Today's Reading

"God, please protect Wilson." No matter where Parker was, he knew God heard him. But the connection seemed better when he was in a boat on the water—or at least on the breakwater like he was today.

He pictured Chokoloskee and how it must look like a ghost town with every home boarded up. Even now, as he looked over the relative calm of Sandy Bay and the Atlantic beyond, it was hard to imagine how the ocean would be whipping up into a frenzy fifteen hundred miles south.

"Parker!"

Angelica "Jelly" Malnatti strode his way, jumping across the spaces between the giant granite blocks of the jetty without even looking down. "I knew I'd find you here."

Parker smiled. "I'm that predictable?"

She looked skyward and shook her head in a look of total exasperation. "In every way. Where's Harley?"

He pointed to the signal light at the far end of the breakwater. "Thinking."

"About?"

Parker's guess? Harley's foster home. At first, it'd seemed perfect. Right in nearby Gloucester. Close enough to stay at Rockport High and keep his new job at BayView Brew Coffee and Donut Shop in Rockport. But the new foster home with the Gunderson family wasn't going as great as Harley had hoped. "You'd have to ask him."

She shifted her weight to one leg and crossed her arms. "Well, how about giving me a 'tiny' hint? Just one word."

Okay. "'Stuff'."

"Very helpful, Parker," Jelly said.

Time for him to change the subject before she pressed harder. "Looks like you're on a mission. What's up?"

"I see right through your little diversionary tactic, Parker." She waggled her phone. "You following the weather?"

"If I'm 'that' predictable, you tell me."

She stuck out her tongue. "Brat. And no, I say you're not paying nearly as much attention as you should."

Had he missed something? He checked the texts from Wilson. Nothing from him in the last couple of hours.

"Morgan 'is' going to hit our old hometown. Hard." She nodded. "I really think this is going to be everything they feared Dorian would be. Ella thinks so too."

"Gee . . . have you told that to Wilson? I mean, hey, if he heard 'you' two say it will be bad, I'm sure he'd evacuate."

She stood there in her jeans and sweatshirt—with her arms still folded. "Make fun all you like. You'll see. Even Grams has a bad feeling."

Parker loved Grams, but Ella's grandma could get a bad feeling about a plate of Oreos. Besides Wilson, she was the most superstitious person Parker knew. "Well, let's pray you and Ella—and Grams—are wrong."

"And the National Weather Service," Jelly said. "And every other sane person with more than an ounce of brains in their head."

"Wilson thinks—"

"No. He 'doesn't' think. The fact that he and his dad aren't evacuating is proof of that. They should've started north hours ago."

"Some guys would rather stay in the ring and fight."

"Yeah, well, Saturday night—which is tomorrow—they're going to get hit in a regular no-holds-barred smackdown."

Actually, her words rang true. A bully was closing in on southern Florida—and he wouldn't arrive alone. He'd bring every one of his henchmen with him. The only one who'd be truly alone was Wilson, the friend Parker had left behind when he and the family moved to Rockport.

"Wilson is in a lot more trouble than he realizes—or will admit," Jelly said.

Parker was pretty sure she was right. Wilson could find himself in a cage fight of sorts. But worse, because once the whupping started, there'd be no ref to stop it. "I feel like I should be doing something to help, you know?" Wasn't that what a real friend would do?

"There you go again." Jelly planted both hands on her hips. "You are soooo predictable. You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. They 'chose' to stay—remember?"


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