Read Saved By The Belles Online

Authors: Beth Albright

Tags: #Contemporary Romance

Saved By The Belles (8 page)

“Oh, Blake, Oh, baby, come over here and give me a hug,” Meridee whispered.

“Old lady, you scared me half to death,” Kitty said her voice trembling.

“Nanny, my Lord, what are you trying to do to us? You really didn’t need to go to all this trouble to get some attention. You know we love you.” I was joking with her and got a funny little grin.

“Yeah, I mean really-- all this?” Vivi played along motioning around the room at the machines keeping track of her vitals.

“Well, I was wondering if y’all were gonna stay out there and party without me,” Meridee joked. She looked more frail lying there in that bed than I could ever remember. My heart was full. I loved that tiny woman more than life and I wanted her here to hold the life that was growing inside me. I felt in that moment, watching the room glow with the love of all the women in my life, that I was only a tiny part of the chain. From Meridee to Kitty to Vivi and me and now to mine and Vivi’s babies, we are all forever linked—reaching back into the past with one hand while our other rests gently on the future. I rubbed my baby belly as a gush of happiness filled me. I knew in that second Meridee was gonna be okay to see my boy.

“Where are those men of y’all’s? Kitty I know that mayor of yours can’t be too far away.”

“Hey ladies, did I hear somebody mention a mayor?” Charley Wynn, Tuscaloosa mayor and Kitty’s fiancé stuck his head in with a big grin. He was big, kinda round and reminded me of Jeff Bridges. Kitty rushed over and hugged him. He kissed her head and Kitty exhaled for the first time in an hour. He would be number five, as in husbands, for Kitty. But I thought maybe this one might stick. They seemed really in love. I could do worse than having the mayor for a stepdad.

“Hey, we’re gonna need to get in here for a second,” Sonny rushed into Meridee’s room and shut the door. He had Harry by the arm. “The media is here. Somebody from inside the hospital must’ve let the cat outta the bag. They all know Harry’s here. I had to get him outta the waiting room.”

“My God, Harry. It’s just not safe for you to be anywhere these days,” Vivi jumped in. No sooner had we gotten Harry in the room and everybody calmed, then a sudden knock came from the door. Kitty opened it without thinking as Dallas rushed in. Thank God, she was alone, her long-time cameraman, Daniel nowhere in sight.

“Y’all, I thought we were gonna make sure to keep each other in the loop,” she said with her hands on her hips, her long bouncy blonde hair falling over her winter-white suit.

“We had no idea, Harry just showed up here without any warning,” I explained.

“Well, somebody had to tell him Meridee was here,” Dallas reasoned.

“So true, and all of us are in the dark here about who called him and just where he’s been staying. Not to mention the brothel calls.” Now I had my hands on my hips, frustrated with all the secrecy.

“Brothel?” Dallas said in shock. “You mean he has something to do with all that talk we been hearing about there being a secret brothel in town?”

Harry stood quietly as he inched toward the door.

“What are y’all talking about?” Meridee perked up.

“It’s okay, Nanny. Harry is just here for a few days to clear some things up. He’s been staying somewhere in town and we were just talking to him about where he’s been.” I was trying to include her without being too overwhelming. I knew even though the doctor said the TIAs weren’t debilitating, I understood she was tired and maybe still a tad confused. Weren’t we all!

Meridee spoke up, loud and clear. “Well, I can tell y’all one thing—Harry sure as hell hadn’t been staying at no brothel—he’s been stayin’ with me.”

 

CHAPTER 14

 

 

 

“Oh, good God almighty! Is that the houseguest we were grocery shoppin’ for when you passed out earlier?” Kitty jumped in.

“Well, he
is
a houseguest since he is stayin’ with me,” Meridee explained.

“Where the hell has he been? I’ve been in and out of your house several times in the last couple of days and I never saw him.”

“That was the plan. I needed to help him stay outta site till this whole mess blows over.”

Okay clearly she wasn’t as confused as I thought. She was flat out nuts.

“Mother, you can’t hide a fugitive!” Kitty exploded. “I mean there’s a petition to get him out of office. He’s trouble right now. That’s probably why you started havin’ these TMJ’s—all the stress. Harry, how could you do this to her?”

