Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(8)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(8)
Author: Kristen Ashley

I turned down the street and my mind left these thoughts as I saw the lights on and the black pickup in the drive at Joe’s house.

“Great,” I muttered under my breath.

It bothered me that he was home, why, I couldn’t imagine. He’d be gone tomorrow and I didn’t care about him anyway. I doubted he’d come over and ask me to have a drink with him at J&J’s or that I’d even see him at all. And there was no snow to shovel, making me think he might be a decent guy even though I knew he was not. And I knew he shoveled my snow, I knew this because I asked Colt if he’d done it and he’d said no and I’d asked Jeremy if he’d done it and he’d said no and since my other close neighbors were either too old (Myrtle, the widow who lived across from Joe and Pearl, the spinster who lived across from me) or bitches (Tina, who lived next to me on the other side), it had to be Joe.

But him being home, seeing his truck in his drive, for whatever reason bothered me, I couldn’t deny it.

I turned into my drive and parked under the awning. The days were staying lighter longer but night was edging in, it was getting late. Bobbie had asked me to do a bit of overtime and I did it. I needed the money for one, for another, why not? There was no reason to go home when Kate and Keira were both out.

I grabbed my purse, exited the Mustang and I stopped when I heard a woman’s laughter. I looked right to see Joe in his black leather jacket and jeans, sauntering to his truck. Behind him was a woman in a skintight, black mini-skirt and a jeans jacket. She had loads of long, wavy blonde hair and she was petite but wearing a pair of high-heeled, black boots. She was trotting after him on a half-run with such grace it was like she’d been born in high-heeled, black boots. She was still laughing and I stood in my open door, one arm on the hood of my Mustang, watching as she caught his hand and skidded on her heels, pulling his hand to her. He turned, she tipped her head back and she must have said something, something I didn’t hear, something she thought was funny for she laughed again.

But I could swear, even with the distance, I saw the white flash of Joe’s grin. I didn’t know him very well but, if asked, I would have said it wasn’t physically possible for Joe to grin.

Then he folded her in his arms, enveloping her with his large body and his head came down, hers tilted back and they started making out.

A sharp pain gripped my heart.

It hurt to watch. It hurt a lot and yet I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

There was something about his big body in his dark clothes, his powerful arms around her, holding her close to his long frame, enfolding her in a way that was about sex (or leading up to it, probably) but looked like more. Maybe safety, protection, his dark head bent to her blonde one, all of this, for some reason, cutting me clean to the bone.

I wanted that for me. I missed that, God, did I miss it and I wanted it back and it felt, in that moment, I’d never have it again.

And that f**king hurt.

I tore my eyes away and as silently as I could so Joe wouldn’t hear, I closed the door to my car and walked to the side kitchen door. I was about to insert my key when the door was thrown open from the inside, the light switched on, Keira and Kate stood in the frame and they shouted, “Surprise!” at the same time I felt a strong arm curl around my belly from behind. I was lifted clean off my feet and whirled in the air.

I screamed, loud and piercing, my knees going up, my fingers curling around the arm at my waist as I was whirled yet again by whoever had me. Kate and Keira ran out of the house and jumped around us in dual teenage girl excited tizzies as we twirled.

We stopped moving and my feet were planted on the ground when I heard my brother Sam say softly in my ear. “How’s my big sister?”

When I heard his voice, I screamed again, this time loud and joyous, turning in his arm and throwing my arms around his neck. I held on, kissing his cheek, his jaw, his neck, jumping up and down while I did this as Kate and Keira, their arms around both of us, jumped up and down too, also screaming loud, ear-splitting, teenage girl squeals of delight.

Sam stopped hugging me so he could wrap all of us in his arms and his head tipped back so he could shout, “These are my girls!”

I looked up at my brother, his beautiful face; his warm, brown eyes; his light brown hair (that needed a cut, I noted) and my hands slid from his neck to wrap around his waist, I planted my face in his chest and held on tight.

“Most beautiful girls in the world!” Sam kept shouting. “That’s right! Drink it in! Sheer gorgeousness!”

I tilted my head back because he seemed to be talking to someone instead of shouting at no one and I saw his head turned to the left, toward Joe’s house.

My head turned that way too.

Joe and his woman, not locked in a make out session but instead simply standing close to each other, were looking our way.

“No female on earth prettier than this pack!” Sam declared. “You hear what I’m sayin’?”

I looked toward Sam. “Honey –”

He ignored me, still addressing Joe and his companion who were still watching Sam’s show. She was smiling, I could tell. Joe was not.

“You’re fine, must admit,” Sam tipped his head to Joe’s female friend, “but nothin’s finer than my girls!”

Keira giggled. Kate got up on her toes to kiss his cheek. I started pressing my huddle toward the kitchen door. My brother Sam was also tall and he was no slouch, he could probably hold his own with, say, Morrie, Feb’s brother. I doubted he could last a round with Security to the Stars and he might buy a round if he talked about Joe’s woman like that.

“Let’s go inside,” I coaxed.

Sam wasn’t done with Joe and his friend though. I knew this because he felt the need to announce to them, “Havin’ dinner with my family. All f**kin’ right!”

“Sam!” I snapped, finally forgetting Joe and his partner. “Hello? The f-bomb is off-limits around teenage girls.”

“Mom!” Keira cried. “They say it at school all the time.”

“Maybe so but they don’t say it in my driveway or,” I looked at Sam, “in my house.”

“Relax, shit,” Sam smiled, dropping his arms but turning and throwing one around my shoulders as he used his other hand to guide both Kate and Keira into the house in front of us like he herded teenage females for a living.

“Shit’s off-limits too,” I told Sam and he looked over his shoulder toward Joe’s house.

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