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In light of that. They love to preach. Especially Lucky. They're all in on the act of saving me from myself. It was still naturally curly and had a mind of its own. I wanted to ask you about that first. You could have been killed. The carrot-colored hair she'd had in kindergarten had mellowed to a soft red. I appreciate—" "What happened to Goosey? It would have been. When they I' do. She stopped spooning in the custard. I picked it all up there. She was still strikingly slender.
Years in braces had left her with a perfect smile. Her parents had told her that those were much more important than winning popularity contests. While the popular girls in her class had gone out for cheerleader and drum majorette. The curves beneath her expensive and chic clothing weren't abundant. Chase did now. Summing up her appearance.
She used to pray that all her freckles would run together. She would have traded all her certificates of merit for one rhinestone-studded tiara and a crowning kiss from the president of the class. Marcie Johns had come a long way from the awkward bookworm all the other kids had called Goosey. Goosey was Goosey. The beanstalk body had finally sprouted and filled out.
For years she had vainly tried to tan. After several severe sunburns and weeks of unsightly peeling. It now appeared almost translucent and was often remarked upon with envy by women her age who had basked in the sun for years and were now paying for their gorgeous tans with lines and wrinkles.
Her more curvaceous classmates had been crowned Homecoming Queen and Valentine Sweetheart. Few realized that their class valedictorian pined for anything other than scholastic recognition. Eyeglasses had been replaced by contacts. She had decided that if she couldn't have the sleek.
He muttered a litany of expletives. Tears sprang to his eyes. I'd rather pass the time somewhere else. I suggest you say your farewells and leave.
I told you I'd make an enemy of you. The blood drained from her head so quickly. I can't…" He raised his hands helplessly. The second the words were out of Chase's mouth. Nothing a day or two in bed won't cure. At last he raised his head. Beyond that. He made a terrible. I swear I don't. It was a thoughtless. The pain took his breath. But deep down—" "Not at all.
She almost bent double against the assault of his harsh words. I turn nasty and victimize whoever happens to be around me at the time. Left alone they never would.
Her personality had an inflexible streak that few ever saw because she only exercised it when given no alternative. That's why I just want to be left alone. For the two years since Tanya's death he had been licking his wounds. They hadn't healed yet. To Milton Point. Where will you go? If you were staying with that clown and he's left for Canada. I'll manage just fine by myself. You can barely stand up! Chase was no longer capable of helping himself. They would only fester and become worse.
That's why I'm not very good company. He was like a wounded. He came off the bed. I will. How can your body heal if you take no better care of it than that? I was low on cash. For a moment he merely stared at her blankly. As soon as we get to Milton Point you can withdraw it from your bank account or borrow it from your brother. There's the matter of the money. According to sources who know you well. We didn't find a significant amount of money there either.
What money? Pellets of ice were falling intermittently with the rain. I didn't think you would want to be admitted as a charity patient. I couldn't have ridden in the rodeo. His eyes had remained closed. Some kind of envy. Soft music' was playing on the stereo radio. I commend your competency.
Also by Sandra Brown
Never could meet your match in the brains department? The heater was controlled by a thermostat. Unfortunately it fell directly in the path between their starting point and their destination.
It's just that most men are intimidated by self-sufficient. But ever since leaving the hospital. Her car was roomy and plush because she used it to drive clients around in. Chase was surrounded with as much comfortable luxury as possible.
You're fighting the pain medication they gave you before we left. Precipitation had increased. He had refused to lie down in the backseat of her car as she had suggested. I mean when a woman wants to be a man. Marcie had her eyes glued to the pavement just beyond her hood ornament and kept a death grip on the steering wheel while maintaining minimum speed as she navigated the labyrinth of freeways that encircled downtown Dallas.
They were only half an hour into a two-and a half-hour car trip. Morning rush hour was over. We worked out of the same office. Nobody asked me.
The room was filled with wedding gifts. She swallowed with difficulty. He was a realtor. My parents had gone all out. I wanted to be beautiful and popular and go steady with a super jock just like every high school girl.
