| Chapter One
"What the hell did you think you were doing? Were you trying to kill
Brick flinched at the harsh tone. "Would you care if I had?"
Jack McKenna ignored the comment and his gray eyes pierced his son's with
a glare of pure granite.
Brick had returned to the McKenna ranch after completing the most challenging
mountain climb of his life. High with excitement and adrenalin, he had rushed
up to the study to tell Jack about his achievement. The euphoria evaporated
instantly as his father's disapproval hit him like a physical blow. Brick
found his hand trembling as he lifted it to push back the lock of hair that
habitually fell into his eyes, but he stood his ground and held those eyes
"Only professionals tackle the Devil's Pike." Jack's voice was steel.
"I knew I could make it, Jack. I've been training on the Widow-"
Jack snorted. "The Widow's Peak is a hard climb, but it's in a different
league to the Devil's Pike. I tried it once, and failed. Guy was never stupid
enough to even try..."
"So I'm stupid, is that what you're saying?"
"If the cap fits, Brick," Jack shot back. "How can I trust you to run tours
when you take such reckless chances with your own life? When are you going
to grow up? Why can't you be more like..."
"More like Guy?" Brick had been ready to reason with his father; now, long
pent-up anger erupted and he didn't try to hold back the bitter words that
came tumbling out.
"Maybe it's because I'm not Guy, Jack. When I was a kid, all I ever
wanted was for you to be proud of me. I don't know why I bothered - I've
never been able to please you because I have the wrong name. I don't know
what you want from me. What do I have to do for you to accept who I am? I'm
not Guy and I'm never going to be."
Jack frowned. "This isn't about your brother."
"The hell it isn't. Everything's about my brother. I know you loved him best;
I guess I can accept that. I know if you could have chosen which of us was
to die, it wouldn't have been him. But I didn't die, Jack; Guy did, and one
day both of us are going to have to come to terms with that."
A stony silence greeted his words. Brick looked into Jack's eyes and saw
the conflicting emotions reflected there. He felt tears pricking his own
eyes and he turned away abruptly, knowing that if he spoke again, his voice
would shake. He was not going to let his father see him cry.
Brick raced out of the study, taking the steps down from the attic two at
a time. He ignored Jack's shout of, "Running away won't solve anything,"
wrenched open the heavy oak front door and stumbled blindly out into the
Leigh McKenna retreated into the kitchen as she heard Brick's footsteps
thundering down the stairs. Now was not the right time to talk to him: she
had discovered from experience that he needed time and space to cool down
after an argument with his father.
She had overheard most of the confrontation between the two men. She
had not been listening deliberately, but it would have been impossible not
to overhear the bitter voices raised in anger. She found her own heart pounding
in the wake of what had become an all-too-frequent occurrence in the McKenna
Leigh was at a loss to understand what had gone so badly wrong over the past
few months. Yes, life had been difficult for a while when Brick had first
returned to the ranch. Jack and Brick were very different men, often approaching
life from opposite angles, and frequent disagreements between the two were
inevitable as they struggled to work out their relationship.
Jack was a strong character with a deep-rooted conviction of what was right,
a powerful man, widely respected in the area. His strong views frequently
resulted in a certain rigidity in his thinking. Brick, on the other hand,
was quick minded and quick tempered, more inclined to deal with individual
situations on their own merits rather than applying a rigid moral code. He
was always eager for new experiences and open to new ideas. The two men would
never see eye to eye on everything, but Leigh recognized that working together,
they could be a formidable team. She had been convinced that things were
heading in the right direction until just after Christmas; since then, everything
had gone to hell.
Leigh tried hard to bite her tongue and refuse to take sides during their
arguments, even though she felt more and more often that it was Jack who
was unreasonable and unjust. This time, though, she was angry enough to ignore
the inner voice of caution. She marched up the stairs to the study where
she found Jack standing, arms folded, staring out of the small attic window.
"Just what was that all about?" Leigh demanded coldly.
Jack turned his head and flashed her one of his patented 'looks'. "It's not
your business, Leigh."
"Really? Well I think it is my business, Jack, when you and Brick
are screaming at each other loud enough to wake the dead. How do you think
it affects your grandchildren, to hear and see you two going for each other's
Jack turned to face her then and rubbed his hands through his hair, an expression
of contrition touching his angular features. "I'm sorry, Leigh. You know
I'd never deliberately upset the children."
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to."
Jack frowned. "He was in the wrong, Leigh. That mountain is too dangerous
"In your opinion, which is the only one that counts, right?"
"Leigh, you know The Devil's Pike is a difficult climb."
"Difficult, but not impossible. Just like Widow - that's dangerous, too,
but it didn't stop you climbing it year after year."
"That's different. It's an easier climb and I knew I was capable of making
"How did you know, Jack? The first time you climbed it- how did you know
you could make it?"
Jack frowned again. "I trained on other mountains; I talked to people who'd
done the climb before me."
"And you think Brick didn't?"
Jack's eyes flashed - a danger sign, but Leigh was determined to stand her
ground. She hadn't seen Brick's expression when he stormed out but she knew
that it would have reflected the pain Jack's words had caused, and this time
she was determined to tell Jack McKenna a few home truths.
"I know what I'm talking about. This was a riskier climb than the Widow,"
Jack went on. "I never made it; neither did Guy. I came close to losing my
life up there once."
"What if Brick's a better climber than you? Than Guy?"
"It doesn't matter. He still took a stupid risk."
Leigh sighed, frustrated at the man's stubborn refusal to accept another
point of view. "No climb is without risk, Jack, you know that. Brick isn't
stupid. If he didn't think he could do it, he wouldn't have attempted the
"You like seeing him risk his neck? He's reckless, Leigh."
"He needs He likesa challenge, needs to push himself to the limit. It's part
of who he is, Jack, and one day you're going to have to accept that. Coming
down on him every time he does something you don't agree with isn't going
to stop him, you should know that by now."
"You trying to tell me you know my son better than I do?"
"Maybe." Leigh squared her chin and met Jack's eyes. "You don't know
your son, Jack, not really. When you look at him, you don't see the real
Brick McKenna. You see the person you want him to be; the person he can never
be. You want him to be Guy."
Jack's eyes narrowed. "I just heard that rubbish from Brick."
"It's the truth Jack, and you need to face it. We all know you favored Guy;
nothing can change that. But Guy's gone. You have a chance now to build a
real relationship with your other son, a chance to show him that he's special,
that you're proud of him for who he is. Why can't you bring yourself to do
it? You think Brick doesn't see how you compare him to Guy at every turn?
