Welcome to What-A-Burger @janewithay
Chapter 7: Home Training

Thank you to my Fic Sis, Frannie, for her hard work and awesome red pen magic! If it weren't for run-on sentences I'd have no sentences at all! Thank you, Sis!

Welcome to What-A-Burger# Unknown

Chapter Seven

Home Training

I stand for a few minutes quietly watching this man as he continues spitting and swearing on the side of the road. I can feel my lip curl upwards into a snarl and I wonder if that's ever happened to me before.

Lip curling.

You read about it in books and you might even see it a time or two in real life. But honestly, I've never snarled at anyone; not even at Jasper the time he took to chewing tobacco in an effort to curb his appetite. Now that was disgusting, yet my lips never curled.

I take my finger and press my lip back in place lest it stays that way permanently.

He glances in my direction and I swear his lips are curled exactly like mine, except his snarl is practically greeting his left nostril. Our eyes make contact and I watch as they open wide for just a second before he quickly averts them to the back of my truck. I see him shake his head and he storms back over to his tow truck and begins removing the braces and chains. I flinch and step back; stung. He looks like he hates the very sight of me and I understand why; the feeling is mutual.

Alice looks at our exchange and a grin slowly spreads across her elfin face. She makes contact with Rose, who is watching the entire episode with a matching smirk of her own.

"Damn, this is better than a Saturday night at the Majestic, Ali. I suddenly have a wild hair to get me some popcorn and a Big Gulp."

"Well tap that thought right down, Ro. A bowl of popcorn and a Big Gulp is the last thing your butt needs right now. If you keep packing the pounds on Carlisle is gonna have to order you a pink sheet to wrap around your ass instead of a uniform.

"Well, at least I have an ass and don't have to order one from Fredrick's of Hollywood."

They look at each other like they're having an altercation; the teacher in me kicks in and I automatically stand between them expecting a catfight.

"Y'all knock your shit off and get over here and help me secure this beast. I don't have all day!"

'This beast;' now he's not only hating on the Massachusetts' plate, but he's also hating on the pickup.

What is his problem?

I know there was a war that divided the country across four Aprils, but I cannot imagine someone still has a problem with people from up North. Ridiculous!

He gives me another surly look and I feel my fists curl exactly like my lips. What an unpleasant, churlish man!

"Oh, honey, don't mind him; he's just bent out of shape on account that you're from Massachusetts. It's nothing personal." Rose says reassuringly.

I look at her stunned; he hates me because I'm from Massachusetts and it's not personal?

Not personal?

What is that supposed to mean anyway? If it's about a person, then it's personal.

I give her a slight shrug, but I feel my snarl coming back when I catch him spitting again.

How disgusting.

And against the law.

Well, at least in Massachusetts.

'His Ex was from Massachusetts," Alice whispers. I look at her stunned; people around here seem to be very forthcoming with their personal details, even to strangers such as myself.

"She done him wrong like a sappy love song, girl. Please Mr. Please, don't play B 17 …"

"Mary Alice, shut the hell up." I hear him call out to her, his eyes blazing.

"You shut up," she cries out.

"Well come on over here then and make me."

"I'll kick your sorry ass into next Thursday and you'll be lucky to live to tell about it Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. Now, you gonna stand here flapping your jaw all day or are you gonna help us out? Because I can call Daddy right now and he'll be more than happy to contact Cousin Garrett; heard he needs the work more than ever now that Katie is expecting again. And then I will make it my mission to see that Esme knows how you act like you don't have any home training. Now get this truck off the highway before Eleazer Hogg is done planting and comes through with his combine. Otherwise, we'll be here all night."

He steps forward almost menacing and I find myself stepping backward at the same time. One step, two steps … it feels like he's a lion and I am his prey.

That thought leads me to recall how I felt when I discovered the log that James kept with my name, rank, and serial number clearly marked and highlighted with a gold star. I begin to shiver uncontrollably.

He stops dead in his tracks and looks at me, really looks at me with those eyes; eyes that hold secrets, and perhaps a bit of pain in their murky depths.

