Not in Her Wildest Dreams(124)

By: Dani Collins

Still speaking to Harrison, Mrs. Garvey said, “In my day, we didn’t allow criminals off the hook by writing lines.”

“It was my idea, Ma’am,” Zack said. “Well, the repairs part. The Dean suggested a hundred community hours and that I serve them here.”

Yes. Mercedes mentally had him painting the main lounge, mowing the lawn, and reading the book club novel aloud before Mrs. Garvey could say, That’s absurd!

“That’s absurd! Let a jailbird into our homes?”

“Mrs. Garvey.” Mercedes forced a tight smile. “If it’s just the one incident, I’m sure he would appreciate the opportunity to turn himself around.”

Looking among the board members, Mrs. Garvey muttered, “I’d like to know if it is just the one incident.”

“Then why don’t you ask him?” L.C. scratched the stubble beneath his chin. “Rather than talking around him like he’s not here.”

Mrs. Garvey flared her nostrils. The rest of the board swung their gazes to Zack.

Please don’t help, Mercedes tried telegraphing to L.C., but only got a hello-there stare that slithered heat from behind her breastbone down to her pelvis. Her heart gave another skip of response and she jerked her gaze to Zack.

He shifted his weight, seeming uncomfortable.

“Is this the only time you’ve been in trouble with the police, son?” Harrison asked.

“Well, there was this one other time—”

“Why in hell would you bring that up?” L.C. asked.

“Language,” Mrs. Garvey murmured, touching the broach on her sweater.

“I just told them I don’t lie.” Zack waved his hand at the board.

“It didn’t count,” L.C. said.

“Now we’re playing horseshoes. How could an arrest not ‘count’?” Mrs. Garvey asked Mrs. Yamamoto.

Mrs. Yamamoto set her knitting in her lap and tilted her head questioningly at Zack.

“He was trying to take the rap for his old man,” L.C. explained.

“Oh, jeez!” Zack rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “You’re supposed to just look at the repairs with me, all right? I don’t need your help with this.”

“Apparently you don’t need help at all,” L.C. said. “Sounds to me like they’ve made up their minds and don’t want anything fixed.”

Zack’s sigh rang with impatience.

Mercedes’s feelings of affinity for the young man grew. She knew exactly how it felt to parent one’s parent. She was just about to go to bat for Zack, despite his convict father, when Zack spoke again.

“Look, that first incident was a big misunderstanding. Dad was accused of something he didn’t do and I— Well, I can give you the name and phone number of the officer involved. He’s my stepdad now.”

“He was only aspiring in that direction when he arrested me,” L.C. drawled. “Which had more than a little to do with why he cuffed me.”

Harrison snorted. Mr. Dolinski scratched his upper lip. Mrs. Yamamoto lifted her knitting so she could titter behind it.

Mrs. Garvey frowned. “I don’t follow.”

Mercedes knew that could be the kiss of death for Zack. He’d come so far, too.

She opened her mouth to plead his case but a huge noise, like a redwood coming through the wall, crashed in the next room. A high-pitched scream trailed it.

The kids!

~ * ~

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