Burning Down Montana – Chapter Three


Brighton put his hands in his pocket and began whistling on his way out of the hospital.   For the first time he’d felt like he’d found more of a purpose for his life than tactical maneuvers and killing.  He felt exhilaration at riding in the ambulance, and he hadn’t felt that in years.   While he was only thirty-seven, he’d felt like he was quickly falling into a mid-life crisis.  The explosion and the ill-tempered Vesta St. James made him think less of himself and helping someone else.

He couldn’t help but smile at her sailor tongue.  Hell, he knew some in the Royal Navy who couldn’t swear as well.  She’d managed to use every American swear word he was familiar with in a single sentence.   She wasn’t a weakling, and yet, Brighton felt her vulnerability when he’d carried her to the stretcher.  Vesta was a mysterious mix of sexy, sassy and innocent.  Her barbed tongue didn’t fool him for a moment.  He was going to make sure that while she was here, she would know he was right there with her.

He needed to make a call to his twin brother, Bradford, although he already knew what he was going to say.  It wasn’t a twin ‘sense’ Bradford was just predictably pessimistic.  As the phone rang, he prepared himself for his sibling’s tirade.

“You’re joking? No one goes back to school at thirty-seven.”  Bradford’s tone sounded bored as usual.

“It isn’t school.  I’m going to take a firefighter’s course and then an emergency responder course.  I need to be doing something.”

“We are doing something.  Chase helped us find the jobs at the ranch.”

“That isn’t helping people.”

“What do you call it when some kid falls off a horse? That’s helping.”  Brighton could hear the disgust in Bradford’s voice.  Even in their days at Scaitcliffe, school was never Bradord’s ‘thing’ as the Americans put it.

“Bradford, I’m going to do this.   I’m done wandering all over.  At some point, you have to stop wandering and find home.”

“Home is in England, lest you’ve forgotten, but neither one of us can go back there, now can we?”

“Not unless you want to be responsible and claim your title as the Earl of Feversham and sit pretty on Parliament.”

“Not for a million pounds dear brother. Do you plan on going back so your arranged marriage can take place?”

“Not for all the tea in England.”  Brighton may be a grown man, but his family had the penchant for imposing their will on anyone.   It was the primary reason that he and his twin enlisted in the Royal Marines.    When they met Chase Daniels in the sand dunes in Afghanistan they became friends.  After Chase saved their lives, the three of them became inseparable.   The Royal Marines worked closely with their American counterparts on many ground missions in Afghanistan, and they were no different.   He, Bradford, Chase and Katrina “Wildcat” Stephens worked extremely close and well together.  Only after Wildcat requested a transfer did the four separate.  Their dynamic worked so well, they all requested for their discharge at the end of their tours.   Chase Daniels knew exactly what he was going to do when he got his papers, yet Brighton and Bradford were on the run from responsibilities they didn’t want.

“Since I’ve no desire to be manipulated, and neither do you, here is where we stay.  Have fun chasing whatever.”  With his typical bluntness, Bradford ended the call.  Brighton smiled, that was the closest to good luck he was going to get.   He walked out of the hospital into the crisp Montana night.   As he gazed up at the millions of stars, he knew he’d made the right decision and knew that the hellion pyrotechnician was to thank.

***

Vesta was up with the first light of dawn.  She hated the fact that she couldn’t just get up and walk out of the hospital.    She would’ve been back on the job site as soon as they released her.     Felix and Vinny had stayed with her while she went through every proper procedure her crew knows to do with the local police and the ATF.   The police did find that some kids had been hanging out around the sound stage before the festival.   Too many times she heard the deputy sheriff state ‘that’s the benefit of living in a small town, don’t much get pass without someone knowing something.’

She’d had enough of the ‘small town’ life.   The need to get back home and start booking more shows was gnawing at her like the ache in her shoulder.    Her normal habit of rolling her shoulders to relieve stress was prohibited from the pain and from the  bandages.   She would normally drown her tension in a game of pool but from the dull ache in her shoulder, she wouldn’t be doing that anytime soon.   She turned away from the window, pretty sure that she wasn’t given the all clear to be moving around her room, no matter how ok she felt.     She’d sent Vinny to a hotel last night.  Her twin brother hated hospitals as much as she did.   Having parents who were addicted to pain medication until it took their life, they both held strong feelings against drugs of any sorts.  Their parents carted them from hospital to hospital, claiming fake injuries on their children in order to get one more hydrocodone, or any narcotic the hospital would provide.  As they got older, Vinny and Vesta both try to stay away from hospitals unless the apocalypse was coming, and maybe even then, they’d go to a veterinarian.

