Make it a double, p.4
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       Make It a Double, p.4

         Part #2 of Last Call series by Sawyer Bennett
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Page 4

  I had no problem hooking up the trailer, but Alyssa apologetically told me she had no time to take me back to Hunter’s. She pretty much told me I’d have to ride with her to The Haven, so she could get the stuff unloaded and take delivery of the horse. But she promised to take me home right after.

  Clearly, there was no room for argument. Although, I did think about asking her to let me out on the side of the road so I could hitchhike home. But for some reason. . . I didn’t, and we continue to ride in silence all the way to her shelter.

  The Haven is located on Roanoke Island, down a broken, old county highway that cradles nothing but marshland. We turn down a dirt road and follow it back for about a mile before we come to a padlocked iron-bar gate. There is a shiny, black BMW sitting on the side of the road and when she sees it, Alyssa curses yet again. “Fuck. ”

  “What?” I ask, but she doesn’t answer me.

  Instead, she puts the truck in park, hops out, and walks up to the gate. After undoing the padlock and swinging the gate open so her truck can get through, she walks over to the BMW and peers inside the tinted windows. Apparently, no one is in there, because she steps back and gives a kick to the front tire, which causes my jaw to drop.

  When she gets back into the truck, she silently puts it into drive and pulls through the gate. As we pass the BMW, I say, “Got a problem with that car or something?”

  “Or something,” she grumbles. “But not your problem. ”

  Yup… not my problem. I already helped her out once, and I’m all dried up for the day. So I keep my mouth shut.

  We follow the dirt road for just a few hundred yards. When we come out of a bend lined with pine trees, I see The Haven spread out before me. And I have to say… it’s pretty f**king impressive.

  I can see three buildings with a small barn in the back. Each building is beautiful… constructed in cedar-shake siding with forest green, wooden eaves. It looks rich, yet rustic. The main building has flowerbeds gracing a slate-stone path to the front door, and I can see a slate path leading from that building to the two smaller buildings.

  A beautiful, wooden sign sits beside the stone path that simply says, “The Haven,” and there is a man in his early twenties standing near it, leaning his hip up against one of the posts that anchors it into the ground. Alyssa glances at him and I swear I hear her snarl, but she doesn’t stop the truck. Instead, she follows the dirt road around the side of the main building and all the way to the small barn.

  When she stops, she turns the truck off and says, “You can just wait here if you want, or feel free to get out and look around. I’m just going to get a few bags of the pine shavings off and get a stall set up for the horse. It should be here soon and once I get him settled, I’ll take you home. ”

  I start to nod my agreement but she’s already forgotten me, jumping out of the driver’s door. Alyssa walks to the back of the truck, and I know this because I’m watching her in my side mirror. But rather than starting on the pine shavings, she keeps walking back toward the main building. I see the man that was standing out front come around the side, and Alyssa practically stomps up to him.

  Her posture is stiff and angry, and when she comes to stop in front of him, I can tell she’s not happy to see him by the way her arms are waving around as she’s talking. The dude is standing there, holding his arms out, trying to calm her down. When he reaches out and takes ahold of one of her shoulders, she wrenches free and jumps back, pointing at him to go. That’s when I see fear on her face.

  Yeah, that’s not going to work for me, so I step out of the truck and slam the door behind me, walking toward Alyssa. The man sees me approaching, and his eyes narrow.

  “Is there a problem?” I ask.

  Alyssa turns to look at me and I see relief in her eyes, so I made the right decision in getting out of the truck.

  “No,” she assures me. “Chad was just leaving. ”

  She gives him a pointed look, while crossing her arms over her chest.

  Chad looks from her to me, and then back to her again. “Who’s that?” he asks, jerking his chin toward me.

  “No one. A volunteer,” she says dismissively. “Now, please leave. ”

  The dude stares at her for a moment more, his eyes hard and probing. But then, oddly, they soften up and he says quietly, “Sure, baby. I’ll call you later. ”

  Alyssa doesn’t respond, just continues to glare at him. My keen eyes also notice a small shudder that runs through her body. He finally gets the hint and leaves. Neither of us moves until he rounds the corner of the building and is out of our sight.

  “Who was that?” I ask, but Alyssa is already moving past me back toward the truck.

  “No one,” she says, jumping up on the back of the trailer, which is stacked with hay bales on the bottom and plastic bags of what I’m guessing are the pine shavings on the top.

  Climbing up to the top of the heap, she starts pushing at a bag of the pine. I watch as she grunts and strains but, within just a few seconds, she’s able to accomplish her task. The first bag hits the ground in a puff of dust and wisps of straw that were sticking to the outside of the bag. She starts working on the next one, making short work of it as well.

  I watch for just a moment more, admiring the way she is attacking the job. She’s clearly not the type of heiress that I imagined, who sits around painting their toenails or shopping all day long.

  “Where do you want me to move these?” I ask her, having no clue why I volunteered to help her further. It just sort of popped out of my mouth, but f**k… it’s out there now. No taking it back.

  Glancing up at me, she rubs the back of her hand across the sweat on her forehead. She studies me for a moment, and I can see deep down that she wants to refuse my help. Not because Alyssa is adverse to help in general. Hello… she runs a non-profit that relies on volunteers. No, she doesn’t want my help because she’s still pissed at me, and she wants to keep the interaction down to a minimum.