I was engaged to be married once. Despite the traffic and glazed highway. The gown was gorgeous. Who broke it off. He was very nice. Marcie turned her full attention back to the road.
His smug expression was intolerable. She longed to come back with the swift and sure retort. We were very compatible. My mother and the seamstress who was doing the alterations were fussing around me. Back to the guy in Houston. A week before the wedding I was trying on my gown for a final fitting.
But after we had discussed it at length. I would have admitted to myself. I liked him very much. It won't take a sec for me to go in—".
I mean it was a helluva thing to do. Stop and let me download a bottle of whiskey. Before long. The next few days were a nightmare. Pull off at the next exit. It took real guts to break if off at the eleventh hour like that. If I'd had any guts. I was fond of him. I couldn't be that dishonest. But I didn't love him. And in a blinding instant I knew I couldn't do it. I think he realized all along that… well. The doctor said you could have one every two hours. The gifts had to be returned to their senders with notes of apology.
How'd he take it? I'm not stopping this car until I get to your place in Milton Point. As you can imagine. All the arrangements.
Chase moaned and laid a hand against his ribs. There's a liquor store there. Unshed tears shimmered in her eyes. Now I want a drink and I want it now. To this day I have nightmares where I experience the sound of squealing tires and feel the impact and taste the fear of dying all over again. Gradually she applied the brake until it came to a full stop. I'm scared to death. She uncurled her stiff. And how do we know how many of.
Even more so when I have a passenger sitting where Tanya was sitting.
Through it. Haven't you realized that it isn't easy for me to drive under any circumstances. I wouldn't think of risking my life or anyone else's by driving in this ice storm. He wasn't expecting the slap. I would be holed up in my hotel room in Fort Worth until the next sunny. Look at my hands. I had to undergo weeks of therapy before I could even get behind the steering wheel of a car again.
I didn't ask to be with you. I live in terror of that happening to me again. If he didn't wake up when we came barging in. Her cold palm cracked across his bristled cheek. He was to notify us when and if Chase turned up.
We rushed over and found Chase alone and dead to the world. Laurie's right. Marcie had heard enough. We can wait until he wakes up on his own to find out who brought him home. That could be the reason he's sleeping like a dead man. Following her release from the hospital. She avoided telling them that she had spent the night in his hospital room. Three heads came around to gape at her with astonishment. Though she'd been in Chase's class all through school.
We've had his landlord here on the lookout for him. Marcie dropped her purse and keys into a chair littered with unopened mail and discarded articles of clothing that had lain there long enough to collect dust. She had ultimately decided against it. I'm not Chase's current squeeze.
Marcie had considered going to see Laurie and apologizing for Tanya's death. For the time being. Lucky looked chagrined. He called about half an hour ago and said he'd seen lights on in the apartment although Chase's truck wasn't here. She had been away from him only long enough to return. She managed to grip the doorknob and turn it.
He couldn't have taken many. He got stamped on by a bull at the rodeo in Fort Worth last night. Devon was the first to break the uneasy silence.
He insisted on leaving. He had pulled on a bathrobe. His hair still looked like he had run through a wind tunnel. When he realized that he'd as well argue with a brick wall. He gave him a prescription for pain medication—the bottle of capsules on the nightstand.
I also bought some cleaning supplies. What had gone unsaid was that Marcie's assistance in this matter was nominal repayment for having been driving when Chase's wife had been killed. Laurie lowered herself to the sofa. He got there in the nick of time. He examined Chase and recommended that he stay in the hospital for a few days. Nothing at all in the pantry. I can see you submitting to a bed bath. A bed bath was out of the question. He refused to be shaved. It hasn't. There was nothing but a can of spoiled sardines in the refrigerator.
The white bandage showed up in the open wedge of the robe across his chest. The door was slammed shut behind him. Unknowingly she had raised a hand to her chest. All of that is subject to change. When he lifted his head again. Devon moved toward her and laid her arm across Marcie's shoulders.
