Treat me, p.19
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       Treat Me, p.19

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  “Did you attack Ms. Lange because she insulted your new girlfriend?”

  “I already told you that I didn’t attack her. Tina attacked Amanda, and I was trying to separate them.” Perhaps he should call a lawyer before he blurted statements. No one had read him his rights, so he assumed he wasn’t under arrest. At least not yet. But if he didn’t keep his temper in check, he was bound to find himself behind bars. “Why don’t you call Amanda and ask her what happened?” Jacob said, glad his voice sounded reasonable—not demanding, not pissed as hell. He recognized that the police responded better when he remained calm.

  “She’ll just say whatever he tells her to say,” Tina said.

  “Not if we question her before she speaks to him,” the officer said as he scooped up Jacob’s phone.

  That shut Tina up. For the time being.

  With Jacob’s direction, the officer dialed Amanda’s number. Jacob prayed she just told the truth and didn’t try to protect anyone.

  “She says the child is with your mother,” the officer said to Tina. “Do we need to follow up on this claim?”

  Tina sighed and shook her head. “No. I’m sure Julie’s fine.”

  “She also says that you went crazy and attacked her when you found out she’s in a relationship with your ex-husband.”

  “I didn’t attack her,” Tina said.

  “Miss,” the officer said into Jacob’s phone, “would you mind returning to the scene? It would make this a lot easier.”

  Jacob’s stomach dropped. He couldn’t protect Amanda if he was handcuffed. Would Tina try to harm her sister again while the police were present? What about after the police were gone and then when Jacob was on tour? How would he protect Amanda then? Maybe he should ask her to follow him out on the road so he could keep an eye on her. He didn’t think Tina was capable of killing her, but then he hadn’t thought she’d attack her when she’d found out that he and Amanda were involved.

  A few minutes later, Amanda’s car pulled into his drive. Jacob was still in cuffs, but now seated on the bottom step of the walkway to his door. Looking disheveled and a little scared, Amanda stepped out of the car and her eyes met his. Her brow crinkled when she noticed why he had his hands behind his back. She turned a questioning gaze on the officers.

  “Why is he in handcuffs?” Amanda asked. “Is he under arrest? I told you he didn’t do anything.”

  “The stories we’re hearing aren’t correlating,” the officer said. “Maybe we need to take you all downtown for questioning.”

  “Excuse me,” interrupted Mrs. Barbury, who lived across the street from Jacob. She was a sweet elderly lady who always brought Jacob a big plate of homemade cookies around Christmas time, but otherwise, didn’t interact with him much. “I was walking past with my dogs when it happened. I don’t mean to intrude, but I saw the whole thing up until I ran to the house to call nine one one.”

  If that was true, then Jacob would be baking Mrs. Barbury cookies this Christmas.

  “This one’s car was here for two nights in a row,” Mrs. Barbury said, jabbing a thumb in Amanda’s direction. Then she pointed at Tina. “This one shows up every couple of weeks with Mr. Silverton’s little girl.” Mrs. Barbury smiled. “She’s a real cutie pie.”

  An officer took pity on Jacob and helped him to his feet to ease the crick in his neck developing from staring up at everyone.

  “About half an hour ago,” Mrs. Barbury continued, “I was walking past with my dogs and saw these two going at it in the driveway.” She pointed from Amanda to Jacob.

  “What do you mean by going at it?” the officer asked.

  “Kissing. Well, more like trying to swallow each other’s faces.” She fanned her flushed throat. “I thought he was going to strip her naked right there in the driveway and have his way with her. Land sakes alive! And that’s when she showed up.” She jabbed a thumb in Tina’s direction.

  “Her name is Tina,” Jacob said.

  Tina narrowed her eyes at the woman and crossed her arms.

  “Tina started yelling and chasing this one around the car. And when she finally got a hold on . . .” She looked to Amanda and raised her eyebrows.

  Amanda supplied her name.

  “When she finally got a hold on Amanda, I thought Tina was like to kill her. Mr. Silverton was tryin’ to break them up, and all the while that poor little girl was in the SUV screaming for her daddy.”

  Usually Jacob hated nosy neighbors, but at that moment, he felt blessed to have them.

  “So Mr. Silverton finally got the two women separated and he told this one”—she pointed at Amanda—“to get away to safety and take his daughter with her so that poor child didn’t have to watch her parents argue and such. That’s when I ran home to call the police.”

  The officers nodded at each other as the story was repeated for the third time. Now the only one with a different tale was Tina, and as Mrs. Barbury was an impartial witness, Tina’s false account was completely discredited.

  “Would you like to press charges?” an officer asked Amanda.

  She blinked at him, her eyes wide with shock. “What?”

