Yancey got up the next morning in a fowl mood and stayed that way for several days. One evening, when Tammy was in bed and the three of them were relaxing in the family room, the telephone rang. Yancey tossed his newspaper aside and stomped into the hallway, where he gruffly answered the intrusive caller. His eyes sought Lisa as he questioned the caller.
From the expression on his face, he wasn’t consoled by the answer. He held the phone out to Lisa. “It’s for you,” he stated in a sour tone.
Lisa dropped her pad and pencil on the couch and crossed the room, wondering who might be calling her on his telephone and why Yancey was screening her calls. When she reached for the receiver, he released it reluctantly and then lounged against the wall where he could hear her conversation.
“Hello?” Lisa asked tentatively.
“Lisa? Howard. Connie gave me this number to call you. Was that your boss? He sounded angry. I hope I haven’t stirred up trouble for you.”
“Is there a problem?”
“Can you talk?”
She glanced up at Yancey, but he gave no indication he might give her any privacy.
“Not at the moment,” she finally responded.
“Is he listening to your phone call?” The response was sharp.
“I’m afraid so.”
Eyes as cold as ice were measuring her every word.
Howard cursed. “Well, I haven’t found out anything yet. You be careful. I don’t know what he’s up to, but I’m suspicious.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Well, do you want me to come back home?”
Yancey moved away from the wall and reached for the phone, but she glared up at him, hugging the receiver to her chest.
“Do you mind? I’m trying to have a private conversation here.”
The voice on the telephone became urgent. “Lisa?”
Yancey stalked off to his chair, muttering something under his breath. Sarah gave him a stern look.
Lisa put the receiver back to her ear.
“What’s going on up there? Is he threatening you?”
She glanced at Yancey, who was giving the forward in the magazine on his lap undue attention. He was in his chair, trying to control his curiosity, but she couldn’t let it rest at that.
“No, he’s just in one of his moods.”
His head jerked up and his face flamed. He stood and slammed the magazine into the chair. “You want privacy? You’ve got it.”
He left the house, slamming the door so hard the hallway reverberated with the sound.
Sarah shook her head and rolled her eyes as she continued her needlework.
“Lisa! What happened?” The voice on the phone was almost hysterical.
“He went outside. What do you want?”
“Don’t bite my head off. I’m not the enemy.”
Lisa blushed. “I’m sorry.”
“What’s he so upset about?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask.”
“Do you think he might hit you?”
“No.” The answer surprised her, but for some reason she was sure he wouldn’t hit her. Break every stick of furniture in the house, maybe, but not hit her.
“Maybe you should come home. This whole thing is crazy. I don’t like you being up there alone.”
The door opened quietly and Yancey entered, his face bland as he retrieved the magazine from his chair. He dropped into the chair and glared at her.
“I forgot, this is my house.”
Angry as she was, she couldn’t suppress a smile. She spoke into the receiver.
“I’ll stay here. Just let me know if something comes up and you think I need to come home.”
“Well, you be careful. If things get too hot, call me - collect, you hear?”
“I hear. Thanks for calling.”
“We love you.”
“I love you too.” She replaced the receiver and ignored the glare that followed her across the room.
“Who was that?” His voice was controlled.
“A friend.” She picked up her writing.
“Do you tell all your boyfriends you love them?”
She tapped her pencil against the paper, frowning at the scrawled handwriting.
“What’s it to you? Are you writing a book?”
It was a foolish thing to say, given the circumstances, but she was up to her eyeballs with this lingering bad mood. Whatever was bothering him, he needed to say something or stop sulking.
Sarah snickered and Lisa glanced up in time to see Yancey shoot his mother a warning look.
He slapped the magazine on a freshly polished end table and stood. He stared at Lisa, his expression sullen. When he finally spoke, his tone was terse.
“Tell your boyfriends to call you on your cell phone. I don’t want them using my phone. I told you not to give my number to anyone.”
Sarah gasped. “Yancey!”
Lisa stared up at him, the blood draining from her face.
“Yes, I heard you talking on it. Why did you hide it from me? Are you afraid of me?” His voice was harsh, but his expression was all hurt.
“I...don’t know,” she stammered.
“You don’t know why you hid it, or you don’t know if you’re afraid of me?”
