Never Forget: A Novella in the Echo Platoon Series

Never Forget: A Novella in the Echo Platoon Series by Marliss Melton Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Never Forget: A Novella in the Echo Platoon Series by Marliss Melton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marliss Melton
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Military
shame he was emptying his pockets just to help her out, however. Maybe there was something she could do for him in exchange?
    “All right, I’ll go back,” Curtis conceded suddenly, “on one condition.”
    “Oh?” What made him think he held the upper hand?
    “You take away my grounding. It isn’t fair that I have to work all day and then I can’t hang out with friends afterward.”
    He had a point there. Nor did she particularly want him underfoot at the end of her day.
    “How about a compromise?” she countered. “You may hang out with your friends from four to seven, but you’re home after that.”
    He made a sound of disgust and rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said.
    “But no hanging out with Santana.”
    “Why not?” The face he turned on her was the very picture of affront.
    “He’s trouble, that’s why.”
    “Oh, come on.”
    “You come on. He’s at least sixteen, and he’s extremely rude.”
    “He’s in my grade,” Curtis retorted. “Are you racist or something?”
    “What?” She pictured Santana’s swarthy skin and realized for the first time that he was of mixed race. “Of course not. Race has nothing to do with it.”
    “Sure it doesn’t.”
    “Wow. You know what?” She caught herself back from recanting on her decision to let him off of his grounding. Did she really want a rebellious, angry teenager wrecking her peaceful evenings? No. She would try another tactic. “I trust your judgment, Curtis. If Santana tries to influence you in any bad way—if he offers you drugs or makes you watch porn or something—”
    “Mom!” He affected a look of disgust.
    “—then I trust you to walk away, understand? I raised you to be respectful of your elders, to think about your future, and to stay clear of trouble. Now I expect you to monitor yourself on all those fronts. You’re practically an adult.”
    “Okaaay.” He drawled out the word as if waiting for the other shoe to fall. “So I can hang out with him?”
    She cringed at the mere thought. “As long as his behaviors don’t rub off on you.” Any more than they have already, she added silently.
    “They won’t,” he promised, making her feel a little hopeful. “Thanks,” he added, sending her a remnant of his little boy smile, the one full of love for his mother.
    How she missed those simpler days.

Chapter Six
    ‡
    C URTIS BACKED AWAY from Santana’s front door after knocking. It sounded like Draco was inside the house, barking furiously and clawing the door, but Santana didn’t even own a dog.
    Puzzled, Curtis checked the house number, making sure he was in the right place. The door swung open, and a Doberman Pinscher strained through the opening, caught back by a dark-skinned stranger, who held the growling menace by his studded leather collar.
    Curtis tore his nervous gaze off the dog’s snarling visage. “Uh, is Santana home?”
    The man regarded him with hard eyes. “He just left for Walmart with his mom.”
    “Oh.” Noticing a family resemblance, Curtis guessed that the stranger was a relative.
    “You want to wait inside?”
    Considering the stranger’s hostile look, the offer caught Curtis by surprise.
    “Santana won’t be long,” the man added.
    The dog continued to snarl.
    “Shut up, Lucifer,” the man scolded.
    “No, that’s all right,” Curtis said, thinking the dog’s name suited him. “I’ll wait until I see his mom’s car.”
    Hard eyes drifted over him again. “You’re that special investigator’s son,” the relative stated. “Schultz, right?”
    Curtis nodded. “Yeah, you know my mom?”
    “We’ve met,” he said. “I’m Santana’s Uncle Will,” he said.
    Curtis nodded and backed off the stoop. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Will. I’ll come back later.”
    “You do that,” said Will, managing a smile that failed to reach his eyes.
    As he walked away, Curtis could feel the man watching him. It was pretty obvious Santana’s uncle didn’t like his mom. She’d told him before

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