Ali turns to me and laughs; "Annabelle, this is my brother, Edward, better known as Boots, also known as the biggest jackass in four counties. Boots, this is Miss Annabelle Crow. Now stop acting like a jerk and come shake hands."

I hold out my hand expecting to shake his, but instead of a hand, he stuffs a receipt in mine. I glance at it quickly.

Fifty dollars!

I cast my eyes downward but not before I see his narrow. I feel humiliated enough to be in this situation; I have very little money left in which to pay for anything including a tow. I do have triple AAA and several million dollars at Citizens Banks and Trust, but I have no way to access these funds. I don't even have my cell phone nor do I have Jasper's new number memorized and stored in my head. I suppose I could use someone's phone and call his office, but he said he wasn't going back to Howie.

These thoughts circle around my mind in a vicious cycle set to the tune of, I should have called the police-I should have called the police-I should have called the police –

"Annabelle, stop worrying! Lord, Boots, you could give her a minute to get her bearings before you shove a damn bill down her throat!"

Rose comes over to our sides and puts her hand lightly on my shoulder. The red gel polish flashes in the fading sunlight as she wags them, like a warning, in Boots' direction.

"Boots, we've got to get her truck down to the shop. I already looked at the engine and it appears the head gasket's blown to hell and took the radiator with it, too. I know enough about this particular model to know that it's going to take some time to find the parts and do the labor to get it back on the road. Why don't you just put that ticket back in your pocket and add it to the tab until you can give her a total?" She says calmly, but emphatically. I watch a look pass between them, and he nods his head reluctantly, shoving the receipt in his back pocket.

"I suppose y'all are taking her to Miss Vick's?" He sighs, resigned.

I feel my shackles rise.

Why on earth should this odious man care one way or another where I land? If anyone should care, it would be me, and frankly, I am too damn tired and overwhelmed to give a shit where I lay my head.

Did I just say, 'Give a shit?' Yes, yes I did, well, at least in my head. Jasper would be proud.

Shit-Jasper! I need to get in touch with him immediately and let him know that my purse was stolen and that James had left his calling card. My aunt's crystal and sapphire barrette was NOT in my purse when I fled Jasper's farm. I also need to let him know where I am.

Where am I?

Oh yes, that obnoxious-saliva-spewing-mechanic said it was Masenville.

"Yes, we'll follow you to the shop and then we're going to drive on over to Miss Vick's and explain the situation. You can drop her off after you get through looking the truck over."

"Oh I can, can I? Well, try explaining that to Elizabeth. We just got back from the beach and she tore into me when I told her I had to make a call. You know how wound up she gets when she has to go to bed without me, Rose."

Elizabeth? Hmm. So this foul-mouthed, swamp eyed creature has a new significant other. Well. Good luck to her. From what I can see about this man's abominable disposition and unsavory habits, she is going to need all the help she can get.

"Psh, Lizzie can wait another hour or two before she hits the hay, Boots."

He gives Rose a hard look and me, an even harder one and then nods his head curtly. Alice, the smaller one who supposedly has the biblical gift grabs my hand and tells me, "Don't worry, Sweetie, everything is going to work out just the way God planned it for you. I promise. I don't know what he has planned exactly, but I do know that it's beautiful."

I struggle not to roll my eyes; I've never had a strong belief in religion, although I certainly did a lot of praying in that apple orchard. I nod my head absently and muster up a smile to reassure her. She squeezes my shoulder blade hard, as though she is it trying to extract the devil himself right out of me.

"Listen, when we get you settled, we'll sit down and have a long talk and help you figure out your next move, just like a game of chess."

My breath catches when she echoes the same words Jasper said to me only yesterday.

"Do you think I might be able to use a phone? I need to get in touch with a friend to let him know that I'm all right."

"Mine died right after I called Miss Vick. Ali will let you use hers."

"Mine died too. The damn thing won't hold a charge anymore and I'm not ready for an upgrade until next month. Boots has a phone in his office that he'll let you use."

Wonderful; I wonder if he'll add that to my tab? My stomach churns at the thought of asking this man for anything, including a ten-cent phone call.

