Summer mounted the steps into the community hall. She could hear the band playing in the yard outside and she knew exactly what she would find inside, the good folk of her local community drinking and enjoying themselves. It was a pity she didn’t feel much like joining in.
She was pretty sure Luke was already here, he’d left home at least an hour ago, and he would be here drowning his sorrows. The least she could do now was to be on hand to take him home when he fell down, there was no way she would be letting him anywhere near his truck later this evening.
Her mother had said she and her father would be along later, but Summer doubted Luke would want to talk to either of them. Her little brother could be pretty volatile when in a mood like he was now. That bitch Laurie Spencer had a lot to answer for.
It was a lovely day, for once Summer had abandoned her jeans and cowboy boots, she was in a sundress and sandals for this picnic-cum-barn dance. Not that anyone would be looking her way with any romantic intention. The clientele here would be the local small ranch community and the small town business folk, along with their families. She doubted there would be anyone here that she’d not known forever; or at least since High School. The same guys would try to hit on her, and would get the same response as the last time they tried. There was no-one here who even remotely interested Summer in that way, she was here to be sociable, and to keep an eye on Luke.
She moved round the room seeking her brother, and found him exactly where she had expected, propping up the bar and looking morose and dismal.
She pulled up a stool and sat beside him.
“Why? Makes no difference if I’m here, I’m not stopping you doing anything. I’m not going to try and talk about it, if you want to talk that’s up to you, but I’m happy just to sit here.”
Luke turned his unhappy gaze on her. “You don’t understand,” he growled.
“I do. You got led on and dumped by the bitch of the century. I tried to warn you. Get over it!”
Luke stared at her, affronted. He returned his gaze to his beer.
The barman brought Summer a beer, he’d not even needed to ask, everyone knew everyone else here.
They sat in silence for several minutes while the music and laughter went on around them. As one song drew to an end the sound of a woman’s musical laughter rose above the other voices. Summer winced, she knew exactly who that was, sadly so did Luke.
She saw his gaze snap back up to stare across the room to locate her. And there she was, Laurie Spencer, holding court as she always did, surrounded by men.
Idiot men! Summer thought scathingly. Why on earth could they just not see it? Laurie would never be satisfied with a man from this small town; she wanted big city and big bucks. True, Summer was no more likely to choose a local man, but at least she didn’t try to tell any of them otherwise. Laurie delighted in making promises she had no intentions of keeping, and they still just fell at her feet.
As usual she was dressed like a super model, gleaming and immaculate, she made Summer feel drab and mousy.
To add insult to injury, as far as Summer could see, the man she appeared to be concentrating her attentions upon on this occasion was Kyle Kindred.
Kyle Kindred. Her father’s only hired hand and Luke’s daily work mate. As bitches went, Laurie had this down to a fine art.
Summer reflected in irritation that she should have seen that coming. Kyle had been with them only three weeks and Luke had introduced him to Laurie maybe two weeks back. Kyle wasn’t bad looking, dark haired, dark eyed and, in her view, a bit slimy in his manner, she supposed a lot of women might find him charming and attractive. Personally she didn’t think he could hold a candle to her brother, Luke was an athletic, nice-looking man with dark blond hair and blue eyes, and he was altogether more wholesome.
“Ignore her, Luke,” she ordered softly.
Luke muttered under his breath and stared back into his beer.
By this point Summer’s temper was simmering well. It was entirely unnecessary for Laurie to be so obvious in her taunting of Luke. So she wasn’t really interested, but she hadn’t needed to be so unkind, so blatantly dismissive of his feelings. It only magnified Summer’s poor opinion of the woman.
Summer had known Laurie since High School. They’d been of an age and in the same classes. They had never been friends in any sense of the word, hence she’d tried her best to dissuade her little brother (true, only younger by three years) from any sort of involvement. She had failed, much to her annoyance and Luke’s woeful state.
To her relief the band played louder and Laurie and her entourage moved outside to the terrace. Luke drank his beer, morosely.
It was maybe an hour later when Summer managed to steer Luke in the direction of the food table. She thought he could do with soaking up some of the alcohol. He wasn’t really drinking that heavily, he was more… sitting and staring at it, but even so a change of scenery had to be a good thing.
She had seen her parents come in a few moments ago accompanied by a couple of her Pa’s long standing friends. As far as she was concerned that was good, she really didn’t need to be helping her mother with her Pa, she was fairly sure her mother would prefer her to keep Luke on the straight and narrow. If he got into any sort of altercation, particularly with Kyle Kindred, her father would be apoplectic. Circumstances being what they were, that was not a good idea.
Summer collected a plate from the table and turned around to speak to Luke again, and wouldn’t you know it, Laurie Spencer stepped from the crowd right in front of him.
“Well, Hi Luke. Fancy meeting you here. All on your own?” Laurie cooed sweetly.
Summer saw red.
She didn’t wait for any more, she didn’t wait for Luke to react, she didn’t even think.
She slapped the plate back onto the table and shoved her way between Luke and Laurie.
“You get away from him and leave him alone!” she spat at Laurie.
“Oh! Oh my. What a temper!” Laurie trilled affectedly.
Luke meanwhile grabbed her arm. “Summer, stop it. I can deal with this.”
“Like you dealt with her last week?” Summer snapped at him. She spun back to Laurie. “You are a two-faced, conniving bitch and you don’t deserve a good man like Luke. The sooner you leave this town the better for us all.”
“Oh dear,” Laurie crowed. “Poor little Lukie, needs his sister to stand up for him.”
That was it, Summer snapped. She didn’t actually remember the thought entering her head, she just reacted. Not for nothing had she spent her life on a ranch, with the boys, with the hands and her brother, and Laurie Spencer’s own brothers too.
Laurie went straight over with a strangled squawk.
For one second there was a deathly hush, and then everyone started yelling at once.
Luke yanked her away from Laurie, now on the ground and squalling fit to wake the dead.
“Out of here, now!” He bundled her towards the exit.
No-one actually tried to stop him, because only those immediately in the vicinity had any idea who had started the ‘fighting’. No-one was expecting the culprit to be female.
Within two minutes Summer was in Luke’s truck and they were speeding away, the exact opposite to what she had envisaged when she had arrived here two hours earlier.
“What the blazes were you thinking?” Luke demanded. “I was going to do what you said, ignore her.”
“Well, I was going to try. You made it a little difficult!”
Summer stared tearfully out of the window. “I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry Luke. She just made me so mad, she shouldn’t treat you that way.”
Luke glanced back at her. He’d never known Summer behave that way. So she was a tomboy, always had been, but she didn’t ever fight. The fact that she had done it to defend him made him feel rather… well… proud of her really.
“You do realise that you are not going to have heard the last of this?” he pointed out rather ruefully. He could not see Laurie Spencer just taking such treatment without comment. No doubt this would really fuel the irritation which had always seemed to exist between their families.
Close neighbours but never close friends. It looked as if that situation was likely to continue.