Read Southern Charms Online

Authors: S. E. Kloos

Southern Charms (3 page)

BOOK: Southern Charms
9.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Since the charges were not that severe in the overall eyes of the law, no one was hoping for the manhunt to last for more than a day or two... not with murderers and rapists running around the country. Plus, Brandon had the means to be just about anywhere by the time he was discovered to have run. Her father had some friends that owed him a favor or two, from his time in the service. He was able to call in some of those to get Brandon’s face on the news a few times, before they too, would stop.

She had to leave everything back home that could be used to find her. Her car, credit cards, cell phone. She only had her money because she closed her account and got cash, instead of a cashier’s check. She lost everything, while he was probably lying on a fucking beach somewhere.

Elizabeth sighed as she hugged herself tighter. She was here by her own choice. She knew, without a doubt in her mind, that if Brandon found her, he would kill her... restraining order be damned. Brandon was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, raised to think he was better than everyone, above the law. He would walk right through it and she would never walk again.

A rough sob shook her frame as more tears tracked down her cheeks. She had thought she was being quiet, that she couldn’t be heard… she was wrong. There was only a short rap on the door for a warning before the door was open, the light from the hall flooding her room. It illuminated her face and the horrendous discoloration of her skin, which went from hairline to chin, and ear to over her nose. She wasn’t fast enough to hide before her aunt saw it.

Steff’s hand came to her mouth to catch the gasp before she dropped it to her chest. “Good gracious.” Moving faster than she had ever known her aunt to move, Steff was sitting on the edge of her bed and pulling her into her arms, holding her tight to her chest.

Elizabeth was, at that point, tired of trying to be strong anymore. Fisting her hands in a white knuckle grip on her aunt’s nightgown, she broke down, crying hard, body shaking sobs.

Steff just held her niece tightly to her, running her fingers through her hair and down her back, letting her get it all out while rocking her back and forth like she did when the girl was just a tiny tike. It had been over fifteen years since the last time she had seen Elizabeth, though this was the very last reason she would have ever wanted to.

She turned to the doorway at the feeling of being watched, only to see her husband standing there. His normally bright, sky blue eyes were darker than the deepest part of the ocean. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen him so angry, or even if she ever had. This little angel in her arms was his sugar, his little Eribeth. She couldn’t even imagine what he was feeling at the moment, as his only niece bawled like a babe in her arms over something that should never have happened.

Both of them knew there was more to the story than what they were told, when they were called out of the blue to find out if she could stay with them for a while, but neither one of them had any intention of asking her about it. If it came out that was one thing, but by the sight of her face, they were not going to be the ones to cause her even more pain than she was in.

Elizabeth cried in her aunt’s arms for what felt like ages before she finally ended up crying herself to sleep. Steff held her a few moments longer before very slowly and carefully laying her down, then pulling her covers up to her chin. Brushing Elizabeth’s bangs out of her face, Steff bent down to kiss her forehead softly so she didn’t hurt her. She then stood to leave the room, closing the door behind her.

Leaning back against it, she closed her eyes and sighed while looking at her husband. “What are we gonna do for that girl, Marshal?”

Asking God for the patience of a saint, his gaze moved from the ceiling to his wife a short moment before nodding down the hall to their room. “We gonna let her rest for as long as she wants for now. We’ll figure things out better than that later, when we ain’t so upset.”

As Steff walked with her husband to go to bed, her head snapped up to look at him. “What about church?”

Marshal cocked a brow at his wife. “How many times you think that girl asked God for help but it never came? If she gets out of bed early enough and wants to go, then fine, but I ain’t about to be forcin’ her to do nothin’ she don’t wanna, ya hear? You ain’t either. She got enough shit on her plate to deal with, she don’t be needin’ that, too.”


Chapter 4

The next morning, a very groggy and drained Elizabeth was pulled out of the land of dreams by the mouthwatering aroma of cinnamon. Pushing herself up, wincing slightly at the protest of her still hurt shoulder, she took a breath of the scent she missed like you wouldn’t believe.

Aunt Steff’s made from scratch sticky buns.

All but leaping out of bed, she grabbed her brush, then darted to the bathroom to take care of business, using the brush to style her hair in a way to cover the worst of the bruise. The way she figured it, they had seen it last night. There was no reason to spend forever covering it with makeup, when this would take care of the worst of it. Plus, those sticky buns where the best right out of the oven.  She just hoped that they were still within ten minutes of being taken out. That was when they were her favorite.

