Unguarded Release:Montana Double Riders 7

By: Elle Saint James


Ten years ago – Indiana

“What did you say to me?” Isabelle Anderson looked into her sister’s angry gaze with stunned disbelief. How did Ari have the right to be mad?

Her sister’s hardened stare added veracity to her words. “I said, how could you be so foolish, Izzy?”

“Don’t call me Izzy.” She hated that nickname, and Ari well knew it. She purposely rubbed salt into a big open wound.

Her sister displayed an overused and exaggerated eye roll, infuriating Isabelle further. “Oh I’m so sorry, your highness. I meant to say how could you be so foolish, Isabelle? I can’t change my plans. You know better.”

“I’m tired of knowing better. Why can’t you give in for a change, Ari? Or maybe try it one single time! I’m fucking sick and tired of always being the one who has to give in.” Isabelle had never used the F word out loud before, but it felt really good.

Ari’s eyes widened for a second, but quickly shuttered once more. Her sister was better than anyone at hiding her true feelings on any given matter. She should become a spy.

“Because…” Ari stopped talking, pushed out an exasperated-sounding sigh, and frowned. Her expression said she wasn’t about to change her mind on this oft argued-over issue. “Well, it’s…it’s because…well, just because. That’s why.”

“No. Not this time.”

“I can see that you’re angry, Izzy, but you need to get over this. It’s nothing.”

“Oh? Really? Nothing?” Each single-word question came out at a higher pitch than the one before. Isabelle felt the stirrings of a shrill retort about to unleash. If it did, she wouldn’t be in control of it.

Ari’s eyes closed and another long breath escaped her lips as if she—once again—didn’t plan to, or even need to, explain her actions. Everyone was supposed nod their heads and rush to do her will as if she were a superhero out to save the day.

Not to mention that after any given event—keeping Isabelle from whatever she wanted to do—Ari never bothered to explain her actions, not ever. But Isabelle was supposed to drop everything in her sad little life at every turn because she didn’t display the same iron will her sister always demonstrated.

Isabelle suppressed the screaming primal rage desperate to escape, saying in a surprisingly calm tone, “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Ari. But this time, I refuse. I’m putting my foot down. Either you change your plans and agree to stay with Gran or don’t bother coming back at all.” She paused again adding a dramatic, “Ever!”

“I can’t change my plans, Izzy! It’s not going to happen.” Her sister swallowed hard, looking a bit vulnerable for the first time in forever. Isabelle, however, wasn’t going to back down.

She couldn’t do it. Not again. Not one more time. In an equally calm voice, her sister said, “I’m sorry, but my life is complicated.”

“Complicated? Why is that? Why is your freestyle party life so complicated? Do not even say it’s because you have that important concert to go to.” Isabelle put air quotes around the word “important” to mean quite the opposite.

Her sister’s eyes narrowed. “It is important. Besides—”

Isabelle didn’t want to hear it. “Yes. I know. You’ve already purchased very expensive tickets and backstage passes to a band I’ve never even heard of before today, knowing full well that it was your turn to visit Gran this weekend, knowing full well you’d just crook your little finger like you always do to get me to cover for you again. Well, take note, Ari. I’m not doing it!”

Ari looked a bit anxious in addition to her surprise that Isabelle wasn’t going to lie down and take it this time. “I don’t understand the problem—”

“The problem is that Gran wants to see you. Not me.” Not ever me.

And there it was.

The true problem.

Her grandmother had a favorite, and it wasn’t her.

That was what hurt most of all. Gran loved Ari more. And it crushed her.

It truly wasn’t the fact that Ari always had plans. It was the certainty that Isabelle would have to see the ever-present disappointed look in Gran’s eyes, along with the continual recurrence of that sad pitiful expression each time they spoke for the entire visit.

Ari brushed her off. “That’s not true, Izzy. Gran loves you. She loves us both.”

“No. She doesn’t. She tolerates me. She has never loved me like she loves you. Everyone in our family knows that one truth. Why don’t you?”

“You’re mistaken, Izzy.” Ari was shaking her head, but her face was now pointed to the ground as if she couldn’t support the lie if she dared gaze into Isabelle’s eyes.