Pete Tolliver was doing just fine, and when a man came into the tavern she owned asking for a Pete Tolliver, all sorts of warning bells went off in her head. She went by Pete for a reason, to keep her identity a secret. She didn’t like people and didn’t want to be bothered. She was Petunia, a well-known romance author, but she didn’t like the attention her fame brought her, so she simply went by Pete.
When Watts asked Shawn to check on a bed and breakfast his mother had left him in Europe, and while he was there to find a person in the same town by the name of Pete Tolliver, Shawn jumped at the chance. He could use a vacation, plus helping the old man in the hospital find his relative was a boost to his soul. He liked the old man.
When he met “Pete,” he liked her instantly. She was full of just enough spunk and sass that he wanted to get to know her better. And he was doing just that when the truck came from out of nowhere and put him in the hospital….
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When Marsden Wilkerson received the phone call that his mother had been in a car accident, he wasn’t letting anything get in his way to get to her. Not a pushy boss, and especially not his Aunt Eita. Then his world crumbled when the doctors told him that his mother, Holly, didn’t make it.
Gabriella Farley, Abby, could hold her own, and she wasn’t about to take any flack from a rich bitch like Penelope Wilkerson.
All the Wilkerson women, with the exception of Holly, could fit that description. Abby stood up for Mars at the funeral home even though she really didn’t know him. What she did know was his mother, Holly, was a fine woman, and the family had given them both the shaft Mars’s entire life.
Mars wanted to apologize for his Aunt’s actions, but there was something about Abby that sparked a flame in his heart. From the first kiss, they knew they had something special, but going against the Wilkerson family could be very dangerous. Will this new love be doomed from the start?
Amy Hamilton never had much of a home life growing up. Her sister Phoenix and her mother demanded all the attention, so much so that she and her father didn’t have a relationship at all. Now that her father was filing for a divorce, he felt guilty for not being a part of her life and wanted to make up for it, but Amy wasn’t sure she was ready for that.
North Wilkerson had a similar upbringing. Although his mother was dead now, before her death, she was an awful person and an even worse mother. After having sworn off family ties to his parents, he was just now allowing his father back into his life.
Amy and Booker Wilkerson were close friends in college. Amy was only supposed to be in town for a few days, and when Booker called inviting her to dinner, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up on old times. When Booker’s cousin North and his uncle joined them for dinner, they all had a blast.
But when North just showed up at her father’s house and took over, Amy wasn’t sure what to think of him. What did he think he was doing? She barely knew him. Amy needed to nip this in the bud before it went much further. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She didn’t need a man now, or would she ever need a man, any man….
Charlie had been gone from the small town for several years, attending medical school with Rayne. She only returned when she got the news that her mother, the sitting judge, had been murdered. Rayne convinced her to come back home. The town needed good doctors.
Booker had just bought a huge, empty house. His cousins were going to a huge estate auction, and he figured he’d go to find some deals. His cousins were meeting their wives there. It would be fun.
Booker was having a wonderful time when he met Charlie. A spirited young woman who captured his heart from the moment they met. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.
Booker was caught up in Charlie’s enthusiasm as a first-time bidder until she got into an argument with another bidder, a bully who would win the bid even if he had to take it by force. Booker didn’t like bullies, especially a man who bullied women. Booker jumped to Charlie’s defense. That’s when things got dicey….
The Wilkerson Dynasty
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Pete loved it at this place. Dywyll. Welsh for Drink Darkly. Whoever named the place had done so with the décor in mind. It was dark, and there was only strong drink to be had. And that was what was going on with the five or so patrons when someone, a stranger, walked through the big double doors. Pete knew immediately that something had happened. Careful to keep an eye on him through the dirty mirror over the bar, Pete knew he was an American.
Not only that, but from the way he was dressed, she’d bet he was a man who had money to burn and didn’t give a flying fuck who knew it. When he approached Sammy, the manager and bartender, she watched both men as the newcomer struggled with his question. “Don’t hurt yourself. He speaks English too.” Nodding his thanks to her, Pete paid for her drink. Her heart was pounding hard now, and she wanted to get out of there. The man looked too much like someone she knew from her past. Then she realized what he’d said.
