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I waved a hand to Mr. Adams and Sam as they drove away. Wiping engine grease from my fingers, I got straight to the point, my tone all false calm. “We got business, motherfucker?”
He angled his head. “You remember who I am?”
“Yeah, I remember who you are. You’re Pearl’s ex. So I’m wondering what the fuck you’re doing here.” Here in our town and here at my place of business.
“I came to see Pearl, of course. I hadn’t realized until I got here that I’ve been an idiot, not realizing you and Pearl were fucking around all this time. I get it now. I get it, and I’m here to… encourage you to cease and desist.”
I’d advanced one step of the fifteen feet or so between us before he reached into the back of his waistband and whipped out a pistol he’d hidden under his slept-in shirt. He held it low, but it was aimed at my chest, and he’d removed the safety and cocked it without looking at it, which meant he knew what he was doing. Fuck.
“What’s the weapon for, Upstone?” My hands balled into fists at my sides.
He flinched at my use of his name. “It’s just here to inspire you to listen instead of react in what I imagine is your customary Neanderthal manner. I’d like us to have a chat about Pearl. What is and isn’t acceptable going forward.”
I hated her name in his mouth. “And you’ve run this by her?”
He chuckled, and I wanted to bash his face in. “She’s mulling it over at the moment.”
Everything stilled. “So you’ve seen her today.”
“Saw her today, saw her leaving here last night… After the two of you fucked each other for two hours in that shitty trailer you call home—I assume. Highly unlikely you were having a philosophical discussion.”
I calculated the last time I’d heard from her—a couple of hours ago when she was leaving class. She was due at work in three hours.
“Where is she now?”
His slow smile made the monster inside me bend the bars on the cage I’d put him in. “Oh, I imagine she’s still at home.”
“You need to understand something, Upstone. You hurt Pearl, I’ll kill you.”
He chuckled as if I was too simple to understand what was going down. “I love her. I wouldn’t hurt her. Oh—did she tell you otherwise?” He laughed again. “She likes to be the center of attention, that girl.”
A car drove by, and his stance faltered slightly. “Let’s go inside the trailer, Wynn. You can give me a tour of your extensive property.”
“Let’s not. Whatever we have to discuss, we can discuss here.” I’d never wanted to wipe a grin off anyone’s face so badly.
“Oh, I don’t think so. Inside, now, or I’ll have to revert to my secondary plan, and I’d really rather not do that. And in case you’re wondering? I’m an excellent shot.”
“Planning on shooting me, then?”
His jaw flexed. He was getting more riled with me by the second. “The firearm is just here to level the playing field between us—self-defense, you understand. That said, only a pussy-assed moron carries a gun he has no intention of firing to a conversation with a belligerent redneck.” He gestured toward the trailer with the barrel. “But let’s talk. Maybe we can reach an agreement that will work for all of us.”
That lying sack of shit didn’t intend to reach anything but my elimination, but there’d be no happily ever after with Pearl if he was wanted for murder. As batshit as he was, he knew that much. She was in danger of this sociopath’s delusions, and I was the only thing standing between the two of them.
I walked to the trailer and he followed a few feet behind. Even so, I could feel the barrel of that gun like it was jammed right into the middle of my back.
Sheriff Walker wasn’t all that impressed with the fact that my ex had shown up and shouldered his way into the house, tried to keep me from calling 911, and had to be persuaded to leave at gunpoint. He was equally unimpressed that we hadn’t gotten a license plate number or the make and model of his car. Mama saw a blue sedan in the driveway when she pulled in, so I knew he wasn’t driving the white Corolla he’d had while we were undergrads.
Walker heaved an overworked, underpaid sigh. “Look. These sorta squabbles happen all the time with young folks—boys with too much testosterone and pretty girls who like to be the focus of a little drama—until it gets out of hand.”
I clenched my fists in my lap. “We broke up months ago, and I do not welcome drama.”
He raised his unkempt brows and quirked his mouth knowingly as if to say, Sure you don’t—and yet here we are.
“Idiota,” Mama mumbled, her posture mirroring mine.
My phone alert sounded—a text from Sam. I typed in my lock code three times before I got it right; my fingers felt like prosthetics.
Sam:  Some weird guy showed up at Wynn’s and Boyce made me leave early. He called me Samantha and he never calls me that. They didn’t seem friendly and I didn’t recognize the guy. He looked like he needed a shower BAD. I couldn’t get a pic of him without being really obvious. I took this pic of his car and plates though.
My hands shook. “I have the car and plates. It’s from Tennessee—maybe a rental. He’s at my boyfriend’s business.”
Sheriff Walker rolled his eyes. “All right then, lemme have it.” He scribbled down the information and called it in, and I texted my thanks to Sam and then texted Boyce: You okay?
Sam answered me: No problem.
Boyce didn’t.
“Jesus H. Christ.” Sheriff Walker shot out of the velvet-upholstered parlor chair, his phone still pressed to his ear, and Mama and I stood with him. “Call Bobby over at San Patricio—we may need backup. I’ll meet you at Wynn’s.” His mouth twisted in contrition, he turned back to us. “Well young lady, your ex is wanted in Nashville—assault and battery at the least, possibly attempted murder. He’s armed and dangerous. Sounds like you were lucky today.”
I didn’t believe in luck, but in that moment, I wished I did. Mama crossed herself—which I’d never seen her do outside of church—and sat back down.
“Excuse me, I need a drink of water,” I said. I walked to the kitchen, picked up my keys, passed through the mudroom and into the garage. The garage door was still up and the sheriff’s car was parked in the drive behind Mama’s car, not mine.