"Er, I'll wait until you get yours charged, I don't want to be a bother. Alice, may I talk to you privately?" I ask discretely as possible.

"Sure, step into my office," she jokes walking over to the Jeep. I look over at Rose, who is having a rather heated discussion with Boots about the status of my truck.

"So, how can I help you?" She asks in a formal voice that sounds vaguely like Mrs. Pickles, the college librarian.

"Well, I'm in a bit of a bind, as I am sure you already figured out. My purse and all my money were stolen out of my truck and I don't have much cash on my person."

"Yes, Hun … I already knew that. I thought you were going to tell me about that creepy blonde man you're all mixed up with; the one who chased you off that farm and sent you running straight to Masenville."

I look at her stunned; how on earth does she know this? I begin to back away from her in alarm.

"Girl, you can run from me, but you cannot run from Him," she says looking up at the sky.

"I-I don't know what you're talking about …" I taper off. I'm dubious at best. She says she doesn't know anything about me and that she hadn't heard anything on the news, yet she described James and my last encounter with him at Jasper's farm.

"I know you're scared, Annabelle. I would be too if I had to run hell-bent-for-leather, half way down the East Coast with nothing but a truck full of battle gear and an ornery rooster. But, I was referring to Him, the Lord Jesus. He's there for you. You believe that don't you?"

"I-I don't know … I've never been a particularly religious person."

"Well that's okay, He's a particularly people person so even if you're not sure about Him he is sure about you. But I don't want to scare you; seems like I do that with a lot of folks. As for the fellow who chased you off, well, my vision is still fuzzy, but it's becoming clearer. I need to get a good night's sleep; I always get the best images in my dreams.

Now, let's get your truck off the road and have Boots bring you over to Miss Vick's. We'll have supper and talk later. I promise it'll be all right, Bell."

Bell …

She tosses her head back and laughs a rather bawdy, deep laugh for someone so tiny. "I know your name isn't Annabelle. My mother, whoever she was, didn't give birth to no dummies. But it suits you, somehow, even if it is a little long. So, until you're comfortable telling me your real handle, I'll just call you Bell, all righty?"

I nod my head mutely wondering how on earth she knows these things. But then I shake my head, because, in the end, it doesn't really matter; I'm in too much of a desperate situation to second-guess anything.

"Meeting is adjourned. Now, it looks like Boots has your beast secured so Rose and I will see you back at the house."

I grimace, hating that I have to get in the truck with such a loathsome man.

"Oh sweetie, Boots is all right. He'll take care of you, no worries. I know he came off sounding like a jackass, but that's just how he is … Although, I've got to admit that I've never seen him this fired up over a Massachusetts plate, but of course, Tanya really did a number on him and-"

"Mary-Alice will you please stop spreading my business like strawberry jam? Lord. I would like to get this show on the road before dark. You know how Elizabeth frets when I …"

"Okay we're coming, Jesus wept …"

"Uh, you ready?" he asks me reluctantly.

I nod my head without making eye contact and walk over to his wrecker. I'm about to open the door, when surprisingly, he does it for me. He even assists me when I have trouble climbing into the cab. Once inside, I shake my hair over my face and stare out the window. Everything is starting to look blurry because I don't have my glasses with me. I left them inside …

Crap!

I forgot Foghorn!

I turn to the man named Boots and demand that we head back, but he shakes his head and tells me that Ro has him. Apparently, Miss Vick has a barn out back of her house and he'll be welcome there. I nod my head, relieved and go back to staring out the window.

Five minutes later, we enter the town of Masenville, established in 1839. His wrecker clunks along Main Street, which consists of several small businesses; an antique shop, movie theater, diner, hardware store, ice cream parlor, and a beauty salon. As he crosses a set of train tracks, I see an old station with a wide platform. Flowers and plants are everywhere and although the sun is starting to fade, there's a brightness about the scenery that makes me blink; it looks larger than life, almost as if nature colored everything twice.