She stood, meeting his gaze with defiance. “Both!”
His expression softened. “Well, it doesn’t look like you’re all that scared of me right now.”
She held his gaze steadily. “No, I don’t suppose so.”
The blue ice melted and a slow smile molded his lips in an attractive way. His voice was soft, anger suddenly a thing of the past.
“Well, maybe you should be - a little, anyway.”
As he walked away, her stomach did a flip-flop. Maybe she should be, at that. Whether he was speaking about emotional or physical fear, was a mystery. She let out her breath in a long sigh of relief. Apparently his mood had been inspired by the telephone call she made to Connie a few nights ago. She thought he was outside, but obviously he was near. Remembering his stealth in the forest, it became obvious that she would have to be equally careful in the house. How much had he heard? Other than the brief conversation about seeing him with Allen, they had not discussed him. Instead, they had talked about the house and how she would assume responsibilities. Nothing earth shattering there, nor anything Yancey would find either threatening or interesting. He did have a valid complaint about the telephone, though.
She glanced down at Sarah. “I don’t understand his moods.”
Sarah shrugged, continuing her work. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. I don’t think he does either.”
Lisa tucked the pencil in the spiral part of her tablet. “It’s late. I believe I’ll go to bed.”
Sarah said nothing as she walked away.
In bed, Lisa tossed and turned. Howard hadn’t said anything about the meeting with Allen. Surely Connie had relayed the message to him. And why had he called on the house telephone instead of her cell phone – only to give her information Connie had already supplied? He did ask if she could talk. Maybe he had more information he didn’t want to give over the phone with Yancey listening. In that case, why hadn’t he called her cell phone? At first she had thought he tried, but there was no missed call – no message.
Finally she threw back the covers and rolled out of bed. A little fresh air might clear some of the cobwebs. The answer had to be there. She simply wasn’t looking at it – or maybe for it. Pulling a robe over her nightgown, she tiptoed down the hall and silently opened the door to the patio. Closing it behind her, she moved into the cool moist air. The concrete patio felt cool on her bare feet. The night air smelled of honeysuckle and pulsed with the sound of crickets. Clouds drifted away from a full moon, drenching the patio with soft lunar light. It was a perfect evening...until something slithered across her foot. She screamed involuntarily.
“Don’t move,” a familiar voice commanded from behind her.
Not that there was much likelihood. She stood, frozen with fear as his dark figure moved past her.
Yancey expertly caught the head of the serpent between the forks of a stick and bent over to pick it up. She shuddered as he lifted it high and examined it. His bare back glistened as he walked across the patio and tossed the snake into the bushes.
“It’s just a black snake.” He tossed the stick away and faced her. “I keep warning you about the wild life, but you have to learn for yourself, don’t you? How many times have I told you not to leave the house at night in your bare feet?”
She stared at him, ignoring his rhetorical questions.
“Where did you come from?”
“I’ve been sitting right over there.” He indicated a chair in the shadow of a rose bush. He chuckled softly. “So I’ve finally found something you’re afraid of more than me.”
She shuddered and he moved close. Her gaze took in his masculine chin, the square cut lower lip and the piercing blue eyes - only right now they weren’t piercing. She swallowed her throbbing heart. A soft breeze carried a faint familiar odor, but it was gone before she could identify it. It was something she had smelled at the University...but when and where? Could it have been Marijuana?
“What’s the matter?” He touched her arm and she moved away from him.
The moonlight formed shadows on his muscular chest. It wasn’t the grotesque sinewy chest of a body builder, but the well developed chest of a swimmer. She tore her gaze from his chest.
“You’ve been swimming.”
“Ummm. Every night. You should join me sometime.”
So that was where he got his stamina. It might have been something she would suspect if she had ever seen him in the pool. She had assumed the pool was for his daughter.
“How about right now?” His voice was seductive.
Her face burned. “I don’t have my swim suit on.”
“Me neither,” was the instant reply.
She glanced down at the towel tucked around his midsection and gasped.
He laughed. “You’ve been admiring my chest, now let me admire yours.” He reached for her robe.
She slapped his hand and clutched her robe closer.
“I don’t think so!”
She started for the patio door and he gripped her arm.
“Oh, come on now. I’m only joking.”
