Back on Blossom Street (Blossom Street #4)

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05.03.2019

She grew quiet again. An unnatural quiet that made chills race down my spine. “This isn’t over yet,” she said.

“Margaret.” I tried again, beginning to feel a little desperate. “What are you going to do?” I wasn’t letting her out of my sight until I knew her intentions.

She stared at me, frowning. I wasn’t sure she even saw me because she seemed to look right through me.

“Margaret,” I repeated, lightly touching her arm. “What are you going to do?”

She turned to meet my gaze with eyes so cold and fierce they made me shudder. “It’s better for you not to know.” Then she calmly retrieved her purse from the office and walked out of the store.

CHAPTER 29

Colette Blake

Colette had looked forward to her dinner with Elizabeth—and Christian—all week. She wondered how his aunt planned to coerce him into making an appearance; she could only hope Elizabeth succeeded. Colette felt an overwhelming urge, a need, to see him…and talk to him. Five months into the pregnancy she couldn’t keep it a secret much longer. It was time Christian knew. Time she found the courage to tell him. Perhaps this evening…Maybe if she told him about this new life, it would convince him to step forward and confess—do whatever was required.

His aunt Elizabeth had opened Colette’s eyes to so many things about Christian and, surprisingly, about herself. Hiding from him—and hiding the pregnancy—had been foolish, a mistake she wanted to rectify.

It wasn’t Doris who answered the door this time, but Elizabeth herself.

Pursing her lips, she announced, “Christian won’t come.” She shook her head. “I tried everything I could to persuade him, but he saw through my ploys.”

“It’s fine,” Colette assured her quickly, putting on a brave smile. She was determined to look past her own disappointment and enjoy dinner and Elizabeth’s company.

“No, this just won’t do,” Elizabeth muttered. “My nephew is such a stubborn young man. He refuses to listen to reason.” She clasped Colette’s arm, drawing her into the house.

They sat in the formal dining room and despite the crisp, vivid-green asparagus, the wild rice and tender broiled salmon, neither had much of an appetite.

“You must go to him,” the old woman said halfway through the meal. That thought had apparently just occurred to her because she brightened instantly. “If he won’t come to us, then we’ll take action ourselves. We’ll simply make it impossible for him to ignore us.” She reached for her fork with renewed vigor.

“I…I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Nonsense,” Elizabeth countered. “It’s brilliant. Why didn’t I think of it earlier? You will go, won’t you?”

Colette noticed the less-than-subtle shift from us and we to you.

Justifications and excuses tumbled through her mind. She offered the first one she thought of, weak as it was. “I don’t know where he is.”

Elizabeth Sasser scoffed. “He’s at home.” She rattled off his address, which of course Colette already knew, although she’d certainly never been there.

“He doesn’t want to see me.” That was a far more valid reason.

The old woman laughed outright. “Contrary to what you think, I’m very sure he does. I know Christian. Go to him, Colette, and it will change everything.”

Colette wanted to believe her. Before she could actually accept or reject the idea, she found herself standing on Elizabeth’s porch with Christian’s address clutched in her hand.

“Go now,” Elizabeth said, waving her away as if she were an unwanted salesman. “What is it those commercials say? Just do it! What are you waiting for?”

Good question. She had to tell him about the baby; she knew that. It wouldn’t be easy, though, especially after she’d lied—and lied more than once. She’d refused to have anything to do with him for fear of getting dragged into the mess he’d created. And now she was supposed to show up at his front door and gleefully announce that she was pregnant with his child?

He’d be furious. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what he’d say.

“Colette.” His aunt sighed. “You’re being as difficult as my nephew.”

“I’m not sure…” she whispered, unable to hide her dread.

“Go to him,” Elizabeth encouraged.

His aunt made it sound so simple. It wasn’t, but she couldn’t possibly understand that, because she only knew half of what was at stake. And under no circumstances could Colette tell her the rest.

She suddenly had a mortifying thought. “He’s dating again, isn’t he?” What if she got there and Christian was with another woman? Based on his history, she wouldn’t be surprised to discover him seeking solace elsewhere.

Elizabeth glared at her. “Does it matter?”

It shouldn’t. Not really. And yet Elizabeth’s response didn’t exactly reassure her.

Still…

She would go to him, and the two of them would talk. Whatever happened, happened. If he went to the police and turned himself in as she hoped, she’d stand by his side. If not, if not…she didn’t know what she’d do.

In an unexpected display of affection, Elizabeth stepped forward and hugged Colette. “Everything will work out,” she whispered.

“You promise?” Colette joked.

His aunt grinned. “Have him take you to dinner, my dear. You barely touched a bite.”

