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Missing Piece

Book 2

By Jillyan Leigh

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Jillyan Leigh



Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.









Contents:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20





*Chapter 1*

Melinda, Jimmy, Uncle Andy, and I were huddled close together in the intensive care waiting room as we waited to see Mason. A middle aged woman in scrubs finally came out to talk to us. She explained that we could go back two at a time to see Mason. Jimmy held my trembling hand tight as we followed her. She led us straight back the narrow hall and then we turned to the right. She ushered us into a small room in the back corner of the floor and then left us.

I nearly fainted when I saw Mason. I had tried to prepare myself mentally, but I lost control of myself when I saw his motionless body hooked up to so many machines. I fell across him and started sobbing. I clung to Mason and begged him not to leave me. Jimmy pulled me off of him and held me tight against his chest.

Jimmy whispered, “I know it’s scary, but Mason wouldn’t want you to be this upset.”

I cried against his chest and said, “Jimmy, I’m so scared. I love him so much. I know I can’t make it without him. I need him so much. I can’t lose him. I just can’t.”

Tears slid down Jimmy’s cheeks and Jimmy whispered, “Sweetheart, you’re preaching to the choir on that one.”

I said, “I know and I’m sorry. It isn’t that I think I’m the only one that feels that way, but he’s my whole world and losing him would be the end of me. I know I can’t make it without him and I wouldn’t even want to try.”

Jimmy squeezed me tight and said, “Sweetheart, please don’t say that. I know that’s how you feel, but it would break Mason’s heart to hear you say something like that. You’re his whole world and he’d never want you to give up, with or without him.”

Jimmy gave me a kiss on my cheek and said, “Come over here and let’s get you set up where you can sit with him and hold his hand.”

There was a small stool by some of the equipment and he rolled it over to Mason’s bedside. He guided me down onto it and I picked up Mason’s hand and clutched it to my heart. Jimmy went to the head of the bed and gently rubbed Mason’s shoulder. I heard him tell Mason that he loved him as he continued to gently rub him.

After a few minutes, Jimmy walked back to me and said, “You stay here and I’m going to let someone else take a turn.”

I nodded and kissed Mason’s hand. I held Mason’s hand tight and told him I loved him more than anything in the world. I told him that I needed him to stay with me and I promised I would take care of him. I also told him that I was proud of him. I went on to tell him that I was scared of losing him and needed him to be okay.

I kissed his hand again and told him how proud I was that the most amazing man in the world was mine. I told him that I was never exaggerating when I told him he was the most handsome man in the world because he is. I kissed his hand again and told him that he’d made me happier than any one person deserves to be.

I felt hands on my shoulders and I looked up to see Uncle Andy smiling down at me. He squeezed my shoulders and then went to the head of the bed to gently rub Mason’s shoulder. I heard him tell Mason that he loved him and wanted him to get better soon. Uncle Andy came back to where I was sitting and squeezed my hand.

He said, “Sweetheart, I’m going back out now so Melinda can come in. Are you okay?”

I nodded and said, “I’m fine.”

I continued to hold Mason’s hand and I told him that I wanted to kiss him. I also told him how I had gotten so upset when I had found out his heart stopped. I told him I felt bad about Aaron blaming himself for me getting upset and how Aaron and Josh had done so much to make me feel better. I told Mason that I wanted to invite them to dinner once he was feeling better. I told him all about Jimmy saving his life and how I felt so bad that Jimmy had to go through all that. I told him that I could tell Jimmy was hurting bad and I felt bad because there was nothing I could do to help him.

I felt Melinda’s hands gently rubbing my shoulders and I turned to face her.

I said, “You can hold his hand if you’d like. I’m sure he’d like that.”

Melinda smiled, but tears were flowing down her cheeks as she said, “You can stay right there and talk to my brother. I’m going to go up and give him a kiss on the cheek.”

I nodded and kissed Mason’s hand as I held it to me. I held his hand between my hands and rubbed it. I heard Melinda tell him she loved him and saw her kiss his cheek. She gently stroked his forehead and I could see her tears flow faster.

Melinda came back and rubbed my shoulders and asked, “Do you need anything?”

I shook my head and said, “I’m fine.”

Melinda said, “I’m going to go back out now in case there’s anyone waiting to see him.”

I nodded and she left. I told Mason that he was lucky to have such a wonderful family and they all loved him so much. I also told him how much I loved them. I told him I felt honored how they had accepted me so readily. Then I told Mason that I wanted to pray for him.

I started to pray and I asked God to help Jimmy find peace for everything he’d been through. I asked God to give Melinda the strength to comfort him and asked that she be comforted, too. I asked for God to bless Uncle Andy and help him cope with everything that had happened. Then I prayed for God to comfort Aaron and Josh and expressed my thanks for Him sending them to help comfort me when I was so upset.

I started crying when I told God that he had to spare Mason and heal him. I told God that I knew I was supposed to pray for Him to do His will, but I knew He’d know I wasn’t trying to be selfish because He could see in my heart and know how much I loved and needed Mason and that I couldn’t make it without him. I asked God to help me understand why it had to happen and to give me strength to cope. I finished my prayer by asking God to watch over Mason, Jimmy, Melinda, Uncle Andy, Libby, Aaron, and Josh. I said ‘amen’ and kissed Mason’s hand.

I felt someone come up behind me and I turned to see Aaron. He came up to me and hugged me as I remained seated. He went to the head of the bed and touched Mason’s shoulder and closed his eyes. I could tell he was saying a silent prayer and I bowed my head and held Mason’s hand against my chest. I then heard Aaron tell Mason to keep fighting hard.

