Excerpt for Happy At Last by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.

Happy at Last

By

Jeanette Muscella

Copyright © 2017 Jeanette Muscella

ISBN: 978-1-5323-6251-4

This book is the copyrighted property of the author and may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed for any commercial or non-commercial use without permission from the author. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or if it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and download your copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter 1

Jerry

My heart is in my throat as I run through the busy corridor of the hospital emergency room. On most days, I love my job. Today is not one of those days. I was about to leave to meet Joan for an early dinner when I receive a text from her mother, Beverly.

Roger attacked Joan. The ambulance is on the way to the hospital. Joan may have a head injury. Need your help.

I can’t go through this again. I can’t lose another woman that I love. As I approach the emergency bay area, I hear the ambulance. The first person that I see is Joan’s mother. She takes one look at me and runs towards me.

“Jerry, he beat my baby. Take care of her, please.”

“Don’t worry Beverly. I will take care of her. Where is Roger?”

“The police have him in custody. Evie is hysterical. I had to leave her with a neighbor. I could not bring her to the hospital.”

I follow the gurney into the ER and guide them to cubicle seven. From what I can see, Joan has a nasty bruise creeping up her jaw, and finger marks around her neck. I feel like I am going to throw up, and I take a few deep breaths to calm my rolling stomach. When I walk over to the gurney, Joan reaches out to hold my hand. Bending down, I whisper, “Everything will be okay. You are in the ER sweetheart. Beverly is in the waiting room. We will take care of you. Does your head hurt?”

Joan nods her head yes and tries to speak. “Evie.”

“Evie is okay sweetheart. Let’s take care of you.”

I turn to the other doctor in the room. “Let’s order a CT scan. I want to rule out a concussion or a bleeder. Her vitals look good, but I see dilation in the left eye.”

While I wait for the test results, I call Joan’s caseworker. We talked about the possibility of Roger’s reappearance in her life, but this goes beyond what we thought would happen. He beat my girl, and if he were in front of me now, I’d do to him, what he did to Joan, only ten times worse. I’m fucking angry, and I let her know it. “What is the purpose of a fucking restraining order if the court will not enforce it?”

“Who is this?”

“My name is Jeremy Miller, and I am Joan Randall’s boyfriend. Her fucking ex-husband just beat the shit out of her. We are in the ER now.”

Her intake of breath tells me that she is upset. “How did Roger find her? Joan’s case file is sealed. Oh, no, someone leaked the information.”

Hearing that someone violated Joan’s privacy has my blood boiling. “You need to find the person who did this to her. Do you hear me? Find this person NOW!”

“I’ll do my best to find out what happened, and who leaked Joan’s information. I don’t know what to say.”

I am so angry that I disconnect the call before I put my foot in my mouth. I do not want to piss her off because Joan needs her help.

General medicine is not my specialty, and I defer to the doctor on call. I did, however, look at the CT scan, and thankfully, Joan does not have a head injury. While I wait for the doctor to complete his examination, I walk out to the waiting area and sit with Beverly.

“How is she?” Beverly asks me.

“Joan is still being examined by the doctor on call. I did see the CT scan, and she does not have a head injury. Can you tell me what happened this morning?”

“I’m not sure what happened. Joan ran out to take care of a few errands before Evie’s dentist appointment. Evie was in the kitchen with me, and we were baking cookies. The house was a little warm, and when I walked into the living room and opened the window, I heard Joan screaming Roger’s name. I called the police and then went outside to see Roger punching Joan in the stomach. He had his hand around Joan’s neck. Evie ran out of the house and saw Joan being beaten by her father. Joan was on her hands and knees vomiting, and Roger grabbed her by the hair and punched her in the face. I tried to pull him off Joan, but he pushed me, and I fell onto the grass. That is when I saw a police officer pull him off Joan and cuff him. The ambulance arrived a few minutes later. Evie was screaming, and the neighbors were standing in the street watching what was going on. It was awful Jerry. Carolyn ran over and asked if I needed help, and I asked her to sit with Evie. Will Joan be okay?”

“I won’t know anything until after the examination.”

“How could Roger do this to my daughter?”

“I don’t know Beverly. I honestly don’t know.”

*****

When I return to Joan’s bedside, there is a nurse in the room, and a curtain surrounds Joan’s bed. I keep my distance while the nurse treats Joan. A few minutes later, the nurse pulls back the curtain, and I see an orderly standing next to her.

“Is Joan being admitted?” I ask her.

“Yes. Doctor Renzi wants to admit Ms. Randall for observation for at least forty-eight hours. Are you related to Ms. Randall?”

“I am her boyfriend, Doctor Jeremy Miller.”

“Any relation to Ethan Miller?”

“Yes, he is my brother. Can I review Joan’s chart?”

“Well, technically you should speak to Doctor Renzi, but I will make an exception just once. You have two minutes.”

I quickly scan Joan’s chart. Bruised ribs, mild concussion, hand marks around her neck, bruised jaw, lacerations on her hands and knees when she hit the concrete driveway. Temperature slightly elevated, as well as blood pressure. The nurse hovers over me, and it is impossible to read her chart thoroughly. I have seen enough to know what I need to do.

Joan

When I open my eyes, the light in the room hurts my eyes. I know I am in the hospital, and every muscle in my body is throbbing. My head feels like it is in a vice. How did Roger find me? I am frightened for my baby. I heard Evie screaming as Roger continued hitting me, and then I saw the police. He will not get away with hitting me again. I feel my mother’s hand touch mine, and I struggle to see her because my vision is blurry.

