Hi everyone! This is the first QUICKIE that will be done in a few parts. No, it won't be longer than three posts. Yes, I know this is longer than fifteen pages. So with that in mind, I have dubbed this QUICKIE a QUICKISH. Bwahaha. Whatever, I hope you all like it because writing this has become very close to my heart and I really felt every word. That's an enjoyable writing experience to me and I hope you have a great time reading. Thanks so much!
XOXO NIGHTTEMPEST <3
On My Mind Part 1
Jamie sat across from his boss with a practiced face. Not able to give any emotion away in this business, he kept his hands folded in his lap and his leg crossed over the other with a relaxed smile. Even though Jamie knew the words that were coming out of his boss’s mouth next were anything but relaxing.
“Shermin Heights, Kentucky,” Jerry laced his fingers together and put them on his desk. That damn piece of furniture was five times the smug bastard’s size and Jamie hoped they buried it on top of the old crab ass one day.
“I thought the city was taking care of that. Didn’t you make the offer to them before Christmas?” His nostrils flared but Jamie kept his composure. Don’t you dare ask me, Jerry. I swear to God, I will haunt you one day, Jamie swore to himself.
“Yes and they said they’d handle it but it seems they can’t. That old as shit mayor doesn’t have the balls qualified to get the job done it seems. He’s gone through five appointed representatives but that damned fool Pierson won’t sell.” Jerry unfolded his hands and laid them on the desk. “I’m done wasting time and money because this guy has some moral code and family ethic. Everyone has their price. Get your ass down there and find out what Noah Pierson’s is. You leave tonight.”
Jamie couldn’t help but wonder what the hell kind of guy refused millions of dollars for a few acres of overgrown brush. Looks he was the lucky jack ass who got to find out. Oh you just wait, Jamie thought with an award winning smile, I’m gonna get you back for this Jerry.
“Phew. It’s hot as hell fire in here Noah. Ain’t you got a fan or something lyin around all this junk?” Noah’s younger brother Mason started rummaging over a heap of random clutter covering a metal table in the barn. A stack of old license plates fell onto the ground and he grinned up at Noah with his good old Pierson charm as he bent to collect them.
“What I ain’t got is patience to be cleaning up after your sorry ass. I got enough to clear up around here without you making this dang on mess multiply. Pick those up.” Noah shook his head and turned back to the collection of rusted tools and chains that his daddy had left behind. None of this crap is worth anything, Noah sighed. But he didn’t really care about any money anyhow. He held up an old wind chime made out of mismatched spoons and smiled.
“You think daddy was crazy with all this crap? Making wind chimes and rusty butterflies for them old blue hairs at church? Sure seems crazy to me.” Mason flicked a dangling spoon and shook his head at the tinkle of clanging silverware. “You regret not sending him to that place in Frankfort? Maybe he could have…”
Noah grabbed his brother’s shoulder and looked into Mason’s big blue eyes. “He didn’t want to go no home with those dyin buzzards. He was happy here Mase and you got that to get you through. And…” Noah grinned. “Daddy was the least crazy person in Shermin Heights. Wind chimes and butterflies don’t hold a candle to Mrs. Hubbard and her monthly rain dance in the middle of town.”
Mason snorted and grinned up at his big brother. “Or Mr. Jones and how he thinks Jesus is actually that stray tabby that lives under Henrie’s porch.” Both men roared with laughter and Noah dropped the wind chime on the table to clap Mason on the back.
“The feline messiah!” Mason gasped and tears ran down his cheeks. “All hail the chosen one.”
“Oh my Lord, stop it!” Noah wiped his eyes and stretched his arms out above him. His laughter died off and he slung an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “Daddy wasn’t crazy, Mase. He just saw things a little different is all…and frankly? I liked his view just fine.”
Mason eyed the old wind chime and picked it up. He held it up by the hook and looked at his big brother. “Yeah, me too.”
Jamie Ford watched field after field sweep by from his taxi’s back seat window. His reflection glinted in the fading sun and pressed a hand to the glass to lean closer to the outside. Even for as bumpkin as Shermin Heights was, he had to admit the scenery was like something he would download for a desktop. Pretty as a picture, the silhouette of a water tower sat off in the distance and a farmer waved from the top of his passing tractor rig. It was like Jamie had stepped off the plane and landed right in Mayberry.