  “Would you like to press assault charges against Tina Lange?”

  Amanda glanced at Tina and licked her lips, her throat constricting as she swallowed.

  “Are you actually considering having me arrested?” Tina asked, her eyes wide in disbelief.

  Amanda turned her gaze to Jacob, and he shook his head. He didn’t want Tina to wind up in jail. He just wanted her to behave like an adult and come to terms with the fact that he was in love with her sister.

  “It was a family squabble,” Amanda said. “You know what sisters are like.” She laughed as if they got into knock-down drag-out fights all the time. “How about we just let her off with a warning?”

  “It’s your call.”

  While Jacob was released from his cuffs, Amanda spoke to the other officer. Tina stared at the asphalt between her shoes, her expression and body language completely unreadable. Jacob could only guess what was going on in her mind, yet he was positive it was nothing good. He walked toward her, rubbing the ache from his wrists as he approached.

  “I know finding out about Amanda and me was a shock.”

  “How long have you been with her?” Tina asked. “Was this going on while we were married?”

  “No,” he said. “Of course not. We’ve only been involved for a week.”

  “So it won’t be too big of a deal to break it off with her.” Tina’s gaze lifted to his, and he saw a brief flash of malicious hatred in her eyes before she smiled.

  “I’m not breaking it off with her just because you don’t like it.”

  Tina licked her lips as she stared into his eyes as if searching for answers. Or maybe she was looking for his soul so she could suck it out of him.

  “Okay,” she said. She turned away from him and toward the nearest cop. “Am I free to go?”

  He told her she could leave, and Jacob watched her climb calmly into her SUV and drive away. He wasn’t sure why she was behaving so rationally all of sudden, but her model behavior frightened him far more than her uncontrollable rage.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Amanda leaned into Jacob’s side as the police pulled out of the driveway. Her knee and the palms of her hands were still throbbing, but her heart was surprisingly light. Their relationship had survived Tina. If it could overcome her disapproval, Amanda was sure they could get through anything.

  She glanced up at Jacob and cringed at the ugly bruise on the side of his head. It was bleeding slightly. “How’s your head?” she asked, reaching up to touch it but thinking better of the idea and resting her fingertips against his jaw instead.

  “It’ll be fine. It’s always been like a brick. What about your hands?” he asked. He captured her wrists in his and turned her hands over to gaze down at their abraded palms. “Let’s go get you cleaned up.”

  He took great care in applying antibacterial ointment to her
hands and kissed her wrists tenderly. “Thank you for taking Julie away from that mess.”

  “She’ll be worried about you,” Amanda said. “You should call her.”

  He bit his lip and nodded slightly. “I should.”

  “Are you hesitating?” she asked, lifting a cotton ball saturated in peroxide to the jagged gash on his temple.

  He released a heavy sigh. “Tina will probably answer,” he said. “I don’t think I can talk to her right now.”

  “But Julie—”

  “Is what’s important.” He nodded and dialed Tina’s landline number. Amanda held his hand for support while he listened to it ring.

  “You have some nerve calling here!” Amanda could hear her mother’s harsh greeting from several feet away.

  “Hello, Mrs. Lange. Can I speak to Julie?”

  “She’s very upset,” Mom retorted.

  “I understand that. It’s why I called. She needs to know everything is going to be okay. If you don’t let me talk to her on the phone, I’ll come over.” There was no threat in his tone, but it was obvious he meant what he said.

  “Julie,” Mom called. “Do you want to speak to your father? If you don’t, I’ll—”

  There was a brief pause and then Julie was on the phone. Amanda leaned closer so she could listen to what her niece said. Julie had been so upset when she’d taken her home.

  “Daddy? Are you okay? You were bleeding.”

  “I’m fine, princess. Don’t worry about me. Okay?”

  “Why did mommy get mad at you?”

  “She doesn’t like me to spend time with your Aunt Mander.” He gave Amanda’s hand a squeeze, and she leaned her head against his shoulder.

  “That’s silly, Daddy,” Julie’s sweet voice came from Jacob’s phone.

  “I agree, but sometimes grown-ups get mad for silly reasons. So it might be a good idea not to talk about me and your aunt when your mom’s around.”

  “I don’t like mommy when she’s mad. She hit you.” Julie sniffed her nose, and Jacob turned his face into Amanda’s hair. His arm went around her back to pull her close. He—Jacob “Shade” Silverton—was leaning on her for support. She hoped she could always be there when he needed her.

  “Don’t cry, honey. Mommy isn’t mad at you. She would never hurt you.”

  “I know. But Mommy shouldn’t be mean to you. You’re my daddy. I love you so much.”

