Read One Last Call Online

Authors: Susan Behon

One Last Call (5 page)

BOOK: One Last Call
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A warm, maternal smile transformed her back into the kindly, sweet Lucy Brandon he was used to. She tightened the belt on her baby pink terry cloth robe and opened the front door for him. “I’ll do what I can, Josh. The rest is up to you. Sarah’s stubborn, just like the rest of the women in our family. If you want her back, like I imagine you do, you’re going to have to fight for her, son.” Before she closed the door in his face, Lucy opened it an inch wider and poked her head out. “Tell your dad I said hello.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The door closed with a final snick, and Josh was left standing on the front porch of the one house he’d never thought to enter again. He had one hell of an uphill climb to make amends, but there was something both Lucy and Sarah hadn’t counted on. The men in Josh’s family were stubborn too.

Chapter 4

THE
next morning, Sarah was sore all over. Another one of her mom’s expressions made sense to her now. She’d never understood what Lucy meant when she said an ache made her feel like she’d gotten drug through a knothole backward. Now she got it. Her neck was stiff, her shoulders were tender, and her chest ached from where the seat belt had dug into her. Sarah felt like she’d gotten drug through a knothole backward, stuffed back in, and drug through another time for good measure.

She gingerly lowered herself into a dinette chair and remembered that she’d forgotten to pour herself a cup of coffee before sitting down. It was going to hurt worse to get back up again. Sarah was mustering up the willpower to stand when her mom drifted into the kitchen and, like an angel of mercy, headed straight for the coffeepot.

“Sarah, hon, would you like a cup of coffee?”

Thank God for moms.
Even at her age, she was smart enough to appreciate and accept the help.

“That would be awesome, Mom. Thank you.” Sarah stared longingly at the mug Lucy was filling. “Do you, um, think I could have a few aspirin too?”

Lucy turned Sarah’s way again and narrowed her eyes with concern. “I
thought
your posture was a little too stiff! Why didn’t you say something sooner?” She set the coffeepot down to give Sarah more of her attention. “Maybe we should take you to the doctor to get checked over? You never know with these fender benders. It might seem like nothing and then,
bam
!” Her mom’s hand fell to the countertop in a dramatic slam of emphasis. “Just like that, you’re in the ICU with a brain aneurism or something! Do you want to be in a coma?”

“Mom!” Who the hell
wanted
to be in a coma? Sarah cut her off before Lucy could work up a good rant and list any other possible medical horrors. “I’m fine. I didn’t hit my head. My muscles are a little sore. That’s all. I think I tensed up when the deer ran out in front of me.”

“Are you being honest with me?” At Sarah’s short nod, Lucy went about pouring the coffee. She set the steaming mugs of glorious caffeine on the table then went back for Sarah’s favorite sweet cream flavored coffee creamer and placed it next to the sugar bowl. Her mom lowered herself onto her chair in a graceful descent and watched Sarah from across the table.

Lucy was dressed in a flattering turquoise blouse and white capri pants. Her hair was just so, and her face was dolled up with flattering soft pastel makeup. Her mom
had
been dressing up a lot more lately.

Sarah lifted the mug to her lips, finding her arm muscles screaming at her to stop moving, in the name of everything holy! Sarah gulped a little, in an effort to get as much coffee in with as little movement as possible. She burned her tongue, but the caffeine infusion was a major requirement this morning. There was so much to do, and she was so tired. Her inner five-year-old wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over her head instead of facing a wrecked car and a real live Josh Logan.

Lucy leaned forward and took a tentative sip of her coffee. Being the smarter of the two, her mom paid attention and knew that steam meant the coffee was too damned hot to gulp. “Is that what happened? You swerved to miss a deer?”

Sarah considered nodding again and thought better of it. She didn’t want her head to roll off her shoulders. “Yeah, and Bambi didn’t even say thank you.”

“How did you know its name was Bambi?” Before Sarah could answer that question, Lucy had another one. “Are you sure you didn’t hit your head? Why would you think a deer talked to you, honey?”

“Mom, the deer didn’t talk. I was referring to…Oh, never mind.” Sarah wasn’t in the mood to explain Disney movies.

“I still think you should let Dr. Anthony check you out. I mean, check you over.” Lucy blushed a sweet pink all the way past her penciled-in eyebrows.

