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Split(9)

By:J. B. Salsbury



His glare tightens, making his pale blue eyes even more daunting. “Then what?”

“Try to get back into broadcasting, I guess. If I can find someone who’ll hire me.”

He scratches his jaw and the corner of his lip curls into a half-smile. “Who’d you piss off, Shy?”

Only my dad would find my highly sensitive temper funny. “Everyone, basically.”

“Shit, can’t say I’m surprised.” He dips his chin and rubs the back of his neck, but I can see the curl of his lips is still there.

“Gee. Thanks, Dad.” Salt in the wound, the old Jennings way. Man up or shut up.

A small chuckle rumbles in his chest before he pulls it together and pierces me with a glare. “What the hell are you wearin’?”

I peek down at my khaki capris complete with cuffs that hit me midcalf and the mint-green polo shirt that makes me hungry for butter mints. “Only thing I got.”

“Haven’t touched your room since you left. All your clothes are still there.” He motions to my feet. “Don’t wanna get your purdy shoes dirty slummin’ out here with the rednecks.”

Back for all of three minutes and he’s already picking a fight. I hold on to the growl and string of powerful words that itch for release and submit with a nod.

“The house is unlocked. Supper’s at seven.” He pushes off the truck and moves past me.

That was fairly painless. No dragging me back through the night I left for college, reminding me of all the shitty and unforgiveable things I said, no throwing in my face all the promises I’d made to cut him out of my life completely. Nothing.

“That’s it?”

He stops and peers over his shoulder. “You’re my daughter, aren’t you?”

I don’t answer since I obviously am.

“What kind of man turns away his daughter?”

My eyes flood with heat and if I were the crying type I’d probably shed a tear. But I’m not.

“Besides . . . knew you’d be back,” he mumbles as he moves to the door.

My spine snaps straight and an uncontrollable, and rather pathetic, growl gargles in my throat. My dad’s answering chuckle works to further infuriate me.

“G’on now. Go unload. We’ll talk more tonight.” The door to his office slams behind him and I stomp my foot so hard pain shoots up my leg.

Arrogant, hardheaded, bossy . . . ugh!

I march back to my car, but rather than follow Dad’s orders, I drive around for another hour exercising my free will. Yeah, it’s a waste of gas. It’s also irresponsible because I have no money, but I do it all smiling.

Everyone else in this town might bend to the will of Nash Jennings. Not me.





THREE



LUCAS


I run my fingertips along the grain of the near hundred-year-old wood. The rich, dark patina speaks of seasons upon seasons of life. Snow, rain, and sun have all contributed to the dense color that will soon lend its personality to a modern home.

This old pine was probably harvested from the acres of wooded land surrounding this homestead. On three acres there are five different structures: the main house, which is gone except for the old stone fireplace, stands like a tombstone and four small structures probably housed the Wilson’s adult children.

Cody presses both hands against the exterior wall of one of the smaller cabins and it creaks, then sways. “Shouldn’t be too hard to knock down.”

I nod and slide my gloved hand over the wood and rusted nails. “Shame to take it, though.”

“Banks just gonna sell this land. We’re doin’ them a favor.” He runs the back of his hand across his forehead, pushing his sweat-soaked black hair off his face. “If we don’t take it, it’ll end up in some junkyard. ’Least we take it we reuse it.”

I shrug and wedge the flat end of a crowbar between two pieces of wood. The wood slats have aged dark, but it’s the posts behind them I’m interested in. Leveraging with my weight, the old nails give way easily and I start a pile of salvageable wood. Cody does the same, throwing out pieces that are fragile and cracked. We fall into silence working side by side until our shirts are wet and our forearms and necks are pink and sting from the sun.

Once there’s nothing left to the structure, I motion to a small pile of rocks that is all that’s left of the cabin. “Not much more we can get out of this one.”

“Thank fuck. It’s hot as hell out here.” He tosses his crowbar and I load the first of a healthy pile of salvage wood into the back of the pickup. “Watch your back.” His eyes grow wide in mock fear. “Old Man Wilson might be lurking.”

I strong-arm a large pile of wood into the truck carefully to avoid splinters the size of pencils. “I thought you said the bank owned it?”

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