And how obvious it is that you think he falls short? Do you have any idea
how much that hurts him?"
Jack shook his head. "You don't know what you're talking about, Leigh."
"Don't I?" Leigh was warming to her task. "Just think about it, Jack. Have
the humility to take a step back and take a good look at yourself. I loved
Guy very much - maybe too much. But he wasn't perfect. He had his faults,
like everyone. But you can't see that - because his faults are your faults
and you're blind to them. Brick is a good man, Jack. He does things differently
from you, he thinks differently from you. Yes, he can be hotheaded and impulsive,
but has it ever occurred to you that sometimes he's right and you're wrong?
You two would make such a great team, if only you could just accept him for
who he is. Is that so difficult?"
Jack stared at her for a long moment, and for a moment she saw something
in his expression that gave her hope that her words had penetrated. Then
his lips narrowed in a tight line and he shook his head once, vehemently.
"I'm not listening to any more of this." He turned from her abruptly and
left the room, his booted feet clattering on the wooden stairs.
Leigh didn't attempt to follow him, but sank slowly into the big rocker.
She was shaking; an argument with Jack always left her drained and
emotionally fragile. She ran her hands through her short, blonde hair. She
didn't regret her words; she had spoken the truth and it was time Jack took
his head out of the sand and faced it.
After a few moments, she heard the patter of small feet and looked up as
Rose trotted over to her, gazing up with troubled blue eyes.
"What's the matter, honey?"
"I think Uncle Brick's sick, mom."
"You do? What makes you think that?"
"I just saw him running down to the pond and when I tried to talk to him
he said, "Not now, Rosie," and he looked all funny, like Harry did last week
when he had the tummy ache."
Leigh held her arms out. Rose climbed up onto her lap and wrapped little
arms around her mother's neck.
Leigh hugged her close, finding comfort in the warmth of her daughter's small
"Do you think Uncle Brick's sick, mom?"
Leigh smiled down at Rose's serious face. "I don't think so, honey. But how
about this. I'll go down to the pond and check on him. Why don't you go and
play with Harry in your room for a while. I'll come and tuck you into bed
Rose nodded readily, concern abated in the sure knowledge that her mother
knew how to fix everything. She slipped off Leigh's lap and padded to the
door. Leigh sighed. If only her daughter was right. Unfortunately, Brick's
pain was not the kind you could treat with a pill or a hug. There was only
one person who could provide a cure and she had absolutely no idea how to
make that happen.
Leigh paused at the end of the path, observing the dejected figure sitting
on the log bench beside the pond. Brick was staring down into the depths
of the water, arms braced against the rough wood of the bench as if he needed
the support to stay upright.
She walked up, sat down beside him and silently placed a hand over one clenched
fist. Long moments passed before he let out a small huff of breath and some
of the tension seemed to leave his body. He slowly unclenched his fist and
wound his fingers around hers.
They sat there in companionable silence for a while longer. Brick continued
to stare out over the water and he didn't turn to look at her when he finally
"You know, I was only seven when I first worked it out."
"Worked what out?"
"That Guy was Jack's golden boy and I..." he shrugged. "Jack was the center
of my universe then, you know? He was my hero. I'd have done anything to
make him proud of me. And then I worked it out."
"Did something happen?"
"Not really. I just... he took us fishing one day. I was too small to handle
a full-length rod back then, but Guy was getting the hang of it; he was almost
eleven and a lot bigger than me. Jack spent hours working with him, helping
him make up flies, showing him how to cast properly. And Guy listened, and
did what he was told, and caught three fish. I sat there the whole time,
just watching. Then Jack turned to me, with this look of pride on his face,
and he said, "You watch your brother and follow what he does, Brick, and
you'll do ok."
He turned and looked at her then. "It was strange, because right there and
then I could see how it was going to be. I spent the next fifteen years trying
to be like Guy to please Jack, while at the same time hating myself for it
and rebelling against him. Until I finally realized that if I was
ever going to be myself, not a Guy wanna-be, I was going to have to
"But you came back."
"I wasn't planning to, though, not then. If Cass hadn't run away... I guess
I was a coward, but being away from here - I felt free, you know? Like I
could finally breathe. But I came back and I thought maybe there was a chance
that Jack and I could make it work after all, that without Guy..." he broke
off abruptly. "Shit, I'm sorry, Leigh. I didn't mean..."
She squeezed his hand. "It's ok. I know you loved Guy. He loved you too,
you know that, even though things were difficult at the end. But I don't
think he ever really understood you - he and Jack had that in common."
Brick managed a small smile. "What about you? Do you understand me?"
Leigh was acutely aware of his hand in hers, warm and comfortable, and he
was too close - far too close. Since the night of her birthday and that kiss,
she had been careful to keep her distance from him whenever possible and
tried not to acknowledge to herself the reason why. Tried to ignore the fact
that more and more frequently in her dreams it wasn't Guy's lips on hers,
but Brick's. Tried to deny that when she woke it wasn't Guy she was aching
for - it was Brick. The strength of the feelings frightened her. Rationally
she knew that she had to let Guy go and get on with her life, but she found
it impossible to shake the feeling that it was disloyal to Guy to have such
feelings for his brother. A brother who was so different from him, yet one
she had understood from the start. She had loved Guy desperately and she
had understood him, too. How was it that she could love two men who were
so different, when they found it impossible to understand each other?
She tried to keep her tone light as she answered. "Maybe I understand you
better than you think, Brick McKenna!"
His eyes searched hers and she felt herself flushing beneath the scrutiny,
fearful that the intent blue gaze could see straight into her soul. She was
unsure what he saw there, but after a moment he disentangling her hand from
his and stood up, putting a little distance between them.
"Leigh, I've been thinking about moving on again."
The word felt like a cold shower and she spoke before thinking. "You can't
leave, Brick. You're the one thing that makes life here bearable."
She was silent, wishing she could take the words back, though they were true,
to a large extent. She loved her children very much, but she knew that she
needed more in her life. Until Brick returned she hadn't realized how much
she had been sleepwalking through life, simply going through the motions.
The thought of losing him was unbearable.
"Why do you stay, Leigh?"
She shrugged. "You know why. It's my home, the children are happy here. You
and Jack are the only family I have."
"You could come with me."
"Come with you?" she repeated, rolling the words round in her mind, thinking
for one wild moment what would happen if she said, 'yes'. It wasn't possible:
they both knew that. "I can't - it's - it's not right."
"Because of Guy?"
"Please, Brick, I don't want to go over this again. It's been fine these
past few months, hasn't it?"
