Make it a double, p.2
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       Make It a Double, p.2

         Part #2 of Last Call series by Sawyer Bennett
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  Shrugging my shoulders, I lean back in my chair. “No one to blame but myself. ”

  “That’s right,” Jimbo says with a nod. “No one to blame but yourself, and you’ve done a remarkable job accepting responsibility. In fact, you’ve done such a good job at it… some might say that it would help you have a clear conscience. ”

  “What’s your point?” I ask, genuinely curious as to where he’s going with this.

  “My point is that if you truly took responsibility and had a clear conscience, then you should have some measure of peace. ”

  I scratch my chin absently, pondering his words. I did the time. I took my lumps and accepted my punishment. Should that give me peace?

  Jimbo’s probably right. In those circumstances, maybe my soul should feel a little lighter… more free. If I truly was remorseful for what happened, and I truly had done my penance, I shouldn’t be struggling the way I am.

  Except… my circumstances aren’t exactly the way Jimbo describes it. He sees my sorrow and guilt, but he doesn’t see past that. Because there’s a whole lot more that makes up Brody Markham’s f**ked-up world than just the after effects of a few years in prison. My issues started before I even got sent away.

  “Yeah, well… I imagine I’m just having a hard time adjusting to a different routine,” I say casually, wanting to turn his probing gaze away from me. “I’m sure with time it will get better. ”

  “Of course it will get better with time,” Jimbo muses. “But you need to work on it. If shit is eating you up, you need to get it out. Does no good to hold on to stuff. ”

  Those freaky eyes are staring thoughtfully at me again and, for a moment, I think he can see past the bull I’ve been feeding him and see below to what’s really haunting me. And it has not a damn thing to do with prison or my inability to adjust thereafter.

  When I don’t say anymore, Jimbo gives a sigh and pushes forward. “Your community service. You got to get it started. Like yesterday. ”

  “I know. I’m trying to figure out where to do it. ”

  “It ain’t that hard, dude. You look at the list I gave you and pick one. I expect you to have an answer for me by tomorrow. ”

  “Sure,” I say, although the thought of picking up garbage on the side of the road doesn’t appeal to me very much. I suppose the saying is true though… beggars can’t be choosers.

  My thoughts involuntarily drift to Alyssa Myers and her offer to volunteer at The Haven, her non-profit, no-kill animal shelter. Of course, that type of work is right up my alley since I love animals. But the thought of spending time with her… talking to her, being in her presence, well, it doesn’t set well with me.

  I know I’m judging her and stereotyping her based on one terrible experience I suffered, but my already fragile psyche doesn’t have the aptitude to push past this bias right now. On top of that, she’s far too beautiful for my senses, which just makes everything else f**ked up in my head. Being physically attracted to someone I despise is another hardship I don’t need to deal with right now.

  Yeah, I don’t need that shit or worry in my life. Standing up from the table, I tell Jimbo, “Just pick something out for me and let me know where I need to be and when. I’ll get the time worked out with my brother. ”

  Jimbo stands up and holds his hand out. Taking it, I give it a shake. “Alright, Brody. I’ll call you with the community service info, and we’ll meet next week. Same time and place. ”

  “Sure,” I tell him with a small smile. “See you next week. ”

  After Jimbo leaves, I walk over to the couch and sit down on it. Staring at the ceiling, I have to wonder to myself if this is all there is to my life. Am I going to be able to push forward, knowing how great everything was that I left behind?

  I sure as hell don’t know the answer to that, but I’m hoping time will bring clarity.

  Chapter 2

  Alyssa

  I do not believe this.

  I do not f**king believe this.

  My day cannot get any shittier… At least, I hope it can’t.

  Walking out of the two-stall barn, I pull my phone out of my pocket and dial Frank Harkins again. Like it did the last five times I called, it goes straight to voice mail. Rather than hang up, I choose to leave a message.

  “Frank… it’s Alyssa Myers. Where in the hell are my pine shavings and hay? It was supposed to be here an hour ago, and I have a horse being transferred here in a few hours. Call me. ”

  I angrily punch the disconnect button, shoving the phone back into my jeans pocket. Scrubbing my fingers through my short hair, I look to the sky and plead to whoever is up there listening that I could use some help today.

  Because it’s a big day at The Haven. After having one of my two bestest friends, Gabby, build me a small barn with an enclosed paddock, I’m now equipped to take on horses. Well, only two, but still… horses! Yay! It helps to have a friend that’s a general contractor and knows her way around a hammer and nails.

  I had grown up riding horses, compliments of having wealthy parents that could indulge in that whim. But since moving here to the Outer Banks two years ago, I haven’t been around a single horse. That’s something that will soon be rectified.

  And best of all, my first horse coming in today is one of the wild horses from over in Corolla. It’s a yearling they pulled from the herd to be trained and sold to a private buyer. It’s a way to keep the herd population within reasonable bounds.

  I, of course, jumped all over that because the wild horses of Corolla are a beauty unto themselves, as well as an important part of the islands’ history.

  But now, stupid Frank Harkins is late with my delivery, and it will not look good if I’m not ready when the horse arrives.

  This is only half the reason my day has been shitty. The other reason is because my ex-boyfriend—who I really, really try to emphasize the word “ex” with—called this morning, and I mistakenly answered the phone without checking the caller ID.