I felt hands on my shoulders and it startled me because I wasn’t expecting someone else. I looked up and Josh was smiling down at me.

He rubbed my shoulders and I said, “I don’t want us to get in trouble. They said only two people can come in at a time.”

Josh smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Sweetheart. Andy talked to them and they relaxed that rule for us. We won’t get in any trouble.”

I said, “Thank you guys for earlier and thanks again for coming back to check on Mason. I appreciate it and I know Mason appreciates it, too.”

Aaron smiled and said, “Little Tiger, he’s our brother.”

I nodded and said, “I know he thinks the world and all of you guys.”

Aaron said, “We think the world and all of him.”

I rubbed Mason’s hand and kissed it.

Aaron walked back towards me and Josh walked to the head of the bed. Aaron rubbed my shoulders and Josh rubbed Mason’s shoulder and told him that he needed to get better soon.

Aaron said, “Little Tiger, you ought to go stretch your legs some. Jimmy said you’ve been back here a long time. You probably need to move around a little bit and then come back.”

I held Mason’s hand against my chest and said, “I’m fine.”

Aaron said, “It’s starting to get late and you probably need to get something to eat.”

I said, “I’m fine.”

Aaron rubbed my shoulders again and said, “Josh and I will be back in the morning to check up on Mason. We’ll see you then.”

I said, “Thank you. I appreciate you two checking on him.”

Aaron nodded and Josh walked up to me and rubbed my shoulders before saying, “Take care of yourself, Sweetie.”

I nodded and said, “Please take care of yourself, too.”

They said a final goodbye and walked out the door. I started telling Mason how much I loved his friends. I told him they cared about him a lot. I told Mason about my day at work and about Aaron coming to get me. I told him about my boss praying for him. I also told him about Libby watching the store for me so I could be with him. I told him I wished I could get over feeling so scared, but I couldn’t. I wished him a happy four month anniversary and told him the last four months had been the best months of my life and he makes me the happiest girl in the world.

I felt someone come up behind me and turned to see a nurse. She smiled at me and went to work checking Mason’s IV and looking at the screen by the bed to check the numbers on it. She smiled again and walked out.

I started telling Mason that I was going to make up for him not being able to enjoy our anniversary. I told him I was going to make him a special dinner when he got home. I told him that four months doesn’t sound like a long time, but I felt like I’d been with him my whole life. I told him I couldn’t even remember what life was like without him.

I felt someone touch my back and looked up. It was Uncle Andy. I was surprised to see Jimmy and Melinda behind him.

Uncle Andy smiled and said, “Sweetheart, visiting hours are almost over.”

I shook my head and said, “They can’t be.”

Jimmy nodded and said, “Yeah, visiting hours end at 8:30. We can go home and get some rest and we can come back at 8:30 in the morning. They’ll take really good care of Mason tonight and I thought we might stop by the house and get you some clothes so you can spend the night at our house. We can get up early and be here right at 8:30.”

I shook my head and said, “No, I don’t want to go. I want to stay.”

Melinda hugged me and said, “Kennedy, you need your rest. We’ll all come back first thing in the morning. We’ll get us something to eat on the way home and you can relax a little bit.”

I shook my head and said, “I’m fine. I don’t want to go.”

Uncle Andy said, “Sweetheart, you’ll feel better if you get some rest.”

Tears started falling from my eyes and I said, “No, I can’t go.”

The same nurse that had come in the room a moment ago started in again and Jimmy stepped out in the hall to make room.

Uncle Andy looked at her and asked, “Ma’am, can you please explain to her that visiting hours are over and she can come back in the morning?”

She smiled warmly at me and said, “Yes, from 8:30 to 8:30 is rest time for the patients. We’ll take really good care of him tonight and then you can come back in the morning.”

I started crying hard and said, “Please let me stay. I promise I’ll be good. I promise I’ll stay out of the way and not bother anybody. I don’t want to leave him. I promise you won’t even know I’m here. You have my word. Please, I want to stay. I won’t cause any problems, I promise.”

She came up to me and hugged me and said, “I know you won’t cause any problems. I’m not supposed to do this, but you can stay. I’ll be around all night and you let me know if you get tired. We have a lounge where you can stretch out on the couch.”

I squeezed her tight and said, “Thank you so much. It means the world to me.”

She squeezed me back and said, “Honey, I understand.”

Uncle Andy and Jimmy each took a turn rubbing Mason’s shoulder and telling him they loved him. Melinda kissed his forehead and told him she loved him. They all took a turn hugging me and telling me they loved me. I told them all I loved them and they left.

*************************

As soon as they were back in the waiting room, Jimmy shook his head and said, “I sure as hell wish they hadn’t let her stay. I could wring that nurse’s neck for caving in to her like that. I’m worried sick about her and I would’ve felt a lot better if she had come with us.”

Uncle Andy said, “Jimmy, you need to stop. I wanted her to come with us just as much as you did, but she’s where she wants to be. She loves him so much that she can’t stand to leave him and she might’ve been in worse shape if we’d made her leave him.”

