Excerpt #3 – Chapter 1:
“Mommy. I’m gonna be late for day care.”
A small, dark head with long hair poked out of the turquoise car parked in front of
Ruby’s. The child waved at them. “C’mon, Mommy.” “Perfect timing,” Joy said under her breath.
“Nothing, never mind,” she said. “You sure you’re okay? You’re not feeling faint or anything?”
Ben took a deep breath, finally. “I’m good. Thanks for checking. Don’t know what happened there.” He put his sunglasses back on. Small comfort, but a mask all the same.
Joy gave him a slanted look. “Are you going off shift or just going on?”
“Going on, and I’m late. I’m supposed to be bringing in coffee for the guys and a round of Ruby’s cupcakes.”
“Okay, well, I won’t keep you,” she said, then started walking back towards Ruby’s and her car. The little girl was hanging out the front window of the car from her waist.
“Emberlyn Marie Gallagher. Sit back in that car this instant.”
A flash of mischief shot through deep brown eyes that were a clone of her mother’s as the little girl’s face broke into a brilliant smile, and she laughed. Joy kissed the child’s upturned face and reached through the open car window to help her back into the front seat.
“I guess I’d better get her over to day care.”
“Are you going on shift or coming off?” parroted Ben. Please don’t leave yet.
“Just going back on a double shift in the ER. Mom had her for the night, so now it’s time for day care.”
“A double? Is that normal?” You sound like an overeager teenager. Knock it off.
Her laugh made his stomach flip. Yep, definitely feeling like an overeager teenager.
Joy headed around her car and opened the driver’s door. She cocked her head to the side.
“You’re going to be fine, Ben.” Her smile shone as radiantly as the sunrise. She jumped into her car and slammed the door.
He stood at the bottom of the café steps and watched them drive away. His right shoulder throbbed. It still throbbed every day. He’d lied to his physiotherapist because his short-term disability was up. If he couldn’t get back to work, he’d have to quit The Job. He had nothing else but The Job. Not being a cop wasn’t an option.
“You’re going to be fine, Ben.”
From your lips to God’s ear, Joy Gallagher.
He headed up the steps and yanked open the door. The sweet aroma of baked goods and coffee teased his nose as it welcomed him into the café. Maybe he imagined it, but people seemed to stop talking, especially over at the “gossip” table in the far right corner. He caught the furtive glances, eyes cutting away, and feet rustling under the tables. Was it how he looked? The uniform ball cap didn’t cover his ear, but it did cover his right eyebrow and forehead.
“Hey,” he said to the air in general. He nodded towards the right and left and then walked up to the counter. Mercifully, people began speaking in low tones again, the sound washing over him like a balm. He’d expected people to react to his scars when he came back to work, which was why he flew up yesterday to minimize the contact