Britt continued to sand the hull of the boat until midnight, nine solid hours of noisy, hard work. Without taking a break, he began to apply marine varnish. Just yesterday, the job would have given him pleasure, watching the mahogany come alive under the finish. Tonight he attacked the job, not out of pleasure, but out of a desperate need to do something besides track down his brother and murder him. Watching his hand shake as he wielded the brush, he imagined what he would like to do to Phillip with his bare hands. It was not a pretty picture, but going over and over it in his mind gave him some satisfaction. His neck was beginning to ache from clenching his jaw, but he made no attempt to let go of any of the anger and bitterness. Hatred was too real and necessary a thing to him, coursing through his veins, a boiling liquid. There was a loud, ugly racket going on in his head, but it wasn’t music this time. He had been able to drown part of it out with the sander, but now there was only the hum of the two exhaust fans at the door and the racket in his head. He worked until he was finished with the hull, leaving the topside for daylight. Too many bugs were being attracted by the light. That was what was wrong with the South—too many damn bugs.
Leaving the fans running, he stomped upstairs and went into the kitchen. It was two a.m. How long had it been since he had slept? His hand ached, and he knew he should take his medicine for the swelling. A note from Dena reminded him to eat something first. With a sigh, he spooned some of the peach pie she’d made onto a plate, frowning at the sticky goo. Too many bugs and too much damn sugar.
He sat on the sofa and ate the pie and took the pills and looked up at his darkened bedroom. What kind of stubborn madness had brought Dena back to this house in the middle of the night? She should have been frightened of him; she should have stayed away from his blind rage.
And yet he had known she would come back. And the fact that she was here, and had remained here, was what was anchoring him to this place. There was no other reason for him to stay in this hot, buggy, sugar-infested state. One speeding ticket. As his lawyers had assured him and the D.A., it was the only thing Britt could be convicted on. Ha! Would the state of North Carolina come to London after him for one speeding ticket? He didn’t think so. Were it not for Dena, he would be there now, letting his British buddies pour enough alcohol down him to drown out the god-awful racket in his head.
Dena. What kept her here? What had made her put their home back together single-handedly? She should be angry at him or hurt or afraid. She did not appear to be any of those things, although he could not exactly determine what her mood was. And he was confused by her silence.
Britt sat on the sofa with his arms folded and cursed his brother until dawn.
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