Marrying the Wrong Man

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A few seconds later, Charlie heard a door click open and the words, “Good luck to you.”

He met Bryce’s wide eyes as the man exited his office with a woman behind him. Charlie’s heart hammered against his rib cage. She wore her dark hair in a ponytail—something Morgan never did—and the baggy sweatshirt was wrong, too. But he’d have known that face anywhere.

Her mouth opened when she saw him. Maybe his did, too. He was so numb he couldn’t feel a damn thing except the vicious thrashing in his chest.

“Well, well, Charlie Cramer, isn’t this a surprise?” Bryce grinned. “I’ll be right with you.”

Morgan stepped toward Charlie, looking different enough he couldn’t help but stare. It took him a few seconds to realize she wasn’t wearing makeup—not a stitch. For a woman who used to leave smudges of color on his white T-shirts after a hug, it was a shocking change. Was she sick? He used to pray she’d pay for agreeing to that wedding her father wanted and choosing Justin over him, then leaving town the minute they actually got their chance to be together. But he didn’t want her to be ill.

“Charlie,” she rasped. “I’m … ” her mouth closed, and he watched the muscles of her throat move as she swallowed, “visiting my aunt.”

Which was weird, too. The high and mighty Parrishes had stayed far away from Kitty’s reclusive sister, Phyllis.

“5w20,” Roberta said. Her voice ended in a whoop, and the plastic container thudded loudly on the counter.

He might have things to say to Morgan, but he wasn’t going to say them here in front of an eager audience.

Reaching into his back pocket, he grabbed his wallet and tossed a twenty onto the counter. “Thanks, Roberta.”

“I’m going to call you,” Morgan said.

Charlie clenched his jaw. Two years too late. He gave Morgan a curt nod but otherwise stood stock still until she and Bryce left the building.

“I should’ve warned you.” Roberta handed him his change. “I was hoping they’d stay in the office long enough for you to get out without seeing her. It must be hard. Is that the first time you’ve seen her since she left town? ”

Charlie’s nostrils flared. He didn’t like to share details about his life or talk about his feelings with people close to him. He sure as hell wasn’t going down that road with an auto parts store cashier. Small towns. These people needed to mind their own business.

A growl caught in the back of his throat as he retreated.

It wasn’t until he stepped out of the building, clutching the quart of oil, that his head cleared enough to go on the attack again. Phone call, my ass. He wasn’t waiting around to hear from her.

Charlie jumped into his truck and headed for Phyllis Marion’s farmhouse. They had unfinished business.