Make it a double, p.5
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       Make It a Double, p.5

         Part #2 of Last Call series by Sawyer Bennett
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Page 5

  I climb in the truck and, as I close the door behind me, I watch as Brody just sits there for a second, then he pushes away from the fender and walks around the front to climb in the passenger side.

  Putting the truck in gear, I do a wide turn and head back toward the road that runs beside the main kennel. Glancing at the dashboard clock, I let out a muttered curse, seeing that it’s almost five o’clock and I need to get my ass in gear.

  “I need to feed the animals really quick and lock up. I’ve got to get Gabby’s cake for tonight and didn’t realize this would take so long. ”

  My tone is apologetic because I am sorry I monopolized his time today, but the look on my face dares him to make a big deal out of it. The animals getting fed take precedence over his need to get home.

  He just says, “No problem” as I bring the truck to a stop by the back door to the kennel.

  Brody gets out of the truck and follows me inside, which surprises me. I suppose that means he has an interest so I start talking as I unlock the door and walk in. “This is the kennel that houses the dogs. Next small building over has the cats. I’m hoping to build an aviary at some point and take on wounded birds, but that’s probably way down the line. I sort of have my hands full right now. ”

  “The cages are huge,” Brody says as I walk down the main aisle, toward the storage room.

  “Yeah… technically, I can hold a few dogs in each cage, but I haven’t had to do that yet. Been successful in finding good homes for most of them pretty quickly, so that helps. ”

  The dogs know it’s feeding time so they all start barking as I walk by, tails wagging happily. All but Jethro, of course. He stays lying on his side but lifts his head up wearily as I get closer to him.

  “Is he sick?” Brody asks. As I look over my shoulder, I see him looking at Jethro.

  “Yeah, poor guy is heartworm positive, which we’re treating him for, but he’s just old. I don’t think he’s much longer for this life. ”

  Unlocking the storage room, I step in. I efficiently fill up my wheelbarrow with dry kibble and back it out of the narrow opening. Brody silently watches me as I turn it toward Jethro’s cage first.

  Taking the old gallon milk jug that I cut the bottom off and fashioned a large scoop out of, I fill it up and unlatch Jethro’s cage. He usually gets his creaky bones up when he sees food coming, but he doesn’t make a move. His sad eyes just follow me as I dump the food in his bowl and eyeball his water dish. I don’t have to fill up the water bowls because when I had the kennel built, I had each unit plumbed with a pipe that would fill their bowls automatically when it dropped below a certain level. It was expensive as hell, but at least it took away one task I needed to do several times a day and saved me time, and time is money. All I had to do was keep an eye on the bowls and make sure it was working properly so they had plenty to drink.

  I walk over to Jethro and squat down next to him, running my fingers behind his ears. “Not hungry, buddy?”

  His tail gives a weak thump against his bed, but he doesn’t move. I stand up and look at him worriedly, wondering if this is the beginning of the end. I question if I should call a vet in to look at him, but then I talk myself out of it. He just seems tired, and I’ll come back by later tonight after Gabby’s party to check on him.

  When I turn around to let myself out of Jethro’s cage, I see the wheelbarrow is gone… taken by Brody down to the next unit and he’s already inside, putting food in the dog’s bowl. It’s a little Beagle I received a few days ago, and she jumps up and down in excitement over her dinner. Brody dumps a full scoop in her bowl, which is too much given her size, but I don’t say anything.

  As she dives into her food, her tail wagging furiously while she eats, Brody reaches down and scratches her back a few times. She lifts her head from the bowl, grins at him happily, and then goes back to eating. When he turns my way, he has a smile on his face. I mean a big f**king smile… something I haven’t seen once since he got back.

  I avert my eyes before he can see me staring at him, pick up the handles on the wheelbarrow, and move it to the next unit.

  For the next fifteen minutes, we work silently, side by side, feeding each of the dogs. When I’m inside one of the cages dumping food, he’s moving on to the next one. We work in tandem and, before long, we’re done. Brody then quietly follows me over to take care of the cats, again helping me fill all of their bowls with food.

  When we’re finished, I lock up the cat’s building and we head back toward the truck. I’m impressed with how good Brody is with all the animals. He didn’t do like some volunteers do… just rush in, dump the food, and rush back out again. He took a moment with each animal, giving them a scratch or a pat, sometimes a soft word. There is no doubt that he loves animals, and I have to wonder why he wouldn’t agree to volunteer here for his community service. It’s certainly not the work he would be opposed to, so it has to do solely with the fact he doesn’t like me. The snotty, rich bitch heiress comment tells me where he’s coming from, but not why he feels that adequately describes me. I mean… he got the rich heiress part right, but I am not snotty, nor a bitch.

  Unless you cross me, then I can be quite a bitch. But in an understated, classy way.

  Brody is an enigma, for sure, but one that I don’t have time to try and figure out. I made my offer, and he refused.

  It’s done.

  We’re silent for most of the ride back to Hunter’s, and I don’t expect anything out of him. So it’s with surprise when he asks me, “How come you opened the shelter up?”

  “It’s just something I always wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t going into the family business and I had all this money just sitting around, so it seemed like the right way to spend my time and money. ”

  “So you run it pretty much by yourself?”

