Hi, kids! Hope your week is treating you well. I’m usually working on a whole bunch of different projects at once, and this is a new one. Here’s the first chapter. Hope it doesn’t suck for you.
Yep, it has a working title but it’s a secret. 🙂 I generally don’t formally out a title until the book is done. I’m superstitious that way. HAR!
Anyhoo, here you go. Yep, it’s totally safe for work.
OH! And excitement! Glamor! Fellow author Rachel Spangler will be blogging this Friday here! CAN YOU DIG IT?????
And don’t forget–MORE excitement and glamor! R.G. Emanuelle is with us still this month, so tomorrow she’ll have some juicy words for us. YEEE-HA!
That is all. Carry on.
COPYRIGHT 2010, Andi Marquette
WORK IN PROGRESS
Kit surveyed the gutted bathroom and shook her head. Home improvement sucked, but boy, you knew you accomplished something when it was over. Problem was, this project wasn’t over. “What do you think?” She looked at Tommy for some sign of encouragement.
“Not too bad,” he said in his soft east Texas drawl. “Ain’t the best, neither, but I’ve seen worse.” He adjusted the bill of his cap, which said “T & J Plumbing” across the crown.
Kit pulled one of her work gloves off and scratched her head. “How much more?” The longer this plumbing revamp took, the longer the delay before she could open her bed and breakfast. She chafed at the delays, but knew impatience wouldn’t get the job done right. It was an old house, with old plumbing and electrical that hadn’t been updated in a while.
He shrugged, still looking at the pipes in the wall that ran like blood vessels between the skeletal structure of the studs. “We’ll getcha hooked up in here by Monday, with the good stuff.”
A week. Kit sighed.
He grinned at her, his big droopy moustache moving with the motion of his upper lip. “I think I got an idea, too, to save you some money.”
She smiled back at him. “I’m always interested in that. What’s your plan?”
He paused and adjusted his cap again. “Not to take advantage, but I’ve got a nephew who run into a bit of trouble. He’s doing community service, but I think he’s got an eye for pipe and I’d like him to learn a trade. Keep him off the streets.”
Kit raised an eyebrow. “What kind of trouble?”
Which could mean just about anything in Brush. Bar fighting, drag-racing, vandalism, arson, shooting out lights. Or all of the above. She waited for Tommy to elaborate.
“Stupid teenaged stuff. Drinkin’. Shot out a few car windows. He’s been runnin’ with the wrong crowd, and his daddy don’t do much about it. So I figured maybe I’d take on that job for a bit, see if I can get him headed down the right road.”
Kit thought about it for a few moments. All her years as a cop, she’d dealt with kids who sounded a lot like Tommy’s nephew. Some were rehabbed and went on to do just fine. Others did so-so. And still others ended up on the wrong side of the handcuffs more than once. But the ones who made it, well, that had kept her going. “What’s his name?”
Tommy glanced at her, hopeful. “Chance.”
Kit smiled. Appropriate. “Take a Chance on Me” by Abba popped into her head. “Well, let’s give him a shot to live up to that name. Bring him over and let’s see what he’s got with the pipes.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Tommy took his cap off this time, ran his hand through his thinning hair, and set the cap back on his head, just so.
“But I’ll pay him.” Tommy started to protest but Kit put her hand up. “He’s a young man who got into some trouble. I want him to know what it’s like to do a good job and earn good money for it. So bring him over and I’ll officially hire him as your apprentice. You’re responsible for him, and I’ll pay whatever you think is a fair price for his labor.”
Tommy nodded, approving. “We’ll see you tomorrow morning, bright n’ early.” He tipped his cap at her and left. His work boots thudded on the wooden floors and the front door clicked as he carefully shut it, something Kit liked about him. He appreciated old houses, and he’d done a lot of refurbishment on the Queen Annes around town. This place, however. . .Kit moved into the hall as much to remind herself of the house’s original beauty as to get out of the torn-up bathroom. The former owners of the Engstrom House Bed and Breakfast hadn’t updated anything since the late 1980s, which in some ways was good, because Kit hadn’t had to update hundred-year-old plumbing and electricity or add bathrooms to the four upstairs rooms. But in other ways, it was bad, because some of the updating they’d done hadn’t been done right. So Tommy had had to undo some of that to correct it.
But at least the previous owners had taken care of most of the original woodwork and fixtures. She moved into what would’ve been considered a parlor when the house was built and ran her hand along the smooth dark wood of the banister. She’d do some touch-up painting when Tommy was finally done, and then she’d be able to launch her own bed and breakfast. Kit went to the front door and opened it, letting the early June heat and humidity engulf her. She shut the door behind her and stood on the porch.
The Engstrom—no, her—place sat at the end of a cul-de-sac off the main street through Brush. Kit loved that, because it meant nobody came down here unless they meant to. Four other houses shared this little enclave with her, two on either side of the street leading out, all four built about the same time as hers, though smaller. Still, their owners kept them up, and they added to the charm of this little pocket of history.
