The Hero (Page 12)

Author: Robyn Carr

There was quiet for a few moments and then it was Spencer who broke the silence. He cleared his throat. “I couldn’t be happier for you both, but what does this have to do with me?”

“You’ve been hunting for a house,” Cooper said. “You hoped to get into something with a bigger kitchen and bathroom before football practice started and you ran out of time to look. I think we can help with that. Consider it another temporary situation, but Sarah’s place won’t move in the wind, it’s in town, and it’s small but nice.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Wait a minute,” Landon said. “I might get enough of Spencer at practice, no offense.”

“No offense taken,” Spencer said. “You’re not my dream roommate, either.”

“Landon, let’s talk about you having your own place,” Sarah suggested.

Landon sat up straighter, but suspiciously. And hopefully. “Like an apartment?”

“Like the toy hauler, where Spencer and Austin have been staying.”

He glanced at it, thought for a moment. “Hot! Can I move it? Like somewhere else?”

“No,” they said in unison.

He slunk back down in his chair. “Well, it’s better than sleeping in the same place with you two, I guess.” He glanced at Spencer. “They’re embarrassing.”

“You poor abused thing,” Sarah said. “You have a terrible life. Your big sister is going to know how late you stay out and how many people you have in your ‘apartment’ until you move away. I don’t know how you will live.”

“Spence, why don’t you and Sarah run over to her house, take a look,” Cooper said. “It might not be what you want long-term, but while you’re still trying to figure out if this is the right town and school for you, it might just work. It’s close to everything. Drop-dead view of the bay.”

“I’ll take you over in the Razor,” Sarah said. “It’s on a month-to-month lease and it’s cheap. Three bedrooms, but the third is like a closet—only big enough for a small bed or a desk and a shelf. I’ve been using that room to store boxes of stuff I have no room for.”

“Now?” Spencer asked.

“Now,” she said.

“Come on, Landon,” Cooper said. “Let’s get to work.”

When everyone stood, Landon muttered, “I came this close to having a bachelor pad...”

Driving across the beach, Spencer found himself feeling guardedly optimistic about this opportunity. He’d been all over this little town. Some of the neighborhoods were quaint, some very nice, some pretty run-down and worn-out, but one thing was a constant—property didn’t become available very often. He’d looked at several rentals and even a few houses for sale, but nothing met his needs—they were either pathetic dumps or far too big and pricey for a high school football coach. And as a transplanted Texas boy, he was getting pretty well hooked on this Oregon beach and the lifestyle here.

As Sarah drove them up the hill to her house, he recognized the neighborhood. Yes, he’d driven up and down this street a few times; it was a pleasant, well-kept area—large pines behind and between the houses. Sarah’s place was one of the smallest on the block, but as they pulled up in front of it, what really caught his attention was the view from the front of the place. From right outside the front door he could see the entire bay, all the way to Cooper’s bar and beyond.

“If I were going to be here one more summer, I’d put a small patio right here,” Sarah said.

“One thing I’ve figured out about this town—it is all about the view and Cooper’s in the catbird seat. And to think he fell into it.”

“Well, want to just stand here or go inside...?” Sarah asked.

Right then Ray Anne’s car pulled up in front of the house. She rolled down the window to wave a greeting, and from the passenger side, Devon opened the door and stood in the street, waving over the top of the car. “Sarah! I found a house! Sort of! Right down the street!”

Sarah walked toward the car and Spencer found himself following. “What house?” Sarah asked.

“A duplex,” she said. “At the end of your street.”

“What duplex is that? I didn’t know anything was vacant in this neighborhood.”

“That old Dunwoody place,” Ray Anne said. “You know—it’s looking a bit...needy?”

But Devon’s face was absolutely shining. “It’s going to be beautiful!”

“There’s lots to do,” Ray Anne said. “It’s past its prime. But it’s a solid little place with a very nice neighbor.”

“There isn’t anything to do that I can’t handle,” Devon said, beaming. “I didn’t think I’d get this lucky! This fast! It’s going to be wonderful. We’re going to love it.”

Ray Anne just shook her head and laughed. “Oh, if only all my clients were this easy to please. Have a great day. We have to go find Devon a bed.”

Spencer watched as they drove away. The first time he saw Devon, he thought she was cute. As the days became weeks, she grew more beautiful to him. Striking, in fact. And that laugh—it cut right through him. He couldn’t seem to stay away from her and there was no logic to it.

He shook himself. “Let’s have a look inside, Sarah,” he said. “In case I haven’t said so, this is really nice of you.”

She unlocked the front door and entered, looking at him over her shoulder. “We have to look out for each other. We’re combining families here.”

“It’s all good,” he said. But it wasn’t all good. He had no regrets about coming to Thunder Point. It was a great move for a lot of reasons and he was more than a little anxious to meet and start working with his colleagues and the team. Everyone he knew was growing deeper connections—Austin had gained a second father and soon, a stepmom and stepbrother. Cooper had gained a son and would soon add a wife and brother to the mix. Sarah and Landon were expanding their intimate circle. But in the midst of all these people, Spencer was alone.

