His dad humored him, continuing on as if his son wasn’t being a jackass. “Well, there was a time when that girl did nothing but look at you.”

Lucky shrugged, continuing his work and trying to play it cool. He didn’t want to get into a discussion about Taylor or any woman with his father. It was a little too close to the “sex talk” and the memory of that awkward, embarrassing, but blessedly short conversation still gave him the hives.

“And then there was a time when you started looking back,” his father added mildly.

Lucky paused at that one. He didn’t think anyone had noticed, least of all his father. “Ancient history.”

“History often repeats itself. You learn that as you get older,” his father said.

Time to change the subject. Getting pseudo-arrested was a safer topic.

“I was at the Jolly Gent because I’m working a job for Jack. A girl went missing from there and I was chasing down leads.”

“So you decided to take Jack up on his offer? I think that’s a good idea.” His father peered at him from under the brim of his ball cap, a quick nod emphasizing his agreement with the decision he thought his son had made regarding his future.

Lucky had been waiting for the perfect time to bring up his plans, dragging his feet and being a general chickenshit about the whole thing. It looked like now was the time. It wasn’t as though his dad could go anywhere.

“Dad, I want to buy the farm.”

Nothing.

“Did you hear me? I said I wan—”

“I heard you… I just thought I heard you wrong.” His dad, broad and strong, in fantastic shape for his age, looked up from where he was hammering down the replacement boards, his blue eyes narrowed in disbelief. “Why now? Never did interest you before.”

“People change.” Lucky braced himself for the debate.

“I thought you were pretty well-suited for what you were doing.” His dad turned back to the job at hand, the movement making his expression unreadable. His tone was clear, though—it said he wasn’t jumping on board the Lucky train any time soon. “Seemed to be exactly where you belonged. Trouble always seemed to find you.”

“So it only made sense for me to have a job that sent me to look for it?” Lucky finished the thought, not bothering to hide the bitter edge to his comment.

“Now, don’t read too much into my words. I didn’t mean you were a troublemaker, but it sure did follow you around. And you always knew how to fix it. I know you helped a lot of people in the service.”

“Don’t make me out to be a hero,” he said, voice rough as he pushed through the tightness in his chest caused by the pride in his father’s words.

“Lucky. I went to war and I know that every man who puts on a uniform isn’t a hero, but I also know even heroes make mistakes. I just don’t want you to make another one.”

The papers he signed when he’d left the government were so classified that even people who knew where Jimmy Hoffa was buried didn’t know about him. He’d fought on the side of the righteous, but the images of what he’d done still played in a sickening, loud as hell, continuous loop in his head. The noise had driven him home, to the place where the silence on the mountain was the only thing louder than the echoes of gunfire and people dying.

“Lucky.”

With a slight jump, he realized that he’d risen to a standing position on the steeply pitched roof. He squatted down quickly, lowering his center of gravity before he fell off the damn roof and broke his neck. When he looked, pulse pounding and a short of breath, his dad’s face was pale under his farmer’s tan.

“I think we should talk about this on the ground,” Owen said.

The few minutes it took for them to descend with their tools gave him time to compose his thoughts and shake off the bad memories. The gear stowed in the tool room, he followed his father into the 125-year-old farmhouse he’d been raised in and left as soon as the ink was dry on his college diploma. It was cooler inside, the air-conditioning humming, and the promise of cold sweet tea in the fridge rapidly cooled him down. As was custom, they headed to the kitchen where all-important family decisions were made.

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