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Authors: Olivia Claire High

The Black Feather (29 page)

BOOK: The Black Feather
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She shot him a surprised look.

“Ask you what?”

He studied her noting how rigid she held herself and how her hand gripped the handle to the door.

“I didn’t leave that girl to die.”

“What girl?”

Thad lifted a brow.

“Oh, you mean the one David mentioned? I forgot all about her.”

“Have you now?” he softly challenged.

“Okay, maybe I have thought about her a little. But you said you were cleared of everything, so that’s the end of it.”

“We both know it’s not going to be the end until I tell you what happened in my own words.”

“You don’t have to explain.”

“I do if you you’re still interested in us having any kind of a future together.”

Suzanne stared at him for several seconds.

“All right. Tell me if it’ll make you feel any better.”

“I’d like to think I’ll make you feel better as well. Why don’t you have a seat?”

“I’d rather stand,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Thad rubbed a hand around the back of his neck. He gave every appearance of a man summoning painful memories from deep inside himself. His silence caused Suzanne to clear her throat.

“Why don’t we do this another time? I really am tired.”

She turned to go, but stopped when Thad began to speak.

“Ann Marie Cameron was one of the most beautiful young women I’d ever seen. She also had a vulnerable look that drew me to her. At first I thought her brother was too hard on her, but he was paying me to be her bodyguard and not ask questions. She said he was a control freak and rarely let her have any fun. It would have helped if he’d told me she was mentally unstable.”

“Mentally unstable? In what way?”

“Mood swings from bubbly happy to downright mean and nasty. One minute she was buying me gifts and crawling naked in my bed; and the next thing I knew she was. . .”

“So you slept with her.” Suzanne lowered her arms to her sides. “I didn’t need to know that.”

“I said she crawled into my bed, but I didn’t let her stay. She thought her offer of sex would get me to disobey her brother’s orders. When I refused she ended up swinging a baseball bat at me.”

Suzanne’s eyes widened.

“Did her brother know?”

“Yes. She ran with a rough crowd. Got into drugs, drinking, and sleeping around. She was constantly running off getting into trouble of some kind. That’s why he hired me.”

Suzanne winced when she thought of all the times she’d run out on him.

“I had my hands full. She got out of the house one night while I was having a break. Her brother was supposed to be watching her. He let his guard down when he thought she was asleep.”

“It sounds like he needed to hire more than one bodyguard.”

“It would have helped. She slipped away and went to one of her friend’s where a big party was going on. She was wasted by the time I finally tracked her down. I tried to talk her into leaving peacefully, but she went berserk. She started kicking me and screaming. A guy pulled a knife. Ann Marie jumped in while I fought the guy off. She got nicked and had some blood on her, but it looked worse than it was. She was never in danger of dying, despite what David told you.”

“Someone should have still called the police.”

“Someone did. Ann Marie told the cops I was the one who attacked her and her friend when he tried to save her from me. She later told her brother I was going to leave her there to die. He didn’t believe her, and I was cleared of all blame once the facts came out. Her brother finally realized he couldn’t keep her at home any longer and put her in a mental health facility to live. I know he did it because he loved Ann Marie. But love wasn’t enough in this case.”

“What happened?” Suzanne asked, fully engrossed in his story now.

“She blamed me for being kicked out of her, I quote, ‘happy home’ because I got her in trouble with the cops. I thought that was the end of it until her brother called me several weeks later and said Ann Marie was doing a lot better. She wanted to apologize to me and asked that I go see her.”

“Did you go?”

Thad nodded.

“Yes. I had lunch with her. She seemed upbeat, telling me she was taking painting classes and how she’d paint me a picture. We visited until it was time for me to go. I stood up to leave, and she grabbed my hand and blurted out that she loved me. She insisted she was well enough to know her true feelings and hoped I’d want to marry her some day.”

“Awkward.”

“To say the least. I told her I loved her as a friend, but that was all. She said she thought as much, but could I blame a girl for trying? She thanked me for coming and said she looked forward to my next visit.”

“That should have made you feel better.”

“It might have if things had turned out differently. A member of the staff found her dead the next morning. She hung herself during the night.”

Suzanne caught her breath.

“Oh Thad. I’m so sorry. Hopefully she’s found some peace at last.”

“That’s what her brother said, but I can’t help wondering if I’d loved her the way she wanted she might still be alive.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Now you know what happened to Ann Marie.”

“You mustn’t blame yourself. You aren’t responsible for that girl’s death. She was obviously still not well.”