“Mom, where is Evie? Is she okay?”

“Evie is fine, honey. Carolyn is watching her. Roger is in police custody. There is a police detective in the hallway, and she wants to talk to you. Do you feel up to it baby? I can tell her to come back later.”

As I am about to respond, the door opens, and in walks Jerry. I take one look at his beautiful face, and I feel myself relaxing. He looks down at me with loving eyes, and I can no longer hold back the tears. He sits gently on the bed next to me, and when he tries to wipe the tears away, I flinch at his touch. He does not pull back his touch. Jerry leans in and whispers to me, “It’s okay baby. How do you feel?”

“Everything hurts.”

“I will have the nurse give you something for the pain. Do you feel up to talking to the detective? She has been standing guard outside your door for a few hours.”

“Help me to sit up. I need to file charges against Roger. He will not hurt me again.”

Jerry raises my bed and helps me get comfortable if that’s even possible. “Good girl,” he whispers and kisses my forehead. “I’ll stay with you, just in case you need something.”

*****

Detective Denise McKinney looks at me, and I cringe at the expression on her face. I must look like shit.

“Hello, Joan. My name is Detective Denise McKinney, and I’d like to ask you a few questions. If you feel ill or would like to stop, please tell me, and we can continue this tomorrow. I do not want to make you uncomfortable.”

“Thank you,” I say through gritted teeth.

“Mr. Roger Randall is in custody at the Twenty-Fourth precinct. If I have your permission, I need to photograph your injuries as evidence of the crime perpetrated on you at approximately eleven hundred hours yesterday morning.”

I look at my mother, and I want to scream, then cry, then scream again. Jerry helps me untie my hospital gown, and when I slide it down my body, the reaction that I see on his face breaks my heart. Detective McKinney takes several pictures of my battered body, and I feel humiliated. After my gown is back in place, the officer takes out a recorder.

“This is Detective Denise McKinney, badge number 2958. The time is thirteen hundred hours. I am in the hospital room of Joan Randall.”

“Ms. Randall, how long have you been divorced from Roger Randall?”

“About eighteen months.”

“Where did you reside before your divorce?”

“New York City. Manhattan specifically.”

“Is this the first time that Mr. Randall physically accosted you?”

No, but it is the reason why I filed for divorce. Roger is an addict.”

“I understand you filed a restraining order in New York. Is this correct?”

“Yes. The last time Roger hit me, I filed a restraining order, then filed for divorce. I moved in with my mother. I now have sole custody of our daughter Evelyn, who is six years old. My caseworker assured me that my whereabouts would remain confidential. My case file was supposed to stay sealed. Obviously, that’s incorrect, because he found me.”

“What happened yesterday morning?”

“I took the day off from work because my daughter had a dentist appointment at one in the afternoon. I went to the food market, and when I got home, Roger was sitting on the steps outside of my house.”

“Did you say anything when you saw Mr. Randall sitting on your steps?”

“No. I tried to get back into the car. I had one leg in the car. I didn’t have the opportunity to say anything. He lunged at me, had one hand around my neck, the other in my hair, and was screaming at me. He said I ruined his life, his career, and now he is going to destroy mine.”

“I started screaming, and when I saw my mother open the front door, I felt Roger’s fist hit me in the stomach. I bent over and threw up, but he just kept hitting me in the stomach and face. I felt his hand tighten around my neck and I could not breathe. He pushed me onto the pavement, and I don’t know how long he hit me before I heard the sirens, and then I felt someone pull him off me.”

“Did Mr. Randall say anything else to you? Did he say how he found you?”

“No. Roger just hit me repeatedly, and I could not defend myself.”

“Did anyone else see him attacking you?”

“I...um. I think a few neighbors were standing in the street when the police arrived at my house.”

“Are you prepared to file assault charges against Roger Randall?”

“Yes. I want Roger out of my life. I will file whatever charges are necessary to make that happen.”

“Very well. Someone from the District Attorney’s office will see you early tomorrow with the necessary paperwork. Thank you, Joan. I know this wasn’t easy for you. I hope you feel better soon.”

“Thank you,” I say again and close my eyes. Will this nightmare that is my life ever end?

Jerry

Listening to Joan describe to the police officer what her scumbag ex-husband did to her sickens me. How any man can treat a woman this way is beyond my comprehension. I feel her pain and humiliation, and I imagine having me in the room with her is upsetting and embarrassing. I am out of control emotionally, and I have no outlet for my anger. I’ve spoken to her brother Mike several times today, and he wants Joan and Evie to fly out to California until the situation with Roger resolves itself. It will never end until he is dead. How ironic is it that I’ve waited twenty years to fall in love again, only to have her ex-husband interfere in our lives?

I never believed in divine intervention until the day Joan walked back into my life. Imagine my surprise when I discover that she is one of the several pharmacists that work in the hospital. We met again the day I discharged Mrs. Simmons. The pharmacy never delivered her medication, and because I was a little irritated by the delay, I marched down to the pharmacy, intending to chew someone out. Instead, the most beautiful face that I have ever seen appeared before me, and I stood frozen in place.

Seriously, I stood on the other side of the plexiglass window for a good two minutes before I found my tongue. Joan did not see me standing at the counter, and I kept quiet because I want to enjoy the vision before me. Beautiful porcelain skin, blond hair, and gorgeous blue eyes. I forgot about my anger, Mrs. Simmons, and everything else as I stare at her.