Her own personal time machine, Kit had decided when she’d signed the closing documents for the house. And as far away from her own past as she could get, metaphorically. Brush wasn’t too long a drive from Dallas, after all. She touched her right shoulder, careful of the scar beneath the fabric of her T-shirt. Sometimes it ached, especially after a day in which she did a bit too much lifting and moving. Today wasn’t too bad, but Kit knew she’d best not do much more for a while. She rotated her right arm, thinking that she still needed to do her physical therapy exercises today. Like she’d done every day for the past two years. At least her leg had healed up all right. She thought then of Daryl, like she always did when her shoulder bothered her, but she forced the images of him back into their files in her brain, where she wouldn’t see the blood all over his neck and uniform or the look on his face after he fell to the street day two years ago. Two years? Or was it more. . .two years, six months.
And then she thought about Lori, who didn’t want to be her therapist in addition to her lover—and who could blame her–in the bleak weeks after what Kit called “the incident.” Kit had a hard time calling it what it was, because that only forced her to acknowledge that Daryl was gone, and that he wasn’t ever coming back. She rubbed her scar again, all the acknowledgement she needed.
She went back inside and shut the door behind her as quietly as Tommy had.
“Miss Kate?” Tommy called from the front door at seven the next morning.
“In the kitchen. Come on back for coffee.” Kit had stopped trying to get him to call her by her preferred nickname. “Miss Kit” didn’t sound as nice “Miss Kate,” he’d explained. So she let it slide. Not that she’d ever gone by “Kate,” but she found it didn’t really bother her. Tommy appeared in the kitchen doorway, and a taller, younger guy stood behind him, wearing a new T & J Plumbing cap, a faded blue T-shirt, worn jeans and work boots. So Chance did have a history of doing something work-related, given the state of his boots. Not the sort of boots guys wore around here just to go out and make trouble in.
“This is Chance,” Tommy announced.
“Good to meet you,” Kit said as she approached and stuck out her hand. Tommy moved aside and Chance shook her hand, a strong, quick grip. He nodded at her, a bit of wariness in his expression. He might’ve been in his early to mid-twenties, but Kit wasn’t good at guessing ages. He was broad-shouldered and lean, but his face retained hints of the roundness of youth and he made Kit think of the young guys who appeared in country music videos.
“You drink coffee?” she asked Chance. “I know Tommy does. Your cup’s over by the pot,” she said to Tommy as Chance nodded again.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said in a surprisingly deep voice.
“There’s a cup for you, too. Help yourself. Milk and sugar are right there.”
They murmured their thanks and Kit picked her own cup up from the island counter as Tommy poured his cup then poured for Chance. Once they’d doctored their coffee, Kit addressed Chance.
“Tommy tells me you’ve got an eye for the trade.”
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “But it’s interesting. I’d like to learn more.”
“Did he tell you that I’ll be paying you?” she sipped, watching his reaction.
“Ma’am?” Chance lowered his cup before he had actually taken a sip and Kit glanced at Tommy, glad that he hadn’t told him.
“You’ll be working here, she said, “and where I come from, good work gets good pay. So Tommy’s going to set what he thinks is a fair price for an apprentice and I’ll pay it.”
Chance looked from her to Tommy and back again, as if checking to see if she was yanking his chain. “Serious?” he asked Tommy.
“If that’s what Miss Kate says, that’s what she means.” Tommy gave him a look.
“Thanks,” Chance said. “Ma’am.”
“Kit,” she responded automatically before she caught herself. “But if you can’t get yourself to call me that, Kate’ll do.” She raised her coffee mug at him. “Here’s to plumbing.”
He toasted her back, and Kit thought she saw a little bit of a smile at the corner of his mouth. If he could get his shit together, Kit decided, he’d be all right. Something that could be said for most people. Herself included. Tommy finished his coffee and set the cup on the counter. “All right, let’s do some pipe work,” he said.
Chance set his cup next to Tommy’s and glanced at Kit, as if checking whether it was okay for him to do that. She nodded at him and he followed Tommy out of the kitchen to the gutted bathroom. The last hurdle before her house would be ready to receive its first guest.
She washed the cups and set them to dry on the wooden rack next to the new stainless steel sink. She’d spent a bundle updating the kitchen. And another bundle upgrading the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. As much work as the previous owners had done to make this place a bed and breakfast, it still needed upgrading. But the upstairs was done, as was the kitchen. The only thing left was this last bathroom. She wiped her hands on a dish towel and hung it on the hook next to the window that overlooked the back yard. The patio and gazebo needed some work, she thought. Maybe Chance could do landscaping, too. If he proved he wasn’t going to be a fuck-up.
Always something, she thought. First things first. Damn bathroom. She headed down the hallway when her cell phone rang, a familiar tone. Lori.
“Hi,” Kit answered. “What’s up?”
