Title Worry Beads: The Big Uneasy 4
Author Pauline Baird Jones
Laura Baker has seen a lot during her job as a New Orleans EMT. She has responded to just about every type of emergency known to man. An unexpected act of kindness during one call puts her on the news—and her life and heart at risk.
Archie Gunn receives an unexpected tip that sends him to the beautiful and mysterious city of New Orleans. His trip opens up more than he expects –and a bayou full of danger. There is a lot going on in New Orleans and it isn’t all good times and Mardi Gras.
Download the latest installment of The Big Uneasy series and discover what happens in New Orleans can be downright deadly!
Zach Baker was already sitting at the battered kitchen table—thirteen kids was a cruel fate for any piece of furniture—reading the news on the tablet the siblings had gone in together to buy for him when the newspaper went digital. He continued to mutter about “changes,” but Laura had seen him playing solitaire on it the other day.
The room smelled of freshly brewed coffee—torture for someone who couldn’t afford to imbibe if she wanted to sleep.
Zach’s gaze lifted from his device. “See you made the news.”
Laura almost asked him how he’d recognized her butt, but managed to stop herself. She was over thirty, but she still didn’t dare sass her dad. Alex claimed you weren’t safe from a soap mouth washing until you were at least thirty-five.
“It happens,” she admitted. She passed through to her bedroom and took a quick shower, and slipped on sweats and a tee shirt. Her bed beckoned, but when Zach said anything before seven, it meant he was lonely. Or needed to talk about something. None of the Baker clan were what you’d call morning people.
She returned to the kitchen and popped a couple of slices of bread into the toaster. Without the rustle of newspaper pages to break the silence, the toast popping up sounded very loud. She buttered the two slices and then carried them to the table on a plate that she positioned partway between her and her dad. She picked up one and bit in. She was almost too tired to chew, but the butter reminded her taste buds why they existed.
Zach picked up the other piece, another sign he had something to say. Why, she wondered, did the Baker men have such a hard time squeezing words out their mouths? They’d been born with all the necessary parts. If she’d known her dad would get a girlfriend—she winced and changed the thought to—if she’d known Becca would happen, she would have held off moving in. He could have told her not to come home, of course, but it would be easier to negotiate with North Korea than get her dad to tell any of his children they couldn’t move home. Becca. Her tired brain kind of froze on the memory of how they’d looked at each other during Alex and Nell’s wedding festivities. It was a bit freaky to see your dad looking like that at someone. She’d sort of assumed he was past that, but clearly, he wasn’t. The one thing she didn’t want, was to come home one morning and run into her dad’s girlfriend. She winced again.
She was prepared to be mature, to be happy if her dad was happy. Heaven knows they would have liked him to be happy sooner. But she could see why a man who’d lost two wives and been left with thirteen children would have a hard time finding a date.
They both crunched in silence. Laura realized she’d have to break the conversational ice if she ever wanted to get to bed. But what—she remembered the beads. He’d see through it, but he also might know something about them. He had lived long and seen a lot. She pulled them out, freed them from the paper towel and set them on the table, between them.
“What’s this?” he asked, lifting his cheaters up to rest on his head as he picked them up.
“A dying man’s last gift,” she said. She touched them, making them swing so that they caught the light coming in through the window over the sink. “Because he liked blondes.”
Zach’s lips twisted in a half grin, half grimace. “Bad?”
“Hit and run.”
The grimace won. Zach didn’t really approve of her job, even though the family motto was “protect and serve.” Girls…well, he was an old-fashioned guy living in a changed world—and too old to adapt himself to fit it.
He fingered the Krewe badge, turning it in the light, then lowering his glasses to study it. “That’s an old Krewe.” He leaned back thinking. Then shook his head. “I know I’ve seen it, but don’t think it was a New Orleans Krewe. Pretty bauble.”
“Very.” She brushed the crumbs from her chin, then wiped her hands on her sweatpants. “I almost tossed it.”
“Would have been a pity. Might be worth something.” He fingered the blue bauble, a frown between his brows. Finally, he shook his head again. “This getting old…”
Laura didn’t argue with him or protest that he was only as old as he felt. Maddie, the youngest “baby girl” of the family and a lawyer, always did. But Laura saw old every day, up close and personal. From this side of things, it sucked. Must be worse on his side of things.
She’d give him another minute and then she’d have to hit the sheets before her head hit the tabletop.
“You’ve met Becca,” he muttered, still looking at the beads, so he wouldn’t have to look at Laura.
More than once, but… “Yeah,” she kept it casual. “She’s nice.”
“She is. She’s…very…” He set the beads down, and his hands started to tap the tabletop. “We went to high school together.”
Laura eyed this sign of unease warily. He’d told them how he met Becca at the wedding. And at the reception and a couple of times since. That’s pretty much all they knew because Zach and words…
“The thing is, the son of a friend of hers is in town, and, well, you know, three…”
The fact that he was not looking at her, just made it worse. He was as uncomfortable as she was with the idea of a double date. Oh my gosh, if there was anything worse than siblings in love, it was your dad…
“I’m not off until Thursday,” she said. His face didn’t change, but his shoulders relaxed a bit.
“Thursday is good. I’ll find out what time from Becca.”
When she was less tired, she was going to cry about this. A blind date and a double date with her dad. Oh, the joy.
USA Today Bestselling author Pauline Baird Jones never liked reality, so she writes books. She likes to wander among the genres, rampaging like Godzilla, because she does love peril mixed in her romance. Loves chocolate, bacon, flamingoes, and mid-century modern anything.
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