I think she felt me ogling her, and when she looked up at me, my heart stopped. I always broke Ethan’s balls when he talked about the first time he saw Diane, and how he knew she was the one for him. God help me, but I feel that way now. Just thinking about that day calms me.

Can I help you? Jerry? Hi, how are you?”

Much better now that I’ve met you again. You look great Joan.” Why do I sound like a dick?

Oh, well, thank you. What can I do for you?”

I need Helen Simmons’s prescriptions.”

Give me a minute while I check my records.”

I am in big trouble. Watching Joan walk away from me has my cock twitching. It’s a shame her lab coat covers her ass. Another twitch. I need to adjust myself, but it’s been so long since I’ve felt anything south of the border, and I want to savor the feeling a few more minutes. As I watch Joan walk back to the window, the inevitable happens. I have a full-blown erection, and now I am uncomfortable. I button my lab coat to hide the obvious.

I apologize for the delay Jerry. It has been a crazy morning.”

Where is Ben?”

He retired three months ago, and I am his replacement.”

Oh, I didn’t know he retired. How do you like working here?”

It’s a job. What can I say?”

Wow, you don’t sound very enthusiastic.”

It’s not that I don’t like my job because I do. Sorry. I’m just a little tired. My daughter Evie was up all night with an earache.”

Sorry to hear that. How is Evie today?”

My mother is watching her, and the last time I called, Evie was sleeping.”

How old is your daughter?”

Evie is six years old. Well, I’d better get back to work doctor. I’ll talk to you later.”

Yes, it was good seeing you again Joan.”

*****

That was six months ago, and my life has changed dramatically since that day. I’ve never been happier in my entire life. I’ve thought a lot about Mary since I met Joan. I always wondered how my life would have been had she not died. Fate has a way of tilting the scale in your favor, and now, at the age of forty-six, I have a beautiful six-year-old girl in my life. I want so much to be her father, and I am so worried about her. Evie is just starting to put the nightmare of her father in the past, and now I’m afraid of how today will affect her emotionally. As I walk back to Joan’s room, I run into my brother.

“Hey, what are you doing here today?”

“Diane has an appointment with her therapist. I’m just along for the ride. She was bouncing up and down like a little kid this morning. Do you want to grab lunch while I wait for Diane?”

“I need to check on Joan first. Roger found her today and did a number on her. She’s in the hospital.”

“Is Joan okay? What are you going to do?”

“Joan is bruised badly. Roger hurt her, and I must find a way to protect them. This is killing me, Ethan. I don’t know what to do.”

“Take care of Joan, and I’ll wait for you in the cafeteria. What do you want for lunch?”

“Get me a sandwich and a piece of fruit. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” I walk back to Joan’s room and see that she is sleeping. I bend down to kiss her gently on the forehead and leave the room.

*****

Twenty minutes later, I walk into the cafeteria and see Ethan seated at one of the tables, and he is staring into a cup of coffee. He is oblivious to everyone around him. When I walk up to him and place my hand on his shoulder, he jumps about three feet out of his chair before he realizes it’s me.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

Ethan laughs. “Nothing is wrong with me. In fact, I am so fucking happy I could do cartwheels. I have a huge secret, and you cannot tell anyone until I give you the all clear. If you say anything, I will beat the shit out of you. Got it?”

“Damn, Ethan, this must be good. You haven’t threatened me like that in a long time. What’s the secret?”

“Diane made dinner for me last night, and there was a surprise in my wine glass.”

“What was the surprise, and why did she put it in a wine glass?”

“Well, the last two times that Diane put this in a wine glass, we had Joey and Kellie. Surprise! We’re pregnant!”

“Wow, you guys didn’t waste any time getting pregnant. Congratulations. Are you happy about another baby? You are almost forty-five years old.”

“Don’t I know it, and yes, I am very happy about the baby. Not even morning sickness can spoil Diane’s mood. I love seeing her smile. How is Joan?”

“She was sleeping when I checked on her. I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary today.”

“You cannot compare what happened to Mary with Joan. It’s not the same situation.”

“Isn’t it the same? I could have lost Joan today had the police not arrived when they did. I don’t want to have this conversation in the cafeteria. I feel like my head is about to explode. Let’s go back to my office.”

The walk back to my office is a silent one. I am so focused on Joan that I don’t hear Ethan talking to me. When he grabs my arm, I jerk my head sideways to look at him. “What? Why are you grabbing my arm?”

Stop, Jerry. Just stop for a minute and take a deep breath. You look like shit.”

That’s about how I feel at the moment. How do I protect Joan from her ex-husband? I can’t watch her twenty-four hours a day! I don’t know what to do!” Ethan followed me into my office and closed the door. I slump into my chair and lower my head. If Ethan weren’t in the room with me, I’d cry like a fucking baby. Ethan walks around and sits on the edge of my desk.

“The first thing you need to do is stay calm. If Joan sees you like this, she will be afraid to leave the house. That is no way to live.”

How can I stay calm when Roger drove all the way from New York to take his anger out on Joan? I had to sit in her room and watch the police officer take pictures of her bruised body. I feel helpless. And now, all of the progress that Evie has made since the divorce just got flushed down the toilet.”

Assault is a serious charge, Jerry. Once bail is posted, and he is shipped back to New York, maybe he will realize what he did was wrong and get on with his life.”

Let’s hope that is what happens, but I’m not taking any chances. I’m hiring security guards to protect Joan and Evie.”

Wow. How do you think Joan will feel having someone watching her?”

“Joan will never know because I’m not telling her. I’m paying for protection to keep Joan and Evie safe, and to save my fucking sanity.”

