“The good news is you got his attention.” Nan said, grinning from ear to ear.
Lily gave Wyatt a huge smile, hoping he hadn’t heard what she said, but if the look on his face was any indication, he’d heard every word.
“Wyatt, I…” She shut her mouth abruptly when he turned and she saw he had a cell phone to his ear.
“Nan, he’s on the phone. He didn’t hear what I said.”
“Good, smile and wave.”
Lily laughed because Nan was trying to talk with her teeth clamped shut, as if that would keep Wyatt from knowing she was saying something. “You look ridiculous, girl.” She smiled over at Wyatt and gave a small wave.
“So do you.” Nan laughed loudly, and Willie turned to look.
“How long does it take to set a table? I’m starving. He grinned evilly.
“In case you forgot, big shot, we didn’t invite you, so you’re eating off the graces of your sister.” She grinned back just as evilly and rolled her eyes at him playfully.
“Nan, are you flirting with my brother?” Lily giggled inwardly. She’d been trying to hook them up for years, but Nan was hung up on Billy Barbour.
“A little flirting never hurt anybody.” She flung over her shoulder as she went into the kitchen to get something.
“Who’s Billy Barbour?” Willie asked as he came to the table and pulled out one of the hand-carved wooden chairs.
“He’s apparently Nan’s new assistant.”
“Oh. I didn’t know she needed help at the store.”
“I didn’t, either. She says she needs help with the inventory and such. Personally, I think she just wants to watch him work.” Lily was talking overly loud, meaning for Nan to hear. She couldn’t pass up the chance to rib her.
She came back to the dining room with some salt and a bottle of Ranch. “I heard that, sugar. If you wanna play, make sure you’re ready to pay.” She gestured toward Wyatt Adams as he stood at the front door talking on the phone.
“Don’t go there, woman. You’ve already invited him to dinner. That’s enough for one night, don’t you think?”
Nan looked at Willie, and Willie looked at Lily. “Nah, I think she could handle some more.” He gave another of his famous devious grins.
“I see how it is. Gang up on the poor, defenseless one.”
“Pu-lease, don’t make me gag, Sugar. The only thing defenseless about you is that statement.” Nan rolled her huge, dark eyes and gave an innocent look.
“I second that motion.” Willie put in.
Wyatt came into the dining room and said, “Sorry, it was business. The pizza smells delicious.” He pulled out a chair and sat down. “Do we serve ourselves, or are you serving?” He gave Lily a hundred watt smile that caught her off guard.
She gasped at the lightning bolt of electricity that shot through her. “Uh, you can serve it.”
“Are you okay? You look like you saw a ghost, or something.” He pulled a cheesy piece of pizza from the box and slid it on his plate.
“I’m fine. I hope everything is okay.”
Wyatt gave her a confused look and she said, “The phone call.”
“Oh. My sister, Sharon, wants to bring her son Percy down here for the summer. He’s been hanging out with a gang.”
“Oh wow. Sorry to hear that. I’ve been watching on the news. Gangs are getting worse and worse in the city. Where does he live?”
“They live in Salt Lake. She married some guy she met online a few years ago. They seem to get along, but Percy doesn’t like him and it caused a major rift in their relationship.”
“That’s so sad. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Lily had no doubt Wyatt would have his nephew come down. He was a good man.
“Actually, he’ll need something to keep him busy. Do you have any idea where I might find him a summer job?”
“I would’ve hired him, but I just gave Billy Barbour a job.”
Lily snickered. “I could give him a job at the shop.”
“You have a shop?” Surprise raised Wyatt’s eyebrows a quarter inch.
“Why is that so surprising?” She asked indignantly. “I’m opening a second-hand store in town. This place needs something for the poorer people.”
“That’s a great idea, you’re right. This place needs something for the poor. Store owners raise the price of things in small towns like these because they know they can get away with it. That would be a good experience for Percy. I’ll take you up on it.”
“When will he be here?”
“He’ll probably be here the second week of June. School lets out the first week and he’ll want to spend the rest of it with his mom, I would think.”
“Let me know and I’ll make sure I have plenty for him to do. The pay won’t be much…” She warned. She knew how teenagers were nowadays. They didn’t want to spend their summers working for eight dollars an hour, and that was probably what was wrong with a lot of them. They had no responsibility. When she was that age she’d kept a job during the summer, and in the evenings. Her dad had seen to that. He’d given her morals and values and when she hadn’t followed them, he punished her. You couldn’t even say something like that to most people these days, it was considered abusive.
