I got out of my seat just as Lloyd came for me. I threw a punch, one I knew wouldn’t do much more than anger him, and got the reply I expected. The punch barely fazed him, and he wrapped his big arms around me, picked me up and slammed me down on a table, the force breaking it and leaving me groaning on the floor.
I rolled over, slowly pushing myself to my feet, and felt a kick connect with my side, shooting bolts of pain through my body. I cried out in pain, rolled away from a second onslaught and hurriedly got up. Earl came for me with a speed I thought beyond him, and I quickly dodged his first two punches before landing one of my own. He staggered back, and before Lloyd could come to his aid, I kicked him in the groin, hard.
Lloyd grabbed me again, but this time I was more prepared, and twisted my body around, using his momentum to throw him onto the ground along with me. I slammed my elbow into the big man’s face, hearing the audible sound of breaking bones, and watched blood splatter from his nose. He cried out in agony, rolling away from me and cradling his face.
I was on my feet in seconds, bracing myself against the chair that slammed into me and sent me staggering back. Earl came at me again, but this time I twisted away from the weapon aimed at my head and quickly wrapped an arm around his neck. I squeezed, hard, ignoring the fists slamming into my face as I slowly choked him. I quickly looked to where Lloyd was still trying to stop the bleeding from his nose, and knowing he wouldn’t be troubling me anymore, I squeezed on Earl even harder. He choked in my grip, kicking out uselessly, his arms flailing as he tried desperately to break my hold.
The distinct sound of a shotgun being racked brought my attention around, and I gazed at the bartender as he aimed his gun at me.
“That’s enough, fella,” he said, slowly making his way around the bar. “You let him go and get the hell out of my bar.”
I let Earl go and raised both my hands. Earl kicked away from me, coughing and gagging. When he looked back at me, his face was flushed in anger, and he looked like a rabid dog that had just found its next victim. He lunged for me, but stopped when the bartender aimed the shotgun at him.
“You, too, Earl,” he said. “Walk it off.”
“What’s going on here, boys?”
We all turned towards the door simultaneously, and I silently cursed my luck when my eyes fell on the man’s chest and star that was pinned there, glistening in the sunlight.
It took me at least two hours to stop crying, and maybe an hour more before I could finally look at myself in the mirror without cringing. I tried to get ready as quickly as I could, tying my hair in a loose ponytail and only adding touches of makeup to my face. I still had a job to do, after all, and I didn’t want Chuck and Martha worrying too much.
I walked into the living room, trying my best to create a mental checklist to keep my mind off of Chance, when I saw his things strewn next to the couch.
Damn you, Chance Ridder.
I felt tears well up in my eyes again, and I quickly pushed them back, taking a deep breath to steady myself as I collected everything in a bag and tossed it next to the door. I had never felt so humiliated in my life. I had opened up to him completely, trusted him fully, and it all came crashing back at me, like a brutal slap to the face. I didn’t even care that he had tried to fix it with his little speech. All I cared about was not seeing him again.
Which made my job even harder. The delivery to the motel would bring me in his vicinity, and I knew that he would probably try to talk to me again. I had to think of something to say to him, something that would stop us from making a scene in the middle of the motel. My only hope was that Hank had finished fixing the truck and Chance had left Ludwig for good. Then again, I knew I wouldn’t be that lucky.
Stop thinking about him.
Right, like that would somehow miraculously keep him out of my life.
I went through my morning rituals in the greenhouse as quickly as possible, and within an hour I had my truck packed and ready to go. My phone rang just as I got into the driver’s seat, and I almost ignored it if it hadn’t been sitting on my dashboard. Martha’s name flick
ered on and off on the screen.
“Martha, welcome back,” I said, answering the phone.
“I’d say the same to you, sweetheart,” Martha replied with a light chuckle. “Chuck tells me you’ve been missing for almost two days.”
“Was just down with the flu,” I lied. “Feeling a little better this morning. Actually, I’m on my way to you now.”
“Excellent,” Martha replied. “I’ll be waiting with fresh pie and coffee.”
I smiled, hung up, and headed toward town.
The first thing that caught my eye as I drove into the motel was the long black limousine parked in front of the office. It looked so out of place, I almost thought that I was dreaming things. It was the way the twins standing on the sidewalk ogling it that made it real.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
Not bothering with staying anonymous anymore, is he?
I shook my head in disbelief. Chance was obviously in a hurry to get back to his playboy life. It only confirmed to me how much I knew nothing about him, and how badly he had played me. I felt even worse than before.
I parked next to the limo, purposely slamming my door open against it. The twins cringed, and Britney gave me such a look of horror, it made her look comical. I greeted them with as much false cheer as I could muster, and peeked through the window into the front office. I didn’t want to run into Chance, and if he was inside, then I would just get right to work and talk with Martha later.