“And what happens if Joan finds out you did this without consulting her?”

“I’ll deal with it later.”

“You better hope she doesn’t beat the shit out of you.”

“Why would she do that? I am only trying to protect her and Evie.”

Good luck with that. Do you want to do something this weekend? Get away for a few hours?”

“What do you have in mind?”

Well, I have four tickets to the Eagles game on Sunday. Do you think Dad and Joey would like to come with us? Make it a man’s day out. Get away from everything for a few hours, and have a little fun. We can get something to eat before the game.”

That sound so good, but I don’t want to commit until I talk to Joan. I don’t know how long she will be in the hospital. Can I get back to you at the end of the week? I need to get back to Joan,” I say and walk towards the door. Ethan grabs my arm, and when I turn around, he gives me a man hug and a pat on the back. “Love you, brother.”

My throat is tight with emotion as I whisper back to him, “Love you too, Ethan.”

Chapter 2

Jerry

The conversation with Ethan weighs heavily on my mind, and I’ve lost my appetite. I grab my food tray and walk back to the cafeteria to dispose of my uneaten food. Once I’ve dumped everything into the trash receptacle, I grab a large coffee, and walk over to one of the tables by the window and sit down. My mind is troubled, and I take a few minutes to just stare out of the window at the passing cars, and reflect on my conversation with Ethan. I hear a chair scrape on the floor, and when I look up, I see a nurse pushing Joan in a wheelchair. I am surprised and happy to see her.

Hi,” she says timidly. “I had to get out of my hospital room. I feel like I’m climbing the walls. I called your office, and the nurse told me you were in the cafeteria. I told the nurse that you would take me back to my room.”

How do you feel? I checked on you earlier, and you were sleeping.”

Whatever the nurse gave me knocked me out, and it helped with the pain.”

I walk around the table and sit next to Joan. God, I want to lift her out of that fucking wheelchair and cradle her in my arms. Seeing Joan bruised and battered is killing me. “Are you hungry?” I ask her.

“I am a little hungry, and I would love a cup of coffee.”

Sorry honey. No coffee while you are taking pain medication. The two do not mix well. How about a muffin and a glass of apple juice.”

“How about two muffins and a glass of apple juice.”

“Whatever you want honey. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Joan

How did my life get so out of control? Why is what happened to Roger my fault? I did not force the drugs down his throat! I did everything I could to support Roger, and this is how he repays me? With a fist to the gut, and fingerprint marks around my neck? God, the look on Jerry’s face when he saw the bruises kills me. Is it fair to Jerry to drag him into this mess? Roger will come back, I know it, and I feel like running again. I still do not understand how he found me. When I feel Jerry’s hand touch my shoulder, I break into a million pieces. I don’t want to cry in front of a room full of people, but I can’t help it. Jerry lifts me out of the wheelchair and sits me on his lap. Protective, loving arms wrap around me, and I bury my face in the crook of his neck and cry.

“It’s okay baby. Let it out. I know you’re scared, but you have me now, and we are in this together.”

What if he comes back again? How can I protect myself? I have to find a new place to live.”

Don’t worry honey. I will help you. Lean on me, Joan.”

“If I knew this was going to happen, I never would have agreed to this relationship.”

I feel Jerry tense under me, and I know I’ve hurt him, but I must be honest. It’s not right continuing this relationship, and he needs to know how I feel. I feel his lips brush against my neck, and then he whispers to me, “You will never leave me, Joan. Do you understand what I am saying? No one will take you away from me. I will protect you.”

“How are you going to protect me?” I feel him tense again.

Well, I was going to keep this to myself, but you’ve forced my hand by threatening to end our relationship. I can’t let that happen honey, so I have no other choice but to hire personal security for you and Evie. You will have a shadow, and so will Beverly and Evie. No one will get close to you again. I’ll make sure of it.”

It’s too much Jerry. I don’t want you paying for something that should be my responsibility. I will handle it.” Jerry tilts up my face, so we are eye to eye, and what he says next breaks my heart, but also gives me hope for the future.

I was in love once, a long time ago. Mary and I met in college, and we lived together for two years. I loved her deeply and thought at the time that we would have a beautiful life together. We just clicked, you know. We did everything together. I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. I asked Mary to marry me on New Year’s Eve, and a year later, we were to be married. I never saw any indication that she had changed her mind about getting married. I remember the day of the wedding as if it were yesterday. I was a nervous wreck, but I knew that at the end of the day, I would have what I wanted most in life.”

We grew concerned when Mary was late arriving at the church. I called the apartment several times and called the hotel where her parents were staying. I was worried sick that something happened to them on the way to the church. Two hours later, her sister showed up at the church, and she wasn’t wearing her gown. That’s when I knew something was terribly wrong. She handed me a letter, apologized to everyone, and told us that Mary did not want to get married.”

I had to face a church full of people and say that the bride had changed her mind. I remember the shocked look on their faces as I stood before them with tears in my eyes. I really couldn’t understand what was happening at the time. I think I was in shock, and after everyone had gone home, my father read the letter to me.”

What was in the letter devastated me. I remember Mary complaining a few weeks before the wedding that she was tired, and we thought it was due to the last minute wedding preparations. I told her to go to her doctor to get checked because I didn’t want her to be sick on our wedding day. One week and many tests later, Mary received a diagnosis that changed our lives. Mary had a brain tumor. She was only twenty-five years old! I am a doctor, and I still do not understand how this can happen to someone so young.”