She stood up and reached for him, gripped his hand urgently. "Stay, Brick.
You can make it work with Jack, I know you can."
It was Brick's turn to shrug. "Maybe. I guess we've both got some big decisions
The following evening, Brick stood outside the ranch house, hand shielding
his eyes from the still-penetrating glare of the sinking sun, watching a
black Bentley drive sedately up the road and coast to an elegant halt a few
He glanced at his father standing alongside him. Neither of them had spoken
a word in the ten minutes they had been standing there, but there was nothing
unusual about that. It was standard practice in the aftermath of one of their
fights for both of them to deal with the issue by pretending nothing
had happened. Brick knew that this was an immature and ultimately self-defeating
response, but re-visiting arguments with his father was an exercise in futility:
when Jack McKenna was sure he was in the right, nothing could move him.
Brick had spent most of the day in Bend engaged in various chores and had
been glad of the time away from the ranch. He had tried and failed to stop
his mind constantly re-visiting the harsh words that had been spoken between
them, and found his emotions still close to the surface whenever he remembered
the look of disapproval and disappointment in Jack's eyes. Now, he forced
his mind to shift gears as he prepared to greet the first of the new arrivals
expected this evening. Whatever their differences, it was important for the
image of the Outfitters for he and Jack to at least appear to be on good
"I guess this'll must be Mr. Patterson?" he remarked now, more to break the
uneasy silence than because there was any doubt as to the identity of the
Jack smiled, confirming Brick's assumption. "Oh, yes, this'll be Bill."
Bill Patterson was an old school friend of Jack's. He had left Bend to study
at Boston University and subsequently made quite a name for himself as a
management consultant and business advisor. The two men had kept in touch
over the years and Bill tried to make the trip back to Oregon once a year.
Brick had known Patterson all his life and had observed enough to know that
in temperament, interest and outlook on life, the two friends could not be
more different. He often wondered how two men with so little in common could
have enjoyed such a strong friendship for so long.
Patterson emerged from the car and Jack greeted him with a handshake followed
by a bear hug.
"See you've got yourself a new toy, Bill."
"Thought I'd indulge myself. A beauty, isn't she?"
Brick cast his eyes along the sleek lines of the vehicle. She was a beauty
all right; a top of the line model, with all the trimmings.
Bill must have noticed his envious glance for he said, "Like the car? You
can take her for a spin sometime, if you'd like."
"Love to," Brick responded enthusiastically. "I bet she runs like a dream."
"She certainly does. She's probably wasted on me, but I love her all the
same. Well, Brick, it's good to see you. It must be what, three years? How
are you keeping?"
"I'm good, thanks."
Patterson was tall and lean and his long, narrow face carried a scholarly
cast that immediately put one in mind of academic institutions. Although
he was wearing casual slacks and a polo shirt, they looked out of place on
him as if a suit was his natural garb. To Brick's eyes, he had not changed
much during those three years. He was perhaps somewhat thicker around the
waist than memory served, and his blond-gray hair was a little thinner, but
the penetrating hazel eyes behind the small, round glasses were as astute
as ever and the familiar wide smile still came readily to his lips.
"Brick, could you keep an eye out for the other guests?" Jack called over
his shoulder as he picked up Bill's luggage and headed off. "I'll show Bill
to his cabin."
Jack's commands were usually couched as requests and Brick was aware that
he often courted disaster by deliberately taking that on face value and daring
to say, 'no'. But this time he simply nodded amicably. He knew Jack was excited
about Patterson's visit, even though he tried not to show it.
Brick settled down to wait for the second party, and a little over half an
hour later spotted exhaust fumes in the distance.
As it came closer he identified the vehicle; a stylish and obviously expensive
metallic-red SUV that screeched to a halt barely six inches from where he
stood. The windows were open and rap music blared forth. Brick had no time
for that particular genre of music, but he could hardly be critical of the
volume; he played rock music in his own car just as loud. It was just a pity
that the quality of sound his speakers produced was a world away from the
clear, crisp tones of what was obviously a state-of-the-art system.
As the sound of the engine died away and the music faded out, it became obvious
that the driver was engaged in an intense argument with his attractive female
passenger. Brick waited politely for a moment, but when the shouting continued,
he stepped forward and cleared his throat noisily. The driver turned his
head, observing Brick for a moment through black, opaque Ray-Bans.
He glanced back at his companion. "We'll finish this later."
The girl shot him a venomous look, which Brick noted, and the driver missed,
as he got out of the car. He was tall, perhaps 6'2, athletically built, with
sun-bleached blond hair. Brick had to concede that he was good-looking -
in a dime-a-dozen surfer sort of way. His Nikes, designer pants and T-shirt
were studied-casual; a quick mental calculation concluded that the cost of
his outfit would probably feed the McKenna household for a week.
This was undoubtedly Grant Levine, twenty-year-old son of a rich Seattle
property developer. Leigh had spoken to him several times on the telephone
and, reading between the lines of her comments, Brick had been expecting
a spoiled, self-centered and arrogant young man. His first impression of
Levine did nothing to dispel this opinion.
He couldn't see the expression in Levine's eyes behind the shades, but the
way the blond was looking at him suggested a scientist observing a primitive
life form and his lip curled in what Brick was sure was a permanent sneer.
He fought back a wave of aggression towards the newcomer, stepped forward,
hand outstretched, and smiled politely. "Welcome to the Great McKenna Wild.
I'm Brick McKenna. I guess you'd be Grant?"
Grant ignored Brick's hand and instead nodded briefly. He turned as the girl
appeared beside him. She was perhaps eight inches shorter than Grant and
possibly a couple of years younger, with a Hollywood smile and dark hair
cut in a stylish bob. Her shorts and halter-top were cut to show her figure
to full advantage and left little to the imagination.
Grant tried to put his arm around her, but she pulled away, deliberately
walking around the blond to stand close to Brick. She removed her sunglasses
and as she slowly raked her eyes up and down his body, Brick felt himself
flush at her frankly admiring gaze. She extended her hand.
"Ignore Grant, he has no manners. It's nice to meet you, Brick. I'm Lorena
Hamilton. You can call me Lori." She kept hold of his hand until he was forced
to pull it away, and he saw a smile play around her lips at his embarrassment.
He could also feel Grant's eyes boring into him from behind the shades, and
hastily averted his gaze from Lori's frankly stunning attributes.
The final two members of the party spilled out of the back and Brick turned
away thankfully to greet them. Christian Jacoby was auburn-haired, about
five-ten with the broad shoulders and muscular build of a football player.