He rounds a corner and stops at a red light. I take in a large, rambling restaurant, the kind that was popular back in the nineteen-fifties, with curb service, speakers and all. I see a large neon sign that says, Welcome to What-A-Burger. There is a star with a faded number on it, as well as an oblong sign of a pig, happily eating what looks to be a burger and fries. I stare at it as we wait for the light to turn, and my stomach gives a massive rumble; I'm starving.

He looks at me sharply and reaches under the seat, retrieving a lunch box. He hands it to me and says, "Eat."

I jump in my seat at his gruff command but open the metal container. Inside is a juice box, a bag of Cheezits, and a wrinkled peach. I close it with a snap and settle back in my seat.

"Suit yourself."

The light turns green and for a moment, just a millisecond, I think about his eyes. Then I force myself to rid myself of that thought immediately. He turns left onto Cullen Way and drives the wrecker into a lot. There's a metal building that has an office, a garage, and four bays. The sign on the front says Cullen's Automotive.

"Wait for me in the office," he barks, punching in a security code.

1987**#2008.

I've always been good with numbers.

I enter his office and sit on the red vinyl seat that is split right down the center. The cushion hugs the sides of my thighs and pinches them uncomfortably. I look around and see that it is spotless and well-organized. There is a long counter that divides the space, with a desk on one side that has several pictures, an ancient computer, an old phone, and an archaic Rolodex.

My stomach churns when I see the Rolodex. I wonder where James is tonight and if he has followed me. I force that thought out of my head and it joins all the other thoughts that are lined up patiently in the back of my mind, waiting for the day when they are allowed to surface.

Take a number, I think to myself, and chuckle at my own stupidity.

I strain my neck over the counter and try to see the pictures on his desk, but they are turned the wrong way. Instead, I concentrate on the old fashioned metal clock on the wall that ticks loudly and makes me nervous. I lift my arms up trying to let the cool air from the ceiling fan reach my pits and then put them down immediately sensing that they probably smell to high heaven.

I need a bath, badly.

I see a sign that says restroom and sigh in relief; at least I can wash up and brush my hair.

I enter the plain, cinder block room, use the toilet, and lean over the sink and put the faucet on full blast. Water gushes out and I purge my face under the stream, squeezing the familiar pink soap that is found in public bathrooms the world over. I scour until it's clean and then rinse my mouth, scrubbing my teeth with a brown paper towel. I wash my torso, privates and pits as best I can; what did Jessica call this? Oh yes, 'a whore's bath.'

I grab my brush out of my bag and run it through my snarls and tangles as best I can. I rub some Pear and Pink Magnolia hand lotion all over. The smell immediately brings to mind the first time I laid eyes on James and it makes me want to throw up. So I scrub it away as best I can.

When I come back into the office, I fully expect to see him sitting there with a sneer; but he isn't. I glance at the clock and realize that I've been in the bathroom for twenty minutes. I pace the room, anxious to get back to Rose and Alice. For one thing I need to have someone help me get in touch with Jasper and for another I want to get away from Boots or whatever his name is as soon as humanly possible. From the interior of the garage, I can hear rumbles, clatter, and other noises that indicate that he in there doing something with Jasper's truck. Frustrated, I exit the office and head across one of the open bays and peer inside.

He has removed the pickup from the wrecker. I see that he is leaning over the hood looking at the engine. From my vantage point, I can see that his dirty, white T-shirt has ridden up, exposing a sunburned torso and what looks to be an enormous tattoo. The crack of his rear end gleams white, loud, and proud, as he grunts over his task. I let out a snort of disgust before I can stop myself, and he jumps at the sound; banging his head on the hood.

"Fuck!"

I rush over to see if he needs my help, but he holds his hands in front of himself as if to tell me to stop.

I do.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah; happens all the time; occupational hazard," he grunts out. He has a deep voice with a slight drawl that is almost musical to my northern ears. It is my first time down South and I am unaccustomed to the accents which sound foreign to me.

"Um, have you had an opportunity to diagnose the problem with the truck? I don't have enough cash on me at present, but as soon as I can get in touch with my friend I can access the account and …"

He slams the hood of the truck down and spins around to look at me.