“You can open the window if you want. Ain’t got one of them buttons but it rolls down all the same.” The elderly driver up front nodded into the rearview mirror and Jamie sighed.
“No thank you. How much farther? I need to make a call.”
“Oh this here road leads straight into town. About five minutes I’d say. If you have one of them mobile devices, can’t you call here? Ain’t that what they’re for?”
“It’s a business call.” Jamie rolled his eyes at the window and started to plot another way to torture Jerry when he got back.
“A call is a call, boy. Unless…are you callin one of them phone sex girls?” The driver slapped the steering wheel and laughed with the uneven sound of a donkey.
“I beg your pardon?” Jamie scoffed. “Why don’t you just drive like I’m paying you to and you can keep the comments to yourself.”
“City slicker…” the old man muttered and Jamie jerked his head to the driver’s seat.
“What did you say to me?”
“Oh nothin.” The driver smiled big. “Had a bug in my throat is all.”
“I’m sure.” Sitting back in his seat, Jamie endured the next five minutes of hell and a quick story about the driver—who went by Buzz—and how he ate an entire meatloaf to himself last night when his wife was at her quilting circle. It was captivating…not, Jamie groaned and cursed the day he ever signed on at Budgette and Dalley Oil Works.
“Here we are,” Buzz pulled into a semi-circle gravel drive and Jamie’s eyes felt heavy from just looking at the lavish white bed and breakfast. Merna Collins stepped out front and leaned against a pillar of her front porch. Wrapping her shawl around her shoulders to chase away the cooler evening air, she checked out the young man she would be housing. City boy, she smiled and took a few steps down from the porch and sank her sandals into the gravel. If she was twenty years younger, Merna mused, she would be all over those dark eyes and her fingers would be all up in that slicked up blonde hair.
“Miss Merna. Evenin,” Buzz greeted her and she gave the old fool a kiss on the cheek.
“Well honey, you gonna get out of the car or you gonna make Buzz stand out here all night? I’m sure his wife won’t be happy about that and she’s a whip cracker. I wouldn’t want her after me.” Merna laughed and Jamie looked between the two country mice.
“Yeah, just let me get my stuff. Seeing as how Buzz here isn’t going to,” Jamie countered with a sarcastic grin.
“Oo Buzz, did you hear that mouth? Talking to an old man like that?” Merna shook her head with a secret smile at Buzz. “Step back honey before the lightning strikes and we’re too close to him.”
Jamie peered around the open trunk and his brows furrowed. “What is that, some kind of voodoo curse? Did you just hex me or something?” Oh hell no, he had to get out of here. He’d call another cab and get a taxi to the nearest city and rent a car tomorrow. Jamie was done with this hickerbilly nonsense. A loud laugh followed by a chorus of chatter and giggles came from across the street. Jamie’s held his breath as a group of men clattered loudly down the stairs of the local bar. Of the four men, one stood out the most and like he knew he was being watched, the tall, muscled male looked up—right at Jamie.
Jeans that were poured on, a soft looking button up and a mess of dark brown hair had Jamie spelled and he couldn’t bring himself to look away. But fate wasn’t in the mood for matchmaking today and the hot ass country boy shook his head and got into his big boy Ford with a slam of the door. The other three clamored into the truck bed with a bunch of rowdy noise and swear words. Once every one seemed settled, country boy put his wheels into reverse and rolled down the window in front of the bed and breakfast. Slowly he put his arm out the window and with his hand, he flicked Jamie off.
The truck bed choir howled with laughter and the hottie roared off down the road—leaving Jamie stunned. What the hell just happened, Jamie’s eye went wide as he turned around to Merna and Buzz.
Merna giggled. “Honey, you didn’t honestly think you were some kind of secret did you?” She looked at Buzz who quirked his lip to keep from laughing. “He thought he was being sneaky riding into town all late and what not.”
“What are you talking about?” Jamie slammed the trunk shut and tried with frustration to pull his rolling suitcase through the god awful gravel.
“She’s talking about you city slicker. Only one reason they come a knockin around here. You’re here about the Pierson land ain’t ya?” Buzz stretched his neck with a squint of his eyes.