Good-looking would have been too generous a description, but he had an open,
pleasant expression that was a welcome contrast to Levine's arrogant sneer.
His companion, Grant's sister Cindy, was taller and thinner than Lori, with
the same blond hair and designer looks as Grant.
Grant himself was looking around him, taking in the cabins and the barn,
with the paddocks behind.
"Not the kind of big spread I was expecting," he commented.
"Well, this is a family-run business, Grant," Brick explained patiently.
"We like to keep things small and personal."
"Lots of home cooking and whoop it up sing-songs around the camp fire?"
Grant's tone was mocking and Brick felt his jaw tighten. Before he could
respond, Walter appeared, seemingly from nowhere, in that infuriating way
he had. His eyes lit up in obvious appreciation when he spotted the two girls.
"Well, now, what do we have here? A couple of lovely young things needing
help with their luggage!"
Grant's sardonic gaze shifted and Brick saw one eyebrow arch in surprise
and his lips curl in amusement as he exchanged a glance with Lori. Although
he himself was sometimes embarrassed by Walter's blatantly sexist behavior,
Brick felt his blood boil at the way Grant was looking down his nose at the
handyman. With an effort, he kept his voice pleasant.
"This is Walter Maddock, our handyman. He'll help you with your luggage and
show you to your cabins. We'll be eating soon, but you'll have time to freshen
Lori gave Brick a mega-watt smile and threw Grant a defiant look. "Those
cabins look divinely quaint. I can't wait to get settled in."
Grant finally removed his sunglasses and cool blue eyes held Brick's. "Well,
I guess we'll see you at dinner, then, 'Hick', was it?"
"It's Brick," Brick replied through gritted teeth.
"Ah, yes. 'Brick'. I'll try to remember that." Grant turned away
dismissively, taking Lori's arm in a proprietary fashion. "Come on, darling.
Let's go and check out these quaint little cabins."
This time Lori allowed him to lead her away, while Christian threw Brick
an apologetic glance as he followed. Brick watched them go, with only one
question on his mind: how was he going to get through the next three days
without decking Grant Levine? He somehow felt that beating up the guests
would not feature high on a list of activities Jack would approve of. At
least, he thought with a wry grin, if he did, it would be something genuine
for Jack to gripe about.
With a sigh, Brick turned and headed for the ranch house.
Brick leaned back contentedly against hard granite and gazed down into the
valley below. High up in the foothills of the Three Sisters mountain range,
his vantage point overlooked a vast panorama of forests and rivers meandering
lazily through lush meadows. Behind him, the mountains towered above and
Eagle Creek Lake glittered like a sapphire amid gray, granite slopes.
Up here, the trials of life seemed trivial in the light of the vast beauty
spread out before him. He had sat in this spot many times before when he
felt life crowding in on him. Each time, the wilderness had revealed something
fresh and wondrous and never failed to lighten his spirit.
The Levine group's itinerary called for a full day's horseback trek and Brick
had decided to take them high into the mountains, following the course of
Eagle Creek until they reached the sheltered lake, a perfect place to picnic
and swim. They had arrived a few minutes ago and tethered the horses in
anticipation of a few hours of relaxation.
Since his introduction to the group the previous evening, Brick had decided
that the wisest way to deal with them, and with Grant in particular, was
to throw himself into the role of tour guide. Throughout the ride, he
enthusiastically pointed out flora and fauna and interesting landmarks and
regaled them with tales of life in the wilderness. Cindy and Christian responded
with what appeared to be genuine interest. Neither had spent much time in
what Christian termed 'the wild, wide open spaces' and were enjoying the
experience. Lori asked a lot of questions, but he had a feeling that her
motivation was more to keep his attention on her than any real desire to
know more about the area. Grant made it patently clear that he had no interest
in his surroundings, ("I've seen trees and mountains before; they all look
the same") and Brick was tiring of countering the blond's constant put-downs
couched in polite conversation.
Christian was in the middle of a complicated story about his father's latest
killing on the stock market and Brick allowed his attention to wander, scanning
the valley below for one of the sights he had hoped to see today.
Finally, he spotted it, a golden eagle soaring high on the thermals. He shaded
his eyes and watched it glide effortlessly back and forth, banking occasionally
to adjust its flight to the prevailing air current. There was nothing more
thrilling than the sight of one of these majestic birds in action. It was
the king of the sky, free to go where it pleased, when it pleased, seemingly
with the whole world at its wingtips. As a boy, he would sit for hours watching
just one bird, wondering what it would feel like to soar freely through the
air, wishing he could be an eagle and fly far, far, away.
Well, he had finally flown away, but he hadn't found what he was looking
for. He had begun to think that it was because this was where he belonged
all along, but recently this conviction had begun to waver. Watching the
eagle now, he felt a pang of envy for its freedom and realized that he was
once more beginning to feel trapped in his own home.
"So the next day he sold all the shares again, for a profit of over 150 per
cent," Christian said, a note of pride in his voice. "If he keeps this up,
he'll be a millionaire before he's fifty."
Reluctantly, Brick dragged his attention back to the group.
"Best not to count your chickens," Grant drawled casually. "Stock market's
a volatile business."
"Know all about it, do you Grant?" Brick asked, unable to hold back the caustic
Grant eyed him lazily, a half-amused smile on his face. "I wouldn't profess
to know it all, but I'm fairly confident I know a great deal more than a
country boy who barely made it out of high school, Hi... Brick."
Brick felt his face flare; knowing he'd set himself up for the put-down did
nothing to lessen his anger at Levine's arrogance. He opened his mouth to
retort, saw a glint of triumph in Grant's eye that he was finally rising
to the bait, and clamped his mouth shut again, ignoring the smirk Grant directed
"Who wants to come for a swim?" Cindy said brightly, jumping to her feet.
"Come on Lori, let's show the guys how it's done!"
Lori stood up and smiled at Brick. "Coming in, Brick? I'll bet you're a great
swimmer." She glanced at Grant as she spoke and Brick noted the delight in
her eyes as Grant's expression darkened.
Brick stood up reluctantly and began to strip down to the bathing trunks
he had put on beneath his jeans. He couldn't deny that his ego was flattered
by Lori's attention, even though he knew that she was only making a play
for him for Grant's benefit. He wasn't sure if she was simply trying to make
Grant jealous, or punishing him for some slight. Whatever her motives, her
tactics were working. Levine was a simmering volcano ready to erupt and Brick
knew who was going to be right in the way when the lava started flowing.
Lori looked him up and down appraisingly, seeming to like what she saw. Then
she let her gaze wander from one man to the other, a blatant challenge in
"Race you both to the other side!"
