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My Unexpected Surprise (The Greene Family #5)
Author: Piper Rayne

 


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The bagpipes play “Amazing Grace” and I straighten up, bowing my head.

Nothing prepares you for watching a fellow police officer get buried after being shot in the line of duty. Our small unit is honoring a fallen officer from the neighboring town of Greywall, where a traffic stop with a drunk fisherman went wrong. I didn’t know him personally, but I’ve heard enough stories to know he was a good cop.

I didn’t come to the realization that I wanted to be a cop until I was due to graduate high school and felt pressured to figure out my life goals. But being a police officer suits me. I can be gruff and abrasive sometimes and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who break the law. Though my high school buddies still have a problem believing it sometimes. God knows I never obeyed the law when I was a pimple-faced kid.

I think it was the fact that my mom died under the ice of a frozen lake because no one could reach her fast enough that spurred me to seek a career as a first responder. Maybe I thought I could prevent some other kid from losing their mom. Instead, I have to face the reality that because of our job, my coworkers may never come home to their kids.

We stand like soldiers and stare down at the casket. I guarantee each one of us is thinking about how it could have easily been any of us in that silk-lined box. The fallen officer’s wife clings to her small children while she sobs uncontrollably. Both kids’ faces look like stone, and it’s hard to tell whether they comprehend the atomic bomb that just imploded the life they once knew.

I was once them.

Nausea bubbles up in my stomach like a witch’s cauldron, and I choke back the urge to vomit.

Members from the Greywall Police fold up the flag that is lying across the casket and hand her the triangle of fabric. The wife releases a deep wail that’s eerily similar to Chevelle’s the night of my mom’s death.

Patrick groans beside me. He’s got a wife and three kids at home. He coaches football for his boys and basketball for his girl. If you look up dad in the dictionary, there should be a picture of him.

After the preacher says amen, most of us say our goodbyes and descend the hill of the cemetery.

“Tara’s freaking out,” Patrick whispers. “She’s shook.”

I’m not surprised his wife is out of sorts. Things like this hit a little too close to home. “She’ll calm down. It’s a shock because it’s affirmation that it can happen to any of us any day.”

“Thanks for the encouraging words, Sheriff.”

I take one last glimpse over my shoulder at the young mother and her children. Who I assume are family members are rounding up the kids and helping her to turn away from the grave. Today won’t even be the hardest day. It’s worse weeks from now, when the meal shares stop and everyone else goes on with their lives. That’s when the gaping void the deceased left behind really becomes apparent.

“Like I said, she’ll calm down. Give her a few days.”

Patrick raises a skeptical eyebrow at me and pats my shoulder. “Have a good night. I gotta head in for my shift.”

“See you tomorrow morning.” I head to my truck.

Patrick’s just another example of why marriage and police officers don’t work. His wife is worried, and she should be, but what kind of life is that for her? Presley’s not freaking out every time Cade goes to the brewery. Maybe if I retire early I’ll think about finding someone to tie myself to for life, but then again, I’ll be so over the hill I’ll be skiing down the other side toward the finish line because I love my job and don’t see it ending anytime soon.

I pull my phone from my pocket and see ten messages from various family members. Can’t they just send one message in the group chat? I go to my dad’s text first, knowing his message will be straightforward and get right to the point.

Dad: We’re pretty sure Emilia broke her arm. All headed to the hospital.

 

 

I frown and scroll down, finding another message.

Dad: We’re leaving, she’s all casted up. They’ll be there for a little longer if you get this soon. Otherwise go to Jed’s house if you want to see her.

 

 

When I check the time, I realize that last message came in a minute ago, so I head toward the hospital.

After I stop at the store to buy Emilia balloons since the hospital gift shop will be closed, a text comes through. I’m stopped at a light before the hospital entrance, so I take a quick look.

Jed: You been to the hospital lately?

 

 

Me: Heard what happened. Stopped to get E something. Almost there.

 

 

Per Jed’s usual MO he isn’t being shy about asking why I’m not there yet. But Emilia is my niece and I stopped for balloons because we share a kinship—we’re both motherless. Plus, she lived with us until Jed and Molly recently bought a house in downtown Sunrise Bay, leaving me alone in my parents’ old house. It’s still weird to come home to a quiet place after living with some of my brothers for years. One by one, they’ve all found their match and moved on with their lives.

I pull into the hospital parking lot and park, then climb out with balloons in hand and mentally prepare myself for the razzing I’ll take for purchasing congratulation balloons and not get-well ones. I find Jed standing outside the entrance.

“Can you believe all they had at the store were congratulations balloons? But I figure she’d love the balloons anyway, right?”

He looks as if he’s minutes away from throwing up.

Anxiety fires like a slingshot through my blood. “How is she? Why are you so pale? Did something happen? Is it serious?”

My dad said it was just a broken arm. Did he get it wrong? Then again, Jed is pretty fiercely protective of his little girl.

“She’s fine. It’s a broken arm.” Jed doesn’t make any motion to move, so I walk past him into the hospital. It’s practically my third home after the station and my house.

I say hello to Fran at the nurses’ station, but she’s quick to dismiss me. Must be the full moon tonight. Shit always gets weird around here during the full moon.

I excuse myself and walk back over to Jed. “What room is Emilia in?”

The loud squealing sound of shoes on the linoleum pulls my attention from Jed toward the end of the hall.

Allie.

I freeze. I haven’t seen her in months, not even here at the hospital. Last I was told, she took a leave. My gaze falls down her body, but I only make it to her swollen belly before I feel as if a wallet is lodged in my throat. My stomach turns over, then it feels as if the floor drops out from beneath me. “What the fuck?”

“Fisher,” Allie says with the same meek voice as mine.

Molly peeks out of a door midway down the hall. Jed rocks back on his heels with a small groan. Is this why he’s so pasty white?

“What the hell is going on?” I ask.

Allie’s hand falls to her stomach. The bouquet of balloons floats a few inches toward the ceiling before Jed catches the multicolored ribbons. I approach Allie, gently grasp her elbow, and lead her right into Emilia’s room.

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