Home > Waiting On Forever (McKinney / Walker Brothers #4)

Waiting On Forever (McKinney / Walker Brothers #4)
Author: Claudia Connor

 

1

 

 

Man, he really didn’t want to get shot again. Ever. Dallas Walker closed his eyes, and let the hot water of his sister’s camp cabin shower beat down on him. This was no pay-by-the hour motel shower. There was no smell of mildew, no trickle of lukewarm water from a rusted pipe. No obscene sounds from other rooms he wished he could forget.

His first month here he’d been adjusting, connecting, and processing. Trying to live in the present, trying not to worry too much about the future. But it was the past five years that he’d lived as someone else that dominated his thoughts. What he’d done. And what he hadn’t done.

He reached down low for the shower faucet positioned for children in wheelchairs. He increased the heat as if the scalding water could wash away the filth of sin he’d buried himself in.

He already knew it couldn’t burn away the memories, make him forget the things he’d seen. The eyes of the ones he’d saved but never before they’d suffered unspeakable trauma.

Dallas ran the soap over his shoulder. It still ached from the first gunshot that had knocked him back. Then the second, a small, puckered circle almost dead center in his chest. The one that had, according to the EMT’s, taken him from this world for just under a minute.

There was no intense pain, not anymore. And really, not even in the moment. Just a burning that spread like little fingers through his chest and back. That and the wide, dark brown eyes of the shooter.

He rinsed off, making himself think of the students in his Criminal Justice class. After only a few weeks on the job, he could already predict who would be prepared for today’s quiz, who wouldn’t. He smiled thinking of the handful that would plead ignorance and drop elaborate excuses. He’d been the prepared one while his twin Zach had excelled at dropping excuses and charming teachers.

He turned off the water, stepped out for a towel and cursed at the empty towel rack. He had a bad habit of using his bedroom doorknob to dry towels. Dripping head to toe, he made his way out of the bathroom and— “Hell!”

Dallas stopped dead in his tracks in front of his brother Luke’s fiancé.

“What?” Ava stood stock still, eyes wide, ten feet away from him across the room. Her hands were out to brace herself against an unseen obstacle.

Dallas cupped the area between his legs with his hands. “You don’t knock?”

“I do. This time I pounded after Luke and Hannah both tried texting you. But if you don’t want breakfast…”

“Sorry. Sorry. I… I was in the shower. I forgot my towel.”

“You…”

The slight, blue eyed blonde traced her gaze over him and damn it, he knew she couldn’t see, but he felt his face flame.

“Are you telling me you’re naked?” Ava bit her lip to keep from laughing.

“It’s not funny.” Water ran down his body, making a puddle at his feet.

“It kind of is. You’re blushing aren’t you?”

“No. What I am is freezing.”

“You’re cold?” Ava cocked her head and grinned like the devil. “You don’t need to make excuses, I can’t see it.”

“I’m not making— I— You know what? I thought you were the sweet one but you’re not. You’re bad.”

Now she did laugh. “Just wait until I tell Luke I found you naked.”

“Don’t. Don’t do that. For God’s sake.” Blind or not, no man wanted his wife—or soon to be— in the same room with another naked man.

“Jeez.” Ava waved her hand. “Relax. You know, you didn’t have to tell me. I wouldn’t have known.”

“Yeah. I’m figuring out that mistake.”

“You’re too honest,” she said softly, sending him a soft understanding smile.

He shook his head even though she couldn’t see him. “No, I’m not.” He’d lied so much over the past few years it was hard to know what he was. But she didn’t know where he’d been, what he’d done. None of them did.

“I’d give you a hug if you weren’t… you know.”

His brother was one lucky son of a bitch. “Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to fight Luke.”

“Well,” she said, turning to leave. “Breakfast is ready. Hannah made enough for an army, but Zach and Luke have already been there for thirty minutes, so I’d hurry if I were you.”

“Got it. Thanks.” The door closed behind her and he made a beeline for the bedroom and a towel. He muttered curses as he rubbed the towel roughly down his legs. “I have got to find a house.”

 

 

A long electronic beep signaled the end of class and a group of twenty-five sixteen and seventeen year olds bolted from their seats. He didn’t blame them. As riveting as the material was, it was the last class before the freedom of the weekend.

“Happy Friday. Make good choices,” Dallas said, returning fist bumps. “Don’t do drugs, and all that.”

“Later, Mr. Walker.”

Mr. Walker. So strange. He watched them file out, throwing out a few more reminders about the legal drinking age and being safe. They hit the hallway in pairs or groups. A few left solo, not a word to anyone. Maybe by choice, maybe not.

The cliques were the same as when he’d been in school. The athletes, the band kids, the small group of rebels dressed in all black. And the kids that didn’t fit into any group.

He thought about who he’d been in high school. God, it felt like ten lifetimes ago. The quiet twin. The bookish twin. A girl had once called him the thoughtful brother with the sad eyes. But he hadn’t been sad, not before his parents had died. He’d been happy to stand back while Zach stood out. But after? Yeah, he’d been sad, confused. Angry.

And he’d worried. About the tension in the house between Luke, older than him by two years, and Nick, two years older than that. What would happen to Hannah without a mother. What would happen to all of them. But it’d worked out and he’d found his place. These kids would find their place too — some sooner, others later. And like him, they might lose that place and have to find a new one.

The jury was still out on whether or not this new one was going to stick for him. But for now, teaching worked. The high school had needed to fill this position quickly for the remainder of the year and since he was retired, he’d needed to fill the time.

Retired. Damn that sounded even weirder than the Mr. Walker. But that’s who he was now. A forty-year-old retired cop who taught high school civics and criminal justice.

He gathered his laptop and stuffed the essay style quiz papers into the side pocket for some weekend reading. He was making the rounds, picking up trash and checking for forgotten items when Hunter Whitten, English Lit teacher, poked his head in the doorway. He was young— mid-twenties, and wore skinny jeans with pristine white tennis shoes. He imagined in Hunter’s eyes he was edging toward old. Maybe past edging.

“Hey, Walker.”

“Hey, man. How’s it going?”

“It’s going. Same three kids didn’t turn in their papers.”

“Guess some people have to learn the hard way.” Dallas dropped a balled up piece of notebook paper in the metal trash can beside his desk and grabbed his laptop bag. He flicked off the light and closed the door on his way out.

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