A Touch of Death Ch. 08byWine_Maker©
The man dropped to his knees beside me and held up his car keys. That confused me until a white light shot out of it and blinded me. He tilted my head from one side to the other.
"I don't see a wound, operator." he said with more than a little panic in his voice. "What do I do?"
He listened to the answer and leaned over me. "Miss? Where are you hurt?"
I ran through my body parts. Other than some minor aches from being crushed under Ty I didn't feel hurt.
"I..." I swallowed heavily. My mouth was as dry as cotton. "I don't feel shot."
He passed that back to the 911 operator before running the light up and down my body. "I don't see any more blood. Under the light there isn't even that much on her neck."
I struggled to a sitting position and tried to think. If it wasn't my blood... A blast of adrenaline shot through me. "Ty! Ohmigod! Ty's shot!" I grabbed the man's arm. "You have to help me find my friend!"
"Just lay back down," he said soothingly. "The police are on the way. They'll find your friend."
"Screw that," I snarled, making him recoil. "Ty could be dying."
I struggled to my feet and ignored his startled squawking. He tried to block me but I scrambled around him. The shock was gone and I could move again.
"Tyrone Walker, you better answer me," I shouted.
"Keep your panties on," his voice called tiredly back from the trees. "I'm coming."
The lighting was good enough for me to see him walking slowly out of the trees in front of me. He was moving slowly but he was moving under his own power.
I ran around the confounded rescuer and beat feet to Ty's side.
"Are you hurt?" I asked anxiously. "Are you shot?" My eyes devoured him, searching for blood in the gloom.
He gestured at his left shoulder. "Just a scratch. I'm fine. Whoever it was got away," he said, his voice dripping disappointment.
I grabbed his right arm and pulled him quickly to a seat. "Sit down and let me look at your shoulder." My heart was thundering in my chest as I fumbled at the buttons on his shirt. "Light. Bring that light over here," I called out to the Good Samaritan.
"Here," the man said, holding it out to me.
"Point it at his shoulder," I said. "Thank you for coming to help me. It was very brave."
His cell phone chittered at him and he yanked it back to his ear and started bringing the operator up to speed.
Under the light I could see Ty's left sleeve was soaked with blood. I was afraid to touch it. Afraid I might hurt him worse.
He chuckled darkly and slid the sleeve down with a hiss of pain. The wound was more than a scratch but better than I'd feared. It was a cut, almost a groove, on the outside of his arm. A cut that was still bleeding sluggishly.
I ran to where I'd dropped my purse and brought it back at a run. Carelessly, I dumped the contents on the ground and found what I was looking for; a sanitary pad I kept on hand for emergencies. With an apologetic smile, I ripped it open and pressed it over the wound.
"Sorry, it's all I have."
He shook his head and smiled a little more widely. "I've carried them into combat myself. Sterile and easily available. Who could ask for more?"
The rest of the beach-goers had regained enough courage to join their braver companion. They surrounded us and talked to each other loudly, wondering what had happened. I'm sure they were talking to me, too, but I ignored them to focus on Ty. That's probably how I missed the arrival of trouble's second wave.
She probably got all the information she needed under the cover of the chatter all around me because the first I knew of my mother's presence was when she appeared at my side.
"Fancy meeting you all the way up here," she said calmly as she twisted the top off a water bottle and soaked a handkerchief.
I slumped a little. "Crap. I'm busted."
With smooth, quick strokes she cleaned my neck. "Thank God. None of this is yours. You're okay." Her eyes glittered with tears of relief.
"I'm afraid that's mine, Linda," Ty said. "I think I kept Candy safe."
Mom's gaze became cool and serious and she considered both of us. "I've picked up enough to know there was gun play. You two were following me and someone shot at my little girl. You both have some serious explaining to do, if the police don't arrest you both."
"It's my fault," I said. "Ty was following me. I was the one following you."
"And someone followed him to shoot at you?" she asked. "This is getting a little complex for me. Rest assured, we are all going to sit down and have a conversation about this as soon as Ty sees someone about this." She focused on Ty. "Is it bad?"
He shook his head. "It hurt worse when I got my tattoo."
I frowned at him. "You don't have a tattoo."
He grinned at me. "You just haven't looked in enough places yet."
I flushed when I realized the only available locations left to search. That only made him grin, the rat.
