The Keys to Jericho

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Chapter 9

Without my dad waking me up at the ass crack of dawn, I slept in until 11:30. When I awoke on the living room couch, I heard the TV in the basement, and I went down to see Finn sitting in a chair, watching ESPN while texting.

“Dad and Hadley leave?”

He looks up from his phone. “Yeah. They’ll be gone until later this afternoon.”

“Do you have to work or something?” I glance at the TV and then to his phone.

“Just catching up, so I’m not behind Monday.”

“We still fishing?”

His responding grin is instantaneous. “Yeah. Let’s do it.”

I nod and shift, pretending to look out the window. After last night, all I can think about is hearing him having sex with Hadley. Weirder yet, I suddenly want to protect her. I’ve never really felt the urge to before. She’s a big girl.

With the thoughts of last night invading my head, refusing to leave, and from what Hadley told me, I need to air my grievances.

Taking a few steps back, I say, “I’ll get the gear together.”

“What do you need me to do?” Stop fucking my sister.

“Nothing right now.” I head up to the kitchen and out into the garage with relieved enthusiasm.

“You didn’t have to buy me a license,” Finn protests again as I park my car, following our second stop at Sandy Point State Park.

Walking to the back of my car, I look over at him. “I had to get mine for fishing this year, anyway.”

When I open the trunk, he says, “Thanks, though, but I’ll pay you back.”

I shift my hat to scrape at my hair—a weird habit of mine. I like wearing my Colts cap, but hate flattening my hair. I hang out with Dash Calder entirely too much. “You bought the damn bait, even though I told you to shove it, so we’re even.”

He laughs as he reaches in and grabs the containers of nightcrawlers and bloodworms, while I tuck our bottles of water under my arm and pick up the poles and tackle box.

We walk toward the semi-crowded beach, staying in the grass, so we don’t have to dodge as many people, and since the sand is rough, not wanting a shoeful of it. I lead Finn out to the long jetty, which is essentially a manmade pier of large, blackish rocks, with a view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the not-so-far distance.

At least it isn’t crowded. We carefully walk out to the end of the stone wall and park our gear behind us, among the rocks.

As I unscrew the cap on a water bottle, Finn gazes at the bridge. “Wow.”

I swallow my mouthful. “What?”

“The bridge looks so different from here. It’s beautiful,” he wistfully says. Finn called my sister beautiful last night. Half of me admires the guy while the other half wants to vomit because I heard him say that inside my sister. He turns to me, nodding to the bridge. “Don’t you build them?”

“Yep. Don’t you jump off them?” Finn bites the corner of his lip as he nods. “What a pair we make.”

He sighs and squats to open a container of bait. “I don’t jump them anymore.”

“Why not anymore?” Looking up, he crooks an eyebrow from behind his sunglasses. Shaking my head, I ask, “What does Hadley have to do with it?”

“Everything.” I watch him pick up a pole and start to bait the hook with a bloodworm.

When I pick up the other pole to do the same, I say, “Go on.”

“I used to jump off the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia every year during their Bridge Day Festival. Seven months into us dating, she saw me jump for the first time during my live segment. When I came home, she gave me an ultimatum: her or the bridge.”

“Do you really think you made the right choice with that one?”

As he stands up, he laughs, but when I don’t, a confused look crosses his face. “You’re serious?”

I shrug, walking to the edge to cast my line. “Maybe your life would be easier without her.”


I look over my shoulder for clearance as I pull back and then whip the pole forward with a smooth whirring. “She wouldn’t be giving you ultimatums about how to live your life.”

“I understand why she did it.” He finally casts his reel to the left of us as I watch my line bounce around with the rippling water, idly reeling it in but not greatly caring about fishing for the moment.

“Why didn’t you just call her bluff?”

“Because she was dead serious. She was crying and begging me not to do it anymore. She said she’d leave me.”

“So, you gave that up for her? Just like that?”

Finn nods, looking away from the water to me. “It is the most dangerous stunt I do—did. New River is where she drew the line, so yes. I stopped BASE jumping from it. Where’re you going with all this?” I feel him watching me as I reel my line in and cast again.

Observing where my line plopped into the water, I say, “It was something she told me last night. She wants to marry you, but you know that, right?” I look at him, but he turns to the water, licking his lips.

Finn slowly nods at the bay. “Yeah. She’s mentioned it.”

“She said you don’t want to get married. Why are you even with her?”

He warily looks at me, my sunglasses mirroring in his. “Why am I dating your sister?”

I nod as I move my foot onto another dark gray stone. “Are you just bored? Are you waiting for someone better to come along? Is marriage another stunt you won’t do?” He gawks at me before dropping his gaze to the rocks. “Help me understand, Finn. What goal do you want to achieve, besides having my sister as a steady fuck bud?”