Suzanne rubbed her forehead.

“I created some wild ideas about you and Ann Marie, but what else did you expect when you got so angry because I asked about her? You left me with empty spaces, and my imagination filled in the gaps.”

“I had a feeling it was something like that. Have I cleared things up in your mind now?”

She nodded.

“Forgive me?”

“There’s nothing to forgive. But I wish you had come to me when your colorful imagination painted the wrong picture.”

“I guess all this that’s happened to me lately has messed with my mind more than I realized.”

“That, and the fact that you’ve spent years dealing with your parents’ screwing with your head.”

“Probably, but I think things are going to be better now. Thanks for explaining about Ann Marie.”

“I wanted to do it before I leave here.”

Suzanne frowned at him.

“You’re leaving? Why?”

“I’ve been reassigned. I want you to know I asked to stay here, but I’m needed elsewhere.”

“That’s a nice contrast to how you left me before. I appreciate knowing the difference. When will I get to see you?”

“I’m not sure. I’m being sent to New Orleans,” he said taking his hands out of his pockets.

“So far? Shoot! How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know. It’ll depend on how long the client thinks he needs me.”

Suzanne plopped down into a nearby chair.

“How are we still going to be a couple?”

“We should be able to stay in touch, thanks to the wonderful world of technology.”

“Yeah, in touch without touching,” she grumbled. “When do you have to leave?”

“Tomorrow.”

She practically leaped out of the chair. “So soon? How long have you known about this?”

“A couple of days. I tried to tell you before, but you haven’t been too talkative lately.”

“I’ve been stupid. Come on.”

She grabbed him by the hand and tugged him toward the door.

“Where are we going?”

“To my bedroom to make up for lost time.”

“I thought you were tired,” Thad said, trying unsuccessfully to hide his grin.

“Looks like I just got my second wind.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty-nine

 

Whether separated by miles, mixed emotions, or misunderstandings, their lovemaking always held a sense of desperation when they came together again. Their first coupling was fast and frantic, both too anxious for the physical contact to waste time with extended foreplay. But making love the second time in the early dawn had a sweeter, more leisurely rhythm that left them both feeling happily satisfied.

The phone rang shattering the quiet. Suzanne answered when she saw it was her father.

“Dad, how are you doing? How is Muriel?”

She listened for the next few minutes before saying goodbye and snuggling back in Thad’s arms.

“So, how are things?”

“They’re both fine and very happy to be out of the clinic. He says he’s loving their secret paradise.”

“I thought you said there wasn’t any romance between them.”

“There isn’t. Muriel still thinks of my dad as a father figure. She wants him to be her baby’s adopted grandpa. He says she has wonderful friends there who’d do anything to keep her away from her father and uncle. Dad already has his eye on a widow, and apparently she has her eye on him. Thank goodness she’s closer to his own age. He sounded very happy. I’m glad he finally seems to be settling down.”

Thad nodded.

“Makes it nice for you, too. Have you heard from the Martins, or shouldn’t I ask?”

“They’ve been calling me, begging forgiveness. I told them I need more time.”

“Understandable. By the way, Linc called. He and Maya said hello. They’re on another assignment.”

“They must enjoy their work.”

She sighed.

“I wish you didn’t have to go. It’s going to be tough trying to keep a relationship going with your kind of work. But I’m willing to take what time I can get. Would you consider moving in with me after my mom is well enough to go back to her own place?”

“That depends.”

Suzanne raised her head to look at him.

“On what?”

“I’ve been offered a teaching/coaching job in a junior college down here.”

Excitement at such an opportunity made her push herself into a sitting position.

“That’s wonderful. I remember you telling me you did teach now and then. But I didn’t know you were fully qualified with a teaching credential.

“I pursued getting one in between jobs because I knew I didn’t want to continue in my present line of work for the rest of my life, especially after I discovered I enjoyed teaching.”

“So, does that mean you intend to take the college position instead of going to New Orleans?”

“There’s something I need to know before I decide. I don’t want us to just live together, Suzanne.”

“But I thought . . .” She stopped and stared at him.  “I’m not sure I know what you do want.”

Thad leveled his gaze on her.

“Yes you do.”

 

 

Suzanne walked into her classroom at the start of the new school year and stood at the front of the room smiling at her students. “Good morning. Welcome to my class. My name is Mrs. Novak. I’m looking forward to working with you. I have a feeling this is going to be a wonderful year for us all.”

 

 

And it was . . . in every way possible.

 

BOOK: The Black Feather
3.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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