“Can you please repeat that?” “I’m looking for a man by the name of Pete Tolliver. Pete could be short for something else, but his grandfather has been hurt.” She told him she was Pete. “I thought you were. He’s doing much better. I’d say you’re difficult to find, but I believe that’s the point. He’s been asking for you.” “Doubtful. If you came here looking for Pete, then he didn’t send you. He calls me by my first name. What’s happened to him? Ben been knocking him around? If so, you give me an hour, and I’ll take care of him.” The man sat at the bar with her and pulled off his hat. “You’re a Wilkerson, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Shawn Wilkerson.” She only nodded. “Is there a reason you knew that? Or did someone tell you I was coming for you?” “Had I known you were coming, you wouldn’t have found me.” He only nodded and asked for a beer. “You’re the son of…let me think of her name. The one I have in my head isn’t nice.” “I’m sure I’ve called her worse. If it’s any help to you, they’re all dead. My mother included. Penelope was her name. She was killed by a bunch of prison guards while trying to escape.” Shawn drank down his beer and asked for another. When it was set before him, he asked her if she wanted another. Nodding, he ordered her one as well. “I’m set to be here for a week.
I had other business in this area, so I told my family I’d come to look for you. How did the bitches hurt you?” “Just like that, you believe me.” He nodded, and another beer was set before her too. “What’s happened? At home, I mean.” “Stanley is in the hospital but recovering well. He’s a good sort, isn’t he? Yes, it was Ben. He was pissed off because your grandda had the nerve to cash his check to pay his bills with it. Bastard. How is he related to you?” She told him. “I didn’t know he had any other children alive.”
“Ben’s dad died right after Ben was born. I’m not sure how, but I’m sure it was tragic. My mom was born as a late-in-life kind of kid. There is nearly nineteen years difference in their ages.” Shawn didn’t say anything when a full Welsh breakfast was put in front of her. Asking for a second-place setting, the two of them went to one of the many empty tables and sat down. “Have some. Let me see, my mom, Olivia, passed away when I was a baby. My biological sperm donor, Harlow, spent ten or so months in prison for beating up Ma.
However, she died before Harlow was freed. She was raped and murdered. Then your family stepped in, and not only was he their hit man, but I do also believe he knocked some of you kids around. I’m sorry if he did. But I wasn’t there, nor would I have been old enough to do anything about it.” “I haven’t seen Benton yet. He was in jail when I left. However, I’ve no doubt he was one part of the hitmen our mothers utilized. Is that why you’re here?” She told him she was working here and hiding out. Pete noticed that both of them avoided the cockles. Cocos in Welsh, they were like mussels found on beaches all over the world.
“I’m not telling you that you need to go home to see your grandda. Ben is going to be an issue, I’m sure. It’s up to you. However, as I said, I’m here for another week, so maybe we can hang out. You can show me the sights.” “I’m afraid you’re out of luck in this town for sights. Unless you’re into castles and lots of green grass and sheep. Which, thankfully, a lot of people are” He laughed, and she decided he had a good laugh. “Also, I have to work tomorrow. If I do go back, and that’s a big if, I’d need to go there and return here as soon as possible. I’m not much for living around a great many people, and I know your family is quite large. Also, you should understand something right now—I’m not easy. I’m not going to show you the sights by letting you into my bed.”
Shawn looked at her, shocked for all of three seconds before he threw back his head and laughed. Pete didn’t know why, but she had a feeling he didn’t do that often, let mirth take him so hard. Smiling at him, not really understanding what he might have found so funny, he kissed her on the cheek and stood up. “You’re leaving?” Shawn said he had to check into his hotel and tell his family he’d found her. “Don’t do that. Don’t tell them anything just yet. I don’t want to be pressured into going home. As much as I’d like to believe your family is nothing like your mother was, I’d just as soon not have to deal with them right now.” “I can understand that.
However, believe me, or not, we’re nothing like them. In fact, I’d say we’re more like my Aunt Holly. Did you know her?” She stood up so quickly the table jolted. “What is it?” “You said did I know her. She’s dead? Holly is dead?” Helping her to her seat, he sat too. Holding her hand, he told her the wives had had her killed a few months ago. She let the tears flow as he told her how she’d come to be gone. “She was…well, she was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m staying in one of her homes, as a matter of fact.” Pete looked at him. “That’s why you’re here. To check up on her home and tell me I have to get out.” “No. I am here to check on the house, yes, but not to toss anyone out. As Mars wasn’t able to find out much about the place, he asked me if I’d come here to have a look around.
