The perfect match, p.40
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       The Perfect Match, p.40

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 40

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  “No,” he said.

  “I’ll teach you. I’m pretty good. ”

  He smiled. “I bet you are. ”

  She could see it very clearly—the skies gray and heavy, holding Tom’s hand in the cold air, then going home to warm up. Naked.

  “And your party this weekend, it funds the whole thing?”

  “Excuse me? Oh, um, no. But the ball raises a lot of our budget. Private donors do the rest. Some of the local businesses. ”

  “Including Blue Heron. ”

  “You bet. ” Spike was wriggling to get loose, so she put the doggy down and let her wander as far as the leash would let her.

  Tom was staring out over the hill. The snow had mostly melted here, as the sun shone on the fields all day. The pond was still frozen.

  When she was younger, Honor had skated there with the Ellis kids, when the pond had seemed like a foreign country filled with mysteries no one else had discovered, and only seven-year-olds on ice skates held the key. Then they’d troop back to the New House, and Mom would make cocoa and serve cookies, a Norman Rockwell scene if ever there was one.

  And soon, that kind of thing would be available for all the kids in Manningsport. Kids like Jessica and Levi, who’d grown up in a trailer park, and kids like Charlie, who spent most of their days indoors, could have what the Hollands had been lucky enough to be born with. Land. Nature. Acres and acres of woods, water and forest. Birdsong and wildlife and hours of being outdoors.

  Spike whined, meaning she had to pee. And to do so, she needed privacy, as the dog had a shy bladder. Tom was sitting on the fence that divided the Ellis land from Blue Heron and was just gazing out at the vista.

  “Okay, Spike,” she said, walking down the hill. “Let’s find you a spot. ”

  All of a sudden, Spike whimpered, trembling, then pulled at the leash. “Those are deer,” Honor explained. “They’re too big for you to take down, so stick with ants, okay?”

  Spike didn’t agree; she tugged again, and the frayed leash snapped. In a blur, the dog was off through the grass. “Spike, no,” Honor said. “Come on. Come back here. ” There were coyotes around, after all, though it was still light. She started to run, clumsy in her boots. “Spike! Come!”

  The dog didn’t listen, charging forward at the deer, barking with all her might, and the deer bolted into the woods on the far side of the pond.

  Spike chased after them.

  Oh, God. “No! No, Spike, no!”

  Her dog was on the pond.

  And the weather had been cold, but it hadn’t been that cold. The pond was stream-fed, and Mr. Ellis had never let them skate there unless it had been below freezing for at least ten days straight. It was maybe twenty feet across, forty feet wide, and if Spike fell through—

  “Spike! Spike!” she called, and she heard Tom yelling behind her, but the wind was in her ears.

  Then Spike disappeared, blip, just like that, through about two-thirds of the way across. There, and then gone, swallowed into the black water where the current was too strong for ice to form unless it was freezing for ten days in a row, and Honor barely recognized her voice as she screamed her dog’s name.

  “Honor, no!” Tom yelled from behind her, but she was already on the ice. She could do it, she thought, her brain flashing with images of just how this would work. She was a skater. She knew this pond. She’d stay on the edge where the ice was thicker, and she’d head to the end of the pond, and the current would bring Spike there, and she could grab—

  The ice broke, and the cold bit into her like knives, making the breath whoosh from her lungs. But it wasn’t deep, Honor knew, maybe four feet, and if she could just get closer to where Spike had gone, she could find her dog. “I’m coming!” she yelled. “I’m coming, Spike!” Two steps. Four, the bottom slippery with icy mud that pulled at her boots.

  Her foot slipped, coming completely free from the boot, and water closed over her head. Oh, God, it was so cold, the cold slicing right to her bones. She found footing again, barely able to feel the mud now because of the numbness. She slipped again, came up for air. This wasn’t working. This was a bad idea, but Spike, her loyal, cuddly little friend, her only—

  Honor tried to pull herself onto the ice again, but it broke under her numb hands, and her arms were too heavy, her legs weren’t obeying. The body’s job is to preserve the heart and brain, she could almost hear the narrator saying, because yes, chances were increasing that she’d become one of those stories on the Back from the Dead medical stories.

  Hopefully.

  Oh, Spike. A sob shuddered out of her. Her little dog had gone through so much. She didn’t deserve a pointless death like this, alone in the dark water.

  She slipped again, and this time, the water didn’t hurt so much. And this time, her legs were even slower to kick.

  Then she was being dragged upward, and held against Tom, and he was moving, he could walk, and the ice was breaking as he muscled his way through to the shore. She couldn’t hear him, the blood was pounding in her ears so much, and it hurt. All of her hurt. Her sodden coat dragged at her, and water streamed from her hair.

  The shore was steep here, and Tom heaved her out of the water. She landed with a tooth-jarring thud on the hard earth.

  His mouth was moving, and my God, he looked so angry she was almost scared. “Spike,” she said, shuddering with the cold, barely able to get the word out. “Please. ”

  Fuck, he said. Well, his mouth made that shape, anyway. Honor was shaking so hard it was like one of her sister’s epileptic seizures, and she tried to stand, to help Tom, because yes, he was going back into the water.

  * * *

  IF TOM HAD thought he was cold before he went in the pond, that had been a f**king walk on a tropical beach, hadn’t it? Stupid, stupid Honor, going out on ice after the idiot dog. If it hadn’t held a five-pound dog, how the hell was it going to hold a full-grown woman?

