There was a banging at his door and Marcus went to open it. “Uncle Marcus, you got to come quick. Nathan fell on his arm,” Daniel said, rushing through his speech.
Damn. He followed Daniel out the door and around to the causeway, heading to the backyard of the motel. He stopped dead for a second when he saw the scene.
Nicole had Nathan in her arms, rocking him as he wailed about his arm. The sight was beautiful to him. Nathan had never tried to warm up to any woman he ever brought into their lives, yet with this creature, he is drawn to her like a magnet. He walked over to where they were seated and sat down next to Nicole.
“What happened, Nathan,” Marcus asked him gently.
“I slipped on a rock at the creek and fell on my arm. Daddy, it hurts.”
“No. I don’t want to go back to our room. I want to stay with Nicole.”
“You don’t want to go back and watch some movies?”
“No. I want to watch the movies with Nicole.” He huddled tighter into Nicole’s arms.
“I can let him watch some movies in my room and maybe you can come by later to pick him up?”
He was hesitant when Nathan said, “Please, daddy?”
“Okay. Under one condition.”
“You have to take some aspirins for the pain.”
“Thank you, Nicole.” Marcus smiled warmly at her. He watched as her expression changed from that of a loving mother to that of a steel look at him. Did he do something to anger her? What was it that his son was so taken by her? Did she have a maternal instinct in her that he needed in his life? His own mother had practically abandoned him. She brought him over one evening, suitcase in hand, and told him that Nathan was staying with him because she was engaged to be married and would be moving to Spain. He didn’t recall her ever hugging the boy, or talking to him in a motherly way, or just plain being his mother. In fact, after they got married, she turned into a cold-hearted bitch. He vowed then he would never get married again. The only other woman in Nathan’s life was Shana, and she did her best for him, trying to fulfill his needs, but he knew that Nathan really craved a mother’s love.
Before Nathan and Nicole settled down to watch a movie, she said, “How about we go and get some snacks?”
“Okay,” he said excitedly.
They went to Debbie and Ronnie’s kitchen, and she rummaged through the cupboards while Nathan sat in the chair on his knees.
“Hmm, I bet you like chocolate milk.”
Nicole pulled the chocolate syrup out of the cupboard and got two tall glasses, spoons, and two straws. She set them on the table and got the milk out. She sat down next to Nathan and poured the milk into the glasses. She squirted chocolate into Nathan’s glass and then in her glass. They stirred the chocolate then put their straws in. Nicole blew bubbles in her straw, and Nathan laughed. Then he blew bubbles too. They giggled together as they blew bubbles in between sipping and drinking the chocolate and milk.
After they had finished and she cleaned up the area, she asked, “What do you like to snack on besides gummy bears?”
“I like popcorn!”
“Oh. That sounds good, doesn’t it?” She looked at Nathan.
After popping the popcorn in the microwave, she put it in a large bowl. “Okay, let’s go watch the movie.”
They got settled in the bed, surfed the channels until they found something to watch, and put the big bowl in front of them. Nathan snuggled up next to Nicole.
* * * *
Later in the evening, Marcus stepped out of his room and went to Nicole’s. The curtains were drawn back and the moon illuminated the room with a soft glow. He knocked softly on her door, but there was no answer. He turned the knob, and it was unlocked. He opened the door and stepped in. He was surprised at what he found. Nathan was curled up, next to Nicole with his head on her chest. She rested her chin on his crown and had her arms wrapped around him. He stood there staring at the two of them. Not wanting to wake either of them up.
The next morning, Nicole woke first and realized that Nathan had stayed the night with her. She hoped his parents didn’t mind. When Nathan woke up, there was a quiet knock at her door, and she opened it. It was Marcus. “I’m sorry. We fell asleep watching the movie.”
“Daddy, guess what?”
“Nicole and I made chocolate milk and blew bubbles in them.”
“Really. Bet you made a nice mess.”
“No, we didn’t, didn’t we, Nicole?”
“No. No mess.” She smiled
“Nathan, we’re getting ready to go to the café and eat. Let’s get you in some clean clothes and go.”
“Okay. Bye, Nicole.”
“Bye bye sweetie.”
Later that morning she sat at the picnic table reading. She saw a movement out of the corner of her eye and glanced to where the causeway was. Marcus was walking toward her. She quickly averted her eyes to her book and started reading again, even though the words were not forming in her mind. Her heart was racing, and she felt nervous. Why? He’s married and off-limits. Why was she still attracted to him?
“Good morning, Nicole,” Marcus said as he raised one leg over the picnic table bench and sat down.
“Good morning,” she murmured. She laid her book flatly on the picnic table, so he did not see what she was reading, and kept her eyes in the book, even though she could not read a thing. She knew he wanted to pressure her more about the arrows. She had it in mind to just keep the information from him and let him find it another way.
“Have you thought any more about where you think the arrows may be?” Marcus asked.
“No. I haven’t had time.” Why did she lie like that? She immediately felt guilty, because she never lied to anyone.
He studied her. His eyes started at her eyes, and slowly down to where her hands were holding the book on the table.
“I went to the BLM Friday and got a bunch of topographic maps of Elkhorn Mountains. I was hoping you’d be able to look at them, and maybe it will help you to jar your memory. Would you be willing to look at them?”
The boys came running back. “Daddy, you said we would go to Butte Falls river and look at rocks. Can we go now?” Nathan ran up and stood next to his father, then the other two boys came and stood next to them.
“Yes, we’ll go in a second.” Marcus looked at Nicole expectantly.
“I’ll look at your maps,” Nicole said, barely a whisper.
Marcus flashed his million dollar smile at her that made her swoon then looked at the boys. “Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah!” They all cried in unison.