To see what the house looked like, as well as the person running the place. I’m to understand it’s a bed and breakfast, correct?” She said it was. “You send all the money via an account, then you’re paid monthly. He couldn’t understand why as well as it was doing, you weren’t getting more money than what you were paid.” “I’m paying Holly back for a loan. And I do live there rent-free. It’s why I was able to send money to my grandda every month. I don’t have much in the way of expenses. She’s really gone?” He nodded. “Right after my ma died, Holly came to see me. I think she was on duty. The doctor had only just pronounced Ma’s death, so I was pretty raw.
When she sat down next to me, taking my hand into hers just as you just did, I launched myself at her, holding on to her while my heart broke.” “That sounds like her.” Pete nodded, thinking about that day. “Go on, tell me how she was a part of your life. I’d love to hear it.” “My da was already out of the picture, so it had only been my ma and I. I was only a child, you see, but Holly talked to me like I was her equal. She not only offered me a job when I was old enough but lent me the money to not just pay for my ma’s funeral but to go to college as well. She made sure I didn’t have to work while I was seeking higher education. Nor did she ever once try and take advantage of my owing her so much money. When I finished with school, I came here and began working off the money I owed her while running the B&B.
I’m so sorry she’s gone. You’ve no idea how many times over the years I called her just to hear her voice and to talk to someone. She was the only friend I think I’ve ever had.” Shawn told her how sorry he was for her loss too. “Mars. I know him. And…let me think which one. Booker. I wasn’t Pete them, but Petunia Jackson. I was adopted by my grandda when my ma died, so I’d not have to be put in the system.” “We didn’t know it was a woman we were looking for. And you were right, your grandda didn’t send me. I don’t think he even mentioned you until we asked if there was anyone to notify. He said your name was Pete then, but no last name. Stanley said he’d contact you when he was home again.” Pete told Shawn that she went by Pete, so she was harder to find. “It worked. If not for an entry made on some of the notes Aunt Holly kept, we wouldn’t have known you were even here in Wales.”
“Holly told me I’d be safe here. And I am. However, I was never sure who I was safe from, as Ben never bothered with me. Not even after he found out I had a good job while finishing up high school.” He asked her if he’d known about her. “I think so. However, now that you mention it, I have no idea. I’d see him around, of course. Know he was my cousin, I suppose. But as far as him acknowledging me, I’m not sure. That’s a good point.
Perhaps Holly kept me safer by just keeping me out of his line of sight.” “More than likely. Are you all right now?” She nodded, then shook her head. “I can understand that too. I’ve known for a while that Aunt Holly is gone, and I still have trouble coming to terms with it. She was one of the best there was.” “She was. To a great many people, I’m thinking.” When Shawn tried to pay the bill, Sammy asked her, in Welsh, if he understood that she owned the bar. Shaking her head, she told Sammy she’d talk to him later, and she left.
Pete was just too raw to try and explain to anyone that she had her own money now, and she was beholden only to Holly, who had died. Shawn followed her out of the bar. “He said something along the lines of owning. Or it could have been owing. You own the bar.” “Yes. I own the bar, as well as a coffee shop down the road. I didn’t take any of the money from the B&B. I promise you that. Nor did I use any of the money and then put it back. I’ve been—” He laughed again. “I’m a bit touchy on things if you didn’t notice it. Money and owing someone is hard on me.” “I guess I can understand that. However, it never occurred to me that you were doing that. Nor that I would ever think you would.” She nodded and looked away. “How about we start over? I’m Shawn Wilkerson, nephew to Holly Wilkerson.
I’m here looking for you to give you some information that your grandda—whom I like, by the way—has been hurt.” “Thank you.” They shook hands, and she told him she needed to get back to the B&B. Shawn followed. “Really, I can get there from here. I’ve been doing it for some time now.” “It just so happens I’m staying there too. In another room.” She shook her head. “How about later, you and I have a nice dinner and talk about my aunt. Or anything, for that matter. I’d like to get to know you.” “I don’t know. I’m very caustic.”
He laughed, and she smiled at him. “All right. But I cook for the patrons at the B&B. It’s easier than trying to make a breakfast with all the trimmings. I usually have it for lunch, and that’s it. But since we shared, I’ll be able to eat at dinner time.” Whatever was going on, she wasn’t sure about it. However, she was going to call Mars and let him know what was going on. While she knew the other man, she wasn’t sure how much he knew about her. But Booker, she did know and would also call him. ~*~ Booker was still working on a couple of projects at home when his cell rang.
