SHE REALLY NEEDED to learn how to say no once in a while.
Andrea Montgomery stood on the doorstep of the small, charming stone house just down the street from hers on Riverbend Road, her arms loaded with a tray of food that was cooling by the minute in the icy December wind blowing off the Hell’s Fury River.
Her hands on the tray felt clammy and the flock of butterflies that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in her stomach jumped around maniacally. She didn’t want to be here. Marshall Bailey, the man on the other side of that door, made her nervous under the best of circumstances.
This moment definitely did not fall into that category.
How could she turn down any request from Wynona Bailey, though? She owed Wynona whatever she wanted. The woman had taken a bullet for her, after all. If Wyn wanted her to march up and down the main drag in Haven Point wearing a tutu and combat boots, she would rush right out and try to find the perfect ensemble.
She would almost prefer that to Wyn’s actual request, but her friend had sounded desperate when she called earlier that day from Boise, where she was in graduate school to become a social worker.
“It’s only for a week or so, until I can wrap things up here with my practicum and Mom and Uncle Mike make it back from their honeymoon,” Wyn had said.
“It’s not a problem at all,” she had assured her. Apparently she was better at telling fibs than she thought because Wynona didn’t even question her.
“Trust my brother to break his leg the one week that his mother and both of his sisters are completely unavailable to help him. I think he did it on purpose.”
“Didn’t you tell me he was struck by a hit-and-run driver?”
“Yes, but the timing couldn’t be worse, with Katrina out of the country and Mom and Uncle Mike on their cruise until the end of the week. Marshall assures me he doesn’t need help, but the man has a compound fracture, for crying out loud. He’s not supposed to be weight-bearing at all. I would feel better the first few days he’s home from the hospital if I knew that someone who lived close by could keep an eye on him.”
Andie didn’t want to be that someone. But how could she say no to Wynona?
It was a good thing her friend had been a police officer until recently. If Wynona had wanted a partner in crime, Thelma & Louise style, Andie wasn’t sure she could have said no.
“Aren’t you going to ring the doorbell, Mama?” Chloe asked, eyes apprehensive and her voice wavering a little. Her daughter was picking up her own nerves, Andie knew, with that weird radar kids had, but she had also become much more timid and anxious since the terrifying incident that summer when Wyn and Cade Emmett had rescued them all.
“I can do it,” her four-year-old son, Will, offered. “My feet are freezing out here.”
Her heart filled with love for both of her funny, sweet, wonderful children. Will was the spitting image of Jason, while Chloe had his mouth and his eyes.
This would be their third Christmas without him and she had to hope she could make it much better than the previous two.
She repositioned the tray and forced herself to focus on the matter at hand. “Sorry, I was thinking of something else.”
She couldn’t very well tell her children that she hadn’t knocked yet because she was too busy thinking about how much she didn’t want to be here.
“I told you that Sheriff Bailey has a broken leg and can’t get around very well. He probably can’t make it to the door easily and I don’t want to make him get up. He should be expecting us. Wynona said she was calling him.”