“Thank you; I appreciate that you’re willing to give him an opportunity.”
“You’re welcome. I hate to see a kid go bad, you know? Times are tough all over and it makes the parents suffer that much more when their kids turn out wrong.”
“You’re right about that. When I took this job a few years ago, crime was almost nonexistent. I’ve had to robbery calls today alone.”
“One of those was me though, wasn’t it?”
“No, they were real robberies.”
“That’s awful. Was anyone hurt?”
“No, luckily whoever it is hits when the people aren’t home. The way it’s looking, I might have to hire a deputy soon.”
“I’ll do it.” Nan broke in. She gave a big, toothy grin.
“I’ll keep that in mind. This pizza is delicious. Thank you for inviting me.”
“You’re welcome. Lily’s wanted to ask you over for like two years now.”
The food in Lily’s mouth turned to sawdust at her friend’s words. Hopefully, the floor would just open up and swallow her. She couldn’t deny what her friend was saying without lying and she didn’t want to admit it, so she did the first thing she could. She reached for a drink and turned it over while picking it up. It created chaos for Wyatt and Nan, who were sitting on each side of her. They both jumped up like scalded dogs, Nan screeching like an owl and Wyatt laughing in amusement.
Lily ran to the kitchen for a dish towel and when she came back, they were all laughing. She crossed her arms, tapped her foot, and waited for them to notice her. Wyatt was the first to look up so she pulled her arm back and threw the towel at his face.
He caught it easily, said, “Now you’ve had it,” and proceeded to grab her, tackle her to the sofa, and let Willie tickle her.
Lily squealed, giggled, and kicked, trying to get away from her brother, but he was much too strong. Wyatt stood at the back of the couch, watching in obvious enjoyment. “Please stop, Willie, I’m sorry. Please?” She begged in between giggles. She had to pee and it would be super-embarrassing if she wet her pants in front of Wyatt Adams.
“Are you really sorry?” Wyatt asked. He was enjoying this way too much. She couldn’t see Nan, but she could hear her loud, raucous laughter somewhere close by.
“Nan, help me. What are friends for?”
“Oh no sugar, you got this one coming…” She burst into peals of laughter before she could finish.
The situation was getting dire. She shouldn’t have drunk all that soda with supper. She used every ounce of will power to stop the flow. She was losing the battle when Wyatt said, “Okay Willie. I think her debt to society is paid.”
Willie let her up and she zoomed down the hall to the bathroom without saying a word. She stayed in there as long as possible, trying to calm down. It felt so natural to have Wyatt in her living room. When he left, would she feel a keen sense of loss, or relief, like she had with so many other possible suitors?
A knock on the door interrupted her private musings and she jumped. “What?”
“I’m sorry I laughed so hard, sugar. I know you drank a lot of soda. Do you forgive me?” Nan asked from the other side of the door. Lily could imagine the contrite look on her friend’s beautiful face and smiled. God was good to give her such a good friend.
“I forgive you, now go fix it.” Lily smirked, knowing Nan was already trying to figure out what to do to appease her.
“How do I do that?”
“I don’t know, but your big mouth started it, now you have to do something about it.”
‘Come on out and we’ll go to the dining room together.” Nan ordered.
Lily opened the door and peaked around her friend, not trusting her after the tickle-attack. “They’re not standing behind you, are they?”
“No, I wouldn’t do that. Get out here.”
Lily stepped out and they walked back to the dining room together. Wyatt and Willie were sitting at the table, heads bent over a laptop.
“What’re you guys looking at?” Lily asked curiously as she walked up behind her brother. She was so close to Wyatt she could smell his cologne. It smelled like oranges and candy. She sniffed deeply in appreciation and was about to compliment him on the fragrance when another déjà vu moment came over her. What was going on? Why did it smell so familiar? Her dad had been an Old Spice user and Willie wore Axe, and they were the only men she had contact with. She shook her head in confusion, trying to clear the weird feeling from her mind.
“Wyatt asked what kind of dog was good for guarding, but not too big, and I was showing him this sale site.”
“Oh. The cologne you’re wearing is different, Sheriff Adams.”
