Inferno of Love:Firefighters of Long Valley Book 2(4)By: Erin Wright
He was good at pretending.
Levi shrugged, looking out at the dance floor where a few rowdy cowboys were staggering to the beat of their own drum, since it obviously wasn’t to the beat of the country music thumping through the speakers. “Eh. He questioned my parentage. Told me not to come back. You know, the usual.”
Moose nodded. It was the usual. That didn’t mean it hurt any less, though.
“You think he’s ready to go to some meetings yet?”
“Nope.” Levi popped the “p” for extra emphasis, and then gave Moose a wry smile. “I reckon he’ll be ready for that about the same time I’m ready to strip down to my boxers and run down Main Street.”
Moose nodded again. Levi was right, of course. His dad was nowhere near ready to give up the bottle. Maybe someday he would be.
Today was not that day.
Hours later, Moose let himself into the basement entrance to his parent’s house and down to his bedroom, where he unlaced his boots and settled back on the bed with a huge sigh. He’d gotten away with only having to buy two beers for customers tonight, which he figured was some sort of win. People probably wondered why he still lived at home; why he drove a beat-up pickup truck; why he nursed the same beer for hours at a time down at the bar. He imagined the guesses ranged from he was a tightwad through to him being a lightweight with alcohol.
He didn’t imagine that the guesses were ever on the money, though (all puns intended) – that his father was hellbent on “toughening up his son” by paying him pauper’s wages down at the dealership. When Moose finally got to take over the business, he’d be rolling in the dough, but until then, he was the poorest rich kid this side of the Mississippi. It was something he’d told only Levi, and only because it was Levi.
Moose just had to make it through five more years of hell, and then it would all be his. He could totally do it.
The silverware clinked in the awkward silence that was the Rowland Sunday Dinner.
Just because it happened every single week didn’t make it any less awkward. Unfortunately.
This week was at Uncle Robert and Aunt Roberta’s house, which meant they were eating on matching china plates and real silver and sipping $300-a-bottle wine out of delicate goblets.
It was exactly the kind of thing that made Georgia grateful that she was the daughter to the younger of the Rowland brothers – the one who’d inherited nothing at all and was now a high school biology teacher – because if she had to eat off real china using real silver every day, she’d probably be stark-raving mad by now.
Uncle Robert cleared his throat and looked pointedly at Tennessee. “What did your piano teacher assign to you this week?” he asked. “I haven’t heard you practice lately.”
Which was code for “In the last ten minutes.”
Georgia sliced off a small bite of her roast beef and popped it in her mouth as she waited for her gorgeous and super talented cousin to respond to her father’s probing.
Actually, eating off china and silver wasn’t such a bad thing, really. It was having Robert Rowland as a father that would do her in.
Tennessee took a small sip of her moscato. “He has me working on some Vivaldi pieces right now,” she said with a polite smile at her dad. “And I practiced earlier today. Perhaps you were outside and didn’t hear me.”
Virginia, Tenny’s younger sister, jumped into the fray, but whether it was to give a reprieve to her older sister for a moment or just because she was dying for some attention herself, Georgia couldn’t tell. You never knew with Virginia. “Did you hear, Father? My cello instructor said that if I keep it up, I might get into Juilliard next year, after I graduate. He said—”
“That’s nice, darlin’,” Aunt Roberta cut her off, “but we were talking about your sister’s musical career.” She gave Virginia a pointed look, who promptly slunk down in her seat.
“Yes, Momma,” she said into her goblet of ice water.
“And stop slouching.”
Virginia obediently sat up.
Georgia kept a stiff smile on her lips as she cut into her potato. She could feel her mom practically vibrating with anger to her left, but she too said nothing. It would only cause problems to try to point out to Robert and Roberta that their younger daughter had potential too; problems for everyone involved. They’d take it out on Georgia and her parents, sure, but they’d take it out even more on Virginia. It wouldn’t be kind to the teenager to stand up for her, as much as that reality sucked ass.
“Has Deere asked you to attend the fire department fundraiser with him?” Uncle Robert asked Tennessee, ignoring his younger daughter’s comment completely.
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