Colette walked down the steps and climbed into her car. Elizabeth remained outside until Colette had pulled onto the street. Through the rearview mirror, Colette saw her raise one hand and wave.

The drive took less than fifteen minutes. Colette’s heart pounded so hard she didn’t hear anything else—not the car radio, not the music that played, not the siren of the fire truck that blared and honked as it roared past. Only when she saw other vehicles pull over did Colette realize she had to move to the side of the road.

Once she arrived at his house, she sat in her car and stared up at it. Built of slate, it featured large picture windows that overlooked a bluff on Puget Sound. She could envision the panoramic view his home offered of the water and the Olympic Mountains.

Her nerve was about to desert her, but she remembered his aunt and the encouragement Elizabeth had given her. Fortified with new determination, Colette got out of the car, ignoring the other vehicles parked on the street.

After ringing the doorbell, she waited for what might have been ten minutes or a few seconds; she could no longer tell.

When Christian opened the door, he stared at her, as if uncertain who she was.

“Colette?”

“Surprise,” she said. Her voice rose like a little girl’s, embarrassing her even more.

After an uncomfortable moment during which neither of them spoke, he narrowed his eyes, obviously questioning her presence. He made no move to invite her in. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

This wasn’t the warm greeting she’d hoped to receive. “I need to talk to you.” Because this was so difficult for her—and no doubt for him—she added, “If you’d rather I left, I’ll understand.”

“Then leave.” He glanced quickly over his shoulder.

“You have a…guest?” So he was involved and this other woman was with him. Colette felt her cheeks burning; coming here had brought her nothing but anguish.

“I’ll come back another time,” she said hastily, about to turn away.

He leaned forward to take her shoulders. “It’s not what you think.”

“You don’t owe me any explanations.”

“You’re right. I don’t.”

They continued to stare at each other. When she could stand it no longer, Colette lowered her gaze. “Like I said, we need to talk.”

“Not now.”

“Fine,” she whispered. “We can do it later.”

His face remained unyielding. “Go now and—” There was a noise behind him and he threw another irritated glance over his shoulder. He seemed on edge and eager to have her leave and yet he still held on to her.

“Forgive me for interrupting your meeting…your privacy,” she said.

He nodded.

“Could we set up a time to talk, maybe tomorrow?”

He shook his head. “I leave for China in the morning.” She had trouble identifying his tone—regret? Wariness? Resolve?

“Oh.”

“I’ll phone you when I get back,” he said as he released her.

She backed away and he did, too.

The urge to touch him, to kiss him was overpowering.

As if reading her thoughts, he reached for her again, and pressed his mouth to hers. His lips were moist and fervent.

In the distance someone—a man—called his name and Christian pushed her gently away. “Go,” he said. “Just go.”

Confused, she stumbled to her car. That was when she saw the black sedan with a couple of muscular-looking Chinese men, obviously bodyguards, watching her. This could only mean that Christian was meeting with the people involved in the smuggling operation.

Shaking with fear, Colette drove back to Blossom Street. The first thing she did when she got into her apartment was lock the door. Then she made herself a cup of tea, sipping it slowly. Finally she called Alix. Her friend was expecting to hear how the evening had gone. So, of course, was Elizabeth, but Colette didn’t know what she could say to Christian’s aunt.

Alix answered on the first ring. “Did he show up?” she demanded before Colette could say a word.

During their lunch hour, they’d gone to Go Figure, and Alix had offered Colette a complete exercise circle’s worth of advice about tonight’s dinner.

“He wasn’t there.”

“You mean to say he didn’t come?”

“No…he had a meeting.” Colette swallowed against the dryness in her throat.

“And?” “His aunt suggested I should go to him.” “Good idea,” Alix said approvingly.

But neither Elizabeth nor Alix understood that this was the worst idea of all. Swallowing again, Colette continued. “He had…guests. He said he’s leaving for China tomorrow morning.” And whatever he intended to do there, Colette didn’t want to know.

CHAPTER 30

Alix Townsend

Monday was Jordan’s day off from his work at the Free Methodist Church. With so much to do before the wedding, which was two weeks from this coming Saturday, they’d decided to spend the afternoon cleaning up Grandma Turner’s yard.

Alix had brought the completed prayer shawl and looked forward to giving it to the woman who’d come to mean so much to her. She could hardly put into words the solace she’d found with Jordan’s grandmother after she’d broken off the engagement. Sarah had sat with her and listened while Alix spilled out her frustration and pain. Then she’d insisted Alix eat. She’d had her stay in the spare bedroom, looking after her like a cherished guest. It was just the pampering Alix had needed.