I only have two chapters left to complete the story after this one so I will be posting the final two chapters tomorrow morning. Also, I just wanted to let my blog readers know that I will not be posting a lot of advertisements for purchasing my books anymore.
I have found I enjoy sharing on here and then giving you a link to the book on Amazon, if you so desire it, in full more than trying to become a “successful indie author”. I would actually offer it for free but some of my friends and family aren’t technically inclined (much like me at times!) so it’s easier for them to simply order it from a site and have it go to their Kindle and I can’t figure out how to offer it for free on there. I am sure there is a way and I’ll keep studying it.
I do want to remind blog readers again that you want a paperback, please let me know and I will order one for you at a better cost. I will eventually set up a way to do that on here.
Anyhow, enough of all the rambling (which probably isn’t making sense anyhow).
If you are a new reader here, I share a chapter from my WIP each Friday, and sometimes Saturday, on my blog. There are typos, grammatical issues and even plot holes at times because this is a first, second, or third draft that hasn’t gone to final editing yet. If you see a typo, feel free to kindly let me know in the comments. Sometimes the error has already been fixed on my copy, sometimes not.
Catch up with the rest of the story HERE. Don’t feel like reading the book in a series of chapters each Friday? Preorder the book HERE. Do you want to read the first book in the series? Download it HERE.
Jason had called Alex and informed him he wouldn’t be back at the house that night. The last time he’d left Ellie, she’d been hurt in an accident and lost overnight and half of a day.
Rena had ordered him home for some rest.
He’d told her he would do that.
He hadn’t lied.
He curled a jacket he’d found in the back seat under his head and stretched out across the front seat of his truck, propping his legs against the driver side door.
He was going to get some rest.
Just not at home. He’d made certain not to say he was going home for the rest, so he didn’t lie.
He winced, the muscles in his back screaming in pain. Sitting back up, he fumbled with the glove compartment door, pulling out a bottle of ibuprofen. The doctor had offered him something harder, but he declined, in case Ellie need him.
A knock on the driver’s side window startled him and when he turned his head, he met the gaze of Clint O’Malley.
He opened the door, grimacing as he stepped out. Every movement seemed to send pain shooting through him, even in places he didn’t think should be hurting. “Clint. Hey.”
“You okay?” Clint asked, his brow dipped in concern.
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t recommend falling down a mineshaft anytime soon.”
Clint chuckled. “I’ll take that recommendation to heart.” He thrust his hands into his front pants pocket. “So, listen, I don’t mean to bother you, but I got some news today I needed to pass on. John Weatherly didn’t die in that fire. He was dead before the flames ever hit him. Heart attack. We got the toxicology report today. The fire marshal’s interview with Ann corroborates what the report says. John dropped a pan of hot oil on the stove, probably when his heart seized up. The oil hit the gas flames and spread. Ann was in the living room watching Jeopardy and only noticed something was wrong when the fire alarm went off and the house started filling with smoke. By then the fire was spreading up the kitchen wall. She was trying to drag John out when you got there.”
Jason leaned back against the closed door of his truck and pushed his hand through his hair, holding it there for a few moments. “Wow. Okay. Thanks for letting me know, Clint.”
Clint patted his shoulder briefly. “You’re welcome. Now you can stop blaming yourself.”
Jason opened his mouth to answer, but Clint spoke over him. “You Tanners are good people. When Cody told me what happened, I knew it would weigh heavy on you.”
Jason let out a breath. “Yeah. Thank you again, Clint.”
Clint nodded. “I’m pleased I didn’t have to declare Ellie dead today. I worried about that all day, dreading the possibility of the phone ringing and Cody telling me they’d found her body.”
“I’m glad you didn’t either. It all seems like a dream at this point.”
Clint laughed, slapped his hand against Jason’s shoulder. “It is a dream, kid. A very wonderful, real dream.”
Stretching back in the truck a few minutes later, Jason closed his eyes, his muscles relaxing fully for the first time in months. Sleep was dragging at him, trying to pull him under, but he needed to make a call first.
Lucy answered on the second ring. “Jason, hey. How are you?”
“Sore, but okay.”
“Rena said you were pretty beat up. I still can’t believe all this craziness. I went from planning Ellie’s funeral to bawling from sheer shock and joy she was had found her alive. It’s like some crazy made-for-TV movie.”
Jason laughed in the midst of a yawn, not an easy feat. “It was surreal, that’s for sure. So, uh, listen, I need to ask you something. When they brought Ellie in, the doctor asked her if she was on any medications. They didn’t want anything she was taking to interact with whatever they gave her for the pain. She told them she was on something called Orilissa. She and I have barely talked in eight months, so I figured this must be something new. I looked it up online and it says it’s to treat endometriosis. Has her condition gotten worse? Because the only thing I thought she took for that was over-the-counter painkillers.”
Lucy didn’t answer for a few minutes. He heard a sharp intake of air and then it being let out farther, slowly. “I think this is something you should talk to her about.”
Jason rubbed the stubble on his chin. “I guess that means you’re not going to tell me about the procedure she said she’d had, either. She told the nurse about that too. Some kind of laparoscopic thing. My phone rang, and I wasn’t able to hear what else she said.”