  He could feel a slight current in the water, pulling at his clothes, and did a quick calculation in the water—weight, velocity, depth, momentum, resistance—and sloshed over to where he thought the idiot animal might be.

  Chances were small to nil, let’s be honest. His chest was tight, his skin screaming against the cold. If he had a heart attack right now, it would serve Honor right, because she’d scared the f**king blood out of his f**king veins.

  He reached down, groping. Nothing.

  This was not going to end well. He glanced back at Honor, huddled on the shore. Forget the dog. She needed to get warm.

  Then his hand brushed something. He grabbed it. Ratty, all right, ice cold and limp, eyes open just a slit.

  The dog was dead.

  His eyes met Honor’s and she let out a sound he never wanted to hear again.

  “Fuck me,” he said. Turned the horrible dog upside down and pressed on its little belly. Water came out of its mouth. It still didn’t move.

  Honor was sobbing, crawling over to where he stood. Her hands were bloody.

  Tom took the dog’s tiny muzzle in his hand and blew into the dog’s nose. This really took the cake. Mouth-to-mouth for a dog who hated him, bit him, destroyed his shoes, peed on his bath towel and was trying to eat his computer.

  He puffed again. The dog’s cheeks flapped, so Tom gripped her muzzle a little harder. Another puff. Two. Three.

  Then there was a sharp pain in his lip. Tom jerked back, and Spike started gacking up water. It gave a watery bark, then shook itself, coughed again and barked once more. Alive, the little bugger. Good. Tom could kill it later.

  He sloshed to Honor and handed her the evil creature.

  “Spike! Spike, honey!” Honor gathered the dog against her chest, her hands shaking uncontrollably.

  Without any finesse, as the cold was affecting him as well, he yanked Honor to her feet, grabbed the neckline of her coat and shoved the dog in ag
ainst her skin. “Hold on to that little rat, because I’m not risking my life for her again,” he said, then swung Honor up into his arms. One of her feet was bare.

  By the time he reached the place where her sister was parked, Tom was breathing hard, had a cramp in his calf and was more angry than he could ever remember being in his life.

  He tossed Honor in the front seat of Faith’s truck. Good girl, she’d left the keys in. No time to ask for permission; he got in the driver’s side and started it up, then threw it in gear and drove down the hill.

  Honor was still shaking, shivering violently, hunched over, her arms folded around herself and the dog. Bloody idiot. Both of them.

  “Thank you,” she said.

  “Don’t say a word,” he ground out.

  Past her father’s, past the grandparents’ crooked house. The tires screeched as he pulled onto Lake Shore Road, and he gunned the engine, laying down rubber as he sped home. His breath made clouds of fury in the cold truck.

  Onto their street, into the driveway. Tom barreled out of the truck in a flash. He yanked Honor’s door open and pulled her into his arms again. He might’ve been a little rough, because she gave an ooph as he did, but bloody hell.

  Into the house, his wet shoes squeaking on the floor. Up the stairs, into the bathroom. He set her down and threw on the taps, then started undressing her, as her hands were shaking too hard. Shaking and bloody and filthy.

  From under her shirt, the dog moved. So it was still alive. Pity.

  He yanked off her clothes. Her skin was nearly blue.

  Fuck.

  He grabbed the dog and set the dog in the shower, where it barked. Then Tom lifted Honor in, following her, all his clothes still on.

  He still couldn’t look at her. Too bloody furious.

  Or something.

  Water streamed down Honor’s body, her skin quickly turning pink. She had a bruise on her leg and several cuts, and her eyes looked too big. Tom picked up her dog and stuck it under the water with her, then lathered it up with shampoo, ignoring its little snarls. When he was assured the dog was as warm and mean as usual, he set it outside the tub, where it shook itself dry.

  “Thank you,” Honor said again.

  Her shivering had stopped.

  “You could’ve died for that little rodent,” he said tightly. “Think about what that would’ve done to your family. ”

  “I’m sorry I scared you, but—”

  “No, Honor!” he yelled. his voice bouncing off the tile walls. “It was bloody stupid! A dog isn’t worth what a person is. Look at you! You’re all torn and bloody and you could’ve f**king died in that water! Christ Almighty. ”

  “Why aren’t you cold, too?” she ventured.

  “Because I’m bloody furious!” he barked. “What would I do without you?”

  He grabbed her weird pink scrunchy thing and doused it with her shower gel. “I mean, with Immigration,” he muttered.

  She didn’t say anything, and after a minute, he glanced up from lathering her shoulders. Her eyes were wet.

  “Don’t you dare cry after what you just put me through. You took twenty f**king years off my life. Are you crying? Don’t cry. ”

  “I’m not crying,” she said, and her voice only shook a little. “It’s just the water. ”

  He tossed down the scrunchy and kissed her. Hard. “You f**king terrified me,” he muttered, and kissed her again, this time more gently.

  She was alive. She was safe. She was wet and naked and warm.

  Then, before he took her right here in the shower, he left, streaming water, sopping wet.

  Because the last thing he wanted was to feel all this.

 

 

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  THE PHONE WAS ringing when Honor got out of the shower. Tom’s wet shoes were by his bed, and his car was not in the driveway.

  She picked up the phone. “Hello?”

  “Hey,” said Faith. “I’m standing here in the kitchen at the New House. Did Tom steal my truck? Dad says he was driving like a bat out of hell. Is everything okay?”
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