Coming Home:Baytown Boys Series(110)By: Maryann Jordan
Before Tori returned, Mitch heard the bar door open and a smile spread across his face as he saw who walked in. He headed toward the large man, who was looking around at the crowd nervously.
“Lance!” Mitch called out, gaining the man’s attention.
With a slight smile, Lance stuck his hand out. “Good to see you again, Mitch.” His eyes shifted around and he said, “Didn’t expect this kind of crowd.”
Recognizing Lance’s uneasiness, Mitch nodded back toward the door, and said, “Let’s step outside.”
The two men stood on the sidewalk, the noise of the bar lessening as the door shut behind them. Mitch clapped Lance on the shoulder. “Glad as hell you decided to come here.”
“Well, got back from the war and home just wasn’t home. Parents moved to Florida. Sis got married. Got no friends there and my former job was filled. Seemed like I was more alone there than ever.”
“This is a good place, Lance,” Mitch assured. “Good friends, good people.”
“I don’t need people so much as just a place to be by myself.”
Mitch watched the large man glance toward the bar again.
“Always like this?”
Chuckling, Mitch said, “No, not always. We just solved a big case and everyone here is kind of celebrating. Something else the town does really well.” Sobering, he said, “You’ll like it here, Lance. And we’ve got the American Legion started here.”
Nodding, Lance admitted, “I got a place south of town…not too far, but it’s a small house. I’ll be able to be by myself most of the time. I can work on my art and I’ve already got a contract with a couple of the shops around here…even some dealers across the state.”
Mitch smiled, knowing the dourly, large man, with long hair was not what most people would assume was an artist. But he also knew the town would embrace his former Army buddy. “You want to come in? Meet a few people?”
Lance’s eyes glanced toward Finn’s where the noise could still be heard and he shook his head. “No, thanks. Crowds aren’t my thing.” He turned to walk away, then stopped and grabbed Mitch in a man hug. “Thanks, man. I know I gotta get settled in, but…well…thanks.”
He let Mitch go as quickly as he had embraced him and headed off down the sidewalk, soon disappearing into the night.
Mitch turned and looked in the other direction toward the night sky over the Chesapeake Bay. Sucking in a deep breath, he let it out slowly. The door opened, allowing a sliver of light and the noise to escape, and he saw Tori’s face illuminated.
“Hey, sweetie? Um, are you okay?”
Lifting his hand toward her, he motioned for her to join him on the sidewalk. She slipped easily into his embrace, once more tucked perfectly next to his heart.
“What were you thinking?” she asked, her soft voice floating into the night.
With his arms wrapped tightly around her, he stared once more at the moonlight glistening over the ripples in the bay. Admiring her upturned face, he kissed her. Gently…full of promises of more to come.
“Home,” he said, simply. “I was thinking about coming home.”
Smiling up at him, her eyes twinkling, “Coming home? Or going home?”
Laughing, he said, “Let’s call it a night…and go home.” With her tucked into his side, they walked toward the Sea Glass Inn knowing wherever home was, they were going together.
The orange ball slowly sunk into the horizon, casting the evening sky into brilliant colors of pink and blue, while the water reflected its brilliance. The large gathering sat in white chairs on the green expanse of grass outside Sunset View Restaurant where the staff awaited the beginning of the reception.
Mitch scanned the gathering as he waited on his bride. It seemed the whole American Legion, all their friends, and many townspeople came out to celebrate the first of the Baytown Boys getting married. Looking down, he smiled at his parents and friends, Jason, Gareth, and Lance sitting in the front. Across the aisle, Vera Bradford sat. Tori’s mother, horrified with the actions of her son-in-law had renewed her devotion to and acceptance of the simpler life Tori had chosen. Vanessa was not present and, while devastated by her husband’s crimes, Mitch was not certain of her true feelings. He could not deny that her attitude toward Tori had been conciliatory, but Vanessa moved shortly after Nelson’s trial and imprisonment, deciding she needed a fresh start.