The crowd was starting to thin out, being cleared by Hyatt security. The flashing lights of one police car, quickly followed by two more, appeared on the other side of the bridge leading back to the Hyatt complex. My mother refused to leave my side. Her dinner companion filtered out of the dispersing crowd to stand beside her, as well.
He wasn't only young, he was quite a bit younger than I'd thought. I pegged him at about twenty-five but the light here still wasn't the best. Tall and trim, he had a handsome face that was filled with concern. He nodded at me but didn't speak.
Then the police were there and demanding answers.
* * * * *
The next few hours involved me telling several different cops what the hell happened. After several repetitions, the cover story sounded almost natural. Ty was questioned separately while the EMTs treated him. It was interrupted when they hauled him off to the hospital. Since I insisted on going to, they had to question me on the move.
Detective Sergeant Davy September drove me in his car while my mother and her as yet unnamed lover followed us. Unlike the other cops I'd told the story to, he wasn't shy about sharing his opinion of my intelligence with me.
"Have you lost your mind?" he snarled. "I don't care if the Sheriff and all his merry men think that guy's death was an accident. Even if it had been, painting a big target all over yourself like this is retarded."
"That's not very politically correct," I said dryly.
"Screw political correctness," he said succinctly. "You've stirred a hornet's nest now. Unless your boyfriend has pissed off someone recently, you've motivated a killer to try and silence you."
"I don't get it, though. He or she went to all the trouble of making Armstrong's death look like an accident. Why throw that away when it's only me making waves? Shooting at me is just going to make the police look at everything again."
September shrugged. "Panic. Stupidity. Who knows? That still doesn't make you look like a MENSA candidate. If I could, I'd toss you into the jail for a few days while things cooled off."
I rolled my eyes. "If I didn't ask questions, then who was going to? A man was murdered."
"While it certainly looks like that might be the case," he admitted," it's still not a certainty. Even if it is, you have to balance the risk against the gain. Someone could have killed both you and your boyfriend. It's better in my mind for a murder to go unsolved than for one more innocent person die to find a killer."
"He's not my boyfriend and cops put themselves at risk all the time. I did what I had to do."
I could almost see him mentally counting to ten. "I get paid to put my neck on the block. It's my job, not yours. And you didn't deny Mister Studly was your boyfriend the first time I said it so I'm afraid you're over-ruled."
He pulled into the hospital parking lot. "Look, I can't make you keep your head down but I'm begging you. Stop asking these questions. Find some place out of the way and stay there. Give the Sheriff's Department a week to look into this. I swear to God that we'll be pushing them hard from this end."
He brought his car up to the emergency entrance and I popped my door open. "Now that the police are looking back at Steven Armstrong's death, I don't have any reason to keep poking my head in where it doesn't belong. I'll behave."
His facial expression as I closed the door told me he doubted that very seriously. I put that out of mind and rushed inside. Ty was nowhere to be seen and an inquiry told me he was already being seen. My best effort to join him was unsuccessful so I sat down in the crowded waiting room in a huff. That fit the mood of the rest of the would-be patients and family perfectly.
I hadn't even had a chance to settle in when Mom and her fellow walked in. She spotted me right away and they angled through the rows of chairs to my side.
"Have they taken him in?" she asked.
"Then let's go to the cafeteria and talk." She spared a glance at all the people around us, some of whom were listening to her. "We can get something to eat, too. Dinner hadn't made it to the table when we heard the shots."
I shook my head. "I need to wait here. What if I'm gone when he comes out?"
"I'll wait for him," Mom's squeeze said. His voice was deeper than I'd have guessed. "You two go eat and talk. Just bring me back a sandwich and soda when you're done. If your friend gets out before you get back I'll call your cell, Linda."
"Thank you," she told him. She raised an eyebrow at me. "Since you're so insistent, this is Josh Cavanaugh. Josh, my daughter Candy."
Josh nodded and smiled at me. "I've heard good things about you. Your Mom's very proud of you."
I couldn't stop the spurt of laughter from escaping. "I wish she'd shared all the juicy details about you." I stood up and took Mom's arm. "I intend to see that rectified right now. It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Josh. Thank you for waiting for Ty."
Josh grinned and sat down in the seat I'd just vacated. "That's fair. I'll get my revenge by asking your friend all about the two of you."
