“Holy hell. I knew Red had issues, but I had no idea that his elevator didn’t quite make it to the top floor.”
Scott held his hand over the phone, keeping us up to date as Danny drove like a bat out of hell for the cabin.
“Why? What is he saying?”
“A lot of shit about saving Grace from our evil influence, apparently,” Scott said.
“Yeah, because we’re the ones drugging her, kidnapping her, and having her guarded by Tinkerbell,” I responded, rolling my eyes over everything Scott had already relayed to me and her father, who’d insisted on coming with us, even though we all knew that the police were already ahead of us and on their way toward Red’s family’s cabin.
Once Scott had gotten Grace on the phone, Danny called the police, but none of us could sit still long enough to let the cops have all the fun. Danny told the cops where Red was holding Grace, and Scott and I started to head that way too, only Danny stopped us.
“I know a short cut, I bet we can get there first. Maybe we can get our hands on Jake before the cops do.”
“Now you’re talking,” I said, grabbing the shotgun, throwing Danny the truck keys and heading out the front door, with both men on my heels.
Danny drove, since he knew the short cut from his vet runs. Scott kept us informed from the open phone connection with Grace, and I made sure we had plenty of shells.
As Scott listened for anything he could hear on Grace’s end, I spoke my mind to her father.
“Danny, I’d like to say my peace, if you’ll listen.”
I half expected him to tell me where I could shove it, but with a heavy sigh and his eyes on the bumpy dirt road in front of him, he nodded.
“We have nothing but respect for you, and your daughter. It wasn’t right, the way you found out about us, but it also doesn’t change anything. Not for us, anyway. We care about Grace. Very much.”
“You hardly know Grace, either of you,” Danny grunted.
Scott spoke up, after making sure his phone was muted.
“We know enough. All new relationships have a beginning. A get-to-know-you period. Ours isn’t any different in that regard.”
Danny wasn’t buying any of it. He shot us both a dark look before turning his attention back to the road.
“Really? That’s what you’re both going with? That this relationship is normal? There are two of you, both after my daughter. Any my understanding is that you aren’t fighting over her, but that you guys plan on having some kind of unholy sister wives thing happening back at the ranch. Only backwards? Brother husbands? How the hell does that even work? You two get your fill of her and drop her like you do all your women? And then what? She’s the abandoned laughing stock of the town?
What if you guys completely surprise me and want to make it permanent? You know that’s illegal, right? Not that it will ever get that far. Look, her being my daughter aside, I can almost see what she’d get out of it. It’s like every male’s fantasy to be between two women. But you two? What do you get out of it? You’re brothers for God’s sake. You two aren’t supposed to be sleeping together in any form or fashion.
Even just trying to wrap my head around this takes me so far down the rabbit hole that I lose it. I’d rather she told me she was gay. At least there is some precedent for that. Rallying cries, parades even. Where are the parades for having two twin brother boyfriends? How do I introduce you in public? Let me introduce you to my daughter, Grace, her boyfriend Scott, and her other boyfriend Adam?”
I had to admit that he had a point. Quite a few of them, to be honest. And when cornered, I felt honor bound to be as open with him as he was being with us.
“Dr. Danny, to be completely honest with you, I have no idea. None. I don’t know how this is supposed to work, because we’ve never been here before ourselves. True, we have occasionally had a one night stand similar to this, but Grace isn’t a one night stand. We care about her, both of us, and just like the beginning of any relationship, we’re feeling our way through it. We’re giving her room, we aren’t pressuring her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and we would be figuring our way through this differently if she hadn’t needed a place to stay. She’s only under our roof because you refused her yours.
It crushed her, to be honest. The last thing she wanted was to lose her father. She was going to go back to her apartment, work, and put off vet school until she figured something out. You raised a great daughter, sir. I only wish that was what you saw when you looked at her, instead of whatever torrid thing it is that you do see.”
Scott spoke up then, asking him, “Did you know that she refused our money?
Adam and I offered to pay for her schooling, since you disowned her. She told us no. She said a father paying for college was one thing, but to have us pay for her school, even though there were no strings attached, was wrong. And to be honest, we’d miss the money a hell of a lot less than you would.
She said she’d rather put school off until she could get more scholarships and more money together, and do it on her own. She said she wanted to work for what she received, and that you instilled that in her.
So we offered her a summer job running and promoting a riding school. Full benefits, salary, room and board. That is why she is still with us. She isn’t kept, sir.”
I added, “When she disappeared, we knew she was in trouble. We called everyone she knew, starting with you.”
“She said she was surprised that you cared. She said she was shocked you even answered our call,” Scott added, half talking to us and half listening for anything he could hear from Grace on the phone.
“I almost didn’t answer. But I’m glad I did. She really said that? That she was surprised I cared what happened to her?”
“Can you really blame her, sir?” I asked.
Danny didn’t answer, not in words. He did sigh, clench his jaw in concentration, and press the gas pedal to the floor, pushing the limits of what the truck could do out on the winding dirt road.
We were all quiet after that, Scott’s voice the only one heard as he occasionally passed on anything he heard from Grace’s end of the phone, none of which sounded promising.
Danny slowed the car down after a particularly hairy turn, and pulled off of the road into a truck size clearing, saying, “His cabin is just passed that next bend. We’d better hurry, I hear sirens.”
As the three of us piled out of the truck I started to hear them, too. We wouldn’t have long before our fun was cut short by cops.
I made sure the shotgun was loaded, yet again, and turned to Danny.