“That is none of your business. Besides, even if I was, that asshole had no right to go and flick me off.” Jamie huffed and gave up on trying to roll his case up the walk.
“Oh honey. He had every right.” Merna howled with laughter.
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?” Jamie rolled his eyes and parked his case on the porch.
“Because you silly city boy. That was Noah Pierson.”
Granny Ella Mae sat in the porch rocker as Noah and Mason carried a heavy chest to the truck bed. Dropping the couple hundred pounds of knick knacks safely onto the bed, Noah bent over to catch his breath and Mason wiped his forehead.
“You sure you don’t want anything out of here Granny?” Mason called to the tiny bird in the floral pants suit.
“A peanut butter sandwich sounds fine baby,” she replied a little too loudly and started humming as she rocked.
“Ah hell. Granny, I said…”Noah shook his head and Mason waved a hand at her. “We’re in real trouble when her sight goes.”
“She’s got a cane, she’ll get around. Always has and always will. Now go get her a peanut butter sandwich.” Noah laughed and Mason grinned.
“You want one? We been at this all morning. Let’s take a break for a bit, this sun is hitting me hard and I want a cold one.”
“Oh alright, I guess you convinced me,” Noah said and pulled off his ball cap to wipe the sweat from his brow. “A beer does sound good.” For the last five hours, they had been clearing out their daddy’s old workshop barn of all the junk. It was hard work and not just the physical part but the emotional side of the task too. They were cleaning and tossing Norman Pierson’s prized possessions. Even if his treasures had included pounds of glass marbles and rusty tin cans—they meant something to the man that had slowly lost his memory and his life. Norman Pierson, the father, the son, the husband, had fallen victim to early onset Alzheimer’s.
In the last few years, Noah’s daddy had become fascinated with junkyard art and it seemed to be therapeutic for him, so the family had allowed him to immerse himself in his creative process. Latching the gate on the back of the truck, Noah looked around at their yard and sighed. His daddy’s passion remained ever present in the form of iron work butterflies with copper welding and beautiful hand blown glass tied in. Birds made from old rail road stakes were nailed up the old Sycamore tree out front like they were playing tag around the trunk and a bird bath made of broken plates and mirrors sat underneath the full leaves of the tree’s shade. His daddy hadn’t been crazy, he’d just put all the love he’d had for his family into his art because he didn’t know how to tell them anymore.
Peeking around the side of the house, Noah watched his still grieving mama. The poor woman had lived for those few minutes when Norman would remember her and now that he was gone, she was still as strong as ever but more than a little broken. Norman Pierson had been her high school sweetheart, the father of her children, the man that she had loved and now he was gone to her. Dee Pierson adjusted her wide brimmed hat and looked up at her son as her knees dug into the dirt.
“Hi baby.” She smiled and stuck her small shovel into the earth. Standing, she brushed the dirt off her knees and went to Noah. “How’s the barn coming along?”
“It’s going just fine mama. You want some lunch?” Noah wrapped his arm around his mama and led her to the porch. “Granny wants peanut butter sandwiches.”
“Again?” Dee smiled and put her arm around Noah’s back.
Granny Ella Mae rocked back and forth, turning her head to her daughter and grandson. “When is the spaghetti gonna be ready? I’m starving over here!” The old woman cupped her ear and shouted. Dee turned to Noah and for the first time all week, she laughed until she cried.
“Peanut butter sandwiches granny. That’s what for lunch,” Noah replied and crouched in front of his four foot nothin grandmother.
“Now why in the Sam hell are you putting peanut butter in my spaghetti?” She fiddled with her hearing aid and leaned forward confused.
“Oh gran, let’s get you inside. I think you might have had too much sun.” Noah smiled and held out both hands to Ella Mae. The tiny woman struggled to a standing position before she was handed off to Dee. Before they made it to the door, the sound of a car pulling up the drive had them all turning around. The mayor’s powder blue Bonneville parked at the end of the drive and he got out with a completely Henrie kind of smile.
“Mama, take granny inside while I deal with this,” Noah instructed and adjusted his ball cap.
“Baby, it’s just Henrie. You know he’s just playing along with those fat cats from up north. Why you getting all worked up?” Dee rubbed Ella Mae’s back as the tiny woman tried to peer around her grandson to get a good look.
“Because he ain’t alone this time,” Noah snorted and pointed to the back seat. A tall blonde got out and adjusted his tie—closing the door behind him. If the man didn’t represent the devil, Noah would have been all over him. Nice strong shoulders under that god awful suit and legs that were just right for vigorous exercise. A crop of dark blond hair glinted in the high sun and dark eyes like that of a hawk narrowed at Noah as Mr. Attitude skipped the gravel walk and took the grass route. Noah couldn’t decide if he hated the Yankee or wanted to bang him. Hate was probably higher ranking at the moment.
“Mama I said I got this.” Noah whispered over his shoulder.
Granny Ella Mae waved with a smile to Mayor Henrie who tipped his white hat with a smile of his own. “Afternoon Henrie,” she cooed and Dee rolled her eyes.
“Afternoon Miss Ella Mae.” Henrie took off his hat this time and put it to his chest—his white hair a little too long at his collar.
“Oh my,” Ella Mae blushed as she was pushed into the house by Dee, who gave a shake of her head and a pat to Noah’s shoulder. She shut the screen door behind her as the Yankee approached the porch.
“Noah.” Henrie stuck his hand out and Noah shook it.
“What brings you out this way Henrie? Oh wait, let me guess. You playin taxi to Mr. City Slicker here too? Showin him the sights and all that?” Noah snorted and crossed his arms to lean against the house.
“Now Noah, I figured Mr. Ford deserved to be heard, seeing as he came all the way down here and what not. Nobody is twisting your arm. Isn’t that right Mr. Ford?” Henrie winked at Noah before he turned to Jamie who seemed to come back to earth and closed his mouth. “I said ain’t that right Mr. Ford?”
“Uh, yes. Yes, sir that’s right.”
“At least you got manners. Shame though that the devil had to go and ruin the Ford name. Looks like I’ll have to switch to Chevy.” Noah huffed and walked past the two men and down the stairs to the pile of bags behind his truck. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told all the rest of them ‘representatives’. I ain’t selling my daddy’s land, no ya’ll can’t test any more soil or drill holes without my permission now that the deed is in my name, and it’s probably best that you pack up your stuff and get on out of here. I ain’t got nothin else to say on the matter and that’s that.”
“Hold on just a damn minute. I haven’t even said anything yet. How do you know who I am or what I want?” Jamie countered.
“Anyone that wears a three piece suit in ninety two degree weather is either a preacher or a greedy corporate son of a bitch. And you ain’t no preacher.” Noah barked a laugh.
“I heard you were stubborn but they didn’t mention you were the world’s biggest asshole. Any hick that passes up twenty million dollars for a few acres to drill on is a dumb ass. Plain and simple,” Jamie sneered and crossed his arms.
“Boy you did not just call me an asshole, a hick, and a dumb ass in one breath. You get off my land or I’m gonna go get my shot gun and give you a few rounds of buck shot up that corporate ass of yours. Did you understand that or do I need to speak hick slower for ya?” Noah growled and leaned forward.
The screen door slammed open and Mason took the stairs in one leap. “What the hell is going on?”
“Mr. Ford was just leavin.” Noah sneered.
“Ah Henrie, you know how he gets when you bring them people around.” Mason sighed.
“Couldn’t be helped Mase. Just doing my job but Noah has every right to say no. So now we’re leavin. Jamie come on son. Let’s get some lunch at Merna’s and then we’ll see about getting you on a plane back to Illinois.” Henri fanned his face with his hat and smiled sweetly at Jamie.
“Oh we can go to Merna’s but it will be to book a room permanently. I’m not going anywhere Noah Pierson.” Jamie marched up to Noah until they were face to face. “Not until you see things my way.”
“Then you better just go ahead and pay off Merna’s mortgage because I’ll see your way when hell freezes over Jamie Ford.” Jamie could smell the mint from Noah’s breath and it only angered him more that Noah had breath that could lure in the devil himself and looks that would make any man weak. Blue eyes narrowed at him and Jamie forgot where he was. “Something wrong Ford?” The side of Noah’s mouth curled in an evil grin.
“What? No. This ain’t over Pierson,” Jamie said and backed up before he got lost in Noah again.
