The Hero (Page 21)

Author: Robyn Carr

“Oh, Spencer...”

“That black car really scared you. I thought these were the few things that could make life simpler and more secure for you.” He leaned aside to smile at something. Mercy was peeking out of the bedroom door to see what was going on. He grinned at her.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” Devon asked her. And Mercy scampered back to the bedroom. “Where’s Austin?” she asked.

“Home. I have my phone and I’m just down the street. He’s locked into some computer game that’s slowly destroying his brain cells. He’ll call if he needs me and I’ll be back in an hour. I’m taking him to Dallas tomorrow and his grandfather is meeting us there to take him the rest of the way to San Antonio. He’s going to visit with his grandparents, cousins and friends from our old neighborhood before school starts. Oh, I also have this,” he said, pulling a bottle of wine out of a big bag. “You might need a little sleeping aid. Trust me, when I’m done here, no one’s getting inside without making a lot of noise.”

“I don’t think anyone will try to break in, but this is all so...perfect. But that phone—it must’ve cost a fortune.”

“Listen, you have to have this, even if no scary black car is looking for you. You have a child, a job, live alone.”

“I’ve been taking care of business from the clinic on the office phones. I check in with Rawley. I make calls for Scott. It’s been working, but now...”

He put the box in her hand. “Now you should have this. It’s a safety precaution. I already programmed my number into the phone. I’m just down the street. I can be here in less than a minute.”

Her eyes drifted over him and she hoped he didn’t see the attraction there.

He smiled. “I saw that. You like me.”

“Don’t think just because you buy me presents...”

“Isn’t this better than grass cutting? It’s very practical. I’ve always been a practical guy.” He put down all his stuff and got out his drill and tools. “I’m the kind of guy that always changes the oil when it’s supposed to be changed. I put the toilet paper on the roll. I pay the bills on the due date. I think it’s the teacher in me.”

Why was that so sexy, she asked herself.

He knelt before her front door, getting started, measuring. “Do you have a pair of scissors? You can cut those paper shades to fit—there’s a tape measure in my toolbox. Put ’em up where you need ’em most. And when we’re done here, you should call Rawley, let him know you have a phone now and the doors and windows are reinforced. Is it a little stuffy in here?”

“I was nervous about having windows open, even though I haven’t been threatened or approached or anything....”

“Ah. I got some window locks you can adjust—you can have your windows open a few inches. Safely.”

With her arms full of paper shades, she sat down on the couch. “I talked to Mac. He was very nice. He’ll be looking into that...situation. But I’m not supposed to talk a lot about the details...some of the details, anyway.”

“I’m not going to ask you any more questions, Devon,” he said, working on the door. “I just wanted to do something that would help you feel safer.”

She didn’t say anything to that. He had voiced the thing most on her mind every day—how to feel safe.

She got the tape measure and scissors and went to work cutting the blinds to fit the biggest window in the duplex. She measured and cut, then Spencer said, “Before you put that up, let me get the locks on that window.” After about forty minutes Spencer was almost done. The doors and the windows all had strong locks on them and the windows were covered.

After checking on the sleeping Mercy she found Spencer sitting on the couch, packing up his toolbox that sat on the floor in front of him.

“You look like you just came from a workout,” she said.

“In a way. Football practice starts in the morning. I’ve already been over at the high school most of the day getting ready for the year ahead—inventory equipment, settling in my office, that sort of thing. You’re probably going to be seeing a boatload of high school boys come in for physicals this week.”

She sat down at the end of the couch. “We already have a lot of appointments booked. Aren’t you going to Dallas tomorrow?”

“I don’t have to be at practice the first day—they’re just going to get equipment issued and paperwork passed out. My assistant, the former coach, and the equipment manager will handle it. But first thing Tuesday morning, the torture begins.” He grinned evilly. He looked around the small room. “How’s that? Locks and shades.”

“And phone. I’ll figure it out tonight.”

“I hope it makes you feel more comfortable here.”

“You know what? I’ve struggled with safety my whole life, sometimes not even realizing it. Sometimes this need to feel safe is the bane of my life. I can’t make peace with it.”

“You can’t,” he said. “We can do everything right and shit still happens.”

“I guess you know, huh?”

“Healthy young wife, stricken with cancer... Yeah. Shit happens.”

“How do you handle that?”

He shook his head. He smiled slightly. “I live. That’s what I do, Devon. I live. I asked myself—if I could build a bunker for me and Austin, and live there for the rest of our lives protected from the sun’s rays and all car accidents and maniacs and slippery floors, would we emerge as very old men and feel like we’d won? Like we’d beat the system? Or would we crawl out of that bunker and look around and say, we had long lives, but empty lives?”

“But do you ever worry that you haven’t been cautious enough with your son?”

“Not anymore. I made a decision—worry doesn’t work. The only thing that will work is my best—and we might still have huge challenges. I don’t cut any corners, don’t take any chances, especially with Austin, but being afraid to do anything fun, anything that brings happiness isn’t going to be the answer—I know that. Jesus, Bridget didn’t do anything wrong or foolish or irresponsible. And living in a bubble wouldn’t have helped her. There was a valuable lesson in that.”