When her parents called me a few months later to tell me she had died, I went off the rails for a few years. All of my plans for the future died with her. I no longer cared about having a wife and children. I threw myself into my work, and it made me what I am today. Her death hardened my heart to the extent that I will shut down to protect myself. I’ve only had casual relationships, Joan. Sex for me was just a release. I am not like Ethan. A part of my heart died with Mary. I think what hurt the most was that Mary lied to me. I would have taken care of her, and shared what time she had left with her, but Mary pushed me away. Her parents shielded her from me. They wouldn’t let me see her. I had no idea where they had taken her. It kills me that she died alone without me telling her that I still loved her. Her death killed the part of me that had hope for the future, for children, for a happy life.”

I had none of that after she died, and I had to live with the fallout. My job became my life. Eighty hours a week wasn’t enough to drown out the memories. As time passed, the pain eased, but the work schedule remained consistent. Casual dating and casual sex felt safe for me. I didn’t have to explain my feelings. I didn’t have to get caught up in the drama of working at a relationship. And then Diane had the accident, and everything changed for me.” I stop speaking for a minute as the memories of that day in the operating room twists my gut, and when I feel Joan’s hand caress my face, the world rights itself again.

“It’s okay Jerry. You don’t have to talk about this now. Your face is beet red. Are you all right?”

Am I okay? I don’t think I’ve been okay for over fifteen years. Let me finish, please. I want you to give me a chance, Joan. I feel something that I’ve never felt in any other relationship. I feel hope for the first time since Mary died, and I don’t want to lose that feeling. I love being with you and Evie. The best part of my day is the time that I spend with both of you. I’ve never had this before Joan, and it feels good. I feel lighter than I have in a very long time. Both of us have issues in the past that we carry with us. I hope we can help each other get past our past. Wow, that sounds stupid! You know what I mean, don’t you?”

Yes, I do know what you mean, but I’m frightened, Jerry. Roger is unstable. What happens six months from now when you get tired of the drama? I have had so much taken from me the past few years. I don’t want to lose you too.”

I am not going anywhere, Joan. Don’t you understand? I want to run towards you, not away from you. I want to love and protect you and Evie. I know this sounds chauvinistic, but you belong to me. I knew it the minute I laid eyes on you. Please do not push me away because it will kill me.”

I sigh and rest my aching head on his shoulder. “What are you doing to me, Jerry? I feel all mushy inside.”

“Mushy is fantastic sweetheart because it means you feel something for me, too.”

“I do Jerry, and once my head stops pounding, I will be able to think clearly. I want this relationship to work, and whatever you need to do to keep us safe, I will gladly accept.”

“Thank you, honey.”

“For what?”

For letting me take care of you. For being my girl. For… everything. I know life is chaotic right now, but it won’t last forever.”

I hope it doesn’t, Jerry. Life hasn’t been easy since my divorce.”

Let me make it better, baby.”

“Yes, please.”

Jerry wheels me back to my room and helps me to bed. Then, he takes off his shoes and climbs into bed next to me. Jerry lifts his arm, and when I curl up against his warm body, I feel all of the muscles in my body relax. Laying next to Jerry is where I belong, and the realization of that fact makes me happy. I close my eyes and fall into a peaceful sleep. When I open my eyes again, Jerry is still holding me in his arms. I feel his lips brush against my temple as he pulls me closer to his warm body.

Did you sleep well, honey?”

Yes, I had a lovely pillow to comfort me while I slept. Can we do this again?”

Hell yeah. I hate to leave you, but I have to get back to work. I’ll be back in time to have dinner with you. How do you feel?”

I feel much better since our talk. Thank you, Jerry, for taking care of Evie and me. I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels knowing you will protect us.”

Never doubt how I feel about you and Evie. The two of you are my girls now, and it feels so damn good saying that. Go back to sleep, and I’ll see you in a few hours. Give me a kiss before I go honey. I need it.”

When our lips meet, it feels different this time, more urgent, more loving. Something happened between us today that changed the dynamics of our relationship, and it feels wonderful.

*****

Shortly after Jerry leaves my room, I receive a call from Philadelphia’s Assistant District Attorney Chris Lucas.

Good afternoon Ms. Randall. How are you feeling today?”

I ache all over, but I will recover. Thank you. Are you calling about the criminal charges?”

Yes, and I am also calling to let you know that Mr. Randall’s father posted bail, and Roger is on his way back to New York, pending a psychological evaluation and a drug test.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. Judge Randall is an influential man, and maybe now Roger will get the help that he needs.”

I spoke to one of the officers in the county jail, and he told me that Mr. Randall was agitated and appeared to have the shakes. After Judge Randall had posted bail, he met with Roger in the holding room, and the two of them had a loud argument.”

Clifford Randall has been inserting himself into Rogers life since college, and the pressure he placed on Roger to live up to his expectations is what broke him. Roger wanted to live a simple life, but Clifford’s constant pressure to succeed led Roger to make bad decisions. He ignored his family. He worked crazy hours, and when Roger was unable to keep up that hectic pace, he self-medicated, and his personality changed. Roger will have a difficult time now that Clifford is once again pulling strings.”

Are you still pursuing criminal charges? I ask this because Judge Randall had a private conversation with my superior, and he requested that ‘this problem’ go away. That is not how the District Attorney’s office works, Ms. Randall. We do not brush criminal behavior under the rug, and if you still wish to pursue the charges against Mr. Randall, my office will make that happen.”

“Yes, I do want to file charges.”

