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JEAN SPENT another week with the Hernandez family. It was a joy-filled time and she helped them get started with a family Bible study every night.

Alice had always thought she was a believer, having spent most of her life in church, but the Lord had revealed to her that she’d just been a “pew sitter” and not a true believer. Reading the Bible was not something she’d ever done before. She taken to completely immersing herself in it.

Once Jean was certain the little family was building a firm foundation and was sure that Pastor Renee was going to continue with her commitment to share the Lord with the lost, Jean felt it was time to move on. She had everyone’s telephone numbers and emails and promised to keep them updated on every step of her journey.

Jamal, the paramedic she’d exchanged numbers with, started texting her almost every day after his shift. Like Chloe, the man was full of questions. He hadn’t yet made a decision for the Lord, but Jean knew he was close. She encouraged him to find an evangelical Bible-believing church to “just try it out.”

She and Louie were back on the road by the middle of December. Jean had laughed at that realization; she thought she might be half-way through Arizona by then. But the Lord was certainly leading her in the way she should go and she wasn’t going to complain.

San Diego was on the radar for the next stop, mainly because Jean wanted to eat at a restaurant that Jerome had recommended. He said they had the best seafood and were famous for their shrimp. Jean figured she could eat and reward Louie for his patience with some leftovers.

Just outside of Oceanside, Bob sputtered and shuddered. Jean hurried to get to the side of the road and put her hazard lights on. She turned the car off, then looked at Louie, who yawned.

“Well, now what?” she asked the cat. “I guess I can call triple A and see—” before she could finish her sentence, there was a rap on the passenger window, making her jump. A young man was bent over with his hands on his thighs, peering in the window. He smiled kindly at her and she leaned over to roll the window down.

“Saw you were having car trouble,” he said. “Is there something I can do to help?”

Jean half-grinned/half-grimaced. “Well, unless you know something about a ‘69 Beetle, probably not.”

The guy smiled back. “Well, I work in the Motor Pool on base, but yeah, this baby is probably outta my field of expertise.”

Jean laughed. “I’ve never had any trouble with Bob,” she said, patting the dash. The man noticed Louie and he reached in to scratch his head. “He’s been with me for over twenty years now,” she grinned. “The car, not the cat.”

“Wow, that’s longer than most marriages,” he said. Jean laughed, though she had to ignore the pain in her chest at the thought of her own marriage.

“Mine lasted forty-five,” she told the young man, hoping her smile didn’t look as brittle as it felt. “But I do understand what you mean. The world nowadays doesn’t want to put the Lord into relationships and so most are doomed to failure.”

He tilted his head, a slight frown on his face. He suddenly seemed uncomfortable, and that wasn’t what Jean wanted. Instead, she smiled again.
“I appreciate your offer of help, but I’ll just call triple A and have them give me a tow into town.”

He grimaced at that. “Well, I can tell you that triple A is always backed up in these parts. They don’t have enough agents and their response time is usually an hour to two hours. If you want, we can hook you up and tow you to town ourselves.”

Jean turned to look over her shoulder. There were several others in the SUV stopped behind her. She looked back at the young man.

Normal human fear tried to take root then. Of course, she knew that an older woman getting into a car with a group of young men, strangers, was insane. Evelyn and Paula would be having fits if they knew she was even considering it.
Lord, I’m letting You lead this trip… if You don’t want me going with these guys, tell me. Otherwise, I’m gonna assume You’ve got a plan for me here.

She didn’t get an answer and she tried to embrace the fear again, but it wouldn’t let her. In fact, she felt pretty peaceful about accepting the young man’s offer.
“Well, I don’t want to get you in trouble,” she told him. “You aren’t supposed to use a government vehicle for stuff like this, are you?” She assumed they were heading to or from the base, even though no one was wearing a uniform.

The man smiled again. “No ma’am, we’re not, but that’s my personal vehicle and I even have a tow hitch on it, so it’ll be no problem at all.”

Jean thanked him for his help and then it took the two of them to wrestle Louie into his car carrier. The cat really hated the thing, even though Jean had made it as comfortable as possible for him.

The young man carried Louie to the SUV, then handed the carrier to someone in the back seat. Another young man stood outside the passenger door and helped her climb into the vehicle. He walked around the front and climbed into the driver’s seat and maneuvered the SUV to the front of the Beetle, then hopped out and helped the other man hook the car up.

