Read Wild Dakota Heart Online

Authors: Lisa Mondello

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #War, #Romance, #Military, #Western, #cowboy romance, #military romance, #navy seal, #western romance, #deals in books, #Contemporary Romance, #Westerns

Wild Dakota Heart (6 page)

BOOK: Wild Dakota Heart
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“It’s been ten years, Logan. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. In her mind, I killed her brother.”

“Does she know the truth?”

“Denny’s dead. What difference will it make if she knows all the details of how he died? I don’t want to do that to her.”

Logan sat on his father’s workbench and placed the impact wrench next to him. “The truth is everything. It sets you free. I should know. It took years for me to finally get things back on track in my life and that’s only because Kelly finally told me the truth about tricking me into marrying her. I just thank God I have this second chance with Poppy. She’s everything to me.”

Ethan shook his head and sighed. “It’s different with us. Denny was Maddie’s brother. It’s not like there was ever anything between me and Maddie like there was with you and Poppy.”

“Are you sure about that?”

Ethan looked at his brother. “She was Denny’s kid sister.”

Logan stood up. “You’re never going to know if she’s ready to hear the truth until you tell her.” Logan started to walk out of the garage, but he stopped and turned back. “Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, Maddie’s not a kid anymore.”

That was just it. He had noticed. From the curves of her slender body, to the way she put her hand on her cheek when she was thinking, to the slow smile that played on her lips. He’d even heard her laughing that day at the Wounded Veterans Center. She didn’t know he was watching her or that every time she talked, he could pick her voice out of the crowd.

He’d noticed too much. And he liked it.

# # #

 

Chapter Six

 

He was still in his police uniform when he stepped into the house. Her parents had invited him for dinner and insisted she come, with a warning to be polite. This was Denny’s childhood friend after all.

Yeah, and he was the one responsible for the death of your son. Why was it that she was the only one who remembered that?

Maddie set the dining room table as Ethan greeted her parents in the hallway.

“You look very handsome and official in that uniform,” her mother said.

Ethan seemed to blush. Maddie rolled her eyes and dropped a fork on a napkin by the plates she’d just set down.

“Dinner smells wonderful,” Ethan said.

“I’ll be serving it in just a few minutes. Why don’t you sit down? Dave will be downstairs in a few minutes. He’s upstairs going through some old pictures he wanted to show you.”

Her mother walked into the kitchen and left her alone with Ethan.

“How are you?” he asked.

“Couldn’t be better,” she said dryly.

Ethan chuckled. “Don’t hurt yourself with your enthusiasm.”

She glared at him.

Her mother came into the dining room with a platter of roast beef and scalloped potatoes, handing it to Ethan. “Can you put that in the center of the table? I need to get the serving spoons and salad.”

Ethan did as he was asked just as her father came into the dining room. He held a stack of pictures in his hand, but placed them on the buffet before seating himself at the head of the table.

A few minutes later, the food was served and they fell into quiet conversation about general stuff that Maddie found safe to talk about.

“Don insists I call him by his first name.”

“Well, he’s your boss now,” Julie said. “If he asked you to call him Don, then it’s not a problem.”

She made a face. “Yeah, but it still feels weird. He’s been Mr. McKinnon to me my whole life.”

“What do you think, Ethan?” Dave asked. “Now that you’re a police officer in the town you grew up in, you must have to go on calls occasionally with people you knew. How do you deal with that?”

“Protocol,” Maddie said.

She lifted her gaze from her plate to Ethan, who was sitting across from her. Amusement played in his dark eyes.

Her mother looked confused. “Protocol?”

Ethan put his fork down and wiped his lips with his napkin before speaking. “It would be weird going up to Mr. Stein and calling him Rufus.”

“Mr. Stein. Wasn’t he your English teacher in high school?” Julie asked.

“Yeah, and he’s like a hundred years old by now. I didn’t know his first name was Rufus.”

Ethan shrugged. “It’s easier to just be polite and use formalities.”

Her father chuckled. “That’s quite a change for you. I’d forgotten just how wild you and Denny were in your younger days.”

“We weren’t that wild.”

Her parents both sat back in the chair and laughed harder.

Her mother said, “Didn’t you blow up your mother’s kitchen once?”

Ethan’s eyes grew wide. “That one wasn’t me. That was Sam and Ian.”

“Well, there were plenty of other experiments that ended in broken bones and destruction. And I have the evidence to prove it.”

Ethan made a face. “Oh, no.”

“Remember this one?” Her father handed Ethan a picture he’d pulled from the pile he’d retrieved from the buffet.

Her mother shook her head and chuckled, taking his empty plate and stacking it on top of hers. “You can’t escape your past, Ethan. Not here. We were too much a part of your shenanigans.”

Ethan stared at the picture, his expression wistful before he chuckled. “Denny thought he could float down from the roof.”

“He was determined to do it. He used my best sheets to prove it,” her mother said. “That trip to the ER was interesting, trying to explain how he broke both of his legs.”

“But even with that he was trying to convince the doctor that he would have jumped to get a better view over the trees. Remember that, Julie?”

Her mother nodded. “I thought they were going to commit him right then and there.”

“We used to go up on the roof all the time,” Ethan said. “Denny loved it up there.”

“Why?” Maddie asked.

“He said it helped him think, dream. He was a big dreamer. He always had all these ideas,” Ethan said.

“I thought you were the one with all the wild ideas.”

“No, Denny had them. I was just stupid enough to follow along most of the time.”

Her father looked down at a picture and his eyes grew sad. “He did have ideas. That’s for sure. I don’t know why he insisted on trying to drive The Mammoth that day.”

“He was upset,” Ethan said quietly.

Her mother got up from the table. “Because you were leaving?”

“Partly. I suppose that had something to do with it. We were always joined at the hip back then. But Denny, for all his wild ideas, was a pretty complicated guy.”

Maddie shifted uncomfortably in her seat and then got up from the table. “I’m done eating, Ma. I’ll take the dishes.”

She grabbed the dishes from mother’s hands and walked into the kitchen. Dropping the dishes into the sink, she turned around and felt the swell of tears in her eyes. No one knew how much Denny suffered with depression more than she did.

She heard laughter from the other room and wanted to just run. Did they even understand how difficult it was for Denny when he heard Ethan was leaving for the Navy? She’d never seen her brother so lost. And Ethan just left him to play the hero. Always the hero.

Wiping her face of moisture, she pasted a smile on her face and grabbed the double chocolate cake her mother had made earlier from the counter and brought it into the dining room.

“I hope you have room for cake, Ethan.”

He patted his stomach. “Always for your cake, Mrs. Newton.”

Maddie made a face at her mother. “See? Old habits die hard. He can’t even call you by your first name.”

“He doesn’t do it here out of protocol. We have no protocol in this house,” her mother argued.

“Even when he was so young, Denny loved bikes.” Her father handed Ethan another picture.

“I remember that bike. We bent the frame after making a jump out back on that big tree stump. I think I was the one who had the hospital visit that day.” Ethan lifted his arm to reveal a scar on his elbow. “Twelve stitches.”

“The only time I saw Denny truly inspired was when he was talking about that motorcycle. He worked for hours on those sketches and brought so many greasy parts into the garage.” Her father laughed, but it was bittersweet.

“The motorcycle rally in Sturgis is a few weeks away, isn’t it?” her father asked.

“Yeah, but the building of the motorcycle is slow going. I don’t know if I have enough time to do it justice, especially without the artwork Denny wanted on the bike.”

“I’d love seeing Denny’s unfinished business completed.”

“That’s only going to happen if Maddie helps me,” he said, looking directly at her from across the table.

“What?”

“I can’t finish the bike with just metal parts. It needs the artwork you and Denny designed. Otherwise it’s just a shell. There isn’t anyone who I’d trust to do it right but you.”

“Oh, honey, that would be great!” her mother said. “You still have all those drawings you did—”

“I’ll think about it.” She abruptly got up from the table and made her apologies. “I’m really tired, Ma. Do you mind if I don’t help with dishes? I have to get up early for work tomorrow.”

She kissed both her parents and headed for the door.

