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Sunday at the Sunflower Inn
Author: Jodi Thomas

 

Chapter 1

The Lost McCoy

Friday, February 14

Houston, Texas

 

 

McCoy Mason leaned his crutches next to his duffel bag and sat down on the bench just outside Houston Methodist Hospital’s main exit.

If a cab came by, he might get in.

If he had any idea where he was going.

If he had enough money to get there.

Three “ifs” seemed a long shot. He decided to sit on the bench until a few of his brain cells thawed. After three weeks in the hospital, his mind had slipped to the IQ of a frog.

On the bright side, the sun was shining and the wind was low. Except for the fact he was headed nowhere, life wasn’t all bad. Maybe he was just confused, maybe mixed up and disoriented. Definitely broken. Homeless. Alone.

McCoy decided to stop thinking. He was running out of adjectives.

“I’m not lost, just nowhere to go,” he said aloud. “Not brain dead, just wounded.” He looked down at his cast. The tip of a sock covered his toes. He had a boot on the other foot, but one cowboy boot wouldn’t be much use once he got the cast off.

Maybe he could go to the beach. Then he wouldn’t need even one boot. He could just be a beach bum until his money ran out.

He almost smiled remembering what his crazy dad used to say when his mom suggested a vacation. “It don’t cost nothin’ to go nowhere.”

Maybe he should stay here and save what little money he had left.

McCoy shrugged. Nowhere seemed about as good as anywhere to go right now.

Mom must have disagreed with Dad. One night she left with all their savings and never came back from her vacation. Dad got up the next morning and went to work and never mentioned her again.

McCoy looked down at his new Wranglers. The nurse had to cut through the denim to get one pant leg over the cast. He’d considered yelling at her to cut off the plaster instead. After all, he could hop around on one leg, but he only owned one pair of jeans. But before he could put words to his thoughts, the damage was done.

Right now, the break just below his knee was the least of his troubles. One broken bone seemed no big deal, considering his other problems. He’d had a head injury everyone thought would kill him after he’d totaled his Mustang on Interstate 45. He lived, but the car died.

Breanna Bell, his fiancée, stopped coming around after three days. She’d said that staring at his bruised, broken body was too much to bear.

She should have seen it from his side of the fence.

Two days later, his new boss called and told him he’d lost the job that had brought him to Houston. A week later, his landlord texted that the apartment he’d signed a lease on was no longer available.

Last, Breanna left town, taking everything but the duffel bag with his work clothes stuffed in the bottom and the outfit he’d bought the day of the accident. Jeans, a western shirt, and a Stetson hat—his first western outfit. After all, he was in Texas now.

Breanna had talked him into getting hundred-dollar tickets to a rodeo the night of his crash and clothes to go with the date so he’d fit in with the crowd. But he’d never made it home to change. Now he felt like an imposter dressed up as a cowboy.

The one time he’d been awake enough to talk to Breanna on the hospital phone, she’d been mad about him standing her up. She also mentioned the moving van with all their junk would be on its way back to Georgia and she planned to ride along.

She didn’t have time to unpack and pick all his stuff out, so if he wanted anything, he could collect it the next time he was in Georgia. She’d shopped for most of the household essentials, so she considered everything more hers than his. Just before she’d hung up, his fiancée said she’d stuffed her engagement ring in the chest pocket of his work overalls.

He must have decided to go back in a coma about then because days later when he opened his eyes, he couldn’t remember much else of what she’d said.

If the hospital hadn’t saved his wallet and phone when they cut off his bloody clothes, she probably would have taken them as well. His cell was dead, but a few hundred dollars were still in his wallet.

He was in too much pain to think, so he gave up on time and dates completely. Hell, he didn’t even care what year it was. The facts he thought he knew: He was twenty-nine, single, had no kin he wanted to call. Oh, and he loved the hospital ice cream and hated the Jell-O.

Now and then, one of the nurses would wake him up and ask him what his name was. If he got that right, they’d move on to, “Do you know the date?” like it was some kind of trick question.

How could he explain that he didn’t know or care? The last construction site he’d worked on had relocated inside his brain, and the noise was blocking everything out.

As the sun started to set behind the buildings of downtown Houston, McCoy frowned, trying to recall Breanna part by part. Her hair was soft. Her breasts were rounded. Her mouth was always moving.

He smiled, remembering another one of his dad’s sayings. “Son, the right girl for you is the one who says yes. Don’t build up your hopes on more.”

Night was moving across the huge parking lot, and McCoy didn’t bother to care. He didn’t have enough money in his pocket to start over, and no one was picking him up. He’d inherited being a loner from his dad. “No sense making friends you’ll just leave behind, son.”

McCoy considered sitting on this bench until he starved to death. If he took the painkillers in his pocket, he probably wouldn’t notice hunger or cold. Three weeks ago, he’d had a smoking hot girlfriend, a new direction, and a great car. The job he’d moved halfway across the country for promised to lead him toward the future he’d always wanted. He would have been the boss of this building site. Not bad considering he wasn’t yet thirty.

Somehow one wreck washed away all of his chalkboard dreams.

The janitor who had cleaned his hospital room walked by. “Evening, Mr. Mason.” The short man grinned like they were old friends. “You finally getting out of this place, or did one of them nurses just leave you out here by accident? I swear if you stay still around this place, they think you’re a potted plant.”

McCoy smiled. “Evening, Roberto. I’m going to miss your great jokes. Most days you were the only one who talked to me other than the nurses asking questions.”

Roberto set a lunch box on the bench as he zipped a gray jacket that matched his uniform. As always, he seemed to have time to talk. “That pretty, long-legged blonde picking you up? I wouldn’t mind hanging around to see her.”

“No, she’s gone. Moved back to Georgia. She left me with a bag of old clothes and what I’m wearing.”

The janitor laughed as if he thought McCoy was joking.

“You got family around?” Roberto might be short and forty pounds overweight, but he was one of the heroes in this life. He cared. “Friends picking you up?”

“Nope. My dad lives in Alaska. He told me I’ve got a grandfather in some little town called Honey Creek. I couldn’t even find the place on a map when I looked years ago.”

“I know where that is.” Roberto smiled. “My primo lives there. Runs a garage across from the bus stop.” He pushed his chest out. “I’ve got cousins in half the towns in Texas.”

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