He missed his wife. The past few years she’d been so sick, but he often missed the girl he’d married. It had been so long since he’d seen or held that girl.

The house was unremarkable, but had so many of the things he wanted—a large kitchen, a comfortably big bathroom, a living room with a fireplace, a backyard, a view. It was a simple house. Nothing flashy. Not the kind of house one aspires to. Not what he’d build if he could. Certainly not what Cooper was going to build next to Ben & Cooper’s.

And yet it was perfect. Just what he and Austin needed.

“This is great, Sarah,” he said. “If you’re sure.”

She laughed and asked, “How many houses do I need?”

He grinned at her. “Two weeks, huh?”

“I was a hard sell,” she admitted. “But I’m ready.”

“Is Cooper trying to tie you up before you can change your mind?”

“Not exactly,” she said with a laugh. “He wants to get married on the beach before he brings heavy equipment in to excavate the hillside for building. He doesn’t really know how much of a mess that’s going to make. Getting him to wait two weeks was a challenge. Cooper’s been married in his head for a while now.”

“That’s...kinda sweet. Who would figure Cooper for sweet?” Spencer dropped a hand and gave a pat to the head of Ham, who had come to greet them. “I guess the dog won’t stay with the house?”

“Cooper would be devastated. He might be marrying me for the dog. But I assure you, some of the dog hair will probably stay with the house.”

“One phone call gets my household goods en route. You want to think about this?”

She shook her head. “I’m ready to move.”

“Where are you going to put all this stuff?” he asked.

“I’m going to store a few things, put a couple of things in the RV or Cooper’s loft apartment and then get rid of a lot. Cooper has me convinced my new house deserves some new furniture. Need anything?”

He shook his head. “I have more coming than I need as it is. Maybe we’ll have a big yard sale?”

“Maybe,” she said with a laugh.

When they were back in the Razor, he said, “Drive me past that place Devon just rented.”

“Sure. I’m curious, too. I’ve driven by it before, but never thinking it would have anything to do with me or a friend of mine.” And she whirled down the street, past a lot of perfectly lovely homes.

At the end of the street, Devon’s new place stood out like a wart on a nose. The grass was tall and mostly dead with a few green sprouts here and there. The driveway was covered in brown pine needles and the windows were streaked and filthy. The other half of the duplex was neat, except for the lawn, which was also a wreck. But the driveway on the other half was swept and the windows were clean. But that didn’t help the overall effect much. “What a dump,” he muttered.

“Holy crap,” Sarah said.

“Hold up a second,” he said.

Spencer got out and went up to the house. He cupped his hands around his face and peered inside. Then he turned back to Sarah. “Who the hell lived here? Hell’s Angels? It’s horrible,” he said. “Filthy. Holes in the walls. Stains everywhere. Cigarette butts ground into the floor. A lightbulb instead of a fixture. It looks like a crack house.”

Sarah came up beside him and pressed her face up against the front windowpane. “Ew,” she said. “She’s got her work cut out for her. It looks like a fixer-upper.”

“What the hell was she so happy about?” Spencer asked.

“Maybe this looks a lot better than what she had,” Sarah said with a shrug.

“But she’s staying with Rawley, right? And he’s a little different, but Cooper said he’s dependable and a good man even if he’s not the most talkative. And he has a good, clean, sturdy house with plenty of room for them....”

“It’s not always just about houses, Spencer. Maybe this represents more than that to her. You should ask her.”

He thought about that for a second. “Maybe,” he said. “If I run into her.”

* * *

Spencer didn’t run into her, at least not for a few days. He didn’t go by the doctor’s office or the diner. In fact, since seeing that god-awful duplex, he’d been trying not to think about her. For something like that to make her smile, to make her happy meant her previous circumstances must have been so much more pathetic than she let on. And that made him just plain sad. It was crazy that a beautiful young woman with an adorable little girl had escaped something bad only to land in that disgusting hovel. It amazed him to consider the idea that she might see this as breaking free.

But he couldn’t get the girl off his mind.

* * *

He nursed a cup of coffee at the bar while Sarah and Cooper looked at their building plans—not just for a house, but for the whole ridge that stretched between his place and the town, including roads. Austin was in the RV watching TV, laying around and eating cereal out of the box. Landon had taken one of Cooper’s kayaks out on the bay for an upper-body workout and would come in for his work shift after that. There were two kayaks rented, two paddleboards, and since Spencer had been in the bar, six people had been in for coffee. Four of them took coffee cups down to the beach and dock; two customers sat on the deck and enjoyed the morning view.

Despite all this activity, Spencer couldn’t get the girl off his mind.

Rawley came into the bar from the kitchen. “I need a little time, Coop. You okay here alone?”

“No problem, Rawley,” Cooper replied without looking up.