Thundering down the steps, she slid across the wood floors into the dining room, slipping on a rug but catching herself before she fell, continuing on into the kitchen just in time to see her Aunt pull a tray out. Bouncing on the tips of her toes, she squealed out loud before shouting, “I call the center bun!”

Her aunt’s laughter rang out in the kitchen as she turned to look at her niece, taking in the childlike excitement over something as simple as the center sticky bun. Smiling wide, “Mercy, Punken, it’s just a…”

Elizabeth was already shaking her head. “It isn’t JUST anything but the greatest thing in the whole world, Aunt Steffy.” Then her brows flew up her forehead, “Wait, Uncle Marsh didn’t call it, did he? I swear I’ll piss in his Wheaties if he called my sticky bun.”

There was a deep laugh behind her calling her attention, her glaring attention, over her shoulder at her uncle. He was standing, leaning a hip on the counter. “You’ll do what now, Eribeth?”

Elizabeth cocked a brow at her uncle, her voice flat and snarky as she repeated herself. “I said I’ll piss in your Wheaties if you called my sticky bun.”

Snorting hard and shaking his head, Marshal waved his hand to the tray, “Your Aunt Steffy baked them up special for you, Sug. That whole batch is yours.”

Squealing like a pig in heat, she whipped back around to pounce on her aunt, repeatedly kissing her cheek while saying ‘thank you’ between every one. In the next second, she was grabbing a plate off the counter, picking up the tongs, then fishing out her favorite one before the time of perfection passed.

Once she had it out and took her first bite of it, Marshal cleared his throat a bit to call her attention to him. When he had it, “Your aunt and I are gonna be headin’ off to church here in a few minutes. If you rather not go, that’s just fine.”

Pausing with her teeth half way through the sticky bun, she thought about it for a moment before taking her bite. Once she swallowed, she looked at her uncle, “I would really rather not.”

Giving her an understanding smile, Marshal nodded. “Well, maybe next week?”

, she thought but still smiled back. “Maybe next week.”

Days turned into weeks, which turned into the marking of her first month in the middle of nowhere, bored out of her mind. The only thing worth mentioning that happened during that time, was the bruise had faded enough that she didn’t need to use as much cover up to hide it. There was still discoloration because she was so pale, but it wasn’t so black it put a sharpie to shame anymore. It was that really annoying yellow ocher color with a green tint. Good thing too, because she was out of liquid based concealer and refused to go out in public to get more until it couldn’t be seen at all.

Best laid plans never go according to plan for her, however.

She was curled up on the porch swing reading a book when her uncle came out, took a seat next to her, and patted her leg. Finishing the sentence she was reading, she put her book down before smiling at him. “Hey, Uncle Marsh, what’s up?”

Rubbing the back of his neck a few times, Marshal looked over at his niece. “Well, your aunt and I are goin’ to the show this afternoon, and we want you to come with us.”

Blanching at the thought, knowing that he was referring to the rodeo that they have been talking about for the last week and not a movie, she shook her head. “Uncle Marsh…”

He cut her off. “You been cooped up in this house a month now, Eribeth. It’s ‘bout time you went out and did somethin’. There are plenty of kids your age ‘round. I am sure you’ll have no problem makin’ nice with ‘em.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “That’s not it, Uncle Marsh.”

He cocked a challenging brow at her, “That so? Then tell me what it is, Elizabeth?”

She dropped her face into her palm, knowing he was about to get pissed off, because that was the only time he used her actual name. Sighing hard, she looked back up at him. “It’s just not my thing, Uncle Marshal.”

He crossed his arms and leaned back onto the arm of the swing. “Really now? You ever been to one?” Seeing both the defeat in her eyes and the shake of her head, he cocked his. “Then how you know? Honestly, Eribeth, you actin’ like your life is over. In truth, you the one keepin’ yourself from livin’, Child. Think about it. We’re leavin’ in an hour.”

Dropping her head back on the headrest of the swing, Elizabeth closed her eyes and sighed. It wasn’t like she was against spending time with her aunt and uncle outside the house. It was that she was out of the necessary items to cover the evidence that she was an idiot, and an hour wasn’t enough time to both get ready to go AND go the nearest bigger town to get it. It was one or the other, and since she didn’t have transportation, she was gonna just have to cover it with her hair and pray there was no wind today.

