Parker (Striking Back #3) (9 page)

BOOK: Parker (Striking Back #3)
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“Deal.”
She doesn’t hesitate to snuggle into me when I put my arm around her. I can
feel her body heat through the blanket wrapped tightly around her small form.
“I’ll never forget it, you know that, right?”

“Just
go to sleep. You can clear your snorkel in the morning…without an audience.”

“You’re
no fun.”

I
wake alone in Macy’s bed and take a second to wallow in her scent. After what I
saw last night, I may never wash these sheets again. She allowed me to hold her
all night, so I hope that’s a sign she won’t freak out on me today. I’m amazed
how well I sleep when she’s cuddled with me. I’ve always found it uncomfortable
and hot, but with Macy, it’s perfect.

After
searching the house for her, I find her on the back patio, sipping orange juice
and chatting with Devon. “Good morning,” I chirp, winking at Macy. I love how I
can make her blush.

“Morning,”
she mumbles, trying to give me a condemning look, but falling short.

“Well,
I’ll get back to my post. It was nice talking to you, Macy,” Devon says,
leaving us alone.

“So,
any plans for today?” I ask Macy.

“I
thought I’d bring my laptop out here to work. The sun feels good, and I have a
manuscript to finish.”

“I
before E except after C?” I tease.

“Or
when sounding like A as in neighbor or weigh,” she adds, making me laugh.

“Never
heard that part. I’ll leave you alone to work, but after lunch, I want a
rematch.”

“Someday,
you’ll have to accept Scrabble isn’t your game.”

“Not
today, doll.”

Chapter Five

 

Macy

 

I
try to act like nothing happened, like I get caught masturbating by the guy I
was fantasizing about all the time. True to his word, Parker never mentions it,
but there’s an amused glint in his eye, and his mouth twitches into a teasing
smile before he reigns it in. We haven’t crossed over that friend line, but the
chemistry between us is making it damn difficult.

I’m
perusing the fridge, trying to decide what to make for lunch when I hear Parker
curse. By the time I hobble to his bedroom, he’s moving full speed, frantically
shoving his wallet, phone and keys in his pockets. His eyes are wide and
terrified as he says, “Macy, you’ll have to stay here with Devon for a while.
I’ve got to go.”

“What
happened?”

“I
have to meet Alex at the hospital. Mason’s been shot and they don’t know if
he’s…” His voice falters and he rubs a palm over his face. “Shit. Someone has
to stay with his son, Cody. I’ll take him to Striking Back and Ms. Den can
watch him,” he murmurs, thinking out loud.

I
can feel his struggle to hold it together when I wrap him in a hug. “Let me.
Leave Cody with me. I want to help.”

Stepping
back, he studies me a minute. “Are you sure?”

“Of
course.”

He
must run a hundred other scenarios through his head before he agrees. “I can
take you to Mason’s to stay with him, get Devon and Jensen to go with you.
Mason’s house is as secure as mine.”

“Give
me two minutes to grab my stuff.”

Five
minutes later, we’re flying down the interstate, escorted by a police car with
lights and siren blazing. It must be nice to have friends in high places.
Parker shakes his head when my question shatters the silence. “Do they know if
he’ll be okay?”

“All
they’ll tell me is he’s in surgery. He has to be okay.” His voice drops to a
mumble. “He has to.”

“He’s
strong. I’m sure he’ll pull through.” We both know that’s bullshit. Neither of
us know what will happen, but it’s just one of those things you say. An attempt
to comfort when there’s none to be found.

“I’ll
call as soon as I can.”

“Don’t
worry about me and Cody. We’ll be fine.” I don’t spend much time with kids, but
I’m sure I can handle a five year old for the night.

 

* * * *

 

Cody
is a sweet kid and we spend the day coloring and playing with Legos. “When is
Daddy coming home?” he asks when I tell him it’s bath time. Parker told him
Mason had to work late, so I stick to the story.

“I
don’t know. Probably after your bedtime, honey.”

“But
he always reads me a story.” His little face is pinched with worry.

“I’ll
read you a bedtime story. Do you have a favorite?”

Nodding,
he climbs into the bath and dumps a container of plastic army men in the water.
“Lorax.”

“I
love that story.”

“Really?”
His eyes squeeze shut as I wipe his face with a washcloth.

“I
am the Lorax, I speak for the trees,” I recite in a low voice, and his face
lights up.

“I
speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,” he adds, grinning.

