waiting for her, even if it had been unconsciously.
“Everything seems fine. I did see some tracks out in the yard, some kind of animal. It may have gotten up onto the porch and rattled something. Raccoons have a way of doing stuff like that, but these tracks were too big for a raccoon.”
“Animals are all over the place up here,” Scarlett said, but Darcy knew by looking at their brother’s faces they weren’t ready to listen to reason yet.
“Still I think it would be wise to be extra cautious for a few days. If you notice anything different or just plain odd, call me. Whatever time it is, I’ll come out and check things out.” Kyle smiled at Scarlett.
Darcy wondered if Kyle might be offering more than the standard service and protection the cops normally provided. A quick round of thank yous and goodbyes were said then Kyle left to get back to work. Once it was just the five of them, their brothers wasted no time deciding what should happen next. It didn’t surprise her that they didn’t ask her or Scarlett for their opinion. Darcy often thought her brothers should have been born back in the nineteenth century. Then they could have the control over them that they wanted. They weren’t so they were going to have to come to terms with not having any more say than her and Scarlett were willing to give then, which wasn’t much.
“One of us will spend the next few nights here.” Rhett’s comment was directed more to Jarrett and Cale than to her and Scarlett.
“You will not!” Scarlett protested loudly. “You’ll raid my fridge, hog the TV remote, and leave the toilet seat up.”
“Damn it Scar, we’re not going to leave you two here unprotected. And we wouldn’t raid your fridge if you weren’t such a good cook.” Cale’s attempt to lighten up the situation failed miserably.
“Well none of you are staying here. We’re big girls and we can take care of ourselves.” Scarlett sounded just as determined as Rhett.
Jarrett step between Rhett and Scarlett. “I think I have an idea that will satisfy everyone.”
“I can’t wait to hear this.” Sarcasm oozed from Scarlett’s words and Darcy could hold back the giggle it brought on.
“I’m dog sitting this week. I can bring Lulu over here to stay with Scarlett. Darcy will have to stay with one of us since she’s afraid of dogs.” One by one all of her siblings smiled as he explained his plans.
“She can stay with me.” Cale instantly volunteered, but Darcy shook her head.
She’d come here to get some space so she could think clearly about her future with Thomas. How was she supposed to do that if they were both staying at Cale’s? If he was even still at Cale’s. After last night he may flown home to take care of business. She wouldn’t know until she got inside and checked her cell phone messages. It didn’t really matter, the truth was she remembered how bad Cale snored and she didn’t want to deal with that.
That meant she had to choose between Jarrett and Rhett. Last she knew neither of them snored, but it had been almost eleven years since she’d lived with either of them. She had no idea what kind of bad habits they may have picked up. Darcy would be the first to admit she wasn’t the easiest person to live with even for just a week or two, but staying with Scarlett would have been best. She looked at her brothers and wondered what would be worse, them or the dog. She wasn’t really afraid of dogs, but she wasn’t about to tell any of them that. She did think it was gross that they licked themselves and then wanted to lick her. Ewww….it was an image she could do without even thinking about.
“Which of you is the messiest?” She hoped the random question would help make her choice easier.
“He is,” Rhett and Jarrett said in unison each pointing at the other making her, Scarlett, and Cale laugh.
~* * *~
“All right she’s on her way. The rest is up to you.” The text message Rhett sent him was short and to the point, and Thomas didn’t bother to respond.
There really wasn’t anything to say. Thomas just hoped Rhett’s plan worked. Darcy wouldn’t be happy that they’d tricked her, but it was a gamble and he had no other alternative. There was a distinct possibility that she may walk in, see him, turn around, and walk right back out. It was too late to change his mind now. All he could do was wait for her to show up and hope for the best.
He did wish he could have put together a better meal for her. His skills in the kitchen were pretty dismal so she was stuck with grilled steaks and salad. He even knew better than to try baked potatoes because they never came out right. Now that he planned on trying to relax and enjoy life more, maybe he could talk Darcy into teaching him to cook.
The soft mellow music didn’t have the soothing effect he’d thought it would. Then again he wasn’t sure anything could settle his nerves right now. He heard a car pull into the driveway and headed for the door. Darcy had her trunk open and was leaning inside. He rushed over to help her.
“Here, let me get that,” he said reaching for the bag.
Darcy squealed and stood up. She wacked the top of her head on the trunk hood with so much force she bounced back towards the opening and almost fell in. Thomas dropped the bag and reached out to catch her. He barely got his arms around her in time. The way she just crumbled he knew she was out of it. It took a little bit of doing, but he managed to get her into his arms. He was halfway to the house when her eyes fluttered and a pitiful moan vibrated her limp body. Once he got inside, he laid her on the couch as gently as possible.
“Hey beautiful, open those eyes and look at me.” He sat on the edge of the cushion by her hip.
She opened one eye and peeked at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you.”
“Why?” She started to sit up, but he put his hands on her shoulders and eased her back down.
“Stay put.” He got up and went into the kitchen.
Thomas opened a few drawers until he found a box of plastic zipper bags. He held one under the ice dispenser until it was half full. When he walked back into the living room, she was sitting up. He sat beside her and ran his hand over the back of her head. When he found the lump, she hissed and pulled away. Thomas grimaced himself as he lifted the bag of ice and gently pressed it to her head.
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Darcy asked and let out a deep breath as she reached up to hold the bag herself.
“Are you going to tell me where you were all day? And why you didn’t answer my calls?” he countered, instantly feeling like a shit because she was hurt.
“I was out shopping with my sister and my cell phone was at the house.” He hadn’t expected her to explain so quickly, which put him on the spot.
“I’m going to make you dinner, if you’re up for it.” He got up and headed for the kitchen.
“That’s not what I meant.” Her tone had him stopping in his tracks and turning to face her.
He figured he should begin at the beginning. “Did you know your brother snores?”
“Like a chainsaw.” Her smile told him she knew he’d suffered at least a little last night.
“Yeah, well no one told me. Rhett took pity on me and invited me to stay here.” Of course, he had known they were going to get her there somehow.