Yeah, ‘cause praying got you anywhere. Her luck, the wind would be gale force.

With heavy feet, she trudged inside and up the steps to her room, to figure out what the hell you ever wear to a rodeo. Knowing from just being out there that it was hot as sin outside, she went with a pleated jean skirt and a white tank top that showed way more skin than she wanted. She was lazy over the last month, not taking her dirty clothes down stairs to get them washed like her aunt kept telling her to. It wasn’t that it was way low cut or anything, but it was normally used as a pajama top so it only came down to under her ribs and above her belly button. Not knowing what kind of literal shit was going to be lying on the ground, she opted for socks and her ratty old sneakers, so she didn’t ruin her good tennis shoes.

Once all that was figured out, she went to shower. No need to smell like shit just because you were going to be around it.

After she got out, she blow dried her hair straight, then went hunting for her red bandana to use to keep her hair in place once she got it to lay right over her face. There wasn’t any way to do her hair that would cover it all, but she was able to cover most of it. Well, the worst of it, which was right over her cheekbone. All she could think as she walked down the steps forty-five minutes later, was thankfully the swelling mostly went away, so you had to be relatively close to see it now.

She dug through her purse on the dining room table for some cash and her I.D., on the off chance there was going to be alcohol for sale, because she wasn’t sure she could make it through this sober. After slipping that into her back pocket, she gave herself a onceover in the mirror in the entryway. Deciding it was as good as it was gonna get, she grabbed a jacket out of the closet, then left out the front door to meet up with her aunt and uncle, who were waiting outside for her.


Chapter 5

The ride to the fairgrounds was both quiet and uneventful. She didn’t want to be there, and the older adults knew it, so neither of them pressed her to talk or try to get her excited about it.

Once there, Elizabeth followed her aunt and uncle through the crowd to the ticket booth, then to the arena set up in the very center of the grounds, and finally to the stands so she knew where they were going to be because she, thankfully, saw a beer vendor. After leaving them with her jacket and telling them where she was going and asking if they wanted anything, she was off to get some liquid comfort.

It didn’t take her horribly long to find the stand again, but the waiting in line sure as hell did. Looks like she isn’t the only one that couldn’t sit through this shit sober. Good to know that even the locals needed beer to enjoy this; made her feel better.

She was three people from the front when she heard the most god-awful annoying voice behind her. “Lord, did you see him? I swear he gets hotter every time I see ‘im.”

Okay, she was wrong. The next voice was the most annoying thing she had ever heard. It was high pitched and nasally and just... yuck. “
? Sweetie, did you see his brother? That man is God’s gift to the world. This honey knows what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” Then, to her horror, she felt a tap on her shoulder.

Looking to the sky and asking for something, anything to not hit the bitch, Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder. She had to work at swallowing the groan that was crawling up her throat. There before her was a blonde chick who really needed a root touch-up, with what had to be the worst implant job she had ever seen... yet Elizabeth was from New York. Moving her eyes just a tad, she then saw a legal midget with sun-bleached brown hair that was sticking up all over the place, like the short shit shoved a fork in an electrical outlet. Looking back at the one who was looking at her like they were best friends, she cocked a brow. “Yeah?”

The blonde pointed a thumb at the midget, her voice reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard when she spoke. “Tell this little tart that Xander is so much hotter than Kyle.” When all Elizabeth did was blink at her, the blonde huffed. “Well, alright, I guess they do look an awful lot alike being brothers and all, but Xander totally tops Kyle.” A pointed look overtook her features, “Don’t he?”

Blinking once again, and for lack of anything else to say, Elizabeth just gave shrug as she heard ‘Next’ called. It was her turn. “Yeah, sure. He’s sex on legs.” Turning back to the counter, she gave the worker an imploring look. “The biggest beer you got, please.”

The guy smirked at her s he asked to see her I.D.. While looking at it, he asked. “Have too much fun at the shindig last night, Sugar?” Not knowing what he was talking about, but not really wanting to get asked why she wanted that much beer without a reason, she said yes, took her I.D. back, and handed him a ten for the glass of beer, telling him to keep the change. “Much obliged, Ma’am. You enjoy yourself now.”