My
phone buzzes in my pocket. “I’m going to be right outside the door, okay?”

“Parker?”
I breathe, accepting the call.

“Yeah,
is everything okay?”

“We’re
fine.” I sit with my back to the hallway wall where I can watch Cody play. “How
is he?”

“He
made it through the surgery, but they still can’t say which way it’ll go.” The
pain and fear in his voice puts tears in my eyes.

“I’m
so sorry. I wish I could do something.”

“They’ll
know more tomorrow. Will you be okay with Cody tonight?”

“Of
course, take all the time you need.”

“Thanks.
I…got to go.” His voice trembles and he hangs up before I can reply. I stay
seated in the hall, watching Cody play while I get my emotions under control.

“Are
you okay?” Devon’s voice rumbles as he slides his considerable bulk down to sit
beside me.

“They
still don’t know whether Mason will pull through.”

“I
heard.”

“Parker
is a mess, and Cody keeps asking where his dad and Evie are.”

“We’ll
know more tomorrow, then maybe he should know his dad is in the hospital. He’s
a bright kid. He’ll know something is wrong.”

We
sit quietly, watching Cody play with his toy soldiers. “Did Mason get shot
because of my ex? Did this have something to do with him?” My chest burns as I
wait for an answer. Parker will never forgive me if my past causes his
brother’s death. I’ll never forgive myself.

“No.
He was on a routine call to relocate a client. The husband showed up and shot
him. It had nothing to do with your case.”

“Thank
goodness,” I sigh with relief.

“Are
you okay, Macy?”

“I’m
stronger than I look.”

“I
don’t doubt that, girl.”

Cody
is asleep before I get halfway through his story, curled up with a big blue
stuffed rabbit. After staring at the T.V. for an hour, I tell Devon good night
and head to Mason’s guest room. The bed is soft and luxurious, but I toss and
turn for hours, worrying about Parker and Mason.

I
don’t know Mason well, but I know how close the brothers are. They’ll never be
the same if he doesn’t make it. And Everly, poor Ev must be a mess, and I hate
that I can’t be there for her like she has been for me. Fucking Al is ruining
everything, affecting everyone.

I
do my best to keep Cody occupied and happy the next day, but I can tell he
knows something is wrong. When I tuck him into bed the second night, he asks,
“Did my dad leave me?”

“Of
course not,” I reply, smoothing my hand through his hair. “Why would you ask
that?”

“He’s
never gone this long, or Evie either. Are they really coming back?”

“Yes,
baby. I don’t want you to worry. That’s why I didn’t tell you. Your dad got
sick at work and he has to stay at the hospital for a little bit.”

“With
the doctors?”

“Yes,
the doctors are working to make him better. Evie and Parker are staying with
him so he won’t be alone. I’m going to stay and take care of you until he’s all
better, okay?”

“Okay.
Tomorrow, will you help me make a card for him?”

“That’s
a great idea, honey. We’ll do it after breakfast.”

Thin
arms wrap around my neck. “Will you stay until I fall asleep?”

“Of
course I will.” I lie down beside him and by the time he dozes off, I’m right
behind him.

Murmuring
voices bring me out of a light sleep. It takes a moment for my blurry sight to
adjust to see it’s just past three a.m. Careful not to disturb Cody, I ease out
of bed and down the hall to the living room where Devon and Parker are talking.

Parker
looks like hell and my stomach churns with the fear he’s back because Mason
died. “I’m going to take a nap before I go back to the hospital,” he tells
Devon who nods and leaves us alone.

“How
is he?” I ask, following Parker to Mason’s bedroom.

“The
same.” As if I’m not there, he strips down to boxers and sits on the edge of
the bed. His monotone speech and stiff robotic movements betray his exhaustion
and despair.

When
the light from the bathroom illuminates his hand, I can see it’s bloody and
swollen. “Parker! Your hand!”

“It’s
fine. Go back to bed. Cody gets up early.” With his good hand he pulls back the
covers and flops into bed. I know better than to argue or question a man who is
so upset, but I can’t let him go to sleep with what could be a broken hand.

Without
a word, I return to the kitchen and find an ice pack. I wet a clean cloth with
warm water and retrieve a first aid kit from the bathroom. “I said it’s fine,
Macy,” he sighs when I perch on the edge of the bed and gently wipe away the
crusty blood from his knuckles.

Ignoring
him, I clean the scrapes and swab them with disinfectant before placing the ice
pack on his hand. “Can you open and close your fist?”

