Searching for Sea Glass: BEST-SELLING AUTHOR (Sea Glass Secrets Book 1) (3 page)

BOOK: Searching for Sea Glass: BEST-SELLING AUTHOR (Sea Glass Secrets Book 1)
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“Call me when you get tired of slumming with the kid,” Leanne said over her shoulder as she walked off into the darkness.

Horrified, Sunny ran to her bike. JD tried to stop her. He hauled her up against his tall, hard body.

“No you can’t run off like this. It’s not safe. Let me take you home. I’ll call for the limo.”

Her frantic laugh ended in a heartbroken sob. “You can just get on your cell phone and call for your limo. You can just buy up all the beach and build a gaudy castle on it. You can just crook your little finger and dumb Sunny drops all her morality along with her inhibitions and runs after you like a bitch in heat.”

He grasped her shoulders. He shook her as firmly and gently as he could. He had to stop her hysteria. He had to explain. “It wasn’t like that. You know it wasn’t. I
something with you. I’ve never,”

“Did you sleep with that… that woman tonight?” There was an unsettling bleakness to her words.

He wouldn’t lie to her. “Yes.”

“And then you came out here to the beach. You strolled into my life. And you… you did that… to me?”

“Sunny, she’s nothing. Nothing to me.”

“Apparently neither am I. You stay away from me Mr. McIntyre. You hear me? I don’t know what passes for decent in your world. But here, in Murphy’s Point, what you did to me was wrong.” A little helpless sob caught in her throat.

“And you loved every minute of,” he bit out. The injustice of what was happening infuriated him. How could he make her understand? He didn’t even understand himself.

“Maybe I did. Maybe you showed me just what I’ve been missing. Maybe I’ll find a good man. One who cares for me. One who isn’t just looking for some anonymous… body. When I find that man, I’ll get him to teach me all the things you can’t. Like how to love somebody. I may be young. But even I know there’s more to love than just a cheap thrill in the dark.”

Even though everything in him wanted to pull her closer. To kiss the hurt and anger off her delicate face. He opened his arms and let her go. The things he’d done, that had been done to him, made him broken and filthy beyond repair. He knew it. Deep in his soul, he knew it. In a place he’d hidden away a long, long time ago. And even though he had money and an old name, he’d never be good enough for the slight, trembling, incandescent girl standing two feet away from him.

“I hope you find him. He’ll be a lucky man.” McIntyre turned. He walked away into the black night.



Chapter Two


The sun still hadn’t begun its rise when Sunny peddled her bike over the bridge to Murphy’s Point. There was no traffic and nobody was out except a couple of sleepy fishermen on the bridge. They waved when she rode past. Thankfully, they didn’t notice the tears streaming down her face. They didn’t call out to ask her if anything was wrong. That was a blessing. It was only a matter of time before her father found out she’d snuck out to go down to the beach. She shivered thinking of his reaction. Horace Murphy ruled his household with iron fists and a bad attitude. His drinking didn’t help matters.

A rusted shrimp boat sailed under the bridge just as Sunny made the sharp turn where the road twisted down to the water. The lights in the café were still off. Her mother hadn’t come down to start the breakfast she served to patrons every morning. That was odd. Martha Murphy was the workhorse who kept their business afloat. She wasn’t educated, or kind. But her skill in the kitchen along with Sunny’s hard work and knack for handling customers in the dining room made Murphy’s Café a going concern.

The little dingy clapboard house behind the restaurant was where they all lived. It was hard to fit two surly men, her Dad and her older brother Lee, and two grown women in the tiny space. It had two closet-sized bedrooms, a miniscule bathroom, and an open area that served as a kitchen, dining room, and living room. Sunny was always thankful her parents had seen fit to give her the spare bedroom. At least she had some semblance of privacy. Lee slept on the couch.

He complained about that fact a lot. But then he whined constantly about everything, his life in particular almost constantly. Sunny had always wished they’d been closer. She’d tried more times than she could count to reach out to him. But Lee had always been selfish. He didn’t really possess the capacity to think of anyone other than himself.

She rolled her bike to a quiet stop by the front door. She bit her lip and worried the end of her disintegrating braid. She wasn’t sure what she should do. She was out at the beach almost every night. But she always made sure to get home before anybody woke up. This morning she was later than usual. There was a chance her mother would already be stirring.

Should she just wait out here? Her mother would assume she’d just had a restless night and gotten up early. Or would it be better to sneak in the house and make for the safety of her bedroom? She could go over to Willie’s. Her best friend, the one who’d created the sea glass necklace, lived over the rickety garage. The very cramped attic accommodation was just big enough for a cot. It smelled of perpetual mildew and was home to a host of crawling pests, but the stoic Willie didn’t seem to care.

