Chapter CHAPTER 8
“Must you follow me every minute of the day?”
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but Mark did not indicate when he said I was free to make
arrangements that he would be with me every blasted moment. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t rude or
disrespectful in any way.
No, it was far worse than that. He was helpful and so devastatingly handsome with his day’s growth of
beard and yesterday’s clothes that I couldn’t help but make a complete fool out of myself.
“If I wasn’t here, who would have picked you up when you fell off the sidewalk?” Mark answered with a
quirk of his lips.
“I didn’t fall,” I corrected him. “The sidewalk was being elusive.”
A full-blown smirk was beginning to form as he answered me. “What about when you gouged your eye
with the straw?”
The injured eye was still throbbing a bit.
“That was intentional.”
He laughed, and dear Lord that was a sound I would never be sick of. I couldn’t stay mad at him
because he hadn’t done anything wrong. It wasn’t his fault that everywhere we went the people of
Otterville Falls couldn’t keep their eyes off of him—mostly the women.
Alice and Reena fell all over themselves when we checked in on them. First off, they both hugged him.
I might have enjoyed the panicked look that he got when Reena gave him an extra nuzzle with her
cleavage. Next, they ushered him into their home as if he were the president or God.
By the time we left, Mark had arranged for the local market to deliver their groceries weekly. You would
have thought that the man killed a fire-breathing dragon on their behalf.
From there we went to Martha and Earl’s, which was located next to the vicarage. Sadly, there we ran
into a bit of trouble with Father Montgomery.
“Devil’s Spawn! You aren’t welcome here!” That was all the good father got out before Mark had him
pinned up against the church’s brick wall.
In a voice that was backed with steel, Mark threatened, “You are supposed to be a man of God—act
like it. I suggest you change your approach to Miss Landry.”
I tugged on Mark’s sleeve, “Maybe we should go?”
“Maybe he needs to explain to his Maker why he treats perfectly good people like shit,” Mark said in
what could only be described as a threatening way.
“I am pretty sure that you aren’t supposed to say shit at church,” I answered, not knowing what else to
Mark turned to me. Those gray eyes seemed to see more than I wanted to share. Finally, he said, “We
aren’t in church. We are outside.”
“Everywhere God’s light touches is his church,” Father Montgomery sneered.
“What happens when the sun goes down?” I asked, mostly to see Father Montgomery fume.
Mark smiled at me and my stomach flip-flopped.
“Let’s just go,” I said somewhat breathlessly. Clearing my throat, I added for Father Montgomery, “He’s
just not worth it.”
Father Montgomery clearly had a death wish. The next thing I knew he was spouting off something that
sounded like scripture. It was all about the men of God and harlots in the church.
Before Mark could take him out, I whispered, “You can’t kill the vicar.”
“You are mistaken.” Mark’s tone was deadly calm when he added, “He is just a man, and not a good
one at that.”
Sadly, Father Montgomery wasn’t the only one to throw insults at me. There were several others,
including Martha and Gabriel, a fact which didn’t set well with Mark. When we were back at the trailer,
Mark sat me down in the living room.
“They are abusive to you, and yet you seem to be oblivious to the insult,” he said with disgust. “At first, I
thought your intelligence was lacking.”
That hurt a little.
“Has that impression changed?”
He gave one short and succinct nod. “I’ve realized that you do these things out of the kindness of your
heart. Heaven knows why, but you do care.”
“They aren’t that bad,” I protested because, honestly, they weren’t. I knew abuse. One didn’t grow up
with an addict and a prostitute and not know abuse.
Mark looked at me incredulously. “Martha criticizes every last thing you do. Earl takes advantage of
your generous nature. Your boss treats you like the gum underneath his shoe. Alice and Reena use
you much as a hired companion would. And the preacher? He should be horsewhipped. Why do you
feel you deserve so little, Miss Landry?”
I didn’t like the question, or the pity that I could see in his eyes.
“People are just a little wary of me,” I mumbled. “My mother did a lot of people wrong.”
Mark leaned into me, tracing my jawbone with the tip of his finger before he said quietly, “You are not
I drew back, my body tense. “I know that.”
He watched me with knowing eyes. “Do you?”
It was a good question. One that I didn’t have an answer to.
Mark obviously wasn’t finished. “Explain to me why the grocer wouldn’t look you in the eye.”
I was hoping he hadn’t seen that. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Sutton.” My name was almost a plea on his lips. “What in the fuck happened to you?”
I swallowed but didn’t answer. As much as I liked Mark, I wasn’t ready to share pasts and friendship
“Who takes care of you, Sutton?” he inquired softly.
I pushed away from him, needing some distance. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me. I have taken
care of myself most of my life and got along just fine.”
“Do you want to know what I see?” Mark challenged, grabbing my wrist and pulling me close to him so
that I could smell the mint he had eaten after lunch.
“Will you let me go?” I pressed against his rock-hard chest, but he didn’t move.
“I see an independent woman that works long hours at a thankless job.”
Okay, that doesn’t seem to be too bad.
“Everyone needs to work, Mr. Williams,” I retorted flippantly.
“I am not finished,” he took my hands and pulled them into his chest so that I couldn’t escape. “I can
see the little girl that was so desperate to be loved that she allows strangers to abuse her kind heart.”
“Fucking asshole. Are you going to tell me that you are a psychiatrist as well?”
I yanked my hands, trying to get free, but Mark held firm.
He growled, low in his throat. “Shit, I didn’t mean to make you cry.” His long-tapered fingers brushed
the tears I hadn’t known were falling from my cheeks.
“They are all I have.” I didn’t even know that I was going to answer until the words were out of my
mouth. But as I spoke them, I knew that I believed them. “Otterville Falls might look like shit to you, but
it is my home, and these people are my family. So, you can take your inheritance and your opinions
and shove it up your ass!”
A pounding at the door caused Mark to release me. Wiping my tears away, I opened the door to see
Martha and Earl standing there.
“We’ve just come from the church,” Earl said almost apologetically.
“What is your point?” I snapped, immediately feeling bad until Martha spoke.
“The good Lord doesn’t want whores in his chapel,” Martha said darkly.
And something snapped inside of me. “The good Lord welcomed everyone into his fold. The whores,
the sinners, the sick and infirm. You are sadly misinformed, Martha! Fuck, they let you go in and you
are the most judgmental person I have ever met!”
Martha had never heard me talk back. Her mouth opened, jaw dropping.
A massive smile broke out across Earl’s face. “Well, it’s about time. Well said, Sutton.”
I whipped my head around to see Mark had followed. “I don’t want to see you any longer. I will sign
whatever I need to and take the lesser inheritance.”
Mark eyed me for a moment before answering, “No.”
“No?” I repeated dumbly.
“No,” he confirmed. “You are coming to the city. You have hidden yourself away here for far too long.”
“I am obviously not up to your standard,” I quipped.
Mark shook his head. “No, they aren’t up to yours. Being poor isn’t a crime, Sutton. But being cruel,
that should be.”
Then, to my surprise, he closed to door on Martha and Earl’s surprised faces.