Love Next Door (Lakeside #1) - Helena Hunting Page 0,1

car accident. He was on his own, and no one else was involved, but he broke his ankle and totaled the truck.” My dad’s words are clipped, almost rehearsed.

Billy works with my dad and my uncle. They own the only construction company in town and handle everything from snow removal in the winter, to lawn maintenance in the summer, to renovation projects and framing all year long. In the past few years they began subcontracting out some of the trades because the rich city dwellers on the north side of the lake have started hiring them to make their mansions even bigger than they already are.

I drop down on my bed and fold and unfold a pair of socks repeatedly. “How severe is the break?”

“The doctor says it’ll be about six to eight weeks in a cast.”

Eight weeks seems like a long time. And it’s only mid-June. This is their busiest time of year. “Is it his right or his left ankle?”

“It’s the left.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. “So he can still drive.”

“Well, not quite.” I can practically feel my dad pacing the room on the other end of the line. It’s a habit we have in common.

“What do you mean ‘not quite’?”

“His license has been suspended.” My dad sighs. “He, uh, wrapped the truck around the McAlisters’ mailbox because he was drunk, so he’s been charged with a DUI.”

“Oh my gosh. What the hell was he thinking?” The question is rhetorical. I can already guess what must have happened. He went out with his friends, got carried away, and drove his drunk ass home but didn’t manage to make it to our driveway before he hit something. This isn’t the first time this has happened—although the last time, we never could prove he was drunk since it wasn’t until the next morning that we found his truck parked in the ditch, between two trees. Luckily he never injured anyone—not that it’s any better.

“Apparently he wasn’t. I don’t think he realized how drunk he was. He tried to walk the rest of the way home after he hit the McAlisters’ mailbox but ended up sleeping in the ditch. The McAlisters found him in the morning when they went to take old Rufus for a walk.”

I run a palm down my face. I can only imagine the gossip. The McAlisters live about fifteen houses down the road from us. We’ve known them our entire lives. Billy dated their youngest daughter back in high school for a very brief period, and my dad built their garage a couple of years ago.

Everyone knows everyone else’s business back home. That’s what living in a small town is like, all the Nosy Nancys with ears to the ground, salivating like hungry dogs over the newest piece of gossip. And now my family is a prime target.

“How long is his license suspended for?”

“Looks to be about a year, but Bernie said he might be able to get it reduced to six months.” Bernie Sawyer is the town lawyer. Yes, it’s kind of hilarious that his last name rhymes with lawyer. He lives in a huge house that is basically the dividing line between the summer homes and the permanent homes on the lake. He and my dad have been friends since they were kids.

“That’s still a long time. Even when he gets his cast off, someone is going to have to drive him around. I guess it’s good it’s not snow season, huh?” My hometown of Pearl Lake is on part of a snowbelt, which means winters are long and there’s an endless amount of white powder to contend with. It’s great for tobogganing, skating, and skiing and not so great for driving.

“It’d be better if we weren’t in the middle of a huge renovation project.”

“But you still have Aaron, right?” Billy might not be able to do the heavy on-site stuff, but they have Aaron Saunders, who is close in age to my brother. Aaron mostly handles the plumbing and electrical work, but he can also fill in for Billy.

“Yes, but he’s already working overtime. It looks like I’m going to be back on-site for the next few months.”

That puts me on alert. “Who’s taking over the paperwork if you’re back on-site? Please don’t say Mom.”

“Not sure I have much of a choice.” He chuckles, but there isn’t any humor in it.

“There has to be another option, Dad.” A couple of years ago, my dad had the great idea to hire on my mom