Jimmy shook his head and said, “I get what you’re saying, but I have a feeling that she’s not going to move from that spot for the next twelve hours. You saw that little bit of food she ate this morning and I guarantee you that’s all she’s had to eat all day. You heard her downstairs when she found out his heart had stopped. She knew he was still alive, but she couldn’t handle that his heart had stopped earlier. Her screams when Aaron said that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

Tears started flowing down Jimmy’s cheeks and he said, “Mason would want to kill us all for leaving her here alone in the shape she’s in. If something happens, she won’t be able to take it and nobody’s here with her. She took one look at him and fell across him crying and begging him not to leave her. I had to pry her off of him and she said she couldn’t make it without him and she wouldn’t even want to try. I put her on that stool and she hasn’t moved. I’m worried about my brother and I’m worried about her, too.”

Jimmy started crying hard and Melinda hugged him and Uncle Andy wrapped his arms around them both and said, “Jimmy, you’ve been through hell today. I want you to get something to eat and get some rest. I’m worried sick myself, but it’s out of our hands. That little girl was crying so hard at the idea of leaving that I honestly believe we would’ve never gotten her out of here without sedation if we’d actually made her leave.”

Melinda nodded and said, “She wants to be with him so we did the right thing by letting her stay. I think it’s making her feel better to be able to talk to him.”

Jimmy shook his head and said, “Mason wouldn’t want her to be alone. I feel like I’m not doing right by him.”

Uncle Andy hugged Jimmy tight and said, “Jimmy, I understand how you feel. I really do, but do you remember the time your daddy had to spend the night in the hospital for observation after that car ran a light and hit him?”

Jimmy nodded and said, “I remember that.”

Uncle Andy said, “I’m sure you remember that I had to stay with you boys because your momma refused to leave him, even though he was awake and telling her he was fine.”

Jimmy nodded and said, “I remember that.”

Uncle Andy said, “Then I think you should understand where I’m going with this. Your daddy thought it was the most ridiculous thing in the world that your momma chose to stay at the hospital all night rather than go home to get some rest, but he didn’t push the issue because she was so worried about him. He understood that it was making her feel better to be with him.”

Jimmy said, “Uncle Andy, that was different though. Dad at least knew she was there and could talk with her.”

Melinda said, “Jimmy, you’re wrong. It isn’t any different. Mom was able to see him and hold his hand for comfort. That’s the same way Kennedy is finding comfort. She’s able to talk to him and she isn’t worried about the fact that he can’t talk to her. The only thing that matters to her is that she’s with him. I believe we would’ve gone through hell with her tonight if we would’ve taken her home. I think the nurse understood that and that’s why she let her stay.”

Uncle Andy rubbed Jimmy’s shoulders and said, “Let’s go get something to eat. It’ll be my treat. Then I want you to go home and get some rest.”

Jimmy nodded and Uncle Andy added, “Jimmy, I know your momma and daddy would be so proud of you right now. I want you to know that I’m proud of you, too.”

Jimmy hugged Uncle Andy tight and then they all walked towards the elevator.

*************************

I was telling Mason that I thought we should take a vacation once he was healed when I felt someone come up behind me. I turned and it was the nurse and she was carrying a chair.

She smiled and said, “I brought you a better chair because it’s killing my back to see you sitting on that stool.”

I smiled and said, “It isn’t bothering my back, but I really appreciate you thinking about me. I apologize because I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Kennedy.”

She smiled and said, “I’m Sarah.”

I said, “Sarah, thanks again for letting me stay.”

She smiled and said, “No problem. Now, let’s switch out that stool.”

I smiled and stood up. I rolled the stool out of the way and took the padded chair from her. I placed it where the stool had been. I walked up to the head of the bed and gently caressed Mason’s cheek before kissing his forehead.

Sarah said, “He’s quite handsome.”

I smiled and said, “He’s the most handsome man in the world to me. I love him so much. He goes out of his way every day to show me how much he loves me.”

Sarah smiled and said, “The news is reporting hot and heavy on what happened today. I saw a picture of him and he certainly is a hottie. We were talking about him at the desk a little while ago and we all agreed that it should be illegal to have such a handsome policeman. We feel it might make more women commit crimes.”

I laughed softly and said, “Mason will get the biggest kick out of that. I’ll be sure to tell him when he wakes up. He looks amazing in his uniform. His brother, Jimmy, looks amazing in uniform, too. That was him in here tonight.”

Sarah shook her head and said, “I bet his brother does look good, too.”

I kissed Mason’s forehead again before saying, “Jimmy saved Mason’s life today. The doctor said Mason would’ve died if Jimmy hadn’t been with him. I feel bad that Jimmy had to go through everything he went through today, but I’m so thankful he was there with Mason.”

Sarah smiled and said, “They’re both heroes.”

I kissed Mason again and said, “Yes, they are. I’m just so scared and worried right now. Mason has always been my Superman and I never thought I’d see him like this.”

Sarah said, “Keep thinking positive. He’s in really bad shape, but he’s holding his own right now and that’s a good sign.”

I stroked Mason’s face and said, “Sarah, he’s got to be alright. I could never make it without him. He’s my whole world.”

Sarah said, “I understand how you feel.”

Sarah started moving around Mason and checking the equipment that he was hooked to. I stepped back and she told me I wasn’t in her way. I watched as she wrote things down on his chart.

She finished and said, “I’ve got to finish my rounds, but we’ll talk in a little while.”

I said, “Sarah, thanks again for everything.”

She smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”

She walked out the door and I gave Mason another kiss on his forehead and told him I loved him more than anything in the world. I sat back down and the chair Sarah had brought me was much more comfortable than the stool. I rubbed and kissed Mason’s hand and told him that I had thought of him while I was at work that day. Then I admitted to him that I think about him all the time.