Grant shot Brick a look loaded with venom and waved him forward with a mock
"After you - Hick."
Fighting back the temptation to use his fist to wipe the sneer off Levine's
face, Brick reluctantly followed Lori into the water.
Over lunch, Cindy asked about the itinerary for the next few days.
Brick swallowed a bite of sandwich. "Tomorrow you're going rafting on the
"What class white water?" Christian asked.
"Class III. Should be enough of a challenge."
"Are you taking us out, Brick?" Lori asked, her eagerness not lost
on either Grant or Brick.
Only if Hell freezes over first, Brick thought, having already planned
to persuade Jack to take the run. Nevertheless, he said neutrally, "I don't
know yet. Jack and I will decide tonight."
"Well, it all sounds like a blast," Grant said casually, "but I have another
idea. Do you know of a place near here called the Witch's Cauldron?"
Brick felt a familiar cold bar of steel grip his heart. It had been a long
time since he'd consciously thought about that place and it no longer featured
nightly in his dreams, so he was startled at the intensity of emotion the
mere mention of it generated.
"I know the place," he replied casually, careful not to allow his feelings
"A friend of mine was there last year," Grant went on. "He said it was a
"What's the Witch's Cauldron?" Cindy asked.
Brick answered her, but his eyes remained on Grant's face. He could see a
challenge written there and for one wild moment wondered if Grant knew the
"The Cauldron's a small lake not too far from here. At first glance, it looks
a lot like this one, but it's lethal - there are underwater currents that
can drag you down, tear you to pieces against submerged rocks. It's so dangerous
that the Parks Commission has made it illegal to swim there."
"I heard there'd been some deaths over the years, but it doesn't stop people
taking up the challenge, does it?" Grant persisted. "Marcus told me he and
his friends dived from the high rock and got out without too much trouble."
"They were lucky. Must have been high summer when the underground streams
weren't running too fast."
"Will you take us there tomorrow?" Grant looked Brick straight in the eye.
There it was - Brick knew that Grant had been working up to this.
"No," he replied shortly.
"What's the matter, McKenna? You chicken?"
Brick held Grant's challenging gaze steadily. "I'm not suicidal."
"You are chicken, aren't you?"
Brick broke the gaze. "Think what you like, Levine, but I'm not taking you
He stood up, brushing crumbs off his pants. "We'd best get moving. It's a
long ride back."
Studiously ignoring four pairs of curious eyes, he began to re-pack his backpack,
wishing his heart would stop thumping so fast and wondering if he'd ever
be able to escape the hold the Witch's Cauldron had over him.
Bill Patterson sat back in the comfortable armchair in the den and sipped
his coffee appreciatively.
It had been a long time since he had done so much physical exercise and he
was slightly ashamed that what to Jack McKenna was probably the equivalent
to a stroll in the park had been for him a strenuous hike.
Still, it had certainly given him an appetite and he felt he had done justice
to Leigh's delicious pot roast. Dinner, he reflected, had been an interesting
Christian and Cindy bore the brunt of the conversation, regaling everyone
with stories of the wildlife they had spotted during the ride. Lori's attention
was focused solely on a blatant attempt to flirt with Brick. Leigh seemed
to view the younger woman's efforts with a mixture of amusement and irritation,
but some instinct had Bill wondering if she would have reacted differently
had Brick been remotely responsive to Lori's overtures. That led him down
a whole different avenue of speculation. Typically, Jack seemed not to have
noticed his son's apparent disinterest in the attractive young woman and
spent the meal glowering at Brick in reproof. Add to the mix a palpable animosity
towards Brick that flowed off Grant Levine in waves, and you had an explosion
ready to happen. Fortunately, Brick himself had seemed to be too pre-occupied
with his own thoughts to notice that much of the table's attention focused
on him and that, too, gave Bill cause for thought.
The Levine party had decided to go into town for the evening to seek out
what passed for nightlife in Bend. Normally, one of the McKennas would have
accompanied the guests into town, but Brick kept pointedly quiet when plans
were discussed and although Jack offered to go, Grant made it embarrassingly
clear that his company was less than welcome.
Bill glanced across the room at father and son as they sat in silence on
adjoining couches. He'd only been here a day, but already it was clear that
the relationship between these two was strained. Bill had known Jack McKenna
for most of his life and, although he hadn't been around a great deal when
the boys were growing up, he was aware of the difficulties between Jack and
Brick. The last time he had spoken to Jack on the telephone, he had been
delighted to hear that Brick had returned to the ranch and that their
relationship was improving. He wondered what had happened to change that.
"So, how are things in the Outfitting business?" he asked finally, when it
seemed that neither of his companions was ready to open a conversation. Although
he had spent the day with Jack, he had deliberately refrained from discussing
the business, deciding that it would be interesting to have the views of
both father and son on the subject.
"We're ticking along," Jack replied, just as Brick said, "Could be better."
Jack glared at his son. "We're doing okay."
Brick glared back. "We're doing okay - but we could be doing much better.
We're pretty much booked up for the next couple of months, but after that
there's plenty of vacancies in the cabins."
Jack snorted. "If you hadn't talked me into building those money-guzzlers,
we wouldn't have that problem."
Brick was silent, but Bill could see that he was seething. Bill could feel
the tension between father and son growing and guessed that this wasn't the
first time they had had this conversation.
"I think the cabins are a good idea, Jack," he commented honestly. "If you're
thinking of expanding you'll need that accommodation."
"We're not planning to expand. We wouldn't be able to handle that much more
business; anyway, as Brick helpfully pointed out, we're not fully booked
"We could be - if we advertised properly," Brick countered.
"How do you advertise now?" Bill prompted.
"Same way we always have - in some of the outdoor magazines, flyers in the
tourist info place in town." Jack replied.
"And it isn't enough. There are lots of other places and we don't even have
Jack glanced impatiently at Brick and Bill could sense that this was another
bone of contention.
"I still maintain that word of mouth recommendation is the best advertising,"
"I agree - but that isn't filling our vacancies, is it?" Brick went on heatedly.
"If we don't get smarter, we'll start losing the business we already have
to the competition. We're the only Outfitters in Oregon without a website,
Jack snorted and Bill said mildly, "Jack, I have to say I agree with Brick."
Brick shot him a grateful look. "There aren't many companies out there these
days without a website, and prospective clients are relying on them more
Jack shrugged dismissively. "This isn't a high tech business - nor
do we want it to be."
