Authors: Megan Faust
RACE TO REDEMPTION
(Full Throttle, Book 2)
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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
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Jennifer Bye had some strong opinions on stock car racing and not all of them lined up neatly with her husband's. Not that anyone was really interested in her opinions unless it had to do with the weather, the crops, or the kitchen. “So much for modern day equality,” she grumped to her computer. The computer said nothing so she sighed and continued putting in the last month's budget.
They were short, again. Brant's winnings only just covered the cost of three plane tickets and the hotel. It hadn't covered the broken leg or the medication. Throw into the mix that Brant's medication had been confiscated at the airport and they'd had to purchase the refill, and then the refill had gotten stolen at the track when Brant had gone to watch a race so they'd had to buy more.
Since Brant had no other source of income and since her husband insisted it was only a matter of time before Brant was supporting them with his racing, the medical bills had come out of the already tight budget.
At least we'll start seeing money on the potatoes soon,
she thought as she lowered the next month's credit card payment and put the money into the grocery budget. They weren't dangerously in the red but most of the money from the potato crop would go to paying down the credit card bills which would only start to rise again come Christmas.
Down in the kitchen Chloe was just putting dinner on the table when her mother walked in from one door and her father from the other. “Good!” she said with a smile. “It's all ready.”
While Jennifer was happy that her youngest was enthusiastic about cooking, and was more than happy for the help which only seemed to come from Chloe, some of the girl's kitchen concoctions didn't turn out the way they were intended. Tonight, however, everything looked wonderful as it steamed away in the antique serving bowls. “Anything I can do to help?” Jennifer asked.
“Umm ... forks and knives? Otherwise I think I've got everything.”
“What about ketchup?” Gerald asked.
“Ketchup?” Chloe squeaked. “You haven't even tried it!”
“Don't rile up the help,” Jennifer called from the other end of the kitchen. By the time she got back to the table Chloe was silently fuming at her spot. Jennifer looked at the table settings then the forks in her hand and frowned. “You didn't set anything out for your brothers. Chloe, I know things didn't go well in New York but we agreed to keep things civil in this house.”
“Oh, I've been civil,” Chloe said. “But they're not home.”
“Where are they?”
Gerald shrugged and started spooning something white and creamy with bits of vegetables poking through onto his plate. “They didn't really say. Caught them loading Seth's car, all I got by way of explanation was something needed picking up so they were road-tripping to get it. They weren't sure how long they'd be gone but they did say they'd call to check in on occasion.”
“And that's all the details you thought to get?” When he only shrugged again Jennifer rolled her eyes and turned, pleading, to Chloe. “You see what you'll be leaving me with? I don't think I can deal with all these men on my own. They're just so ... so....”
“Male?” Chloe offered and laughed. “Sorry, Mom. Trey's looking at doing the Southern circuit until things warm-up up here again. He wants me to come with him, as his spotter. Apparently I'll actually get paid now.” She shot her dad a disgruntled look then returned her attention to her mom. “But we'll be back in time for Christmas.”
“Well, it had to happen someday. My little girl is all grown up.” Jennifer took the bowl from her husband and began serving herself.
“I don't like this Trey Williams,” Gerald grumped.
“Now dear, don't start. We haven't even met him yet. We will get to meet him before Christmas, right?”
“Yes, Mom. He'll be here in a few days to pick me up; he'll even stay the night, in the guest room, alone. It's probably a good thing Brant's not home. He's staying civil with me only by not talking and I don't think he'd be civil with Trey.”
“Your brother is accustomed to being right,” Jennifer said carefully. “Hopefully the events in New York have taught him something.”
“Hopefully the jerk smartens up before he loses something he'll actually regret,” Chloe muttered. “Because he sure doesn't regret losing me.”
Seth got out of the car and stretched. This was turning out to be the longest road trip of his life and it wasn't over yet. He popped the gas tank open and grabbed the nozzle off the pump. Inside the car Brant was sitting with his arms over his chest glaring out the window. So far they had argued about the temperature inside the car at least once every hour, the volume of the music at least as often, and the choice of music almost twice as often.
Seth was used to fighting with his brother, they bickered all the time, but this was above and beyond the norm and so far Seth had suffered it all without explanation. “I need to get to PLACE and I need to do it without Dad knowing,” was all the information Brant had thus far offered.
“I'm going to regret this,” Seth muttered, not for the first time, and went in to pay.