“I’ll walk you out,” Ethan said.

A few minutes later, Maddie walked down the driveway with Ethan by her side.

“I wanted to thank you,” she finally said when she reached her car.

He raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“It's just,” she said, pushing a lock of her hair behind her ear. “I've never been able to make my parents laugh like that. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them that happy. At first, I didn’t agree with my father’s suggestion to finish the motorcycle that Denny started. But…I think it will do some good. It’ll give them closure.”

“Having everyone around the table like that.... everything seemed like the old days, when Denny was still with us. You even managed a few laughs yourself.”

She shook her head. “Don’t make this more than it is. We've probably done that hundreds of times when we were kids. Just all of us at the table. It didn’t matter if we were having grilled cheese and tomato soup or a full course dinner like tonight,” she said. Maddie stopped speaking for a moment and took in a gulp of air. “Seeing them laugh like that was... amazing really. I really miss it.”

“Me, too.”

“For that reason, I’ll do it. I’ll work on the artwork for the motorcycle.”

If Ethan had expected Maddie would put up more of a fight, he didn’t show it.

“That’s great.”

“On one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m not going to Sturgis. You’ll have to do that alone.”

“Why?

“I saw my father’s face at the dinner table. He wants to see this thing through and he’s really happy that you’re the one doing it. So I want to give him closure on that. I’ll paint the fuel tank cap, like Denny wanted me to. I’ll even help you put it together. But you can take the bike to Sturgis and be wild with all the other motorcyclists.”

“Don’t you want to see his bike compete with all the other bikes? People will be looking at your artwork, too. Your creation.”

“This bike is your creation, Ethan. Not mine and…it’s not even Denny’s. Not really. He had a bunch of metal pieces and a few little sketches that didn’t look like much of anything. You’re the one who is making this.”

“With your sketches.”

She shrugged. “I only want to do this so my father can finally move on completely.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Nothing.”

“No, finish what you were going to say.”

He hesitated a moment. This wasn’t the time. “The old fuel tank cover Denny had in the box is shot. I can’t use it. There’s a motorcycle junk yard in Rapid City. It most likely will have what I need. I went there years ago with Denny. I’m sure this is the place where he got most of his pieces. But after looking at everything in those boxes, I’m missing a few pieces, including a big enough fuel tank cap.”

“Can’t we order the right one?”

Ethan made a comical face that had her laughing. He’d missed that sound.

“It might not be delivered in time for you to work on it. Besides, this bike was about rebuilding something from nothing. Making something old new again.”

“Like you wanted to do with the Nolan house?”

He looked at her with interest. “Who’ve you been talking to?”

“Hawk told me you were going to buy the old Nolan farmhouse before the flood destroyed the house.”

“He did, huh?” Ethan sighed, clearly disappointed the flood had caused him to lose his opportunity to do what he’d planned there. “It would have been a beautiful place.”

Maddie leaned back against her car. “Why do you need me to go with you for this?”

“Because you’re the one who has the design. Only you know how to execute it. You need to pick it out. Would Picasso allow someone else to pick out his canvas?”

She sputtered. “So now you’re comparing me to Picasso?”

He leaned in closer to her. She could feel the heat of his body and the scent of the coffee he’d just had with his dessert.

“I want you to be a part of this. Will you go?”

She sighed. “Pick me up at my place on Saturday.”

She got into her car and could still feel the energy of standing so close to Ethan. Before she’d arrived at her parents’ house tonight, she thought she’d never make it through dinner for fear of how she’d feel.

She’d felt so much anger toward Ethan for so long that it was hard to imagine anything else. Now she was realizing her biggest fear.

She was still very much in love with Ethan McKinnon.

# # #

 

Chapter Seven

 

They’d spent the afternoon searching the junk yard for the right fuel tank cap until they’d found the perfect one that would be easy to clean up so Maddie could paint it. She hadn’t been paying attention to where they were going until one sign caught her eye. Maddie tilted her head, and then twisted in her seat as she looked back at the sign. “Where are we going, Ethan?”

“Taking a little detour,” Ethan replied, not looking at her.

BOOK: Wild Dakota Heart
11.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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