Undeniable Demands(10)By: Andrea Laurence
“Whole wheat, fat-free turkey, no mayo, no flavor,” Ken grumbled.
“Don’t worry about feeding me, Mama. I was going to run into Cornwall to meet a couple of the guys at the Wet Hen and grab a few things from the store. I’ll get something to eat at the diner when I’m done.”
“All right. But I’m going to the store first thing in the morning, and I’ll get stocked up on everything I need to feed a household of boys for the holiday!”
Wade smiled. His mother looked absolutely giddy at the idea of slaving over a stove for five hungry men. He recalled times from his youth when he and the other boys were hitting growth spurts all at once. They couldn’t get enough food into their stomachs. Hopefully now they would be easier to take care of.
“Why don’t you just give me a list and I’ll pick it up while I’m out.”
“We don’t need your money,” Ken called from the rocking chair by the fire, though he didn’t turn to face them.
Molly frowned at her husband, and Wade could see she was torn. They did need the money, but Ken was being stubborn. “That would be very nice of you, Wade. I’ll write up a few things.” She returned to the counter and made out a short list. “This should get us through a few days. I’ll go into town for a fresh turkey on Monday morning.”
“Okay,” he said, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “I’ll be back soon. Maybe I’ll bring home one of those coconut cream pies from Daisy’s.”
“That would be lovely. Drive safely in the snow.”
Wade stepped through the jingling door and headed out into the newly darkened night in search of pie, a dozen eggs, a sack of potatoes and some information on Victoria Sullivan.
* * *
When Tori got into her truck, she had every intention of going to Daisy’s to get something to eat. Maybe swing by the store for some quick and easy-to-prepare food to get her through the holidays when the diner was closed. And yet before she could help herself, her truck pulled into the parking lot of the Wet Hen, the local bar.
“Let’s face it,” she lamented to her dashboard. “I need a drink.”
Just one. Just enough to take the edge off the nerves Wade had agitated. And if it helped suppress the attraction that was buzzing through her veins, all the better.
Tori slid from the cab of her truck, slammed the heavy door behind her and slipped through the door of the Wet Hen. The sign outside claimed the bar had been in business since 1897. Truthfully, it looked as if it had. A renovation wouldn’t hurt, but she supposed that was part of its charm. The bar was dark, with old, worn wood on the walls, the floors and the tables. The photos on the walls of various local heroes and the sports memorabilia from the high school seemed to be there more to camouflage cracks in the plaster than anything else. The amber lights did little to illuminate the place, but she supposed a bright light would not only ruin the atmosphere but force the local fire department to condemn it.
The place was pretty quiet for six on a Friday. She imagined business would pick up later unless people were tied up in last-minute holiday activities. She made her way to the empty bar and pulled up a stool. It was from her perch that she heard the laughter of a group of men in the back corner. When she turned, Tori quickly amended her plans. She needed two drinks. Especially with that cocky bastard watching her from the back of the bar.
What was Wade doing here? It was a small town, but wasn’t there somewhere else he should be? At home with his all-important family, perhaps? But no, he was throwing back a couple with an odd assortment of old and young men from around town. She recognized her lawyer, Randy Miller, and the old bald sheriff from one of the local television advertisements about the dangers of holiday drinking and driving. There were a couple others there she didn’t recognize.
And at the moment, every one of them was looking at her.
Had Wade been talking to them about her? The arrogant curl of his smile and the laughter in the eyes of the other men left no doubt. The irritation pressed up Tori’s spine until she was sitting bolt upright in her seat.
She wanted to leave. Not just the bar, but the town. Maybe even the state. In an hour she could have the trailer hooked up and ready to go. Part of the beauty of being nomadic was that you could leave whenever things got uncomfortable. That’s what her parents had always done. Hung around somewhere until it got boring or awkward and then moved on to someplace else. Tori had always had trouble imagining living in one community her entire life. There was no place to go when things blew up in your face.