A few days had passed since Saunders drunken antics and word had quickly spread that the town practice was now down to one Doctor. As suggested Aracely had contacted her predecessor Doctor Hanson for help, if only to lighten her workload. He was more than happy to oblige and resumed making house calls after verifying that all his licenses were still in date.
Goings on at the Quinn residence had returned to normal. The window was fixed and they were happy to put the awful night behind them. Jason had even completed Lisa’s porch and the builders had resumed their work. It wouldn’t be long before Lisa and Bobby would be moving into their own home. Even if it was only a few minutes walk from the main house, Rita Quinn still couldn’t believe that her daughter would be leaving the nest.
As Tom had expected, Aracely had missed the first Thursday night dinner. She had however sent her apologies and an explanation, so he was all too happy to forgive her.
Doctor Saunder’s had spent the time stewing in jail, while his lawyer had tried to negotiate a bail setting that Eric could afford, the Judge had refused him outright. Aracely had taken care of his children when she was a teenager and he would only lower the bail once she was ready to get him out of her hair, but a few days in the lock-up wouldn’t hurt.
Both the Californian and West Virginian medical board were very interested in Saunders antics and thanks to a few phone calls from the Judge, a review would also take place.
Aracely wanted to get the last few words in with him and after some communicating through his lawyer, she ended up driving Eric to the airport where he would go home to his own family. “I’ll mail everything else that we couldn’t find along the way,” she said softly as they neared their destination.
Eric looked at her, his eyes were cold and dead. He hadn’t shaved since he was in jail and was sporting some very ugly, patchy looking stubble. “Thank you…” he muttered before finding what smatterings of confidence he had left. “Look, come back with me… we can start fresh. I’m sure my father can sort things out with the medical board.”
Sighing, she stared ahead out the window. “You know that my plans were to come home and work here since the first day we met. LA was a learning experience. It’s not me. I would never be happy there, you know that.”
“Then we can go to another small out of the way town, or join Doctors Without Borders. We’ll be fine once we get as far away from that town as we can,” he replied, grasping at straws.
“Eric, after everything, I just can’t. I need my family. My family that you didn’t want me to spend any time with. Why was that? Why wouldn’t you let me see my own parents?” she asked, looking at him sharply.
“Because you didn’t need them anymore!” he exclaimed, “I would have taken care of you for the rest of our lives. You’d have wanted for nothing.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. “I didn’t need them? You seem to need yours well enough to get you out of the trouble that you caused yourself. I can take care of myself just as well Eric. Don’t play that shit with me. They are my parents and I’m not going to give them up again for anyone so don’t try it. I managed to get the Judge to let up on the drunk driving and I never reported the damage you did to the office. I can’t do anything about what you did to the Quinns’ window, but you made your bed. Now you have to sleep in it.” Aracely noticed the sign for the airport and pulled off the highway and up the main stretch to the airfield for the private charter that the man’s father arranged.
“You’re really going to stay in this hick town? With those yokels?” Eric snapped.
She glared at him and slammed on the brakes. “Those yokels are my friends and family. If they are yokels then so am I. Get over yourself. You tell me that I don’t need my parents but look who you called first. Your daddy. And you were too good for a regular flight home that you also had him rent a private charter to fly you across the country. If we weren’t done then, we certainly are now,” she growled.
“I called my father because he’s made something of himself… and I plan to do the same,” he growled. “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life treating country bumpkins when I could be working in one of the best hospitals in the world. Nor am I going to settle for the bastard daughter of drug addicts who celebrated the birth of their kid by ODing on crack!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” she asked glaring at him.
“Why else wouldn’t your biological parents want you… the place you come from, where you could have grown up. You’d be on street corners now, selling your ass to anyone with a ten dollar bill,” he snapped. “But if you don’t believe me, ask your precious parents. Stupid bitch.”
“Get out of my truck. Now,” she said in a dangerously low voice. “Get your bags and get out before I shove you out on the tarmac and run you over myself.”
“With fucking pleasure,” Eric grabbed his carry-on bag with his good hand and struggled to get out of the truck before calling the jet’s pilot over to get his cases.