*************************

Melinda looked at the clock on the bedside table. It was 3:47 and Jimmy had finally quieted down enough to sleep. He had been up and down all night. She could tell his mind was tortured, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. She had asked him if he wanted to talk about it earlier, but he had told her he didn’t want to. Melinda knew he was worried sick about Mason, but she also knew she couldn’t even begin to imagine the hell he’d been through when Mason was shot.

Jimmy had gotten upset earlier when she’d said she was going to get his uniform and see if she could clean it. He kept insisting that he’d deal with it. She knew he was trying to protect her, but she didn’t think he needed to be reminded of the events that had happened. She looked at Jimmy and he was asleep, but she could tell it wasn’t a peaceful sleep by the expression on his face.

Melinda eased out of bed and looked to make sure Jimmy hadn’t stirred. She crept to the dresser and picked up Jimmy’s keys and then crept out of the room. She went out the side door into the garage and turned on the light. She opened the patrol car’s trunk and gasped when she saw the clear plastic bag inside.

The inside of the bag was smeared with brown streaks of dried blood. She took a deep breath and lifted the bag out. Tears streamed down her face when she lifted Jimmy’s shirt out of the bag. The shirt was completely saturated with Mason’s blood and she could clearly see that Mason’s blood had literally sprayed from his body and hit Jimmy’s chest, leaving a spatter. She was shaking badly, but she started removing his badge and other pins from the shirt. Once she finished, she checked his pockets before putting the shirt back in the bag.

Her hands were sticky from the blood. She pulled out Jimmy’s blood soaked pants and checked the pockets before pulling out Mason’s shirt. Melinda was crying hard as she carefully removed Mason’s badge and pins. His shirt was completely soaked with blood as well and she found his slim wallet in his front pocket. The wallet was completely saturated in blood and she understood why Josh had left it in the pocket. Mason’s pants weren’t in the bag and she figured they had been cut off him at the hospital.

Melinda looked down in horror at Jimmy’s new shoes in the bottom of the bag. Mason’s blood had completely saturated them to the point that Jimmy’s movements to save Mason had stretched and twisted them completely out of shape. Their bullet proof vests were also in the bag and she could tell that blood had saturated them as well.

Melinda walked over to the shelf in the garage and got a leaf bag out of the box. She also tore off a paper towel and carefully placed the badges, pins, and Mason’s wallet on it. She stuffed the clear plastic bag and all its contents in the opaque leaf bag. She sprayed some cleaner on a paper towel and used it to wipe her hands. She placed the paper towel in the leaf bag and tied the top of the bag. She opened the curbside garbage container that was in the garage and placed the leaf bag inside before closing the lid back.

She realized that Mason and Jimmy’s duty belts were missing, but she figured Aaron had Jimmy’s since he’d driven Jimmy to the hospital. She didn’t worry as much about Mason’s because she knew his superior would’ve taken his service weapon since it had been used to shoot someone. She gently closed the trunk of the patrol car and walked over to pick up the paper towel with the salvaged items on it. She turned off the garage light as she walked back into the house.

She went in the kitchen and fixed some warm, soapy water in the sink. She placed the badges and pins in the water. She pulled all the contents out of Mason’s wallet and wrapped the wallet in a dark grocery bag before hiding it in an empty cereal box in the trash can. She got the toothbrush she used for cleaning out from under the sink. She arranged clean paper towels on the countertop. She picked up Mason’s license and washed it in the soapy water. She turned on the faucet enough for a small steady stream of hot water to come out. She rinsed his license and put it on a clean paper towel. Then she repeated the process with his debit and credit card.

Mason’s wallet had sixty-three dollars in it and all the money was soaked in blood. Melinda wet the money and lathered it up with Ivory soap and left it in the empty sink while she started washing Jimmy’s badge. She used the toothbrush to clean the crevices of the badge and then rinsed it and put it on a clean paper towel. She cleaned and rinsed both of their name pins and set them on the paper towel as well. She got Mason’s badge out of the soapy water and started using the toothbrush to clean it.

“I didn’t want you to see that.”

Jimmy’s voice made Melinda jump, but she said, “I don’t see how it was any harder for me to see it once than it would’ve been for you to see it twice.”

Melinda rinsed Mason’s badge and placed it on the paper towel to dry before turning to face Jimmy and saying, “You really ought to try to get some sleep. You’re worn completely out.”

Jimmy said, “I can’t sleep.”

Melinda walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him and kissed him before saying, “Sit down and I’ll make you some hot chocolate to help relax you.”

She led Jimmy over to the little breakfast nook and he sat down. She smiled and kissed his cheek. She walked over to the sink and let out the soapy water and washed her hands. She got a big coffee mug and filled it half with water and half with milk before placing it in the microwave to heat it up.

As it was warming, she walked to the pantry and got two packets of instant hot chocolate out of the box. She removed the warmed up liquid from the microwave and stirred the packets of hot chocolate into it. She walked back over to Jimmy and placed the cup in front of him before wrapping her arms around him and kissing the side of his forehead.

Jimmy said, “Thank you, Melinda.”

Melinda smiled and said, “I’d do anything for the best husband in the world.”

Jimmy broke down crying and said, “Melinda, I’m scared.”

Melinda cradled Jimmy’s head and softly said, “I know you are, Jimmy. We’re all scared.”

Jimmy cried hard and said, “I can’t lose my brother.”

Tears started pouring down Melinda’s cheeks and she whispered, “Let’s not think that way.”

Jimmy cried against her as she cradled him and he cried out, “He died and I couldn’t do anything!”

