Sandy Point Marina - 10 AM
Pulling up by the marina, Jimmy took another long scalding gulp of coffee and leaned against his truck. He hadn't gotten more than a couple of hours of bad sleep, drunk sleep, the house hot and full of those girl mosquitoes that bit, and he'd heard Rennie walking around upstairs, when he could remember anything from last night. Couple of hours ago she'd run water and yelled at him to get dressed, and made coffee for him and sat next to him on the back porch for a little while, saying nothing, just sitting there, until they got in the truck and drove here.
"That's his bike. He's early," Rennie was saying nervously. "That's not a good sign."
Hung over and shaky, Jimmy tossed the coffee cup into the bed of the truck, lit another cigarette, his hands unsteady, looking at the big bike. It wasn't no shiny new thing; it had scratches down the side, been used hard. He inhaled smoke and swept the place, trying to find the man and finally did.
Cooper Stanfield standing way down there near the pier, one tall son of a bitch in bike leathers, his arms crossed, looking down at them. He'd been telling himself he could deal with the man but looking at him now, didn't seem so damned easy.
"Hang out in the stores or something," Rayne whispered. "He's going to be really pissed. Let me try to talk to him first."
Cooper had started to stride toward them. I'm fucking dead, Jimmy thought miserably, but he shook his head and insisted, "No way I'm taking that pussy way out. You want to get you some time with him, you do it but me I'm not running and hiding from the man. He wants to say something to me about you, I get to say my own piece back to him."
She glanced up at him with big eyes. She'd been doing good staying there with him, griping about the heat and everything but doing good until last night. "Toad, that's not the best way to work it."
"I left me all the best ways a long time ago." He pulled away from her and met Cooper's hot glare. "You're not doing this by yourself. I got to be here."
Cooper stepped down the stairs, walking slowly now, one long hard stride after the other. He stopped a few paces away and ripped his gaze from Jimmy to Rayne and then back again, and then he stood there for a long silent minute and said nothing.
"Hi Dad," Rayne began and putting on one great big smile. "Let me explain - ."
"I'll deal with you later," Cooper cut her off fast, focusing on Jimmy. He stared at him, took a step closer, his voice dropping lower, one long enraged growl. "Jimmy Breaux. Interesting coincidence that you'd show up with my daughter after I turned down your agent. I've met idiots, but I doubt I've ever met anyone in your category. In what world do you think I'd let you use my daughter to get to me?"
One real good thing about nothing to lose was you got nothing to lose but your own self; he was down to that. Again. He dragged on the smoke and stepped aside from Rennie. Amazing what the man didn't know about his own kid, dump her in rehab and write the big check and don't pay any mind to why she got in that place to begin with. "You got you some worlds that don't got a fucking thing to do with her," Jimmy shot back, and deliberately flicked cigarette ash at the man's boots.
"You don't know a damned little bit about what's been hurting her. She don't belong to you, you look again Rennie she's got herself her own life so back the hell off." Thinking again about begging for a contract, had he got so low he would do that, he let the anger take him, not yet. "And I can make it on my own, you don't go telling me I got to come begging to you. You don't know me either, ain't never gonna happen."
The man was studying him. Hot eyed yeah but he didn't look like he was going to nail him with a knife now. More like he was going to cut him open and see what was inside, what Rennie hadn't told him. Jimmy had heard that about Coop, the man figured things out, he was smart. And Cooper kept examining him until it did feel like he'd peeled back his skin and was looking at his guts.
Something else was playing across Cooper's face, something Jimmy couldn't get, kinda like Cooper thought something was funny. Or maybe nothing funny at all. The man got up right in his space and no matter how much Jimmy told himself he didn't care, it was damned intimidating. "Don't wait for her," Cooper breathed down at him. "And good luck. When you cross me, you fucking need it."
Cooper was marching her up the steps toward the deck where nobody was, not this early in the morning. Rayne tried to turn around to see where Jimmy had gone and got a terse order from her father. "Don't bother looking back, Rayne."
She did anyway. Jimmy was still there and still looking lost. She was pretty sure he wouldn't get back in the truck and drive home, not without her. Pretty sure but not positive. Her stomach turning with nerves and the acid remains of black coffee, she put one foot in front of the other and followed her father and tried to tell herself that she could come up with something.
He slammed a chair back from one of the tables, making some room, and stood there looking out at the boats for a few long and terrible seconds. She had run through all kinds of scenarios last night and never had come up with one she thought would work, but waiting for him to yell at her seemed like the only way to let it begin.