“I hope you and soldier boy have a very crappy life together… stupid whore,” he growled as the pilot had retrieved his bags before slamming the door.
Aracely’s hands gripped the wheel tightly as she worked to keep her anger in control and not let out the way he did. Shaking her head, she put the truck in reverse and got the hell out of there before she gave in and would try to mow the asshole down.
It was about a two hour drive back into town but looking at the clock, she really didn’t want to go back quite yet but she also didn’t know what to do. Pulling off on the side of the road, she eyed her cell phone occasionally but didn’t reach for it, unsure if she even wanted to or not.
“You did some good work today Quinn,” his Police Academy instructor said as she walked him to his car. “You’ll make one hell of a cop.”
“Thank you ma’am,” he smiled proudly. “And thank you for keeping Sheriff Rickman appraised of my progress.”
“Sounds like the old dog is eager to be with his family. I’m sure he’ll be gratified to know that someone capable of leading will be taking over. Just remember that the deputies have experience that you’ll need to rely on for a while.”
“Understood ma’am,” Jason smiled, understanding completely. He was a rookie marine once, he’d looked to the experienced guys for help and advice when he needed it. And he did the same for the green marines rotating into their base from boot.
“See you next week. Enjoy the drive home,” she smiled before making her way back inside.
Getting in his car, he plugged his phone into the hands free socket and set off. Today had been a good day, but he was looking forward to seeing his family and grabbing a bite to eat.
Having taken a break from driving, Aracely had gotten out of her truck to go digging in the back, knowing she still had some snacks she kept hidden in one of her bags. Except the problem was that between all her medical bags and supplies, she had a lot of stuff in the trunk compartment regardless of its clear organization.
Drinking four cups of cheap coffee while he studied with his fellow classmates seemed like a bad idea, especially considering he didn’t go to the bathroom before he got on the road. Fortunately he was coming up on a rest stop area with plenty of trees.
Pulling into the rest stop, the urge to urinate was too great for him to notice the familiar truck he had seen driving around town or parked outside the Doctor’s practice. After relieving himself he rushed back to his car only to get a good look at the vehicle with a toned, shapely ass hanging out of the back.
“Ace?” he asked, frowning.
She hit her head on the raised door as she went to back out from her search. Rubbing the sore area, she looked around for the voice that called her name. “Yeah?” she asked with a grumble and a glare at the truck door.
“What are you doing this far out?” Jason winced as he walked up to the truck. “And is your head okay?”
“Yeah I’m fine. Was just looking for a bag of Twizzlers I knew I had in here somewhere. As far as being out this way, I saw Eric off, sort of. Kinda dumped him off in the middle of the tarmac at the private strip in Mead.”
“Ahh yeah, your Mom mentioned he was leaving today,” he said carefully. He wasn’t sorry to see the last of him, but he did feel sorry for Aracely. The guy had been a big part of her life for years and now he was gone. “I’ll ask again. Are you okay?”
She thought about it for a moment while she gave up on the twizzlers and closed the door. “Yeah, I am. More so after the shit he babbled about my family, so yeah. If he had said all he did a long time ago, it never would have gone this far,” she admitted.
“The guy doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, does he,” Jason sighed. It was more of a statement than a question. A soft, teasing smile formed on his lips, “I guess it’s something that we have in common.”
“You at least wouldn’t call my family names the way he was Jason. You’re as different as day and night,” she said with a smile. “I need sugar…”
“I’ve got some twinkies in the car,” Jason smiled. “Just finished up at the Police Academy for the week. Their vending machines aren’t exactly pro health.”
Aracely made a face having not ever been a fan of that treat. “Thanks, but I may stop at a place along the way back. Now that he’s gone, I intend on going through my house to get rid of a lot of crap with the office being closed for the weekend.”
“Okay then, but if you’re gonna stop, there’s the roadside diner about a mile away. Their burgers and shakes aren’t as nice as Steve’s but they also sell cakes, candy and gas,” he said before moving back toward his car. “I guess I’ll see you later.”
She bit on her lip before quickly as she looked back at him. “Would you be interested in joining me?”
Now that was a surprise, turning back to her with a smile he said, “On one condition.”
“What is that?” she asked, becoming wary quickly.