He knew the ringtone. It was Shawn. Since he’d heard from Shawn when he’d arrived three days ago that he’d made it, he knew whatever was going on now was something funny. Thinking of something to bust his chops about, he answered the phone with a nasty quip about his sexuality. Charlie had gone to bed about an hour ago. Booker took into account that Shawn might not have realized the time difference. Or perhaps he did. When he realized that Shawn hadn’t said anything back, he sat up straighter in his seat. “Shawn?” He heard voices. They weren’t speaking English, so he was at a loss as to what might be going on. Waiting for whoever called him using Shawn’s phone, he concentrated on breathing in and out instead of what might be going on with the phone call. “Booker Wilkerson?” He said it was him. “My name is Pete. I’m using your cousin’s phone to—” “Is he all right? Do I need to come there—?”
“Just let me tell you, damn it. You’ve no idea how freaked the fuck out I am right now.” He could hear her speaking to someone else. While he didn’t know what was being said, he figured that since Shawn had gone to Wales, they were speaking Welsh. “I’m going to be calm here. I’m having difficulty translating what I’m being told in one language, figuring it out in English to tell you, then reversing the process so I can tell the people here. Just fucking bear with me. I’m stressed the fuck out.” “All right. Can you tell me if he’s dead?” She said he wasn’t, but it had been touch and go for a bit. Then she said something in Welsh again. “Take your time, Pete. Just breathe. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.” “He wanted to go on a run.
Early morning here. There are a lot of lorries out that early, making deliveries and such.” He nodded, then told her to go on. “Hang on.” His heart was hurting, but he knew if he were to scream at the woman to get her to get on with the story, he might well not learn a damned thing. Reaching for his house phone, he called Charlie’s cell phone. Telling her to hurry down here, he could hear her racing down the stairs. Booker put his cell on speaker phone after telling her the little he knew. He also cautioned her to not hurry the woman along. “The doctor here wants to know if he has any allergies to medications.” He said he didn’t. He was, however, allergic to caffeine. “Bear with me. I’m so upset here, and I’ve not spoken English for some time.” Booker looked at Charlie when she cleared her throat.
“I can speak to you in Welsh if you’d like. If that would help. It’s been a while for me too, so let’s start out slowly.” The two of them spoke in Welsh, another thing about his lovely wife he’d not known until now. Smiling at her, he asked for Charlie’s cell and called Uncle Hank. “Booker? What’s happened? Where are you?” He told him all he knew so far. “She didn’t tell you what happened? Who does that? Tell her I want—?” “She’ll hang up. I don’t know that she will, Uncle Hank, but she’s pretty upset. Charlie is helping her now. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I thought you’d like to come here. I’m making the calls now.” He said he was on his way. “All right. Do you think we should call the others in?” “Not yet. They’ll just want answers we don’t have. Call them when we have more. Oh, I wish I had gone with him as he wanted.
I’m on my way, son.” Booker put the phone down when his uncle just hung up. Charlie turned to him. “She’s speaking with the staff about his things. Shawn was out running this morning, and a truck hit him. They don’t think it was on purpose, as the roads are very narrow in places, and Shawn might not have been off the road far enough when another truck was passing the one that hit him.” He asked if she knew how he was hurt. “He hit his head. That’s all they told her when they called her. Everyone apparently knew he was staying at the B&B she is running for Mars. Oh, she knows Mars too. You know her as well, apparently. She’s Petunia Jackson.” It took him a few moments to put a face to the name. When he remembered her, he could only think of her as a child. He also knew that at some time in her life, she had moved away. More than likely, when she’d been that same young woman he remembered.
Calling Mars because he’d been asked to, he told him the information as well as the little bit more he knew about Shawn. He and Abby were on their way over too. “He’s in surgery. His leg was broken in four places, and they’re setting it. Since she doesn’t know what they’re doing in there, she can’t tell me what sort of setting they’re doing. She’s stressed to the max, Booker. I think she might be blaming herself for this.” Booker asked if Pete had been with him when he was running. “Not that I’ve been made aware of. She’s running the B&B and doesn’t get out much this time of year, I guess.” “We’ll all end up there sooner rather than later, I’m betting.” Charlie went back to the call while he let his uncle and cousin in.