  “Yeah… I mean, I get a few volunteers each week that will come in for a few hours here or there. Mostly high school students that want to get some community service on their record, so it will look good on their college apps. I have a regular volunteer, Bobby Jenkins, who works on Saturday for me so I can have some personal time, but past that… I’m pretty much here from sunup to sundown, six days a week. ”

  “You should hire someone,” he says. “That’s a lot of work for one person. ”

  “Nah,” I say as I glance at him with a quick smile. “I love doing this stuff. It’s not a hardship. ”

  He just stares at me, and I can’t hold the look long because I have to put my eyes back to road, but he’s clearly confused. Why, I have no clue. But he doesn’t get me, that’s for sure.

  When I pull into Hunter’s driveway, I grab my purse from the floor and pull out forty dollars. Handing it to him, I say, “Here… for helping me today. I really appreciate it, and you saved my butt. ”

  Brody stares down at the money for a moment and when his eyes come back up to mine, they’re hard. “Keep it. ”

  “No, seriously… I want to pay you for your time. You didn’t have to do that, and you really were a lifesaver. I know you had better things to do today and… I know I’m not your favorite person to be around…”

  My voice trails off because that was far more than I should have said, and why I even mentioned his antipathy toward me, I have no clue. His eyes pin me in place… hard, unyielding, and angry. Lips flattening out in a grim line, he growls, “I don’t want your f**king money. ”

  I open my mouth to argue yet again, because I don’t like him doing a favor for me. He’s been an ass to me repetitively, and I prefer him to stay in that category. Brody being nice just seems weird at this point.

  But before I can even get a word out, Brody opens the passenger door and hops out, shutting it behind him without a backward glance. I watch him walk up the crushed-shell driveway of Hunter’s house and disappear inside.

  Huh.

  That was just strange, but then again… there’s not much normal about the Brody
Markham that exists in the world today.

  Chapter 5

  Brody

  Alyssa confuses the f**k out of me, and I’m spending far too much time trying to figure her out. I was completely fine with the way things were… believing the worst about her because of her money. I wasn’t feeling the least bit guilty for calling her what I did. Nope, didn’t bother me at all, even after Hunter and Gabby reamed my ass for it.

  Not a f**king shred of remorse, and in fact, when I thought about it, it kind of made me giddy.

  Then she showed up today at Hunter’s house, and now everything is off kilter.

  I’m not stupid. I mean, you can’t be stupid and get into medical school. So my high IQ and equally high common sense has kicked in, and my brain is telling me that I may have gotten her all wrong. I may have let my biases pre-judge her, lumping her into the same category of supreme evil that I put Stacy, all because they have one thing in common. They come from rich, entitled lives.

  But as I watched her today, my prejudice started to falter. She showed up at Hunter’s wearing dirty clothes and no makeup, with sailor quality curses falling from her lips. She didn’t bat her eyelashes or use feminine charms on me to get her way. In fact, she didn’t ask for my help at all. She merely turned her back on me and stomped off to handle her problem all on her own.

  That, in and of itself, caught my interest because, in my experience… those that come from her sort of background don’t do things on their own. They beg, plead, cajole, and simper to get what they want. If that doesn’t work, they buy their way.

  Not Alyssa, though.

  She hauled that fine ass off to her truck in an attempt to tackle her problems on her own.

  And I respected her for it.

  Now, as I sit on the bar stool in the back area of Last Call, I watch her in the mirror that’s mounted behind the bar. Taking a sip of my bottled water, I admire the way she efficiently helps Casey with the decorations, even after Casey growled at her for being fifteen minutes late with the birthday cake. Alyssa just growled back at her, stating she had something important she had to do back at The Haven and apparently, her tone of voice brooked no nonsense because Casey backed right down.

  I’m betting the thing she had to do was swing by and check on Jethro. I may not know Alyssa well, but what I learned today? Yeah, she went back to go see that old dog again.

  And that too makes me reevaluate my prejudice against her. And respect her more.

  “What’s up, bro?” I hear just as Casey bumps her shoulder against mine.

  “Not much,” I say, appraising my sister through the mirror. “Everything all ready for the big surprise?”

  “All ready. Gabby and Hunter should be here soon. He’s going to call just as they’re pulling in. ”

  I nod, my stomach cramping slightly at the thought of this party. I wonder how long I have to stay and make a polite appearance before I can escape to the sanctity of my little apartment. Socializing is not high on my agenda, and although I know Jimbo would like to see me make more of an effort in stepping back out into the world, it just makes me feel uncomfortable… like I’m under a microscope.

  “So, how’s it going, living on your own?” Casey asks as she rests an elbow on the bar and perches a leg on my barstool. Her eyes are bright and hopeful as she struggles to make conversation with her introverted brother. There’s also a hint of fear in her eyes that I will brush her off, like I have so many other times before.

  As I look at this woman, who shares my blood and DNA within her veins, I feel a vice-like sensation in my chest as I realize in a stunning moment of clarity that I wasn’t the only one that suffered when I went away. Poor Casey was just eighteen when her family unit was damaged, and I never thought much about her struggles.

 
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