Read Long for Me Online

Authors: Shiloh Walker

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Long for Me

BOOK: Long for Me
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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Title Page

Copyright Notice


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

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About the Author



Thanks to all of my readers. You all make this so worthwhile. Thanks to my editor Monique, for taking a chance on me. Thanks to Aemelia for the early feedback for the series. Teresa, thanks for the last minute crash read! And thank you so much to my family, for the love and support. You’re my world. I thank God for you.

Chapter One

For the first time in her life, Christina Nichole Bell thought the smell of the flowers perfuming the air might make her ill.

The small church where her parents had married wasn’t large enough for this.

They’d thought it would just be the family and a few friends, but there were so many people, the doors were flung open and people had gathered outside to pay their respects.

So many had brought flowers.

Sweat gathered at the nape of her neck, but she was freezing.

Sitting in the front pew, she tried not to cry as she stared at the pictures of her mom, of her as a child, of her brother and sister, her dad; nearly a dozen freestanding images, all blown up to show Nichole as she’d been in life.

She’s really gone

For fifteen years, she’d waited.

Deep inside, she’d
. They all had. Mom wouldn’t have left them.

But she’d fostered that hope.

Now it was gone.

A harsh gasp left her.

Jensen reached over and caught her hand, but that light touch wasn’t the comfort her sister probably wanted it to be.

There was a band around her chest, tight and powerful, constricting her breaths. She almost bolted up from the seat in the middle of the service as the pastor’s voice, usually so calming, continued to drone on. Today Mike Channing’s voice was more like a gnat’s and she couldn’t understand anything he said. Couldn’t understand


Blindly, she swung her head around, found herself caught in Guy Miller’s dark gray eyes. “When…” She licked her lips, cleared her throat, and tried to lower her shaking voice. She’d saved him a seat, although more than once she’d almost given up waiting. “When did you get here?”

“Just now.” He had a grim look on his face as the voices around them started to rise, a dull roar of whispers. He reached up and touched her cheek. “Breathe, Tink.”

Obediently, she opened her mouth and sucked in a breath of air.

The ache in her chest lessened and she reached up, rubbed the heel of her hand across her breastbone. He crooked a smile at her and then settled back against the seat, staring straight ahead.

She wished she could relax as easily as that.

She could breathe again—it helped to actually
breaths and blow them out, something she was having trouble doing right now. Absently, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a rubber band. A habit instilled in her as a child and one she still hadn’t broken. She slid the rubber band over her wrist and snapped it.

In a minute or two, she’d do it again. Yeah, she had to breathe more often than that, but when she was stressing—and she was stressing so hard right now—she needed that extra feedback.

Feeling the heavy weight of her sister’s concerned gaze, she made herself stare straight ahead. Mike’s words still weren’t connecting in her head. She stared at the flowers. They were pretty. Other than the display she’d placed in the middle, between her parents’ wedding picture and then the one they’d taken that last summer of them all at a picnic down near the river, Chris hadn’t done any of the displays.

Tacky. No. That would be so tacky.

Her thoughts bounced around madly, zigzagging from one topic to another. Absolutely that would be insane to be doing the arrangements, but she hadn’t gotten any local orders in the past few days either. That kind of made her wonder if somebody had been messing with the messages on her phone. She’d have to check.

Needed to check on that. Her stock. Her bills. Fuck, her mom—

Tears burned her eyes as she stared at one of the pictures, one of her with her arms wrapped around her mother’s neck. She’d been eight.

No more pictures like that.


Stop it. Stop thinking—

Check. What did she have to check on?

She snapped the rubber band and sucked in a breath. Her stock. The phone. Needed to make sure nobody had been deleting her messages or anything. Had she been paying her bills? The past few weeks—

“… believe he’s here.”

She stiffened as that voice cut through the static in her head.

“Don’t,” Guy said softly, leaning in and pressing his lips to her brow.


Slowly, she turned her head and stared at him.

Then she looked back over her shoulder and found herself staring into Louise Pembry’s eyes.

Sitting next to her daughter, Louise opened her mouth, then closed it before shifting her attention back to the front where Mike had paused.

Slowly, Chris stood.

Those whispers were still going on, but as she looked toward Mike, they started to fade and die.

“Mike,” she said softly.

He didn’t even blink an eyelash as she started up the steps. She hadn’t planned to speak. Tate had said something. Dad and Jensen had, too.

But Chris hadn’t known what to say, hadn’t wanted to say anything. There were words now, though. Trapped inside her, all but burning to get out.

She didn’t look at anybody, just focused on the beautiful bits of glass in the stained-glass window that hung over the entryway. That window had always fascinated her. Mom had fought with her every Sunday to get her to sit still, then eventually, she’d learned that Chris would listen, and almost be still, if she had something in her hands.

She’d do even better if she could see that window.

She stared at it now, thinking about her mother.

“Some of you knew my mom. Some of you were probably friends. Those who knew her well knew how funny she was. She was strict. She could be too rough on us sometimes,” she said, her voice trembling a bit before it firmed out. “And she kept the door open.”

Now she shifted her gaze, looking at Guy.

He stared at the picture of her with her mother.