Okay. Let me explain the process. A criminal case usually gets started with a police arrest report. I already have a copy of the report. The prosecutor then decides what criminal charges to file if any. After an arrest, the police report goes to an attorney, whose job it is to initiate and prosecute cases. An arrest report summarizes the events leading up to the arrest and provides many details, such as dates, times, locations, and witness names and addresses if available.”

The prosecutor will typically either determine that the case should be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, and file a complaint which is the charging document, with the court. At that point, the District Attorney’s office decides whether we have enough evidence to proceed with a court trial. If there is insufficient evidence, a grand jury will decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with a court trial.”

A police officer specifies the crime or crimes that serve as the basis for an arrest. Officers may recommend that the prosecution files additional charges. But prosecutors get to make the ultimate decision on what the charges will be. A defendant, typically learns what the formal charges will be at the first court appearance. Keep in mind that the prosecutor’s initial charges are subject to change. For example, a prosecutor may not make a final decision on what charges to file until after a preliminary hearing, which may take place more than a month after arrest.”

The bottom line, Ms. Randall, is that the District Attorney’s office, and its officers, act in the best interest of the victim, with no outside influence. I already have the criminal complaint prepared, and once you sign it, I will file it with the court. Once I file the criminal complaint, I will petition for the first available spot on the docket. Mr. Randall will be notified via courier when he is required to appear in court for the initial hearing.”

“Thank you, Mr. Lucas. This entire situation is upsetting. My daughter is traumatized by what happened to me. All I want is for Roger to stay away from me.”

May I be honest with you, Ms. Randall?”

“Yes, please.”

“I would suggest you think about protection. I don’t mean a weapon. I was thinking about personal security.”

“My boyfriend already suggested that, and he is in the process of making that happen.”

That is a wise decision, Joan. I have seen this more times than I care to say, and most times, it ends with another assault. I don’t want that to happen to you.”

“Neither do I.”

*****

Jerry arrives in my room promptly at five, followed by his parents. Catherine sits down on the edge of my bed and holds my hand. “Oh, honey, how could Roger do this to you? Are you okay?”

Her concern touches me deeply. It’s easy to see where Jerry and Ethan get their empathy. Stephen stands in the background, arms folded over his chest, and he looks pissed off. “Yes, I feel a little better Catherine. Thank you for asking.”

Jerry takes off his shoes, climbs into bed with me again, and kisses me. “Miss me, baby?” he asks me.

I nod my head yes, clearly a little flushed by the attention. Stephen sits in the chair next to my bed, and he is still scowling. The three of them exchange glances, and I am immediately tense. “What’s wrong?”

Jerry wraps an arm around me. “I spoke to my dad about hiring security for you and Evie, and he has an idea that we want to run by you. Dad is a retired doctor, and over the years, he has treated hundreds of police officers. He has several friends that he plays golf with every week who are retired police. My dad called some of them this afternoon and explained the situation with Roger. Dad, why don’t you tell Joan what they suggest.”

Well, okay. As Jerry said, I play golf with eight retired detectives and two police chiefs. I called some of them this afternoon and asked if they know of a reputable agency that can provide protection for you and Evie. My buddy Joe has a good idea, and in about five minutes, my golf buddies will be here to offer their services, free of charge. They are bored out of their minds Joan, and they are more than willing to help you. Between the ten of them, they have over one hundred and twenty-five years of experience.”

And on cue, all ten men walk into my hospital room. Jesus, they look like linebackers, rather than retired police officers. I stare at them, unable to form words. Jerry laughs and holds my hand. “They are a little intimidating, aren’t they?”

Um, yeah.”

One of them walks over to my bed and extends his hand. “Hello Joan, my name is Joe Riley. The other assholes in the room will introduce themselves later. I have designated myself the spokesperson for this group of old farts. Well, we are not old, just bored. We would like to help you, Joan. There is nothing we hate more than a fucking ex-husband who takes his anger out on the ex-wife. He’s lucky he is in New York because if I ever get my hands on him, he’ll be eating his balls for dinner.”

Everyone in the room cracks up laughing, myself included, which makes my side hurt like a bitch. “That makes me feel so much better. Thank you for helping my baby and me.”

It’s our pleasure, ma’am. Give us a day to set up the schedule. We have more than enough men and time to cover both of you twenty-four hours a day, and as we told Steve this afternoon, free of charge. We do not want your money. We only want to protect you. Steve has been our friend for over thirty years. We have watched Jerry and Ethan grow into fine young men. You are now a part of the Miller family. That’s all we need to know.”

I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much. I will rest easier knowing all of you are protecting us.”

Chapter 3

Jerry

I can’t see him,” Joan says as I wheel her to my car.

That’s the point of protection. The security detail can see you, but you can’t see the men following you. It is covert operations, honey. They know what they are doing. Don’t worry about it. I feel much better knowing someone will always be watching the two of you. Let’s get you home and into bed. I want you to rest for the remainder of the week. No bending, and no lifting.”

“I have no desire to lift or pick up anything. I intend to stay in bed until the weekend.”

Good. How is Evie?”

I called the house last night and spoke to my mom. Evie’s wet the bed every night since I’ve been in the hospital. She won’t eat and hides in her room. I am worried about her. Evie reacted this way when we moved in with my mother. Mom told me that Evie witnessed the attack. I never wanted this for my baby. How could Roger do this to us? Logically, I know the ramifications of drug abuse, but isn’t there one shred of remorse within him? Doesn’t he remember all of the happy years?”

“Do you think Evie will be afraid of me again?”

I honestly don’t know. Take me home Jerry. I need to see my baby.”

