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Last resort, p.26
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       Last Resort, p.26

           Jill Sanders
 
Cassey sat in the passenger seat of her brother’s work truck and felt like biting her nails.

  “Can’t you drive any faster?” She leaned forward until her seat belt clicked, shoving her back into the seat.

  “Wish I could, but it’s a school zone.” Marcus nodded towards the yellow flashing lights and the bus full of kids ahead of them. “He’ll be okay. Roman should be there soon. He’ll give us a—”

  His statement was interrupted by the ringing of his phone. “Here, answer it.” He handed the phone to her.

  “Marcus’ phone.”

  “Cassey?” She heard Roman’s voice on the other line. “I’m here. Cole is doing fine, just a broken collar bone and arm.” She could hear stress in his voice.

  “What is it?”

  “What?” Roman asked back.

  “Roman, I can hear you’re not telling me something.” She worried even more. If Roman was keeping something from her, she knew it was bad.

  “It’s nothing to do with Cole. I swear, he’s sitting up flirting with all the nurses and eating Jell-O. Don’t worry about him.” She could hear Cole talking in the background and she relaxed a little.

  “Then what?” She heard the noise level drop a little and thought that Roman had just walked out into the hallway. She could hear a lot of machines beeping.

  “I think I saw Marissa.”

  “What?” She sat up in the seat, the seat belt biting into her shoulder. “Where? When?”

  “Here, just a few minutes before I walked into Cole’s room.” Her brother sighed. “When I tried to follow her, I lost her in the lobby of the hospital. Cass, she looks the same.”

  “Oh, Roman.” She sighed and sat back. It was just like last time. To date, Roman had seen Marissa a total of ten times over the last ten years.

  “What? Is the kid okay?” Marcus asked from across the seat.

  She covered the phone and nodded. “Cool the jets. Broken collarbone and arm. He’s already flirting with the nurses.” Which, if Cole’s history was anything to go off of, was the best sign.

  “That kid and nurses.” Marcus shook his head and focused on driving.

  “Roman, we’ll talk about Marissa when we get there. As a family.” She heard him sigh.

  “Okay, but this time I know it was her.”

  When they arrived, they found Cole sitting up in his hospital bed, a young nurse standing over him taking his blood pressure and another checking his IV. Everyone knew it only took one nurse to do the job, so when another one walked in, they all laughed.

  “Mr. Grayton needs his rest now,” a nurse told them two hours later. Cassey could see that her brother was looking tired so they headed out to dinner and the hotel that Marcus had set up for them for the night.

  While they sat around eating po’ boys and drinking beer, Roman brought up Marissa.

  “Are we all going to just ignore the fact that I saw Marissa earlier?” He took another drink of his beer.

  “No.” Cassey set her drink down. “Are you positive it was her?” When he nodded, she continued. “It’s just that you seem to be the only one who ever sees her.”

  “I don’t know what to tell you. It was her. Her hair is shorter, but she looks the same.” Roman closed his eyes.

  Cassey could remember her sister perfectly, but she wondered if she would recognize her if she passed by her. It had been ten years. She’d changed so much over the years; Marissa was bound to have changed as well.

  “I asked all the nurses. It seems that Marissa was asking after Cole, but when she found out that he was okay, she left. The front desk nurse even confirmed that she said she was his sister.” He frowned. “But she gave the woman your name.”

  “Mine?” Cassey frowned. “Why would Marissa use my name?”

  “I don’t know, but it could be one reason why we haven’t found her before. We never thought about her using your name before,” Roman said, frowning into his beer.

  After dinner, they headed to the small hotel, where she called Luke and left him a voice mail, updating him on Cole’s condition.

  When she finally fell asleep, she dreamed of her sister and the day she’d arrived in Spring Haven.

  She woke a few hours later to her phone ringing.

  “How are you holding up?” Luke asked quietly into the phone.

  “I’m okay. Better now that I know that Cole is okay. How did things go with your dad?”

  She heard him sigh. “They didn’t. He used some old friends to distract everyone for the night. Looks like I’ll be stuck here until this weekend.

  Are you heading back tomorrow?”

  “Yes, I’ll be back in time to open up for lunch. Wendy said she would handle everything, but since Cole is okay and most likely being released tomorrow, I see no reason to stay longer.”

  “That’s good.” He sighed again. After a moment of silence, he said, “Tell me about this white bustier again.”

  She chuckled and proceeded to have some of the steamiest phone sex she’d ever had.

  When she walked into the hospital the next morning with her brothers, they stopped at the admittance desk and asked after Marissa with no luck.

  When they wheeled Cole out less than an hour later, there was a line of nurses waving goodbye to him.

