Meet today? Surely he hadn’t heard the old lawyer right. “What do you mean? It’s Sunday.”
The fact the Roy’s attorney, Oliver Douglas, even suggested a meeting on a weekend surprised him, but now he wanted to jaunt right over to the house. Maybe he might serve as a mediator between the two of them.
The old man raised his bushy brows allowing a twinkle to show in his clear blue eyes. “I’m well aware it’s Sunday. I had to force myself to get dressed in something more professional than sweatpants. Besides, Melody Gibbons works long hours as a hospice nurse. This Sunday is one of the few days she has off.”
Works long hours. Well, that part didn’t sound much like Angelique. As soon as they married, she’d quit her job. Still, his uncle’s inheritance of a rowboat, a modest home, and all the dated furniture inside wouldn’t support a person. Half of everything belonged to him so she couldn’t sell it.
A jabbing pain shot through his leg, causing him to stumble toward a chair. Damn, he hated feeling like an invalid. Collapsing into the swivel desk chair, he turned it toward the wall to avoid scrutiny. His fingers massaged the area above where his leg ended. The phantom pain felt lower. The physical therapist explained that discomfort in a missing limb was normal since the nerves still sent messages to the brain. Somehow, they missed the memo.
The ache lessened under his ministration. The thought of visiting Melody didn’t seem as horrendous as it first did. After all, he survived the loss of both parents, Angelique’s betrayal, his uncle’s death, and coming out of the war a damaged man. What could this Melody Gibbons do to him that hadn’t already been done?
Not exactly a cheery thought, but it bucked him up some. He inhaled deeply as he leaned into the chair’s curving wooden back. “Okay, I’m ready.”
The lawyer’s voice boomed closer to his ear than expected. “Good, I’ll drive.”
Apparently, the man took advantage of his absorption to step closer and peer over his shoulder to see if the cripple would need a 911 call. Ever since he returned, it felt like everyone looked at him that way. Well, except for the woman at the dock, who saw him as an attractive man by the flare in her eyes.
Of course, the flicker went away as she made some lame excuse about a dog in order to escape.
“Let’s go son. “ The smiling man jingled his keys. “It’s time you children met and cleared up some of your misconceptions.”
He wanted to object to the child label, but instead pushed up out of the chair. Did the man think he was incapable of driving? “I drove here myself.”
“I know. “ The man nodded his gray head as he swung the door open. “If I drive, it gives us time to talk. It also eliminates your escape if you want to drive off in a huff. By the way, you can call me Oliver. Most people do.”
Oliver. He tried the name out in his head. Yes, he did remember his uncle talking about him, something about fishing. “You and my uncle were fishing buddies?”
“Guilty.” Oliver moved enough to allow Levi room to maneuver out to the sidewalk before turning to lock the door. He looked up with a grin. “It might be better to call us beer drinking buddies because we never caught that many fish.”
Levi forced out a chuckle, trying to quell his apprehension at the same time. Finally, he was going to do the deed and meet the woman who caused so much festering resentment. It could be with the presence of Oliver they could work things out. “Melody agreed to this Sunday meeting?”
Oliver stood by a large late model sedan, making Levi question his previous belief about the man’s lack of professional expertise. A sharp chirp from the key fob unlocked the passenger door. Oliver walked around the front of the car to reach the driver’s side. His reply drifted over his shoulder. “Oh, I never really made an appointment for a visit, just inquired if she’d be home for a call. The doorbell will notify her we've arrived.”
Great. He slid across the smooth leather seat and slammed the door. The man was reminding him of his Uncle Roy more and more. From trapping him in the car to talk, to showing up for an unexpected visit, both were techniques his uncle used in the past. Several talks occurred as his uncle drove him somewhere.
Talk might be the wrong word. His uncle would have some type of story about a friend, who bore a remarkable resemblance to Levi. The friend usually came to a bad end. In some of the tales, the friend reformed his ways. After the stories, Levi refused to talk, but he did think about them, even moderating his actions some too.
Oliver started the car and switched off the radio before speaking. ‘Let’s look at things from Melody’s view.”
Let’s not, he wanted to say, but he remained silent. It was déjà vu all over again.
“Melody sees you as a greedy, uncaring jerk.”
“Hey!” His objection hung in the air. Apparently Oliver didn’t sugarcoat anything. “Why am I a jerk?”
Oliver eased the sedan into traffic, making two right turns before answering. No doubt, the silence was a legal trick allowing him time to squirm.
“Did you call your uncle? Even send him a quick email the whole time you were deployed?”
Oh great. Another lawyer trick, asking questions he knew the answers to. “No, but not once did he contact me and say, ‘I have cancer and am dying.’”
“True,” Oliver agreed. “We both know that wasn’t his way, to manipulate you to get some attention.”
His words mirrored his own thoughts. “No, it wasn’t. I wish it were because I definitely would have called. I wouldn’t have held onto the anger over something he was actually right about.”
“That’s life for you. Watch your words carefully because you never know when they will be your last ones. We’re here.”
The familiar house loomed in front of him. The door opened and a hound appeared, rending the air with a long bay. Following close behind, holding the leash, was the woman he met at the dock. “It’s her.”
The words slipped out of his mouth without intention as his eyes devoured her. There really was a dog.
Oliver chuckled. “You’ve already met Melody, then.”