Coming Home:Baytown Boys Series(108)

By: Maryann Jordan


With another gulp of air, she dove back down under the surface, pumping her arms and legs in an attempt to carry her to safety.

*

Mitch watched in horror as Nelson continued to fire into the water before Grant ran up behind him, pointing to the CG boat, saying, “Callan!”

The two policemen watched as their friend, gun drawn, ordered Nelson to drop his weapon. Instead of obeying, Nelson turned his gun toward the Coast Guard vessel and fired. Returning fire, Nelson was struck in the leg and dropped to the bottom of the motorboat, where the CG quickly moved to bring him on board.

“Tori! Where the hell is Tori?” Mitch yelled, his gaze still scanning the surface of the water.

“You and she used to swim in the ocean. What would she do?”

Thinking quickly, Mitch yelled, “Get the Jeep! She’ll swim parallel to the shore, avoiding the pier.”

Within a couple of minutes, the two were driving on the beach, churning up the sand behind them. Getting on the radio, Grant called for backup, as Mitch held the binoculars to his eyes. Come on, babe. Surface so I can tell where the hell you are!

Bouncing along, Mitch yelled for Grant to stop. Skidding in the sand, Mitch leaned out the window, carefully searching. Just then a dark spot was seen on the surface of the gently undulating water. An arm moved about, pushing hair away from the swimmer’s face. Bringing the person more in focus, he shouted as her face came into view.

“Tori! Tori!”

Hopping out of the vehicle, ripping his polo off his chest, he ran to the surf as Grant called in the sighting. Kicking off his shoes and socks, Mitch jumped out of his pants, tossing them to the ground as he ran into the water, continuing to shout.

*

Her arms aching with the strain of a much longer swim than she was used to, Tori treaded water as she panted. Trying to slow her breathing, she checked her location once more. The pier was no longer in sight and she felt no riptide currents. Glancing toward the beach, she wondered if it would be safe to swim toward it and try to hide from Nelson there.

As she wiped water dripping from her hair down into her eyes, she blinked at the object on the shore. A vehicle was parked and it appeared someone was running toward her. Uncertain what to do, she gave her head a shake to try to dislodge the water from her ears.

Hearing her name, or what seemed like her name, being called, she wiped her eyes once more, her tired legs still kicking. Mitch? Her eyes may have been deceiving her, but it appeared Mitch was stripping as he ran toward her. Mitch! Thank God!

Finding renewed strength, she began swimming with long strokes toward the shore and toward the man she loved. By the time the sandy bottom of the bay was under her enough for her toes to barely touch, he had reached her.

Throwing herself into his strong embrace, she allowed him to carry her to shore. Panting, she tried to tell him about Nelson, but he shushed her.

“It’s over, babe. I’ve got you and no one else can hurt you now.”

Letting his words wash over her, she tucked her face into his neck as her exhausted body settled into his. Hearing shouting, she managed to lift her head just long enough to see a crowd gathering on the beach, an assortment of vehicles next to the police SUV.

Smiling, she fell back into his arms as her body began to feel the weight of coming out of the water. Home. I’m coming home.

Mitch also watched the crowd of friends and family gather in front of him as he staggered out of the ocean with Tori in his arms. Seeing his parents, the American Legion members, friends, and the original Baytown Boys gathering, his chest swelled with emotion as tears stung his eyes.

I came home to Baytown. No regrets. No fuckin’ regrets.

With a smile, he made his way to the center of the gathering, glancing down at Tori resting in his arms.

*

The crowd at Finn’s was thick, with barely a place to stand.

Brogan looked over the heads of all the ones gathered and saw Zac eyeing the crowd. Handing him a beer, he said, “Sure hope the Fire Chief doesn’t shut us down for cramming too many people in here.”

Zac chuckled and said, “Well, just this once, I’ll overlook the infraction. Hell, I’d be driven out of town if I tried to shut you down right now!”

Aiden and Katelyn, both pulling beers as fast as they could, insisted Mitch and Tori sit at the bar so they could hear everything that was being said. Mitch eschewed sitting on a stool, preferring instead to stand behind Tori, tucking her closely into his front as his arms wrapped around her body. With her on a tall stool, she came to just under his chin, close to his heartbeat. A position he hoped she would always be in.