Once they all climbed back into the SUV, Jean introduced herself, and the others did the same. She found out the young man who’d approached her car was named Manny and that the group was headed to San Diego, as they were on “liberty” for the weekend.

“I was heading to San Diego myself,” Jean told them. “I was going to get some lunch and then see where the Lord wanted me to go next.”

The others got real quiet at that.

“Hey, why don’t you let me buy you all lunch for your trouble?” she said.
“Oh no, ma’am, we couldn’t let you do that,” Carl, one of the young men sitting in the back said. The others murmured in agreement.

“Of course you can,” Jean huffed. “You’re saving me a lot of time by towing me into town. The least you can do is let me buy you a meal.”

“But there are four of us,” another young man protested. Jean thought his name was Jerry or Terry.

“And I’m one old woman with a lot of money,” Jean laughed. “I can certainly afford to take you all out to eat.”

“You really shouldn’t go around telling people you have a lot of money,” Manny admonished. “People look to take advantage of the elderly.”

Jean laughed. “Well, I’m not exactly ‘elderly’,” she huffed with false indignation, though the effect was ruined with her grin. “Actually, I might be,” she shrugged. “I don’t even know what the defining age is. But I’m not some ninny who’s going to give her bank account information to a Nigerian prince or anything. And I’m pretty sure you all aren’t going to rob me. Are you?” She turned around and pointedly looked at the others, they all shook their head and she laughed again.
“That’s what I thought. Anyway, I know you probably don’t want to waste any of your R and R with an old woman, and I can understand that. How about if I just give you some money and you can buy yourself a meal or whatever and I’ll just go on and have lunch. By myself.” She sniffed a little.

“Wow,” Carl said. “I didn’t think anyone was as good at guilting as my granny, but you’re even better.”

Jean burst out laughing then. “Yeah, but did it work?” There was laughter and murmurs of agreement.

Once they dropped her car off at a mechanic—and it took three tries to find one who was willing to work on the old Beetle—Jean let the men pick the restaurant since they were in Oceanside and not San Diego and she had no idea where to go. Thankfully, the Marines did.

Manny drove them to a Mexican restaurant that Jean would have driven past simply because it looked like a dive from the outside. But the inside was colorfully done, spotlessly clean and the staff was very inviting. They seemed to know the men, or else they were just extra friendly with the local Marine Corps.

The men all ordered a beer and Jean got an iced tea. “Don’t drink?” the man named Terrence asked her. Jean smiled and shook her head.

“A glass of wine now and then, but no, my partying days ended when I broke into a frat house and held the boys at gunpoint until they agreed to stop the panty raids on my sorority house. Went to prison for five years.”

You could have heard a mouse belch.

“Joking! Joking,” she smirked. “They actually never caught me,” she said with a straight face before she burst out laughing.

After that, the guys relaxed and had a good time. They sat in the restaurant for several hours, eating, telling stories, laughing. Jean couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun.

Since he was driving, Manny only had the one beer, but the others didn’t slow down. After what Jean was sure was at least a six-pack, lips started loosening a little and the jokes slowed, the discussion turning in a more serious direction. Jean thought it would have gone the other way.

She told them how she’d just lost Lars earlier that year and how hard it was, trying to relearn how to do everything without having another person to consider.

“In a way, it’s freeing,” she admitted. “Not that Lars was controlling or anything… but it’s just that when you’re in a relationship, you have to take the other person into consideration. If you don’t, you’re gonna have a poor relationship. When you’re alone, things are easier… and harder, both.”

There were nods and murmurs of agreement. Jean had discovered that three of the men were single, but Perry was married, though separated. He’d picked at the label on his beer bottle when he started opening up.

“Lisa doesn’t like being a military wife,” he admitted. “She wanted me to leave the Corps as soon as my latest tour was up. But I don’t want to—I’d wanted to make a career of it, you know? Wanted to stay in for my twenty years, then get some civilian job and put in another twenty. Then by the time I’m in my late fifties, I’ll be all set to retire for good.” He shrugged. “It’s what my dad did, and he and my mom are happily traveling all over the world now. Set for life.”

Jean nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good plan. A real good plan,” she agreed. She cocked her head to one side. “What is it that Lisa doesn’t like about being a military spouse?”

