Prom Queen - Page 22

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Book 3.5: His to Take

Serve Series

Book 1: Mistaken by Fate

Book 2: Betting on Fate

Book 3: Protecting Fate

Come Undone Series

Book 1: Wrong Bed, Right Guy

Book 2: Chasing Mrs. Right

Book 3: Two Wrongs, One Right

Book 3.5: Seducing Mr. Right

Other Books

Seducing the Bridesmaid

Meeting His Match

HONOR by Kennedy Layne

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Chapter One

“How long is it?”

“It’s a twelve-letter word,” Derek Spencer replied, staring at the same crossword puzzle he’d been working on for the past two days. There had been too many interruptions, and he could only stare at the lattice of white blocks for so long before his eyes began to burn. It was better than the alternative. “Behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others.”

“Supercilious.”

“No shit,” Derek muttered, dutifully writing down the letters in the appropriate squares while doing his best to ignore the irritating bleeps and pings coming from the various machines.

He found it best to focus on the mundane puzzle rather than to look at the bundle of long tubes running to and from his father’s fragile body. It only forced him to remember that his parents weren’t invincible, but thankfully his father had beaten the odds this time. He’d live to see another day, but who would’ve thought the great Benjamin Albert Spencer could be taken out by a little heart attack?

Ben wasn’t a weak man, not by any stretch of the imagination. He owned and operated Spencer’s Meat Market, the only full service butcher shop where the residents of Catfish Creek bought their prime cuts of meat, whether it was beef, pork, or chicken. He was old school and his shop stood behind his product. He always took the time to talk with each and every customer.

His father’s motto? Everyone needs a friend in the meat business. A friend provided a square deal at a reasonable price, and friends were family. A good man like him shouldn’t be lying in some hospital bed clawing away for his life, recovering from open heart surgery.

“That’s a wrap.” Derek folded the newspaper that he stole from the nurse’s station yesterday, immediately reaching for this morning’s entertainment section he’d found in the cafeteria. He’d set it on the rolling tray, saving it for last. It gave him something to do to pass the time, while his father slept on and off for most of the day. “Let’s see what today’s theme is.”

Derek did his best to ignore the antiseptic smell that seemed to always permeate his clothes by the end of the day. As a combat Marine, that sterile odor generally meant someone was either wounded or had gotten injured during training. More recently, it was the equivalent to losing a man on the line…loss of combat effectiveness.

It didn’t help that he hadn’t gotten the benefit of a few days’ transition to get used to his old leave and liberty clothing again after being in Afghanistan for the last four months. It wasn’t that the black T-shirt he wore was uncomfortable. It just didn’t smell right. Of course, there was also getting used to the brand new, stiff denim of his jeans that he’d had to buy since almost all his crap was still in storage back on base.

Damn, he never thought he’d miss those cotton utility pants he’d worn day in and day out overseas. The thing of it was, he’d rather be over there fighting for his fellow Marines than sitting idly by to witness his father fighting for his life back in the world.

“Why don’t you go and grab some lunch and leave me be?” Ben pressed for the third time that morning in between bouts of snoring. Derek pulled down one side of the newspaper and gave his father a questioning look. “You’ve been cooped up in here for four days straight. Go see some of your old friends, or take a drive by The Grange and see Frank. He just turned sixty-five, if you can believe that. It should be his old ass in this damned bed and not mine.”

The last time Derek had visited The Grange had been about two years ago, right about the time Frank had installed a hand-me-down mechanical bull one of those city nightspots had outgrown. As a former third place finalist in the National PBR Championship in 1968, the old crusty bull rider even had a plaque on the wall with the once upon a time personality who currently held the title—Frank Dallas, of course. It was hard to imagine the infamous bull rider was sixty-five years old. It was even harder to believe that Derek’s father wanted him out of this hospital room.

“Spit it out.”

“Spit what out?” Ben lifted the remote control he had tucked beside him, pressing the power button so that the television came to life. He’d never been a good poker player, and now was no different. “I’m most likely going to be released and heading home tomorrow morning. It’s not like you need to babysit me for your mother’s sake. I am fifty-nine years old, son. I’m hardly a basket case.”

Derek studied his father, trying to decipher why he suddenly had a different opinion in the last five seconds than he’d somehow held for the last four days. His dad had welcomed his presence at first, saying over and over again how much he appreciated the buffer between his wife and the hospital staff. Helen Spencer loved her family very much, but she tended to hover a little too much in circumstances like this—not that he or his dad would ever say that to another living soul.

“Mom should be back within five or ten minutes,” Derek reminded his father, watching closely for a reaction. He folded the newspaper once more in half and used the clip of the pen to keep it that way. What exactly was his father up to? “You know that she likes to have lunch with you. She’ll probably bring me something healthy from The Hamburger Shack, not that I’ve gotten to eat anything remotely greasy since I came home. Who knew they even made salads?”

“Join the club,” Ben said irritably, pressing a series of buttons on the control a little harder than necessary. “I almost attempted to bribe Tessa to sneak me in a juicy steak last night, but then I worried what your mother would do to her and I caved.”

Derek tensed slightly at the mention of Tessa Daniels, still wondering why she’d gone out of her way to give him the cold shoulder ever since he’d walked into this hospital. He wasn’t so sure he could use the term cold. It was more like she appeared preoccupied or unsure.


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