In this week's episode of Rose and Thorne, the boys meet their match in a little Pekingese who has ideas of his own! And then, in Moving Forward, Marshall has to tell Lee what happened to him in the men's room. I think it's safe to say Lee will not be happy. What will he do about it? Read this week's chapter and see! Don't forget to see what the other Briefers are up to. Their links follow my tales! Enjoy!
Rose and Thorne #4 (1.4)
“Vinnie, maybe you should let me—”
Let him nothing. My gun, my problem. I shook my head. My eyes on the prize, I slowly and deliberately inched my hand toward my weapon. The dog not only didn’t try to stop me, he seemed to have lost interest in both of us, darting away just as I wrapped my hand securely about the stock. Ah, the sweet smell of success.
Well, that was easier than I expected—
Hey, what the hell? Did that mangy mutt just grab my purse and run off with it?
“Dude, did you see that?”
“I’m right here, Ethan, and I’m not blind.”
He looked at me and then in the direction the dog had taken off in, as if debating what proper etiquette was. Should he help his injured, grumbling boyfriend off the ground, or should he hightail it after the pooch who now possessed my handcuffs, among other things?
My boy’s smart. He made the right decision and took off running through the park, chasing after the canine thief. “Wait here,” he called over his shoulder.
I leapt to my feet as quickly as I could manage. I sure as hell wasn’t about to just sit there and do nothing, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to not go running after Ethan, no matter what he thought. He and I were a team. We did everything together. On or off the clock. Big capers or small. He was my everything, and I was his. That was an easy decision to make.
Tucking my gun back inside my waistband, I lit out in the direction Ethan had taken. I kept my ears trained for the sound of the dog’s high-pitched yips before I realized it couldn’t very well bark with my purse stuffed in its mouth. So I concentrated on the sounds of rustling bushes, and the occasional “Excuse me,” no doubt directed at park patrons with the misfortune to find themselves in Ethan’s way.
An indignant yelp told me Ethan had both the pup and the purse well in hand. I caught up with them near a large stone fountain in the middle of the park. Ethan and the dog were both dripping wet. Ethan held my purse triumphantly over his head, as he gave me a big shit-eating grin. The dog sat meekly at Ethan’s feet. He yipped at me as I drew close. The next moment he shook himself and sneezed, managing to shower me in the process, earning laughter from Ethan.
“What’s so funny?” I huffed.
“Us. This. Everything.” He shrugged and handed me my bag. It wasn’t too terribly soaked, but my first thought was for my cell, which I’d forgotten was in there too. I unzipped the bag and pulled it out. It didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear, thank goodness, since I didn’t carry a supply of rice with me in case I had to dry it out.
“What do we do with him?” Ethan jerked a thumb toward the dog, who now lay at my feet, tail wagging.
“Call the owner?” I suggested. “He is wearing a collar. Check his tag for a phone number.”
Ethan grumbled, but he dropped to his knees, keeping a wary eye on the dog. “You should probably do this, you know? I think he likes you better.”
“Doesn’t everyone? You’re down there, just read the damn tag.”
“Gosh, you’re so mean, Vinnie. Good boy, just stay calm, let me see what’s on your tag… You ready, Vin?” As he recited the numbers, I punched them into my phone. From the area code, I knew it was a local call. We’d talk to the owner, get an address, find it on GPS, and drop the Peke at home, good deed for the day done. Besides bagging the mugger who had terrified this city for the past several months. All in all, a good day’s work. I was more than ready for it to be over.
Except there was no answer. After six rings, it went to voicemail where a surly voice snarled, “Leave a number” and nothing more. “Read me the numbers again, willya?” Afraid I’d somehow hit the wrong button, I listened intently, and made sure to punch them in exactly as Ethan recited them. All I was rewarded with was the same miserable canned voice. I hung up without leaving a message. That voice didn’t exactly engender the warm and fuzzies.
“Now what? Should we take him by the station, let them deal with him?” Ethan asked.
“It’s a police station, not a dog pound. Besides, he has a home. That wouldn’t be fair to him to lock him up, like he did something wrong.”
“He did do something wrong,” Ethan pointed out. “He stole your purse.”
I knelt, albeit painfully, beside the two of them, bits of loose pavement digging into my knees, and began to stroke the Peke’s soft, damp fur. He wagged his tail and looked up at me with hopeful eyes. “Looks like we don’t have much of a choice if we can’t reach his owner.”
“Vinnie, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“Well, it’s not my first choice either, Ethan, but I don’t know what else to do. We can fix him up space in one of the drawers. He’s little. He’ll probably like that. In the morning, we’ll get hold of his owner and then we can take him home on our way in to the station.”
“Yeah, okay,” Ethan gave in, as I knew he would. “You can carry him, since I’m driving.”
“Who says you’re driving?”I argued, even as I scooped up the unresisting pup. I tucked him into the crook of one arm, well away from the purse I’d slung over my other shoulder.
“Because I’m the husband and you’re the wife, and that’s how it works.” He winked at me.
Some days I just want to belt him.