Perry shrugged. “She hates it when I get deployed. I’m stateside now but will be heading out again soon.”

“So, she doesn’t like being alone? Having to take care of things by herself?”

Again, another shrug. “I guess. It is kinda hard on her with the kids.”

“How many do you have?”

Manny burst out laughing, then clapped Perry on the back. “My man here is starting his own basketball team.”

Perry’s cheeks reddened and he concentrated on the label. “Six.”

Jean’s eyes widened at his admission and Manny laughed again. “All boys. Wild as a Texas tornado too.”

Perry gave his friend a look, but it was ruined when he chuckled. “It’s true.”

“Well, no wonder she hates it when you get deployed,” Jean muttered, shaking her head. “I can’t imagine. I have just one child myself, a girl, and whenever Lars had to travel for his job, I hated it, hated having to be the only one responsible for everything Evelyn needed or wanted. I can’t imagine having to wrangle six young ‘uns on your own.”

Perry scrunched his mouth up and nodded. “Yeah, I guess. But she knew what she was getting into when she married me.”

Jean made a non-committal sound. “Did she? Did she really understand how often you’d be gone? And did you plan to have so many children, or were they what-the-french-toast ‘oopsies’?”

At that, the guys all laughed and Jean grinned. The men had been very respectful so far, watching their language for the most part, and they thought some of her expressions were pretty funny. Lars always laughed at her “non-curses” too.

Perry shook his head. “First two were planned. The rest were, uh, birth control failures.”

“Well, I woulda been looking for different birth control,” Jean muttered, making the other guys laugh again. She reached out and patted Perry’s hand.

“I’m just teasing you, honey. Children are a blessing, always. May not seem like it when they’re trying to tear the house down on your head, but God always sees them as precious.”

She sat back. “But that doesn’t solve your problem with your Lisa. I can understand her side, but I can see your side too. You have a good plan for the future, a sound financial plan.” Perry smiled, obviously happy that she agreed with him.

“But it looks like that plan you have is going to be filled without your wife. Or your boys, for the most part. You need to consider them, too. If you and Lisa can’t come to a compromise, are you willing to throw away your marriage for the sake of a retirement plan?”

The table got real quiet at that. “I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer,” Jean said, “but I just hate the idea of you or Lisa walking out on your marriage. I’m not saying you’re right and she’s wrong, or vice versa. But you really need to look at the big picture, son. What if something happens to you and you’re forced to leave the service? Then all your plans are shot in the foot. And if Lisa leaves you, are you going to start all over again with another woman? That would probably mean more kids, with your track record,” she teased, hoping to lighten things.
“And while I hate to bring it up, because it certainly isn’t a reason to stay in a marriage, but you also need to consider all the child support you’re going to need to pay if you divorce. If you start a new family, that’s going to bring problems in right off the bat.”

She sighed then. “But most importantly, God wants you to stick together. I’m sure you said marriage vows, and you made those vows before God, even if you got married at the courthouse. You most likely promised to stay together through thick and thin—through sickness and in health and all that. God is expecting you to honor those vows. And if you do, and you ask Him to be in your marriage, He’ll be faithful to step in and make things right between you two.”

“We never asked Him to do that,” Perry said, plucking at the label again.
Jean laughed. “Well, there isn’t any time like the present,” she told him, then looked at the others. They suddenly looked uncomfortable. Squirmy. She laughed again.

“Oh, quit acting like I just told you that you can’t have any fun now,” she teased. “I’m not going to bombard you with scripture until you accept the Lord.”

“Good thing, cuz we’re your ride and we could just leave your elderly butt here,” Manny joked. Jean laughed and threw a tortilla chip at him.

“Don’t make me take a switch to your behind,” she threatened with a grin. The men all laughed, then launched into tales of the times they’d gotten into trouble when they were younger, and the consequences. But Jean couldn’t help but notice that Perry stayed quiet for the most part.

It was starting to get late and Jean still hadn’t heard from the mechanic, so Manny drove her back to shop. Jim, the owner, said they were looking for a part, but so far they weren’t having any luck. He said there might be a place in Pennsylvania that would have what they needed, but they were closed until Monday.

“Well, guess I’ll find a motel and see what the Lord has in store for me here,” Jean told the group.

Terrence gave her a look that said he thought she was crazy. “What?” Jean laughed.