“Dinner’s on you,” the smile broadened. While he was raised to be a gentlemen, he was all for equality and he remembered how Ace had always protested when he insisted on paying during their dates.
Shrugging a shoulder she smiled. “That’s fine,” she agreed as she flashed a last glance at him before going to get back in her truck.
“I’ll see you soon,” Jason smiled before sliding into the Camaro with a sizable grin on his face.
Starting up the engine, he gave her a brief wave before driving onto the road. Activating the voice dialling feature on his phone, he called Lisa.
Hey Jase, how was school today, she teased.
“It was fine. Listen I’m not gonna make it back for dinner after all. Can you let Ma know?” he asked.
Sure. Want us to save you something? she asked.
“Nah, I’m gonna grab something while I’m out,” he replied as he saw that Aracely was following behind through his rear view mirror.
Oh that’ll be right… once you get some cop buddies, family dinners are out the window, Lisa smiled.
“Actually I’m dining with a girl,” he said quickly. “See ya sis.”
Wait! his sister screamed down the phone. You’re going on a date?
“Noooo,” Jason smiled, “I said I’m dining with a girl tonight.”
Someone from the Academy? she asked curiously.
“Nope. Gotta go, bye sis,” with that, he ended the call and switched his phone to silent. His grin turning devious for a moment.
Twenty minutes later they each were pulling into the diner’s lot. Aracely had her CD player blasting the entire way to try to keep mind from going everywhere she didn’t want it to so it gave some distraction in hopes that the evening wouldn’t end as horribly as every other attempt at a conversation they had over the last month or so.
Killing the engine, she sat in the truck for a moment, shifting through her purse to make sure she had everything before locking it up out of habit she developed in California – something her parents found discerning.
She was just turning her phone’s ringer off and throwing it in her purse when she looked up to see him walking over to her. “Hey,” she greeted softly.
“Hey,” he smiled as he ran a shaking hand through his hair, “Oh jeez, why do I feel so nervous. It’s just dinner at a roadside diner. It’s not like we’re eating at a 5-star restaurant.”
“Five stars don’t serve french fries,” she pointed out. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m not exactly calm in my head either.”
“”It doesn’t,” he said truthfully, but with a sweet smile all the same. “But thanks for trying.”
Making their way inside, a wave of cooking smells hit them, making both of them even more hungry than they were.
“Sit where you like guys, I’ll be over to take your order in a sec,” the waitress said from behind the counter as she poured one of the haulage truck drivers a fresh cup of coffee.
Finding an empty booth, Jason let Aracely choose which side she wanted to sit at before sitting down himself. She looked as nervous as he did and tried to reassure her with a lop-sided grin that always seemed to work when they were dating.
Instinctively, she opened her menu to see what she wanted, but partly also to give herself a little bit of a barrier between them so that they each could get themselves back to normal – somewhat. “Mmm egg creams,” she murmured as she eyed the drinks.
“I think I’ll have a cherry coke,” he said. Their first real date was at Steve’s diner, back when his uncle ran it. Aracely had convinced him to give cherry coke a try and he found it to be one of the nicer sodas.
She raised an eyebrow as she eyed him from behind her menu. “French fries and ranch dressing would be good to start too. Or as a side,” she added with a knowing smile.
“You read me like a book,” he smiled. “I think a cheeseburger will work like a charm with those fries.”
“Nah. Chicken fingers for me,” she replied laying the menu down in front of her. “So – training? When this start?”
“A few days after I arrived, I went by the Sheriff’s office to drop off a coffee table that Rickman had ordered and he told me his plans to move away. He said my military training could do the office some good. I thought about it and submitted my application a couple of days later. Opening a hardware store could be a good backup plan, but right now I wanna do some good in this town. I hurt people I care about by leaving, I can only hope that doing this will make up for it in some small way,” he explained, nodding at her suggestion about the chicken fingers. He’d eaten too many burgers since he got back. Steve’s cooking was just too tasty.
When the waitress eventually made her way over, Aracely smiled up at her. “Chocolate egg cream, cherry coke, large order of fries with ranch dressing on the side, deluxe burger with the works and chicken fingers, extra crispy.”
