I thought hearing about my lost red panties in the grocery store was the last of it, but once again, I was wrong. They turned up again shortly after. Malcolm’s friend, Fred, delivered a load of wood to fix the broken fence. Of course, he’d hung something red where the lumber hung out over the edge of hi pickup’s tailgate. And, of course, Malcolm didn’t miss it.
“Nice flag, Fred. Those Melba’s?” Malcolm asked. He pointed at something on the back of the load.
Fred chuckled. “No. Found them down by the creek. My bull was wearing ‘em.”
The granola I’d had for breakfast threatened to recycle itself.
Fred yanked my red panties off the end of a two by six. “Nice, huh? Can’t imagine how they got there. Kids, I guess.”
Malcolm crooked a skeptical brow. He didn’t look at me, thankfully, and I went back to work before they could see I’d turned as red as my panties.
No sooner had I snapped a lead line on Cali to take her out the back door to stretch her legs, than another truck pulled up. Malcolm and Fred were unloading the lumber near the shed on the other side of the barn. A moment later, I recognized JJ’s voice talking to them, laughing. Shit. There was nowhere to go except the riding arena or the field where the manure spreader still sat. Instead, I led her out the front and up the driveway toward the house. There, I stopped and let her pick at grass along the edge of the lawn. I couldn’t see JJ’s truck, so after a while decided it must be safe to go back to the barn.
Wrong. Malcolm and JJ walked out to meet me. Malcolm looked stiff, unhappy. JJ ambled, all loose-limbed confidence. And there was no escape for me. I should have anticipated this.
“I was going to introduce JJ,” Malcolm said, “but it appears you’ve already met.”
Every swear word I knew whipped through my head, but I couldn’t form a coherent thought or statement out of them. I already knew going out with JJ had been a huge mistake, but I hadn’t come close to thinking through the implications.
“Yeah,” I said, and kept Cali walking. Not very intelligent, but all I wanted was to get away, to not get caught in the crossfire between the two men. I’d been right to suspect bad blood between them. The tension in the air might have been sparked by my unwise choice, but it clearly had existed long before I showed up.
JJ rocked back on his heels. “Oh, yeah,” he said as I walked away. “We’ve met. Mac, you want to have some fun, just get a few drinks into this one. She’ll be slicker’n a hound’s tooth in no time.”
“Ain’t that right, Slick?”
I felt my spine straighten and shoulders square as I turned to face him. He lit a cigarette, and I wondered how I’d missed the menace in him before. Noire had known. She came trotting across the cow pasture just then, slathered in creek muck. The moment she became aware of JJ, she stopped, lowered her head, and quit wagging her tail.
Malcolm’s face was unreadable. Pissed probably didn’t cover what he felt. I wasn’t sure whether the low growl I heard came from him or my dog.
Everyone was pretty cranky that day.
Join me tomorrow for Z is for Zigged.
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