“Well hell’s bells, I do believe Ford here just spoke hick.” Noah laughed and leaned against his truck. “Ain’t ain’t a word because the Yanks say it isn’t. Ain’t that right Ford?”
Jamie wanted to scream through his teeth. But at the same time he wanted to flatten Pierson against that truck bed and seal their lips together. Those jeans…fuck! “Whatever. I’ll be back. See you around Pierson.” Turning around, Jamie made for the Bonneville and passed a smiling Henrie.
“Don’t come back you damn Yank,” Mason shouted and held up his middle finger.
“Not unless you want an ass full of buck shot.” Noah laughed and then doubled over as a red shouldered hawk squawked above the Bonneville and Jamie tripped over his own feet in a panic at the sound. Once Jamie was down, even Henrie chuckled as he reached out with his hand to help the blonde up.
“I don’t need your help. I’m fine.” Jamie shot a look of rage to Noah who just smiled back and captured the brim of his hat between his thumb and forefinger with a little bow. Noah one, Jamie zero.
“Alright then.” Henrie held up his hands in defense with a chuckle and got into the driver seat with Jamie sliding into the back. Five minutes later, Jamie watched out the rear window as Noah grew smaller and smaller—the country boy watching him back the whole time.
A week had gone by and Jamie wasn’t any closer to breaching the wall that was Noah Pierson. Sure he’d watched the man constantly from his bedroom window, or while he acted like he was browsing downtown, or as he drove Merna’s car up and down the Pierson’s private drive before he chickened out and went back to the B&B. What was it about Noah that drove him crazy and not in a business sense either?
Hopelessly, Jamie wandered into Henrie’s Place and wasn’t too surprised to find that the mayor also owned a bar. These small towns were so interwoven that the preacher was probably the mailman on his off days. The blonde snorted and pulled his jacket off and laid it on the stool next to him before he sat down. “You must be what the big deal is about.” The curvy bartender with short black hair popped the top off a cold Bud and put it on the counter.
“I didn’t order that,” Jamie mumbled.
“I didn’t ask you. Now drink it, you look like shit.” She put a hand on her hip and waited for a response.
“Whatever. Thanks.” Jamie tipped the long neck back and let the cold liquid soothe his troubles, for now.
“On the house Yankee Doodle.” Curvy winked and trotted down to the end of the bar where none other than Noah Pierson and his merry band of hicks sat staring at him. Mason held up another finger and Jamie shook his head and turned back to stare at the bar. He was tired and his boss had bitched him a new hole in his face for not making any head way. Merna was up his ass for not helping her with some stump removal project and every resident of Shermin Heights had questioned him this week until he’d been blue in the face.
“What? Nothing to say today?” Noah called and took a shot of whiskey. He saw the lack of sleep written all over Ford’s face plain as day and the fact that the guy hadn’t bothered him in a whole twenty four hours was making Noah nervous. Was he really tired or was Jamie Ford up to something? Judging by the pathetic look in his eyes, Noah knew the answer to that but he still had to get a rise out of the hot as hell corporate lap dog. “I said you got something to say pretty boy?”
“No.” Jamie turned his eyes to Noah and his crew. “I don’t. So just leave me alone. I’m not in the mood.”
“Not in the mood huh? Well I am.” Noah smirked and his boys laughed. The Olivette brothers to his left poured another round of shots, clinking them together before taking them down.
Jamie’s cell phone rang for the hundredth time today and he glanced down to see Jerry’s name light up. “Hello?”
“Have you talked to him today?”
“Not right now. I’m busy.” Jamie turned away from the guys.
“He’s there huh? So you’re moving things along then?” Jerry sounded pleased.
“Sort of, I have to go. I’ll let you know this weekend.”
“Wait, Jamie!” But Jamie was done talking and ended the call.
Noah watched the exhaustion flow over Jamie’s body in the slump of his shoulders and the lines forming at the corner of his eyes. Jamie nursed the beer for a few more minutes and then put a ten on the counter. “I said it was on the house Yankee.” Curvy pouted.
“Please stop calling me that.” Jamie sighed and pulled his jacket back on. “And where I come from, that’s called a tip. Good night.” He turned around and Noah frowned. A jerk that leaves a tip? Well, well.
“Hold up there Ford. I’ll walk you out.” Noah grinned and Jamie shook his head.
“No thanks. I’m really, really not in the mood for anything else Pierson.” Heading out the door, he could feel their eyes on him and Jamie’s frown deepened as the heaven’s opened up and a good ole southern storm fell from the sky. He stood there staring at the sheets of rain pouring down from the porch and thanked all that was holy for the awning above him.
“Count backwards from ten.” Noah appeared at Jamie’s side with a smile as he stared out from the bar’s porch.
“What? Why?” Jamie raised a brow and jumped as Mason appeared on his left.
With a laugh, Mason eyed Jamie. “Just do it Yank.”
Jamie counted down even though he felt like a fool. “Two…one…” Out of nowhere a middle aged women with gray streaked hair ran into the town square with a laugh. A younger man chased her with irritation and he stopped to catch his breath. The woman spun around and lifted her face to the sky as she opened her mouth to taste the rain. “What in the…” Jamie leaned forward.
“Mrs. Hubbard.” Noah chuckled.
“Shit! Mama, will you just stay still?” Dawson Hubbard ran around to catch his mother Faye—the town’s free spirit.
“Is she crazy?” Jamie gawked and looked at grinning Noah. That smile made Jamie’s loins dance and their eyes locked.
“What do you think?” Mason laughed and ran out into the rain to help Dawson. The poor guy groaned with thanks as Mason took her one arm and Dawson grabbed the other—leading Faye back into the house at the end of the street.
The Olivette boys—Sam and Perry—walked out onto the porch with Jenna the bartender. “My shift is done in about an hour. You coming back around?” She smacked her gum and winked at Sam. The two made eyes at each other before the brothers ran down the stairs and hopped into their own truck.
“Later boys!” Perry hollered out the window and flicked Jamie off. “See you soon sugar!” Sam howled at Jenna and gave another finger to the blonde before they took off.
Jamie was suddenly reminded of why he was here and how much everyone seemed to hate him. Yet when he looked back to Noah, the guy seemed to not mind being so near. That was what he thought until Noah opened his mouth. “So when you gonna get out of here?”
Jamie looked down and took a deep breath. “When you sign over those twenty acres and make yourself a rich man.” This was business not frat boy hour. Who was he fooling thinking about even getting with Noah Pierson like that? No one, that’s who.
“I see. Then looks like you’ll die an old man in Shermin Heights.” Noah grabbed Jamie’s chin and lifted his face. “Because I assure you Ford, I ain’t ever giving you my daddy’s land. Neither will my brother when I’m dead and gone nor his children neither, because that’s our family, that’s our history, that’s where we come from and it ain’t yours to go and mess with. Go home Jamie and let us all get a little peace.”
Jamie couldn’t help but feel completely scolded and rejected all at the same time. The way he said it was gentle but Noah’s phrasing made Jamie out to be a monster. Those blue eyes looked at him with such determination and calloused finger tips softened their grip on his chin. So that’s how it was huh? Jamie batted the hand away and gave Noah one last look.
“I’m not some monster, Noah. I’m really not.” Those words were hard to get out as the country boy’s sad stare lit up a fireworks show in Jamie’s chest. But he had said them. Pulling his jacket tight, Noah ran down the stairs and across the street to Merna’s.
“I know you ain’t,” Noah whispered as he watched the poor son of bitch slip and slide over the wet grass of Merna’s lawn. What Noah hadn’t told Jamie was that he had let the Yankee stay this long because there was just something about the guy that stuck in his chest. He liked the fight the city boy carried, the way he said yes, sir and opened the door for Merna. He liked the way he drank his beer like a man and not some city pussy in a chilled glass or some bullshit. Noah liked the way Jamie had called him a hick and gotten away with it. What Noah hadn’t told Jamie was how the other reps had only last twenty four hours before they shot out of town with their tails between their legs.
There was something about Jamie Ford that he wanted to see crawl out of that suited shell. So Noah waited and he watched Jamie back.
Jamie had taken two showers and answered fourteen calls from Jerry by noon. This heat was something to behold and he couldn’t seem to cool off as he twisted half naked on the bed to try and catch a breeze. His skin was slick with sweat and he was half tempted to dump the mason jar of iced tea on the night stand over his body.
“Baby you decent?” Merna called through the door and Jamie sat up, thanking God that he hadn’t lost the shorts.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he called back and she opened the door.
“Why in heaven’s name aren’t you dressed yet? We only got a half hour before they start the pie contest and I’m going through ice like water to keep the potato salad cool. And why didn’t you tell me it was this hot in here? I got a fan in the closet under the stairs.” Merna’s short hair looked damp with sweat and she fanned her face with her hand.
“I’m sorry Merna. I guess I forgot what time it was. Let me get dressed and I’ll help you get everything ready.” He smiled at her and she beamed. It had been three weeks since he’d come to Shermin Heights and Merna, despite her southern manner, was really growing on him. For a single, middle aged woman, she did quite well for herself and Jamie really admired that. She was one of those people who you couldn’t help but feel the maternal vibe from. One of those ladies that just took you under her wing and made you feel better about yourself, even if the whole town hated you.
Then there was that. Noah Pierson was like his shadow these past few weeks and Jamie was almost scared at how good the man was at popping up in the craziest places. Wasn’t that his job, Jamie thought, to stalk Pierson and learn what it took to get that land for Oil Works? Apparently there had been a role reversal somewhere in the past few weeks and Noah had made it his official job to glue himself to Jamie.
He never said much but he was always watching, always with that knowing look and those heated blue eyes…and those jeans. Jamie groaned and Merna gave him a look. “Okay, okay I’m up.”
“Thank you baby. Get a move on.” She kissed his cheek and gave his shoulder a squeeze before stepping into the hallway. Shutting the door, Merna leaned against the wall and smiled. That boy, despite his initial motives was really growing on her. Merna had never been married and she didn’t have any children but if she did? She’d have loved a son like Jamie. That mama of his must be real proud, Merna thought. Who couldn’t love a boy like that? And Lord was he changing his tune. Merna wasn’t blind to that growing heart on Jamie’s sleeve—the one that sang Noah’s praises.
What Jamie hadn’t realized was that every time he opened his mouth other than ‘yes Ma’am and no Ma’am’ it was all about Noah this and Noah that. And what Noah didn’t realize was that amidst his narrowed eyes and faux hate for Jamie Ford, Merna saw the hearts and stars in those big baby blues--the ones that spun circles just for Jamie Ford.
In his room, Jamie pulled on some Levis that he’d ordered online and buttoned them up. He was never a jean kind of guy but he had to admit they were really comfy and they had other attributes. Turning in the mirror, he smiled at the snug denim over his ass and got an evil twinkle in his eye. A simple white button up slipped over his chest and another online splurge of soft brown boots went on his feet. That devilish smile returned as he looked in the mirror and almost didn’t recognize his self without the suit and the slicked back hair. His messy bed head looked good with the random directions the curled ends flicked and the white shirt off set the tan he’d been working on when Merna hadn’t kept him busy.
“Baby you ready?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Jamie called and smiled at the mirror. More like is Noah ready? He laughed and went to help Merna with the food.
Noah side stepped a pack of toddlers that were being chased by Mason and held his plate up high and out of the way. He slipped into the picnic table next to his mama and winked at granny Ella Mae. Small red, white, and blue citronella candles lit up table after table as the fourth of July cook out started. Teenagers ran around with sparklers and Noah couldn’t help but smile. His daddy had always loved this night and the fireworks…even after he began to lose his memory Norman had still loved those colors in the sky. Noah smiled and took a sip of his iced tea.
Looking out over the town--from what was simply known as the hill--it was hard to just not appreciate everything about Sherman Heights, Kentucky. Fireworks, the people, the beauty of the place they called home. No city or big buildings overcrowded with angry people would ever match this. His thoughts strayed to one Jamie Ford and he coughed back his tea as the blonde walked past the table like nothing was happening.
With Merna on his arm and a pie in his hand, Jamie smugly strode past Noah’s table and put an extra swish in his step. He knew he looked good and as he glanced over his shoulder, he knew Noah thought so too. The big dumb ass was shocked but he was having trouble not showing it. His eyes were strained as they roamed quickly over Jamie’s body and he turned around like he was being blinded by the light.
“Don’t you be mean to that poor boy Jamie. He’s had a rough year. So if you got something to say, you go say it,” Merna whispered in his ear and Jamie smiled wider. Talk about a hammer hitting the nail.
