Part 2 - Chapter 12 - The Drive Home

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I still lived at Denholm's Four Diamonds Ranch. Now that I was making money, I paid him rent for my room. Before too long, I intended finding a place of my own, but for now, the arrangement worked. His range was an added benefit. I could practice my shooting skills every day.

Denholm and I enjoyed regular work on personal security details, mostly for politicians on the stump in the run-up to November elections. Those jobs paid fairly well, and I was starting to build a bank account. However, my savings didn't come close to what it cost to buy a car, my most pressing need.

Living in the remote New Mexico mountains, everything was so far away. I hated to constantly borrow Denholm's sedan. I resorted to contacting Trent and asking him to send me some cash I earned during my time as a Herald. Taking blood money really bothered my conscience. I rationalized by telling Trent that I considered it a loan, and my intent was to pay back every cent.

My body ached when I left the disastrous Labor Day barbecue in my brand-new Subaru. I swore to never ride a horse again. The upside, I was glad to have been there during Jacko and Ginger's disagreement and hoped I had set my brother on the right path in his handling of their relationship.

I wished them well but had my doubts. They were too young to become so serious and each had different visions of life. Jacko had quit going to school and was content to spend the rest of his days working on a ranch around animals. In a couple years, Ginger would be in college and eventually a career, maybe far from her home. Jacko was fragile about losing people he loved, and I feared what would happen to him when the inevitable played out.

My thoughts drifted to Hailee, as they always did. My situation with her wasn't too different than Jacko with Ginger. Just like my brother, I held on to hope. A few days after Trent's birthday party, I was fooling around on the internet and looked up her profile on IMDB, discovered that we were both born on the exact same day in March. That had to be a sign! Karma, at least.

My cell phone rang over the Subaru's speakers, snapping me out of my thoughts. It took me a few seconds to figure out how to answer through the car's bluetooth system. All those gadgets would take some getting used to.

I managed to make the connection.

"Either I did something to make you angry or you've forgotten all about me. Why don't you ever call?"

The sweetest sound in the world was hearing Hailee's voice come through my speakers. "I will never forget about you. I miss you, but you're so busy, I don't want to bother you."

She laughed. "Sing, you're so sweet." Then her voice got serious. "We're supposed to be friends. Getting a phone call from a friend is never a bother."

Yeah, we were friends, but things were also a lot more complicated than that between us, as far as I was concerned. "Consider me properly scolded. I promise to call you more often."

When the other end of the line stayed quiet, I asked, "What's up?"

"Sometimes my life sucks. My agent is working me to death. I hardly have time to relax and enjoy the moment."

Hailee needed someone to vent to, and she chose me. I felt elated at that. "Are you eating?"

"Not so much."

"If we didn't live so far from each other I'd come right over and take you out for pasta."

"I know you would. You're so considerate of others. I think about you every day and how you used my favor to make your friend, Trent, happy. Hardly anyone I know does that. Most people would've asked something for themselves. You're awesome."

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