"I'm not suggesting you go high tech, Jack," Bill continued quickly before
Brick could jump in. "But you offer a great service here and you should be
maximizing all opportunities to promote it." He turned to Brick. "Do you
have any thoughts on expanding, Brick?"
Brick sat forward and launched forth eagerly. "I know Jack thinks that the
family feel is what marks us out from most of the competition and I agree
- that's one of our biggest selling points and we don't want to lose it.
I've been doing some research on some of the bigger Outfitters and they have
a lot to offer in terms of activities, but they've expanded so much that
it's all become very impersonal. We should keep it friendly, everyone eating
together and so on. So I wouldn't suggest building more than two more cabins
for now. I think the area we could expand in most is the day tours. Jack
and I would concentrate on the accommodated guests and we could hire in seasonal
guides and instructors to take out the day parties. There are lots more
activities we could add in if we used some imagination."
Bill was impressed. Brick had obviously put a lot of thought into this, and
he was surprised at the dismissive way Jack immediately brushed off his son's
"It's all very well having big ideas, but where's the money coming from?"
Brick flushed. "I'm not saying we do it all at once; but we have to start
"No, we don't." Jack stood up and Bill could see that as far as he was concerned,
the subject was closed. "I don't want to keep having this conversation, Brick.
We're doing fine as we are, and we don't need to be taking unnecessary risks."
As Jack stalked out of the room, Brick looked across at Bill and his frustration
was obvious in the tense set of his shoulders.
"He won't listen to anything I say. What do you think, Mr. Patterson? Do
you think it would be reckless to expand?"
Bill smiled. "First off, I think it's time you started calling me Bill."
Brick grinned and some of the tension seemed to dispel. "It's hard to think
of you as anything but Mr. Patterson, but I'll try."
"To answer your question, I think you have the right idea, Brick - expand
enough to increase business without losing what makes this Outfitters stand
out from the rest. There's a degree of risk - you'd need a business loan
to start off - but with the increase in competition I think it would be even
riskier to stay as you are."
"I'm glad there's someone who doesn't think I'm stupid."
Bill raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure Jack doesn't think that, Brick, but you
know him as well as I do. He can get set in his ways and he's resistant to
change. Let me talk to him, see if I can get him to think about it, at least.
I'd be happy to help you work out a business plan."
"That's great, Bill." Brick was looking hopeful now. "Jack respects you -
he might just listen."
Brick wearily climbed the stairs to the landing and headed towards his bedroom.
He was tired and his head had been thumping since dinner. He wanted nothing
more than to crash and get a good night's sleep, but he had a feeling even
that would be denied him; he was sure that the unwanted memories and disturbing
emotions raised by the earlier conversation about the Cauldron would also
bring back the familiar nightmare.
He pushed open the bedroom door and almost jumped out of his skin. Lori Hamilton
was lying on his bed, arms laced behind her neck. The skimpy shorts had been
replaced by an even skimpier skirt that revealed far too much of her long,
tanned legs, and a tight white t-shirt clung suggestively to her bra-less
breasts. She smiled seductively when she saw him, and crooked a little finger.
"At last. I was beginning to think you'd never come up. I thought country
boys went to bed early - don't you have to get up with the dawn and muck
out the horses, or something?"
Brick cursed under his breath and quickly nudged the door closed. He didn't
want Jack or Leigh walking past and seeing Lori in his room.
He finally found his voice.
"Lori, just what do you think you're doing?"
She arched an eyebrow. "If you can't work that out, you're not half the man
I think you are."
Brick took a deep breath, frantically debating how best to handle the situation.
In the past, he would have been delighted to find a beautiful, scantily clad
woman in his bed. But not now, not with the knowledge that she only wanted
him to score one over Grant and especially not while he was still trying
to work out his feelings for Leigh.
"Lori, you need to leave." He tried to sound firm, but she just giggled.
"You don't mean that!" She stood up in one lithe movement and walked over
to him, swayed slightly, tripped and fell forward. He had to put his arms
out to stop her falling and she took the opportunity to wind her arms around
his neck. This close, he could smell the alcohol on her breath. Perfect.
Amorous and drunk; a volatile combination.
"I mean it, Lorena." Brick tried unsuccessfully to disentangle himself.
"Lori." She wound one hand in his hair and pulled him into a kiss, lips pressing
hard against his, her tongue demanding entry.
"No!" He pulled away more forcefully this time. Lori staggered, righted herself
and glared at him. Then she giggled again and wagged a finger at him.
"Ooh, Brick, very masterful. I like that. But you don't need to play hard
to get; you know you want me and I want you - what's the problem?"
"I can think of three right off," Brick hissed. "One, you're a guest. Two,
you're with Grant and three, you've had far too much to drink."
"Oooh, Grant." She waved an arm dismissively. "He's such a party-pooper.
He's the jealous type, you know. His ego can't take it if I so much as look
at another man. That's why we were fighting when we arrived - he thought
I was ogling a guy at a gas station." She giggled again and put a finger
to her lips. "I was, too, but don't tell Grant - this guy was a real hunk.
He wasn't as handsome as you, though, Brick. Anyway, I think I'm going to
dump Grant: he's getting boring. Would that make you feel better?"
"It's not going to happen, Lori."
This time she could see he meant it and her pout changed to an angry frown.
"Just who do you think you are anyway, Mr. Goody-two-shoes country boy? Grant
was right about you after all - you are just a stupid, small town hick."
"Maybe I am," Brick said with feeling, taking her firmly by the elbow and
propelling her to the door. He opened it, still holding Lori's arm, and to
his horror came face to face with both Jack and Leigh on the landing.
Lori must have caught his shocked expression, for she said breezily, "Hi
there, Mr. McKenna, Leigh," grabbed Brick and kissed him hard, ruffled his
hair and walked away, making a big deal of adjusting her clothing, and smiling
sweetly at Jack as she passed.
Jack simply started at him with his most disapproving expression. More worrying
was Leigh's unreadable look. Brick put up a hand to flatten his hair, searching
for the right words to explain away what they probably thought they had just
Leigh broke the silence. "I'm going to bed."
Brick didn't have the energy to go after her; it wouldn't have done any good
at this point if he had. He went back inside his room and closed the door
behind him, leaning against it and giving a sigh of relief. Tomorrow he'd
take Leigh aside and tell her exactly what had happened. What Jack thought
of him, he really no longer cared.
His lungs burned for lack of oxygen and his legs ached with the effort of
kicking against the current. One final, superhuman effort and he broke the
surface; chest heaving, he took in a huge gasp of air. Then the unseen
enemy claimed him again, and this time his reserves of strength were gone
and he was dragged helplessly down and down into the bottomless depths. His
hand brushed something solid and a face floated lazily into view, white and
ghostly, the eyes fixed in terror, the mouth widened in a scream.