He shrugged. “I’ve just never seen someone act like you.”

Jean smiled in confusion. “Like me? What do you mean?”

“Just… happy. Not upset that your plans are changed.”

“Oh,” Jean laughed. “Well, that’s cuz I don’t really have plans. I sorta made some, had a general direction in mind of where I was going, but before I even got an hour into my trip, Jesus changed everything up on me.” She shrugged. “He’s leading the way.”

“Like those bumper stickers that say ‘God is my co-pilot’,” Manny added.

Jean shook her head. “Nope. He’s driving. I’m in the back in my car seat, sucking my thumb and taking a nap.”

The others laughed at that. Then Jim called Jean over to ask some questions about her car. While she spoke to him, she noticed the guys huddle together, discussing something. When she walked back to them to say goodbye and thank them for the wonderful afternoon, Manny surprised her.

“We want you to come with us to San Diego,” he grinned. “You don’t have a reason to stick around here and we’re not due back to the base until Monday evening. It’s like it was meant to be.”

Jean laughed, though she was a bit in shock. “You don’t want an old lady tagging along with you on your misadventures,” she scoffed. “I’ll cramp your style.”
The guys laughed along with her. “My mom says that—‘cramp my style’,” Carl said. “I haven’t heard it in a long time.”

“But we’re serious,” Manny added. “We like you, you like us. And we could probably use a voice of reason, to be honest.” The others laughed at that and nodded their heads.

Jean grinned at them. “Well, then, sounds like a fun weekend!” She tried again to embrace the fear that she figured she should be feeling, but it just wasn’t there.
She tilted her head at them and tapped her chin with her finger. “Although, you know me hanging out with a bunch of Marines isn’t going to help my reputation with the church ladies back home. They’ll probably kick me off the Hospitality Committee.”

Perry laughed this time. “Yeah, but think of how jealous they’ll all be.”

“Oh, you know it,” Jean agreed. “And I’m gonna take all kinds of pictures and post them on Facebook. Might even tag a few of the ol’ gals too.”

THE GUYS HAD made reservations at a hotel, but they didn’t allow pets, so they’d insisted that they all find a place that did. Jean had argued that they should just keep their reservations and that she could move somewhere else, rent a car, et cetera, but the guys wouldn’t hear of it.

“We don’t want you going around alone,” Manny had argued. “It’s not safe.”

Jean laughed hard at that. “I’m traveling across the blamed country alone. Well, except for Louie and God, of course. I don’t think you need to worry about my safety.”

Manny winced. “Yeah, I don’t like the idea of that either, but it’s not like we can do anything to stop you. But while you’re on our watch, we’re gonna keep you safe.”
Jean rolled her eyes at the group, but they all agreed with Manny. She pretended to be put out with them, but she was secretly impressed.

The Lord blessed them with a hotel that was closer to the beach, was pet-friendly, and was even cheaper than the other place. There were even a dozen or more restaurants within walking distance.

“See?” Jean had told the group. “When you trust the Lord to make the plans, everything works out a lot better!”

The guys wanted to go out “clubbing” that evening. Jean definitely didn’t want to go with them, but they insisted. She’d argued every way she could think of, but the guys wouldn’t let up.

“Fine,” she finally muttered, “I’ll go. But I’m going to make sure I mess up your chances on picking up women. You’ll be sorry you insisted I tag along.”

The nightclub was rowdy and full of twenty-somethings. Jean instantly felt out of place, but the guys didn’t act like they cared. They made sure she was comfortable, always had a cranberry juice to drink and watched her like a hawk.
Not like anyone is gonna bother me, she thought, I’m old enough to be most of these kids’ grandmother.

She kept questioning the Lord about why she was there, and continually asked for an opportunity to witness. So far, He’d been silent. Of course, I’m not sure I could hear even Him in this place, she laughed to herself.

Manny had insisted that Jean dance, but she’d told him he was out of his mind if he thought she could dance to the music that Perry had informed her was called “techno.” It had a driving beat and not much by the way of actual music. And it was loud. Jean figured what was left of her hearing would be gone by the evening’s end.

“You have to dance with me,” Manny whined. Jean smirked at him; he had already had too much to drink, which was fine, since she’d offered to be the designated driver for the evening.

