I nod. “I doubt that blonde with him will corroborate that version of the story. She saw what happened.”
“Oh, she left about an hour ago, sick of this guy’s bullshit, most likely. Officers overhead her shouting that she was going back to California without him. As far as I can tell, it’s your word against his.”
He slides the cell door open and I push to stand.
“Best $500 I ever spent.”
“Yeah, well, it’ll also go on your record, so don’t make this vigilante thing a habit.”
“I didn’t plan on hitting him. I just wanted to talk.”
He chuckles under his breath and pats my shoulder. “That punch sure looked like it was worth a thousand words.”
I don’t see Andrew again as I leave the station, and that’s a good thing. That one punch felt pretty good; a second one would probably feel even better.
I had time to cool off in that holding cell, but now I’m more anxious than ever to see Meredith. I want to know why Andrew came to town and what he said to her. I want to know if he threatened her in any way. I won’t allow it. I’ll get a restraining order, a fence, a fucking private army stationed at the front of Blue Stone if that’s what it’ll take for her to never have to see him again.
I’m relieved when I pull up at home and see a black-and-white parked out front. Officer Martinez is inside playing a game of Scrabble with Meredith and Edith. True to Pete’s word, there’s sweet tea and a plate of cookies spread out on the table. Martinez looks damn comfortable sitting there, but as soon as he sees me step inside, he shoots to his feet.
I tip my head in thanks. “Good to see you, Connor.”
“Things, uh, settle down at the station?”
His gaze shifts to my bloody knuckles and I wonder if he got word about the incident.
I glance to where Meredith is sitting, eyes wide with worry. Without a word, she stands and rounds the table, walking toward me in a daze. There’s an emotion in her eyes I’ve never seen as she steps right up to me and wraps her arms around my waist. I’m still standing frozen as her forehead hits my chest and she squeezes me tight. A chain reaction happens so suddenly, emotions firing off one after another: anger replaced by relief, worry replaced by love. I bend down and press a kiss to the top of her head as her shoulders shake. I wonder what kind of day she’s had, if she was scared when Andrew showed up like that. I wish I’d been here with her and feel guilty that I wasn’t. I whisper that against her ear and she shakes her head, but there are no words.
Edith and Martinez excuse themselves and I wrap my hand around her neck so I can tilt her head back and look at her face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, gaze flitting back and forth between her eyes.
I finally realize she’s not crying…she’s laughing.
“You should have seen Edith with the shotgun.”
“Tell me what happened with Andrew. Why was he here?”
She huffs out a little exhale and smiles—smiles!
“He actually came to hand-deliver divorce papers.”
Hope explodes into my chest. “You’re kidding.”
She steps back to retrieve a stack of papers from the coffee table so she can hand them off to me.
“Nope. Apparently, he’s as eager to get rid of me as I am to get rid of him. He said he has a way to expedite the process once I get them signed.”
I start riffling through the papers quickly. I’ll need a little while to read them, and of course I’ll pass them along to my lawyer, but they’re real, honest-to-goodness divorce papers. She’s not kidding.
“Why’d Edith fire the shotgun then?”
A little chuckle escapes as she shakes her head at the memory.
“Oh, he was being an asshole. Edith had had enough and wanted to scare him a little.”
“By trying to kill him?”
She rolls her eyes. “Is that what he said happened? The shot wasn’t even close. She was aiming a couple yards off.”
I smile at Edith’s gumption. “Andrew was trying to get attempted murder charges drawn up. She could have spent the rest of her life in some dingy jail cell all because she couldn’t help herself.”
“Ain’t a jury in the land that would convict me!” Edith shouts from the kitchen. Apparently, she didn’t go too far when she left us alone. “That pansy boy hit the deck like he was in the middle of a war zone. Total wimp if you ask me—that’s why he had to pick on Meredith, made him feel better about himself!”
Meredith and I exchange a smile and then her expression turns thoughtful.
“Wait…” Meredith says, frowning. “How’d you find out about all this? Aren’t you supposed to be in San Antonio?”
“Sheriff called me, let me know what had happened. I rushed here as soon as I heard about it.”
Her eyes narrow on my rumpled clothes then her gaze falls to my bloody knuckles.
“You rushed straight here?” she asks, picking up my hand to inspect it.
Her bottom lip juts out as she examines the damage. It’s nothing.
“I might have made a quick stop at the police station first, but I did bring you the souvenir I promised.”
It’s one of those plastic police badges they pass out to kids on school field trips. It proclaims the wearer to be a Junior Deputy Sheriff. I’m pretty sure it’s legit.
“Welcome to the force.”
Her blue eyes whip up to me. She isn’t impressed. “Jack!” she admonishes. “Please tell me you didn’t do anything to Andrew.”
“All right,” I say, leaning down and kissing her cheek. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Jack!” She groans as I head toward the kitchen. I need to clean my knuckles off.
Edith is in there, sitting at the table, sipping her tea.
Meredith tries to recruit her onto her team. “Your grandson bloodied his knuckles in a fight with Andrew!”
Edith seems barely interested.
“Technically, it wasn’t a fight,” I say as I run my hand under cold water. “I punched him once and knocked him out.”
Now that elicits a smile from Edith.
Meredith points her finger at the two of us. “You two! I swear! Violence is not the answer—you can’t just go around blasting shotguns and knocking people out.” She’s pacing now, getting herself real worked up. “What if he presses charges? What if he gets the cops involved?!”
I remind her that the cops are already involved.
“What if you go to jail?!” Her eyes go extra wide then and her hand shoots to her mouth.
There’s no talking her down. I tell her everything will work out the way it’s supposed to, but she doesn’t believe me until we get a call from the sheriff a few hours later informing us that Andrew is dropping all charges.
I put him on speaker and we all listen. Apparently, my lawyer came up with half a dozen charges to counter with, things like trespassing and disorderly conduct. He even went so far as to accuse Andrew of stalking and informed him that Meredith would be filing for a restraining order. Whether or not these charges would stick in a court doesn’t matter. Whatever Andrew expected to find in Texas, I’m sure it didn’t include Edith and me. My suspicions are proved right when he leaves a heated voicemail for Meredith that night, informing her that he thinks they should behave like adults from this point forward.
“Sign the damn papers and let’s get this over with,” he implored, right before the voicemail cut off.
She drops the signed paperwork in the mail first thing Monday morning.
In the end, I have to take money from Andrew. When they drew up the divorce papers, he and his lawyer worked out a figure that was deemed more than adequate compensation for our five-year marriage. If you’re wondering, it was $500,000. To Andrew, that’s pennies. To me, that’s half a million dollars. Half a million shirts I don’t have to fold. Half a million plates I don’t have to wash. Still, I would have turned the money down altogether, but my lawyer made it clear that the quickest way forward would be to agree to their terms and move on. If I wanted to decline the money, I’d have to draft a new set of documents and pay the requisite legal fees. I don’t exactly have money to burn at the moment, so…fine, whatever. I’ll take it.