On top of that. I don't want her on my tail. I gave you what was good for you whether you liked it or not. Starting now. Lucky tried to reassure her. I don't care how big you are.
He was talking about bringing Mother's wrath down on him. I'm tired of walking on thin ice around you. Whether you like it or not. I will not be spoken to in that tone of voice by any of my children. It was no darker. She was smiling gently. This place is a pigsty.
Marcie had actually fallen back a step as though he had attacked her physically instead of verbally. He looked at his brother. Chase Nathaniel Tyler. When you were a boy. So now that you've had your little discussion about me and my character flaws. With only himself and the nagging pain in his ribs for company. He thought of ignoring the knock. They were beaded with raindrops that glistened like diamond chips in the glow of the porch light.
About the only thing that was familiar were her eyeglasses. All through school. I'll say goodbye. Chase released a string of curses when someone knocked on his door late that evening.
Whoever it was might think he was asleep and go away. He didn't particularly like red hair. Marcie was standing on the threshold. She didn't want them to see her tears. He had never seen her in a pair of jeans that he could recall. You provided a way for him to do it and still save face. It occurred to him now that she must have been wearing contacts. Goosey Johns had worn glasses. After having been dusted. Beneath her short. We owe you a real debt of gratitude and so does Chase.
It was decorated with splatters of metallic paint. Instead of the tailored bun she had worn that morning. They made her legs look long and slim—thighs that seemed to go on forever.
Marcie drove carefully. She'd left her hair down too. A hospital room was a safe. Chase sensed her uneasiness and decided that it served her right for butting in where she wasn't wanted. Her eyes moved over him in a nervous manner that made him want to smile. To please his mother. I'm not particular about brand names. But he hadn't dressed and was still wearing only his bathrobe. An old maid like Marcie probably wasn't used to talking to a barefooted.
Spicy food. They remind me of funerals. Nothing like your ladylove. I didn't realize until I saw you in your glasses that you usually wear contacts now. My contacts were bothering me. Marcie got up and carried it to the sink. She had big boobs. I can't recall a single feature. He snorted a wiseass laugh. Don't you remember? You'd make some man a good little wife. There isn't a single insult I haven't heard from being called.
Raising his head. Have you been crying? Of course not. Your looks have improved since high school. After scraping the bowl clean. I had to take them out. Her eyes remained steady as she leaned toward him. She conscientiously rinsed it and placed it in the dishwasher. She slipped off her jacket and sat down.
You're so—" He broke off and peered at her more closely. Then she moved to the coffee table. When she looked in the mirror. So you can act like a bastard when I bring you flowers and it's not going to faze me. I won't allow you to do that to me any longer.
Each of us deals with it in his own way. He caught the hem of her jacket and drew her up short. In everyone else's eyes. I could match every dirty joke you can think of with one even dirtier.
I neither commend nor criticize you for that. It might have knocked some sense into it. Perhaps because she was so honest about herself. It's only unfortunate that he didn't give you a good. I've got better.
I know all the locker-room phrases. So you can try to shock me with vulgarities? I've worked with and around men since I graduated from col lege. Her chin was held high. So I won't be so damn lonely. You have physical needs. Nothing you say can offend or shock me. Sexuality is a human condition. Lucky told me later that I acted like a nut case. Her lips were blue. She was kind and caring. She never wanted to make waves.
I don't remember much about those first few weeks after it happened. The next time I saw her. My baby. So suddenly.
You were a victim. I never wanted to give you that impression. There was just this empty place. I'm sorry if I have. I blame the boy who ran the stop sign.
Never to hurt. Waved to her as she left with you. Nor did he feel them as he rubbed the pad of his thumb over the ridge of her knuckles. Gave her a hug and a kiss. She knew how to tease enough to make it fun but not enough to hurt. So irretrievably. I asked you if you blamed me. Not you. We had terrific sex. I saw that today when you were driving us home. He took both her hands.
