Chapter Sixteen – Past Remembered
by Jerri Hines
Candy stared at Mitch. What could she say? He hadn’t done anything. She had no rational explanation for becoming so very, very angry. Except he’d crept into her heart when she wasn’t looking and broken it a little. She’d learned long ago never to become emotionally involved. To bad she’d forgotten the lesson.
“Sorry. I’m just tired. Poor thing, having no one but a city girl to look after you.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone else,” he said in a slow drawl. “No one else but you.”
He sounded sincere… “Let’s see if you feel the same way after I bandage your arm again.”
He snorted. “Give it your best shot.”
Not immune to his sense of humor, Candy laughed. After cleaning up the mess she’d made, she looked down at him. His eyes were closed. Hopefully his temperature had dropped. She hadn’t a clue what she would do if it got worse.
An ache started in her chest. She missed her mom. Her mother would have known exactly what to do. Candy pressed her fingers to her temples. She could hear her mother now.
“Sometimes, Candy, you need to let go. You can’t be in control all the time. Take a risk. Don’t hold love in contempt because it didn’t work for me. It doesn’t always end badly, the way your father and I did.”
Candy hadn’t argued, hadn’t wanted to disappoint her mother, but she couldn’t open herself up to the pain she’d felt when her father left and never came back. She’d been so young. Still, she remembered that lost feeling.
She hadn’t let a man get close enough to hurt her, was determined never to be dependent upon another living soul. This situation with Mitch was nothing more than a timely reminder.
Her glance strayed to the window. The sun was a glimmer on the horizon. It had been a long night. She turned back to Mitch. Sound asleep. Reaching over, she gently felt his forehead. Cooler, she hoped. Relief surged through her along with an unfamiliar feeling.
Major nudged closer. Turning she patted the top of the dog’s head, “Yeah, boy. He’ll be okay. I’ll make sure of it.”
Dreams disturbed Mitch’s sleep. Dreams he thought he’d left behind. Voices called to him. Voices from the past. The past he wanted nothing more than to forget…
He was in his apartment in New York. The phone was ringing. Someone pick up the damn phone.
Lifting his pounding head off the pillow, he glanced over at his alarm clock. Oh, shit! He was late…again. Moaning loudly, he made a mental note never to go out for an all-nighter on a Monday again, especially when he had an early morning meeting. His father would kill him when he got back from Tokyo.
He held his head with both hands, trying to make the ringing stop. It didn’t. The phone. Grimacing, he answered it.
“Michael, is that you?”
“Evan. Oh, thank God,” he said. Reprieve waited on the other end of the line. Evan would cover for him.
“Michael, do you know what the hell is happening?”
Something in Evan’s voice sobered him. A fire at work. At the Towers. Impossible. Television. Had to be on television. In a daze, he dragged himself to the living room and flipped on the big screen TV. He froze as images flashed before his eyes.
Smoke flowed out of the North Tower. In front of him the South Tower exploded in flames. He raced to the window of his high-rise apartment, looking out over the skyline of New York. Clear skies, not a cloud to be seen for miles except…smoke. Billowing smoke. Turning back to the TV, he watched in horror. Gray fog choked the streets. People running for their lives. Firemen, policemen running inside. The top of the North Tower engulfed in smoke. Oh God, no! No. No. No. Crawford Industries sat at the top of the North Tower.
Holding the phone to his ear…he never let go.
“Don’t leave me, Bro.”
“I won’t. I’m here.”
Words merged together. Never could he repeat those words, but he couldn’t stop them resonating in every fiber of his being.
I can hardly breathe. The smoke. It’s black. Then a calm silence before Evan spoke again. I left a message for Mom. Told her I was okay. Tell her…tell her…
Mitch bolted upright, soaked in sweat. He caught his breath. For a moment he was back in New York. No, this was Georgia. He glanced around to find Candy looking at him. God, she had the most beautiful eyes. He reached for her.
“You didn’t leave.”
“Did you think I would? Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” He nodded, taking a deep breath, and hesitated before asking, “Do you mind if I just hold you right now? Just for a little while.”
She didn’t say a word, just climbed in beside him. He wrapped her in his arms and pulled her close. For the first time in his life, Mitch wanted more than a brief encounter. He wanted Candy.