"I don't have time to fool around with this old POS. And even if I did, I wouldn't touch it without cash up front; it's going to cost y'all a boat load of money and I am not about to get screwed over by some loud-mouth-opinionated-Yankee."

I don't know if it's his words or the sneer he gives me as he spats them out, but I am overcome with a rage the likes of which I have never known before. Not even when James came after me at his apartment and attempted to rape and murder me.

I fly over to him, possessed. I grab him by his filthy shirt with one hand and put my other fist in his face with the other.

"I don't know who you think you are talking to me like that, but if it's because some woman from Massachusetts broke your heart and left you, then it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with me. I might be from the same state as her, but I assure you I wasn't sent here to represent the women from Massachusetts or anywhere else, you-you- ignorant and vile … Redneck!"

His eyes narrow dangerously and a flush, dark and angry, spreads rapidly from his chest to his neck, mirroring my insult.

I have never affronted anyone in my entire life and I certainly wasn't aware that the term Redneck was even in my lexicon of vocabulary words.

Before I am able to stop myself, my fist opens and then slaps him hard, across his smug face. He grabs my hand, and in a single motion, pins me between the side of the truck and his hard body. His chest is heaving, as is mine, and for a moment, we simply stand there looking at each other panting like a couple of feral animals. I try to push him off with one hand, but it's useless; I could no more push him away than I could a Mack truck. He chuckles low and without humor.

I've never been so excited, I mean, scared, in my entire life.

I watch his eyes as they go from green to almost black. They're swimming with emotion, but none that I can identify; they're changing too fast. I stand and watch, spellbound. My mouth parts open and I think I let out a small gasp, but I can't be sure.

He releases one hand from my shoulder and I cringe, afraid he might strike me, but he doesn't. Instead, in a surprisingly gentle move, he sweeps away the hair that has fallen over my face, carefully tucks it behind my ear, and then tugs it, hard.

He's close, so close to me. I'm breathing, but just barely. His eyes never leave mine and I wonder if I am being hypnotized or if I've finally lost my mind.

His hands, though covered with grease, calluses, and chipped nails, are perhaps the most elegant hands I've ever seen outside of a magazine.

He takes one, long finger, thickly covered with grease, and places it on my cheek. I watch, captivated, as he, slowly, oh-so-slowly, trails it down my face, neck, and chest, ending at the top of my heaving bosom.

Heaving bosom. I sound as if I stepped straight out of one of my Aunt Margaret's guilty pleasure books that feature a pirate and damsel in distress on the cover. I might be a damsel in distress and he might be as nefarious as a pirate, but there is nothing literary, poorly written or otherwise, about this tableau.

Desire, hot, molten, and unwanted, surges through me. I grab his shirt once more and pull him towards my mouth in a searing kiss.

Searing kiss? Chapter two, page nine, paragraph three.

I don't even care how trite and ridiculous this sounds, but nothing has ever turned me on like this mulish man, with the angry eyes, the slow drawl, the filthy hands, and the wicked tongue.

We kiss each other hungrily, I mean, angrily for several seconds, our tongues battling each other from the Mason/Dixon Divide.

I moan into his mouth and he presses his body harder into mine. I can feel every angle, every plane, every part of him, as he deepens the kiss.

Hot, brutal, fiery, ferocious, steamy, sultry …

What am I doing … listing all the words I have stored in my obviously addled romantic brain?

There's nothing romantic about this, I tell myself, as I grab his head and pull his hair bringing him ever closer to me.

His hips grind into me and I clutch his rear-end and lift my leg up, where the heck is it going? Doesn't matter … he knows. He wraps it around his waist and our bodies do this sort of bump and grind motion that is both alien and wanton. I've never felt like this before.

Wanton? Dear God … please shut this Harlequin Romance narrative off so I can appreciate this moment!

The ringing of a cell phone from his back pocket stops us mid-thrust-bump-swirl and grind.

"Talk about Northern aggression …" He whispers in my ear. "No wonder we lost the war."

"Wha-?"

"Shush."

He just told me to Shush. What nerve! I straighten my top and brush off my hair. I've never been so flustered, angry, confused, or … I don't even know. What on earth just happened here?