“Jensen and Tate almost always had friends over. Me…” She shrugged. “I didn’t make friends too easily, but if I had, they would have been just as welcome. Tate spent half his life fighting with Guy. He spent the other half of his life hiding up in his room with him while they fought over video games, girls, and comics. My
would have wanted him here.”

Guy looked up at her now and for a moment, she saw the gleam of tears in his eyes.

Then he was staring at the floor, his broad shoulders rising and falling on a ragged breath.

She wanted to be out of here.

Done with this.

She’d mourn away from these vultures. Half of them were here out of curiosity or some weird sense of obligation. Shifting her attention to Louise now, she watched as the woman swallowed and stared resolutely at the front of the church, not looking anywhere.
Look at me, you sanctimonious cow!
She wanted to shout it. Under any other circumstance, she would have. But she’d finally learned to control
impulses. This was her mother’s memorial service.

“My mom loved Guy, almost like another son,” she said softly. She licked her lips and looked around, staring at the pictures, all the flowers. “She would have hated this service. Hated having people sit around and think dark, sad thoughts. Having people sit around and decide who had the right to be here, who didn’t. If we were going to do this—and it looks like we are—Mom would want the people she loved here. The people who loved her. She’d want some happy thoughts. Because she was that kind of woman.”

* * *

“I noticed Louise didn’t hang around.”

Chris gave her older brother the innocent face she’d perfected almost in the cradle. “Didn’t she? What a shame.”

Tate laughed and reached up, tugged on a lock of her hair. “You are such a brat. You…” He sighed and looked away. “Part of me wanted to start clapping while you were up there. I never would have thought to say anything like that. You were dead-on.”

She shrugged and sat down next to Guy, leaning her head against his arm. A headache brewed at the base of her skull. She wanted to find someplace dark and quiet, try to sleep it off, but that wasn’t going to happen.

“None of us would have thought to say anything like that.” Jensen sipped from a can of Sprite. All around them, people were talking quietly, eating. Doug moved around, talking here and there, but mostly playing interference any time somebody tried to approach their table.

Chris suspected it was because of her.

Her control was about at its breaking point and he probably knew it after what had happened earlier.

“Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut,” she said, sighing.

“No.” Jensen tipped the can toward her in a toast. “You did the exact right thing. Part of me was cringing—I remember the way you told one of my dates that he looked like he’d stuck his hand in an electric socket with his hair all sticking straight up. But, yeah, what you said? It’s something Mom would have wanted people to hear.”

Guy sat in silence at the table.

Chris reached over and touched his arm.

He gave her a tired smile and caught her fingers with his. “It’s okay, Tink,” he murmured. “People are people. They’ll think stupid shit all the time.”

“Are you mad at me?” she asked.

“No.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead. “I’m used to you saying any last thing that comes to your mind. You’ve done it all your life.”

Jensen chuckled. “There was this boy—who was it, Chance Hayworth?”

Chris groaned and covered her face with her hands. “Please don’t.”

Jensen ignored her, looking over at Dean, the sexy attorney she’d just started seeing. “She was maybe fifteen. Dad wasn’t even letting her date yet and she could have used
as an excuse, but this kid came over and asked her if she maybe wanted to go out to the movies with him. She shrugged and said no. Instead of him being decent about it and just walking off, he was a jerkoff, said some mean shit and then laughed at her. She told him she had some standards—didn’t date guys who didn’t know how to wear their pants right—‘
You look like you’re walking around with a load in your shorts. I’ll pass.

“That was the punk who called you cra—”

Chris slid Tate a look after he cut himself off midsentence. “Why stop there? He called me a crazy chick. Thought I’d be so happy to have somebody pay me attention, he’d get lucky. He’s not the first person who thought I was crazy or stupid.”

Next to her, Guy went rigid. “You’re not crazy or stupid,” he said, his voice flat.

“Stupid…” She shrugged. She’d struggled with school, even more after Mom had died. It wasn’t until high school that one of her teachers had realized she had dyslexia and then the school started looking deeper. It was actually more than dyslexia. That, ADHD, and depression were enough to make her
crazy. “People have varying opinions over what stupid is. I was barely able to graduate. But on the other hand, there are easily fifty people in this room who can’t so much as keep wave petunias alive and there was this time I saw Dr. Hansen planting some lily bulbs so far down, those things would never grow. To me, that’s not terribly smart. And what’s crazy anyway?”

To her, crazy was sitting there with words trapped inside you and not saying them because it was
or because people might think you were weird.

weird. She had odd thoughts going off in her head at any given moment and stress made it ten times more intense.

If normal meant being like Louise Pembry? Screw normal.

“Personally, when I see a kid—or worse—a grown man walking around with his pants hanging around his knees, I want to do what my father did to me the one time I tried to do that,” Dean said, his deep, melodic voice cutting through the noise in Chris’s head.

She looked up to see him leaning forward, a smile on his dark face. He was a nice-looking guy. She’d sketched him once—she wondered if she could find it and give it to Jensen. Jensen might like it.

“What did your dad do?” Jensen asked, refocusing Chris’s attention.

“Well.” Dean clasped his hands in front of him, a pensive look on his face. “Dad is into the DIY thing, always has been, even before it was the ‘thing’ to do, you know? Has his own workshop out back and everything. You know what any man worth his salt is going to have in his workshop?”

BOOK: Long for Me
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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