Tommy rolled over and wrapped his arms around his pillow. It had been days since he’d wakened feeling refreshed. He yawned and opened his eyes, inhaling the breakfast smells that wafted up from downstairs.
Jaycee was curled up in Wes’s bed across the room, staring at him. He tugged at his blankets self-consciously. “Jeez! What are you doing here?”
She snuggled in deeper. “Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I came in to see if you were still awake. You snore.”
“Do not.” He threw a pillow at her. “Beat it so I can get dressed. I’m starving.”
She giggled and threw it back before she skipped out of the room. He wasn’t annoyed with her. Not really. It was kind of fun to treat her like the pesky kid sister he’d never had. If she’d slipped into the other bed in the middle of the night, she must be as rattled by what had happened as he was. Maybe more. She was waiting for him in the hall when he finished brushing his teeth, and as they headed downstairs, angry voices rose above the normal buzz of conversation and drowned out the television.
Jaycee halted and stared up at Tommy. “They’re at it again. Our dads were arguing last night. I heard them while I was making your cheeseburger.”
“Mostly how your dad isn’t as important to the Resistance as mine, and everyone here has to depend on my dad to protect them.”
“Ouch. I’m sure my dad loved that.” Then he heard his mother’s panicked cries, and his dad shouted, “Are you responsible for this?”
Mitch shouted back. “Hell no!”
Tommy ran the rest of the way downstairs, Jaycee at his heels, and burst into the diner just in time to see his dad take a swing at Mitch. Mitch ducked and grabbed Tom by the shirtfront. They grappled, ricocheted off the counter, and knocked over a table across the aisle.
Everyone else scrambled out of the way.
“Stop it! Both of you!” Lara cried.
Mitch hauled Tom off the floor and, still gripping Tom’s shirt with his left hand, delivered two stinging punches to Tom’s face. Tommy launched himself into the fray, tackling Mitch around the middle and breaking Mitch’s hold on his dad. The force spun them around, and as they staggered in the aisle, Mitch’s fists pounded Tommy’s torso.
Everyone was yelling at once, and Tommy heard David shout, “Someone turn the hose on them!”
Tommy drove Mitch backward, which threw him off balance, and ended up with enough clearance to land punches to his stomach and solar plexus that left Mitch gasping. Before Mitch could rally, Tom and Trina forced their way between them. Tommy let his dad pull him away but fixed an intimidating gaze on Mitch.
He muttered, “Dad, are you nuts? What made you think you could take him? He’s got, like, two inches and thirty pounds on you.”
Tom turned his back to Mitch as he and Tommy continued their progress across the room. “You’re all over the news; you’re wanted in connection with the university bombing.”
“And you attacked Mitch because … ?”
“I suspect it was he who turned you in. To even the score.”
Tommy twisted his arm out of his dad’s grip and started back across the room to where Trina stood with a restraining hand on Mitch’s chest, but Tom stopped him. “Of course he denied it, but I was the one who lost control. It was my fault. Let’s just all take a minute.”
His mother joined them and laid her hand on Tommy’s arm. He let her lead him to a chair on the far side of the room, where Jaycee appeared with ice wrapped in towels. Tom pressed his to his face; Tommy held his in his hand, not wanting to give Mitch the satisfaction of knowing he needed first aid. After a moment, he tossed the towel on the table and stood up to go. Jaycee edged closer and slipped her chilly hand into his.
From across the room, Mitch’s gaze took in both of them, and his nostrils flared as he shouted at Tommy. “Oh, hell no! Don’t even think about it.”
“What?” Tommy was completely at a loss.
“That!” Mitch pointed an accusing finger. “Lay a hand on her and I’ll finish you.”
Jaycee dropped Tommy’s hand and shrank away, her face flushed. Tommy’s anger flared.
“Are you kidding? I wasn’t … I wouldn’t—she’s just a kid!”
He’d only meant to defend her, but apparently Jaycee took it wrong. She burst into tears and ran upstairs.
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