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Boone McBride tried hard to keep the commandments attached to Thursday-night Beer League softball in Eternity Springs, but it wasn’t always easy. Oh, he didn’t have trouble remembering to bring the beer when it was his turn or leaving his cell phone in his car at the ballpark. He wasn’t tempted to skip games or yell at the umpire or covet a different position than the one he drew from a ball cap at the beginning of the game, as was the team’s custom. What gave Boone trouble was the team’s first commandment: Thou shalt not ogle thy buddy’s wife.
Considering that he was a single man and all of the Base Invaders’ women were as hot as Austin in August, keeping the first commandment required considerable effort.
It didn’t help anything that the bleacher smoke show observed no reciprocal rule. Some of the things those women said to a man on the field could make a batboy blush.
Not that the women were vulgar. There were, after all, children present. Lots of children. So many children, in fact, that one had to question just how many home runs were hit each night in Eternity Springs. But Boone would bet the keys to his Maserati that they spent the days between games googling baseball innuendos. They didn’t spare him either. In fact, as the only single man on the Base Invaders, he seemed to get attention from all of them.
The commandments said nothing about being an ogle-ee, so Boone, being Boone, played to the crowd during his turn at bat.
He approached home plate using what he thought of as his gunslinger walk—molasses slow, thighs spread, his arms swaying. A confident swagger. A few steps from home plate, he glanced toward the bleachers and gave the ladies a wink and the bat in his right hand a slow, 360-degree swing. Wearing his cockiest grin, he took his place in the batter’s box.
The whistles and catcalls elicited a grouchy scoff from the catcher. With the hint of his native Australia in his tone, Devin Murphy said, “You’re a dick, McBride.”
“Add an adjective to that noun, and you’ve got it right.” Boone took position, bat up, weight forward, knees flexed, which served to pull the material of his softball pants tight over his ass. “I’m a swingin’ dick.”
He let the first pitch sail by.
“Strike,” called the umpire, Harry Falwell, a retired ball coach from Indiana who obviously needed new glasses.
Boone gave him a look but kept the umpire commandment.
“I think we’re good without the adjective,” Devin commented.
“Waiting for my pitch.” On the pitcher’s mound, Josh Tarkington began his windup, and Boone added, “Then I’m hitting a homer.”
The ball headed for the plate. Boone liked it. Thump. Bat connected with ball, right on the sweet spot. He stood and watched it sail over the fence before turning to tip his cap to the cheering bleacher brigade.
“Oh, go run your bases,” Devin snarled. “Better enjoy it. Unlike the rest of us, it’s the only home base you’ll see tonight.”
“You’re a dick, Murphy,” Boone replied before tossing down his bat and making the trek around the bases.
The Base Invaders won the game 9 to 6.
Boone hung around for the postgame beer, fielding dozens of questions about his cousin Jackson’s destination wedding to the lovely Caroline Carruthers, which was scheduled for a week from Saturday here in Eternity Springs. Folks were abuzz because Jackson’s ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, Haley, was a pop music celebrity who performed as Coco. She was going to sing at the rehearsal party on Friday night, an event to which all Eternity Springs residents were invited. Around eight thirty, he climbed into his Land Rover and made the short drive to his office.
Celeste Blessing had asked for an appointment, and with both their schedules, the best they’d been able to do was nine tonight. He had a little paperwork to finish up before she arrived, and he’d no sooner walked inside than his landline began to ring. That was curious. Who would be calling his business number instead of his cell at eight thirty on a Thursday night?
He checked caller ID and froze. The familiar number sent a chill of apprehension down his spine. WAGGONER, THOMPSON, AND COLE.
Boone’s stomach sank. To call his personal history with the Fort Worth law firm unpleasant was like saying the water of Hummingbird Lake was a little chilly in February. They were directly connected to the darkest days of his life, and not very long ago, any type of communication with them would have him breaking out in a cold sweat. His hand hovered over the receiver as he debated letting the call go to voicemail. It was well past business hours, after all.
No. He was a swingin’ D, right? He wasn’t going to duck a freakin’ phone call from Fort Worth. “Screw it,” he muttered and picked up the receiver. “Boone McBride.”
“Boone? This is Ellen Woods.”
Boone’s brows arched in surprise. Ellen Woods had been a colleague of his at the DA’s office. “Ellen. Nice to hear from you. Except, you’re calling from WTC? Don’t tell me you’ve gone over to the dark side.”
