Careen waited until the report of gunfire told her Tommy was out on the target range before she went downstairs and asked Jaycee for a sandwich and coffee to go.
“Going for a walk? I’ll come with you.” Jaycee prepared the food, took off her apron, and grabbed a hoodie from a hook on the wall. Just then Wes stormed in through the kitchen door, wrapped a handful of ice in a clean towel, and held it to his face.
“What happened to you?” Jaycee asked. He waved her off, but she marched over and pulled the ice pack away. “How’d you get a bloody nose?”
“None of your business. It’s nothing.”
“Doesn’t look like nothing.”
“I said it’s nothing.” He turned to Careen while he fumbled in his coat pocket. “I stopped by your place while I was at work. It was totally wrecked—I think the QM had been there—but I brought you this.”
She gasped as he held out the stuffed cat. “Oh! You found my Dee Dat!” She clutched it to her. “I thought I’d never see him again! How did you know?”
Wes shrugged. “He just looked lonely without you.”
Her tears spilled over as she spoke softly to the cat. “I didn’t mean to leave you behind. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be coming back.” She smiled up at Wes. “He’s the only thing I have from when I was little. Thank you.” Then she bowed her head over the threadbare toy and sobbed.
It wasn’t the reaction he’d expected. He looked over at Jaycee in bewilderment, but she had a soppy look on her face, like she might cry, too. Sheesh. Girls.
“I told you to stay away from her!”
Wes turned, and Tommy’s fist slammed into his jaw. He reeled back, then charged, determined not to let Tommy get the better of him in front of Careen. Wes blocked the next punch Tommy threw, and responded with blows to the stomach and sternum that left Tommy gasping for air.
Careen looked from one to the other, a stricken look on her tear-stained face. Wes would’ve felt better if she’d yelled at him, because her silence left him believing that her opinion of him had sunk lower than ever.
Jaycee handed the ice pack back to Wes and faced down the two boys, hands on her hips. “Can’t you two go ten minutes without trying to kill each other?”
Wes glanced at Tommy, who was glaring at him. Why the hell am I the bad guy all of a sudden?
“C’mon, Careen. Your takeout order’s ready.” She grabbed the paper bag off the counter and, taking Careen by the arm, marched her out the door. As soon as they were outside, her demeanor changed, and she pulled Careen across the parking lot, fairly dancing with delight. “Oh. My. Gosh. They’re actually fighting over you. Oh, this is the best day ever!”
Careen glanced back over her shoulder. “They’re acting like idiots. We have much bigger problems to worry about.”
“When you’re in love, there are no bigger problems.” Jaycee carried on as though she were narrating a melodrama. “There’s Tommy—he’s like, the all-American boy with sun-bleached hair and big blue eyes—and then there’s Wes—dark and brooding. Tommy’s really cute—and nice—but Wes is nice-looking, too, and if you wanna know the truth, Wes is a much better person than he lets on. My dad pushes him too hard, and makes Wes think he has to act tough all the time, but he has a good heart. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have two guys in love with me! What are you gonna do?”
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