Mars had apparently called in the others as well, as they were coming to the house one at a time. Going into the kitchen, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that Herman had started the coffee and was making pancakes. He’d been in the kitchen for the past couple of days whenever he wanted to talk to him. “I still have some pull, so I called to see what is going on over there. So far, I’m only waiting on a call. I wasn’t snooping, but I could hear the doorbell ringing and figured something—hang on, that’s my contact now.” Sitting at one of the chairs around the big table, Booker pulled a pancake to him and rolled it around a piece of sausage. While waiting, he also poured him some juice. “All right. A young man was hit by a truck at five their time this morning.
So there is a five-hour difference—they’re ahead of us—so I’m thinking it happened sometime around midnight our time. Someone must have been with him to have him in the hospital very quickly if that is the case. He wasn’t just left there to die. What I mean is that he wasn’t left on the side of the road. That didn’t come out right either.” “I understood. The woman we’re talking to over there, she runs my cousin’s B&B. I know nothing about her, but I’m guessing she and Shawn were friends.” Herman simply shrugged. He was talking to someone on the second phone call he’d gotten. When he continued to nod, Booker got up and started pulling glasses from the cabinet. When the call was finished, Herman said he had good news. “Good. I could use it about now.
I’m sure everyone will be happy for it too.” “Shawn’s leg is busted up pretty badly. They’ve had to reinforce two bones with some steel rods. He’s going to be a long time in healing. The head wound wasn’t as bad as they had thought. Of course, he’ll have a major headache for some time to come, but he’ll be all right. Two of his fingers are broken, as well as his wrist. All on the left side.” He asked what was going to happen now. “They’ll keep him sedated for a few days, just to let the swelling go down. The young woman, Pete, is the granddaughter of Mr. Tolliver. He adopted her when she was just a young child. Monthly she sends him nearly her entire pay to keep him afloat. Also, she’s done well with investments too. She not only owns the bar but a coffee shop as well as a bun store. I had to ask. It’s just sweets.”
“We all thought she was a man.” Herman nodded as he put another round of batter on the griddle. “I’ll call the others in to get some food. You can tell them what you know, and we’ll go from there.” As everyone stood around eating pancakes and sausages, they talked about going to Wales to see Shawn. When Charlie joined them in the kitchen, having been speaking to Pete, she told them what she’d been able to find out. “The B&B is full until the end of the week, so we can’t stay there. Also, there aren’t any hotels or other accommodations within four hours of the hospital.
Pete suggested we wait until Friday before we travel there, and the place will be all ours. This time of the year, they close up for a month to have the carpets cleaned, as well as any upgrades that are needed.” Mars said he’d read that in some of the notes on the place. “She’s much calmer now. The doctor told her that Shawn would need to rest for the next few days, so they’ve put him into a medically induced coma. I agree with her on the fact that we can’t do anything until he wakes. She said she’d call us whenever there was any news, and she’d be using his phone, as she has no cellphone of her own. You might be interested to know that she and Shawn have been seeing the sites. I haven’t any idea what that might entail, but they have been hanging out together.”
“You think she’s his future wife?” Charlie smacked him on the arm. “I was only asking. I mean, it’s a long way to go to find someone to love, but—you don’t think she’ll make him live there with her, do you? Mars, you have to fire her or something. We can’t lose Shawn to another country. How will our kids get to know one another?” “Cool your jets, dumbass. You’ve already got them married with children. How about we just figure out how to get there and when, and we’ll work from there. As far as we know, she’s a royal…well, she is a royal bitch, but that’s all right too. We’ll not rush into anything for now.” Booker smiled at Charlie. “I haven’t any idea what you might be thinking, but it’s not going to bode well for you if I have to smack you around a little in front of your family. Behave.” “But it’s so much more fun to not behave.” She smacked him again, harder this time, and he pulled her into his arms for a much-needed kiss.
“We will need to make arrangements to get there. Not only will we need to have passports, but time off from work for this. I can do my work anywhere, but I know a lot of us can’t.” The rest of the morning was spent talking about the trip, what they’d need to be taking, and calling bosses or whatever they had to take care of while they’d be gone. Wats told them with an injury like Shawn’s sounded, it might be a month before he’d be up from the bed. That was when Mars decided he’d charter a plane, take them there, and bring Shawn home when they could. It was a plan everyone agreed would work better. Then Herman cleared his throat.
“Two things you must remember. You’ll need to have cash, as credit cards might be all right, but this is a smallish town, and they might have poor Internet. The second thing is, not only will you need passports, but you might also need to have some proof of Shawn being related to any of you. Hank, I would suggest that you take everything you have concerning his birth records. As well as taking a death certificate of your wife. Just to make things go smoother. Also, I just remembered this, you’ll need an attorney in the States in the event you need something else.
An attorney can make things move faster. Having one ready to go, with knowledge of where and why you’re going, will save time as well.” North was making notes and asking questions about some things he had questions about. The rest of them, even for as many attorneys that were in the family, just waited to see if they needed to do anything too. “I just realized that you have three qualified physicians in the family. Medical certification should be handy if needed. Also, this is very important, don’t step on toes. I know you won’t mean to, but it’ll do better for young Shawn if he’s not the center of a national debate on US doctors versus any in Wales.”
“I agree on that one,” Wats told them how he’d been in another state and had offered his help at a very busy hospital following a traffic pile-up. “They were nasty, so much so that they called security on me. I learned a very valuable lesson in that.” By the time everyone was headed back to their homes, they’d made some real headway in getting things ready to go. Hank was going to leave this afternoon to be with his son while the rest of them waited until they could have accommodations. As it was now, there was very little they could do but watch Shawn sleep, and that would drive them all nuts, Booker thought. As he was headed up to bed to take a shower, Booker realized he’d been up for too long for him not to take a nap. Just lying on the bed, hoping for at least an hour of rest, he thought of Shawn being so far away.
Of all his cousins, he and Shawn were the closest to each other. He thought it had a lot to do with the order of their birth. They were only about two months apart, while the others were as much as six months. Almost as soon as his head touched the pillow, his body began to shut down. He knew, in that moment, that this wasn’t going to be a nap, but he’d sleep for at least several hours. ~*~ Pete was exhausted. She also thought if she had to eat one more plate of hospital food, she’d just give up eating altogether.
When Mr. Wilkerson came in with what smelled to her like heaven, it was all she could do not to knock him to the floor and eat whatever was in the bags he’d brought in. “I thought you’d enjoy a treat. I know I would.” He started laying out the covered plates of food. “Sammy, the man at the bar you frequent, said you usually only eat at the place once a day, but when you can eat there more often, it’s his famous fish and chips.” “It’s the best there is. How much do I owe you, Mr. Wilkerson?” When he didn’t move, his hand about halfway to her, she looked up at him. “What have I done?
Whatever it is, I’m sorry. I’d do anything for the food.” “Then call me Hank.” She said she couldn’t do that. “Sure you can. It’s a one-syllable word. Try it. Hank. It’s a completely common name. Something that my wife, when she was around, tried to get me to change often enough. Anyway, I’d very much like for you to call me Hank. Please?” “Mr.— Hank, you’re only here for the short time it’s going to take to get your son home. I know that. You don’t really have to be nice to me. I like Shawn, but again, he was only here to tell me about my grandda, then he was leaving.”
Hank asked her how sure she was about that. “What do you mean?” “Honey, I’ve seen the way you look at him. I hear you crying when you think no one is around. You’re in love with him. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.” She said that wasn’t possible, as she’d only known him a few days before he’d gotten hurt. “With my nephews, that’s all it took for them to fall in love with their wives. My goodness, Mars and Abby knew each other less than any of them before Mars asked her to marry him. Now there is a good young man. I sometimes think how much I missed of his life too.” He’d told her about his sister being murdered. How the wives of him and his brothers had conspired to not just have her raped, then murdered, but they had pitted them all, including their father, against her. She thought they were about the most fucked up family she’d ever encountered. But she did like Hank.
When he’d arrived two days ago, she had picked him up at the airport to take him to the hospital. The first thing he asked her was if she was all right. Nodding, as her emotions had gotten the better of her, he hugged her tightly and cried with her. Since then, he’d been staying in her room while she bunked in the apartment over the bar. She liked it there better anyway, as there were not that many people around. The doctor came into the room with them then and told them he was grateful for the extra food for the staff too. She’d not known he’d done that, but he included her in saying they’d both decided they worked too hard and deserved a treat as well. Translating for Hank was getting easier all the time. But she did appreciate it when the doctor spoke English for him. “Shawn is mending well. The pins in his leg to keep it stable aren’t causing any damage to his skin.
At times we do run into a little bit of trouble with infection getting into the wounds, but that isn’t a problem thus far.” Hank asked about his other wounds. “We did an X-ray of his head again last night. There isn’t any swelling, nor do we foresee any future trouble with that. He’ll have a headache when he wakes, but nothing more that a couple of ibuprofen won’t take care of.” “Will he be able to walk again? It looks frightening with all this going on with his leg.” Pete was embarrassed for asking such a cruel question, but Hank said he’d like to know that as well. The staff had long since given up on getting her out of the room when they talked about Shawn with Hank. He had insisted, and she stayed. “I mean, I don’t know him all that well, but he seems to be a very active person.”
