“Kid, I’m sure you knew this was coming.”
“I anticipated it, yes. How soon do you need me? I’m helping Paisley. She hasn’t any power. Got to get her to my folks’ house.”
“When you get done. We’re headed to DeBarry. It was bad over there. They got worse storms than we did. Tornadoes and flash flooding. Teams from all over the county are going over. They’ll keep a skeleton crew here in case of emergency.”
“Would you rather have me here or there? I can do either.”
“Well, come to think, I could sure use your talents here. Up to you.”
“Just give me the order, Thad. I’ll do whatever. You want to be here and I’ll head to DeBarry?”
“Why don’t you go and I’ll keep Greg here. Newlywed shouldn’t be so far from home, huh?”
“Yeah. Us single guys get screwed instead.” He chuckled. “It’s cool. I’ll get my gear as soon as we get her settled. Maybe thirty before I get on the road.”
“Report here first. I’m sending the truck over. We’re leaving in about an hour.”
“I’ll be there.” Kai hung up, sighing heavily. “Save me some lasagna, babe. I gotta go to work.”
Paisley looked ready to cry. “Is life always going to be like this?”
He held her close, kissing her forehead. “I hope not. But this is what I do.”
“And you wouldn’t be the man I love if you didn’t go where you were needed. You haven’t forgotten about Amy?”
“Shit, I had, actually. I’ll call before I head out. We better get going. I need to be at the station in about an hour.”
They hopped in the Jeep and were just pulling out when a black Ford truck with spinners and a lot of chrome, cut them off. Kai was grateful for good brakes.
Four thugs got out and came over to the Jeep. Kai recognized Brill, TM’s cousin, and some of his heavies.
“Yo, Kai,” Brill said, flashing a bunch of gold teeth. “This your lady?”
“Yeah. TM talked to you?”
“Yeah, man. Listen, reason I’m stopping by, we saw some dude we didn’t know, hanging around. He looked kinda weasely. What’s your ex look like, baby?” He directed at Paisley.
“I’ve got a picture.” She shrugged. “My mom and dad are in it too,” she added. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have kept it.” She flipped through the pictures on her phone and handed it to Brill.
Brill slid his sunglasses down his nose, looking at the screen. He passed it to his men. One of them pointed to the picture.
“Nope. This wasn’t the guy, but similar build. The guy I saw was a little taller, scrawny, fidgety, like he’s got a snake up his ass. Dark hair—course that means nothing, hair dye, right? But this guy? No.”
“Memorize this face,” Brill said. “If that guy comes back, get us a picture, dig? If they get a shot, we’ll send it to you, baby.”
“Thank you, Brill. Why are you being so helpful? I mean, you don’t even know me.”
He flashed a smile, leaning on the door of the car. “Cause you’re pure, babe. Unspoiled. And you’re a lady. Real men don’t beat their women or try to kill them. My boys know how to treat a woman right. They raise a fist, they answer to me. I may be a criminal, but I’m not a wife beater.”
Paisley smiled, blinking back tears. “I feel like I’ve got my own army of knights protecting me. Thank you. Hey, what’s your favorite kind of cookie?”
“You tell me.” He looked smug, not expecting her to guess.
“Peanut butter chocolate chip.”
He laughed, obviously shocked. “Damn, you’re right!”
“When I’ve got power back, I’ll make you some.”
Brill fiddled a moment with her phone, handing it back to her. “Got my digits. You’ll really bake me cookies?” He looked like he wanted to laugh, but didn’t want to offend her.
“As many as you can eat.”
“Kai, dude, you got a lady of quality there. You take care of her.”
“Will do, Brill. And thanks. I feel better knowing you guys have her back.”
They exchanged a complicated handshake and the gang members left. Kai sat a moment, hunched over the steering wheel, shoulders shaking.
“Kai? Are you okay?”
A stifled snort told her he was fine. He glanced at her tears of humor in his eyes.
“Babe, that guy’s a bona fide bad ass. He’s been in prison for assault and armed robbery, he’s probably killed a few people—and you offered to bake him cookies.” Squealing slightly, he couldn’t contain his laughter.
Paisley crossed her arms, smirking. “And if more people had offered to do that for him when he was a kid, he might not be a bona fide criminal. Everyone likes cookies, even gang leaders, and I have a killer recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.”
“Baby, I will personally help you bake them.”
Kai drove quickly to the house. Cody and Brad helped her unload while he got his things together. As much as he hated to leave, he couldn’t delay any longer.
When he was ready, he took Paisley in his arms. “I don’t want to go.”
“I know. But you’re like Sir Galahad. Your duty always comes first.”
“Wasn’t he the one who swore he’d never have sex?”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes