All jacked up, p.9
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       All Jacked Up, p.9

         Part #8 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
 
Page 9

 

  “Where do you need to go today?”

  Nowhere, but she wasn’t about to admit that to him. “I have a life, Jack. I have a job. I need a car.

  And no, I’m not asking anyone to ferry me around town when there’s a perfectly good car sitting in the parking lot. Besides, people would gossip that my fiancé doesn’t trust me to touch his precious Beemer. ”

  Jack loomed over her. “I don’t trust you. Do you have any idea how much I paid for that car?”

  “Way, way too much?” she asked sweetly.

  He growled.

  “Who cares? It’s just a car. ”

  “Just a car? It’s a feat of German engineering—”

  “Some feat! It doesn’t have a trunk big enough to hold more than a French press coffeepot made in China and a bag of Guatemalan coffee beans. ” When he snarled, she jabbed him in the chest with her index finger. “Here’s the deal. The only way I’ll let you borrow my truck to pick up that all important big-screen TV is if you let me drive your car. ”

  Jack paced to the living room. Muttered to himself and stalked back to her. “Fine. But if anything happens, and I mean a single rock chip or an itty bitty scratch, I will take it out of your hide, understand?”

  “Completely. I’ll treat it like it’s my own. ”

  And that’s probably why Keely got a speeding ticket not two hours later.

  But it’d been so damn tempting. A V-12 with 360 horses under the hood? And a long stretch of empty black road in front of her? Sheer heaven.

  She’d neglected to mention her love of fast cars to her intended. Trading in her old Corvette, after the years she’d spent zipping through traffic in Denver and opening the throttle on the deserted highways of the west, had broken her heart. But when Keely moved back home for good, she knew Wyoming weather could change in a heartbeat. Making the long, lonely drive between Sundance and Cheyenne in the winter months was dangerous and necessitated a four-wheel drive truck.

  So if Keely stumbled on the chance to rod the piss out of a car meant to be driven hard and fast and loose, she did so without an ounce of guilt.

  Just her bad luck she’d blazed past a Crook County Sheriff’s car as she’d hit the one hundred thirty miles per hour mark. When the flashing lights finally caught up with her, she hoped Sheriff Shortbull was behind the wheel. He’d let her off with a warning. He always did. She manufactured a charming but contrite smile.

  Keely watched in the rearview mirror as the driver’s side door of the cop car opened. Her smile dried up. Her stomach dipped. The unmistakable hulking form of her brother Cam started toward her.

  Shit.

  She reluctantly rolled down her window. “I can explain—”

  “License and registration. ”

  “Cam. Seriously. Just listen for a sec. ”

  He stuck his head inside the car. “Not. Another. Word. License and registration. ”

  Keely popped the glove box and found the vehicle registration right where it was supposed to be. She passed it and her license through the window, waiting while Cam did his cop thing. “Exit the vehicle and come with me. ”

  Keely trudged to the passenger side of the cop car and climbed in.

  “Did Jack really let you drive his car? Or did you steal it when he wasn’t looking?”

  “He let me have it. We traded. He needed my truck. ”

  “Does he know you drive like an idiot?”

  She glared at him.

  “And what is this bullshit about you and Jack Donohue getting married anyhow?”

  Big brother number four didn’t beat around the bush. She allowed him time to recant his jerky statement. When he didn’t, she offered him a haughty, “It’s not bullshit. ”

  Cam ripped his sunglasses off. His eyes snapped fire. “Yes, it is. I know you. I’ve seen the venom in your eyes when you look at him, so don’t give me that ‘I’m madly in love with him’ crap. Come clean. Right now. ”

  The truth was, Cam did know her to the bone and she had one chance to deflect the conversation.

  “Okay, smarty, if you know me so well, then what have I been working on for the last four months?”

  He squinted at her with his I can toss your smart ass in jail stare.

  Keely didn’t back down. “You don’t have a clue, do you?”

  “Well, sweetheart, whatever you’ve secretly been working on, you’ve done a damn good job of hiding it, not only from me, but from the family. And I would know all about hiding stuff, wouldn’t I? So who better than me to ferret out the truth?”

  “But—”

  “Uh-uh. I ain’t done. What I do know, little sis, is Jack Donohue did something to you at Colt and India’s wedding reception that made you cry. I’ve never pushed the issue, even when I wanted to castrate the son of a bitch for hurting you. And if I thought he’d physically injured you? I would’ve killed him on the spot. Period. ”

  Yikes.

