“You sure look beautiful with the sun bouncing off your hair like that.”
She looked up, startled.
“My brother has extremely good taste,” he added.
She glanced up into the face that Brandon hated so much. When she had first seen him in his portrait, she had thought he looked a lot like Brandon. Now, as she saw him in person, she saw the vast differences in their appearance. They both had the same unique straw-colored blonde hair, and shared the same delicate nose that was a gift from their mother. However, while Brandon’s eyes were deep set, masculine, alluring, with a touch of smoke cast in them. Jeffrey’s were lighter in color, gay, full of childlike innocence and mischief. It was hard to imagine any thoughts remotely sinister going through this boyish face.
He drew warmth and companionship to him, and Jessica liked him instantly. She thought briefly of her promise to Brandon to stay clear of his brother. The thought made her laugh, but she chose not to share the reason with Jeffrey when he prodded her.
His charm mostly drew her attention. She didn’t mind at all when he boldly sat beside her. She was, for just a moment, alarmed, but her mind eased when she remembered that help was only a shout away. She was sure no one had seen Jeffrey, or surely, someone would have come to check on her.
“It’s Jeffrey, isn’t it?” she asked, extending her hand in welcome to him. “I’m Jessica.”
He nodded his head, returning the offer of his own hand. “I know. You’re Jessica Crawford. You have been seeing my brother for approximately two months, give or take. You’re head photographer for Modern Fashions Magazine. Your best friend is Amy—who is also your co-worker. You have no brothers or sisters, and your mother, who lives about ninety miles north of you, in a small town called Spencer’s Junction, population approximately 35,000 —named after its founder Charles Spencer, who died in the late 1800s, has a steady beau, is retired, and does tons of volunteer work. Let’s see, did I leave anything out? Oh, yes, you rent a four-room flat on the upper east end, very nice, I might add, and take the subway to work almost every day.”
Chill was the only word to describe the feeling that went through her at that moment. She laughed uneasily.
“I think that’s quite enough. How did you come to know so much about me?” she asked nervously.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I keep a close eye on everything that catches my brother’s interest.” He made a sinister sneer and leaned close, whispering conspiratorially. “You see, I have this game I play. I’m a detective, and my brother’s a spy. He has an evil plot to take over the world and it’s my job to stop him.” He sat back up, confidently.
She laughed uncontrollably. When she managed to regain herself, she said, “I would hardly call Brandon a spy. Although, I would say your game playing fits right in with his description of you.”
He sighed. “I see my brother still speaks unpleasantly of me.” He paused but continued when she didn’t deny it. “Well, did he at least have anything good to say? Although I can guess that he didn’t.”
“Let’s just say I didn’t get a strong sense of brotherly devotion between the two of you.”
“Ah, I see; well, I might have known. My brother has always been one to hold grudges.”
“What do you mean by hold grudges?” she asked, puzzled by this statement.
“I guess he didn’t tell you why we don’t get along.”
“No, he didn’t, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask. He spits fire every time your name is brought up.”
“Well, you’ll have to ask him sometime. It’s silly. Although, I’m sure he won’t be too willing to tell you the story. If he doesn’t, come back and ask; I’ll tell you.”
The cry was so startling that Jessica jumped to her feet when she heard it. She glanced in the direction the voice came from. She was surprised to see Brandon standing there looking at her, as if she had done something wrong. She could feel the hatred coming from him as he glanced from her to his brother. She suddenly realized how awkward this must look to him—especially after she had promised him to stay away from Jeffrey.
She ran to his side and grabbed his arm. “Brandon, you startled me. What do you mean by sneaking up on us like that?”
He glanced at her sideways, never taking his eyes from his brother. His arms were tight at his side, his jaw clenched in anger. His body went rigid as his temper exploded.
“Get out of here, Jeffrey, while you still can! And I warn you, don’t ever come near Jessica again!”
Jeffrey stood his ground, grinning at his brother, mocking him.
“Oh, come on, Brandon, you aren’t still blaming me for that, are you? It’s been five years now. I thought for sure you would have come to your senses by now. It was just an accident.”
Jeffrey wasn’t smiling now, but was matching Brandon’s own anger. It was obvious this was a fight started long ago—and never finished.
Jessica, fearful of what would happen if she allowed the argument to continue, clutched Brandon’s arm and desperately tried to pull him away.
“Please, not now. This isn’t the time for this. You should both talk this out when you can think straight. Let’s go back to the house. Maybe we could take a swim and cool off a little,” she begged him.
“Stay out of this. This conversation is long overdue. Jeffrey ran from this battle five years ago, and now it’s time to finish it.”
Their voices had carried. People began to crowd around. Jessica threw herself in front of Brandon. Their eyes met, hers pleading, his showing violent signs of the anger that had built up inside him. They stayed that way for several minutes. Then Brandon, realizing the fear he was causing Jessica, turned to walk away, pulling her along with him as he did. Without a word, he rounded up both horses, and in one swoop hoisted Jessica into her saddle. Then he mounted his own horse, grabbed both sets of reins, and galloped off.
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