As we drive home, I look in the rearview mirror, and I see the car following us. Good, this is what I want. I look over at Joan, and she is asleep. Joe was right about one thing, this is not over, and I know Roger will not be satisfied until he seriously hurts Joan. I will not let that happen. When we arrive at Joan’s house, she is still sleeping. “Wake up honey. We’re home.”

I carry Joan into the house, and up to her bedroom. Evie is in the living room, and when she sees me, she runs away from me. I now have my answer. It’s back to square one with Evie, and that’s okay. I’ll do whatever it takes to help her. After I have Joan comfortably situated in bed, I give her a pain pill, kiss her forehead, and leave the room. What she needs now is rest.

I hear Beverly in the kitchen with Evie. No time like the present to address the elephant in the room. I walk into the kitchen and sit in the chair next to Evie. Beverly hands me a mug of coffee, which I gratefully accept. “Thank you, Beverly.”

Are you hungry?” She asks me. “We are about to get something to eat.”

I am starving. Lunch sounds good to me.”

I turn in my chair to face Evie, and when I reach out to hold her hand, she pulls away from me. I get down on the floor to be eye level with her. “Do you want to talk about it, Evie?”

Evie shakes her head no. I need another tactic. “Can you keep a big secret?” Evie looks at me but says nothing. “Do you remember how much fun you had with my mom and dad at the wedding? My dad is a lot of fun, isn’t he? He wants to help you and Mommy.”

“What is the secret?”

My dad has a lot of friends who were police officers, and they have volunteered to protect you and Mommy. Come with me to the window. I want to show you something.” Evie follows me to the window, and I point to the car that I saw following us from the hospital. I recognize the person behind the wheel.

Do you see that black car?” Evie nods her head yes. “The man in that car is one of my dad’s friends. Someone will always be here to watch the house, and Mommy will have someone watching her at work. We know your dad is sick, and they have agreed to watch over the two of you. No one will hurt Mommy again.”

Evie stares silently at the car for several minutes. All of this turmoil is too much for a six-year-old to comprehend. All she knows is that Mommy is hurt, and she is afraid. I leave her standing by the window and walk back to the kitchen. Beverly is watching us.

Beverly says, “How could Roger do this to his child? I don’t understand any of this.”

I don’t know the answer to that Beverly. I need your opinion. I want to call Clifford Randall. I want assurances that Roger will stay in New York, and not bother Joan again. I want to hear it from his fucking mouth. Do you think Joan will be pissed that I’ve called him?”

Yes, she will be pissed, and I am not sure calling him will have any effect on the situation with Roger. Clifford has been a thorn in her side since the day of the wedding, and they have had a rocky relationship since that day. Clifford could not control her, and that pissed him off. Roger is a weak person. I always knew this, but I had hoped that he would grow a pair of balls once he married Joan. I never understood what she saw in him. Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice person, but his family, especially his father, controlled Roger’s life. I witnessed many occasions where Clifford inserted himself into their life, and it annoyed me because Joan remained silent rather than confront the situation.”

I knew something was wrong in their marriage when Joan would go weeks without calling me. The first time I saw the bruises, I asked her to come home with me. She said it was an accident, and that Roger apologized. The abuse escalated quickly, and within a year, she filed for divorce. The last time Roger hit her, Joan’s injuries were awful. Her neck looked worse than it does now. Roger won’t stop until he hurts her. Thank you for protecting my daughter and my grandbaby.”

I want you to be alert, Beverly. If you sense anything suspicious, call the police, and get everyone to a safe location in the house.”

“Do you think Roger will come back?”

It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Evie comes back into the kitchen, and the three of us eat lunch in silence. I want so much to stay with Joan today, but reluctantly, I make the decision to go home. I call Joan later in the afternoon.

How about breakfast Saturday morning at the Pennypack Diner? That will give you five days to relax. I have to start over with Evie. I could strangle Roger for doing this to her. She’s afraid of me again Joan, and that upsets me.”

“I woke up and found Evie in bed with me, and I had to ask my mother to change the sheets.”

“Is there anything that I can do?”

Just be patient with her, Jerry. You got through to her once before all of this happened. Give her time to realize that you are one of the good guys.”

“I hate this Joan. I fucking hate seeing the fear in her eyes.”

Jerry

I’ve done nothing else but think about breakfast on Saturday since I’ve talked to Joan. I feel like my future is hanging in the balance. I need leverage, and I know where to go to get it. I arrive at Ethan’s house around dinner time. When I walk in the front door, Kellie ambushes me, with Fluffy right behind her.

“Uncle Jerry! Pick me up!”

I bend down, lift Kellie into my arms, and twirl her around the room. The smile that lights up her face is a beautiful sight to see.

“Can you eat dinner with us?”

I’d love to eat with you, Munchkin.”

I hear Diane call out from the kitchen. “Kellie honey, help Mommy set the table.”

“Okay, Mommy.” Kellie runs into the dining room, with her little dog following her.

I see Ethan walking towards me with a beer in hand. He gives me an open bottle, and I sit down and watch Kellie run around the dining room table.

“She looks happy, Ethan.”

“She is, and Fluffy follows her everywhere. It’s so comical because that dog has become her everything. They eat together. They sleep together. Diane found her in the bathtub last night with the damn dog. If Kellie could get away with it, she would take Fluffy to school with her.”

Would you mind if I take Kellie out to breakfast Saturday morning? And maybe a trip to the Aquarium? I’d like to spend a little time with her.”

She would like that, Jerry. She misses spending time with you. How is Joan feeling?”