“Coming up,” she smiled as she passed the jotted order to the fry cook and went to prepare their drinks.
“So how’s everything going at the practice?” Jason asked, noting that she looked a little tired. “Making progress with everything?”
“Good. Slow, but we’re getting there. Things should really start going smoother when the construction plans I have planned is finished so that it gives a little more room for all the things I want to keep in the office,” she replied. “Though I don’t know how much longer I can deal with working with my mother.”
“Have you thought about asking Lisa to help?” Jason asked, “She’s done the same sort of work.”
She nodded. “Yeah, but she has more than enough to do with the baby.”
“True… well I’m no good at that sort of thing. So don’t get any ideas,” he joked. It was true, he didn’t get along with computers, paperwork and filing systems and she knew it.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she replied in equal amusement. “I’ve seen your papers in high school. Had to rewrite them for you enough times too.”
“I remember. I would have failed history if I didn’t have your help,” he smiled gratefully. “But you have to admit, Mrs Biel’s assignments were tougher than any of your medical exams.
The waitress came to set their drinks in front of them. Aracely went to mix hers a little better and shrugged. “I didn’t think so.”
“Well sor-ry little miss smarty pants,” he grinned, “So sue me for not knowing the names of the US Presidents and when they served. I was more into my girlfriend.”
“Typical jock,” she replied as she sipped at her drink.
“Hey, this typical jock got Miss Peters off your ass about not being able to climb a rope, didn’t he?” Jason grinned.
“And I still don’t see the point of why climbing a rope is a necessary life skill,” Aracely said as she sat back in the booth.
“Okay then, what about Drama class? Without me, you wouldn’t have been the star of all those plays,” he countered, remembering fondly how they used to run lines together, Romeo and Juliet in particular.
“Actually, it was just the other girls were afraid to play the lead considering I would have beat the shit out of them when it came to the kissing scene in Romeo & Juliet.”
“How did we ever manage to rehearse beyond the kissing scenes?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. “When your dad walked in on us and we had to rehearse with supervision.”
“You know, before she passed on, my grandma told me about how she caught my parents in a similar situation,” he grinned, “What did he think we were gonna do. Throw down right there with my parents and sisters in the house.”
“Well…that’s where we were lucky for Steve to have been the one to walk in on us in the barn loft,” she said innocently. “We really would have had it in for us if it had been anyone else.”
“I still remember the look on both your faces as you spotted each other. I thought his eyes were going to pop out. And I’ve never seen you move your hands so fast in all my life,” he grinned. “Serves you right for tossing your bra and top aside the way you did.”
Aracely couldn’t help but to laugh. “You didn’t help matters much when you had to ask him to get your pants for you because they fell off the ledge when you struggled to kick them off.”
“I didn’t see you complaining,” he grinned, “I seem to recall you enjoying the view while he fetched them.”
“We didn’t hear the end of it for ages. So…did you tell your family you were here with me? I know they like to keep dinner for you…”
“I called Lisa to say I wouldn’t make it home and to go ahead without me. She thinks I’m out on a date,” his fiendish grin returned as he showed her his phone. Notices for four missed calls and two texts flashed up on the screen.
She laughed and cocked her head to the side. “Are you interested in messing with their heads?”
“Of course I am,” the fiendish smile remained. “And what pray tell is that devious mind of yours working on?”
“Let them keep thinking that but be someone you met through the school,” she replied as she went to pull out her own phone. “Yeah. She hasn’t tried calling me. I told her that I was probably going to stop for a drink on my way back to town anyway. I’ll just tell her I got a flat.”
“Oh, this is going to be good,” he grinned. “I bet she’ll be in the loft by the time I get home, waiting for the details.”
“Tell her you had dinner with a blonde with big boobs. Better yet. Give me your phone,” she said as she got up, snatching it anyway and made her way across the diner to where a blonde indeed was sitting with her own companion. She grinned and snapped a picture of the smiling woman who was more than willing to pose for her prank.
“Oh my god… she’s gonna freak!” he muttered. Picturing the look on his sister’ face.
Coming back to the table, all the while making out a text to send before handing the phone over. “There you go!”
