The peace stole over her as she fed the ducks. Penni then sat on one of the benches under a large, shady tree when the bag was empty.
Leaning her head back, she closed her eyes, letting the shadows hit her eyelids. She stretched her hands, reaching out and letting the peace and tranquility invade her soul.
“I’ve never seen you sit still.”
“Go away.” Penni didn’t raise her eyelids. She had no intention of seeing Jackal’s face again.
She felt him sitting down next her on the bench.
“I’m not going away. I’ve been take caring of your ducks for weeks now; the least you could do is look at me.”
Penni snapped her head up. “Colton’s been taking care of them.”
“Colton did it until I got back in town. I’ve been doing it for the last three weeks.”
“I’m back now, so you won’t have to do it anymore.” Penni tried to sound grateful yet failed miserably. She waved him off with a shoo gesture.
Jackal shoved his hands into his pockets. “How’s Genny doing?”
With a disgruntled sigh, she answered, “Good. She moved in with one of the backup singers who needed a roommate.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t offer for her to move in with you.”
“I did. I think she wants a fresh start without being reminded of Treepoint every day. Shade said that Hennessy is back in Colt, Arkansas.”
“Yeah, he left the same day we did. The DEA and the Mexican police arrested those who orchestrated the attack on The Last Riders’ clubhouse. Viper said the Mexican authorities were relieved to bring the cartel up on charges and arrest them.” Jackal’s skeptical tone had her finally looking at him.
“You don’t believe them?”
“The cartel had too much power to have gone unnoticed for as long they did. They have to have someone in their pocket, shielding them.”
“At least they’re too busy now to give Hennessy anymore trouble.” Penni gazed at the lake, unable to look at him any longer.
“Lucky, Shade, and Cade are going to make sure there won’t be any chance of them escaping justice this time. They’re trying to get them extradited to the United States.”
“What about the Unjust Soldiers?”
“There aren’t any left.”
“I’m glad. I don’t like Hennessy, but he was trying to help out a friend. That, I can understand.”
“You’re going to give Hennessy a break and not me?”
“I’m not going to talk about what happened.” Penni tightened her lips, forcing back the volatile words she wanted to spew at him.
“You’re not ready to talk about it yet?”
“No.” Penni jerked her gaze back to the lake.
A duck waddled to the edge of the water with her seven ducklings following her, popping into the water one after another.
“Why did you stick so many forks and spoons in the ground?” Jackal pointed at one of the utensils buried in the dirt.
“How did you know they were there?” Penni asked sharply.
“Busted my front tire on one.”
“That’s why,” she chided. “Motorcyclists and bicyclist ride on the grass. Two months ago, someone ran over and killed one of the baby ducks.”
“Oh. Why not just post ‘no riding on the grass’ signs?”
“Like that one?” Penni pointed at a sign on the wooden pole a few inches from them.
“I didn’t see it.”
His contrite expression had her thawing her frosty behavior toward him.
“Most people don’t. I tried to get them to post larger signs, but the HOA that established the lake doesn’t want to spoil the natural beauty of it. They only recently started putting cameras on the light poles and posted signs so people would know they were being watched. So having to make a bigger sign telling them to stay off the grass has them dragging their feet.”
“Why the cameras? Are people stealing the ducks to take them home?” Jackal joked.
“No. Someone is killing them. The last one was right before I left. They killed a swan. It was horrible. Swans mate for life. Its mate kept swimming around, calling for it.” Penni swallowed the painful lump in her throat at the memory of it.
“Damn. Which one?” Jackal asked, staring at the lake.
“Why? Are you going to tell him you’re sorry?” Penni barely held back her laughter.
“Don’t give me that crap. I know you know which one it is.”
Penni nodded toward a spot where a beautiful swan was gracefully gliding along the water not far from where they were sitting.
“See? I know you.”
Jackal’s complacency had her looking away, her smile dying.
“You don’t know me at all. You don’t know that I felt like an outsider in my own age group, that I couldn’t measure up to my mother’s expectations on how I should act. The only time I felt alive was when I was doing something that could have gotten me hurt.
“When Shade came to visit, he could make the emptiness go away. Then he would leave again, and it would start over. He used to take me to a park a couple of miles away from our home, and we would stare out at the lake.