Brick lurched awake, springing upright so fast he hit the back of his head
against the wooden headboard. His heart was pounding at such a rate that
he felt it might jump right out of his chest and he could still feel the
burning pain in his lungs. His skin was clammy and damp from sweat. He brushed
wet hair out of his eyes with a shaking hand and switched on the bedside
light, desperate to dispel the grisly image of the dead body that seemed
seared onto his eyeballs.
This same nightmare had disturbed his sleep many times over the years, but
each time it was as vivid and frightening as the first. Back when it had
all started, Brick was sent to the school counselor and she had assured him
that the nightmare would fade with time. She was right; it had. From a nightly
occurrence, it had faded slowly until finally he was able to sleep at night
without fear. Now the nightmare visited him rarely, but was still terrifying
in its intensity when it did.
Brick took a few deep breaths and lay quietly until his heart rate slowed
and his breathing returned to normal. Then he glanced at the alarm clock
beside the bed - 5.30 a.m. He knew from experience the best way to dispel
the fear, so he got out of bed and padded on still shaky legs to the bathroom.
Five minutes under a cold shower brought him to full alertness and chased
away the darkness one more time.
Leigh was alone in the kitchen when he went downstairs. She turned and looked
at him, unsmiling, and the clever speech he had been rehearsing went right
out of his mind. He cleared his throat nervously.
"Leigh, about last night..."
She turned, folded her arms and raised an eyebrow.
Brick licked his lips nervously and pushed his hair out of his eyes.
"I went into my room and she was there - lying on the bed. She was drunk;
I don't know what she was thinking. Nothing happened, I swear."
Leigh's mouth quirked and relief flooded him as she failed to hold on to
the stern expression.
"You should have seen your face when you saw me and Jack!"
"I was afraid you'd think..."
"What? That you'd swept her off her feet and seduced her?"
"Well, no, but..." Perversely, now that he knew Leigh understood what had
happened, Brick felt a little peeved that she wasn't at all upset at finding
him in the arms of another woman.
He shrugged. "Nothing. I asked Jack to take them out today. He was only too
happy - obviously afraid I'll try to seduce Lori while we're halfway down
Leigh frowned. "He didn't really think you'd been ... he knows you better
than that, Brick."
"You think? I don't know any more. Anyway, I'll take the kids to school,
if you like; I need to get some things in town."
Leigh treated him to the beaming smile that always made his heart miss a
beat. "That'd be great, if you could. And while you're there, could you pick
up the special delivery from the post office?"
"For you, Leigh, anything."
Five hours later, chores finished, Brick stopped at the Bear Pit Inn for
lunch. He was standing at the bar, halfway through a bowl of chili when a
hand came down hard on his shoulder.
"Brick McKenna, as I live and breathe!"
Recognizing the voice, Brick turned to the sandy-haired young man grinning
"Johnny! Good to see you, buddy."
Johnny Fisher had been a good friend in high school. He and Brick shared
an interest in the wilderness and had spent a lot of time hiking and climbing
"Must be going on four years," Johnny said.
"About that," Brick agreed. "What you are drinking?"
"I'll have a beer, thanks." Johnny leaned against the bar. "Hoped to see
you here; heard word that you were back."
"Things working out?"
Brick shrugged. "Kinda. Up and down, like always."
"You planning on staying?"
Brick took a long swig of his beer while he pondered his answer. "To be honest,
I'm not sure yet. How about you: still with the McKenzie's?"
Johnny shook his head. "Moved over to an outfit in West Oregon - Silver Creek
Adventures. Heard of them?"
Brick nodded. "Seen their website. Looks like a big outfit."
"They can take up to fifty guests. They have ten permanent instructors and
hire in more during the busy season. Run so many different tours it makes
your head ring."
"You like it there?"
"To be honest, it isn't really my style - too impersonal. I prefer the family
run outfits like yours, where the guests get the personal touch."
"Oh, yeah, our guests get that all right - Jack's personal touch is all over
Johnny eyed him thoughtfully for a moment and Brick looked away quickly,
wishing he had kept his mouth shut. Johnny knew enough of his history to
understand the sentiment behind the statement. Nevertheless, his friend chose
not to call him on it, for which Brick was grateful.
"Thing about Silver Creek is, they use top of the range equipment and I'm
getting real good experience in some activities I've never done before. They're
always on the lookout for experienced instructors - if you decide to move
on, why don't you come on down, check them out? I'd put in a good word for
you, they'd be stupid not to hire someone with your experience."
Brick shook his head automatically. "Jack needs me here." He unsure whether
he really believed that anymore, but right now wasn't the time to examine
"He could hire someone else. He managed okay without you after..." Johnny
stopped abruptly. "Sorry, Brick, that was real insensitive."
"It's okay. You're right. They coped after Guy died, but only because Jack's
heart wasn't in the business. Now he's trying to get it going again."
Johnny drained his glass. "Well, I'd best go, got a couple of calls to make
on the way home. It was good to see you, Brick. Think about what I said;
you can call me any time."
Brick gripped his friend's hand. "Thanks, Johnny. If things... well, I'll
keep in touch."
Dinner that evening was a tense affair, even with the presence of Deputy
Sheriff Dale Goodwin who always had plenty to contribute to a conversation.
Jack was in a bad mood after a day on the river with the Levine party and
Brick was preoccupied with his own thoughts. At least he was spared Lori's
flirting - since last night's rejection, she had barely spoken a word to
him. Fortunately, Cassie was with them and kept the conversation alive by
telling them all about her latest production for the drama group at school.
It was fortunate, Brick thought, that Cassie was spending so much time in
rehearsals. She had missed some of his and Jack's biggest arguments and that
was for the best - seeing her father and brother at odds always upset her.
"So, tomorrow's activities," Jack was saying. "Grant, Brick is going to take
your party climbing. There are some challenging climbs within less than an
hour's drive - I gather all your party have some experience, so I'll leave
you to decide with Brick which rock face to go for."
"Actually," Grant said casually, "We were planning to take a trip to the
His statement was received in silence. Dale and Leigh looked concerned, Bill
Patterson inquisitive and Jack downright granite-faced. Brick avoided catching
anyone's eye and instead looked daggers at Grant. "I told you," he began,
but Jack jumped in.
"I'm afraid that's out of the question, Grant. The Cauldron's out of bounds,
it's too dangerous. Who told you about it?"