“Yes,
it’s not broken. I know what broken bones feel like.” I want to ask who or what
he hit and the question must be reflected on my face because he mumbles, “It
was just a wall.”

Tears
shine in his eyes as he looks away, and it tears at my heart to see him this
way. He’s always so positive and determined. Bossy and in control. He’s the one
who needs protecting tonight.

After
all the times he’s comforted me, I don’t hesitate to crawl into bed beside him
and wrap an arm around his middle. For a minute or two we just lie there in
silence until he whispers, “The doctors think he’ll live, but they don’t know
why he won’t wake. They think…brain damage.” His voice breaks and he turns to
hold me, burying his face in my neck.

“Oh
Parker, I’m so sorry.”

When
he gets himself under control, he sighs, “I’m exhausted, but I can’t stop thinking
about him. I’ll never sleep.”

“Well,
Cody has a wide selection of Dr. Seuss books. Just please don’t choose The
Lorax. I’ve read it five times already.”

I’m
rewarded with a small chuckle. “Just talk about something else. Anything else,”
he pleads.

“Okay,
how about I tell you about the time I stopped an armed robbery?”

“With
your ninja skills?” he scoffs.

“Do
you want to hear it or not?”

“Mmm
Hmm.” He embraces me tighter, and I lay my head on his shoulder.

“It
was a couple of years ago. I went to a convenience store to get a snack and
when I got to the counter, a man in front of me pulled a gun on the clerk.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah,
he kept screaming and the clerk was terrified because he couldn’t get the cash
register open. The gunman finally yanked the whole register off the counter and
started kicking it until it finally popped open.”

I
have Parker’s attention now, and I try not to smile as he listens closely, held
rapt by my story. “He was pissed because there wasn’t much cash and demanded
the clerk open the safe. The poor guy was shaking so hard, I doubt he could’ve
opened the safe if he knew how.”

“I’ll
bet. Weren’t you scared?” Parker shifts his arm, and I feel his fingers in my
hair as I continue.

“Terrified.
I tried to walk out, but he pointed the gun at me and made me stay still.
Anyway, there was a display of canned peaches by the counter, so when he turned
back to the clerk, I grabbed one and bashed him in the temple.”

The
fingers in my hair freeze and he looks down at me in shock. It’s so hard to
look him in the eye and keep a straight face. “You’re crazy.”

“Well,
it made him drop the gun, and I kicked it under the soda cooler where he
couldn’t reach it. Boy, was he pissed, though. I ran for the door and almost
made it when he knocked me down. I kept trying to get away, to crawl to the
door, but he grabbed my ankle.”

Parker’s
eyes are wide as he asks, “How the hell did you get away?”

“Like
I said, I was trying to crawl, but he had my ankle. He kept pulling my leg and
pulling my leg…just like I’m pulling yours.”

It
takes a few seconds for my words to sink in, then his laughter echoes through
the room. “You…little…you’re going to pay for that. Not a word was true?”

“Well,
I do buy snacks at convenience stores.”

Shaking
his head, he grins down at me. “I should put you over my knee.”

“Nah,
I’d probably like it.”

His
groan makes me smile. “Shit, Macy, don’t say stuff like that while you’re in my
bed.”

“It’s
Mason’s bed.”

“Any
bed.”

“I
made you laugh.” My plan was to take his mind off of Mason, so mission accomplished.

His
fingers slide beneath my chin and he tilts my head up. Our faces are so close,
his breath warms my lips, and my heart rate leaps forward. “You always make my
day better,” he whispers before closing the gap and pressing his lips to mine
in a soft kiss.

I
swear I evolved on this earth just to kiss this man. It’s a long searching kiss
that makes every inch of my skin tingle. His eyes lock on mine when we break
apart. “We’re going to happen, doll. Not here and not like this, but I won’t
fight it anymore. Life’s too short not to be with the people you care about.”

Mason’s
bed is empty when I wake, but I can smell Parker’s scent on the sheets. The
memory of the night before seems like a dream, his soft kisses and affectionate
words.

For
the first time in six weeks, I’m not dreading the future. Parker has feelings
for me. Maybe our timing isn’t the greatest, but it won’t stop us from seeing
where this could go. Does he want a relationship? Parker is a notorious
playboy. Is it naïve or narcissistic to think he’ll change for me?

BOOK: Parker (Striking Back #3)
6.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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