Chapter 4 - Price
Rover ran into the surf to retrieve the ragged tennis ball I threw as he jogged down the beach toward the dunes. The dog shook the water off his coat and ran toward me. He nudged my calf with his wet nose, wanting to keep playing. I stopped running, using his playfulness as an excuse to catch my breath. Rover dropped the ball and started jumping and barking with joy. I smiled as a vision of Joan snoring on my porch popped into my head. She was a bristly one, but what an amazing body she had. I’d been intrigued from the moment Rover’s tennis ball hit her arm. She had loosened up when the wine hit her system. I’d been surprised by her sensual movements as she danced. She had a lot of woman wound up tight inside that fit physique.
Rover’s barking broke into my reverie, so I tossed the ball into the water. He sprinted after his favorite toy, splashing water in his wake. I loved Rover. The dog had been my constant companion for two years. After my discharge, I’d gone to see Vivian, Jerome’s widow. She answered the door with their baby on her hip. She was exhausted and sadder than me. When I asked what I could do for her, she’d surprised me by leading me to the backyard. A furball of a puppy lay quietly in the grass, looking at us with sad, brown eyes. She’d adopted the rescue pup as a surprise for Jerome, but couldn’t keep up with him and the baby on her own. I felt instant affinity with the dog. I’d squatted and held my hand out for a sniff. Rover obliged after some soothing words and a lot of patience. He’d crawled closer and smelled tentatively. When I kept my hand perfectly still and kept talking, the puppy dared a lick. He’d eventually allowed me to pat his head. I couldn’t say no to Vivian or the pup. I took him home with me that day, and we’ve been together since. Our bond grows stronger every year.
Those days, and the ones in rehab before Rover, were too painful to remember, so I stuck the memories in a box inside my brain and filed them away.
“Thanks, boy,” I said as Rover brought the ball back and dropped it at my feet. “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have met our new renter.”
I had long ago contracted with the local real estate guru, Susan Bernacki, or Mrs. B as most folks called her, to take care of all of my properties in Sandy Shores. I loved the town I’d lived in since returning to the states. The people had accepted me as one of their own when I’d first moved into my house. They didn’t know my background, and I liked it that way. That first year, I watched as summer crowds filled the place, and I saw a golden opportunity. Many stayed in the condominiums, but I knew that families would love having an entire house on the beach for their stay. I purchased the first house that was in decent shape as soon as it came on the market. Working with Mrs. B was a pleasant experience. She always brought a bag of breakfast sweets from her husband’s bakery when we’d meet for a walk-through. I’d learned to love the delicious Texas treat called kolaches. The soft dough surrounding a sweet and fruity middle were heaven on the tongue. I’d become a regular at the bakery after my first bite.
I turned when I reached the dunes and headed back with Rover running ahead, sniffing every piece of rotting seaweed he encountered. My mind strayed to the curvy woman renting one of my favorite houses. I’d remodeled it with safety in mind. When I bought it, the entrance stairs were outside, uncovered and exposed to the elements and passers-by. I’d hired a construction crew to build an enclosed stairwell with three doors, one at the bottom and two at the top. The upper stairwell opened into the house if you t...