Forever Never

Forever Never

Lucy Score


Brick Callan had no idea that he was one grocery aisle away from his worst nightmare.

Had he bothered straightening to his full six feet four inches and looked up from the canned goods, he would have caught that telltale flash of red. The color of forest fires and the temptations of hell.

Instead, he weighed the options between diced tomatoes with or without green peppers while shopkeeper Bill House complained to him.

“I’m telling you, Brick. That Rathbun kid spent half the afternoon gunning his snowmobile down Market Street like a maniac,” Bill hissed, crossing his skinny arms over his chest.

Brick tucked the tomatoes with peppers into the cart next to a bag of yellow onions, two cartons of beef broth, and the pack of batteries.

“Kid scared the hell out of the horses on delivery yesterday,” Bill continued. “And he came this close to side-swiping Mulvaney’s new Arctic Cat last week. You know we’d never hear the end of that.”

Brick bit back a sigh. Just once it would be nice to do his shopping without small talk. “I’ll talk to him,” he promised. He happened to know a thing or two about the dumb shit boys did to impress teenage girls.

Bill blew out a sigh and adjusted the Doud’s Market ski cap he used to keep his bald head warm from November through April. “Appreciate it, Brick.”

There was a delicate balance to their little island community, and Brick’s job was to help maintain that balance even in the dead of the Michigan winter when only the most hardy of residents remained on Mackinac. It was the same reason he’d promised Mrs. Sopp he’d change the batteries in the smoke detectors of her rental when she’d called from the back nine of a golf course in Florida.

The door to Doud’s opened with a jangle of the bell.

Mira Rathbun—mother of said “Rathbun kid”—blew into the little store with a bone-chilling lake wind. Bill clammed up, looking as if he’d swallowed his tongue. The man didn’t mind tattling to the off-duty cops on his neighbors, but he was more comfortable doing so behind their backs.

“Shut the damn door!” The order came from the cashier and two customers closest to the entrance.

When the last full ferry of tourists left Mackinac Island back in October, it also took the polite courtesy required for a summer resort with it. The town’s 500-ish year-round residents hunkered down for another bone-chilling offseason in the middle of Lake Huron with a charming surliness.

“Yeah, yeah. Sorry,” Mira said, impatiently brushing a layer of powder off her bright orange snow suit. The woman was a mile-a-minute whirlwind, which stressed Brick out. It was unfortunate for the community that she’d been the one to teach Travis to drive his third-hand snowmobile.

This was Brick’s fourteenth winter on the island. He perversely looked forward to the frigid temperatures and the seasonal closures of most of the businesses. Winter was quiet. Low-key. Predictable.

Bill peered into Brick’s cart, eyebrows disappearing under the edge of his hat. “Beef stew again? Don’t you know any other recipes? I bet there’s a single gal or two on the island who wouldn’t mind cooking up a nice pastry for ya.”

“I like beef stew.” He also liked not being forced to be social while eating it.

Brick made a batch of beef stew every week and ate it for four or five days straight because it was easy and familiar. As for the social aspect, he’d earned his solitary winters and wasn’t inclined to set a second place at the table.

“Didja hear the news?” Mira demanded, bustling over and crowbarring herself into the conversation.

Brick was skeptical. News didn’t happen on Mackinac in the winter. Which meant this was gossip. Something he preferred to avoid despite the fact that both his jobs constantly put him on the receiving end of it.

“This have to do with the plane that came in late last night?” Bill asked, temporarily forgetting his problem with Mira’s kid’s accelerator hand.

Her eyes sparkled with the rare nugget of novelty in the middle of a season when every day looked a hell of a lot like the day before. Brick had a sudden desire to walk right out into the cold and avoid whatever bomb Mira was about to drop. Instinct told him something bad was about to happen, and he’d left his gun at home.

“Now, keep this under your hats because rumor has it her family doesn’t know yet,” she said, leaning in and dropping her voice to a whisper.

Brick had a very bad feeling about this.

“Whose family?” Bill asked, looking bewildered. “I’m not following.”

“I’m drawing it out for effect. Jeez. This is the longest conversation I’ve had with someone I didn’t marry or give birth to in three months. Let me have this,” she insisted.

Brick nudged his cart forward, hoping to escape the news. But Mira grabbed on tight, stalling his progress. “Remi Ford!” she announced.

His knuckles went white on the handle.

Remington Honeysuckle Ford.

Remi Honey to family. Trouble to him. Hell.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Bill crowed. “What’s she doing back here in the dead of winter without telling her folks?”

Their hushed voices melded beneath the steady hum in his ears. Brick did his best to keep his face expressionless while his insides detonated. The exit was only twenty feet away, but his feet rooted to the floor, knees locked. Over the deafening thump of his heart, he stared at Mira’s mouth while she spilled the dirt.

She couldn’t be here. Not without a heads-up.

It took him weeks to prepare mentally, to gird himself before being forced to exchange casual greetings across the dinner table.

“Psst!” The cashier, Bill’s nephew, waved his arms from behind the register and silently pointed to the next aisle. Brick’s stomach dropped into his boots.

No. This was definitely not happening.

Mira and Bill made a mad dash for the cereal aisle. Brick charged in the opposite direction toward the cashier, deciding now was as good a time as any to escape before—

His cart T-boned another just as it peeked around the corner. The momentum took both carts into a tower of oatmeal boxes, sending them toppling.

Fuck. He knew it before he looked up from the vanilla almond and maple bacon massacre on the floor.