Justice Delayed(2)

By: Patricia Bradley

“You want to give me a hand here?” Her co-attendant stood on tiptoes, pushing against a bulging duffel bag.

“Sure, Lacey.” She frowned at the weight of the bag, wondering how the passenger got the bag up there in the first place.

“Thanks.” Lacey Wilson dusted her hands. “Did you see JD?”

Stephanie jerked her head around. She’d told no one she was meeting him and shot her friend a warning frown, then ignored Lacey until they’d secured the cabin.

Once they were in the air and in the relative privacy of the galley, Lacey asked the question again.

“What are you talking about?” Stephanie said.

Lacey shrugged. “I saw the note with the Hôtel Plaza Athénée on it. I figured you were meeting him, since we don’t know anyone else who could afford to stay there. You’re smuggling again, aren’t you? Does Jillian know you went to see JD?”

“No.” The disapproval in Lacey’s voice about her seeing JD again sent a dart straight to Stephanie’s heart. How had she let herself get taken in by JD’s charm, knowing that her best friend Jillian was in love with him? Shame filled her again.

A call light flashed, and Stephanie said, “I’ll take care of that.”

“I don’t believe you.” Lacey grabbed her arm. “He’s not worth it, Steph. Don’t do it. He’ll discard you like yesterday’s news when he gets tired of you. Look how he treated Jillian.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Stephanie shook her hand off.

She turned, and several passengers in first class averted their gaze. Heat crawled up her neck. Hopefully, they’d only heard the tail end of the conversation. She lifted her chin and flipped a switch in her brain. Everything except her duties faded for the next ten hours as they winged toward Memphis International Airport.

Once they were off the plane, Stephanie hurried to the parking garage.

“Can I catch a ride?” Lacey asked.

She was tempted to say no, but that was silly. If Lacey wanted to get on her case, she could do it at her parents’ old house they shared with three other women. A house her parents would be returning to as soon as they found a buyer for her mom’s dream home. “Sure.”

Lacey got in the car, and Stephanie drove her small Miata toward I-240. In the passenger seat, Lacey sighed.

“When do we have to be out of the house?” she asked. “I know Jillian has found an apartment near Memphis State so she can finish her degree in her off hours, but I just wondered how much time we had.”

“By the end of the month.” Maybe she should have taken the diamonds. Ten thousand dollars would go a long way to help her parents until her dad could get another job, and then maybe they wouldn’t have to move.

No. It was wrong, and besides, her dad wouldn’t take money from her without knowing where it came from. To escape her thoughts, Stephanie turned on the radio and cranked up the volume. Strains of “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” filled the car.

Lacey switched the music off and faced her. “When do you deliver the diamonds?”

Stephanie had hoped that Lacey would decide to drop that subject. “It’s not really any of your business, but I’m not.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Well, I can’t help that.” Stephanie was too tired to argue with her.

“Look, I know you want to help your parents, but you were out of this business. God knows I wish I were. JD would give you money if he cared about you.”

“I don’t want anything from him.” It would do no good to argue with Lacey about whether she was smuggling diamonds or not. When her friend got something into her head, there was no changing it. “And please, never mention anything about JD and me around Jillian. It would crush her to know what happened.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t want her hurt, either,” Lacey said. “But you should have thought about that before you got involved with him.”

“They weren’t seeing each other when I dated him, and I thought their relationship was over.” It had almost killed her when JD and Jillian got back together, but her pain wasn’t Jillian’s fault. Stephanie slowed to exit the interstate. No, she owned that mistake. And Lacey was right. She and Jillian not only worked together but also lived in the same house. Stephanie should have known it would get sticky.