TPCR: Chapter 17
The morning after the date, Erin wakes up feeling like shit, and it’s not because she and Lucas got drunk off their asses and made out into the wee hours like a couple of teenagers.
(Yeah, yeah, I know he had his little kid along.)
In fact, she gets a call from Sheriff Cousin’s fiancee, her waitress, that Lucas and Max have also been taken ill and Max has been taken to the hospital.
Naturally, foul play is once again suspected, but Mustache Twirler is in jail, so that just leaves…every other person on the Bad Side of the family.
Erin heads to the hospital to see Max, who is asleep and being hydrated, and finds Lucas in the chapel. Turns out that while he was watching his little boy heave his little guts out, Lucas was planning how to leave town while still guaranteeing everyone else their fair share. So, turns out the Bad Side did indeed figure out what could make a person leave—poison their kid. Still doesn’t explain why they thought ripped weddings dresses and random acts of arson would cause the same thing.
Erin counters that by leaving, it will “hurt your family more” and leave Lucas “in control.” Which seems a low blow to deliver to someone who just wants to protect his son. But Lucas doesn’t take offense, perhaps because he’s too exhausted to even notice what she said. She adds, because she is now remembering that this is a Christian novel, “[God] never leaves us or forsakes us.”
This trite little tidbit turns it all around for Lucas, even though you’d think he’d have heard such things a thousand times before, growing up with a missionary for a father. But no, he prays:
Lord, if You’ve been waiting all this time for me to come to my senses, thank You. I’m tired of doing things my own way. Your plan, whatever it is, has to be better than mine. Mine’s taken me on a path to nowhere.
Yeah, God, ever since I stopped going to church and left my tiny incestuous town, I went to college and vet school, have a career I’m passionate about, and now, an adorable son that I love. This life of mine sure has been “a path to nowhere.”
So, now excited about following God’s plan, Lucas heads out of the chapel, only to find his whole family there, concerned about Max. Basically, it’s a roll call from the previous books in the series, but the interesting thing is, almost all of these people have jobs, which they were apparently able to leave mid-morning, no questions asked.
I know it’s sweet and all, and I know they all live in the same town, but honestly, and not to be cruel or anything, but Max is fine, just a bit dehydrated from puking, and I’m sure some of them might be able to walk off the job, but the sheriff? The cowboys? The teacher? Oh well, it’s all very heartwarming.
And the heartwarming moments just keep on coming: Max wakes up screaming for his daddy. This makes Lucas feel like shit and Erin smile, because she gets that Max is yelling for Lucas, not for his dead birth father.
But the mystery of the food poisoning remains!
Don’t worry, I’m sure Sheriff Cousin has a plan that is just as cunning as the last one.