Not likely.
Smiling at the guy, she put as much enthusiasm in her voice as she could. “I will thanks.” Moving out of the way and around the side of the stand, Elizabeth brought the cup to her lips and started chugging, drinking a quarter of it so it didn’t spill as she was walking.

As she was about to start looking for a place to get her aunt and uncle the requested hotdogs, the most annoying creature ever born started talking again. “I didn’t see ya at the party last night.”

Lifting her eyes and seeing the brown eyes of the bottle blonde again, she shrugged. “Didn’t see you either. Guess that makes us even, doesn’t it?”

The bottle blonde narrowed her eyes at her, a sneer on her face and a mocking tone to her voice. “I don’t reckon I ever seen you anywhere b’fore.”

Elizabeth winked. “New in town. Not really a shocker that you haven’t seen me around.”

The bottle blonde blinked once before she broke out in a wide grin, holding out a hand. “Oh, well, sorry Sugar. Welcome to town. I’m Lynn.”

Elizabeth glanced at the hand presented to her a second before looking back to her face. “Good for you. Excuse me.” She never did have a lot of tolerance for fakes.

As she was turning to walk away, Lynn scoffed a loud noise. “Oh, hell naw. You don’t just dismiss me like that.”

One thing about being in an abusive relationship, you get kick ass reflexes. Plus, the stupid bitch was top heavy. Stepping to the side with a twist, Elizabeth was able to avoid the sneak attack from behind. Instead of getting tackled, she stood there watching as Lynn basically dove face first into the dirt, grunting rather loudly when she hit.

The midget ran to her friend’s side, kneeling down next to her, asking in a high pitched voice that hurt Elizabeth’s ears, if she was alright before turning on her with a glare. “You fuckin’ bitch. What the hell did you do that for?”

Elizabeth just blinked once before glowering. “I didn’t even fucking touch her. She came after me halfcocked and ready to explode, not the other way around. Now, as I said, excuse me.”

Turning on her heel, she walked away before the problem could escalate anymore. ‘
Make nice with ‘em my ass, Uncle Marsh’
. Taking her time, Elizabeth walked along the different booths and drank her beer, seeing what was there while she hunted down the elusive creature called a hot dog vender.

When she was about three quarters of the way down the path of stalls, she happened to look over. Her heart stopped, her beer hitting the ground. There, not fifteen feet from her was her worst nightmare come true… looking right back at her.

She watched in absolute terror as his eyes lit up, even while that dark, cruel smirk that she would never forget pulled his lips apart, showing the perfect teeth on the other side. The voice that used to melt her into a puddle froze her blood in her veins as it caressed her ears like a long lost lover. “Well, hello, Elizabeth. I have been looking all over for you.”

Tears prickled her eyes as he took a step toward her, but she was able to squeak out “How?”

The cruel smile darkened, and his eyes brightened all the more at the fear in her voice. His voice held amusement and mock. “The computer is a wonderful device. That aside, we never got to finish our little talk. I think we should do that now.”

What got her feet moving was when she saw his hand begin to raise toward her. Pivoting on point, she darted off like a bullet from a gun back the way she came. She bobbed and weaved through the masses. She never paused, but did glance over her shoulder, whimpering when she saw he was following her. The only thing she had on her side was the one that had always worked against her before... her size. She was so much smaller in comparison, that she was able to squeeze through spots he wasn’t.

Turning back to look where she was going, Elizabeth skidded to a stop when she saw the two girls from the beer stand straight ahead of her, looking like two pissed off princesses. She just knew they were looking for her. Whimpering again, she looked back over her shoulder to see Brandon closing the distance she’d been able to put between them faster than she could think of a plan. It was then that the tears broke the dam she had built over the last month.

Glancing to the side of her, she saw a path between the vendor stands. She pushed off with her left foot to lunge to the right, twisting around and running again. She wasn’t sure if the two girls saw her or not, but she knew Brandon saw where she went. All she had to do was regain lost ground, then find a place to hide for  awhile before making the attempt to find her aunt and uncle to get out of there.

She hadn’t seen anyone on the path when she took it, so she kept her head down, watching where she was going so she didn’t trip over roots or cords. Turning to look over her shoulder again, she saw Brandon take the turn. He was behind her again, a glare on his face.

