This isn’t my first ride around this particular track. I know where it’s headed. Apparently so does JD.
He intercepts Jenny as she stands—always ready to open up a can of whoop-ass in defense of her big sister. “Jenny, hold on!” he pleads. “You get yourself involved all the time—”
“She’s my sister! I’m not gonna sit here while that piece of shit talks to her like she’s trash!”
I brush past them, heading straight to the source.
People say there are two kinds of men. One who would never dream of putting his hands on a woman in anger, and one who deals with his own frustrations and shortcomings by blaming the closest woman to him with his fists. But I disagree. Because a man who would hit a woman is no man at all—just garbage impersonating a human being.
“Hey, ZZ Top!” That gets his attention. “It’s time for you to go.”
Ruby flinches when his hand tightens around her arm. Spit dribbles on his beard as he snarls, “Who the fuck are you?”
I smirk. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“This ain’t your concern—piss off.”
He turns back to Ruby, but I step closer—getting in his face. And my voice is low, lethally calm. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. Because my daughter is here and she’s watching us right now—that makes it very much my concern. So you’re gonna take your hands off her aunt right motherfucking now. Or I am gonna knock your teeth so far down your throat, you’ll be shittin’ molars.”
We stand off for a few seconds, unblinking. And I can see the wheels turning in his ignorant head—debating whether he can take me. Dipshit must have a shred of intelligence after all, because he lets her go, then staggers out of the yard.
“And don’t come back!” Ruby calls after him.
I shake my head. “For Christ’s sake, Ruby.”
She throws up her hands. “I know, I know, if I didn’t have bad luck with men—I’d be a lesbian.”
That makes me chuckle.
She nudges me with her elbow. “Let’s go get a drink.”
I loop my arm around her shoulders, and we do just that.
• • •
When I find Sofia, she’s holding two plates of food—one for herself, one for me—filled with chicken, potato salad, and ribs. “Thanks.”
We grab an empty spot at a picnic table and sit down to eat. “Well, that was interesting,” she says.
“That was nothin’—it’s still midday. The real interestin’ comes out after dark.”
“Everyone turns into sparkly vampires?”
I shake my head. “Rednecks.” I take a bite of rib that melts in my mouth. “So you and Jenny get acquainted?”
“Oh, we did. Comparing notes on your sexual prowess gave us solid common ground. We both gave you two thumbs up, by the way.”
“Just two?” I grin. “I gotta up my game.”
“So how did your chat with JD go? Did you make friends like I suggested?”
I wipe my mouth with a napkin. “I’ll tell you about it later. I was hopin’ to find Jenn, get some time alone with her.”
Sofia pushes her plate back—apparently finished. “Um . . . I think she went in the house.”
Laughter and whoops travel from across the yard, getting our attention. “I take back what I said about after dark,” I tell her. “Real interestin’ is headin’ our way right now.”
And my big brother, Carter, comes strolling up, wearing tight, stonewashed jeans and a white T-shirt with a picture of Bob Marley. A gold chain hugs his neck with a large, strange medallion hanging at the end. Carter is very similar to me in looks, if I was taller, lankier, and had a thick, carefully groomed mustache like a blond Magnum fucking PI.
I stand and accept the strong hug that almost lifts me off the ground. “There’s my little brother!”
Growing up with Carter four years older than me, he was my idol. I wanted nothing more than to follow in his perfect footsteps. He played ball in high school too—still holds the most completed passes record. He got a scholarship to Ole Miss, but dropped out after just one semester. Then he came home . . . different. Born again. But not in the Christian way. Now he’s that guy—the thirty-two-year-old who still goes to all the high school parties. Who gets beer—and other enjoyments—for the local teens. He’s the life of the party, and every one of them worships the ground he walks on.