The Long Road Home

The Long Road Home by Mary Alice Monroe Read Free Book Online

Book: The Long Road Home by Mary Alice Monroe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Alice Monroe
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Contemporary Women
was exciting business up here in the mountains.
    Seth stretched out a well-callused hand. “You be havin’ friends up at the big house now, Charley?” he asked with a grin that revealed many missing teeth.
    C.W. knew it was more than a friendly inquiry. Seth shared the flock and used MacKenzie’s land in exchange for keeping an eye on it and the house.
    “No, sir, I am not,” he answered firmly. “I’ve never laid eyes on her before. I was in the shower when I heard the car pull up. When I tried to talk to her she sped down the mountain like a demon. Her plates are from New York.”
    Seth’s eyes narrowed. “New York, you say?” He turned to his son. “That right, Frank?”
    “Yeh-up. The city all right. Saw the plates when we moved the car. Never saw that one before, though. You thinkin’ it might be one of MacKenzie’s?”
    “Could be. Come on, Charley, show us where she is. You two young’uns stay out here and out o’ trouble. Frank, Junior, Esther, come on.”
    The two tall and lanky men strode with a gait so loose and close their shoulders bumped in a brotherly camaraderie. Even in their mid-twenties, they resembled lion cubs, swiping andjabbing with a youthful exuberance. They approached the house as they did everything—together.
    C.W. smiled a brief greeting, then turned to Seth’s eldest daughter. Esther, one of Vermont’s persistent flower children, covered her long, lean body with patched jeans and a flowered shirt. At her side she carried a large straw bag. Knowing Esther, he imagined it carried a practical, well-thought-out first-aid kit.
    As she passed, Esther smiled from under her floppy straw hat. As always, C.W. had to search for signs of her twenty-six years. The soft lines at the corners of her eyes accentuated her sharp mind; the thin frown lines at her mouth revealed the degree of her discontent.
    He led them to the master bedroom, then stepped aside while Seth and his family filled the room. In a moment he heard them utter as one, “It’s Nora!”
    C.W. stood straighter and walked closer. “You know her?”
    Seth turned to face him, his eyes serious. “You did right by putting her in here. This be her room…her house.”
    C.W.’s eyes widened. She wasn’t an investigator? He looked at the woman again. Mrs. MacKenzie? She seemed too young and innocent to be the flamboyant Michael MacKenzie’s wife. Realization set in.
    “I thought you said they never came up here.”
    “They don’t. Her not once in three years,” Seth responded.
    C.W. held his arms akimbo and his chin low to conceal his shocked expression. The Big Mac’s widow. Here. He felt like he’d been punched. He studied the thin, pitiful-looking woman in the bed and hardened his heart. What the bloody hell?
    He searched Nora’s pale white profile. No doubt she was as cold-hearted and fast-fisted as her husband. What other kind of woman would marry Mike MacKenzie?

4
    “SHE’S COMING AROUND, PA,” called Esther from Nora’s bedside.
    Nora blinked once, lazily, then again as her eyes grew accustomed to the dim light. Through the lifting fog, she saw a woman’s face peer into her own.
    “Esther?” Nora asked in a feeble voice.
    “That’s me, Mrs. MacKenzie,” Esther replied in the clipped, practical voice that Nora remembered. “You got yourself a nasty bump. Here, let’s put some ice on it.”
    Nora winced as a bag of ice was plopped on her head and a thermometer was stuck in her mouth. “Seth? Seth Johnston, is that you?” she asked, removing the thermometer and holding out a hand.
    “Yeh-up,” he drawled as he ambled to her bedside with a rocking gait.
    Nora was disturbed to see him so fat now that he panted with the effort. The only things thin about Seth were his hair and his clothes, and the latter were faded as well.
    “Nice to have you back again, missus,” he said, taking her hand. “Long time.”
    “Too long,” she responded with a weak smile.
    “Yeh-up.” He nodded, releasing her

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