“I hadn’t heard from you in a while and I was just checking in. How’s the house?”
Kit returned to the kitchen and leaned against the island. “All good except for the plumbing in the downstairs bathroom. My guy’s on it as we speak.”
“The fellow you told me about?”
“Yep. And his nephew.”
Lori laughed, a sound Kit remembered all too well. “Small town life, huh?” she said, in that teasing tone she liked to use on Kit.
“Something like that. How are you?” Kit fiddled with a nearby cutting board, trying to envision Lori, probably at her office, wearing one of her power suits, spread sheets on her computer monitor. How was she wearing her hair these days? Kit couldn’t say, since she hadn’t actually seen Lori in a year, though they talked two or three times a month.
“Recovered from tax season, fortunately. I’m not sure whether our clients are, though. Nobody wants to buy a house at the moment. More importantly, how are you?”
Loaded question. How much would she load the answer? “Doing okay. Some days are better than others. The house helps.”
“I’m very glad to hear that,” she said, voice soft in the way Lori offered comfort.
“I wanted to know if your offer still stood, about me being your first guest.”
Kit smiled. “Tommy says he’ll have the bathroom up and running by Monday and then I have a few things to do around the house after that, but yes, I’d be honored if you’d be my first guest. How much lead time do you need?”
“Not much. Just a few days.”
Kit had fiddled the cutting board into a 180-degree turn from its original position. “You’d make that drive from Dallas with short notice?” Of course she would. That’s the kind of woman Lori was.
“I told you I would. I’m really excited for this new path you’re on. I’m just glad you’re willing to share some of it with me.”
Kit fiddled the cutting board back to its original position, her chest tightening. She cleared her throat. “I’m glad you’re letting me. So how about I give you a call Monday and let you know whether Tommy kept to his schedule?”
“Deal. I’d talk longer, but I’ve got a meeting. Glad to hear you’re almost there. Take care.” And she hung up, leaving Kit with nothing but memories and a little bit of sadness. Not like she and Lori hadn’t had their issues before the incident. They might’ve broken up anyway, whether the incident had happened or not. Kit swallowed around the lump in her throat. It was her fault, in a way, that Lori had left. If Kit had only handled Daryl’s death better, Lori wouldn’t have had to leave. If I had only made a different decision that day. . .
She shook her head. Don’t go there. Too late. She did. And she was right back on that street in Dallas, on that crisp January day. Cold, but manageable. It was bright out, with a clarity to the air that made everything seem brighter. It should’ve been her on the approach to that car. It should’ve been her in front. It was her turn. They took turns that way, and it was her turn. But Daryl laughed and told her he’d check on the car, and to call it in, that she’d owe him a beer later for it. And she let him approach the car, parked at a crazy angle on the street, back window broken out. She called it in, started after him. And the bullets came—not from the car parked there on the street, but from one of the houses. Why was someone shooting at them from a house?
Kit’s heart thudded hard in her chest and cold sweat prickled her back and face. She leaned against the fridge, trying to stop the images, but she couldn’t.
Daryl took bullets in the chest and neck, and the force of them spun him around and he fell, face-up, streetside next to the car he was checking on. He was wearing a vest, and if that one bullet hadn’t caught him in the neck, he might have lived. A few broken ribs, a few bruises. But no, one found his neck and severed his jugular. And she did what she had been trained to do. She returned fire and called it in, then sent another volley into the house as she ran to Daryl, lying there on his back in the street, blood all over his neck and chest and coming out of his mouth. And he didn’t say anything to her. He just looked at her and then he was gone.
She didn’t even know she’d been hit, too. Once in the left thigh and once in the right shoulder, where her vest didn’t reach, just above her biceps. It wasn’t until backup arrived that she realized she hurt, and that her own blood was staining her uniform.
Kit gulped, trying not to panic. She leaned against the island counter and took ten slow, deep breaths, like the counselor had taught her. It helped, almost immediately, and the images faded. She released a long sigh. Kit hadn’t had an episode like that in a while, but on the plus side, it didn’t last very long and she was able to control it. She looked at her left hand, which still clutched her cell phone. She put it back into its holder on her belt. I’m a train wreck still. She’d thought maybe having Lori around for a couple of days might spark her libido a little—not that she figured anything would happen with Lori. It had once, a year ago, but maybe there was too much water under the bridge now. Still, one of her friends had told her a few months ago that maybe she needed to get laid, that sex could be really healing.
Kit ran her hands through her hair. She wasn’t sure. Was she ready for that kind of vulnerability again? Even with someone she’d once considered safe, like Lori? Kit wasn’t sure. But if not, where she was now was safe. Brush, Texas. Nothing here but cowboys, ranchers, and a few townsfolk who married young and stayed that way to prevent boredom. Probably for the best, Kit figured. I need to get my shit together. She headed down the hallway to the bathroom to see how the guys were faring.
end of the chapter!
Thanks for reading and happy Wednesday!