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Chapter 2

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Jake hung the gas nozzle back onto the pump, and the machine spit out his receipt, the buzzing abrupt and irritating.

He snatched it, and folded back into his rental car, his dress shirt already sticking to his arms, the heat oppressive. He still had a few miles to go, and he'd gotten away from the airport later than he wanted, the line up taking over an hour to process. The gas pumps here had taken forever to work, and of course, the rental did not have A/C.

As he pulled out of the gas station, he reflected that he wasn't in New York anymore, and to stop being such an asshole. Out here, life was slower. People had a different pace. He lifted his shoulders and let them drop, pushing out some deep breaths, trying his best to inject calm into the stress that had crept in only two days before.

Two days ago he'd found out his father had died. A father he didn't remember, but who had requested he be at the will reading. A lawyer from Calgary had called him, and now here he was, driving out to West Line Ranch, a place he apparently left when he was three, with his mother.

The radio was pure static, so he switched it off, preferring to think in the relative calm of wind noise from the open windows, the absolute disaster of his life a cacophony compared to the green, rolling farmland around him. He was headed east, according to his phone's GPS. Into prairie, crops, cows, and country people.

Which was the exact opposite of his life, all the way across the damned continent in New York City.

Two weeks ago he had been sitting in his restaurant in a swanky part of Greenpoint, signing paperwork to close the sale over to the Urban Lumberjack Entertainment group.

Shitty as it was, he was relieved to be signing them. Brooklyn was changing. Classical French cuisine was just not bringing people in the door anymore. Patronage was down, and there were nights he'd had to send wait staff home early. It made it hard to keep people, and sometimes he'd been the one serving tables instead of barking orders in the kitchen.

People these days wanted to drink everything out of thrifted crystal, eat strange concoctions off plates shaped like old tractor seats or barn boards. He was so done with hipster bullshit and the trend towards obtuse, weird food.

Just as he had crossed the T on the last signature, the door had swung open and his ex-wife Ashley had waltzed in. Perfect timing, as always. Like a frigging TV show.

The real estate agent had gathered her papers and ran out of there, seeing the look on Ashley's face. If he could've, he would have too. But she had a big envelope in her hands, which meant she needed something from him.

She had flourished the divorce settlement papers at him, and he had endorsed them with the same efficiency he'd just done to the sale papers, his mind numb from the sheer impact of what he was signing away in the mere space of five minutes. She'd left without saying more than a dozen words to him, papers in tow, and he had helped himself to a few shots of the best scotch behind the bar before he'd closed up the last ten years of his life for good. The sun through the big retractable windows cast a sad, spiky pattern on the far wall from the chairs upended on the table, and he'd had one last look at it before locking the doors.

He'd taken the bottle home on impulse, his favourite expensive crystal tumbler from behind the bar with it. They wouldn't miss it, and if they did? Screw them.

On his way home, he'd gotten a call from his landlord that the place he'd rented had just been sold, and he needed to be out by next week. He had finished that bottle, sitting in his favourite chair, looking out the huge windows that had the best evening view of Manhattan, and was the reason he'd agreed to rent the damned place when he left the condo he and Ashley had shared for their year and a half of marriage.

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