“Why in the world would you want to dance with an old lady?” Jean laughed. “There’re a dozen or more lovely young ladies eyeballing you right now. I’m sure they’d love to dance with you.”

He made a pfft sound. “They’re not you,” he grinned, and Jean couldn’t help but laugh at him.

“Flirting with your grandmother is never a good look, young man,” she told him, trying to keep a straight face.

“C’mon,” he whined some more. “Puh-leeeeze?” Jean rolled her eyes and laughed again, but she let him pull her out of her seat and toward the dance floor.

The dance floor was crowded, but Manny elbowed his way in toward the middle. Jean was sure she was going to get crushed, especially since nearly everyone towered over her and could easily step on her like a bug. But within seconds, Carl and Terrence were next to them with their dance partners, caging Jean in in a protective circle of slightly inebriated Marines.

Manny showed her a few moves and Jean easily copied him. The dance moves were certainly not complicated, she thought—it was mostly jumping and throwing your arms around. But she was having fun and though she couldn’t be sure, since the music all sounded the same, she thought they’d been dancing for several songs before she knew it.

A slightly slower song came on. It wasn’t slow enough for couples’ dancing, but it was slow enough that Jean decided to show the guys some of the moves from when she’d been their age.

“This one is called the Funky Chicken.” She tucked her arms in and started flapping like chicken wings while stomping in a circle. “This one gave my mother fits when she saw me dancing at a school dance one time.”

The guys—and their dance partners—were soon doing the crazy dance, and others around them even joined in. Jean laughed, knowing they all looked a bit silly trying to do the dance to the hard beat of the club music.

It wasn’t much longer after that that she had to beg off; she was hot and needed a rest. Manny started to lead her back to the table, but she shooed him off toward a young girl who’d joined their group. Jean winked at the young man and tilted her head toward the girl. He hesitated, but finally turned to the girl, who grinned at him.

“Okay, Lord, get me back to our table without getting an elbow in the rib cage,” she murmured. She almost laughed when the dancers practically parted like Moses before the Red Sea.

“Thanks, Dad!” she said as she plopped down at the table. Perry was nowhere to be found and he hadn’t been on the dance floor either, though she’d noticed he seemed to be quiet and contemplative for most of the evening. She hoped he was mulling over what she’d told him earlier about his marriage.

The ice in her juice had melted, but Jean didn’t care as she sucked down a huge gulp of the watered-down drink. Before she could set the glass back down, a young man slid into the seat next to her.

“Hi!” he said as he stuck out his hand. “George. I liked your moves out there,” he said as he indicated the dance floor. “Reminded me of learning to dance from my mom,” he laughed.

Jean wasn’t sure if he was making fun of her, or if he was being truthful. She didn’t really care one way or the other. “Jean,” she said as she shook his hand. “And thank you. It was fun. I haven’t danced in forever,” she grinned.

George pursed his lips. He had a sort of sleezy look about him. His hair was fashionably messy, though it looked stiff as a board, and his clothes looked expensive, but there was just something about him that put her off. But then she reprimanded herself for being unkind and judgmental.

“Why haven’t you danced ‘in forever’?” he asked, then took a long drink from the beer he’d brought to the table.

She shrugged. “My husband died earlier this year, and before that… well, he wasn’t in any condition for anything strenuous like that.” It was a strenuous exercise that had eventually done Lars in, though Jean didn’t share that.

“Hmm,” George said. Jean could swear he had a calculating look in his eye. “So, you’re a free bird.”

What in the world? Jean choked on her juice at that comment, then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as she stared at the young man, trying to decide if he was joking, or what his game was.

He looked like he was serious, which was really strange. All she knew was she wanted to get away from him.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Jean said, her manners always taking precedence, “I need to visit the ladies’ room.”

She stood and walked off without a backward glance. Jean worried a little over the group’s jackets that were draped over the chairs, hoping that George fellow didn’t steal one or go through the pockets. She didn’t bring her purse or wallet and had put her driver’s license and debit card in her back pocket for that reason. And Manny thought I was careless with my finances, she snorted to herself.

The restrooms were located in the back of the building, near the bar. It was standing room only in that area, with people mingling while waiting for tables or barstools to open. Jean smiled politely at the people who moved aside for her, realizing that maybe the younger generation wasn’t as rude as she’d always thought.