I shook my head and jumped in. “Mother! It’s not TMJ’s—surely there’s nothing wrong with her jaw or her speech. They’re TIAs and you’re right-- no wonder she’s been so stressed! Harry you should be ashamed taking her up on her offer.”

Then, it occurred to me that second that of course Meridee would take him in. That’s what she always does. She finds the misunderstood, the underdogs and fights for them. She had helped Lewis open his radio station. She always defended Dallas even when the rest of us hated her; she saw something good in her. Meridee had a nose for the deep down truth and somehow she must have known Harry was telling the truth.

“How did you get here?” I pushed him for answers.

“I took cab. I was at Meridee’s when the phone rang. The caller ID announced the hospital so I answered and was told she had been brought in. I told them I was her next of kin.”

Lying came so easy for him.

Harry just stood there, head down, propped against the wall. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just wanted to come home to tell Blake before the news hit about Jessica. None of it’s even true,” he pleaded, “I swear.”

“We all need to get out of this room now and let Ms. Meridee get her rest,” Sonny took charge. “Come on y’all, we’ll sneak out the back to my squad car and get Harry back to safety away from those paparazzi out there.” Sonny looked at me and gave me a nod. I knew he was right. We needed to go. The room was too crowded and Meridee wanted to believe she was her same ol’ normal self. So she’d push to make it all good with Harry. We needed to leave right that second or she could over do it.

“I love you, Nanny. We got this, okay. You rest. We’re gonna need you as soon as you can get home. This baby boy needs his great Nanny.” I patted my tummy smiling, then leaned over her and kissed her little cheek. She was such a tiny woman, all five feet of her and maybe a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she responded. “Now y’all be careful.” She laid her little gray head back on her pillows.

“You just drive me crazy,” Kitty said bending over her bed to kiss Meridee’s cheek. I’m not going anywhere old woman. I wanna stay right here till I can take you home.” She turned to Mayor Charlie and me. “They said they’re gonna watch her overnight, and I can just sleep here in her room.”

“Ill keep watch over both of y’all as long as they’ll let me stay,” the mayor said sweetly, patting Mother’s shoulder.

Sonny led Harry out through the swarm of reporters and then in through the hospital where the reporters weren’t allowed. Vivi and I stepped toward the hall, Dallas moved over to Nanny’s bedside. I saw Nanny reach over and squeeze her hand.

“Don’t you worry, sweetheart. I called the children’s home this morning and they said they were sure they could get that paperwork on your baby girl pushed through. They are just as anxious to get Sara Grace to you, as you are to get her. They said she’s been askin’ for you every single day.”

“Oh, Miss Meridee, you are an angel. Can I go see her?”

“Sure you can. You can call them and ask for a visit. I’m sure they would love to have you.”

Dallas leaned down and kissed Meridee’s cheek. “Thank you so much. How can I ever repay you for helping me?”

“Don’t you go a worryin’ ‘bout that. We all just take care of each other. We’re family.” Meridee smiled and inhaled a deep breath. It made her feel good to help people. It was evident all over her face.

I took that in for a moment. Meridee truly was an angel. I just didn’t want heaven to be her address just yet. I had so much more to learn from her. How could I ever be such a good judge of character? And so smart when it comes to people? She was our sun, the center of our family universe. Nope she wasn’t going anywhere. My baby boy needed to know this amazing little woman.

“We need to have a quick chat,” Dallas said as she made her way back to Vivi and me near the door.

“As long as it’s private for now,” Vivi offered. “No big news story.”

“No problem, but when we get this thing figured out, I want an exclusive,” Dallas proposed.

“Deal,” I said.

We headed through the throng of microphones just behind Sonny and Harry. Vivi tippy-toed up and kissed Lewis on the cheek.

“I’ll stay here and keep everyone occupied with some sort of rhetoric till y’all let me know you’re safely out,” Lewis promised. He was always good at running block for his team as a former Alabama football star and great with the microphone as The Crimson Tide’s football announcer. He would be in his element with the reporters keeping them busy till we escaped with Harry. Lewis winked at us as we went through the double doors leading to the rest of the hospital.

Vivi and Dallas and I arrived at the back maintenance doors where Sonny had moved his unmarked car.

“Okay, Dallas, come with us to my house and we’ll all have a chat with Harry,” Vivi ordered. “Maybe we’ll all get some answers tonight.”

