“There’s no sign he did anything but take her for a ride.”
“I hope she threw up in his car.”
Sam’s laugh was warm and reassuring. “I was hoping for worse myself.”
She tried to change positions, but the throbbing starting in her fingertips and working its way to her shoulder made her decide she was okay where she was. After a broad yawn that she didn’t even bother to cover, she murmured, “I know you wanted to talk, but I can’t remember about what… My mind is kind of…”
He picked up her good hand and squeezed it gently. “Your mind is exactly the way it should be. Sleep is the best thing for you. Take advantage of it.”
When he started to stand, she roused enough to hold onto his hand. “Will you stay…?”
“I’m thinking of having my jailer lock us both in a cell so I can always be there.”
She wanted to say something nice but couldn’t remember for the moment how to put the words together. Before she could tap that part of her brain for a reminder, sleep returned, easy and soothing. For the second time in her life, she had a protector, and she felt safe.
* * *
Sunday morning started hotter than hell—Hades, Sam corrected, in deference to the day—but by eight o’clock, the sky had turned dark. Sam stood at one of Jessica’s windows, gazing out as the thunderheads started to build. There was a chance they’d break up and move on without delivering even a drop of rain—Mother Nature loved to tease them that way—but it was just as possible they would solidify and try to wash the whole town down the creek in a few minutes flat.
“Glad you’re not in the farm business?” Mila came to stand beside him. She’d brought him a cup of coffee before returning for her own, iced in a tall glass, cream added until it was the color of caramel.
“I am. People need cops regardless of drought or flood.” He nodded at her glass. “You don’t drink hot coffee.”
“The only drink that gets served hot in my world is cocoa, and only if there’s snow on the ground.”
“Coffee’s meant to be hot. That’s how it gives its kick.”
“No, it gives its kick through its strength. Taste.”
It was intimate, taking her glass, brushing her fingers, placing his mouth on the rim where she’d drunk. A swallow smashed that intimacy away. “Whoa. That’s, what, twice as strong as regular coffee?”
“Three times. Or so. People who consider iced coffee froufrou have never tasted mine.”
“No wonder you have the energy to do physical labor eight or ten hours a day outside in this weather.” He’d been thinking about her work, and now seemed a good time to ask. “How many days did the doctor tell you to take off work?”
“Until the swelling goes down.”
“Three, he said. Or four.” Sam had been standing beside her when the doctor made his recommendation. “I’m pretty sure Happy Grass doesn’t give paid sick time.”
“Or even unpaid sick time.”
“A one-handed crew member’s not very effective. I don’t want you going to work for a few days. Do you think Lawrence will agree to that?”
“I think he’d rather—” she drew a breath, but the next word came out shaky anyway “—fire me.”
There were ways to get around someone like Lawrence if buddying up to him didn’t work. Sam had seen a number of his business vehicles over the past few weeks, and it would take a blind cop to not find a short list of minor safety violations on every one of them. And there were noise ordinances in town that generally got ignored when it was a yard service company making the noise. But generally was no guarantee of always.
Then there was Lawrence and the workers themselves. It was common knowledge that at least some of his employees lacked the proper papers to even be in the country, much less hold a job. That detail almost always brought an investigation into how the employees were treated: whether they’d been underpaid, overworked or abused because of their legal status.
A guy as likable as Ed Lawrence, it would be real easy and legal to put him in the crosshairs of a federal investigation.