“We’ve got this, maybe you should stay back here. You could buy us some time when the Sherriff shows up, and let him know that we’re here, so he doesn’t shoot us by mistake.”
“And let Grace think that only you young bucks are capable of heroics? I don’t think so.”
With that said, he reached behind his back and pulled out a gun from a concealed holster in his belt.
“You carry concealed?” I asked, shocked. I would have been less shocked if he’d pulled a jackalope out of his pants.
“Well, kind of. It’s a tranquilizer gun, for the animals, but yes. It will take down a bull, so it should be able to handle Jake.”
“Well alright then, what are we waiting for?” Scott asked, urging us on.
I went first, carrying the shotgun, with Scott’s unarmed self following me, and Danny and his tranquilizer bringing up the rear.
We closed in on the cabin. I stood in the tree line as near to the front door as I could get, giving myself plenty of room in case I needed to use the shotgun. Danny went around back, looking fully prepared to take Jake down like a raging bull if he tried to run out the back, and Scott decided on the not so subtle action of strolling right up and knocking on the front door.
He left the tree line and aimed for the porch, but before he got there he was brought up short by the same growing, toothy dog that had thwarted Grace’s escape.
She must have been laying in the shade under Jake’s truck, and either she didn’t hear us until Scott walked by it, or she didn’t care about anything unless it neared the cabin itself. Either way my thought was the same, how the fuck did we forget about Tinkerbell?
Scott took the last twenty feet or so between him and the front door in two giant leaps, and spun around to face the approaching dog, with his back against the outside wall of the cabin.
I stepped forward from the tree line, making sure to stomp loudly and snap twigs under my boots, to pull Tinkerbell’s attention from Scott, even if just for a few seconds.
Scott, his back to the wall and his eyes on the dog, knocked on the door beside him in a loud burst, dragging the dog’s attention back to him.
“Hey Jake! I saw your truck. You up for some drinkin’ and fishin’? Hey, when the fuck did you get a dog?”
After a few seconds, the front door jerked open and Jake’s red face popped out, muttering, “Who the fuck is out here yelling?”
Scott grabbed his shirt front and yanked, then stepped into the space behind him when Jake was forced to step out. He quickly gave Jake a shove off of the porch toward me, and then ducked into the cabin through the open door. He slammed it, and locked himself in with Grace, with a now pissed off Jake locked out, and facing the business end of my shotgun.
“Hi, Red. How the hell are ya?” I asked, pumping the shotgun for effect.
“How the fuck did you two find me?” Jake yelled.
Thankfully the alarm must have been disabled, because the screech is the last thing we needed. But no one had disabled Tinkerbell, so with Scott inside, and her owner yelling at me, she turned toward me with all of her growling teeth.
“Call your dog off, Jake.”
“Why the hell should I? I’d love to see her rip you to shreds.”
“Why should you? Because my shotgun will do way more damage to her then her teeth will do to me.”
The dog closed in, oblivious to our conversation.
I heard the sound, but I didn’t register what made it. And then Tinkerbell took another step toward me, and dropped to the dirt.
“What the fuck? Did you just shoot my dog?”
“No,” I answered.
“I did!” My eyes followed the sound of the voice to the side of the house, where Danny stood, gun drawn, and now aimed at Jake. “And I’ll shoot you, too, if you so much as move.”
Before Jake could move, or even speak, the area was flooded with police cars.
I realized that they must have turned their sirens off once they got close, because I hadn’t heard their approach.
Tires screeched to a stop, and deputies piled out, guns drawn and voices raised.
Shouts of ‘Put the guns down, all of them!’ rang out, and Danny and I both complied.
Eventually, after putting all three of us in cuffs until they could sort it out, Danny’s cuffs and mine were released, as Jake’s, I think, were tightened, before a deputy slid him into the back of one car, amidst his loud protests of, “They killed my dog! They fucking killed my fucking dog!”
“Did you kill his dog? You said that thing could take down a bull.”
“No, she’s just sleeping. I would’ve had to empty the gun into her to be enough to take down a bull. She’s fine. I never know if it’s wild dogs or wild bulls I have to deal with, so they’re loaded for the smaller animals. It would take more shots for the bigger ones.”
As he finished speaking, Grace came running out of the cabin where she and Scott had been speaking with officers, and she launched herself into my arms.
I held her tight, not saying anything, as she did the same with me.
She pulled away for a second, and looked up at me. Her wide eyes were glistening, and I somehow knew she didn’t trust herself to speak without bursting into tears, so I kissed her instead.
For her father’s sake only, I didn’t make a huge show of it, like I really wanted to.
I wanted to kiss her like there was no tomorrow, to wrap her in my arms and hold her tight, keeping her safely by my side forever, but I did the polite thing and broke the kiss way too soon for my own liking, and whispered in her ear instead.
“Your dad’s here. He shot Tinkerbell with a tranquilizer gun. I didn’t even know he had one until we got here. You might want to at least say hi.”
She nodded, pulling back from my embrace and turning to face him.
“Thanks, dad, for coming. I…”
She didn’t get to finish. Danny closed the gap between them as she spoke, and pulled her into a bear hug of his own.
I couldn’t see Grace’s reaction, since I was behind her. But she didn’t try to pull away. I could see Danny’s face though, as he held his daughter tight.
Relief was the biggest emotion I read as he hugged her close, followed right behind by joy.
His eyes met mine after a minute, and I noticed they were glassy with unshed tears. He didn’t look away from me, but held my gaze as he held Grace, and I knew then that things would be alright between them.
Stay tuned, Chapter 18 will be posted tomorrow
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