Grant's amused eyes flicked to Brick. "Actually, Brick was telling us all
about it yesterday."
"Really." Jack's voice was cold.
Brick recognized in his father's penetrating gaze everything that was wrong
with their relationship. The bottom line was that Jack didn't trust him.
Strangely, he didn't feel the familiar flare of anger. Instead, he felt weary
and slightly sick. No longer hungry, he put down his knife and fork and stood
"I told you before, Grant, we're going climbing tomorrow. Be ready to leave
at nine sharp."
Deliberately averting his eyes from everyone around the table, he pushed
his chair back and walked out of the room.
Dale took a sip of his beer, then stretched out his legs out and leaned back
in the old rocker. He loved sitting out here on the McKenna porch, watching
the sun sink slowly below the horizon out beyond the mountain range. He and
Brick had spent hours in this very spot over the years, talking about their
lives and their loves, putting the world to rights. He risked a sideways
glance at the man who had been his closest friend since fourth grade, taking
in the troubled eyes and drawn features.
"You've been mighty quiet all evening, buddy. Something wrong?"
Brick shrugged. "Didn't sleep too well last night."
"Nightmare?" Dale asked tentatively. He knew all about the recurring dream
and was sure that the discussion about the Witch's Cauldron over dinner was
Brick sighed. "First time in going on two years. Must be a record, y'think?"
"Pretty much," Dale agreed. "So, you want to tell me what brought it on?"
Brick briefly outlined the conversation with Grant the previous day.
Dale snorted. "Levine's a jumped-up idiot, anyone can see that. Figures he'd
be stupid enough not to leave well enough alone."
"Dale, do you think I'd take them there?"
Dale snorted out a mouthful of beer. "Are you kidding? You've done some pretty
crazy things in your time, Brick, but you wouldn't deliberately risk anyone's
"Jack seems to think I would." Brick's voice was flat.
Dale frowned. Surely even Jack knew Brick better than that. Then again, Dale
had noticed that McKenna had been overly tough on his son of late, and it
angered and frustrated him.
Dale had been thrilled when Brick returned to the ranch, deciding to stick
it out and try to make his relationship with his father work. While he was
content with his life in Bend, and loved his job as deputy sheriff, nothing
had been the same since Brick left. Brick had always provided an element
of excitement and challenge to his life that Dale knew, in all honesty, he
would never have created on his own. He was too cautious, too sensible. He
had experienced life in the past ten years in a way he would never have done
had it not been for his friend's encouragement. They didn't always see eye
to eye and since Brick had been back had almost come to blows several times,
usually due to Brick's seeming inability to take Dale's new job seriously.
But the bottom line was that he knew Brick would always stick by him, no
matter what. Now he was worried that his friend would leave again if it proved
impossible to work out his relationship with his father. It angered Dale
to see Brick trying so hard and being rebuffed at every turn.
"You don't really believe that!" he protested half-heartedly.
"I don't know, Dale. I never could get inside Jack's head, and it just seems
worse than ever now. Anyway, enough of my problems. I've got the night off
tomorrow. Want to come out and do some fishing?"
Dale could feel his face flaming red. "Err ... can't, Brick, sorry. I'm...
aw, hell, I have a date."
"A date?" Brick's eyebrows shot up. "Who with?"
"There's no need to sound so surprised. You're not the only one who can get
dates, you know."
Brick grinned. "So, who is she?"
"Remember we met that new girl from the tourist info office in the Bear Pit
a few weeks ago?"
"Pretty girl, long dark hair, big gray eyes? Kaly, wasn't it?"
"Casey. That's her. Well, I kind of asked her out last week and it went pretty
well, so I'm seeing her again tomorrow."
"That's great, Dale." Brick sounded genuinely pleased.
"I think so." Dale tried to keep his tone light, but his enthusiasm betrayed
him, and Brick grinned again.
"You really like her, don't you?"
"Yes, I really like her. She's just... she's so... she has a great sense
of humor, she loves living here and she doesn't seem to mind going out with
Brick laughed. "Looks like you've got it made. I'm really pleased for you,
Dale had been waiting for some time for an opportunity to bring up the subject
of Brick's own love life - or lack of it - and this seemed an appropriate
moment. Just as Brick took a long draught of his beer, he asked casually,
"So, how are things with you and Leigh?"
Brick choked on his beer and Dale grinned in triumph.
"What do you mean, 'me and Leigh'?"
"Oh, come on Brick, you think I'm stupid? There's been something going on
between you for months now."
"Is it that obvious?"
Dale shrugged. "It is to me."
Brick was serious now. "I didn't say anything - I didn't know how to, knowing
how you felt about Leigh. I wasn't sure what you'd think about me... and
Dale had fallen in love with Leigh McKenna over two years ago. After Guy's
death, he spent a lot of time at the ranch, helping out where he could. His
admiration of Leigh's fighting spirit turned to affection and then love and
she seemed to reciprocate his feelings. Looking back, he could see that she
had never really been in love with him - she loved him as a good friend,
nothing more. Although he was hurt when she rejected his proposal of marriage,
he was surprised how easily he had come to terms with it, continuing to visit
the ranch just as frequently as before. He finally conceded that perhaps
what he had felt hadn't been true love at all.
When he first realized that there were feelings between Brick and Leigh,
he felt mixed emotions, but not for a moment did resentment enter the equation.
He was confident that Brick hadn't been the reason Leigh turned him down.
He waited a moment to get his thoughts in order before he tried to explain
"I thought I loved her, but I guess I realized that what we had between
us was never love. She loves me as a friend, but it never went any deeper
than that, and it never will. Once I came to terms with that, somehow, it
didn't hurt so much, you know? I could still see her and the kids and that
was enough. So, what happened between you two?"
Brick stood up, leaning his elbows against the railing. "Back in the fall,
on Leigh's birthday, we were on our own; I don't know, we'd both had too
much to drink and we... we kinda kissed. The phone rang and it didn't go
any further, but it would have, Dale, for sure. She was uncomfortable with
what happened, wanted us to forget about it, and I went along with her -
what else could I do? But since then - I just can't stop thinking about her."
"Nothing wrong with that, is there?"
Brick glanced round at him, brow furrowed in a frown. "Dale, she's my dead
brother's wife. You don't find that a bit - strange?"
"I guess so. That how she feels about it?"
"I think it's even harder for her. I mean, she looks at me; I have to remind
her of Guy, right? And I think she feels that being with me would be disloyal
"Yeah, I know, but... I understand it."
"So, what are you going to do about it?"
Brick shrugged, his eyes bleak. "I don't know, Dale. I just don't know."