A Sampling Of Contraband

Sunday, December 27, 2015

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Excerpt

They stopped at the foot of the second to last bed in the airy ward, which smelled of rubbing alcohol and disinfectant. The woman propped up in bed had a thick bandage above her right eye. She studied them with open curiosity. The female in the next bed didn’t look away from them once.

Paul smiled at her briefly, and then focused on the person he came to see. “Miss Phipps?” he said.

Her eyebrow cocked in a questioning arch. “Who wants to know?”

“Paul Weekes. This is Mark Weekes.”

She folded both arms across her stomach. “And?”

Paul nodded toward Mark. “My cousin hit your Jeep last night.”

“And left me in a ditch. Unconscious.” She glared at Mark.

Mark slid his hands into his pockets, and examined his shoes.

“Were it not for the kindness of a stranger...”

Mark shuffled, but kept his eyes on the terrazzo tiles. The woman in the bed continued to cast killing looks at him.

“You made him come, didn’t you?” she asked Paul, drilling him with a sharp stare. Paul’s brows pulled together and before he could voice any thought, she smirked. “I thought so.”

He cleared his throat. “The repairs to your Jeep—”

“Yes?”

“I’ll pay for those.”

“Of course.”

Behind his blank expression, Paul’s thoughts churned. Did she know how fortunate she was? Mark wouldn’t have been easy to find if he hadn’t decided to make him face what he’d done. And she could have died. Considering everything, she could be a little less abrupt and a bit more gracious.

Clad in a powder blue duster, with her hair scooped on top of her head, and a pout on her lips, Miss Phipps reminded him of a petulant little girl. She surveyed him out of almond-shaped eyes surrounded by spiky lashes. While he examined her, her teeth worried her lower lip.

Their gaze held for untold seconds. Heat flared in his chest and spread downward. He chided himself over his uneasiness. Her annoyance didn’t bother him, but her ingratitude did.

Though he found the situation corny, something connected him to her. She appealed to him—exotic and feisty best described her.

He figured the color of his eyes mesmerized her. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d gotten that reaction. Pity he wasn’t in any position to explore the interest he saw in her eyes.

When she forced herself to look away, he hid a smile. If they weren’t careful, the attraction humming between them would set the sheets on fire. He put aside his discovery while they exchanged contact and insurance information.

He was relieved to find her doing so well, and though not seriously injured, she was staying in the hospital for another day. Thankfully, Mark would only face a fine for driving without a license, and be charged for leaving the scene of an accident.

Paul sometimes worried that a day might come when he couldn’t get Mark out of trouble. He hoped the future didn’t provide such a test. As things stood, he was obligated to cover the bill for Miss Phipps’ car repairs and hospital stay. Plus, he needed to find a way to make Mark pay for this episode.

At the nurse’s station, Paul glimpsed a familiar figure. He was not accustomed to seeing the man out of uniform, so it took him a few seconds to recognize the police sergeant. His annoyance grew, and he decided not to acknowledge him, but Sarge turned away from the desk and held out his hand. “Mr. Weekes.”

Paul ignored the gesture, but acknowledged him. “Sarge.”

Sergeant Singh’s skin darkened, his eyes narrowed, and his outstretched hand dropped and curled into a fist. Paul didn’t miss the cop’s reaction to the deliberate slight, but did nothing to make amends. Greed would be the death of Sarge. Let him work that one out, Paul thought.

“I’ll call you,” Sarge said in the taut silence.

Paul continued toward the exit, with Mark trotting alongside to keep up.

“Wait up, man.” Mark struggled to breathe evenly. “You have a fire to put out, or something?”

Paul slowed his steps, marshalling his thoughts. He was in for some trouble. Sarge’s increasing demands for money over the past month had become an annoyance. Paul planned to cut him from his payroll. The trouble was, the policeman would fight to milk the last drop out of the cash cow he thought he had in his grip.

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