“And how am I supposed to make peace with all of it?”

“Lock the doors. Pay attention. Call me if you hear a noise.” He smiled at her and reached out to touch her nose. “Everything is going to be all right.”

“You’re sure?”

He gave her a nod. “I’m just not sure how fast, that’s the only detail.”


After the first night with locks and blinds and a phone, Devon began to grow more confident. The next night she slept and the night after that, she slept even better. The high school boys began to keep their appointments with Dr. Grant and, to her extreme pleasure, he asked her to run the patient histories, create their charts, weigh them, take their temperatures and blood pressures and, for those who had insurance, she filed the paperwork.

She remained vigilant, watching her surroundings both at home and at work, but she didn’t see anything or anyone suspicious and, over the course of the week, she began to relax. Gabriella reassured her that she was very careful about things like keeping the doors locked when she was minding the children, so Devon did not worry about Mercy during the day.

When Friday came, Devon took an early lunch break, leaving Scott at the office, and drove to the high school with her lunch. From the parking lot she could hear the football team shouting, grunting and groaning. She walked toward the bleachers and smiled as she heard Spencer’s voice rise above the rest. “Hump! What’re ya, tired! Move it! Drop and give me twenty! Sorenson—you lazy bum, let’s see some action!” And he would just use his whistle. A lot.

She went to the bleachers and sat there, taking out her drink and her sandwich. After pushups, he had a couple of them passing the ball, a few running a couple of plays, a few players—suited up in pads—smashing into each other with him yelling, “Harder!” He was jogging all over the field in his sweats and sleeveless T-shirt, sweat staining the shirt, and she hadn’t really noticed until today—what a fine male butt he had. He was full of gestures—rolling his arm and shouting, telling them to rev it up. Leaning his hands on his knees, bending over and shaking his head as if someone had a long way to go, demonstrating some footwork by rapidly running in place, knees high.

Spencer was all over the field, sometimes yelling, sometimes slapping a player on the back or giving an approving knock to a helmet. She had headed this way because she was curious, but her curiosity was quickly giving way to an onslaught of other feelings. She was enjoying watching him. At first glance she wouldn’t have thought he had such power. Such strength. And his energy was impressive. Some of the boys on the field were as big as he or even bigger, but he ran them ragged.

Devon had been an athlete herself at one time. She might still be an athlete, given half a chance. She should have been prepared—his sweaty, muscled, graceful movements appealed to that part of her. She loved sports, always had. And she’d been very competitive in high school. She hadn’t had time for more than working out and running in college—with classes and a job, she’d been too busy. She thought about how fun it would be to play some fierce volleyball or soccer. A pickup basketball game would be fun, as well.

Then she realized, if she was still here in Thunder Point when Mercy started team sports—which was not too far away—maybe she’d be one of the parents who coached!

From the corner of her eye, she saw a woman run onto the track from the far end of the football field. A jogger, she was long and lean with a glorious copper-colored mane, a full bosom, a tight fanny and...and she wasn’t wearing much. Devon coughed suddenly, nearly choking. The runner was wearing a sports bra and tight briefs, almost bikini style, more what you would see on a beach volleyball court than here at a high school football field.

Maybe she was in training, Devon thought. It wasn’t track-and-field season but that didn’t mean a person couldn’t train year-round. She could be training for a marathon.

She ran past the bleachers and all the way to the far end of the football field, where she ended her run and began to walk around in a circle, hands on hips, cooling down. After a couple of minutes of that, she began stretching out, touching toes, sitting on the ground, one leg outstretched, reaching for her foot. Then with legs spread wide, she stretched, touching first her left foot, then right.

Devon stole a glance at Spencer, but he wasn’t watching the runner. He was watching his team. One young man was gaping openmouthed at the woman. Behind him Spencer pulled the towel from around his neck, wound it up real tight and snapped his player in the butt, getting a yelp out of him. The player whirled around, rubbing his backside.

Devon laughed in spite of herself.

Spencer blew his whistle twice and shouted. “Mile and a half, then hit the gym for weights!”

The team converged on the assistant coach and equipment manager, returning balls and other training aids, grabbing water then running around the track as a unit. Spencer noticed Devon sitting in the bleachers and he lifted a hand in a brief salute, which she returned. Then he went about the business of gathering up gear with the assistant coach and equipment manager. There was a utility vehicle nearby, a modified golf cart, and all the gear was loaded onto it. Meanwhile the team rounded the curve once, twice, three times...

This would be a good time to take off, Devon thought. She’d only taken a little over a half hour for her lunch break, but she didn’t want to be a distraction. Like some people did, for example.

* * *

Back in the gym Spencer worked the team hard, supervising their weight training, then he loaded them up on protein drinks and water and sent them to the showers. He needed an athletic trainer pronto—someone who could wrap strains and weak spots while he concentrated on the team. Coach Rayburough said he had always trained a student to do this work. At Spencer’s last high school, they’d had a certified professional with student assistants. Most college teams had physical therapists, trainers and orthopedists. But Thunder Point was operating on a shoestring. This town had a lot to recommend it, but it was not a rich town.