  Chad Gates apparently doesn’t understand the word “ex” despite me repetitively trying to explain the concept to him. Even though I bestowed that title on him over four months ago, he won’t let it go. Or more particularly, he won’t let me go.

  When I answered, I knew my voice was groggy, since I had been sleeping soundly. Chad did what Chad does, and he went overkill concern on me.

  “Baby… are you sick? Do you need me to bring you anything?”

  I gave a cough and cleared my throat. “Chad? I just woke up. What do you need?”

  “What I need is for you to give us another chance. ”

  “Yeah, not going to happen,” I told him, pissed that he was calling me after I’ve repeatedly told him to leave me alone, and pissed at myself for blindly answering the phone without seeing it was him calling.

  “I won’t accept that,” he said adamantly. “You know what we had was good. I know I lost my cool with you, but I swear… that won’t happen again. ”

  Funny. Chad called it losing his cool.

  I called it trying to choke me.

  Big difference.

  I didn’t even bother to answer him, just disconnected the call and threw my phone to the floor. Right on schedule, he called me back immediately. I let it ring and ignored it, because that was always the best thing to do with Chad.

  He’s strange and unpredictable. He will go weeks without bothering me, then he’ll get a hair up his butt and decide he can’t live without me. This shit is getting old, and I’m even contemplating getting a restraining order. I came to find out late in my relationship with him that he apparently has a bit of a screw loose, and I’m not sure what lengths he would go to in an attempt to get me back.

  Stomping over to the main building that houses the dog kennels, I do a quick walk through to make sure all is well. I was just in here an hour ago, getting the dogs fed and watered. My kennel is pretty state of the art, thanks to the Myers’ i
nheritance at my disposal. While my parents grit their teeth over the fact I’ve chosen to run a non-profit shelter rather than take a position on the Board of the pharmaceutical company my family founded, I can’t think of a better way to put my money to use.

  I’ve always despised the lifestyle my parents lead. The parties, designer clothes, and outrageous sums of money spent on caviar taken from the belly of an Iranian beluga fish imported from the Caspian Sea, just so my mom could brag to her friends that her caviar was from the belly of an Iranian beluga fish imported from the Caspian Sea. It was ridiculous. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I turned into a person that was content to eat Burger King every day and clean up dog shit for the rest of my life.

  The only good thing that came out of my parents’ extreme wealth, in my humble opinion, was the fact that we came to our house in the Outer Banks every summer, and I became friends with Gabby Ward and Casey Markham. That led to a friendship with two women that I love and admire very much. That, in turn, led me to move to the Outer Banks permanently once I graduated from the University of North Carolina, which was a double whammy to my parents.

  The fact I would live in the barren outreaches of rural North Carolina rather than on Fifth Avenue is something they just can’t fathom. Add to that I graduated from a state school rather than an Ivy League college, and they think I’ve gone off the deep end. But once I found out that Gabby and Casey were going to UNC, so was I. Once they returned to the Outer Banks… so did I. The only difference was that I finished my degree, while they both dropped out of school.

  Walking down the center of the kennel, I look left and right to check all the cages. My kennel is completely enclosed in, climate controlled, and can house up to thirty dogs, fifteen on each side. Each individual cage is actually big enough to hold two dogs, but I only put one in each. The cage has a doggie door that leads into a private outdoor run for each pup. It gives them the freedom to go outside when they want, but allows them to come into the air conditioning when they get hot.

  Just off this building, I have an acre fenced in where the dogs can run free and play with each other if they are adequately socialized. If not, then I take them on a few leash walks each day. I have a separate building that houses the cats, but they don’t have outdoor access. Nope… got to clean their litter boxes every day.

  When I get to the end of the aisle, I squat down before the cage on the left, hooking my fingers through the chain links for balance. I watch the dog, lying on a soft bed about three feet away. He was brought in about a week ago, completely starved. He was covered in fleas and ticks and tested heartworm positive. I expect he’s a mix of some type of coonhound and shepherd, but he’s really old. The vet that checked him out thought he was in the beginning stages of kidney failure just from old age, estimating he was between fourteen and sixteen years old. The dog had no collar to identify him, and it was clear he had been living out in the wild for a while, which is amazing given his advanced age. Still, he’s a sweet boy who softly licked my hand and when I led him into the kennel, he plopped down on the fresh bed I had put in there with a sigh. He was just so damned tired, and he slept for almost twelve hours.

  The vet told me I should just euthanize him, but this was a new volunteer vet, first time she had been out here, and I growled at her for such a suggestion. I reminded her that this was a no-kill shelter and unless the old boy was in pain, he would have a comfy life here. The vet just shrugged her shoulders and moved on to her next patient.

  Since then, I’ve watched him carefully, spending extra time with him so he would know the soft touch of a human before he died. I named him Jethro, because he just looked like a Jethro, and for a dog that had been away from humans for probably a long time, he amazingly had no problem in warming up to me. Sometimes I would go sit in his cage with him, and he would lay his head on my lap and snooze. Jethro only gets his old bones up when he has to go outside to the bathroom or when it’s time to eat. Past that, he just wants to sleep, and I’m not about to tell him he has to do otherwise.

 
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