She made bad days better and good days great. I was saturated with grief. He withdrew his hands from Marcie's and crammed his fists into his eye sockets. It was cold. It died inside her. But they sure as hell aren't the fastest means of self-destruction. When you've lost the person you love. All you've done effectively is fall apart at the seams and make life miserable for everyone around you.
Grief wasn't paining his injured chest now so much as anger. Maybe she would have been spared to have our baby. He felt her hand on his shoulder. So either you're lying about seriously desiring death or you're grossly inefficient. I wanted to. I wish I had. You're not honoring Tanya with this kind of bereavement. She spread it open on the bar. It's unintelligent and unhealthy.
He lowered his hands from his eyes. For the brief time I knew her. I wonder if she would have the least bit of respect for you if she could see the mess you've made of your life since she's been gone. Booze and easy women and bull riding are among them. Would she be pleased to know that you've crumpled? I seriously doubt it. But not before leaving you with one final thought. I'll slap you again. In her eyes you could do no wrong. Why haven't you pulled the trigger or driven off the bridge or picked up the razor or swallowed a handful of pills?
What was so damned important that I couldn't get away? If I had. Until that time. She positively idolized you. He had known unequivocally that she loved him. One kept him away from home and the other made him temporarily forget the heartache he had left. He believed to this day that she had died knowing that he loved her. Was Marcie right then? If he had seriously wanted to end his life when Tanya's ended. Good night. How could she not know? He had dedicated his life to never letting her doubt it.
Somewhere deep inside. He lowered himself to the edge of his bed. It fluttered to his feet. He uncapped the prescription bottle and shook out a capsule. He gave it a vicious kick that sent a sharp pain through his ribs. Since her death he hadn't had any ambition beyond drinking enough to dull his senses and cloud his memory.
He won just enough prize money to keep him in gasoline and whiskey. Her smile had come through her eyes straight from her heart. There had been many opportunities when he'd been away from home. He couldn't even conceive of it. I'll collect it in full tomorrow. She soundly pulled the door closed behind her.
Turning the amber plastic bottle end over end. At first he had put in token appearances at the office of Tyler Drilling. Tanya had been proud of his ambition. That's when he'd gone on the road. Yet he had never even thought of actual suicide. Marcie was right in another respect—he wasn't honoring Tanya's memory by living the way he presently was.
As he was returning the bottle of pills to the nightstand. But for what? He lifted his gaze to the framed photograph of Tanya and him taken on their wedding day. Nor were you for that matter.
But first. He was flat broke. She had knocked loudly on his door while he was brew ing a pot of coffee after a surprisingly restful night. How naive he'd been then. Since he was still without transportation. But when. Tomorrow he'd go see his mother and thank her for the chicken soup. The last we had heard. His life had become a nonproductive cycle of whoring. Like the prodigal in the New Testament. He studied Tanya's blond prettiness.
Tomorrow he'd talk to Lucky and find out what was going on with their business or even if they still had a business. That would be a start. He had alienated all his friends. He was bedding women he couldn't even remember in the morning. It was time he pulled himself together. In fact it mocked him. The smiling groom in the photograph on the nightstand didn't even resemble him now. Life wasn't going to be fun no matter what he did. According to his mother's speech.
He would take it one day at a time. Tomorrow he'd scrape up enough money to repay Marcie. Moving from place to place.
You scared the boys off. Weathermen in the whole northern half of the state were warning people not to drive unless it was absolutely necessary. All my girlfriends used to positively drool over you and Lucky. Mother called last night and said you were home. It just wasn't in me to make out like some dolt had invented the wheel. We'll probably wait until he's in his year of residency before we get married.
I think you two are the reason I had so many friends. I dropped everything and drove in. They begged to sleep over. I couldn't gush and simper and keep a straight face. Sounds serious. He wants to be a dermatologist and make tons of money. You or him? Girlfriends that is. It had been a long time since he'd laughed. By now I know the road between here and Austin better than I know the back of my hand.
He's going through medical school now. The rain was expected to start freezing later in the day. Thank God Travis doesn't expect that from me. I majored in business.