As soon as he'd slid back into the driver's seat Brant said, “How come we're not making better time? I thought you knew how to drive? It's a damn good thing I didn't ask you to drive at the race or we'd have lost for sure.”
Seth put the car in gear, squealed the tires, and whipped around to the far end of the parking lot where he slammed the car back into park and turned off the engine.
“What gives?” Brant shouted.
“Brant, I have always helped you, no questions asked, but now I'm asking. Where am I taking you and why can't Dad know about it?”
Brant spluttered, obviously indignant. “It doesn't matter!”
“I've endured nothing but complaint after complaint from you for the last twelve hours. I'm physically tired and I'm tired of taking that kind of abuse. You start talking or I'll put ear plugs in and drive the twelve hours straight home again.”
“You wouldn't dare.”
Seth turned the key and put the car in reverse.
“Okay! Okay! Damn, you don't have to be such a hard ass about it! I'm just going to a place to get a little help before the next season starts. Trey bought me a little time and I plan to make the best of it.”
“What place and what kind of help?” Seth asked but he was sure he already knew. The two bottles of missing medication and Brant's recent mood swings were starting to add up to only one possible conclusion. Throw in more secrets and a searching for help and Seth was sure he knew, but he wasn't going anywhere until Brant said the words out loud.
Brant huffed and swore and slammed his fist down on the window's edge. “I'm going to rehab, okay? Those damn pills, I didn't mean to, I just couldn't stop. If Chloe hadn't stabbed me in the back, if she had just kept her damn hormones under control until after the race, I wouldn't have gotten hooked. Now I have to get off them before the next season, and before Dad catches on.”
Seth nodded. “Then let's go.”
“That's it? All that hassle and now it's just 'let's go'?”
Seth nodded. “We'll be there by dinner tonight.”
Brant swore again. “I'm starting to hate you.”
“I'm your ride home so I hope that's the withdrawal talking.”
* * * *
The Sun Mountain Out-Patient Center was a long two-story stucco building with lots of windows. Seth pulled into the visitor’s lot mid-afternoon and the two brothers sat in the front seat staring at the unimposing white and pink exterior and the deliberately friendly sign beside the front walkway.
The silence built between then until Seth said, “You know we can go home if you’ve changed your mind.”
“I have to do this.”
“You’re bitchy at the best of times, Brant. Now that you’ve run out of pills you can stop until the cravings go away. No one will notice the mood swings, too much.”
Brant pulled out a familiar yellow-tinted plastic bottle from his jacket pocket. It rattled and Seth’s stomach tightened.
“Where did you get those?”
Brant shrugged. “I ran out and the doctor wouldn’t give me anymore so I found a guy who could hook me up.”
“That trip to the city last week? The one that was so desperately important?”
“When was the last time you took any?”
“Back at the gas station.”
“Shit.” Seth rubbed his forehead. “Well that explains why you stopped fighting about the radio and the temperature and everything else. I thought you were just angry about my putting you on the spot. How many are you popping in a day?”
“I’ve never done more than eight, so relax. I’ve never done more than the daily maximum dosage. I’m not planning on overdosing.”
“How long have you been taking the daily maximum dose?”
“Calm down, all right? It hasn’t been long. Can we just go in now?”
“Yeah, I think we’d better do that.”
When they entered Seth expected a lobby like the one at the Plaza in New York, just smaller. Instead he found himself in a sparsely furnished doctor’s waiting room. The woman at the desk glared up at them. “Can I help you?”
Seth smiled. “My brother here has a problem and …”
She levelled her gaze at Brant. “Are you coming here of your own free will?”
“Yeah,” he answered sullenly.
“Fill out this form.” She passed Brant a clipboard and a pen and went back to her paperwork.
Seth sat beside Brant, his foot tapping and his eyes wandering lazily around the room noting three sturdy doors and not much else of interest. Brant was just flipping the paper over to complete the second side when two men came through the center door.
“Hello, I’m Doctor Clyde Hurd,” the older man said with a welcoming smile. “How can we help you today?”
Seth smiled and started again. “My brother Brant asked me to drive him here because he’s developed a dependency on painkillers.”
“And you are?”
“Do you have a drug dependency, Seth?”
“Then my next questions will need to be answered by your brother. Brant, do you want to be here?”
“If I don’t get clean, and fast, I’ll be kicked out of the only home I’ve known and I can kiss my career good-bye.”