When the nurses had checked her I.V., she’d made sure to note which line contained the pain reliever, and when the nurses left, she took the pain reliever needle out of her arm and threaded it into the mattress.  She’d have a wet bed, but at least she wouldn’t be drugged.   Her childhood scarred her enough where she wouldn’t take anything stronger than aspirin.    As loving as her parents could be, she feared being addicted like they were, as if it were genetic.   Vinny was the same way, and even when he didn’t say so, she knew he held the same fear.  They often joked that they had to be the straightest shooters in Vegas, neither one of them into the alcohol and drug scene.

As she laid in the too small bed, her mind racing with all the things she ‘could-be’ doing rather than convalescing at a hospital in the middle of nowhere, two shadows fell across her bed.    Staring at their feet, she knew they weren’t doctors by their boots.  The further up she went,  she cursed the amount of drugs probably in her system.  She was seeing double and she couldn’t take two of the infuriating Brighton Thorn.

“I must have bumped my head harder than I thought, England. I see you in pairs now.”  Vesta closed her eyes and laid back.  She didn’t have time for the man today.  She barely knew him and he had already developed a habit of irking her.

“Who’s England?”  The other one spoke.    That’s when she realized she wasn’t seeing double.  They had on different colored t-shirts and the Brighton in black was not as aloof as the Brighton in gray.

“Oh this is straight bullshit. There are two of you?” she sat up on the bed and blinked.   Could the drugs still be in her system from yesterday?

“As opposed to crooked bullshit, pet? And apparently, brother, I’m England.”  The one with the gray shirt spoke.   Noting that he called her pet again, she knew which one was Brighton.   She tried to conceal her smirk at his attitude towards her foul mouth.  She’d been told on too many dates that ‘ladies’ don’t swear as much as she does.

Brighton approached the bed as his identical twin hung back at the entrance of the doorway.    She eyed him as he sat at the end of the bed, her natural skepticism rising to the surface.

“What did I do to gain the pleasure of your company again, England, and for you to bring your shadow?”   She didn’t know what to call the ‘other’ Brighton.  His gray eyes were cool and unreadable, and his stance wasn’t exactly screaming I’m cuddly.

“Just being you, pet.”

“Are you always this smooth?  Hitting on women in recovery isn’t a good look.  I’m sure you could go bother just about any…”   what she was going to say died in her throat.  Telling him that he was too good looking to be hitting on women in recovery was just giving the man too much leverage.  If there was anything she learned in life, people will take whatever leverage they have on you and use it.

“Smooth? No, I just had some business here and I wanted to check on you and thank you.”  His smile was as disarming as his violet eyes, but she wasn’t about to let him know that.

“Kind of early for business, isn’t it? And thank me for what, getting hurt so you could play hero?”   She was being defensive, but this man had her on the defensive since she opened her eyes and found his violet eyes staring back at her.

“We’re early risers.”  He jerked his head at the still silent version of him.

“That didn’t answer my question, England.  Thank me for what?” directing her gaze to the stoic man standing with his arms crossed. “My own twin, Vinny should be here any moment. Do you have a name, or do I just call you England one and England two when he gets here?”

“I’m Bradford.”    That was it, he didn’t offer any more information besides his name.

“Well at least I know your name now, no thanks to England here.”

“My apologies, pet, I seem to forget myself when I’m around you.” Brighton gave her a smile that made her stomach dance.  No, that couldn’t be it, I must be hungry.  I don’t get googoo for anyone. 

“Smooth talker you are, but you should get up.  If I know Vin, he will be here…”

“What the fuck? Y’all multiplying now?”   As if on cue, Vinny walked in her room carrying two steaming cups of coffee and a bag of what smelled like baked goods.  Her mouth watered at the delicious smell.   She also noticed that Brighton didn’t move.  He just followed Vin’s movements with his eyes.    Vin isn’t going to like that.  She was going to do her best to prevent the war of male ego.

“Vinny you met Brighton yesterday.”  She nodded towards the door to the stoic but silent man still standing with his arms crossed.  “That would be his twin, Bradford.”   Vinny looked at them both and quirked an eyebrow.

“So he did multiply.  I suppose you’re just being nice and checking in on my sister. Look, I know came off real harsh yesterday, but you know how it is.”  Vinny shrugged his shoulders and handed her one of the cups.  She knew that was the closest they were going to get to an apology from her brother.   They all nodded once as if some unspoken man rule had just been confirmed.  Men! Good grief.  She took the steaming cup of coffee from her brother and took a sip.  She savored the nutty flavor of the coffee and let the hot liquid do its job as she closed her eyes and let the caffeine take over.    As she finished her reverie of her coffee, she turned to face Brighton.  She wouldn’t be distracted by his eyes today, nor his blond hair, nor his muscular body, nor…. You need to get a hobby, she scolded herself.  It isn’t like you’ve never been around a handsome guy before.  Brighton wasn’t just handsome, he was fine and made her think crazy things.

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