She laughed. “No, I’m still fighting the good fight. I’ve been here for a meeting. I had an empty conference room and time to reach out to you, but my phone is about to die, so I’m using theirs. Boone, something rather unusual has come up. It involves you.”
He took a seat in his desk chair and said a wary, “Okay.”
“Yesterday Sarah Winston reached out to me for help. She’s been trying to reach you. She thinks you’re dodging her calls.”
I am. He’d dodged three calls from Sarah Winston today.
Boone picked up a pencil and began tapping its eraser on the desk. “She’s still with Child Protective Services, isn’t she?”
“Tell her I said no.”
“Tell her to talk to Jenkins or Moffat. They’re tough as nails on child abuse cases. Either one of those guys will do a fabulous job for Sarah.”
He interrupted. “Okay, look. I’ll do this much for her. Tell her I’ll read over what she’s done before they go to trial, but I’m not working the case.”
“Boone McBride, would you please zip your lips long enough to let me get a word in edgewise? Sarah is not looking for legal help. That’s not why she’s been calling.”
“Oh.” He set down the pencil. “I’m sorry. The last case she brought to me was brutal. These days I’m sticking to writing wills and contracts for real estate deals.”
“She told me that. That’s a shame, because you have a particular talent working with victimized youth. Children adore you. Your heart is so big.”
Boone stifled a snort. If he had a big heart, it was due to all the scar tissue.
Restless now, he rose from his chair and walked to his window where, if he stood in the right spot, he could see the chimney in the master bedroom of the new house Jax Lancaster had built for him up at Hummingbird Lake. He’d moved in a week ago, and he’d opened the last box earlier today. He was close to being ready for the wedding guests arriving next week.
With his gaze locked on his home, his haven, he said, “I hate to rush you, Ellen, but I have somewhere I need to be soon.”
Home. Sitting on the dock, getting a worm wet. Short of rolling around his bed with a beautiful woman, it was his favorite way to wind down at the end of a summer day. “What is the message Sarah wants you to pass along?”
“You need to call her. There’s a baby, Boone. A newborn. He could be yours.”
Boone took just a second to do the math, and then burst out laughing. Last fall he’d been having an affair with a ski instructor over at Wolf Creek. The affair ended by Thanksgiving, but they’d remained friendly. They’d had lunch together just two weeks ago, in fact. He’d been monogamous during the affair and celibate since. “No, Ellen, take my word for it. A newborn child cannot possibly be mine.”
“He’s officially a Safe Haven baby who was surrendered at a fire station. He arrived with a letter from the mother naming you as his legal guardian. She said she wanted you to adopt her baby, but she didn’t know how to find you.”
Boone went still. “Excuse me? Say that again?”
“Someone who knows you surrendered a newborn at a fire station.”
“We don’t know. She didn’t say. That’s what the Safe Haven law is all about.”
Boone knew that, of course. Texas law provided that a parent could leave a baby up to sixty days old with an employee on duty at any hospital, emergency medical services provider, or child welfare agency and not be charged with abandonment. Parents were encouraged to give information about the child’s health, race, date of birth, place of birth, and the parents’ medical history, but it wasn’t required.
Ellen continued, “Sarah did say there was a separate, personal message for you.”
“A message? What does the message say?”
“I don’t know. Sarah didn’t share that with me. Call her, Boone. Tonight. You have a ticking clock situation here with this. Do you need her number?” His former colleague rattled it off, and then ended the call saying, “This could be a good thing for you, Boone. Good luck.”
“Goodbye.” He disconnected the call and stood frozen as walled-away memories began chipping at the mortar in his mind.
Boone fought back. He couldn’t allow any breach in his defenses. That way there be dragons.
A Safe Haven baby. Holy hell. Ellen thought that bringing a child into his life could be a good thing?
“Not hardly,” he muttered. Not according to his history. He’d been down this road before. Traveling it brought only heartbreak and pain. “No. Not going there. Never again.”
He returned to his desk and took a seat. He didn’t phone Sarah Winston. Instead he phoned Josh Tarkington to schedule a tune-up for his Maserati. After that, he took a call on his cell from Brick Callahan and answered a handful of questions related to Jackson and Caroline’s wedding at the Callahans’ North Forty property on the shore of Hummingbird Lake. Upon ending the conversation with Brick, Boone phoned the Mocha Moose Sandwich Shop and placed a pickup order for dinner on the way home.
He no sooner set the phone down than it rang again. Sarah Winston. Why had he ever given her his cell number? He let out a string of curses that would do a bronc buster proud and then answered the call.
Copyright © 2021 by Geralyn Dawson Williams