A restroom sign pointed toward a dimly lit hallway and Jean had to squint to read the signs on the door, laughing when she nearly walked into the men’s room. “That might have been embarrassing,” she muttered.

The ladies’ room was crowded and with only two stalls there was a line of girls waiting to use the facilities. She listened with half an ear to the two in front of her as they chatted about the men they’d met so far that evening.

“Not a lot to choose from,” the pretty blond said. “Nothing but office monkeys.” The brunette with her murmured in agreement.

“Excuse me,” Jean said, and the girls turned to her. “I’m sorry for being so nosy, but it’s a perk of being old,” she quipped. “What’s an ‘office monkey’?”

The blond laughed, but it was the brunette who answered. “It’s someone who works in an office but doesn’t make a lot of money. You know, the mail room clerk type.” She said the last with a sneer.

“Huh,” Jean said in a non-committal voice, though she was a bit surprised at the girls’ snobbery. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing they have a job, right? I mean, a lot of guys these days just want to sit around and let a woman do all the work.”

“You got that right!” a girl at the sink announced as she finished washing her hands. She grabbed a paper towel and turned toward them, teetering on her high heels. Jean wondered how the girls could walk in the towering shoes they all seemed to wear, much less dance in them. Her own feet hurt and she was wearing Dr. Scholl’s sneakers.

“My ex wouldn’t get off his—” she stopped and looked a Jean, then smiled sheepishly, “uh, off his behind even for a McJob,” she said, shaking her head. “Loser.”

“A McJob?” Jean asked, looking from girl to girl. The girl at the sink threw her towel into the waste bin, then walked toward the door.

“Yeah, you know, in a fast-food place. Burger peddler.”

Jean laughed again. This generation was clever with their slang. “Well, that makes sense.” She turned back to the other girls. They moved up one position when another girl left a stall.

“Like I said, though, any job means they’re willing to work, right? When my husband and I were first married, he got a job in a law firm, making copies. I worked as a switchboard operator.” She shrugged. “We didn’t have a lot, but it was a good marriage. Lasted until this year, when I lost him to a heart attack.”

Jean wasn’t sure why she kept telling everyone about her recent widowhood. It certainly wasn’t because she wanted sympathy. She thought maybe it was because she wanted people to know that marriages could last.

“Aww,” the girls said in unison, then started offering their condolences. Jean laughed and waved them off, though her eyes got misty. The blond had tears in her eyes too. Another stall opened, and the brunette took her turn. The blond turned back to Jean.

“My grandparents were married sixty-three years,” she said with a slight smile. “And they died within two weeks of each other.”

Jean returned the smile. “Wow, that’s a long time. A very sweet love story, too.”

The girl laughed. “Oh, I don’t know if it was a love story, or not. They fought all the time.”

Jean laughed with her. “Yeah, that happens sometimes too.” She shrugged. “But my generation—and your grandparents’—had more of a tendency to stick things out. Divorce wasn’t unheard of, but it wasn’t the norm.”

The girl nodded, then the brunette exited the stall. “That was fast!” Jean exclaimed and she laughed as she headed to the sink while the blond took the stall.

“Perks of wearing a skirt. No need to unbutton your pants and all.”

Jean laughed. “When I was your age, we mostly wore skirts too, but that was the time they came out with pantyhose. Try yanking those darned things up over your behind when you’re all sweaty from dancing.” She shook her head and the girl laughed as she finished and grabbed a paper towel.

“You should come join us,” the brunette told her. “We have a big group of girls with us. You’d fit right in.”

Jean laughed. “Thanks, but I’m with a group of Marines,” she said. “The boys are probably waiting on me now.”

The girl’s eyebrows rose. “Marines?” Jean didn’t miss the shock in her voice.
“Yeah, obviously just friends. I’m like their adopted granny.”

She laughed, then turned to lean against the wall while she waited for the blond. Jean turned back to look at the second stall, wondering what in the world was taking the person in there so long.

Jean looked up at the brunette. The girl towered over her, but Jean knew much of her height was from her shoes.

“Maybe your friends should join us,” she suggested with a grin. “The guys are down for the weekend to have some fun and they’re all single. Well, except for Perry. He’s separated and I’m working on him to reconcile with his wife.”

The girl laughed. “You do sound like my grandmother,” she said. “I can see why the guys adopted you.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Bethany, by the way.”
“Jean,” she said, taking the girl’s hand.

