Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(4)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(4)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Your neighbor.”

His heavy, dark brows went up. “Does my neighbor have a name?”

I shook my head and his heavy, dark brows drew together.

“You don’t have a name?” he asked.

“I think I want to leave,” I told him.

His face got hard but his voice got soft when he said, “Listen, buddy –”

“No, please, Joe, I want to leave.”


“Whatever, I’d like to leave,” I repeated.

He started toward me and I backed up, lifting a shaking hand and he stopped, his eyes dropping to my hand before cutting back to my face.

“I live next door, that’s it,” I said softly. “I wanted the music to stop. It’s stopped. Now I’d like to leave.”

His eyes held mine and something was happening in them, I just didn’t know what and, after witnessing that scene, listening to the way he spoke to her, what he said, how he said it and the utter humiliation he inflicted, I didn’t care. Then his gaze dropped to my body again, he closed his eyes and stepped to the side.

I wasted not even a second. I ran to the door, unlocked it, threw it open, ran out and across the snow to my house. I threw myself through the side door, closed it, locked it, threw the chain and then armed the alarm.

Then, quaking head to foot, I slid off the wellies, made my shaky way to my bedroom and got in bed with Tim’s robe on, pulling up the covers to my neck.

I turned my head to the frame sitting on my nightstand. I could barely see it in the dark but I didn’t need to see it, I had the picture it held memorized. Tim and me, close up, he was behind me, both his arms around my shoulders, wrapped across my upper chest, his jaw pressed to the side of my head, my head slightly turned into him. He was looking at the camera. I had my eyes closed.

We were both laughing.

“Miss you, baby,” I whispered to the frame, my voice shaking as hard as my body still was.

The frame had no reply, it f**king never did.

* * * * *

The next morning, Joe Callahan’s house was quiet and the shiny, black, new model Ford pickup was gone.

It wouldn’t come back for three weeks.

* * * * *

It was four o’clock in the afternoon, I’d been at the garden shop all day and during the day it had snowed.

I was sick of snow and I wished I’d picked Florida or Arizona or somewhere that didn’t have snow when I’d packed up my girls and fled Chicago.

Furthermore, Kate was driving now. She’d turned sixteen and she got her license and I bought her a car. Tim would have been pissed I bought her a car. Then again, he’d have been pissed I bought myself a Mustang. As a cop, he’d seen too many accidents so he was all for staid, sturdy cars that were built so tough you could drive them through a building and only have to buff out a few scratches. He might have driven like a lunatic (which he did), but he wasn’t a big fan of me doing it (which I didn’t unless I was in, say, a Mustang) and he wasn’t a big fan of spoiling the girls.

Then again, with a dead Dad, spoiling them had become something of a habit.

And anyway, I didn’t have Tim anymore to help me take them places and pick them up. I also didn’t live in a household with two cars unless I bought one for Kate.

So I did.

She was a good driver, responsible, my Kate. Keira, now, Keira would probably be picked up joyriding when she had her learner’s permit with me in the car. Keira was a magnet for trouble. Kate would rather die a thousand bloody, painful deaths than break a rule or get into trouble. Keira would make a deal with the devil for a killer pair of shoes and not even blink.

Even if Kate was responsible and a good driver, I still hated it when she drove in snow.

This was what I was thinking as I drove home from the Bobbie’s Garden Shoppe, my now full-time job. I found out that morning that I was now full-time since Sabrina had her twins a week ago. She’d called Bobbie the night before and told Bobbie that her maternity leave was indefinite.

“Thank God, the bitch could moan,” Bobbie had said this morning when she gave me the news and asked me to go from part-time to full-time. “Saves me from firing her ass, ‘cause, when she wasn’t moanin’, she was jackin’ around even before she was luggin’ them twins around. Yeesh, two babies in that belly of hers, looked like seven.”

Bobbie was not wrong about that, any of it.

But I was too busy thanking God for the full-time job. Tim’s life insurance policy had been used up on my Mustang, Kate’s car and taking a whack off the mortgage because of the down payment I put on the house. It had also gone out the door with the move. I had his pension, which helped, but not much.

I’d put the money I made on selling Tim and my house into savings for the girls’ college. Tim’d had to pay off student loans forever and he wanted the girls to have their college paid for. We’d been saving but we didn’t have near enough for the two of them. I thought Tim would have wanted that, the house we’d bought together, fixed up together and lived in together as a family being sold and the money paying for the girls’ future. Using that money from our house was like him and me giving it to them and I liked that idea and figured Tim would too.

Even with a low mortgage and no car payments, I still had a teenager driving and insurance was a bitch. Utilities, groceries for three people and we were living in a small town but it was part-farmers, part-blue collar and part-affluent. The affluent part meant all the kids tried to keep up with the Joneses with designer gear, jeans, purses, shoes, the right makeup, the important accessories like MP3 players and cell phones. Hell, Keira’s cell phone bill, considering she texted seventeen thousand times a day, nearly broke the monthly bank even though I told her time and again not to do it.

Bobbie paid pretty well considering, and she had full benefits for full-time, which was more important. Her garden center was enormous, the biggest in three counties and everyone went there. She sold it all, lawn furniture, craft and hobby stuff, pet supplies, not just plants. But I worked the plants, I was good at it, always was and spring was coming. Even with the snow, it was getting close to gardening season and things, always steady, were definitely picking up for Bobbie.

I turned on my street, deep in my inspection of the roads which, I noted with some relief, had been mostly cleared. The spring snow was wet and sloshy, not icy, thank God. Kate would get home okay.

I took in a relieved breath and it caught in my throat when I saw the shiny, black, new model Ford pickup in Joe Callahan’s driveway.

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