Melinda was choking back her own sobs and softly said, “Jimmy, you did do something. You heard the doctor. Mason wouldn’t have made it this far if you hadn’t been with him.”

Jimmy continued to sob against her and Melinda kissed and stroked his head.

Jimmy cried hard for several minutes before he was able to say, “It was so bad, Melinda.”

Melinda whispered softly, “I know it was. I can’t even imagine how bad it really was.”

Melinda kissed him again and added, “I feel so helpless because I know there’s nothing I can do to change what you’ve been through. I would gladly take your pain away if I could.”

Jimmy cried and said, “I love you, Melinda.”

Melinda held him close and said, “I love you with all my heart, Jimmy.”

After a few minutes, Jimmy’s tears subsided and Melinda said, “Drink your hot chocolate and then let’s try to get a little rest, okay?”

Jimmy nodded and pulled away from her. He picked up the cup and took a drink. She stroked the side of his head as he took a second drink.

Jimmy said, “This is really good. Thank you.”

Melinda kissed his cheek and said, “You’re welcome.”

Melinda continued to comfort him until he had finished all his hot chocolate. She took the cup to the sink and rinsed it out. She walked back over to Jimmy and took hold of his hand and rubbed it.

She leaned down and kissed his lips and said, “Let’s go see if we can get a little rest.”

Jimmy nodded and stood up. He pulled Melinda tight against his chest and kissed her lips. She snuggled against his chest and then he kissed her again. He released her and they walked towards their bedroom.

*************************

Andy sat at his kitchen table crying with his face buried in his hands. He flinched when he felt someone touch his shoulder.

Andy tried to quickly brush his tears away before saying, “Libby, you need to go back to bed. You’ve got to work in the morning and you’ve been up and down all night.”

Libby hugged him from behind and kissed his cheek before saying, “Andy, I could never sleep knowing you’re this upset. Truthfully, I’m too upset to sleep myself. I’m so worried.”

Andy rubbed her hand and said, “I just don’t think I could handle losing him, Libby.”

Libby said, “I understand, but we need to stay positive, Andy.”

Andy broke down crying and said, “Libby, the stuff the doctor said didn’t sound good. He gave me the impression that Mason might have a lot of problems if he does survive.”

Libby walked around and cradled him in her arms and softly said, “Andy, you told me that the doctor said we’d have to take it one day at a time and that’s what we need to do. There are a few positives right now and we need to focus on them.”

Andy continued crying and said, “Jimmy’s trying to hold himself together, but I’m really worried about him, too. Aaron called me tonight and told me that he was worried about Jimmy. The scene was so bad that Aaron didn’t want to talk about most of it. He said he got there just ahead of the ambulance and Jimmy was hysterical. He said Jimmy didn’t even know he was there and he and Josh had to pull Jimmy off of Mason so the paramedics could work on him. He said Jimmy was drenched in Mason’s blood. I can’t even imagine how Jimmy must’ve felt because he literally watched Mason bleed to death. I know they were able to restart his heart, but I just can’t fathom what that was like for Jimmy.”

Tears were pouring down Libby’s face and she said, “Andy, it’s a horrible situation all the way around. I really don’t think Kennedy could handle it if something happens to Mason. Honestly, I don’t think any of us could handle it. I’ve been praying hard ever since Aaron came to pick Kennedy up this afternoon. It all seems so senseless. Mason is fighting for his life and another man is dead over a couple of stolen beers. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s just so senseless.”

Andy said, “Libby, that’s how it seems on the surface, but I guarantee you that man didn’t pull a gun on Mason over a possible shoplifting charge. There’s more to it. It just hasn’t come to light yet. I’m really worried about Kennedy, too. We sure didn’t want to leave her at the hospital alone.”

Libby said, “Andy, she isn’t alone. She’s with Mason. She would never be able to stand to be anywhere else.”

Andy took a deep breath and said, “Let’s try to get a couple of hours of rest. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep, but at least I’ll be stretched out.”

Libby kissed his lips and said, “Let’s go snuggle up.”

Andy stood up and they walked towards the bedroom.

*************************

I was telling Mason that I thought we should dance more now that he’s taught me how to when I heard someone come in behind me. Sarah smiled at me and handed me a styrofoam cup.

She said, “I brought you a cappuccino.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you so much. I can certainly use it. I’ll be more than happy to pay you for it.”

She giggled and said, “Absolutely not. I wanted to bring you one.”

I noticed she had a cup in her hand and a newspaper and she said, “I’m on a break. Do you mind if I sit and talk with you?”

I shook my head and said, “I’d love the company.”

She rolled the stool around and I stood up and said, “No, you sit in this chair. It’s more comfy and you’re working hard.”

She smiled and said, “Thank you.”

I scooted the chair over to her and she sat down. I moved the stool so I could sit on it and hold Mason’s hand and I sat down. I picked up Mason’s hand and kissed it before holding it tight.

Sarah said, “You’ve almost made the night. It’s 5:30.”

I shook my head and said, “This whole thing seems like a bad dream. I keep on hoping I’ll wake up soon.”

She said, “I know it has to be scary for you and I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

I said, “Thank you. It means a lot to hear you say that.”

Sarah smiled and said, “I brought you the newspaper. Mason’s picture is on the front page and it has a lot of nice things about him in the article. The sheriff made a statement and he told how his brother saved his life.”

She handed me the newspaper and I smiled at the department picture they had used and said, “I never get sick of looking at that handsome face.”