“Thank you, Nicole. I will get with you later and show you what I have.” He got up and said to the boys, “Let’s go.”
Darcey Haufmeiser, and her husband Dick, owners the Mason Saloon and Café, called Nicole later in the morning and asked if she’d be able to wait the tables from four PM to eight PM that day.
Nicole decided to walk to work rather than drive her car. She left a half hour early and showed up ten minutes before her shift started and walked into the restaurant. To her chagrin, Marcus was sitting in a booth, with his three boys and wife. They were talking and laughing among themselves as she walked by. Marcus looked up and smiled slightly at her. It didn’t look like they had gotten their meals yet, so she had to endure their present and serve them their food. This sucks, what timing. There were several other tables occupied. Business had been slow lately at the restaurant and the saloon, and she was glad to see more people in the restaurant.
As she rounded the corner to head to the kitchen, the door to the bar swung opened and Cherry, the bartender, waltzed through and headed to the kitchen with a food order. “Hi, Nicole,” Cherry said.
“Hi, Cherry. Working tonight or just getting off?”
“Working tonight. You coming on?”
“Yeah.” She went to the kitchen behind Cherry and let Darcey know she was there.
“Here’s an order for a hamburger and fries.” Cherry handed Darcey the food order and walked backed through the restaurant to the bar.
“Hi, Darcey,” Nicole said.
“Hey, Nicole. So glad you could come in and cover for Steve. He apparently has the flu, and it’s been going around.”
“No problem. Anything I should know about?” She looked from Darcey to Maria, the waitress.
“No, specials are on the board, and everything seems to be going okay,” Maria said.
“Are you working until eight tonight, Darcey?” Nicole asked.
“Yeah. Bill asked for tonight off for his granddaughter’s birthday.”
Maria went out to the cash register, counted out the money and placed it in the bank bag. When she was done and left the restaurant, Nicole got the next shift’s money bag and counted out the bills, cracked the coins that were rolled and placed them in the till. She grabbed the coffee pot and went to several tables to refill their cups. When she got near Marcus’s table, a young voice called out to her.
She turned and looked at Nathan. “Hi. How is your arm doing?” She smiled weakly at him. She briefly looked at Shana. Envy filled her heart. She had long black hair, but not nearly as long as Marcus’s, deep brown eyes, some make-up on her face and she dressed smartly. Just as a lawyer’s wife should.
“It’s doing okay. Daddy gave me some pills to take.”
“Did you take it like a good boy?”
“He actually took a pain pill without giving me a hassle this time,” Marcus said, he raised an eyebrow while looking at the boy.
“Nicole said I should take it so I won’t be in any pain for the whole day.” Nathan looked up at Nicole and had a small smile on his face.
Marcus looked again at his son and then up at Nicole. “Really. So that’s why you took it without giving me a hard time, huh?”
Why didn’t his mother try to encourage the boy to take an aspirin? Nicole looked at Shana and then at their table. She asked, “Anyone want refills?”
“I do. I want more apple juice.” Nathan sat back in the corner of the booth with his feet on the cushion and his arm wrapped around his glass.
“Me too, the other two boys chimed in.
“Okay, what are you two drinking?”
“I’m drinking Sprite,” the older one said.
“I want more orange pop,” the littler one said.
“Okay, and you two?” She asked Marcus and the woman.
“I’m fine,” Marcus said.
“Just a little more water for me, please,” the woman said.
Nicole took the glasses and went and filled them up. She returned and gave everyone their drinks.
“Nicole, you work here?” Nathan asked.
“Yes. I work part-time here.” She smiled at him.
“I really like your dog, Nicole,” Bryan said.
“The dog is very pretty, what kind is it?” The woman Nicole thought was Marcus’s wife asked.
“She’s a Blue Heeler.” Nicole’s smile left her face, but only Marcus noticed it.
“She has such fine markings and features.” The woman continued.
Nicole couldn’t wait to get away from the table. The last thing she wanted was to get into a conversation with his wife.
“Nicole said that Sierra chases away all the boogie monsters,” Nathan said proudly as if he knew something no one else knew. Nicole heard Darcey call her from the kitchen, and she left to go back there.
God, would the torture ever end? Why couldn’t she shake this man out of her system? Why did she feel so attracted to him? He’s married, for crying out loud. She brought the food out to his table.
“Who has the chicken nuggets and fries?” she asked.
“Me!” Nathan exclaimed loudly.
She handed the plate over to him.
“Who has the macaroni and cheese?”
“I do,” the older of the boys said.
“So, that leaves you with a cup of chicken noodle soup?” She asked the Bryan, the younger brother.
She went back to the kitchen and brought out the adult meals.
“Here is the garden salad.”
“That’s for me, thank you,” the woman said.
She handed the Mexican fiesta platter to Marcus. “Can I get you anything else?” she asked.
Marcus looked around and then smiled up at Nicole. “No. I think we’re all set.”
“Alrighty then, I’ll be back to refill your drinks shortly.”
Nicole went over to the other tables and waited on them. She was glad to get away from that table.
One couple that she knew, Lori and Doug, were sitting at the table in the center of the restaurant, next to Marcus and his family. She always enjoyed talking to Lori and Doug, they were always happy, laughing and cracking jokes. She had gone to make a pot of coffee and noticed that whoever put the coffee in filters and stacked them so that they would be ready to use, had used both a six and a twelve cup filters. She brought the two filters over to Lori and Doug, “I don’t think someone knows the different between six cup filters and twelve cup filters.”
Doug, known for his dry sense of humor, said, “B cups or D cups!”
Nicole walked away with her face heated, giggling. She caught Marcus thin lined smile as she quickly walked over to the coffee maker and made a fresh pot.
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