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   After breakfast, Jean headed to Wyatt Interiors. Elle collected the dirty dishes as Pat asked John and Rick to join him in the family room.

   “If it’s all right with you sir, I’ll help Miss Wyatt in the kitchen first,” Rick said.

   “See you in a bit, then,” said Pat.

   “Nice couple,” said Hadley as he stood with Elle at the kitchen sink.”

   “Yes, they are,” she agreed as she handed him several items to put in the refrigerator. “So, what are your plans, Hadley?”

   “I’m heading out a little after noon.”

   “Where to?”

   “A few hours up the road to Ft. Leonard Wood. A friend is stationed there. His dad and mine served together while we were in Germany. Both were career army.”

   “And after that?”

   “Well, it seems to me I made a deal last night I need to make good on,” he answered. “When would be a good time to instruct you in the difference between a kiss-shot and a kiss-out?”

   “Excuse me?”

   “I’m talking about pool.”


   Rick slowly pulled a towel from Elle’s hand, causing her to stop what she was doing and look directly at him.

   “You’re still moving slowly,” he said. “I don’t want to interfere with your recovery.”

   “At least you’re up front,” she said about his approach. “Kind of nice for a change.”
   “John’s up front.”

   “No, John’s judge and jury." She turned her head and looked out the window. “Problem is most of the time he’s right and I’m guilty as charged. It’s just none of his business. Hang around here long enough, Hadley and you’ll see it.”

   “See what?”

   Elle took the towel back from Rick.

   “The way they look at me,” she answered. “Sadness, bordering on pity.”

   “I don’t think they pity you,” he said. “They just don’t know how to make it better.”

   “‘It'?” she questioned. “How much do you know? What did John tell you to get you to join him in his little quest?”

   “I know what was done to you.”

   “They want to change it––change me. They can’t and so they’ve decided the best they can do is manage me.”

   Elle threw the towel over her shoulder.

   “Well, that will never work,” he said. “You’re not a woman to be ‘managed’.”

   He waited a few beats before continuing.

   “Here, let me help you with that.” He reached up and removed the towel. “It’s covering a pretty big chip and that’s something we just can’t have.”

   Rick Hadley draped the towel on the handle of the oven door, walked over to the refrigerator, pulled a pen and page from a magnetic note pad and carried them both to the counter. He jotted something down and slid it across to her.

   “Get in touch when you’re ready and I’ll introduce you to Sneaky Pete,” he said before he turned to leave. He took three steps, then called out over his shoulder, “Google him first.”

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