“He is. Shawn has been a runner for a long time. I say that because I’ve noticed he goes out several times a day. He told me it was to clear his mind. I can see that.” She smiled at Hank. “I’m sorry. What else do we need to know about my son?” “I’m going to start lowering his medication to have him waking soon. He’ll be in and out of consciousness, but that’s to be expected. Also, you shouldn’t expect him to remember what happened right away. Don’t force his memories. Just let them come to him a little at a time.” Hank said they’d do that and reached for her hand to hold. “Once he’s awake fully, in a few more days, we’ll do more tests on him and see where we stand about his walking.
I know he will be able to, but I don’t want to make any promises right now on how active he’ll be once we remove the pins.” After the doctor left, Hank left her to call the family. There wasn’t much in the way of service for cell phones in Shawn’s room, so she just stared at the man she’d come to love. Not that she’d admit that to anyone but herself, but she wanted so desperately for him to wake up. Like she did whenever they were alone, she spoke to him. “Your father is very nice. He’s trying very hard not to be too worried about you, but I think he’ll be all right.” She took his hand into hers and was glad to feel warmth in it. “You do know I’m going to beat you senseless when you wake up.
I might wait a couple of days to do it, but I did tell you, several times, to be extra careful at crossings. You shouldn’t have been on that stupid bridge.” Standing up, she went to the window and looked out over the beautiful landscaping. It would be easier to talk to him this way. Even though she knew he couldn’t hear her, she still wanted to tell him things she wasn’t sure would make him happy with her. “I don’t just run the B&B for your cousin. Nor do I only own the bar and coffee shop. There are several pieces of property I own that I rent to farmers. I can do this because I have a job. One that I work at from wherever I’m putting my hat at any given moment.”
She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You see, I write. Books. Of course. That was stupid. I write books that are racy. Well, I think they’re more than racy, but that’s just me. Anyway, I have been writing since I was in high school. Just playing around. Then I submitted one of my stories to one of the smaller publishing houses for fun. It wasn’t two days later that I was called by the person in charge, the owner, and she asked me if I had any more stories. I never call them books. To me, it sounds like I’m being pretentious. She and I hit it off really well, and I’ve been doing it since then. I don’t want you to think badly of me—” “Why do you think he’d think badly of you?” She turned so quickly that she nearly fell over. “Be careful there, child. You don’t want to be laid up too, now do you? But answer my question.
Why do you think Shawn, or anyone for that matter, would think badly of you for using a talent to make money?” “They’re dirty books.” Hank laughed. “I don’t think it’s funny. What do you think his friends or his family is going to say when they find out I’m nothing more than an author that writes books for a living?” “I think they’ll tell you they want a copy of them. Are there a great many of them?” Pete told him how many she had published at last count. “Oh my. Yes, oh my indeed. That’s quite a few of them, honey. Good for you. They’ll be so happy to know that. Especially the women of the family. I know for a fact that Abby reads—I believe she calls them bodice rippers. I’m assuming you don’t write under Pete Tolliver.” “No. Just my first name. No last. It makes things easier for me.” He laughed and went to his phone. When he found whatever it was he was looking for, he handed it to her. “Which one of your—? She has my book.”
The woman in the picture was asleep on a couch. On her lap was one of Pete’s earlier books. Right there on the cover was her name in script, Petunia. Handing him back his phone, she didn’t know what to say to him now. “I’d say they’re going to be— Pete, look at Shawn.” She did. He was staring at her with wide eyes. Not moving, she was glad when Hank went to his son, saying his name. As soon as Shawn turned to his dad, Pete felt as if she’d run a marathon. Twice over. There were monitors all over his body. Also, a feeding tube in his nose. Since he’d been out for so long, they wanted to make sure he was getting enough nutrients. Going out into the hallway to tell the nurses, it took her several deep breaths for her to get her shit together. Pete went in behind the nurses. The doctor had been called in as well, they told them. When she moved back out of the way, Shawn put out his hand, and she took it.