“Oh sure, and if I started taking my clothes off, you’d tell me to stop, right?”
“Not on you’re life. You never pay any attention to anything I tell you to do, so what would be the point?”
His eyes were dancing with amusement as he used one hand to jerk the towel free and expose cut-off blue jeans.
“Good night, Yancey.”
She pulled her arm free and hurried to the house. He was still chuckling as she closed the door behind her. It was hard to believe this jovial man was the same angry man she had faced earlier that night. What was even harder to accept was the fact she actually enjoyed his extreme mood changes. It reminded her of an Arkansas weather joke she once heard. If you don’t like the weather, hang around until this afternoon. He might be irritating at times, but he was never boring.
That their feelings for each other were mutual, she had no doubt. His stunt tonight was nothing short of jealousy. In fact, he had displayed that emotion several times. She had given him every reason to believe she was interested in him, so it wasn’t too surprising. And yet, if he was involved in something illegal, they could have nothing together. Maybe he didn’t want a permanent relationship.
College would start soon and she would be leaving anyway. He’d forget her, but she wouldn’t forget him. Not in a hundred years. No matter what happened, he would always be more than a fond memory - maybe a first love.
Sleep came without definition, as did the dream. She was searching through her house for some unidentified object when a shadow emerged from the dark. At first she thought it was Yancey, and then she realized it was Allen. She tried to scream, but no sound came out. Leaping on the bed, which was now in her room at the Giddon home, she bounced up to the window. Escape was hampered by the fact that the window wouldn’t open. All the while, the shadow was getting closer. A hand touched her arm and she turned to find Nick standing there.
“Why are you trying to get away from me, Litha?”
She woke with a sob, and then cried until the dark mood retreated. Finally she slept.
When she woke again, the sun was shining on her face. Jumping from the bed, she dressed quickly and went to the kitchen. Finding no one there, she relaxed and began fixing breakfast. Yancey was the first one to the kitchen. He stood watching her uncomfortably as she rolled biscuits.
“Sit down and I’ll pour some coffee,” she said over her shoulder.
“I can get it.” He poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. For a few minutes he sipped it in silence. Finally he spoke.
“I thought I heard you crying this morning. Was it something I said last night?”
“No. I just had a bad dream.”
“Was I in it?”
“No. Well yes, but so were other people.”
She started placing biscuits in the waiting pan. It wasn’t something she wanted to talk about. “It wasn’t about you.” More likely it stemmed from the fact that she had not gone to the house yet. “I’m going to go to the house this evening and get a few things.”
“Do you need help?”
“No. I only wanted to pick up a few pictures and pay some bills.”
“I’ll go with you if you want me to.”
“Thanks, but I’d rather go alone. No offense intended.”
“None taken.” He picked up his coffee. “It’s a nice cool morning. Why don’t we all eat out on the patio?”
After he left the room, Tammy came in, rubbing her eyes. Lisa smiled at her.
“Good morning Tammy. Are you wiping the sleep from your eyes?”
Without a word, Tammy ran to her. Lisa washed her hands and put the biscuits in the oven before picking her up. Tammy wrapped an arm around Lisa’s neck and laid a soft curly head on her shoulder. Lisa kissed her forehead. They had grown so close. Maybe that was what the dream was about – shifting from one family to the next. Allen was the past and Yancey the future. Dream interpretation certainly wasn’t her forte’. In fact, until the death of her family, she rarely ever dreamed – or at least didn’t remember them.
After breakfast she started the laundry while Sarah and Tammy watched a morning children’s program. Yancey was down the trail to whatever he did for a living. As she picked up one of his shirts, she smelled the same odor she had smelled last night. She stood for a moment, trying to remember what the smell was. A small plastic bag fell out of the pocket. She bent over and picked it up, discovering that it had a little white powder in the bottom. Tucking the clothes into the washer, she opened the bag and smelled the contents. It had a sweet smell. She tucked it in her pocket. Today while she was in town, she’d ask Connie if she knew what it was. Asking Len might get better answers, but it also might get Yancey in trouble. If he was guilty, he probably deserved it, but his family didn’t. And she still found it hard to believe he was guilty. If she could only get inside that building. Maybe next time Sarah went shopping...and Yancey wasn’t at home. That might be never.