“I like mine better.”
She laughs and says good-bye and I dive back into my story, spending a few hours with my characters. The plane sex and sunshine are good for them, softening the mood of the story, making it fun and sexy.
I decide to stop at the end of the chapter, and when I glance at the clock, I’m relieved that I haven’t missed my weekly date with Mr. Darcy at the hospital.
I’ve gone to read to Mr. Darcy every Monday afternoon for the past year. He is eighty-five, and blind, but he once wrote amazing political and mystery novels. He was our neighbor when I was growing up and was a friend of my father’s. As an only child, I found things to keep me busy, and sometimes that included walking over to his house when he was doing yard work to talk his ear off or to listen to his stories. He used to tell me all about the books he was writing, and I never tired of listening to his ideas.
When my parents died, he was one of the few people who continued to check in with me, to make sure that the house didn’t need to be repaired, or that the yard work was getting done.
He was widowed young and never remarried. His children all live on the West Coast and don’t visit often, which is why when his eyesight finally failed due to his diabetes, they put him in convalescent care at the hospital, rather than take him home with them.
I wave at the nurses as I walk past to his room and knock gently on the door, in case he’s napping.
“Come in, darlin’.”
I push inside and grin at him. He’s seated in his favorite La-Z-Boy chair by the window, in a University of Montana sweatshirt with a blanket covering his lap, the newest James Patterson book resting in his lap, waiting for me.
“What if it wasn’t me?” I kiss his cheek.
“I know your knock by now, girl.” His voice is rough, but he’s smiling. His hand clasps mine firmly. “How are you?”
“Aren’t you under deadline?” Until I met Ty and his friends, Mr. Darcy was the only one who knew about the books, although he doesn’t know just how racy they are or how popular they’ve become.
“Yes, but I wouldn’t miss our date for the world.”
“You should be raising a family. Making babies. Writing books. Not wasting your time on an old man like me.”
“Stop that.” I take the book from his hands and sit in the wooden rocker across from him. “I like wasting my time on you.”
He laughs and shakes his head. “Sassy as ever.”
“So I take it this is the new book we’re reading?” I flip the book open and turn to chapter one.
“Unless you have something else you’d rather read?”
“Nora Roberts?” I grin.
“I have nothing but respect for that woman, but I don’t think I’m her target audience.”
“No, you’re probably right.”
I spend the next thirty minutes reading to Mr. Darcy, getting lost in the story with him. He grunts or mumbles during certain parts, but for the most part he just listens with a small smile on his lips.
“I’m sorry I can’t read longer, but I should get back to work.”
“Who is your young man?” he asks, ignoring my other comment.
“What young man?”
“Don’t try that with me, Lauren. I know better. I hear it in your voice.”
I swallow and frown, thrown. “Really?”
He just nods and waits for me to talk.
He nods slowly and taps his lips with his finger. “Ty’s a good kid. Despite that time I caught him and the King boys toilet-papering my maple trees in the front yard.”
I laugh. “Not so much a kid anymore.”
“You’re all kids to me, girl.” He reaches over to pat my hand. “He treats you nice?”
“Better than I probably deserve.”
“Good.” He nods once and takes the book from me. “Get to work.”
“I’ll see you next Monday.” I kiss his cheek and hug him hard before leaving his room and heading home.
When I pull my phone from my purse, I see I’ve missed two calls and have three texts.
The first call is the pool guy; the second is Ty, as are all the texts.
Ty: Just got to your house.
Ty: Your front door was standing wide-open. Where are you?
Ty: Lauren, answer me.
Shit! I dial Ty’s number as I pull out of the hospital parking lot toward home. I don’t live far, just on the other side of town.
“Where are you?” His voice is hard and panicked.
“I just left the hospital.”
“What?! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Ty. It wasn’t for me. I go there every week to see a friend of the family.”
“Are you on your way back?”
“Yes, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
He hangs up and I toss my phone on the seat. Why was my door wide-open? I know I set the alarm.
When I pull into my driveway, Ty is waiting on the porch, his hands in his pockets, looking as delicious as ever in his white button-down with the sleeves rolled up. I just saw him a few hours ago and I want to jump him again.
“What’s going on?”
“When I pulled up, your front door was standing wide-open and you weren’t here.” His eyes are blazing, making me stop short.
“Are you mad at me?”
“Hell yes, I’m mad at you. Why didn’t you set your alarm?”
“I swear I did.” I frown as I think back. “I was preoccupied with the story and with getting over to see Mr. Darcy.”
I march past him and into the house.
“I think we should call the cops.”
I glance around and sag in relief when I see that nothing has been touched. “Ty, it’s been windy today. It probably just blew the door open.”
“We don’t know that.”
“No one has been here.”
“How do you know?” He’s exasperated with me now.
“Because I can feel it! Nothing has been touched.”
“You can feel it?”
“Yes.” I shrug and continue back to the kitchen. “I probably forgot to set the alarm and the wind blew the door open.”
“I’d feel better if someone came out to check the house out.”
“Ty.” I take his hand in mine and kiss his palm before nuzzling it with my cheek. “I love how worried you are, but I’m quite sure this was just a mistake on my part. I’m sorry that I scared you. I didn’t do it on purpose.”