  “I love you so much too, Julie. What your mom does and says to me doesn’t matter as long as you love me. You make me feel all better.”

  “I do?”

  “Yep. Now that I talked to you, I’m smiling again.”

  Amanda wiped at a tear. How could Tina even consider keeping these two apart? Julie would be devastated, and Jacob would likely die from a broken heart.

  Julie giggled. “I like you smiling. How many sleeps until I see you next time?”

  Jacob sighed and his hold on Amanda went slack. “Twelve,” he said flatly.

  “How many fingers is that?”

  “All of them,” Jacob said. “Plus a couple of extra.”

  “I’ll just hug Lucky really tight every day and pretend she’s you, okay?”

  Jacob chuckled. “That is one lucky elephant.”

  “That’s her name. Lucky. Just a minute!” she yelled at someone else before talking to her dad again. “Grandma says I have to get off the phone now.”

  “Do you feel better?” Jacob asked. “Not scared? You can call me if you’re afraid or sad or worried.”

  “I’m okay, Daddy. Bye.”

  “Bye,” he said. And then, “I love you.” But Julie had already hung up.

  “Are you okay?” Amanda asked, rubbing the center of his back.

  “Yeah. It’s just she means everything to me, you know?”

  “I know.” And his infallible love for his daughter was what made him irresistible to Amanda. His looks and personality, his passion and generous nature—she could have fallen for any of those traits. But his devotion to his little girl? That was what had Amanda head over heels in love with the guy. “You mean as much to her.” And to me.

  Amanda licked her lips and took a deep breath. She should tell him how she felt. She wanted to tell him. She wasn’t sure why she was still holding back. Maybe because everything had happened so fast. She was a practical woman. She wasn’t the type who fell for a guy in a week. But she’d known Jacob much longer than that. Maybe she’d been falling for him for years.

  “Jacob . . .” she whispered.

  “Let me fix up your knees,” he said.

  She sucked in a pained breath as he poured hydrogen peroxide on her scrapes. Way to kill a mood, Silverton.

  He wiped up the liquid dripping down her calf with a hand towel and then lowered his head to kiss the inside of her thigh just above her knee. Amanda’s breath caught at the intensity of the passion that small tender move sent swirling through her body.

  Way to put me in the mood, Silverton.

  “I’m so sorry I got you involved in this mess,” he said.

  She winced as he picked a small stone out of her scraped skin.

  “Jacob,” she said, “I am this mess.”

  He chuckled and slid both hands down her calf as he tilted his head to look up at her. “I guess you are.”

  She touched his face with her fingertips, her heart swelling.

  “Am I worth it?” she asked.

  “Tina’s hatred?”

  She nodded.

  “Well, considering she already hates me . . .” He shrugged.

  But she’d claimed to still love him. Amanda hadn’t forgotten that shocking revelation. Had Tina just been saying it to cause a bigger stir or had she meant it? If she’d meant it, Amanda was sure things between herself and her sister were going to get a lot worse and would probably never get better.

  “But does she really hate you?” Amanda lifted her gaze to meet his. “Or is she out of her head in love with you?”

  “It doesn’t matter. I’m in love with you.”

  He smiled at her expectantly, and she licked her lips. She knew what he wanted her to say, and she felt the words deep in her heart, but she was terrified of what Tina was capable of doing. Not to her, but to Julie and to Jacob. How could she protect them? “Jacob, maybe she’d calm down if we—”

  He silenced her with a finger to her lips. “Can we not talk about Tina anymore?”

  “I’m not sure you know . . .”

  “What she’s capable of?”

  Amanda nodded.

  “I’ll figure out a way to handle her,” he said. “But not right now. Right now I need you in my bed so I can feel what you’re refusing to say.”

  “Jacob,” she whispered against his fingertip, but he replaced it with his lips and kissed her until her resolve crumbled. Her arms circled his neck.

  He scooped her from the toilet lid and carried her to his bed. He tasted every inch of her as he removed her clothes. She was delirious with need by the time he pushed himself inside her. His hands linked with hers on either side of her head, and he stared into her eyes as he filled her with slow, gentle strokes. In her head and her heart, she told him how she felt about him a thousand times. And when they tumbled over the brink together, he had to see the love in her eyes, but she still couldn’t say it. What was holding her back? Fear, yes. But fear of what?

  Jacob held her close as their heart rates slowed and their breathing became even again. Everything seemed so calm after the storm they’d weathered together. She relaxed against him and told herself everything was going to work out between them. And maybe someday Tina would give them her blessing and Julie would come to live with Amanda and Jacob as their daughter. She already loved her niece as if she were her own. It was a foolish dream—she knew that.
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