“I’m Leah,” came a voice from the stall and Jean assumed it was the blond.
“Hurry up!” Bethany said.

“I am!” Leah said. Bethany rolled her eyes and gave Jean a look which made her laugh. The girl finally opened the door and Jean took her turn. While she was in there, she bent over to check on the girl in the next stall. High-heeled feet were twisted at an odd angle.

“Hey,” Jean said as she knocked on the metal wall separating the two stalls, “are you okay in there?” A mumbled moan was all she got in response.

“I’ll go get a manager,” one of the others said. “She’s probably passed out in there.”

Jean finished her business, then moved out to wash her hands. She was surprised to see Bethany still standing there. She smiled at the girl.

“Told you that you needed to come hang out with us,” Bethany grinned, “although hanging out with your Marines sounds like an even better idea,” she laughed.

Jean grinned at her. “Alrighty then, let’s go find the boys. Last time I saw them, they were dancing.”

“Leah went to get a manager for the girl in the other stall,” she said as she pulled the door open, holding it for Jean. She paused and tapped out a message on her phone. “I’ll let her know I’m going with you and I’ll tell her where you’re sitting.”

Jean kept walking, assuming Bethany was right behind her. She stopped suddenly, though, when she noticed George leaning against the wall, watching her. It made her grit her teeth.

“What do you want with me?” Jean asked as she stomped up to the young man. “I have no business with you.”

He grinned and it was a look that made Jean take a step back. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. “The Holy Spirit warring with evil…” the voice in her head startled her.

“But I have business with you, pretty lady,” he said.

Jean couldn’t help but snort. “Seriously? I’m old enough to be your grandmother.”

His eyes widened and then he laughed. “That wasn’t exactly what I had in—” he stopped and looked over her head. Jean turned and saw Bethany approaching. She had a confused look on her face as she looked between the two of them. Jean caught her eye and shook her head slightly.

Bethany’s eyes turned to George and narrowed. “Are you bothering my friend?” she asked as she stepped up next to Jean.

George got a look that said he didn’t like her interfering. “I was talking to the lady, not you,” he said, then turned his dark eyes back to Jean.

“Well, I’m talking to you,” Bethany said. “Looks to me like she doesn’t want to talk to you, though, so bug off.” The girl snagged Jean’s elbow and started to lead her around the man, but his hand shot out and grabbed Jean’s other arm. She recoiled at his touch.

“Let go of me!” she practically yelled. He didn’t listen; instead, he tightened his grip, making her cry out in pain.

Bethany cursed, then let go of Jean’s other arm. She thought the girl was afraid of a tug-of-war contest with her being the rope but was surprised when Bethany moved around her and punched George right in the throat. Hard.

His eyes bulged and he gasped, though it was more of a wheeze. Just then, Leah rounded the corner with a man who took in the fact that Jean had her hand on her chest in shock, Bethany was shaking her hand and George was gasping for air.
“This jerk just grabbed my friend!” Bethany said as she pointed at George. He was looking a little purple, Jean noticed. “Hurt her arm too!”

The manager got a scary look on his face, then pushed a button on a little radio he had on his collar, like the police use. “Rod, need you back here by the bathrooms, asap.”

He then stepped forward and used his forearm to hold George against the wall. The larger man moved to within a few inches of his face.

“You made a big mistake, dude,” he said. Jean wasn’t sure in the dim lighting, but it looked like the man she assumed was the manager of the club leaned even harder on George’s chest. He looked like he was about to pass out at any moment.

Jean was finding it hard to feel any sympathy for him.

“C’mon,” Leah said as she motioned to them, “let’s go find the others.”

As they were leaving the hall to the bathrooms, a very large man moved past them. He was wearing a collar radio too and Jean realized he must have been a bouncer. With the size of the guy and how angry he looked, it seemed George was about to have an even worse night.

They followed Leah to the bar area where she found their other friends. They introduced themselves, then Bethany mentioned Marines and then the girls were happily following Jean.

Jean laughed to herself as she approached their table and saw the looks on the guys’ faces as she walked toward them with an entourage of beautiful young ladies trailing her.

It seemed the boys were going to have a good night.

Excerpt from Former Things, Book 1 in the Road Trip Revival Series. Click Here to start your adventure with Jean today!

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