She’s home now and resting, and I am back to square one with Evie. She witnessed what happened and is afraid of me again.”

At least now you know what to do. Give it time, Jerry.”

I have nothing but time. What else can I do?”

I hear Diane call out from the kitchen. “Dinner’s ready.” Ethan and I walk into the dining room, and I sit next to Kellie.

“Where’s Joey?”

He is still at the library,” Diane says. “I have a plate for him in the warming oven. I don’t understand why he feels the need to study during the summer months. He is just like his father!”

Ethan is offended by her remark. “And what’s wrong with that?”

Diane laughs. “Nothing’s wrong, honey. I was only making a comparison about how dedicated our son is to his studies. You were the same way in college. How quickly we forget.”

I remember everything, sweetheart. Do you want me to talk to him?”

Yes, that would be a good idea. Joey needs a little downtime. I do not want him studying through his summer break. I don’t want him living in the library.”

“I will speak to him tonight.”

You do that, or I will do it for you. I don’t want my son burned out before school starts.”

Ethan reaches out to hold Diane’s hand. “I missed this so much. I love it when you get wound up.”

If you don’t talk to our son, I will get more than wound up. Io metterò il mio piede su per il culo.” The English translation is, “I will put my foot up your ass!”

Ethan blinks several times, then becomes emotional. Kellie is confused when Ethan gets up and walks away from the table. “Where is Daddy going, Uncle Jerry? He looks sad.”

Diane gets up from the table and follows my brother. The two of them always argued in Italian around the kids, and this is the first time that I’ve heard Diane speak the language since she regained her memories.

“Your Mom just remembered how to speak Italian.”

“She did?” Kellie is bouncing in her chair.

Yeah, and your dad is a little emotional.”

I get up from the table and walk into the kitchen where I see Diane pressed up against the refrigerator, and Ethan is all over her in a hot, steamy, panty-drenching kiss. His hand is up Diane’s dress, and I just turn around and walk back to the dining room. Several minutes later, Ethan and Diane return to the table a little flustered and grinning from ear to ear. The remainder of the evening is relaxing and animated. Kellie goes on and on about the dog. Fluffy did this. Fluffy did that. I suddenly realize that I’m lonely, and it’s so depressing.

Kellie honey, I want to take you out for breakfast Saturday morning, and then we can go to the Aquarium.”

“Can I have pancakes? I won’t go unless I can have pancakes.”

“You can have anything you like,” I tell her.

“Can I have whipped cream and sprinkles on my pancakes?”

Yes, as long as the diner has whipped cream and sprinkles.”

Kellie gets up from the table and runs to the kitchen. She comes back with a can of whipped cream and a container of sprinkles.

“Bring these with you in case they don’t have it.”

Diane, Ethan and I break out into laughter. Can you see me walking into a restaurant with a can of whipped cream in my pants pocket? I hear the old saying in my head. ‘Is that a can of whipped cream in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?’ I think I’ll put it in my messenger bag. As I get ready to leave the house, I bend down to speak to Kellie.

Kellie honey, I need your help on Saturday.”

“You need my help? I’m just a kid!”

I need your help with Evie. Something awful happened to her mom, and Evie is upset. Can you help me make her happy again?”

“Is her mom okay? What happened to her?”

It is a grown-up issue honey, and you are too young to understand.”

“I’m not a baby, Uncle Jerry. You can tell me.”

Evie’s dad hurt her mom. That’s all I will say.”

Oh, that’s wrong Uncle Jerry. I will help Evie. You can count on me.”

Joan

I’m nervous. Why am I nervous? It’s only breakfast. I will not let Roger ruin the rest of my life. I want to enjoy this day, and damn it, I will. I stayed in bed for most of the week, and thankfully my body no longer aches, and the scrapes on my hands and knees no longer sting. I manage to hide the bruises with a little concealer and foundation. I have no choice but to put a thin scarf around my neck.

“Where are we going, Mommy?”

Jerry wants to take us out to eat breakfast, honey.” I see the fear in Evie’s eyes, and it kills me. “You know Jerry will protect us. Do you remember Jerry showed you his friend outside in the car? We have someone to protect us, honey.”

“I don’t want to go Mommy. I’m scared.”

I lift my daughter onto my lap, and my heart breaks as I feel her little body tremble against mine. I could hurt Roger for doing this to my baby. “Sweetie, listen to me. I know what Daddy did to me made you afraid, but all men are not like Daddy. Do you remember what the therapist told you? She said not to judge other people because of what Daddy did to us. You know that Jerry is our friend.”

“You’ll hold my hand?”

“Yes, I’ll hold your hand, sweetheart. I want you to have fun this morning. Can you do that for me?”

“I’ll try not to be scared Mommy, as long as you hold my hand.”

“After breakfast, do you want to go to the Aquarium and see the sharks?”

Can we Mommy? I love the sharks!”

Okay. That’s what we will do. Breakfast, and then we are off to see the sharks.” An unexpected trip to see the sharks has my daughter relaxing somewhat as we drive to the diner. I call Jerry once we are in the car. “Hi, we’re leaving now. I’ll see you in about twenty minutes.”

Okay. We will be there in about five minutes.”

“Who are we?”

“My niece, Kellie. I’ll explain later.”

Upon entering the diner, my eyes find Jerry sitting at a table with his niece. Evie is frightened by the noise in the restaurant, and so I pick her up and whisper in her ear. “It’s just breakfast, honey. Nothing to be afraid of.” My ribs protest the sudden weight, but I push back the pain.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-30 show above.)