“Yeah. That’s what that means. I’m still telling you to talk to Ellie. I hope you’re not mad at me, it’s just —” Lucy sighed. “Things have been weird with you two and I don’t want to get in the middle of anything. Make it worse, you know?”
Jason laughed. “I’m not mad. Don’t worry.”
And he wasn’t mad.
He was, however, worried.
Very worried that what Ellie had wanted to talk to him about in that mineshaft could mean his relief that she was healthy and whole would be short-lived.
“I can’t talk to him.”
Rena looked over the outfits she’d laid out for Ellie to choose from. “Honey, you have to. He deserves to be told the truth. Especially if you two are getting back together.” Rena looked up, holding a red shirt with frills around the collar. She raised an eyebrow, a small smile pulling her mouth upward. “You two are getting back together, right?”
Ellie touched her fingertips to her lips, remembering how Jason had kissed her after he’d found her and how she had kissed him back. “Yes.”
“Then you don’t have a choice. You need to be honest with him.” Rena handed her a skirt and a shirt. “Now go get dressed so we can get you home. I think it’s best if you stay with us a couple of days. You can’t be climbing stairs with the way your ankle is.”
Taking the shirt, Ellie slid off the bed slowly, wincing. “I’ll be fine. I can —”
“You’re coming home with us, El, don’t argue.” Her dad’s voice brought her gaze up.
He was smiling, but she could tell he meant business. He leaned his side against the door frame. “We thought we’d lost you, kid. Give us some time to remind ourselves we didn’t. I’ve already planned a movie night for us tonight at home. Your mom will make brownies and I’ll make the popcorn.”
Ellie laughed. “I think maybe I should make the popcorn. You burned it last time.”
Rena smirked. “Even though the bag clearly said only a minute and a half in the microwave.”
Tom shot a mocking hurt expression at his wife and daughter. “Me? Burn popcorn? No. I’m a popcorn master.”
Ellie walked toward the bathroom to change. “Where’s Judi?”
“At the house, waiting for you,” Tom said. “I know you girls have had a rough time of it lately, but she was really shook up yesterday. She’s cooking you some lunch.”
As she pulled a skirt up over her legs, careful to keep the weight off her ankle, Ellie thought about how upset Judi had been at the hospital the night before. She’d hugged Ellie repeatedly, tears streaming down her face, telling her she was sorry about how she’d acted. How long would that contrition last? Ellie wasn’t sure, but for now she’d accept it. If Judi slipped back into her old ways, at least Ellie knew her sister loved her, enough to be glad she wasn’t dead anyhow.
Slipping her shirt over her head, she winced at the stiffness in her muscles. She needed to talk to Judi about that message on her phone. Now wasn’t the time to bring it up, though. She hoped she could find the time before Judi went back to the city. If Judi went back to the city at this point. To Ellie, it seemed like her sister had no intention of going back to her life in New York and maybe this Jeff guy was the reason.
Jason groaned as he sat up in the front seat and squinted in the sunlight streaming through the windshield.
Sleeping in his truck had been a bad idea. A terrible idea. He gritted his teeth in pain, lifted his arm, and sniffed. He made a face and shook his head.
Sure, he could easily walk into the hospital and check on Ellie, but he felt awful and smelled worse. At this point, it would have been better if he’d gone home last night and taken a shower and then come back to the hospital this morning. He hadn’t wanted to risk it, though. The idea of going home while Ellie was in a hospital bed, even if it was only for observation, hadn’t been remotely appealing to him.
He pushed his hands back through his hair, tried to smooth it down and squinted at himself in the rearview mirror. It wasn’t working. He looked like he’d been on an all-night binger. He looked like Brad. Until the night before last, he’d had no idea how far Brad had fallen. Watching him drunk in the bar, staggering around like an alcoholic, had been eye-opening, to say the least. His behavior had to have been breaking his parents’ hearts. They hadn’t raised him that way and the way he was acting was a slap in their face.
After a quick check in with Alex, he searched his truck for breath mints, still trying to decide if he should go see Ellie. Maybe he could wash up in the hospital bathroom.
Looking up, he realized the decision had been made for him. Ellie was being wheeled to Tom’s waiting car at the curb. She was on her way home. Her ankle was in a soft cast that stretched part way up her calf, but otherwise she looked fine.
More than fine.
It was a miracle.
From here, he couldn’t see the mark he knew was on her head from where she’d hit the windshield when the car had flipped over, but he was certain it was taking on a purplish hue.
He wanted to kiss that bruise and any other part of her she’d let him kiss. He wanted to dart from the truck, run to her and tell her again how sorry he was, how he’d wished he’d never met Lauren Phillips, but more importantly, how he wished he’d been honest with her right after he came back from college. He never should have withheld his past from her. He never would again.
Ellie looked up and smiled at her dad as he slid his hand under her arm and helped her to her feet. Rena moved to the other side of Ellie, and Ellie laughed. He knew she was probably telling her parents what she’d told him as they loaded her into the ambulance the day before. “I’m fine. Really. It could have been so much worse.”
He’d leave the Lambert family to their reunion for now.
There would be plenty of time for him to talk to her later.
About them, but also about any of her past she hadn’t shared with him.