"Why does everyone assume we're a couple?" I groused.
"I can't imagine," my mother said dryly. "Come on. We have a lot to catch up on."
The hospital cafeteria turned out to be closed, so we found a quiet corner in the chapel and sat down beside each other.
"I'm sorry I followed you," I said. "If you wanted me to know you were seeing someone, you'd have told me."
"You should be sorry," she scolded me before sighing. "And I shouldn't be sneaking around either. If I'm scared of my own family finding out I'm doing something then I probably shouldn't be doing it."
I held up a hand. "Whoa. Let's not get carried away. You can date anyone you like. Josh seems like a fine young man."
"Young being the kicker, eh?" Mom rubbed her eyes. "I never planned on getting involved with someone so young. It just kind of happened."
"So he's young. So what?" I asked forcefully. "You're both over twenty-one and can sleep with whoever you like." God, please let him be over twenty-one.
Mom laughed. "You should see your face. Yes, he's over twenty-one. Barely." She laughed at me again. "Stop it! He'll be twenty-seven next month."
I took her hand in mine. "Even if he was that young, the rest of us can just deal with it. Your happiness is all I want."
"It was you this morning, wasn't it?"
I blinked at her. "What?"
"In my living room. Josh was sure he heard someone out there. It was you."
I nodded. "I left my purse and just slipped in to pick it up. I swear, if I'd known..."
She nodded. "It's okay. Now you know. As long as my family approves, that's all I really care about."
"So..." I suppressed a grin. "That means you'll be telling Frank you're sleeping with someone two years younger than him?"
"Do I have to?" she asked plaintively. "He's going to have a cow. Will you sit with me when I tell him?"
"Of course I will. How did you two meet? I hate to admit it, but I was scared you might not see anyone else after Dad died."
She blushed. "I almost didn't. I'd rather not go into the details too deeply. Let's just say that he found me in my cups at a bar."
My eyes widened. "I had no idea you were going out to bars. You should've told me. I'd have gone with you."
"Wouldn't that help me pick up guys?" she asked wryly. "I think not. No, I was sitting off by myself in a dim corner wondering what the hell I was doing when he slipped into the booth with me. He didn't trot out any pickup lines. He introduced himself and just talked. One thing led to another and here I am, involved with a man half my age."
"That must have its... perks."
She laughed and swatted my arm. "Don't mock my perverted sex life. I never pictured myself as one of those women with a younger man on her arm and in her bed." She smiled slyly. "But, oh, the stamina of youth."
We laughed together for a moment. My brother was going to freak, but I'd sit on him if he made a fool out of himself. I hadn't seen Mom so happy since Dad's heart attack. I'd be damned if I'd let anyone upset this applecart.
"Why don't you let me handle Frank?" I asked. "I think I can ease him into the concept gently. Then you can talk with him."
She squeezed my hands. "Would you? That would be wonderful."
"Consider it done," I said with a confident smile. He'd either accept it gracefully or I'd dump him in the lake. "Are you ready to go back?"
She pulled back a little and shook her head. "Not quite yet. I want to know about you and your new squeeze."
My neck flushed and my insides warmed in an interesting way. "We're not a couple. At least not yet. We might be heading that way."
"Someone said you were making out on the beach before... you know. That sounds like more than a friendly handshake. And you were almost falling out of your clothes when you showed up at the lodge with him."
"It isn't like it looks," I said a little guiltily. "That kiss tonight was the first time he's touched me like that. Besides, I thought you disapproved of him."
Her eyes widened in shock. "Whatever gave you that idea? He seems like a good man and he's hot."
"Back in high school-" I started.
"Oh my God," she interrupted. "That was a dozen years ago. I have different standards for my teenage daughter. Besides, he's matured. Some of those bad boy edges have smoothed off. He took a bullet for you!"
I nodded uncomfortably. I was still worried and scared about how he was doing. This could have turned out so much worse. It still could if I didn't see it done quickly.
Her eyes narrowed at my expression. "And don't think we're done with the rest of this. I'm not happy with you parading around trying to draw out a killer! We will be talking."
"Yes, Ma'am," I said contritely. "But not now."
She pulled me to my feet. "Later. For now, let's go see how your hero is and get the hell out of here."