“Please, call me Wyatt. We’ve shared dinner and a tickle together, you know.” He turned and smiled, his mouth curling up on one side endearingly.
“Ok, Wyatt. What’s that fragrance?” She hated to be persistent, but goose bumps had erupted all over her body from the eerie feeling she’d gotten when she’d smelled it.
“It’s something orange my mom gave me. She says I can’t snag a woman if I don’t smell sensational.” He laughed and Lily found herself laughing with him. He was so charismatic. Why wasn’t he married with ten kids?
“Why aren’t you married, sheriff?” Lily kicked herself mentally. Why had she asked him that? He was going to think she was immature and rude.
Surprise was evident on his face, but he turned the tables when he asked, “Why, are you applying for the job?”
Lily gasped. Had he really just said that? She looked over at Nan and she was laughing, of course. “I can’t believe you’re laughing, Nan. Remember earlier when you were apologizing to me? Now you’re doing it again.”
“I would say yes, sugar. He’s a cutie.”
What was wrong with her friend? This wasn’t like her. She ribbed Lily all the time, but she was purposely embarrassing her. “Are you okay, Nan?”
“Of course, sugar. Why do you ask?”
She pulled her friend away from the men a few feet and whispered. “You’re really embarrassing me, girl.”
“Lily, the man hasn’t taken his eyes off you since he’s been here. I think he likes you. The only way to test my theory is to catch him off guard. Saying outrageous things gets everybody off guard. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
“Well you can stop anytime. If he likes me, he does. If he doesn’t, I don’t want to have to look away in embarrassment every time we pass on the street.”
“You’re gonna have to do that, anyway, because you’ve been looking at him like he’s dessert.” Nan guffawed loudly and Wyatt turned to give her a questioning look.
“It’s okay, big fella. We’re just discussing women stuff. Give us a second.”
Lily couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing. The whole situation was unreal. She felt like a ticking time bomb of stress. What was going on? She couldn’t shake the weird feeling she was having. Maybe she’d gotten a concussion from her fall.
“Lily, are you okay?” Nan put an arm out to steady her teetering friend. “Boys, help me get her to the couch.”
“Lil, are you okay?” Willie asked as he shoved the chair back with a loud scrape. “Lily!”
She saw her brother talking, but couldn’t hear what he was saying. He sounded like he was stuck in a tunnel. Her vision blurred, then cleared, and then blurred again. Suddenly, she couldn’t see.
“Nan, Help me, I can’t see!” She put her hand out, desperately seeking the comfort of her friend’s rough hand on hers. “What’s happening to me?”
“I don’t know, sugar. Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t feeling well?”
“I was fine until a moment ago.” She squeezed Nan’s hand tightly. “Willie, are you here?” tears of fear flowed down her cheeks.
“I’m here sis. We need to get you to a doctor.” Willie grabbed her other hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
“I’m here too, Lily.” Wyatt gently brushed the hair off her forehead.
“Wyatt, was that you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you just touch me?”
“I brushed the hair out of your eyes, why?”
“I liked it.” She smiled, and passed out cold.
“Call an ambulance!” Nan yelled worriedly as she patted Lily’s face frantically.
“Stop slapping her, woman, you’re gonna hurt her.”
“I’m trying to wake her up.”
Wyatt dialed 911. When the operator came on he said, “I need an ambulance at the Tompkins residence, Flo.”
“It’s on the way, sheriff. Is everything okay?”
“Lily Tompkins passed out. I don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. She called earlier to report a burglary, but it was her brother, but of course you know that.”
“Yeah, I was having supper with them when she lost consciousness.”
“Oh.” That one word was rich with meaning. “Are you two an item then?”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it. I think she’s finally noticed me.”
“It took her long enough, bro. You’ve liked her for two years.”
“I know, and I’m pretty sure she likes me now, too.”
“You better find out what’s wrong with her then.”
“We’re trying to find out. I won’t be home for a while; I’m going to the hospital.”
“Okay, I won’t wait up. Leave me a note and let me know how she is.”
“I will. I love you, sis.”
“I love you, too, goodnight.”
Chaos reigned a couple minutes later when the ambulance roared down the usually quiet street. Everybody in the neighborhood came out to see what was going on.
“Will she be okay?” Nan asked.
“I hope so. I certainly hope so.”