“Oh… I forgot how so mean you could be,” he grinned. “You do realise she’s gonna be calling you soon, right….” He trailed off when he realised that she would also call Hayley. “Aw shit… I’m gonna be beaten up by a pregnant woman.”
“No. It’ll just show them that they should have minded their own business. Do you know that Lisa went and blew up pictures of us from the prom to leave around my living room? I get the hint…”
“Hint? They don’t know what subtlety means,” he sighed, “But I guess they mean well, wanting us to be happy and all.” Just then, his phone went berserk, vibrating across the table. “And the shit has hit the fan…”
Grinning, she leaned into the table. “What do they have to say?” she asked as she held onto her own phone and waited.
“OMG! ‘A’ iz gna b psd. Damn text speak,” he said, shaking his head. “3…2…1…” Snapping his fingers, he pointed to Aracely’s own phone as it began to vibrate.
She looked down at it to find a text message. Reading aloud, she laughed, “‘A’ where are you? ‘J’ is on a date with a trashy blond!”
“See what I mean when I say I struggle to keep secrets when my family are informed,” he sighed.
“But this time the joke is on them. Let’s see,” Aracely murmured as she worked on her reply. “I’m telling her that I’m working on getting my tire changed by a nice man with an awesome tattoo and if she thinks I should ask him out.”
“Oh my god…” Jason chuckled. “Please don’t tell me you’re gonna take a pic of someone’s tat!?!”
“I’m not going to. You are,” she grinned and nodded out the window where there were a group of bikers pulling into the lot. “The girl – who’s name is Candy by the way – loved the joke. I told her that’s exactly what it’s about. Just tell them you need to teach your sister a lesson to leave you and I alone. I’m sure they’ll go for it without a problem.”
“Alright,” Jason sighed, shaking his head. “But if I end up having to beat down a bunch of bikers… you’re icing my bruises.” With that, he took her phone and made his way outside. Passing Candy along the way, he smiled and passed on his own thanks.
As he made his way up to the bikers, the Blond looked back at Aracely and simply mouthed “Wow,” adding a thumbs up.
She grinned back at the woman before looking back out the window at Jason curiously to see how he was fairing. While he was out, the waitress came to bring their food and she started munching on the fries as she waited anxiously.
Jason shook hands with one of the bikers who was all too happy to pose for the picture. He seemed to talk to the group for a moment before heading back inside. Sitting down he passed Aracely her phone back. “You’re so lucky that our model was a marine,” he grinned. “He and his buddies got a few laughs out of the story. So all is good… well, until you send the pic to Lisa anyway.”
Aracely was already on it, adding in a note that she ‘wished J luck on his date’. “She’s so going to be flipping out. Keep an eye out. The ball is coming at you next.”
No sooner had he began to eat his meal, he got a text. Opening it, he found the picture along with the message “‘A’ is seeing this guy tonight. Are you going to let her rebound with this gorilla?”
“Well, they should have left both of us alone,” she replied as she went to dip her chicken in ketchup before eating it.
“When they find out… I’m dead, you do realise that, right?” he said as they ate.
“That’s fine. I know CPR.”
“Haven’t you had enough of giving me mouth to mouth?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows again.
“Your sister seems to think that we haven’t had nearly enough in our lifetime,” she smiled and shoved a dressing soaked fry in her mouth.
“It’s good that we can do this,” he said, changing the subject. “When I first got home I thought we’d never do anything like this again. Just hang out.”
“If that asshole had his way, I’d be on a plane with him to Africa.”
“Africa? Christ… thankfully you turned him down. Having your family in your life on a day to day basis is too difficult for most people to pass up,” he smiled.
She shrugged. “It was something I did consider even before him though. The experience alone would be worth another year away but just not with him anymore.”
“Maybe you could still go one day,” he said with a reassuring smile. “Once you’ve spent some time improving the practice the way you want to and reconnecting with your friends and family, you could maybe look into it.” Even though she had only just re-entered his life and he didn’t want to see her leave
“We’ll see,” she said not committing to anything.
“Oh by the way… tomorrow I’ll be driving out to collect a puppy that Hannah helped me pick out a few days after I got home. She’s got some girl scout thing so I was wondering if you wanted to take the trip with me?” he didn’t want to look too hopeful, nor did he want to push his luck with how much time they were spending together, but he’d been dieing to ask ever since she agreed to have dinner with him.