“Mom, please stop trying to set me up.” Sarah managed another scalding gulp of coffee before setting the cup down again.
Ouch
. “Speaking of men and getting set up…Lucy, you got some ’splaining to do.”

Her mom didn’t have any problem understanding that reference. Any confusion she was showing now was completely fake. Lucy stared over Sarah’s head, taking in the butter-yellow walls. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“A little birdie told me you’ve been getting the oil changed over at the Madison Falls Garage.”

Lucy didn’t make eye contact. “So, what’s wrong with that? I’m trying to be more independent, remember? The oil needed changed, so I got it done myself.”

“Three times?”

“So?”

“Three times
this month
, Mom.”

Lucy slid her gaze past Sarah and toward the back window where purple and yellow petunias were decorating the flower box. They were pretty, but not worth her mom’s unwavering scrutiny.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Why three times?”

Lucy peered down at her coffee, took a delicate sip, and then finally met Sarah’s stare. “This might be hard for you to understand, dear. A woman my age still has certain needs and…”

Oh, no. Sarah was fairly certain her mom wasn’t about to expound on a woman’s need for clean oil and regular car maintenance.

“…and I’ll always love your father, but…”

“Mom, stop. I get it.” She took hold of her mother’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze before her brain cut in and reminded her that she was sore. “It’s okay.”

Lucy’s eyes glittered with unshed tears. “I wanted to tell you about Kenny. I really did. It’s…well…I suppose that I didn’t want to upset you.”

“Mom don’t cry. Please.” If one tear fell, Sarah was going to be a blubbering mess too. If someone was hurt, she hurt right along with them. It had always been like that for her. “It’s perfectly natural,” she guessed, “to want to be with someone. My only concern is, why would you feel like you had to sneak around?”

Her mom sniffed and looked up at the ceiling in attempt to keep the tears at bay. “I didn’t say anything for a couple of reasons. I didn’t want you to think I was betraying your father’s memory, for one.”

“It’s been a few years, Mom. I don’t expect you to be in mourning for the rest of your life. What’s the other thing?”

Lucy patted her hand affectionately. “I didn’t want you to feel left out.”

“Feel left out of what?”

“Well…” Lucy cleared her throat. “Your sister is married now.” Her mom’s voice was still a bit raspy from her years of smoking. Sarah would take that over her coughing spells and was glad that Lucy had finally quit. Losing one parent to an unexpected heart attack had been hard enough. Sarah and Sophie both agreed that they weren’t ready to lose another one so soon and begged Lucy to give up the cigarettes.

“What does Sophie have to do with it? I’m happy she’s so happy. Reed loves her and baby Brandon to pieces. I would never begrudge her that.”

“I know, sweetheart.” She imparted this next bit of information in a near-whisper. “I can’t help thinking that you’ve been a bridesmaid quite a few times lately.”

Thanks for rubbing that in.
“And? What’s wrong with being a bridesmaid?”
Besides the closetful of fancy-occasion-themed dresses I’ll never wear again?

“It’s not the bridesmaid part.” Lucy floundered for the right words. “It’s the watching everyone else except you getting married part.” Her mom winced, realizing those sure as hell weren’t the right words to say to a single, divorced woman just hitting thirty. She plowed on anyway. “And with Richard calling and Josh back in town, I thought you might feel a little raw about one more person pairing up.”

“Wait a minute. Richard’s been calling the house?” He’d left her a few texts, and she’d deleted them without reading them. “What did he want?”

“He wanted to talk to you.”

“About what?” They had nothing to discuss.

“How should I know? I didn’t keep him on the line to chat.” She pressed her pastel pink lips together in distaste. “You know I never liked him, Sarah.”

Sarah’s jaw dropped at this piece of news. Lucy had always been so polite to Sarah’s ex-husband. “You might have saved me some trouble if you would have told me that before I married him.”

“I wanted to.” Lucy stared into her cup as she stirred more sugar in her coffee. “I almost did a few times. You just seemed so…content.”

Content. Not happy.
Content.
That about summed it up. Richard was safe. Richard didn’t have a bad-boy bone in his body. Naively, Sarah thought that if she dated boring guys who were the polar opposite of Josh, she wouldn’t get hurt again. She’d married good old, safe, boring Richard, and what did that get her? She’d ended up homeless, with the added burden of spousal support. It was like a rent-to-own your freedom payment plan. Sarah couldn’t forget the bonus souvenir image of him banging his secretary on his desk either.

