Blind Tiger - Sandra Brown Page 0,1

soon worn off, and the grinning man who’d taken her on the joy ride retreated once more behind a perpetual scowl she couldn’t allay.

In the thirty or so days since Pearl’s entrance into the world, Derby had lost another job. He’d spent a lot of time away from the house and snapped at her whenever she’d inquired where he’d been. In a heartbeat, he would become testy and short-tempered. She never knew what to expect.

During supper last evening, out of the clear blue, he’d announced, “We’re moving to Foley.” He’d avoided looking at her by keeping his head bent over his meal.

Afraid to overreact, she’d blotted her mouth with her napkin. “I think I’ve heard of it. Isn’t it near—”

“It’s not near anything. But my old man’s found me work out there.”

She had actually felt a spark of hopefulness. “Really? That’s wonderful. Doing what?”

“Does it matter? He’s expecting us tomorrow.”

The floor, none too level already, had seemed to undulate beneath her chair. “Tomorrow?”

Pearl was a fussy baby who demanded to be nursed several times a night. For a month, Laurel hadn’t slept for more than a couple of hours at a time. She was exhausted, worried about Derby’s state of mind, worried about their shortage of money, and now…this.

Leaving half his supper uneaten, he’d shoved back his chair, left the table, and lifted his jacket off the peg near the back door. “Pack tonight. I want to get away early.”

“Wait, Derby. We can’t just…” Words had failed her. “Sit back down. Please. We need to talk about this.”

“What’s to talk about?”

She gaped at him with bafflement. “Everything. Do we have a place to live?”

“I wouldn’t up and move you and the baby without having a plan, would I?”

“It just seems awfully sudden.”

“Well, it’s not. I’ve been thinking on it for a time.”

“You should have talked it over with me.”

“I’m talking it over with you now.”

His raised voice had caused Pearl to flinch where she lay asleep in Laurel’s lap. Laurel had lifted her to her shoulder and patted her back. Derby’s expression had turned impatient, but whether at her, the baby, or himself, she’d been unable to tell.

“I’ve got some things to see to before we clear town. Rent’s due on this place the day after tomorrow. I’ll leave notice of our departure in the landlord’s mailbox.” He’d reached for the doorknob.

“Derby, hold on.” She’d gone over to him. “I welcome the idea of us making a fresh start. I just want it to be a good fresh start. Thought through, not so rushed.”

“I told you, I have been thinking on it.”

“But making a move to another town seems drastic. When you talked to Mr. Davis, he told you that he might have an opening at his store soon.”

“Scooping chicken feed into tow sacks?” He’d made a sour face. “No thanks.”

“Something else could—”

“There’s nothing for me here, Laurel. Anyway, it’s decided. We’re leaving.” He’d pulled open the door and said over his shoulder as he went out, “You’d better get started packing.”

He hadn’t returned home until after two o’clock in the morning, disheveled and red-eyed, reeking of bootleg whiskey, too drunk to stand without support. When he’d stumbled into the bedroom, he’d propped himself against the doorjamb and blearily focused on her where she’d sat in the rocking chair next to the bed, nursing Pearl.

“Things ready?” he’d asked in a mumble.

Their duplex had rented furnished, so there hadn’t been much to pack except for their clothing and her personal possessions, which were few in number and didn’t amount to anything.

In answer to his question, she’d motioned to the two suitcases lying open on the floor. She’d carefully folded his army uniform and laid it on top.

Laurel had eased Pearl away from her breast and tucked it back inside her nightgown. “Couldn’t we give this decision a week, talk it over some more?”

“I’m sick of talking.” He’d staggered to the bed, crawled onto it, and passed out.

He’d slept late, and had been irritable and hungover when he woke up. Laurel had wished he’d forgotten about their departure, about the whole harebrained idea. But he’d fortified himself with several cups of strong coffee and a dozen hand-rolled cigarettes, and by the time she’d packed them a lunch with what food was left in the icebox, Derby was impatient to be off.

While he was loading their suitcases, putting one in the trunk and strapping down the other on top of it, she’d walked through the duplex one final time, checking to see that