Sunny didn’t think her new friend cared about much of anything. She was a pale and listless girl. Tall and thin except for the basketball-sized budge of her pregnancy. Willie was quiet. Too quiet. It took everything Sunny could think of to get the young woman to speak. When she did, it was in a surprisingly low and well-modulated voice. Willie sounded educated. Which was a great surprise.

The girl had just shown up on their doorstep one day over the winter. She’d asked for work. Sunny’s father had tried to shoo her off. But Martha had seen the look of loss in Willie’s eyes. And the older woman had also observed the girl’s rounded stomach with a calculating eye. Willie was offered a job as an oyster shucker and dish washer. There was no salary involved. Just the offer of all the food she could eat and a dry place to sleep. Willie seemed to think that was enough.

In the end, the decision about what to do was taken away from Sunny. She knew as soon as she heard the battered screen on the front door hit the scalloped siding of the house that her father had found her. With a sort of fatalistic detachment, Sunny watched him lurch across the dewy grass towards her. The first ray of morning sunshine pierced the lacy Spanish Moss. The stuff draped to the ground like a gray bridal veil from the huge, gnarled Water Oak that sheltered the café.

The light caught Horace full in the face. He grimaced and spit in the grass to show his displeasure. He was already unbuckling his wide leather belt as he stomped towards the still girl by the bike.

Sunny was deciding whether this should be the time. The time she would finally defend herself. She’d hoped and prayed her days of enduring his abuse had stopped when she’d turned sixteen. That was the last time he’d truly beaten her. In the past, she’d cowered down. She’d choked back her screams. She’d lay still on the floor and let him whip her until his arm tired. As a child, she’d done this to protect her mother. Because she knew if Horace didn’t use her as a whipping boy, he’d go after frail Martha. And if his blows didn’t kill the older woman, the scandal surely would.

Everybody in Murphy’s Point agreed the man was hard to like. They knew he was a loafer and a drinker who spouted out too many opinions and orders. They knew he seldom lifted his spreading hindquarters off the stool that anchored one corner of his café’s bar. The preachers of both the Baptist and Methodist congregations had given up on Horace. Even the Civitans had kicked him out of their monthly luncheons. Nobody wanted anything to do with him.

But nobody knew how he violent he was. And if that knowledge started circulating through the social clubs and beauty shops, Martha would be disgraced. She’d be despised and reviled for standing by and doing nothing to save her child. She’d be pitied for being chained to such a violent, repellant man. There’d be speculation as to whether she’d been a victim herself. They’d label her a coward and worse.

The sound of the leather belt slapping against her father’s wide, fleshy hand made Sunny wince. He was so close she could smell the sourness of his unwashed body. She looked up to see that Lee had been roused by the commotion. Her brother stood leaning against one of the porch posts. His eyes bloodshot. A mean grin settled on his face.

In that moment, Sunny’s decision was made. She was an adult, and so were they. She was tired of being the glue that held this dysfunctional family together. And, quite frankly, she wasn’t altogether sure any of them were worth saving. She was just about to tell her father she wasn’t going to let him hurt her again when it happened.

Horace flicked his meaty wrist. The belt unfolded like a bull whip. The heavy brass buckle caught Sunny, with the force of a pile driver, right on the most vulnerable spot of her forehead. Her skin split. A hot rush of thick blood poured from the small open wound.

“Call 911,” Sunny screamed to Willie, who’d just run out of the garage.

The pregnant girl took a moment to pull a cheap flip phone out of her pocket. She jammed in the numbers. She threw the phone to the dirt and ran towards Horace.

“No, Willie don’t!” Sunny begged.

The tall, dark-haired woman ignored her friend. She tried to grab the belt out of the old man’s fist. He knocked her to the ground. He kicked her as hard as he could. He kept kicking until Willie jerked like she was caught up in a seizure. Then she went still, too still.

On wavering feet, Sunny went over to crouch beside her friend. “Willie? Willie?” she called horrified.

Sunny couldn’t see very much. The blood flooded her eyes. She didn’t see her father until it was too late. She felt the stinging bite of the repeated blows he rained down on her back. She tried to protect Willie as best she could. She covered her friend’s motionless body with her own.

She managed to wipe the blood out of her eyes long enough to see her mother being restrained by Lee. Both of them stood on the porch. Martha wailed and cursed, putting all the blame where she always did, on Sunny. Lee, twisting his mother’s arm high behind her back, chortled like the monster he was. Sunny heard the faint strident wail of an emergency vehicle somewhere far off in the distance.

“Stay with me, Willie. Help’s almost here.” She tried to comfort her friend.

That’s when she felt the last blow. The toe of her father’s boot connected with Sunny’s unprotected side. She heard a few rough snaps. Stars danced in and out of her peripheral vision. Blood filled her mouth. Everything went black.


