Who makes memory?
Beth Wilson has been caring for Nonie Bennetti for years. She can see the end looming, but she doesn’t expect it to arrive in the form of Nonie’s grandson.
James is visiting his grandmother to hide from the publicity of a massive real estate scandal he revealed. While he’s there, his mother decides it’s a good time to audit Beth’s handling of Nonie’s finances. James wants to audit something else about Beth, but his mother is relentless. He’s not hanging around anyway.
But Beth, and the small town his grandmother lives in, have a lot of appeal. Maybe it’s time to stop moving around and start making some memories.
Contents warning: Meddling mothers, medical emergencies and little league games.
A little brunette wearing glasses and a pink tank top opened the door, frowning. “Yes?”
James frowned back. “Who are you?”
“Excellent question, but shouldn’t I be asking it?” she said.
“Where is she?” James reached in the house to hold the door open. “Nonie!”
Eyes wide, the brunette fell back a step.
His grandmother sat with her back to the door watching a dog training show on television and something was wrapped around the back of her head like a gag.
She didn’t respond. She didn’t even move.
James rushed around the couch, his heart doing a tap dance on his rib cage. She had a bandage over her nose and hard cover books spread open across her wrists on the arm rests. The brunette didn’t have a weapon. She still stood by the open door watching him, a stormy frown gathering on her brows.
“Look, I don’t know what you want, but you better get out of here.” She held up a cell phone. “I have the police department on speed dial.”
“I’m sure they would be interested in what’s going on.” James glanced around the Victorian decorated room trying to decide if anything was missing or how he was supposed to know. It had been over a decade since the last time he set foot in this house. His grandmother looked much smaller than he remembered. Nonie stared at him like he was an alien.
“Beth?” she asked in a wavering voice. “Who is this?”
“I have no idea, but if he doesn’t get the hell out in about fifteen seconds, he’s going to be arrested.” The brunette had the phone to her ear.
“Grandma?” James asked. The pieces to this puzzle didn’t go together. He was sure this was his grandmother’s house, but the brunette didn’t fit and his grandmother didn’t seem to recognize him or mind that she was tied to a chair. “Why do you have my grandmother tied to a chair?”
“I don’t have your grand—hello, this is Beth Wilson, I have an intruder at Violet Bennetti’s house. I need—Nonie, don’t pull that off.” The brunette dropped the phone and lunched past him.
James looked down. His grandmother had worked the bandage off her face. The books that had been on her wrists were on the floor. The brunette pulled Nonie’s hands away from the bandage and tried to secure it.
“You have to stop this. I don’t want to spend another night in the hospital,” the brunette muttered.
A siren wailed into the driveway. Less than a moment later a portly cop filled the still open door. “What’s going on?”
“This guy forced his way in the house,” the brunette said.
“Who is this woman? What is going on here?” James demanded over her.
“Why don’t you and I step outside?” The cop wrapped a meaty hand around James’s arm, pulling him back out the door.
“I belong here,” James protested. Inside he heard the brunette’s soothing voice countering his grandmother’s panic.
“I’ll need to see some ID.” The cop held out a hand.
James set his suitcase on the porch and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. “I don’t understand this. I came to visit my grandmother. I called last week and told her I was coming.” He handed over his Georgia driver’s license. “Who is that woman?”
The cop glanced at the license and then flipped it over to examine the back as if there might be more information there. Then he flipped it again. “It says here your name is James A. Leoni and you’re from Atlanta, Georgia.”
James bit back a sarcastic reply. Through the window he saw the brunette balancing the books over his grandmother’s wrists and patting her shoulder before wandering toward the door. On the way, she paused to scoop up her phone and shove it in the pocket of her denim shorts. She had great legs. “Violet Bennetti is my maternal grandmother,” he explained. “I’m visiting her for a few days from Georgia.”
“That’s where I know your name from.” The cop fanned James’ license. “You were on the news. Some big real estate scandal.”
James kept his mouth shut. Explaining always made things worse. The brunette was studying him like a bug under glass.
“Interesting.” The cop turned to the brunette. “Beth, you don’t know this guy?”
“No, I don’t.” Beth folded her arms. She was cute in a baby bunny kind of way. Dark hair, big brown eyes, sweet face, a little too curvy. Not his type, but he could appreciate the view. Once he figured out what was going on.
“He says he’s Mrs. Bennetti’s grandson,” the cop said. “He’s the guy—”
“James Leoni,” James intervened before something unfortunate popped out of the cop’s mouth. “Donna’s son.”
“Donna?” Her eyes widened and then narrowed. The usual reaction to his mother’s name. “I’ll call her.” She flipped open her phone and hit a preset.
James turned to the cop. “You come here often?”
“What? Oh, sometimes. Mrs. Bennetti is pretty old. Beth needs help sometimes. We stop around during the school year to make sure every thing’s all right with her and Miss Forrester. I had Mrs. Bennetti in fifth grade.” The cop beamed and looked about fourteen.
Fifth grade. Of course. Everyone in town had had his grandmother in fifth grade. Or wished they had.