5. In Other News

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Indio's heart was already settled right here and clinging faster with every card dealt, every chip bet, every teasing comment flying across the table, every shot of whiskey Caleb poured.

So far, this place belonged to the three of them—to Jesse's bizarre taste in décor, Wynter's sudden interest in carbon footprints, and Caleb's hands to fix and build and hold everything together—including his family. Caleb spoke of four equal parts, but in truth he was the head of this family, had been for a long time, and that would never change. Indio had never wanted it for himself, so why did he always fight back when Caleb asserted his rightful role? Jesse had accepted a more-than-adequate substitute parent. Why hadn't he? And what to do now, when he no longer needed a parent?

The idea of sliding into their lives and making his own imprint on this home was seductive. His heart was already here, and his head spent the evening trying to talk his heart out of it.

Jesse and Wynter starting singing to test the acoustics of the tower, their voices blending in perfect harmony even though Wynter kept dissolving into giggles and Jesse was pretty hammered. Indio was sure he could drink both his brothers under the table although he hadn't tested the theory on Caleb, who always drank precisely enough to get the buzz and then stopped.

"Caleb, we need some bass notes here," Wynter said. She hadn't asked Indio to sing, seeing he was in a contemplative mood.

Caleb indulged them for a couple of songs, and somehow they managed to play poker at the same time. Jesse launched into a well-reasoned argument for why they should use real money for their poker games, and Wynter was all for it even though she always lost.

Caleb never met his eye. It didn't seem deliberate. Maybe it was Indio never meeting Caleb's eye—hard to tell. Indio wanted to be part of this, every single day, and he also wanted to run far, far away, back to the life where he answered to no one and there was no pressure to live up to expectations. Except the pressure he put on himself, which music and drugs and girls had helped him forget in the past.

They turned in late. He threw his clothes in the dryer and went to the back bedroom where Jesse used to sleep before moving into the ridiculous tower room. This part of the house, the modern extension, felt cut off from the rest and was entirely lacking in character—a featureless corridor with skylights, the two large bedrooms and a bath in need of renovation, and on the right a long blank wall backing the deck outside, with the family room at the end. The far door led to the basement, which he hadn't seen since before his trip.

He slept well, despite his internal clock being out of whack, and was up by eight with his body telling him it was early afternoon. As he dressed, he wondered if Caleb would lend him the Beast. He fancied a ride up the mountain. That restful week in the south of England had put him in the mood to do more sketching.

Last night these rooms had seemed unexceptional, but the east-facing family room, lit by the morning sun, with its fireplace and large windows, suddenly had potential. French doors led onto the deck, where Wynter sat on the steps in shorts and rainboots, tending to planters full of herbs. She picked a few leaves—slowly, meticulously, examining them and discarding the unacceptable ones, almost like a ritual. Then she got up to fetch the hose and sprayed the planters with water.

She went around to the back of the house, out of view. Indio opened the door and went out to sit on the steps where she'd been. From here he could see her at the garden beds on the right, enclosed by chicken wire fencing, and the land stretching back thirty yards to the fence, and partially cleared scrub beyond, which was part of the property, and the forest beyond that. It was a ridiculous amount of land—he couldn't fathom what Caleb was thinking in buying it—unkempt but beautiful, wide open but private.

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