Catching them in the act had been humiliating, yes. But strangely enough, the one thing Sarah thought–after wanting to puke–was that Richard had never done anything that exciting with her. Their sex life had been lukewarm at best. She hadn’t had heart-pounding passion and excitement since Josh. As it was, memories of him were probably rose-tinted and glorified with the inexperience of youth.

“Mom, I’m happy for everyone.” She forced her lips to bend up in reasonable imitation of a smile. “If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
A big ol’ barrelful of happy, damn it.

Lucy wasn’t buying it. “About Josh…”

Sarah’s heart sped up without her consent. “What about him?”

A rat-a-tat tapping on the back door interrupted their conversation. Lucy was up and out of her chair in a spry move that had Sarah surprised. She twitched the curtain over the window, then opened the door.

Over her shoulder, Lucy explained, “He’s here.”

Towering next to her diminutive mother stood Josh. Sarah tamped down on the little thrill she felt seeing him freshly showered and shaved, sporting damp tawny hair and a wicked grin. The man was too good-looking for Sarah’s peace of mind. He hadn’t done her a favor and gotten bald and fat overnight, no matter how much she’d wished for it.

“Good mornin’, ladies.” That smooth southern drawl hadn’t been a dream either. Her mom would have described him as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Apparently, he was still one of those annoyingly chipper morning people. Sarah hated morning people.

Josh didn’t wait for a response. He kept one hand on the doorknob and made a sweeping gesture with the other. “Your chariot awaits, sunshine.”

* * * *

Sarah’s posture seemed a little stiff. Josh wondered how sore she was this morning. He’d brought along the pain reliever and some bottled water in case she needed it.

Sarah looked cute dressed down in a fitted red T-shirt with the Suds and Spuds logo on the front. She also had on some white denim shorts that set off the golden tan on those gorgeous legs of hers to perfection. No way in hell would Josh ever forget their tantalizing grip on his hips when she’d been wrapped around him. Her thighs were what dreams were made of. He wanted to feel them again.

He was so caught up in admiring Sarah, that he didn’t catch her question. “What?”

“My what?”

What had he asked her?

“Your what, what?”

Lucy gave him a subtle hip bump and made it around the table to where Sarah still hadn’t gotten up. “Sarah wants to know
what
awaits her, Josh.”

What? Shit
. It probably wasn’t a good idea to get caught fantasizing about Sarah’s thighs in front of her mom. Josh had to reign that in, pronto. “Oh. Your chariot awaits. I came to take you to your car.”

“It’s drivable?” That spark of hope lit up Sarah’s whole face. He felt like shit being the one to take that away from her.

“Drivable? Not exactly.”
Not at all.

“Are you sure? It didn’t look that bad last night.”

“Once I got under the hood and under the car, I found some more problems. Your biggest concern right now is that your tie rod is snapped.”

“That has to do with the steering right?”

“Right, but it’s a little more complicated than that.” That was putting it mildly. The best way to describe it was to call it a “clusterfuck.” He kept that part to himself.

“Can’t you fix it, Josh?”

“Yes, of course I can.”

“So why do you need me?”

Now for the really bad news.
“I need you because I think your power steerin’ pump has been tampered with.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows in surprised confusion. “Why would someone tamper with my power steering?”

“Someone wants to hurt Sarah?” Lucy stared over at her daughter and fidgeted with cleaning up the coffee cups. “Josh, who would do something like that?”

“That’s what the sheriff wants to know. He’ll meet us at the garage so he can ask a few questions.” Josh held open the door while Sarah eased herself out of the chair.

Lucy reached for her purse. “I’m coming too.”

Sarah held up a staying hand. “No, Mom. Stay here. Sophie’s coming over with Brandon, remember? You don’t want to miss the cuteness.” Her smile was a practiced show of tranquil strength. “I’ll call you as soon as I know something, okay?”

Lucy reluctantly set her purse down at the mention of her grandson. She grabbed her phone instead. She glanced up with maternal determination, set on being in on things. “Okay, but I’m calling Kenny! He should have told me about this!”

BOOK: One Last Call
3.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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