"Whose idea was it to walk out of rehab?" Cooper demanded. Rayne wondered if that was a real question, hesitated, and then before she could formulate a response, he hit her again. "How the hell long have you been involved with Jimmy Breaux? Is that where you've been? You know I called them this morning - you left a week ago. Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"
She backed up against the table and clenched her hands together. This was one question she had thought about, and she tried to repeat what she'd decided to say, her own voice sounding thin and high and scraped bare, anything but the strong front she desperately wanted to put up. "I left because I didn't want to be there anymore. He let me stay with him. Nothing's going on, Dad. We're just friends. And I did call you, I called you last night."
"Friends," Cooper repeated sarcastically. "Kiss that off Rayne. You're coming home with me, and I'll decide where you're going from there."
A bird flew by and dumped on the table. Rayne looked at the bird shit and thought about shit in general, a whole load of shit going back to her mother and Ryan, her father and Stevie, Camilla the Whore acting righteous, Gabe laughing at her, and she started to get mad. Every single one of them had done something stupid, just as stupid as what she'd done, worse, a lot worse. And would he be yanking on Wyatt like this? Oh Wyatt, you have to come home and then I'll tell you where you can go. I don't think so. She stepped around the table and leaned back against the rail, the tall grass on the other side scratching her bare arms, and swallowed hard, thinking about Jimmy who hadn't backed down and was still out there waiting for her. Not even remotely sure of what she could do about anything, Rayne did her best to appear in control. Drawing a steadying breath, she looked up at her father and said, "No. I'm here to talk to you. I'm done with the crap I did, I'm clean, and I'm not even really here for myself, and I love you Dad and I'm sorry about the stuff I did, but I'm here to talk. I can walk off right now. You know I can."
Cooper looked back at her, fighting anger, anger directed at his daughter and at the asshole waiting for her, still waiting despite what he'd told him. What was going on here? Wyatt had been difficult, but he understood Wyatt. He could forgive his son's anger and resentment; he'd hurt Wyatt by walking out on him and Jules. Rayne...he'd done everything he possibly could to ensure she felt safe and loved, spent as much time with her as he could, ripped time out of his schedule to be with her. But here he was again with one of his children staring him down and breathing resentment and pain, and this time he had no idea what was wrong.
"Come over here," he told her, moving away from where Jimmy Breaux could see them, kicking aside a chair and someone's discarded cooler. Rayne followed, and he saw the nerves now in the way she stumbled against the chair and fidgeted with her hair. She was trying to hide it, and that bravado was familiar. He'd come up against that with her mother; he knew how to force his way through it. "All right," he said, working hard to disguise his anger, to sound reasonable, "You want to talk, tell me what's going on. Jimmy Breaux. Rehab. All of it, Rayne."
She picked at her fingernails, something he'd never seen her do, then clasped her hands and shifted on bare feet and cleared her throat, and started in on what sounded like a speech she'd prepared the night before. "Didn't you ever need someone to trust you? I know you did. I know about Stevie. She took you in when she didn't have any reason to trust you at all. I'm asking you to trust me to do the right thing, and to know who I can trust. I know you have a lot of reasons not to do that, but I'm clean, and I know what I want. And this is...well it's about trust."
He eased up against the side of the building, thankful the bar was still closed, watching his daughter, waiting. Rayne didn't say anything more. Trust. What the hell? "Rayne," he said, "I don't know what you're talking about. What's this got to do with Stevie? You mean back before I met your mother? What's your point?"
She closed her eyes, leaning against the deck rail, gently rocking back and forth against it, "That is the point. At least you know who I am. If I ask you for something, you know what you're getting. Somebody trusted you when she had no reason to do it and no idea who you were or what she was getting."
This was going round and round. If she was asking for something, he didn't know what it was. Why was she asking him to reach back to a time in his life he had buried once and for all? Grasping at something he could give her, he responded, "Rayne...yes, she did but I ran into people who weren't willing to take a chance, and in retrospect I can't blame them. One of them, Gabe Lombardo - one of Randi's cousins - could have put me in touch with Slim and ended the whole thing if he had been willing to take that chance. I wish he had, but I understand why he didn't. You haven't spent the time, you haven't worked to build your reputation. What's this about? I don't even know what you're asking me to do."
Rayne had perched on a table; she looked up at the hot blue sky, and at the boats moored motionless in the marina, and out past him down the boardwalk where he suspected Jimmy Breaux was still crawling around somewhere, and she bit her lip, distracted. He was tired; he'd driven out here after a long dream haunted night that never seemed to end only to crash up against some of the same shit, and the place was a damned oven. Increasingly frustrated, wondering what he was missing, had she started drinking again, was it Jimmy, Cooper was ready to end this. If she was going to play games, she could play them at home where he was more comfortable, not out here in public. He started to turn away from her when she finally, in a low flat voice, said, "I'm asking you to give Jimmy a contract. I'm asking you to remember what it was like when someone helped you through something that hurt. And I'll tell you something you don't know about me in return. I'll give you the name you wanted. I guess you already know him. Gabe."
NEXT CHAPTER: Rising Above Chapter 13