A Case of You:Suncoast Society(3)

By: Tymber Dalton


No, first love frequently didn’t survive the trials of becoming adults, but Brandon had a strong suspicion Grace and Emma might make it over the long-haul. Especially since long marriages tended to run in Grace’s family.

On the dresser, Brandon’s cell phone rang. Emma leaned over, snagged it, and handed it to him without looking at the screen first.

After having lost her own electronic privacy for four weeks as part of her punishment, she now valued it far more than ever.

It was Tracey, his ex-wife…and Emma’s mom.

He answered. “Hey, what’s up?”

“I hate to ask this, but I need a favor.”

“What’s going on?”

“I’m stuck on I-75. AAA said it’ll be over an hour before the wrecker gets here, and I’m kind of freaked out. It’s dark and raining and freezing-ass cold, and I really don’t want to wait by myself. I already had one creepy-looking guy stop and ask if I wanted a ride. I’m south of Bee Ridge, on the northbound side, off on the right shoulder. It just stopped running. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I gassed up earlier today, so I know it’s not that.”

“Shoot. Okay, hon. We’ve got Nate here doing a treatment on Jeff. Let me get dressed and do a car shuffle in the driveway and I’ll come get you. Stay in the car, keep the doors locked, and make sure the flashers are on.” They were less than thirty minutes away from where her car had broken down.

“Thanks, Bran. I really appreciate this. I owe you big time.”

“It’s okay. Keep your phone handy.” He ended the call.

“What’s wrong?” Jeff mumbled. “I can go.”

“Uh, no, you cannot,” Brandon said.

“I’m a mechanic.”

“You’re a patient. Your butt stays right there while Nate does a full treatment on you. That’s an order.”

Jeff let out an aggravated sigh but stopped arguing.

“Is Mom okay?” Emma asked.

“Car broke down. You and Grace stay here and help Stuart wrangle Jeff.” If anyone could help Stuart with that besides Brandon, it was the girls.

He climbed off the bed, retrieved his checkbook from the dresser, and wrote a blank check made out to Nate. He gave it to Stuart, leaning in to whisper in his ear so the girls couldn’t hear.

“You let Jeff up off that bed before Nate says he’s done, and I’ll cane your ass.”

Stuart chuckled. “No worries, Bran.” He gave him a playful salute.

He grabbed jeans and closed himself in the master bath to change out of the shorts he’d donned upon returning home. At least that was a drastic improvement in their lives—Tracey had filed for divorce from her jackass of a husband, Pat, moved out, and was repairing her relationship with Emma. Meaning Tracey now had an amicable relationship with Brandon.

Finally.

She frequently came over to the house to have dinner or spend time with them as a family, usually once or twice a week. She wasn’t dating now, trying to regain her sense of self and desperate not to make the same mistake she’d made after Brandon had divorced her.

When he emerged from the bathroom, he grabbed a jacket and had Emma walk with him to the front door, since he needed her to move her car anyway. “You and Grace help Stuart keep Jeff in bed when Nate’s done with him, okay?”

“Will do, Dad. He’s really bad today, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. Maybe watch TV in there with him or something after Nate’s done, huh? I don’t even want him out on the couch.”

“We’ll think of something.”

He kissed her forehead. “Thanks, kiddo. Why don’t you go ahead and park behind Stuart, since you leave before him?”

She grabbed her keys and headed out to move her car. Jeff’s truck always sat parked close to the house, since he didn’t have to go to work now. Emma usually parked behind someone else, so she could get out when she had to leave at the asscrack of dawn for her swim practice. Brandon sometimes had to leave before Stuart, depending on which store he had to go to on any given day. He was a district manager for a large bulk warehouse chain and oversaw five stores between Sarasota and Ft. Myers.

As Brandon drove toward I-75, he realized he needed to get onto the interstate south of Tracey’s location. The dividers on the highway would prevent a U-turn. So he made his way south to Clark Road and got on there, staying in the right lane and running below the speed limit so he wouldn’t miss Tracey’s car and have to do it again.