Sarah giggled and said, “I don’t believe I would either.”

I rubbed Mason’s hand and said, “Sarah, I can’t wait for him to wake up so you can meet him. He’s charming and he has such a wonderful sense of humor. I think you’ll like him a lot.”

Sarah smiled and said, “I’m sure I will like him. He sounds like an amazing person.”

I asked, “How long have you been a nurse?”

Sarah smiled and said, “Almost nine years.”

I said, “I know it’s a hard job. Your work isn’t appreciated near enough.”

She smiled and said, “I appreciate that. We do have our hard days, but I really love my job.”

I said, “I admire you for the work you do. I’m a store manager and I’ve had some really complicated customers at times and I couldn’t even imagine caring for complicated people when they’re sick. I know that has to be tough.”

Sarah giggled and said, “Believe it or not, most people really appreciate what nurses do for them. There are some people that complain a lot, but I can understand that they aren’t feeling good. Intensive care is a lot different from the other floors I’ve worked on. Most of the people I deal with here are too sick to cause much of a fuss.”

I smiled and said, “I never thought about it like that, but that sounds logical.”

I sipped at my cappuccino and said, “Sarah, this cappuccino really hit the spot. Thanks, again.”

She laughed and said, “I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I thought you might need some caffeine since you’ve been up all night. Are you going to get some rest when his family comes back later today?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

She patted my hand and said, “Kennedy, you’ve got to get your rest. Mason is taking a really long nap right now so he can try to heal.”

I said, “I understand that, but I really don’t want to leave him alone.”

She nodded and said, “I understand, but I do suggest you get some rest while his family is here with him so you’ll know he isn’t alone.”

I said, “I’ll try.”

She smiled and said, “I’m going to head on back to work now. I’ll be around and you just let me know if you need anything.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you for everything, Sarah.”

Sarah said, “You’re welcome, Kennedy. I’ll be back by in a little while.”

I nodded and Sarah walked out the door. I told Mason that so many people were being nice to me. I told him it really made me think about how many nice people are in the world. I told him he looked really handsome and kissable in the photograph in the newspaper and then I read him the entire article. I told him he should be proud that so many people thought so highly of him. Then I told him how Jimmy had reacted when the doctor told him he’d saved his life and told him that I was glad the sheriff recognized Jimmy for doing something so outstanding. I told Mason that his mom and dad would be proud to know they raised such fine men.

I prayed again and told God that I was thankful for all the kind people He had put in my life. I asked God to watch over them all. I asked God to help Mason heal quickly and I asked Him to help Jimmy find peace. I also asked God to help Melinda and Libby comfort Jimmy and Uncle Andy. I closed my prayer by asking God to help me find peace about why all this had happened.

I kissed Mason’s hand and told him that I was going to make him a huge batch of cookies just as soon as he was able to eat them. I promised him he didn’t have to share with anyone. I told him that I’d take good care of him while he was recovering. I told him that I missed snuggling with him that night and I couldn’t wait to snuggle with him again.

I felt someone come up behind me and I turned to see an officer in a county uniform. I didn’t know him and I knew it was too early for visiting hours.

I said, “I’m Kennedy. Thank you for coming to check on Mason.”

He smiled and said, “I’m Kurt. I used to work on the same shift as Mason. I’m sorry I’m so early, but I thought I’d better stop in while I could.”

I nodded and said, “It’s okay that it’s early. I’m just surprised they let you in.”

He smiled and said, “They tend to bend the rules with us a bit. How’s Jimmy doing?”

I said, “As well as can be expected. Yesterday was really hard for him. Nobody should have to go through that.”

Kurt nodded and said, “You’re right. I’ve been almost as worried about him as I’ve been about Mason. I wish I’d been there to help them. I really think a lot of them both. Mason helped train me.”

I smiled and said, “I’ll be sure to let Jimmy know you stopped by and I’ll be sure to let Mason know when he wakes up.”

Kurt smiled and said, “Tell Jimmy I’m thinking of him and I’m going to try to make it by to see him later today.”

I nodded and said, “I will definitely let him know.”

I kissed Mason’s hand and rubbed it as Kurt walked to the head of the bed. He rubbed Mason’s shoulder and told him to hang in there.

He walked back to me and asked, “Has there been any change?”

I shook my head and said, “I expect the doctor will tell us more later today, but I honestly don’t know anything more than what the doctor told us yesterday. I know he was worried about the possibility of Mason having a stroke and some other things, but, thankfully, Mason hasn’t had any complications.”

He nodded and said, “Thank you, Kennedy.”

I said, “Thank you for coming by, Kurt. I’ll be sure to let Jimmy know.”

He smiled and said, “You take care.”

I nodded and said, “Please be safe.”

He nodded and walked out the door. I told Mason that Kurt seemed like a really nice guy. Then I told him that he should invite his co-workers over for dinner while he is recovering. I reminded him again that Aaron and Josh had to be at the top of the list so I could make them a nice dinner to try to repay them for their kindness. I even told Mason that I was looking forward to meeting Aaron’s wife, Renee. I told him he’d have to find out what their favorite meals are so I could fix them. I told Mason that I really liked Aaron calling me Little Tiger because I’d never had a nickname except my dad calling me Little Princess. I admitted that I was embarrassed how I got the nickname Aaron gave me, but I still loved it.

I felt someone touch my shoulders and I looked up to see Aaron. It really surprised me.

I said, “I didn’t expect to see you so soon. I was just telling Mason that I wanted you and your wife to come to dinner while he’s recovering.”