Tri-County Hospital


Sunny heard the soft muted chimes. At first she thought she might have been in church. Organ music could sound like those chimes. But when she dragged her eyes open, her first impression was of overwhelming bright light. It was fierce as the sun and scalding to her poor eyes. She tried to shield them from the torturous nimbus. But she couldn’t lift her arms.

Looking down, she saw they were swathed in thick bandages. She licked her lips and found them split and tasting of some kind of metallic ointment.

“Are you thirsty, dear?” asked a kindly female voice. A nurse’s head loomed over her. “You can’t have any solids just yet. We have to make sure you’re healing well and that your concussion won’t make you lose anything you eat. But I can give you a few ice chips. That should make you more comfortable.”

Without waiting for Sunny’s permission, the woman inserted a couple of slivers of ice between her battered lips. Sunny had to wait for the ice to melt before she could try to speak.

“Willie?” she managed to croak. Her throat hurt along with the rest of her. She knew she was drugged because the steady throbbing pain didn’t seem to bother her too much. It was there, but she didn’t care. Her chest, especially burned.

“Is that the girl who was admitted with you?” The nurse asked. There was a world of apology in the woman’s kind eyes.

Sunny nodded, but wished immediately she hadn’t. Just the little movement sent an avalanche of agony through her body. The pain was impossible to ignore.

“Well… maybe I better let the doctors tell you about your friend. They are making their rounds now. Are you a family member? They can be pretty tight-lipped about giving out patient information. If you’re not related to that poor girl, well, they won’t be able to tell you much.”

“No family,” Sunny croaked again.

“Ahh… then if no family can be found, that’s a different story.”

That statement didn’t tell Sunny much. She would have to wait until the doctors got to her room before she could ask another question. Because the nurse adjusted the blinds at the window, then she scurried out the open door. In the now darkened hospital room, Sunny listened to the never-ending chirping of the machines. Her eyes got heavy. She drifted off into a troubled sleep.

Sometime later she felt a gentle grip on her shoulder. A pleasant man’s voice woke her. “Miss Murphy? Miss Murphy, I need you to answer a few questions for me, if you can.”

She struggled to open her eyes. A short man in hospital whites stood over her. Standing by the door was another man in a brown sheriff’s uniform.

“Oh, there you are,” the doctor said in a voice she suspected was more suited to small dogs and children. He was entirely unthreatening. But she had the feeling the questions his questions would not be so innocent.

“This is Sheriff Dunn. He’s here to take your statement.” The doctor motioned the other man forward.

“Good morning, Miss Murphy. I see you’re feeling better today,” he said as he took a pad from his rear pocket. A pen followed, as well as a small portable recording device.

Sunny wondered, in an idle sort of way, if she
feeling better. Better was such a relative term. Better than what, yesterday, or the day before? She had no idea how long she’d been in the hospital. Or how serious her injuries were. But they were nothing when she thought about Willie. Her friend and the baby were more important than any minor injuries Sunny suffered.

“Willie?” she asked.

The doctor patted her hand in a way she imagined was intended to convey comfort. It just made her impatient.

“Don’t worry. We’ll get to all that in a moment. First you must answer Sheriff Dunn’s questions,” he said.

“Willie?” she demanded in a mulish voice.

The man in white sighed. “If I tell you as much as I can, will you cooperate with the sheriff?”

Sunny nodded.

“Your friend is in a medically induced coma. We are trying to save her life, and the life of her unborn child. The damage done to her is… significant. Our hands are somewhat tied as to what we can do for her until we have established her next of kin. We will do everything we’re legally allowed until that time.”

“There is no family.”

“Yes, the nurse told us you’d said that earlier. But the young woman has to have family out there somewhere. We’re using every means at our disposal to find and notify them. Until we do, we are treating her as an indigent.”

“She’s not homeless. She lives with my family and works for us,” Sunny argued.

“Yes, I realize that. But unless you or someone in your family will accept responsibility. And by that, I mean responsibility for her hospital fees and her unborn child, she is legally indigent.”

“I accept responsibility,” Sunny said and changed the course of her life with three words.

“Miss Murphy, you are merely one step above poverty yourself. Your own medical bill burden alone will be substantial. Your friend’s will be massive. I don’t think it’s wise for a young woman in your position to take on debt of that scope. You do understand we are speaking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars here?”

“I accept responsibility. I want the baby.”

The man shrugged. “If you insist, though I think you’re being very, very foolish. And you may run into legal problems because of your age. This is not a time to let your emotions rule your common sense.”

BOOK: Searching for Sea Glass: BEST-SELLING AUTHOR (Sea Glass Secrets Book 1)
6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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