To be continued
Moving Forward #4 (1.4)
A hubbub of voices began, with the blond stranger in the thick of it. He raised his hand for attention, and slowly the furor died away.
“Pleased to meet y’all, but there’s something we need to take care of first.” He pointed toward Marshall, who leaned against Lee. Lee’s arm was wound protectively about his shoulder. “This man… this friend of yours… was just assaulted. In the bathroom. By some asshole who apparently doesn’t know how to take no for an answer. I think he needs to learn the meaning of the word. What do y’all think?”
All heads swiveled toward Marshall. Roy was on his feet in a second, and Marshall knew he was angry. Lee drew back enough to look into Marshall’s eyes. Marshall could see, as well as feel, how upset Lee was. Marshall was pissed at Denver’s cousin for telling everyone like that. He’d wanted to do it in his own way. A little more privately.
“Marshall, what did happen? Please tell me.”
Looked like he wasn’t going to get that privacy after all. To hell with it. He did nothing wrong, and he wasn’t going to act like a scared rabbit. He took a deep breath and began. “This guy I danced with earlier, I guess he was mad ‘cause I wouldn’t dance with him again. He happened to come in the bathroom when I was there and he thought he’d teach me a lesson. We started fighting… It might have ended worse than it did if he”—with a nod toward Denver’s cousin—“hadn’t been there. He threatened to tell the owner if the guy didn’t leave, so he skedaddled.”
Marshall cast his eyes to the floor. He was angry at what had happened, angry with the man who’d hurt him, but he was also angry with himself for being so weak, for not handling himself very well. Lee tilted his head back, their eyes meeting. Marshall knew without asking Lee wasn’t about to let the matter rest there. He was going into protective lover mode, and God help the man if Lee found him.
A small part of Marshall wanted Lee to do just that.
Lee looked from Marshall to Dustin. “Think you’d recognize him if you saw him again?”
Dustin nodded. “No doubt about it.”
“Would you look around, see if he’s even still here. Do it quietly, without drawing attention to yourself and if you spot him, come tell me?”
“You got it.” Dustin quickly disappeared in the crowd between them and the bar.
“Goddamn, Lee,” Slim said. “Marshall, you okay? Just Goddamn…”
Voices broke around Marshall, like waves against the rocks, pounding at him. He tried to pay attention, but his focus was on Lee.
“I’m fine,” he kept saying. If he said it often enough, maybe it’d be true.
“Will you go back in the men’s room with me so I can get a better look at you?” Lee asked. Marshall nodded. Lee squeezed his hand, pushed back his chair and waited for Marshall to rise. “We’ll be back in a minute. Tell Dustin that if he gets back before we do, willya?”
“Sure thing, Lee.” “You got it.” “Yep.” The guys answered in unison. Lee took Marshall’s elbow in his hand and guided him back to the men’s room.
Men were flowing in and out. Marshall kept a wary eye on them, but none was the one. Lee positioned Marshall under the best light he could find and looked him over carefully. “You have some minor scrapes, nothing serious. I think that cheek might bruise. When we get home, I’ll put some ice on it. Where else did he get you?”
“He yanked on my hair, probably tore some out.”
Marshall bent his head, putting his hand on the spot. Lee moved the hair around. Marshall sucked in a quick breath. His scalp was sore where the guy had pulled out his hair. Lee lightly prodded the spot then lifted Marshall’s head back into place. “Nothing permanent, I think. Anywhere else?”
“Just knocked the wind out of me.”
“Tell me what he said to you, Marshall.” Lee’s voice was calm, but Marshall could feel the anger beneath his words. He would have rather not said, but he wasn’t about to lie, either.
“He called me a whore. Told me he was going to teach me how to treat men right. Called you my pimp.”
“He did, did he? Just because you wouldn’t dance with him a second time?”
“Yep. Just because.”
The door to the men’s room opened. Marshall tensed until he realized it was Roy.
“I just came to check on you two. If you want me to go, I will,” Roy began, “but I was worried.”
Lee looked to Marshall.
“It’s okay, Roy, you can stay.”
Roy moved back to let another man leave then joined them as they moved to a corner, out of the way.
“I think he’s mostly gonna be bruised, a few cuts, but nothing too serious, luckily,” Lee said.
“That’s good to know. That Dustin came back to the table. He said to tell you he can point the guy out.”
“Well all right, then.” Lee took a deep shuddering breath and looked at Marshall. “Much as I might like to, I’m not going to ask you to sit this out. It’s your fight more than ours, and you’re a grown man. Just know I will have your back. Never doubt that.”
“I never have, Lee.” Marshall felt heartened at Lee’s words.
“I do too,” Roy chimed in.
“Roy, I wouldn’t ask you to get involved, you being a sheriff and all,” Lee began, but Roy shook his head.
“You’re not asking me, Lee. I’m not doing this as a sheriff. I’m doing this as someone who loves Marshall too.”
The men exchanged understanding glances. Lee nodded. “Much appreciated.” He turned to Marshall. “You ready to face him, then?”
Marshall nodded grimly. “Yep, I am. Let’s do this thing.”
to be continued
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