Home to Me Page 2

Colin, Parker’s boyfriend, waved at them as they drove past the workers and up to the main house.

Parker beamed.

“When is he going to pop the question?” Erin asked.

“Cabo is in two weeks. I’m guessing I might come back with a little bling on my finger.”

That was Erin’s thought, too. Parker and Colin had been planning their Cabo trip since Christmas. Blue water, sandy beaches . . . It sounded perfect.

Parker put the car in park and opened the door. “I’ll put my stuff away and come up to help you clean the guns,” Erin told her.

“No worries. I was going to do that tonight. I want to spend some time with the crew and make sure they aren’t messing up the new plumbing.”

Erin shook her head. Parker was more hands-on than any homeowner she’d ever known.

Colin walked up the steep drive and greeted Parker with a kiss. “How did it go?”

“I hit two clays with the shotgun.” Erin pumped her fist in the air.

“Better than I could do,” Colin said.

Parker leaned into his side. “What Erin isn’t telling you is how she made the metal targets her bitch with the Glock.”

Erin smiled with the praise. “I’m not sure about the bitch part, but I did hold my own.”

“She’s shy,” Parker said.

“I’m not the expert, you are. Have you seen her in action?” Erin asked Colin.

“Not with a gun,” he teased.

Color filled Parker’s cheeks.

Erin shook her head. “And on that note, I’m going to run to the store and post office. Do you need anything?”

“We’re good.” Parker opened the trunk of the car and removed her gun case.

After being told she didn’t need to help unload the car, Erin walked across the drive to the path leading to the guesthouse. Even though the property was fenced and gated, not locking the door wasn’t an option. And within the week, the security system was going in. Yet one more safeguard Erin was adding to her arsenal for preservation.

The small one-bedroom home was perfect for her. The living room and kitchen were one big space that had come furnished. Ideal since she left her previous life with two suitcases of clothing and the SD card of pictures from a cell phone.

Everything else had been left behind.

Everything and everyone.

In her bathroom, she washed the dust from her face and gunpowder from her hands. The thought of her hands not passing TSA had her grinning.

She glanced in the mirror and took a long look at herself. “One day at a time,” she said to the air. She pulled the tie out of her thick hair and brushed it back into place before twisting it on top of her head. The red was fading fast, and her natural blonde was trying to show.

She hardly recognized herself.

But that was the point, wasn’t it?

New look, new name, new home . . . new everything. She’d legally changed her name, social security number . . . Nothing was as it used to be.

She heard her phone ringing from the kitchen where she’d left her purse. The sound caught her by surprise. Very few people had her number, and as of yet, the telemarketers hadn’t discovered her.

Caller ID said restricted number, so instead of answering it, she let it go to voice mail. After a minute, she pressed the playback button.

A familiar female voice brought gooseflesh to her arms. “It’s me. I have an update.”

All at once, every nerve stood on end and her sympathetic nervous system moved into hyperdrive.

Erin moved to her small dinette table, pulled out a chair, and sat down before the dizziness took over and she ended up on the floor.

Renee picked up on the first ring.

“Hello, Renee.”

“It’s so good to hear your voice. How are you? Did you try that coconut water yet?” Renee, her advocate, attorney, and savior, asked their coded question.

“I’m fine, and yes. The coconut water was delicious.”

There was no coconut water. Or beet juice, or whatever organic food Renee came up with next. Didn’t matter. The answer was always yes if Erin was safe and not being overheard. So far, she hadn’t needed to respond with a no. God willing, she never would.

“You sound good.”

“I’m a little better every day.”

“Are you eating?”

Erin considered her diet, decided to keep things positive. “I’m a good five pounds overweight.”

Renee huffed. “Lying sack of shit.”

They both laughed.

“I’m good. Truly.” She wanted to tell her that the sunshine was doing wonders for her, but that wasn’t allowed. Renee didn’t know where Erin was or even the name she was using. “Tell me the news.”

Renee sighed. “None of it’s what you want to hear.”

Erin swallowed. “Are my sister and her family okay?”

“They’re fine. I wouldn’t have started with chitchat if they weren’t.”

Erin squeezed her eyes shut, felt the familiar pain in her chest with the memories of everyone she left behind. “Spit it out.”

“You’re not divorced yet,” she told her. “And Asshat is seeking another hearing to contest the protection order.”

Erin placed her head in her hand. “This is never going to end.”


Matt shoved two heads of romaine lettuce into a bag while Jessie fondled the tomatoes. “Dude, just toss them in a bag and let’s go.”

“You want them to have flavor, don’t you?” Jessie was about getting it right, and Matt was all about getting it done.

“I want to get this bought before we get a call,” Matt said.

His crew split up when they hit the grocery store. Dressed in their blue uniforms, the four of them turned heads wherever they went. Late morning at a grocery store, and they became the target of a lot of smiling stay-at-home moms and flirting women . . . Sometimes these women were single, oftentimes they weren’t.

Nothing attracted the ladies more than a man in uniform shopping for groceries. Since his crew worked twenty-four-hour shifts, it was up to them to cook their own meals, which always meant a trip to the grocery store. There were provisions at the station for breakfast and lunch, community food that they all pitched in and bought, but dinners were up to the individual crews.

Tonight it was going to be baby back ribs, baked potatoes, salad, and whatever else they could dream up and put on the grill.

Matt moved over to the potatoes and grabbed a bag instead of picking out individual ones. He looked over at Jessie, the rookie on the crew, and tapped his watch.

Jessie picked up his pace and set the produce in the cart.

Around the corner, Captain Arwin—his first name was Anton, but none of them called him by his first name—and Tom, the engineer on their crew, had their hands full of slabs of ribs.

They would make too much and hope they had time to actually eat it while it was hot.

The captain tossed the meat in the cart. Tom added a big bottle of barbeque sauce. “We still have rub at the station, right?” he asked.

“Yeah. I checked before we left,” Matt told him. They grabbed a loaf of prepared garlic bread they could bake in the oven at the last minute and added milk and cookies before heading to the register.

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