Jackson’s Choice: Chapter 1

    Jackson was up before the sun, as per usual. He couldn’t afford the luxury of sleeping in like some did. There was a barn full of animals and acres of land that depended on him, none of which would take care of themselves. The stalls would not be mucked without him, and the chore list didn’t stop there. His crystal blue eyes flicked up as he heard the roar of an engine, then the tell-tale sound of rubber churning up the dirt road. Someone was either in a hurry or mad. Slowly, he placed the pitchfork down and stepped out of the barn’s entrance.

A horn blared.

“I’m coming.” He called out.

A car door slammed.

“I’m coming!” He rumbled as he emerged from the shrubs next to the barn. The individual that had sped down the drive had his eyes widening.

The woman in his driveway was tall, she had legs that went on forever. Slender yet curvy and was wearing a knee length dress to showcase it all. A perfect chignon held her brown locks up, which made her sharp angles look all the more prominent. She looked just like Celia, except this woman was scowling at him.

Celia was dead. He knew that she had died doing what she loved; jumping horses. Six months ago, Jackson had been baling hay on the farm, Celia was riding her thoroughbred, Chance. They had done this routine a thousand times, she had been a Grand Prix rider. One misstep was all it took, though. Chance fell and so did Celia. In the end, it was the end for the both. Jackson always recalled when Celia would joke about dying in such a fashion. Jackson wasn’t laughing now. Not since the bed became bigger, emptier and the smell of her began to fade.

Now, before him stood a woman that could have been her twin.

“Jackson Hiller?” The woman shielded her eyes as she called out, impatiently.

“That’s me.” He managed to say, he willed his eyes to not flow along her form which he was hard pressed to do given her misplaced attire here. He wiped his hands on a dirty rag which didn’t seem overly productive on his sullied hands.

“I’m Fallon Monroe. Your sister-in-law.”

“Um… Celia’s sister?” It didn’t surprise him, not with how much they looked alike, but she had never once uttered a word about a sister or family. She would skim over topics that surrounded her life prior to Montana but never once did she mention a family, never once a sister.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, Celia’s sister.” There was no snarky retort that followed, just a tightening of her lips against her teeth. “Are we going to do this out here or are you going to invite me in the house?” A tweezed brow shot up in question, agitation clear in her tone.

“Right, of course. How rude of me…” His voice trailed off, agitation creeping into his tone as well, as if he were the one to be inconveniencing her, but he motioned toward the stone path at the edge of the grass which led to the old farmhouse and was ready to play the part of a gentleman.

“You do have coffee, right?” Fallon’s words were clipped and she shot a sharp glance at Jackson.

“Uh, yeah, I live in the country, not in no man’s land.” There was no laugh that accompanied his words, she was turning him sour as the moments ticked by. She was annoyed with him? How the hell did she think he felt?

With a grunt, he opened the door to the house and inside he escorted her to the kitchen and pulled out a chair for her. “So, I have one big question,” he paused as he began to scoop coffee into a filter. “Why the hell didn’t Celia ever tell me she had a sister? I’d say you were lyin’ but…” he cocked his head to the side and shook his head. Fallon looked like she could be her twin, except those sharper edges to her face and the way her eyes held hardness instead of a gentle quality reminded him that she wasn’t Celia in the least.

“Not twins, I’m older by two years.” She drummed her manicured nails impatiently. “Look, I’m not here for small talk, I’m here find some things out and in the process enlighten you.”

Jackson blinked and turned his head just as the coffee began to brew.  “Okay, how do you want your coffee?” He reached for a cup and kept his back to her, the corner of his lips quivering as his mind called out black to match her eyes, shoes and…

“Black is fine.” Fallon crossed her legs and reached up behind her to let loose her dark hair from the tidy chignon. She scraped at the back of her head and stared blankly at Jackson.

Jackson realized as he spun around with the two black coffees that he was gawking, the morning light was bathing Fallon and with her face shadowed she made his heart stutter. “I’m sorry, you just look so much like…” he swallowed the rest of his words and slid the mug across the table, his blue eyes shutting as he fought to absorb the knowledge Celia had a family he never knew about. “Is it just you, or is there more to the Monroe family?” He didn’t bother to wait for his coffee to cool before sipping it.

Please don’t be the entire family. He thought miserably.

“There are a lot of us, not just me or Celia. She had a family, whatever she told you before it was just a history she wanted to be buried. I’ll be here for a few days and then head back, but contrary to what you think, Jackson, I’m not here to hurt you. ” Fallon’s gaze dropped to the black steaming liquid.

Jackson’s gaze hardened a fraction as he considered her words, whatever his wife had been running from had to have been for a good reason. He wasn’t one to judge but the crisp tones, the air of superiority, if the Monroe family were an extension of Fallon, he could see why Celia would run. Celia, who nursed calves, who soothed dying sheep, she was gentle and kind. “Why did she run?” He pinned her with his firm gaze and asked point blank. “All the way from Massachusetts, at least I assume that was part of the truth, why run?”
“That’s going to take a lot more coffee than what I have in me right now,” Fallon spoke over the rim of her cup before taking a long draw.

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