Cherry Hill 2-Finding Happiness(4)

By: Dixie Lynn Dwyer






She heard Bridget chuckle, and apparently as she stared at the deputy he stared at her, looking her over, and boy did she feel it. She was going to turn away, but then Molly began to speak.





“Autumn, meet one of my sons, Aldreck. As you can see he’s a deputy in town,” Molly said, and he stepped closer, reached out his hand.





“Autumn,” he said to her and she reached her hand out. His was so big compared to hers that she gasped from the size difference and pulled back. She lowered her eyes, pushed her hair behind her ear, and then cleared her throat.





“New to town huh? Y’all planning on sticking around here?” he asked, with one hand on the butt of his gun and the other on his utility belt. She knew that look, that expression, and she wasn’t going to fall for any man in uniform again.





“Maybe,” she replied.





“Well, if you do, remember to go a little slower, especially by the crosswalks.”





“Sorry you didn’t see me coming and stepped out.”





“I was already walking across, and you need to slow down. Now let’s leave it that,” he said in a snappy tone. She felt like flipping him the bird, but instead she turned her back toward him.





“Well, it was nice meeting you, Molly. I’ll let you know about the job offer.”





“What do you mean let her know?” Bridget asked. She gave a nod toward the deputy, and Bridget chuckled.





Molly gave her son a look then looked back at Autumn. “Don’t you mind my son. He can be a bit rough around the edges. I’m sure that little situation was no big deal, and you’ll be more careful. Make sure you get here to start by 5:00 a.m. We open up about 5:15 for customers. I have a new apron in the back, so maybe wear black pants or a black skirt, comfortable shoes because you’ll work 5:00-4:00. Then the night crew comes in for early bird and dinner.”





Autumn wasn’t too sure, and she glanced back toward Aldreck who was talking to the sheriff but kept looking at her.





“Go on. This will help you learn about Cherry Hill and help you make a decision about staying here,” Bridget said to her, and Molly smiled wide.





“Okay. I’ll be here on Monday morning.” She reached her hand out to shake Molly’s, and then she and Bridget went to go sit at a table. But then other locals were asking who she was, and more introductions were made. She was shaking, and when she went to go sit down she felt the ache to her ribs.





“Are you sure you’ll be okay to work the long hours right off the bat?” Bridget asked her.





“I’ll be fine, plus I was working as soon as the visible bruises were gone or what cover-up could cover,” she said to Bridget.





“Jesus,” Bridget said and shook her head. “I don’t know why my cousin didn’t call me sooner. I mean seriously, the connections my men have alone could have probably helped.”





“It was a bad situation. One I got myself involved in and it was easier to just disappear than work things out from there.” She swallowed hard as the waitress came over and introduced herself.





“I’m Leeann. Molly just said you’re going to start working on Monday.”





“That’s the plan, Leeann,” Autumn said, and Leeann smiled wide.





“What can I get you to drink?” she asked.





“Sweet tea for me,” Bridget said.





“I’ll do the same.” When she walked away, Autumn looked at the menu. It was easy enough to memorize, and Autumn was really good at that. She was good at bartending too which was the last job she had, but that brought even more attention to her and of course creepy guys.





“So tell me about the sheriff and their woman. She looked a little pale.”





“Oh, she’s still recovering from injuries she sustained when she was abducted by these men, but her men saved her.”





“What?”





“It’s a long story, and I don’t have all the details, but she is lucky to be alive. Athena came here on the run, and was in hiding from some men the government were after, or something like that. Anyway, I’m afraid her story is similar to a lot of us.”





“Of us? You mean you, too?” Autumn asked as Leanne brought over the sweet teas and took their order.





“Mine was a bit complicated. I was working for my parents at our bakery in South Carolina when I met Richie. He was good-looking, older, a businessman, and well, I fell for his charms and manipulations, and the next thing I know I’m in an abusive relationship and he’s trying to force me to stop baking, stop pursuing my dream of a pastry shop or something. It was a long vicious cycle, and I didn’t get out of the relationship until I found out he was cheating on me. I was devastated, and he blamed me. Broke my arm in three places, beat me up so badly I wanted to die from the pain in my body and my heart.”





Autumn wiped the tear from her eye before it fell. Bridget covered her hand, squeezed it, and gave her a small smile. “My mom showed up when I said I was sick and couldn’t come into work. She knew the routine, that more than likely my boyfriend beat me up again. It was embarrassing, but then she asked me if I wanted a better life. If I didn’t want to feel pain again. Or if I was willing to let him continue to take away my identity, my soul, and eventually kill me. I knew the answer and I said no, but I was scared. Oh God, was I so scared about what he would do when he found out I left. My mom told me that this was the only option. That they had a friend and a town that was more special than anything I could have imagined, and they sent me here to Cherry Hill. I left everything behind me, every ounce of clothing, of dreams for New York, and wound up here. It was a bad few months. I didn’t trust anyone but Molly. Her mom knew my mom, and Molly has a huge heart.”

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