"I'll show you some Northern aggression," I think to myself.

"Save that thought for now, Sugar."

Apparently my crazed road trip has shut off my inner filter as well as any decorum I possess.

He lets me go and digs the phone out of his pocket.

"Bip? Yes, honey, I know. I told you I'd be home soon. Is Mama Esme still there or? Oh, she took you to Miss Vicks. Good. No, I'm just finishing up … I'll be there before you know it, sweetheart."

He ends the call and shoves his phone back in his pocket.

"You ready?"

So … I guess we're pretending that our tryst (Silhouette, Avon, and Harlequin be gone!) never occurred.

Good.

Except … I just kissed a man who is not mine. One who clearly belongs to someone and that someone is not me. I avert my eyes from his gaze and straighten my shoulders. I might be many things, but a homewrecker, I am not.

However, there is no way I am going to apologize either.

No.

I've had enough shrinking, vomiting, and nervous breakdowns to last me a lifetime and I am simply not going to put up with that anymore. Besides, he … well, he provoked me.

Because kissing a man you do not know is a wonderful way to disarm them, Bella. Use your head.

For once.

He does this weird sort of eyebrow lift as a means to prompt my answer.

"Yes."

We head out back to a silver Volvo. It isn't a new model, but it is clean and cared for; even the leather interior is spotless and soft as butter.

As before, he opens the door for me and I climb inside puzzled by his manners; he's obviously had some ingrained in him. What did Alice refer to it as? Home-training.

When he starts the engine, classical music fills the empty space between us. I look at him in shock.

"It's, Debussy. Elizabeth likes to listen to it; says it calms her nerves."

I nod my head and close my eyes listening to the familiar strains of Claire De Lune. I used to adore attending the outdoor symphonies at Tanglewood.

Until James came along and ruined it for me.

A few minutes later, he pulls up in front of a large … Well, mansion, for lack of a better word. Upon closer inspection I can see that it is in various forms of decay; the Wisteria clings to the fading clapboard the way a woman hiding her once lovely, but now stained and frayed evening gown would.

The shutters are, were, once yellow but are now chipped and sagging as is the large wraparound front porch. There are several rockers and a porch swing on one side with glasses of tea that are long forgotten. I see a porcelain saucer on a small table with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter resting on top. The smoke swirls and carries its acrid scent to my nostrils. Someone must have left in a hurry, I think to myself.

The door is large; solid oak and has a bronze doorknocker directly in its center. Although everything else is shabby, the knocker is gleaming under the porch light.

I wait, wondering why I'm here, and who is behind the door. Oh, the hideous possibilities! But, since I have no choice given my situation, I settle the butterflies in my stomach and give him a look to see why he doesn't open the door.

He stares at me and grins, unexpectedly, and then he pulls out a red bandanna from his back pocket and spits, yes, spits on it.

This man could really use some manners, as well as a good doctor, to check his over- productive salivary glands.

Then he does the most unexpected thing of all; he leans into me, and with the spitty handkerchief, slowly begins to wipe my face, neck, and chest. Of course, I stand there like a fool, awestruck by his gesture. When he reaches my cleavage, however, self-preservation (Oh, there you are!) finally takes over and I snatch the cloth from his hands.

"What are you doing? I ask angrily.

He laughs that low laugh again and drawls, "I'm removing the trail of grease I left on your skin; unless you like having my marks all over you?"

I blush from the roots of my hair right down to my toes.

"Look who's the Redneck now," he taunts, hotly, in my ear.

I huff, and proceed to scrub my ear to remove his tease and his heat.

"Whoa … no need to draw blood," he says when I snatch the cloth out of his hand and begin to scrub at my chest, frantically.

I shove the bandanna in his hands and he brings it to his nose and sniffs it, appreciatively.

And then, in typical, uncouth fashion, he ruins, what might have been interpreted as a romantic gesture, by blowing his nose into it, and then putting it back in his pocket.

And then … he winks at me!

How foul is he?

He opens the door with a long, wrought-iron key and we go inside.