“I’m glad you’ve come to recognize the possible future consequences of you actions …”
“There’s no possible about it,” Brant growled. “That’s fact.”
“I see. It still doesn’t answer my question though.”
“Hey,” Seth said, raising his hands to shoulder height as if surrendering. “I didn’t even know where I was driving him until we’d been on the road for twelve hours.”
“Seth, I’m sure you want nothing more than to help your brother but right now I need to hear from him, not you.”
“Of course,” Seth said and sat back politely.
“Brant, did anyone force you to come here?”
“No,” Brant growled. “This was all my idea.”
“Excellent, then we can get started. Because all the patients here are dealing with a dependency of one kind or another we cannot allow you to have any alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication of any kind. If there is a prescription you are required to take, say for a heart problem or high blood pressure, it will be kept in the safe and administered to you at the correct times by a member of our staff.”
Brant pulled the bottle from his pocket and tossed it to the doctor who caught it with practiced ease. “Do you require these pills for a current injury?”
“No,” Brant growled. “They’re the addiction.”
Dr. Hurd nodded. “Mr. Everett here will need to search your pockets and bags before you can be admitted.”
“Why? I gave you the drugs of my own free will. I need to get clean, remember?”
“I’m sorry, it’s not a matter of trust it’s a matter of protocol.”
“Bullshit,” Brant muttered but he tossed his bag to the orderly.
“While they’re doing that,” Dr. Hurd said to Seth, “Let me fill you in on our visitor’s policies. We have you registered as your brother’s support person so you are welcome as often as you like, anytime between eight and eight. You will of course have your pockets and any bags searched every time you enter the facility. You will be permitted in any of the common rooms and in Brant’s room, as well as the gardens, but not in any other patient’s room. Any other immediate family member may visit on Saturdays from eight until eight. That means parents, siblings, spouse, and children. They are permitted in the common rooms. Any questions so far?”
Seth shook his head ‘no’, so Dr. Hurd continued.
“You both may be as social or as private as you wish but I must ask you to respect the other patients’ preferences to be left alone, should they voice one. Brant’s meals are included in the price of his stay here but Seth, you may also purchase meals here. Some visitors find that more convenient than leaving for each meal and coming back.”
“What if I don’t like the coffee?” Brant asked. “Can Seth bring me some from the coffee shop on the highway?”
“No. Fresh coffee, take-out, or anything with a broken seal is not allowed in since it could be spiked or used to hide bottles. Only sealed food in the original packaging can be brought in.”
“That makes sense,” Seth said, cutting off whatever else Brant had been about to say. “And it won’t be a problem.”
Brant huffed. “No problem at all.”
Dr. Hurd frowned but he said, “All right, then we’ll quickly check Seth’s pockets and then I’ll take you on a tour.”
Seth stood and quietly allowed Everett to rifle through his pockets. When that was over they followed Dr. Hurd through the thick metal door.
The interior of the Sun Mountain Out-Patient Center looked like a cross between a day spa and a plush hotel.
The main common room was easily as large as the lobby at the Plaza and was spotted with islands of couches around sturdy but empty coffee tables. There was an electric fire place at one end of the room but no one had turned it on. There were oil paintings of serene landscapes in plaster frames along each wall. Seth had seen similar at almost every garage sale and estate sale he’d ever been to. There were a few patients scattered about the room with books or magazines.
“You must have a lot of patients checked in,” Seth said.
“No, not really,” Dr. Hurd replied. “But the room can get pretty crowded on Saturdays. This is the Day Room, or the Common Room. The Dining Room is the other popular place for visits. We’ll end the tour there since they’ll just be starting dinner by the time we’ve finished. Through the door next to the fire place are the Television Room and the Lending Library. On the other side of the fire place is the door to the Exercise Room. We’re not as well equipped as a gym but you may find something of interest there.
The doors along the long wall there are the public washrooms, patients and visitors are welcome to make use of them.” He paused then, when no one interrupted with questions he turned and led them up the wide staircase. “All the private rooms are upstairs. Each patient has their own room and each pair of patients shares a bathroom. Remember to lock the bathroom door on your neighbour’s side from the inside when you’re in the bathroom, and the bathroom door on your side from the bedroom side when you’re not using the bathroom. Here’s your room, Brant.”
Brant and Seth stepped inside the tiny space. There was a single bed, a small table with two chairs under a narrow window, a small chest of drawers, a sink with a mirror, two narrow doors, and just enough space for one person to walk between each thing.