 

CHAPTER 15

 

 

 

It kinda felt like we were kidnapping Harry. Everyone had questions for him and images danced in my head of us tying him down till he talked. I knew of course it wouldn’t really be like that but I liked seeing it that way.

Sonny and Harry sat in the front seat while the three of us would-be sleuths sat together in the back. Sonny drove us all home to Vivi’s for a nice little chat with Harry. It was time to get his full story if any of us were gonna even begin to solve this mess.

Between the brothel and Harry’s scandal, we had what’s called an A news day going on and Dallas would have the lead story for the rest of the week at this rate. Even though she got the anchor job, they wanted to keep her out front doing a few stories a week. And her getting an up close exclusive with the scandalous senator was quite the coo for her new seat at the anchor desk.

“Come on inside y’all. I’ll get some hot cider and coffee goin,’” Vivi said as we made our way inside her warm, comfortable, old plantation house. It had been in Vivi’s family for well over a hundred and fifty years. The light outside was growing dim, the bare trees blanketed in a lavender haze as the sun was setting. It slipped into the horizon so early on these midwinter days.

We all found a seat around the huge oak table. Vivi got everything going, set some chocolate chip cookies out and excused herself to see her precious bundle. Her new sitter, Misty, had stayed with Tallulah while we had been gone.

“Harry, I have a few questions and we need a straight answer,” Sonny began, not messing around with jovial small talk. “I’m not here to delve into your personal life or the debacle it’s become. I’m not here to judge you either. I need to know what you know about this brothel.”

“Sonny, honest to God, I don’t know anything. That number has been calling me for a month. I never even knew it was anything but a wrong number.” Harry suddenly seemed like a child.

“Sonny, I have been searching for answers about this case too for the news,” Dallas interrupted, “and I know the man you found dead in his car had just had an appointment there. He had seen a woman named Jasmine. Not that she’s the same woman that is Harry’s intern. But upon further investigation, Harry’s intern does have ties to Tuscaloosa. I think she may even have an uncle here.”

“How does this tie together? What are you thinking?” Sonny asked her.

“I found a vital piece of information on Jasmine today. She isn’t originally from here either but she too has an uncle here. I have a source out at that brothel.”

“I’ve already talked to her trying to learn more about the dead guy. She was more than likely the last one to see him alive. Now we need to get more information from her. I mean it’s a real stretch—lots of people have uncles here,” Sonny said.

Harry sat there looking uncomfortable. “I do remember something,” he perked up.

“What? About the brothel?” I asked.

“No about my intern. Her name is Jessica but she wanted everyone on staff to call her Jaz. Said it was a nickname from her childhood.”

“Was she from here?” Sonny asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said suddenly sitting up straight in his chair. “I mean she was in school here. That was the whole reason I wanted her on my team. She was a hometown girl. I’m not sure if she’s actually from here originally, but she said she was a student at the University.”

“Okay, I think we know what we need to do,” Dallas pitched. “We need to find out everything we can about both of these young women. Maybe they’re related.”

I was still not drawing the correlation—at least not enough to make a complete case. “Harry, tell us everything you know about your intern. Most importantly I need to know what makes you think you were set up?”

I sat waiting, hungry to prove to myself I wasn’t a total fool for trying to help him.

“I just know.”

That was it. I was waiting for the big reveal and that was all he could give me. Behavior like a third-grader—“Just ‘cause.” I shook my head.

“Harry, look. We’re trying to help you. You have to tell us everything. I mean come on—you’re a lawyer. You know we need to know everything.”

“Okay, but really it was just nothing. I mean I hired her just a few weeks ago, right after I got to Washington to start setting up my new staff. I needed a personal intern and she applied. I had my assistant interview everyone and I told him to pay close attention to anyone from Tuscaloosa or even with strong ties here. Jessica made the cut and I interviewed her. She was charming and warm and seemed very capable. So I hired her.”

“But how did all these pictures come up?” I kept pushing.

“I couldn’t figure it out myself,” he said. “But every single time she was with me, a photographer happened to be there. The second she saw them she’d kiss me on the cheek. Over the last few weeks it became a nuisance. I’d walk out of my office and she’d offer to assist me wherever I was going, and before I knew it we were being followed by a camera-man or two.

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