  “What can I say?” He smiled as Roman helped him into his car. “It was worth the pain.” She watched Cole cringe as he bumped his shoulder. “Almost.”

  Riding back to Surf Breeze, she and Marcus talked about the possibility of Marissa using her name, and why she felt like she had to hide from her family.

  “Do you think that it had anything to do with the fight we had the night before?” she asked. Everyone knew about the small fight, and even though she told herself it wasn’t a big fight— they’d had worse— the thought had still played in her mind over the years.

  “No,” Marcus shook his head. “I think there was something else going on. Maybe she just wanted to get away? Maybe her mother had something to do with it”

  “Her mother? What do you mean?”

  Marcus cringed. “Nothing.”

  “Marcus Wyatt Grayton, you’re hiding something from me. For some reason, I always thought that Marissa’s mother had died.”

  Marcus shook his head. “She showed up a few weeks before Marissa’s seventeenth birthday. Scared the shit out of everyone. Looked like she’d been hit a few times and had needle marks all over her arms. But Marissa never saw her; at least we didn’t think so. We called the cops and had her removed, since the restraining order was still in effect back then.”

  “I didn’t know.” Cassey looked down at her hands. The memory of her last night with Marissa played over again in her mind.

  Do you believe in fate?

  Fate, sure, I guess so.

  I’m destined to be like my mother.

  Now she wished she could travel back in time and change her answer. Anything that would have made her sister stay.

  “I wish I could see her again. To tell her…”

  Marcus reached over and took her hand. “Wherever Marissa is, whatever she’s doing, she’s making her own way for her own reasons. She was always smart—smarter than all of us put together.” He smiled over at her. It was a long joke how Marissa was a straight-A student and on honor roll.

  “I know. I’ve never doubted that she’s out there somewhere doing what she wants.” She sighed and leaned against the window, watching the trees go by. “I’ve imagined her life so many different ways. I hope she’s happy. All I ever wanted for her was to be happy.”

  Marcus squeezed her hand. “I’m sure she is.”

  By the time they drove up to her place, Cassey’s mind was totally focused again on opening up the bar and grill. She was happy to see that all her employees were already there and looking very eager to open the doors. She rushed upstairs to quickly change into her work clothes, and then she headed downstairs to open. By mid-afternoon, she felt that everything was back to normal.

 
; It took a while before she felt like she could disappear into her office, and when she did, she was greeted by a large manila envelope. She tossed it on her desk and went to answer the phone, which was ringing.

  “How’s my favorite girl?” she heard the man she’d come to know as her father ask on the other side of the phone. Mark Grayton had been there for her since she’d arrived at his place so long ago. After his wife, Elizabeth, died almost seven years ago, Mark had been both mother and father to the five of them. And they’d never wanted for anything. Especially since their daughter Julie was like the big sister she’d always dreamed of.

  “I’m doing great. Opened up shop again today.”

  “So I hear. That brother of yours has talked my ear off. Seems he’ll be staying with me until he’s back on the surf board.” He chuckled. “That kid was always breaking something.”

  It was true. Out of all the kids, Cole was the one most likely to have something in a sling, cast, or bandage. Maybe because he was the most adventurous out of the group.

  She could remember several summers where he couldn’t go into the water due to having a cast on either his arm or leg. Once, he even had a cast on both. That was the summer Marcus dared him to drive their homemade go-cart off the docks and into the lake. But still, Cole had managed to get in more hours of surfing than most of his friends. Not to mention he’d won three trophies that fall and earned several major contracts.

  Marcus was always challenging her other brothers into doing crazy things. Roman was too levelheaded to fall for most of them, whereas Cole was game for anything that sounded fun and dangerous.

  She smiled, remembering her childhood with her three crazy brothers. “That’s good. I’m sure you’ll enjoy having him around.”

  “Already driving his aunt crazy. Julie says she’s moving out if Cole insists on listening to his music too loud again like he did when he was younger.”

  She smiled, remembering all the good times up at the old house.

  “Well, I know you’re a busy woman, but I wanted to make sure you were coming for Thanksgiving in a few weeks.”

  “Thanksgiving. It can’t be November already.” She looked at her calendar and, sure enough, it was November 7.

  “You lose track of time when you stay too busy. You need a week off, and I know just the place for it,” Mark said, chuckling.

  “That sounds wonderful. I’ll be there. I might even bring a friend.” She thought of Luke and smiled. A week in the country is just what they needed.

  “Well, now, that’s a first. He’ll be welcomed with open arms. I’ll let you get back to work.”

  “Thanks, Dad.” She hung up and wondered why she’d just promised to bring Luke to a family holiday. It was one of the most telling signs. Meeting someone’s family meant you were serious. So, the question waged in her mind—were they serious?

 
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