Chapter 1-1

1011 Words
Chapter One “Get up. Now.” “What in the hell?” Cody Hansen mumbled, flinging an arm across his face to block the mid-morning light that suddenly flooded the room. “You heard me,” his brother Parker growled from across the room. “Time to get your sorry a*s out of bed and get moving.” Ha. As if that was gonna happen. He moved like an old man, now - with every joint in his body protesting loudly. With great effort, he rolled to his side, trying his best not to wince and give away his pain to Parker. “Go away,” he mumbled before covering his head with the pillow. “Hell, no.” Parker yanked the pillow from his head. “Look at me.” Cody cracked open an eye, jerking back in surprise at his brother’s formidable glare, inches from his face. “What?” “This. Ends. Today.” Resignation settled over him like a wet, heavy blanket. He hadn’t even had a cup of coffee, and Parker expected him to talk about his emotions? f**k that. Parker grabbed him by the shoulder, and gave him a shake, sending a spike of pain down his arm and across his back. “What the f**k was that for? You know that’s my bad shoulder.” “Only because you refused to do the PT right out of the hospital like the docs instructed.” “What does it matter? Career’s over anyway.” “Only ‘cause you decided you’d rather suck your thumb instead of try to recover.” Parker jerked back the covers. “Look at yourself.” He tilted his head at the long scar where sixteen pins had been placed to save Cody’s crushed femur. “It’s a scar, not a death sentence. You’re a Hansen for chrissakes, not a quitter.” Cody propped himself up on his good arm, and wrestled the sheet from his brother’s grip, dropping it back over his leg. He couldn’t bear to look at it. He’d been two seconds from everything he’d dreamed of and had come up short. Worse, he’d come up humiliated. Shamed in front of thousands of onlookers who shook their heads and clacked their tongues in disappointment. Remember that Cody Hansen? Thought he could ride Damnation. Who did he think he was? And now he’s through. “You don’t know what it’s been like,” he snarled. Parker widened his stance, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “You’re right. I don’t. But here’s what I do know, little brother. This s**t stops today. Cassie and I didn’t sign on for this when we invited you to crash here and get on your feet. I’ve packed your bags.” “What?” He sat straight up, ignoring the dull ache in his head that still throbbed when he moved too quickly. “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Exactly what you think. You’ve worn out your welcome.” “Wait. Kicking me out?” Parker flashed him a sardonic grin. “It’s time for you to stand on your own two feet. Quit hiding from the world. It’s time to cowboy up, little brother.” “Sounds like something Uncle Warren would have said,” he grumbled. “Uncle Warren never would have let you mope around the way you have for the last three months, and you know it. Now get your a*s out of bed and meet me in the kitchen in five minutes.” Parker spun and left the room. So this was how it was going to be? Not even a backward glance? Figured. Parker had always been Mr. Responsible, and married life had only made him more so. Holding his breath in advance of the inevitable wave of pain, he swung his legs over the bed and stood, taking a long moment to steady himself while the stabbing in his left leg subsided. With painstaking effort, he dressed and limped into the kitchen. Cassie stood at the stove, Parker next to her, hand on her a*s. A flash of envy burst in Cody’s chest. Parker had always been content to stay in Prairie and tend to the family. Not him. He’d wanted more for his life, and for a fleeting moment, he’d had it all. But now the tables were turned. Parker had everything, and all he had was regret. He cleared his throat, and they jumped apart. “I made eggs,” Cassie said too brightly. “My farewell breakfast?” Parker glowered. “You’ll thank my wife for her hospitality.” “It’s okay, Park,” Cassie contradicted. “He’s just upset.” She turned to him, a steely look in her eye. Cody bit back a smile. She looked just like her mother, Dottie, the town matriarch who ran the local diner. No one crossed Dottie. “There’s a bunkhouse on our property that’s fallen out of use. Dad mentioned he’d be willing to rent it cheap to the right person, in exchange for fixing it up and help around the ranch.” “I’m not a charity case,” he protested, limping to the counter where the coffee pot sat. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught her eye-roll. “I’m not.” “Suit yourself. Not many houses for rent in town, now that the medical center has expanded into a full-fledged facility. You can check the postings on the community board at the diner.” Cassie scraped the eggs into a bowl and placed them in the center of the table. “Park made you a PT appointment for eleven over there. I suggest you don’t blow it off.” “And if I do?” The physical therapists he’d seen in the hospital in Vegas, post surgeries, had basically written him off. Once he’d been able to walk without crutches, they’d wished him well and sent him on his way. Cassie’s eyes flashed and she opened her mouth to respond, but Parker lifted a hand. “You can lead a horse to water, Cass. It’s his life.” Damn straight it was. Parker leveled a hard stare his direction. “And it’s up to him to fix it… Or not.” So many words flew into Cody’s head, so many things he wanted to say. But he recognized the set of Parker’s jaw, and there was no use arguing. Instead he took a stinging gulp of hot coffee, forcing himself not to wince as it scalded on the way down. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Thank you.” The words were an effort, but they were the right thing to say.
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