I'm nervous but enchanted by this charming old house. The interior is full of staircases, spirals, nooks, and crannies. A large grandfather clock flanks one wall; it appears to be very old. I jump when it strikes eight.

A clatter from the stairwell draws my attention upward but not before I catch Boots' gaze.

I watch, mesmerized, as his eyes change once again; peeling back the layers of anger, loss, and pain, to reveal a new emotion within the mire.

Happiness.

I look up to see what could possibly have caused this new phenomenon.

A little girl, about seven years old, is poised dramatically on the staircase. Her hair is so red that it shines like a maple leaf in the lamplight that peeps through the eyebrow window. Her face is so freckled, that at first glance I think she is merely tanned. But as she comes toward us; storming is more like it, I can see that there are millions of tiny speckles; like spatters of stain from a tired painter, who flung his brush off the deck in a fit of despair.

But even though her toothless grin, bright red hair, and freckled face would be more than enough to hold my rapt attention, it is her clothing that disarms me.

She is wearing a long, full blue petticoat, much like the kind one might have worn fifty or more years ago. And around her chest, she has fashioned some sort of top (for lack of a better word) that appears to be made from gym socks and perhaps … pantyhose?

"Elizabeth Marie Masen Cullen; what in the hell are you wearing?"

She comes running down the steps two at a time and twirls like a ballerina when she gets to the foot of the stairs.

"I'm wearing Miss Vicks' hoop skirt, she said I could. Look … isn't it the prettiest thing you ever saw?" she asks, as she pirouettes and bows before us.

I stifle a laugh.

"Huh," he grunts. But I notice his face almost splits in two; his smile is so big.

My heart begins to flutter.

Just a little.

"Well, what the heck is that you have wrapped around your chest? Wait- are those my new socks?"

"This is my brassiere; Miss Vick says I'm developing."

"The only thing you're developing is an attitude. Now run back upstairs and take that braz- thing off before I have to do it for you. And take my socks off and return them to my drawer as soon as we get home. Damn … can't a man have anything to call his own in this hen house?"

"But Daddy …"

Daddy?

A/N: Thank you for reading! Please leave a review and Boots will get back to you as soon as he stops spitting. ;) (Yes, there is a reason and no I am not telling you just now. He's had enough of his personal business being broadcast by Mary-Alice.)

PS: I Say-I say ... I am in the process of moving out of state, however, I am going to continue writing this story because it is the only thing keeping me sane at the moment. Pray for me? lol!

Jayne xo

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Chapter 1: Prologue 1583 1 0 2. Chapter 2: Shrinking Violet 4096 0 0 3. Chapter 3: Mud Season 4731 0 0 4. Chapter 4: The Lying and the Lam part 1 2932 0 0 5. Chapter 5: The Lying and the Lam part 2 3782 0 0 6. Chapter 6: Over the Rainbow 3762 0 0 7. Chapter 7: Home Training 5736 0 0 8. Chapter 8: A Rose for Miss Vick 5118 0 0 9. Chapter 9: Whiplash 5851 0 0 10. Chapter 10: Boiling Springs 5848 0 0 11. Chapter 11: Boiling Mad 6381 0 0 12. Chapter 12: Down the Drain 7220 0 0 13. When the Cat's Away, Boots will Play 4793 0 0 14. Chapter 14: Safe Haven 8215 0 0 15. Chapter 15: Order Up! 3135 0 0 16. Chapter 16: The Witch Doctor 3261 0 0 17. Chapter 17: Fly Trap 4274 0 0 18. Chapter 18: Bless Her Heart 4101 0 0 19. Chapter 19: Transitions 5236 0 0 20. Chapter 20: L'air du Temps 4169 0 0 21. Chapter 21: Of Testosterone and Kismet 5864 0 0 22. Chapter 22: Outfoxing the Fox 6570 0 0 23. Chapter 23: Pas de Trois 3979 0 0 24. Chapter 24 Pas de Trois part two 2522 0 0 25. Chapter 25: Blood Typing 4940 0 0 26. Chapter 26: Wedding Bella 3724 0 0 27. Chapter 27: Epilogue 3641 0 0