  “So tell me the truth. ”

  She hated to lie to her brother. Cam considered lying the ultimate sin, the biggest betrayal, but she did it anyway. “Yes, I hated Jack. No doubt we’ve had a rocky past. The reason I haven’t told you what went down between us that night is because it’s between me and Jack. You also know me well enough that if he would’ve hurt me, I would’ve sliced off his dick before you’d gotten the chance. That said, I’ve changed.

  Jack has changed. When I needed his help, he really came through for me. ”

  The squinty-eyed stare he’d inherited from Dad appeared again. “Help with what?”

  “The building I bought in Moorcroft. ”

  “What building? Jesus, Keely, why haven’t I heard about this before now?”

  “Because it’s none of your business. ” For the one-trillionth time, Keely explained. Cam wasn’t any happier with the explanation than anyone else had been.

  “We—me, Cord, Colby, Colt, Carter, Kade, Buck, Quinn and Ben—would’ve helped you check it out. We’re family. You should’ve come to us first. ”

  “Far as I can tell, none of you are licensed with the Wyoming Historical Society to facilitate the approval of my remodeling plans. Jack is. So all you, Cord, Colby, Colt, Carter, Kade, Buck, Quinn, and Ben could’ve done is tell me the building needs a shitload of work, which I already knew. To be fair, I did talk to Chet and Remy, so I rounded up all the expert help I needed on the construction front. What I need from you right now is your support in other ways. ”

  “Such as?”

  “Don’t give me grief about my engagement to Jack. He’s my…choice. ”

  “Fine. I’ll drop it for now. But I’m still writing you a ticket for reckless driving. ”

  Keely would gladly take the two hundred dollar fine instead of subjecting herself to Cam’s continued scrutiny. She smiled. “Where do I sign?”

  Jack pulled up behind his BMW in the parking lot of the Brewster Building and did a visual sweep for damages. Lucky for that mouthy cowgirl, everything looked fine.

  He re-secured the tie-downs over the boxes in the back of the truck and grabbed his clipboard before heading up the steps.

  Inside, he let the ambience of the past and the promise of the future wash over him. Sometimes when he stood in an old building, he swore the energy of previous inhabitants surrounded him. Guiding him to consider the past. This project was no different, despite the bizarre circumstances.

  Jack glanced at the painted tin ceiling. Made notes. He checked the buckled walls. Every inch of the lathe and plaster had to come out. Ripping out the plumbing upstairs would fix the water damage problems.

  He wandered, half-listening to the banging and clanking of tools.

  A long staircase spiraled up the right side, ending in a balcony. The curved banister was in decent shape, although the wooden balustrades were missing. He’d need a specific solution for those repairs on the remodel plans. Since the staircase was the arc
hitectural focal point of the room, it needed to retain as much of the original design as possible.

  He’d scrawled another question about replacing the individual glass windows fronting the offices on the balcony, when Keely barreled around the corner, carrying a rotting chunk of plasterboard. She heaved it out the side door with a grunt. “Gross-ass shit. ”

  “What was it?”

  She gasped and whirled around. “Whoa. I didn’t know you were here. ”

  “I guessed that. What were you tossing out?”

  “Somebody put a moldy chunk of Sheetrock in front of the old boiler access and it sealed shut, probably with the help of a gallon of mouse piss. ” She shuddered. “Nasty, smelly mess. ”

  “Are Chet and Remy around?”

  “Yeah. ” Keely whistled shrilly. “Guys! Jack is here. ”

  Jack winced. “A warning about your deafening whistle might be in order next time. ”

  “Where would be the fun in that?”

  Two guys bounded down the stairs. Both mid-thirties. The tall, stocky man had curly light brown hair and dark eyes. The shorter, stockier man had curly dark brown hair and light eyes. Jack vaguely remembered meeting them at Carter’s wedding. He thrust out his hand. “Jack Donohue. Full Circle Consulting. ”

  The taller guy spoke first. “Chet West. West Construction. ”

  The shorter guy inserted himself between them. “Remy West, also of West Construction. Cousin Keely here told us you own the Sandstone Building. Is that true?”

  Jack nodded. “You guys did a great job on that remodel. ”

  “Like we had a choice,” Chet said. “Now I know why you were such a hardass on approving the plans. Architects as owners are construction guys’ worst nightmare. ”

  “And yet you’re back for more. ”

  Remy smiled. “We ain’t dumb. You may be a pain in the butt, but you paid top dollar and gave us a good recommendation. ”

  “How come I didn’t know that?” Keely demanded of her cousins.
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