“That’s not how this works Merna. Even if he was my type, which he’s not, I wouldn’t go and tell someone like Noah Pierson that I was into him. You just don’t do that and…is he even gay?” Jamie hadn’t even thought about that.
“Well of course he is baby.” Merna stopped and jerked her head over towards the grill. “See that man in the blue apron with the black hair and copper penny eyes?”
Jamie looked over and saw a stunning man in a blue apron flipping burgers. He smiled at the crowd of guys around him and waved over at Merna. Merna waved back and then flicked a look to Jamie. “Who is he?” Jamie swallowed and hoped she wasn’t about to say what he thought she was going to say.
“Todd Paola. He’s Noah’s ex-boyfriend. Don’t live here anymore but he visits his folks a few weeks every summer,” Merna said quietly.
“Ex-boyfriend?” Jamie felt his heart leap into his throat and he glanced over to Noah’s table but he was gone.
“What’s the matter Ford, jealous?” Noah grinned as he walked past Jamie and popped a strawberry into his mouth. Closing in on Todd, Noah pulled the grill master into a hug and slapped him on the ass. All the guys laughed and Noah turned to smile right at Jamie but that smile fell as the blonde handed Merna the pie before he walked off in the other direction.
“Baby? Jamie?” Merna called. This night had started out just right and went from playful flirting and word games to mean girls in all of five minutes. Screw him, Jamie grunted and kept walking. Children ran in front of him and he had to stop to catch his balance. When he righted himself, Jamie almost walked head on into Dee Pierson. The small brunette had both hands on her hips and smelled a little like wine.
“How dare you show your face here of all places! You ain’t nothin but a dirty rotten bastard and you have no business being here! Trying to take my husband away from me, all I have left of him. You go to hell you Gods damned Yankee. You rot,” she shouted and not even the crickets decided to interrupt the silence that swept over the hill. Jamie was mortified and tears filled his dark eyes. “Oh what? You gonna cry now? After all you and those suits have put us through, you should cry. You should feel like scum.”
“Mama!” Mason grabbed his mother and pulled her close to his chest. He looked up with shock at Jamie who took a look around at all the people staring at him. They hated him and it wasn’t until now, that is was truly clear. He couldn’t look behind him, so he grabbed a bottle of Jack off the table and kept on walking. Even though he wasn’t sure what this kind of heart ache was called, he knew how it felt and Jamie Ford also knew that Jack was his only friend now. He melded into the woods and popped the top off the fifth.
Noah strode over to his mama and shook his head. “This is why daddy told you to never touch Buzz’s black berry wine. Because you can’t handle it.” Noah looked back at Todd who shrugged. Useless piece of man candy, Noah grunted. That’s why they never worked out--not like Todd wasn’t fun to play around with when things were dry in town. But Noah now realized that he shouldn’t have done what he just did. Jamie hadn’t said anything back. He’d avoided the confrontation and endured the crazy rants of a grieving woman in front of the whole town. He had to be hurtin and Noah knew what he had to now.
“Mama, you let Mase take you and granny home. I’m gonna go find Jamie.”
“Really Noah? C’mon now, by myself?” Mason huffed and Merna grabbed his shoulder.
“Dee honey, why don’t you come with me and we’ll have ourselves a little walk.” The B&B owner winked at Mason and took Dee under her shoulder. “Mason you watch over Ella Mae.”
“Yes Ma’am.” The younger Pierson replied.
“I didn’t mean to yell at him. This is just the first time without him and then I saw that boy and I…” Dee leaned into Merna as she was led away.
“I know honey. I know. We miss him too,” Merna cooed and they walked down the path to the other side of the hill.
Noah felt his heart ripping in two as his mama went one way and that damned Jamie went another. He wasn’t a complete bastard because Noah knew that Jamie hadn’t really done anything wrong. He just worked for the scum that did. “Alright, show’s over. Go on back to what you were doin.” Noah turned in a circle and shooed the party back into order. Awkwardly, people began to mingle again and chatter until the cook out was back in full swing. The first tree that marked the path Jamie had taken held a swinging wind chime. This one had glass beads and twisted works of iron that tinkled together in the evening breeze and Noah took off to find his Yankee Doodle.
TO BE CONTINUED…