  I can accept that.

  Still, she knows she’s in a time crunch so she swallows her pride. “In the first stall in the barn. ”

  Reaching down, I easily haul the heavy bag up and over my shoulder, walking it into the barn. When I reach the first stall, I walk through the open door and let it fall to the ground with a thud.

  Then I head back out to help Alyssa with the rest.

  Chapter 4

  Alyssa

  By the time I push the fourth bag of shavings to the ground, Brody is carrying the third into the barn. I climb down carefully from the stack and head that way. He passes me as I enter the barn, heading back out for the last one, but we don’t say a word to each other.

  Grabbing a pair of work gloves out of the small storage closet to the left of the stall, I put them on and pull my knife out of my back pocket. Brody walks in with the last bag as I bend over and start to slice into the plastic holding the shavings. I ignore him, although I can feel him there watching me.

  I’m unbelievably grateful for his help today. I had been just shy of a full-fledged meltdown when he told me Hunter wasn’t home. But I’m not forgetting for a moment what a prick he is. The fact he called me a snotty, rich bitch heiress—yes, those were his exact words—still stings a hell of a lot.

  Honestly… I hadn’t seen that coming. Ever since Brody returned home, I’ve been thinking about him a lot. I wasn’t that close to him before he got arrested, but friends enough that we hung out some in the summer. I mean, Gabby, Casey, and I were five years younger than him, Hunter, and their friend Wyatt, but there were plenty of times that we all happened to be at the Markham house at the same time.

  He was such a good guy. Nice, funny, and smart as hell. Oh, yeah… let’s not forget smokin’ hot. I expected he’d be different when he got out of prison, but I didn’t expect him to attack me the way he did. I was blindsided and incredibly hurt.

  Now I’m just pissed at him, and his
little act of charity today doesn’t erase that.

  I lean over, pulling handfuls of the shavings from the large bag so I can spread it around the stall and, to my surprise, Brody steps up beside me and starts doing the same to another bag that he merely rips open with his fingers.

  “There’s another pair of gloves in that closet,” I tell him, jerking my thumb over my shoulder.

  He doesn’t respond, but he does get the gloves. We work side by side, spreading the pine, and, just as we finish, I can hear a truck pulling up outside. My Corolla horse is here and I shake out the last handful, beyond excited to get my first up-close look at one of those beauties. Slapping my gloved hands on my thighs to dust them off, I head out of the barn.

  Brody walks out and stands beside me as we watch the truck and horse trailer back up to the barn.

  “Where do you want the rest of the hay? I’ll get it moved,” he asks me.

  I turn to him, my eyebrows raised. “You don’t have to. I’ll get it taken care of after I take you home. ”

  “Just tell me where you want it,” he says in exasperation, already walking away toward the bale-stacked trailer.

  “In the second stall,” I call out.

  I assume he heard me, because he gets to work. I watch him for a moment, appreciative of his help and more appreciative of the bulging muscles that flex and bunch under his t-shirt as he hauls bale after bale off the trailer. Brody filled out in prison. He was tall to start out, but had always been on the lean side. He clearly had been working out a lot while he was away, and as a female who can appreciate male beauty, Brody has it going on. His brown-gold hair could use a trim, coming down all one length to his shoulders, but he wears it tied back at the top. I’m guessing it hasn’t been cut since he got sent away.

  His face is a contrast, covered by a beard that he keeps trimmed short. So handsome, and I remember his blue eyes used to be filled with light and mischief. Now, they are hard and bitter.

  Brody glances up after throwing a bale off the trailer, and our eyes lock. For a brief moment, I see something unusual on his face. More often than not, there is something negative he’s emoting my way, like anger or resentment. But now, right at this very moment, I see a flicker of curiosity spark through his gaze. It’s only there briefly before it vanishes. He turns his back on me and goes back to flipping the hay bales off the trailer and onto the ground. I turn toward the horse trailer, dismissing Brody Markham from my mind, filling my thoughts with the wild horse I’m getting ready to meet.

  ***

  It doesn’t take long to get the yearling settled into his stall. The driver also brought some bundles of Spartina grass, which is one of the main staples of their diet. I would be mixing this in with his hay and oats until we could wean him off it all together. When Brody was finished moving the hay bales, he unhooked the trailer for me as Frank told me he’d come and pick it up in a day or so. Then he stacked the grass bundles in the second stall for me as well.

  As the transport carrier pulled away, I stood at the stall gate and watched the horse munch on some of the grass. The wild horses are much smaller than domestic breeds of horses, and their coats are shaggy. He didn’t seem too perturbed to be in this new environment and even let me scratch his head a bit as he fed.

  Taking my gloves off, I throw them down on a bench that sits between the two stalls and head out, closing and locking the barn door behind me. Brody is leaning against the fender of my truck, his hands tucked into his jeans pockets. His face is a blank mask—no clue what he’s thinking—and it makes me want to shake him and find out what’s going on in that head of his.

  “Ready to go?” I ask him as I walk up to the driver’s door.

  He doesn’t move, but his head turns to follow me. “How come you didn’t have anyone to help you do this today?”

  Shrugging my shoulders, I say, “Just didn’t have any volunteers scheduled. They’re hard to come by. ”

 
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