“Thanks for understanding,” I told her.

She chuckled. “We are females with a lot going on in our lives. These men don’t get it. We gotta stick together.” She winked. Then she walked off with a pat on my shoulder. “You make some fine sweet tea, girl.”

I wanted to go find a quiet place and check my phone for calls or text. And maybe cry a little. Not enough to make my face red and blotchy but to get some of the pain out.

Bray was a balm to my soul. He had no idea. But he was. Being near him made everything hurt less. Often it faded away. In its place came happiness. Excitement. Going to Dixie’s wedding might possibly be the worst thing I ever did. Because now I was reminded how good it felt to be in his arms. I had to get over it again.


GETTING BACK TO Scarlet was important, but before I got there I had one last thing to do. Stop by her parent’s house. Her mother’s expensive ass luxury car was in the drive. I knew several guys from high school who had fucked the woman. Everyone in town knew about her. Her husband had to know. Yet they were still married. The bastard must not give a shit.

I climber out of my new old truck and walked down the sidewalk toward the front door. I’d never been in this house. Scarlet had rarely ever stayed here. Most of the time she could be found at Dixie’s or with Dixie. Not at her own house. I never questioned it because it made sense to me.

The door was elaborate but it needed some upkeep. It reminded me of a house that someone bought and couldn’t afford to take care of. Glancing around I saw dead plants, paint that had been peeling for a long while now, and the entire building needed a good washing. Momma would be disgusted if she saw this.

I rang the doorbell and waited. Nothing. I gave it a couple minutes, then I rang it again. It was after lunch. The woman had to be awake. I was about to ring it for the third time when the door opened and Scarlet’s mother opened the door. She was in a short revealing night gown. Her hair messed up from sleep and mascara smeared under her eyes where she’d slept in her makeup.

She ran her eyes over me slowly, then smiled. “Hello,” she purred.

“Mrs. North, I’m Bray Sutton ma’am, and I’m here to get Scarlet’s things.” I didn’t ask for them. I wanted to make it clear there was no room for argument. I knew Scarlet said her things were gone but I wanted to be sure.

She straightened then. A pinched look of annoyance on her face. “Why do you want Scarlet’s things?” she asked not nearly as welcoming as before.

“She needs them. I’m taking them to her.” The woman didn’t need more explanation than that.

She studied me a moment. Her face softening again. “You sleeping with my daughter, Bray Sutton?” It wasn’t a normal question and the way she asked it wasn’t either. It almost sounded flirty. As if talking about my sex life with her daughter was a challenge. Sick bitch.

Ignoring her I repeated “Her things?” I left no room for argument. My scowl was enough to let this woman know I was fucking serious.

“Angry and bossy,” she said doing some strange move that shook her breasts at me. “I like it.”

Jesus, no wonder Scarlet never wanted to come home. “Mrs. North if I could get Scarlet’s things I can be on my way. I’m not here for anything else.”

She stepped toward me. “Are you sure about that, sugar? I’ve shown many young hungry guys your age a thing or two.”

“Then they were fucking desperate,” I said bluntly.

She jerked back like I had slapped her. “You little bastard.”

“Can I have Scarlet’s things or should I contact her father to get them? I can explain I tried to get them from you but was unsuccessful.” I had no idea what their agreement was. The man had to know his wife was a whore, but I imagined she didn’t want me calling the man to tell him about this encounter.

She rolled her eyes. “He doesn’t know or care where her shit is,” she said now sounding annoyed. “The crap is in the shed out back. It’s locked. The code is 123456.” Simple and easy enough. She went to close the door in my face but hesitated. Her eyes did a quick scan of my body again. “You have no idea what I could do to a boy like you.”

I should have walked away then. Ignored her. But this woman needed reminding how old she was. “I’ve had older women before. Like you, worn out but once attractive. Still holding on to the fleeting beauty. And no ma’am, I didn’t enjoy it. And I would regret it.”

With that I walked away, then circled around the house to the shed she was referring to out back.

“Rude little shit! I have married men begging me for this pussy! BEGGING ME!” she yelled loud enough for neighbors to hear. Hopefully it wasn’t those married men she had mentioned. Dumbasses.

I kept going and found the shed and sure enough that inane code worked. Why even have a lock if the code was going to be that stupid.

The large door swung open and I found the light switch easy enough to the left of the door. There were three cardboard boxes sitting in the center of the room. Each had the letter S on them in a black marker. I walked over and opened the top one to see a shirt I remembered Scarlet wearing. The contents were hers. I checked around to see if there was anything else but this was it. How did one teenage girl’s belongings fit in three boxes? The bitch had to have gotten rid of her stuff like Scarlet said she had.

Disgusted with this reality and how little they cared about their daughter, I took the boxes out to my truck and put them behind the seat. One last time I went out to the storage and made sure there was nothing else out there that could be Scarlet’s. Standing in the shed I scanned the walls. Dusty tools that looked like they’d never been used hung neatly on the walls. A wheel barrow that still had tags on the handle sat in one corner. A large wooden box sat in the other corner. I walked over to the wooden box and lifted the lid. A few dolls that looked too old to have been Scarlet’s were inside. A blanket that had been handmade, and from the discoloration it too couldn’t have been Scarlet’s. I started to close it when the corner of a book caught my attention. It was peeking out from under one of the dolls. I reached in and took it out.

It wasn’t that old. The pink shiny materiel on it was worn and appeared dirty from use or handling. The silver letters on front said My Diary. It belonged to a child. The style and material wasn’t like the other items in the box. It didn’t fit the time frame. This book belonged to someone else. Someone who wasn’t forty-five years old. But more like twenty.

I held it a moment. Not sure if opening it was fair. I knew it was Scarlet’s. There was no one else’s it could be. Fighting with my morals and fucking curiosity, I finally decided I would open it. I’d make sure it was Scarlet’s, then take it to her. She wouldn’t want this left here with these people.

Slowly, I lifted the cover and inside I saw a childish cursive handwriting. Like someone who was just learning to sign their name. It said Scarlet North. It was hers. I’d done what I said I’d do. Now to close it and take it to her.

I had good intentions. I did. I wasn’t planning on letting my eyes roam to the first page to see how she started her entries. Or even if she had ever written an actual entry in it.

She had. And the first words grabbed me so tightly I stood there unable to move. Or stop reading.

December 25, 2003


Tags: Abbi Glines South of the Mason Dixon Romance
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