Finn swiftly lifts his head, a surprised look on his face as he raises his sunglasses, perching them on top of his dark-blondish hair. “You think I’m using her for sex?”

I shrug, pulling off my own glasses. “Why not?” We stand, facing each other with one hand uncaringly holding our fishing poles, letting them dip and tug with the current.

He laughs like he can’t believe we’re discussing this. “That’s not why I’m with her.”

“You never answered my question. Why are you with her?”

“I love your sister, Jared.”

“But you have no plans to marry her?”

Finn sucks in a deep breath. “I don’t know. I’m not a fan of marriage.”

“I’m not, either. That’s one thing we have in common, so I absolutely get that. But Hadley is holding out hope that you’ll change your mind someday.”

He squints from the sun, and his forehead crunches. “She is?”

“Yeah. You and I both know that won’t happen. You won’t change your mind.”

Finn buries his unoccupied hand into his hair, jostling his sunglasses. I hate that he’s taller than me. “It’s not that I don’t want to be committed to her—I am. She’s my soulmate, but… I can’t marry her, not right now, at least.” He shakes his head as he drops his hand. “My parents divorced, and my sister… My best friend. I don’t want to risk it with Hadley. It would kill me to lose her.”

“So, you’re just stringing her along, hoping she’ll change her mind? You know that won’t happen, just as you won’t change yours.”

“Maybe I will someday.”

“Not good enough, Finn. That’s my sister you’re fucking around with.”

His brown eyes grow larger, even in the sunlight. “I’m not fucking with Hadley.”

“Really? Because I heard you in her bed last night. You had no problem fucking with her then.”

Finn has no control over his mouth falling open or what comes out of it. “I... It wasn’t… We were… What the hell?”

“So, you weren’t fucking Hadley?”

“We… I wasn’t using her.” He anxiously sucks in his top lip before glancing at his fishing pole. “We were making love.”

I roll my eyes. “Whatever flowery name you want to call it.”

Finn swings his head back to me rather angrily. “You were listening to us?”

I can’t help rolling my eyes… again. “At least you think she’s beautiful, and she’s yours.” Hit with the reality, he swiftly looks out at the bay. “The walls are thin. Remember my dad saying that at dinner?”

His Adam’s apple rapidly bobs as much as his fishing line. “You’re not telling her, are you?”

“No. I’ll spare her that detail. I like messing with Hadley, but I’m not out to eternally mortify her.”

“Yeah, she would be.”

I reel in my line and set my pole down on the rocks to put more bait on the hook since I made it an easy meal for the damn fish. “What’s the middle-ground for you two? She won’t move in with you unless you change your mind about marriage, and you only want to live with her but not marry her.”

He frowns as he jerks the pole and waits for another tug. “I don’t have the answer to that.”

“Why don’t you just cut her loose?”

Finn instantly turns to face me, and his fishing pole droops toward the water. “I don’t want to break up with her!”

“Do it now before her hopes get too high. Let another man have her who will give her what she wants and not hide her like she’s some kind of embarrassment. Is that what she is to you?”

“No! I just… I’m… I like to keep my private life and public life separate from each other. It’s not because I’m ashamed of her!” His dark eyes blaze, and he looks around before spouting, “Why in the hell do you suddenly care? You barely speak to each other. All of a sudden, you’re the protective brother, out to beat the shit out of me for being with your sister after two years?”

I cross my arms as he glares at me, still limply holding the pole. “All her hopes and dreams are resting on your shoulders. You’re her damn world.”

“Hadley is my fucking universe.”

“When it comes to my sister, blood is thicker than water. Remember that, Finn.”

“I’d spill my blood just to keep her head above water, Jared. If she were suffocating, I would slit my throat just so she could breathe my air. I would gladly die for her.”

“Good. Because if you ever hurt Hadley, that’s exactly what will happen.”

We glare at each other, neither willing to look away first. The sloshing of the water against the rocks and kids yelling are the only noises I readily hear.

After what seems like minutes, he says, “I can’t believe you suggested I should break up with her but not to break her heart.”

I blow out a sigh toward the water and look back to him. “Finn, I like you, and I don’t like many people.” His incensed eyes bore into me. “You’re the son my dad wishes he had. Unlike me, you’re a genuinely nice guy. I don’t want her to get hurt by staying with you. She’s been through fucking enough in her life.”

I notice him relaxing somewhat. “I know that. I want to take care of her.”

“You can’t. Not the way she needs to be.”

“Jared, I’m… I’m deeply in love with Hadley. I don’t need a fucking piece of paper, giving me legal permission to love her the rest of my life. I just will.”

“But she does need it. It’ll never work. If you let this go on longer, it’ll only hurt her more, waiting around for you to never change your mind.”