“A dog? Where are you going to keep it? I doubt your mother would let one in the house with all of her glass figurines on display everywhere.”
“The loft’s pretty pet friendly. She can stay there or play outside,” he explained, “I always had a dog growing up. But when ol’ Shep died after I left for boot, my parents decided against getting another one. And now with Tommy to consider I doubt they’d appreciate one in the house anyway.”
Aracely looked at him confused. “I don’t remember you having a dog.”
“How can you forget Shep, the German Shepard? More of a guard dog than a pet but he was friendly enough,” he explained. “Come on… you mean you don’t remember almost peeing your pants when he chased Steve almost all the way to town because his uncle had sent him with some burgers for one of my Pop’s barbecues?
“I think that must have been Hayley because Mom had me go to camp during the summer for a few years,” she frowned.
Jason frowned, “Sorry, I could have sworn you were there.” It was understandable that She had not met any of his fathers dogs. He only saw them at night when they were allowed to patrol the grounds around the house. His mother was worried about them turning on her children because they were trained to attack after all.
Jason’s dog would be different however, she’d be a pet, pure and simple. He knew that Hannah and Becki would love having a dog too, especially young Hannah.
“So what kind of dog is it?” she asked, getting back on topic.
“She’s a mini collie,” he explained. “I was gonna go for something bigger, but I figured that until I got my own place, it would be unfair to have a big dog in a small apartment.”
“Ah,” she nodded. “Well I know I don’t have any appointments tomorrow but was going to be in to get some paperwork done. What time were you thinking of leaving?”
“About oh-eight-hundred,” he replied with a fiendish grin, “If you come, I’ll let you drive the Camaro…”
She grinned as she shook her head. “I have my own car that I can drive now. I don’t need to drive yours. How far out is the dog because that thing isn’t comfortable for anything too long.”
“It’s only about forty minutes, round trip,” he explained. “And you drive a stock model truck. I’m offering you the chance to drive the car that you used to drift around corners in and drive over dirt roads like a pro racer.”
“I’m good, thanks. And you haven’t been in my truck. If you want me to go with you, it’ll be in the comfort of mine,” Aracely said sticking her tongue out.
“Fine…” he complained, “But at least let me give you some gas money.”
“We can come up with an agreement later. I want cheesecake first,” she said wiping her hands from the crumbs of the breading of the chicken fingers she just finished.
“It’s your money,” he grinned, having finished his own meal. “But I’ll skip desert thanks.”
Aracely looked at him like he was an alien. “What are you on a diet or something? Not even rocky road ice cream?”
“I’ve gotta stay in shape if I’m gonna be a Sheriff,” he smiled, “Steve’s been feeding me so much diner food I’ve been running a few extra clicks than what I usually run.”
She pulled the menu over and hummed as she looked it over again. “They have frozen yogurt,” she pointed out.
“No, seriously, I’ll make myself a fruit smoothie when I get home,” he protested. She always had a way of twisting his arm or wrapping him around her little finger when she so desired. He wasn’t about to fall back into that habit all too soon.
“You are no fun,” she pouted as she put the menu back and sucked the rest of her drink empty.
“Don’t let me stop you,” he grinned, “I remember how near orgasmic you get around cheesecake.”
“No, I’ll survive with out it. So that’s it then for dinner?” she asked.
“Unless you wanna do what we used to do after eating out?” he grinned.
Aracely looked up from pulling a credit card from her wallet and raised an eyebrow. “That would depend on what you’re talking about. There were a lot of things we used to do.”
“Well…” his eyebrows wiggled again before he smirked. “Maybe we could drive up to the lake and go for a walk?”
“Hmm, that could mean what you say literally but that was also what we always told our parents that we did up there,” she smirked back.
“I meant a walk,” he grinned, sticking out his tongue, “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
“Sure. Meet me at the office first then we can drive up there. I just have some things I want to check on before hand.”
“Sure,” he smiled. “I’ll head off now, cos if we’re both seen driving back into town at the same time, the gossips will spoil your plan to get back at the girls.”