Very happy. Being Mrs. Everybody in the family has his own BMW. He apologized for that now. I haven't quite made up my mind yet what I want to do. Doctor Travis whatever going to be enough for you? It has a pond with ducks and swans in the backyard. Marry the guy so you'll no longer be a liability to us. Or is being Mrs. She's managed to blend her work with a happy marriage. Even after two years of marriage.
You didn't miss anything. I hope it makes you rich and self-supporting. I immediately enrolled in graduate school. Does football knees and stuff. I want to become independently wealthy like your friend Marcie Johns. He chuckled. They live in Houston in this gorgeous house that one of the Oilers used to own. Chase hadn't made it to her commencement. I'm taking graduate courses that could apply to any field. I want a career like Devon.
I looked terrible in a cap and gown. Cotton field? His dad is a bone surgeon. I'm never going to be totally dependent on any man. Sage either didn't hear him or chose to let his remark pass without comment. She must be. Damn you men. For as long as. Johns had cosmetic surgery. Things like that. Pat called her this morning and advised her to stay indoors. Your age. Realtor of the Year. She's already gorgeous. It isn't fair that y'all get better looking while we go to pot. I think she had to have some plastic surgery done to cover a scar on her forehead.
Isn't that about the time everything starts sliding downhill? For women. Businesswoman of the Year. Johns looked positively radiant yesterday. Sage ignored that crack. Her picture is in the paper just about every month for selling the most houses even in this depression or recession or whatever it is that we're in. I heard some women in the beauty parlor speculating on whether or not she had had an eye job and a chin tuck while she was at it.
She wins all kinds of awards. I doubt it would be shaken by a few character lines in her face. I promised Mother I'd run errands for her so she wouldn't have to get out today. Two years earlier he'd been instrumental in clearing Lucky of a false arson charge.
Your looks improve with age. That's one of many grievances I'm going to bring up with God when I get to heaven. He would never have attached that adjective to Goosey Johns. Lucky's here. His stomach roiled with the memory of standing on this same porch and watching Tanya and Marcie drive away that fateful afternoon. She had rolled down her window and was smiling at him through the opening.
Even the smells were the same. The room's cozy warmth seemed to embrace him like a fond relative he hadn't seen in a while. He looked back. He raised his head when Chase walked in. It stayed untidy. The company office hadn't been modernized since his grandfather had occupied it. Her words carried a double meaning. He had waved good-bye then. Lucky was bent over the scarred wooden desk. He formed a fake pistol with his hand and fired it at her. Putting aside the unpleasant memory.
Though he hadn't been there in months. Sheriff Bush had been their family friend. They waved to each other as she drove off. Seems I'm the only member of the family who hasn't had the pleasure.
I'll be fine. I'm about half scared of her myself. If it gets to be too much… what I mean is. Lucky offered him a cup of coffee. Their laughter turned poignant. But I was glad to see her. We played so many tricks on her when she was little.
Test the waters. I hated to think of her driving all that way alone in this weather. He's a preppie wimp. Chase Tyler has lost just about everything that he treasured in his life.
He experienced a sense of pain that would change his life. For two years Chase detaches from his family and all that is Tyler Drilling. He is living The love continues! He is living a life at the bottom of a bottle and at the hands of meaningless romps with women. But sharing in his pain was Marcie Johns. Chase and Marcie share a past. She shared his agony. Marcie needed to see Chase happy again and would do just about anything to have this happen.
Tyler Drilling is suffering financially and Marcie can help. But as much as her proposition can offer the business relief it means risking her heart to someone who has nothing to offer her. As they share a home and a relationship that becomes physical and emotional neither of them are able to process the feelings they are experiencing.But deep down" "Not at all.
He be- lieved that for her, sex would be a form of currency, not pleasure. Another of his most recent liaisons had been with a gold digger. And how do we know how many of those pills he's taken? Today Sandra Brown is His laughter broke off when Lucky spoke from behind him.
Earlier, the efficient hospital staff had moved her from an intensive care unit into this standard room at St.