* * * * *
They wheeled Ty out half an hour after we got back. Josh had time to go hunt up something for us to snack on while we waited. The nurse turned him over to our care and we started out to where the car was parked, Josh wheeling Ty and my Mom and I on either side.
He looked tired and in pain. Someone had given him a tee shirt that was tight enough to shock me with a shiver of lust.
"Are you okay?" I asked, astonished at the steadiness of my voice.
His grin tried to overcome his pain. "All this chasing you around has given me a mighty hunger."
"We need to get some food into you and put you to bed," I said. "Someplace that we don't have to worry about people shooting at us."
"I have the perfect place," my mother said. I turned to her with one eyebrow cocked. "Josh and I just... happen to have adjoining rooms at the Hyatt." She smiled at Josh. "I'm sure it wouldn't be any trouble to let the two of you share one of them."
My mouth dropped open. Never mind that my mother was trying to shuffle Ty and me off together for the night. We'd been shot at on the beach there just a couple of hours ago!
She waved off my objection before I could say anything. "It makes perfect sense," she said. "That's the one place no one would expect you to go back to tonight."
"No one in their right mind," I muttered.
Ty scratched his chin thoughtfully. "That's actually a pretty good misdirection. When someone is shooting at you, you want to pop up in the last place they expect you." He raised an eyebrow at me. "I promise to be a gentleman."
Right. Like I was worried about his control right now. The idea of being alone with Ty made me damp with suppressed desire. Take a deep breath. He's hurt.
"Sure," I said in my best offhand voice. "Besides, that's where our cars are parked."
"That's a minus, really," Ty said, "but if we slip in and don't go near the cars tonight we should be fine."
Josh stopped at the driveway and brought the car around. Ty sat in the back with me and directed Josh on taking a roundabout drive through the area while he watched behind us. After half a mile he pronounced himself satisfied that we weren't being tailed and we slipped back to the Hyatt with no sign of anyone waiting for us.
Ty was leaning on Josh by the time we made it to the room Mom wouldn't be needing tonight. Josh walked him right to an easy chair and settled him in.
"Order something from room service," Mom said as she led Josh to the door. "If you need anything pound on the door to our room or call."
I hugged her close. "Thank you."
"We'll talk tomorrow," she promised before almost yanking Josh out the door.
After making sure the door was locked, I sat down on the arm of the easy chair and looked at Ty. Whatever they'd given him for pain looked like it was wearing off.
"I'm sorry for what happened on the beach," I said.
"For kissing me?"
I barely stopped myself from swatting him. "No! For getting you shot."
"Good. I'm glad this experience hasn't warped your perspective."
I rolled my eyes. "You're incorrigible. And you're hurt, so no kissing for you tonight. What do you want from room service?"
His eyes twinkled. "So, kissing tomorrow isn't out of question?"
"You need a cold shower," I assured him. "And so do I."
He shook his head. "I can't get the dressing wet but you knock yourself out. I'll take the chair tonight and you can have the bed."
Sure enough, the room only had one bed. "No, you take the bed and I'll sleep in the chair. You are absolutely not sleeping in this chair tonight."
"Then we have a problem because neither are you."
I growled deep in my throat. "Men! You are so stubborn. Fine, we'll share the bed tonight but no fooling around. Remember, you're supposed to be a gentleman tonight."
"Don Juan," Ty suggested with a brief waggle of his eyebrows.
"Don Juan was a fictional womanizer," I corrected him. "If you want more kissing, you'll behave."
He held his hand up in a Boy Scout salute.
I shook my head and stood up. "I'm going to have that cold shower. Let's get you into bed."
He didn't give me any more trouble. I stripped him of his shoes, socks, and pants before tucking him under the covers.
"Boxers, eh?" I asked with a smile. "I figured you for tighty-whities."
"I'll go commando next time we get shot at."
I laughed and locked myself into the bathroom. I quickly stripped and turned the hot water on me. No matter what I said, there was no way I was taking a cold shower. Brrrr.
When I was done, I considered my sleeping options. My normal option, sleeping in the buff, was right out. The skirt and blouse were a bad call, so it looked like he was going to get me in my intimates. It's not like he hadn't seen me in something skimpier.
But I wasn't going to be snuggled up near him in my swimsuit, was I?
I put my bra and panties back on after a thorough drying and combing my hair out. With a deep breath, I walked back into the bedroom.