Aaron smiled and said, “I heard you say my name, Little Tiger.”

I said, “I can’t wait to meet Renee.”

He said, “I’ve told her all about you and she sure can’t wait to meet you.”

I asked, “Why are you ready for work so early?”

Aaron smiled and said, “I was up early so I decided to come check on Mason before I go to work and visit with you for a little while.”

I nodded and said, “That will be nice. Thank you. Please have a seat.”

Aaron sat down in the chair and said, “Little Tiger, you should be sitting in this chair instead of on that stool.”

I said, “I was, but Sarah came in to visit during her break and I wanted her to sit in the comfy chair. I just haven’t switched them back yet. Honestly, I don’t find the stool uncomfortable.”

I was rubbing Mason’s hand and Aaron said, “I hope you’re planning on getting some rest once Jimmy and Melinda get here.”

I said, “I might.”

Aaron said, “Little Tiger, I would like to hear you promise me you will.”

I shook my head and said, “I won’t make that promise. I’m sorry.”

Aaron rubbed my shoulder and said, “I didn’t think you would, but I wanted to try anyway.”

Aaron continued rubbing my shoulder and he asked, “Did you sleep at all last night?”

I shook my head and said, “No, but I’m not tired.”

Aaron said, “Little Tiger, there’s no way you aren’t tired.”

I said, “I’m fine.”

Aaron asked, “Did Mason ever tell you that his daddy trained me?”

I shook my head and said, “No, he didn’t. He did say that you had worked with his dad.”

Aaron said, “Ed trained me and I sure thought the world and all of him. We worked together about six years. Mason reminds me so much of his daddy that it’s scary. He looks like him and he acts just like him. I’ve almost slipped up and called him Ed before.”

I smiled and said, “The resemblance is scary. I saw a picture of his dad in uniform and thought it was Mason at first.”

Aaron said, “Ed was the finest man I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and I can honestly say that Mason and Jimmy are just as fine of men as he was.”

I said, “It would make Mason very proud to hear you say that. Jimmy, too.”

Aaron smiled and said, “I think they know how I feel about them. I think an awful lot of that old rascal, Andy, too. Ed invited me over to dinner quite a bit and you couldn’t visit Ed without encountering Andy.”

I smiled and said, “I love Uncle Andy. I sure wish I’d gotten to meet Mason’s parents. I know they were amazing people from the stories I’ve heard about them.”

Aaron said, “I’ll tell you a secret. I happen to know for a fact that Andy loves you.”

I smiled and said, “I’m glad because I really do adore him. He’s been so kind to me and I think he’s an absolute sweetheart.”

Aaron laughed and said, “Don’t you ever call him a sweetheart in my presence again. I hate to say it, but he’s a real asshole and loves every minute of it.”

I giggled and said, “Mason accuses him of the same thing, but I fail to see it. You two need to quit picking on Uncle Andy like that.”

Aaron laughed and said, “He sure has you bluffed. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

I kissed Mason’s hand and said, “Uncle Andy is just misunderstood.”

Aaron laughed and said, “No, he’s understood quite well and he’s an asshole. He even brags about it. He goes out of his way to pester the living fool out of people. He used to give Libby such a hard time at the diner that I still can’t believe she involves herself with him.”

I smiled and said, “His teasing is all in good fun. He never does anything to hurt anyone.”

Aaron smiled and said, “I wish you had met Ed. He would’ve set you straight on that one. Andy hurt him all the time by beating him to the house and conning Kate out of something Ed wanted to eat. I heard Ed threaten to kill him dozens of times over that one. Andy would always tell Ed that knowing he wanted it so bad made it taste even better to him.”

I laughed and said, “I doubt Ed really minded him eating that stuff as much as he let on he did.”

Aaron laughed and said, “Oh, yes he did. Andy made it a point to deliberately eat the stuff he knew Ed wanted really badly.”

I smiled and said, “I still say Uncle Andy is a sweetheart. I’m sure Kate made Ed more of his favorite stuff.”

Aaron shook his head and said, “I understand why Andy loves you so much now. He’s got you fooled really well and you’re even willing to defend him.”

I said, “You said yourself that you like him.”

Aaron said, “Yeah, I like him despite his faults. You fail to even acknowledge his faults.”

I said, “Uncle Andy has always been perfect to me.”

Aaron shook his head and said, “Little Tiger, you’re obviously delirious. Nobody in their right mind would call Andy perfect. Please promise me you’ll get some proper rest today so you can see how wrong you are.”

I patted Aaron’s shoulder and said, “I already told you I won’t make that promise. I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”

Aaron said, “Little Tiger, I know you’re scared, but I also know Mason wouldn’t want you to stay here without rest. Please consider that.”

I nodded and said, “I understand, but I want to be here with him.”

Aaron said, “I understand how you feel, but I’m worried about you, Little Tiger. You’re going to make yourself sick by not getting proper rest. When was the last time you ate?”

I said, “Sarah was really nice and brought me a cappuccino at 5:30.”

Aaron shook his head and said, “I didn’t ask when you drank something last. I asked when you ate last.”

I said, “Yesterday morning, but I’m fine.”

Aaron shook his head and pulled out his phone. I saw him text for a moment and then put his phone away.

He looked at me and said, “You can’t be doing that, Little Tiger.”

I said, “I’m too upset to eat anyway. I really am fine.”

He said, “You aren’t fine no matter how much you try to convince me of it. You need food and you need sleep. Please promise me that you’ll let someone run you home today so you can at least get a nap. I promise they’ll bring you back up here later in the day.”