“I can change for her.”

“Then, you’ll only be miserable.”

“I’ll only be miserable without her.” He sighs and turns to reel in his useless line. “I’ll probably marry her someday. I’m just not ready right now. I want it to be the right time for both of us.”

As he sets the pole down, I ask, “What happens if you knock her up?”

Finn vacantly blinks, looking past me to the bridge, considering that scenario. Hadn’t he thought of it before? Finally, he mumbles, “We’ll cross that bridge if we have to.”

“It’d be too late. She would need you to be there for her. Permanently.”

He resolutely says, “And I would be. Nothing would change that.”

“Not even a kid?”


“So, you wouldn’t break up with Hadley or abandon her over her being pregnant?”

He throws me an annoyed look. “Never.”

I keep going, searching for his breaking point where he’ll fuck up, and I’ll have to hate him. “If that happened, and Hadley said she really needs for you two to get married, would you marry her then, even if you weren’t ready?”

Finn doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely. No second thought. I’d take her to the courthouse or elope to Vegas. Whichever is faster.”

Again, we quietly stare at each other with the shouts of people hanging out on the grainy beach, and the unbroken buzz of cars on the bridge, lightly humming in the distance.

Finn asks, “Did I finally pass your test?”

Regarding him with new respect, I ultimately nod. “Yeah. Promise me you won’t hurt her, and that you’ll give Hadley what she needs. Don’t make me have to rip your heart out for smashing hers.”

He shakes his head, the wind briefly whipping sharply around us. “I won’t hurt her. I promise.”

I nod behind me. “Speaking of crossing bridges, do you think you could jump that? Is it as high as your other one?”

A relieved smile pops onto his face, and he explains, “The Chesapeake is nowhere near as high as New River, which is at eight hundred and seventy-six feet.”

“No wonder Hadley nearly castrated you.”

“Yeah. At that point right there,” he squints at it, his eyes assessing, “it’s only about sixty feet. I imagine even its highest point is under two hundred feet, which would be child’s play, jumping with a bungee, if it weren’t illegal. And even if I were permitted to, I wouldn’t BASE jump from that. The time to open my chute is minimal, and the risk of death is optimal. I love taking risks, but even I know my limits. I’m not crazy. I know what I have to lose.”

I retort, “Yeah, your life.”

He crooks an eyebrow. “In more ways than one.”

I look at the bridge, impressed with his answers, and feeling oddly satisfied that he fought to prove he’s in it for the long haul with my sister.

Finn asks, “Is that a lighthouse in the water?”

He puts his sunglasses back on as I look to where he’s indicating. “Yeah. Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse.”

“Near Cape Henlopen in Delaware, there’re two lighthouses close together in Delaware Bay.”

“That’s weird.”

“They were used to mark the breakwater into the harbor.”

“Oh,” I reply, trying not to sound too bored.

After a minute, he reiterates, “I guess, to put it another way, if I lost Hadley, I wouldn’t care about the risks of BASE jumping from lower heights anymore.”

An awkward silence ensues. Finn clears his throat, and I change the subject. “If Dash doesn’t catch a fish, he voluntarily jumps into the bay. It’s become a tradition.”

“So, if I catch more than you, I go in, and if I don’t catch any, I still go in?”

“Yep, so you’re screwed either way.” I stop myself from elaborating with a sexual comment because the person he’s currently screwing happens to be my damn sister.

He grins. “You’re not my type.”


When we got home, Hadley informed us that Dad was running an errand and would meet us at Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner. I gave Finn the hallway bathroom, and I took my dad’s.

Walking past my sister’s room on the way to mine, I hear Hadley whispering, “What’s wrong?”

Finn whispers, “Nothing.”

The sound of kissing makes me want to run until I hear Finn quietly say, “Becks, come on. We can’t.”

“Why not? I can see how much you want to.”

“We’re not alone.”

“He’s in the shower. We can make it fast.”

He sounds offended. “Not that fast.”

“Finnigan Wilder, don’t you want me?”

More lip-smacking, and I hear the protests of the bed as one, or both get on it. Their heavy breathing is heard with incoherent whispering and swift rustling.

I take the opportunity to sharply knock on the door.

Finn whispers, “Damn it.” I instantly grin.

Hadley breathlessly asks, “What, Jared?”

I cross my arms and lean against the doorframe. “Are you ready to go?”

“Um, no. Why don’t we meet you there?” Figures.

I sigh, knowing Finn hears me, but since he impressed me today, I give him a reprieve. “Okay. Just make sure you use a condom for fuck’s sake and don’t scream too loud. We have neighbors.”

As I walk away, Hadley laughingly yells, “Jared!”

Damn. I need an actual challenge.

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