The connection, or whatever it was, made her feel like she’d been given a new outlook on life. A steady stream of tears blurred her vision, but she was so very happy to see him awake. They worked with him for about twenty minutes before they left him again. The nurses did tell Shawn not to fight the rest he needed. When he closed his eyes, she started to pull her hand free, and he tightened his grip. She sat that way with him while Hank went out to call his family again. “You scared us.” Opening his eyes again, he winked at her. “Go to sleep before I have to knock you out. But know this—if you ever come to visit again, you’re not going to go running in the middle of the night.” “Daytime.” She pointed out that it was still dark when he’d gone out. “Am I all right now?” “I’m not a doctor, dummy.” He smiled with his eyes closed again. “You’re going to be just fine. Your leg is busted up pretty good, but I can’t see you letting that get you down much. You’re supposed to be sleeping, not having me tell you stuff you can find out from your dad.” “He’d lie to me.” She figured she should have, too, instead of telling him she was going to knock him around. “Thought of you when the truck hit me. Thought of you being pissy.”
When she was sure he was asleep, she laid her head on his hand holding hers. She’d been so stressed for the last couple of days she’d not really been sleeping all that well. Just thinking she’d close her eyes for a moment, Pete yawned once more and let her body relax enough to take her under. Waking up when someone touched her, she had to take a couple of moments to remember where she was. Hank asked her if she felt better, and with a glance at Shawn, who was still sleeping, she told him she was all right. “You’ve been asleep for nearly five hours like that. I was sure you’d be hurt when you woke up. Must be your youth that keeps you from cramping up like I think I would.” She asked him if she’d really been asleep for that long. “Yes. The only reason I woke you now was because they’re going to take Shawn down for a couple of more X-rays of his arm and hand. I can only think you needed it.” “I guess I did.”
Standing up, she was stretching when the orderly came to get Shawn. “Do you know how long this will take?” “No, ma’am. There are a couple of people ahead of your husband, but it won’t be that long.” She started to explain she wasn’t Shawn’s wife, but after a glance at Hank and him shaking his head, she let it go. “If you’ve got a cell phone, I could give you a call if you’d like to go out. It’s a lovely night tonight. Might get some of the cobwebs out of your head for a bit.” After agreeing that would be wonderful, Hank gave the young man his cell number. Going down in the elevator, she did feel better, she realized, and was so happy to be outside on the really nice night. Taking in a deep breath, she closed her eyes and let all her stress just wash off her. “The family will be here tomorrow. I noticed that the patrons at the B&B have left today too. Will you move back to the house?” She told him that with his family coming, they’d be packed up. “I suppose. But I hate that we’re putting you out of your home.
You have more right to it than we do.” “It’s not my home. It’s Mars’s, and I guess now Abby’s. But I’m all right over the bar. Sammy feeds me and makes sure I’m not bothered. There isn’t a phone up there, but I’m all right with that as well. It’s very quiet.” She smiled at him. “I’ll be by to make dinner for everyone if they want. I’ve become quite the Welsh cook over the years.” Pete wasn’t keen on seeing the rest of the family. Not that she was going to have much choice in the matter, but she really wished they’d just allow Hank to take care of getting his son home. He was, like his son, a very nice person. She wished they’d met under entirely different circumstances. But then, without Shawn being hurt, they might well have never met at all. “There’s our signal.” She was happy to be going back in.
They’d have a little more information from someone, and that was good. As they were seated, Shawn came into the room, bed and all, and she could tell he was in a great deal of pain. “He’s a bit on the stubborn side, mistress.” She asked what had happened. “He thought he could lift himself up and onto the table when he’s not strong enough just yet. I’ve asked the nurse for something for his pain.” She told Hank what the young orderly had told her. He’d been so nervous, she supposed, that he had slipped into speaking his own language. Pete glared at Shawn while the drugs from the nurse hit his system, and he began to relax. “What do I have to do? Go with you everywhere, so you behave? Didn’t I tell you to be careful?” He smiled, but she was on a roll. “I’m not going to stand for you making your father upset again, do you understand me?” He looked at his dad, then back at her. “I have no idea what you just said but for a couple of words. You’re upset. I get that. However, if it’s about me moving myself, you should have seen the little bitty thing that was trying to lift me up to put me near the machine. And she was several months pregnant.” She told him that was what she was upset about.
“I’m sorry I upset you too. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. But I can’t allow someone smaller and very pregnant to lift me when I can move myself.” “And how did that work out for you? You hurt yourself by being all macho.” He threw back his head and laughed. She had to join him. It was just too infectious for her not to. Even Hank joined the two of them.