Then he yelled, shooting ice water down her spine. “Get back here, Elizabeth!”

Since she was looking behind her, she didn’t see that there were people in front of her now so she slammed HARD into the back of the person standing there. So hard in fact, that she was knocked backwards onto her back, her bandana long since gone in her mad dash. The guy she hit was knocked forward, and would have probably fallen on his face, had he not had someone in front of him to stop that from happening.

Xander whirled around with a ‘what the fuck’ after his brother got him steady on his feet, only to see a guy about his age slide to a stop. He ignored him for the moment, looking down to see who it was that ran into him. What he saw would haunt him for the longest time, he was sure of it. There was nothing but a tiny little thing pushing herself up into a lounging position, after having laid herself out from running into him. That wasn’t the part that tore at him, however. It was the look on her face when she glanced up to see what happened.

That and what he saw ON her face.

There were tears flowing a river down her cheeks, falling from eyes that were full of the purest fear he had ever seen in his life. What had his attention however, was the nearly healed bruise that covered over half her face. That was when he lifted only his eyes back up to get another look at the guy, who was now backing away from the scene. It took a second, but it then clicked where he knew that face from. He had seen a clip on the news around a month ago when he was in Vegas, about a woman beater who had skipped town right after his daddy posted his bail.

That mother fucker.

Talking in a quiet voice to his brother, so that the son of a bitch couldn’t hear him, “Ky, ‘member that sumbitch from the news last month, the one from New York that jumped bail... Waterloo, Westfall, what the fuck ever his name was?”

Kyle looked from the girl who just could not seem to get her bearings to his brother. “Yeah, why?”

Xander nodded at Brandon as he continued to back away. “That’s him.” Then he put his cigarette between his lips and held out a hand. “Hand me my rifle. I’ma shoot ‘im.”

Shrugging a shoulder, Kyle picked up the gun he dropped in lieu of catching his brother, and then smacked it against Xander’s palm. “Don’t miss.”

Twirling the rifle around into a better grip. After he cocked it loaded, he raised the barrel to take aim. “Never do.”

Brandon heard the ‘click’ of the shotgun. Narrowly avoiding pissing himself, he pivoted on his heel and bolted. Just before he reached the crowd, he heard a deep baritone voice covered in a thick southern twang call out. “You better run, Boy. If I see ya again, I pull the fuckin’ trigger.”

Shaking his head while sneering in absolute disgust, Xander handed his gun back to his brother, who wasted no time uncocking it. He grunted, taking his smoke from his mouth while crossing his arms. “Fuckin’ pansy. Ain’t no bigger weaklin’ in the world than a man that can hit a lady, and not take his licks in return.”

Kyle snorted and crossed his arms. “You was aimin’ to kill ‘im, Xan. You expected different?”

Xander shook his head with a backward glance at him. “I said I was gonna shoot ‘im. Didn’t say nothin’ ‘bout killin’ ‘im.”

Kyle rolled his eyes, giving his brother a flat look. “You were gonna kill ‘im.”

Xander just smirked. “I was prolly gonna kill ‘im.” He then turned his attention to the lady who was still on the ground trying to figure out what happened. Taking one last hit, he flicked his cigarette butt into the dirt a few feet away, and then crouched down into a squatting position. “Hey there, Little Darlin’. You alright?”

Distant eyes looked up at him, seeing but not. She was still crying something fierce, whimpering like a wounded pup every now and then, tearing his heart to pieces with every sound she made. When she spoke, her voice was airy, confused. “Patrick?”

A small smile pulled at his lips, “Close, Little Darlin’. I’m Xander” he then nodded backwards, “and this here’s my brother Kyle.” Xander watched as she tried to connect the dots but, somewhere between the fear and more than likely a crack on the back of the head from falling, something was getting lost for her. Pursing his lips , he tilted his head a bit. “What’s your name, Little Darlin’?”

She blinked and tripped over her tongue a few times, but was finally able to answer that for him. “Elizabeth.”

Nodding to her, he then looked over his shoulder at Kyle. “Find a security guard or stable hand and have ‘em go to the announcer’s booth. Tell them to make one and have whoever she came with taken to the stables. I’ll get her there.”

Kyle nodded, about to head off and do that, when Xander stopped him. He looked back to see a glare on his brother’s face.

“Leave my gun.”

BOOK: Southern Charms
9.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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