I said, “Aaron, I can’t promise that. Contrary to your belief, I’m fine.”

I kissed Mason’s hand and held it against my chest and said, “I appreciate your concern, but please don’t worry about me.”

Aaron said, “Little Tiger, I’ll worry about you so don’t even act like you can tell me not to. Mason loves you so much and he’s going to be mighty mad with us if he wakes up and you aren’t in the same condition he last saw you in. I sure as hell won’t be the one to explain to him that you’re sick because nobody took you home to rest.”

I said, “Aaron, I’m not a child so you cannot make me do something I don’t want to do. You’ve certainly tried your best to convince me to go home. I don’t want to. Mason’s here so I want to be here. He won’t get mad at you for letting me be where I want to be.”

Aaron rubbed my shoulder and said, “I guess you’re right, Little Tiger.”

Aaron got up and walked to the head of the bed and rubbed Mason’s shoulder. He told Mason to stay strong. He closed his eyes and I could tell he was praying so I bowed my head. I held Mason’s hand tightly and kissed it. Aaron walked back past me and sat down.

He said, “Andy told me that your daddy trained him over in Easton.”

I nodded and said, “Yeah, he told me he did. Dad only worked for Easton about a year after Uncle Andy started and then he went to work for Wimbley.”

Aaron nodded and said, “Andy told me your daddy was a fine man.”

I smiled and said, “He sure was. I can’t really attest for his police work, but he was the best daddy a girl could ever ask for.”

Aaron smiled and said, “I could tell you were raised right the first time I met you so I know he was a damn good daddy.”

I said, “I’m surprised you gathered all that the first time we met, especially considering the circumstances.”

Aaron laughed and said, “Little Tiger, I knew damn good and well you were raised right as soon as you told Carrie that you and her were going to get something straight.”

I shook my head and said, “I don’t see how any of that could’ve been helpful in drawing conclusions about my upbringing.”

Aaron laughed and said, “I could tell right away that you weren’t a jealous person and you didn’t want to fight. You merely wanted to explain to her that she wasn’t going to disrespect Mason anymore. Carrie knew she was outclassed and outsmarted from the time you opened your mouth. As if that wasn’t proof enough for me, you demanded that she apologize for her wrongdoing. Only people with a good upbringing know an apology is necessary when a wrong has been done.”

I shook my head and said, “Aaron, that’s a bunch of hooey and you know it. If anything, you probably should’ve thought I was raised by wild animals by the way I acted. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and calling her some rather undignified things in a public place. I certainly hope that you realize I acted that way despite my upbringing, not because of it.”

Aaron laughed hard and said, “You are too much, Little Tiger.”

I said, “I’m not really sure what you meant by that, but I’ll go with it.”

Aaron laughed and said, “I meant that Mason sure has him a jewel.”

I squeezed Mason’s hand and Josh walked in. I greeted him and he walked over to me.

He handed me a fast food bag and a cup and said, “I brought you a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and a sweet tea.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you and I appreciate it.”

Aaron said, “Go ahead and eat it.”

I pulled the straw out of the bag, opened it, and pushed it into the cup. I took a long drink of the sweet tea and it was good. I opened the biscuit and took a bite.

I chewed it and swallowed it and said, “It’s delicious and the tea certainly hit the spot. Thank you.”

I reached for my purse and pulled out my wallet.

I asked, “How much do I owe you, Josh?”

Aaron said, “I will spank your ass good if you don’t put that wallet away.”

Josh laughed and said, “He’s not playing so please put your money away.”

I said, “I don’t expect Josh to have to feed me. I really appreciate that he got it for me and I’m more than happy to pay him for it.”

Josh said, “Sweetie, I don’t want your money. You never asked for it. I just got it because I wanted to.”

I said, “Thank you so much. I was telling Mason this morning that you two had been so kind to me that I wanted you two to come to dinner while he’s recovering. I’m looking forward to meeting Aaron’s wife. I get the impression that you aren’t married, but I’d love for you to bring your significant other with you. I told Mason to find out what you like because I want to cook you your favorite meals. I think it will cheer him up while he’s getting better. I haven’t met most of the people he works with, but I’d like as many as possible to come over at different times. I think it’ll help him feel like he’s still in the loop while he’s out of work.”

A strange look came across Josh’s face and he said, “Please excuse me a moment. I’m going to run to the restroom real quick.”

Aaron smiled and nodded at him and he quickly walked out the door and I said, “He doesn’t look like he’s feeling well. Is he okay?”

Aaron patted my hand that was holding Mason’s and said, “Young Joshua is just fine. He just had to run to the restroom.”

I kissed Mason’s hand and said, “I didn’t even think to tell Josh that there’s a really small bathroom over there. He didn’t have to go all the way down the hall. I didn’t even know it was there until Sarah pointed it out last night so I’d know it was there if I needed it. I feel horrible that I didn’t even think to mention it to Josh.”

Aaron smiled and said, “Josh is fixing to be in his car quite a bit and I’m sure he preferred to stretch his legs a little while he can.”

I nodded and said, “Thanks again for coming to check up on Mason. I’m going to tell him he has the best co-workers in the world. A guy named Kurt came by this morning and he told me that Mason helped train him. He said he’d try to come back by later when Jimmy was here. He was really worried about Jimmy and, truthfully, I am, too. I can’t imagine how hard it was for him to go through what he went through yesterday. I couldn’t believe it when he started telling the doctor everything.”


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