Full Summary: Isolation and ridicule were the norm for Josie after she exposed the beloved town hero for what truly was. Four years after the incident she's a drop out working for her father's business and trying to take it one day at a time. For Chukfi, his rodeo days were cut short after his father's poor choices led to him becoming blacklisted. Now he's working as a mechanic, trying to put his past behind him. The only problem is he's fallen for his boss's daughter and she's wilder than a bronco.

Together they'll try to heal from their pasts so they can have a future together.



Chapter One

June 1986

Josie stood in front of a 1959 Chrysler 300, the latest addition to her father's junkyard. Its once candy apple red finish faded to a dull pink, its windshield had spider web cracks on the right side, rust pockets speckled all along the sides, a door was missing, and the white wall tires were flat and rotted. What her father saw in this mess she'd never know but he was always strange when it came to cars. He'd take in the most busted up and biggest piles of junk, claiming he saw the beauty within them. All she saw was another junker taking up space. Another junker she couldn't pull a part from because he might need it.

She leaned back against an AMC Hornet and let the warmth seep into her back. Her muscles relaxed and the dull pain subsided. Her menstrual cramps were at their peak today and leaning over cars and laying under them only made it worse. Closing her eyes for a moment, she let the sun warm her face. Break time was almost over and she wanted to spend the rest of it enjoying the summer air.

The week had dragged on with seemingly no end to it. It was finally Friday and she was thankful she could spend the weekend at home in front of the TV with Animal by her side. After the disaster of a date she went on last Friday, all she wanted was alone time.

Climbing onto the hood, she scanned the sea of vehicles in search of her four-legged friend. His fur was a bright white with a brown "saddle" patch on his back and his face had patches on both eyes. Animal was a Johnson type American Bulldog. He was stockily built with a broad face and his muscles ripped under his coat. Between two S-10s, Animal came trotting out with a tennis ball in his jaws. Drool dripped from his jowls as he came bounded up to Josie. She jumped off the Hornet and met him halfway. As she reached for the ball, he gave a playful growl and leapt back, shaking his head wildly and send slobber everywhere.

"Ew, gross!"

Grabbing his collar, she carefully pried the ball from his mouth and held it up in the air. Animal sat patiently, looking up at his human with big round eyes.

"You want the ball? Do you, boy? You want the ball?"

Animal inched closer, his tail wagging and stirring up dust.

After a few heartbeats she threw the ball and cleared five cars before bouncing off a van and landing in the tall grass. The canine took off like a white bullet, leaving a trail of dust behind. Josie laughed at his silly display and walked back to the garage. Stepping into the shaded building, she instantly felt cooler. She opened the fridge in the back and selected a bottle of water. She snuck into her father's office where she stood in front of the fan to cool off.

Sipping on her water, she listened out for her dad, in case he returned early. He told her that morning he had a surprise for her. Her mother mentioned an old friend coming into town during their phone conversation the previous night. Perhaps that's what she meant? But then, who was the old friend and who were they to her family. She thought back to her earliest memories of childhood and couldn't think of anyone important that stood out. Her parents, especially her dad, had too many friends for Josie to keep up with.

Josie shrugged, figuring she'd have to find out when that person arrived.

Hearing movement outside the office door, Josie froze. Despite her boss being her father, she was still forbidden from entering her father's air conditioned office. Mort Blair may have hired Josie because she was his child, but he would not give her any special treatment. She was paid the same as her brother and co-workers. Therefor expected to behave as any other employee.

Grabbing her purse from under her dad's desk, she rummaged around for her lip balm and applied it before stepping out. In the corner of the garage, her brother Holoce, and two other mechanics, Brian and Abelardo, stood around cracking jokes and talked about weekend plans. Seeing Josie, they invited her over to join in on the conversation.

"I'm taking the boat out tomorrow morning. What about you, Josie?" Brian asked.

Brian was a tall, middle-aged man, with brown hair, and round facial features. He was divorced with three kids and bitched about his ex-wife and the child support he was forced to pay. The kind of man who complain about his ex keeping the kids from him while simultaneously declining to take his kids out for the weekend. Brian may have liked Josie, but she however didn't care too much for him. The only reason she didn't completely hate him was that he sided with her when she exposed Jacob. Maybe he didn't really care; maybe he only did it because he wanted to keep his job.

"All I want is a quiet weekend to myself," Josie replied.

"Can't blame you there. Between that rich bitch and her foreign car and that punk kid and his Camaro, I've about had it."

"I'll say. She nearly ripped your head off," Holoce agreed.

"Fuck that kid, man," Abelardo said in a thick Mexican accent. "If I didn't like his car I'd set it on fire!"

Josie laughed, though she new he was partly serious.

Abelardo came from Bakersfield, California. He once ran with a gang before his brother was killed over five dollars. After that, Abelardo left his home state and came to Oklahoma for a new start. Because of his criminal record, he struggled to find a job, but Mort gave him a chance believing most people deserved one. For the last five years, he worked at the shop proving he was a hard worker and truly stepping away from his past. Josie used to have a crush on him in high school, but now that she was older and he was now in his thirties, she no longer held the same feelings. She still found him attractive, but there wasn't a desire there anymore.

He wiped brow with a bandanna before making his way to the fridge. He tossed the guys a few bottles of water before taking a seat by the tool bench.

"This heat is fuckin' killin' me, man," he said before downing the water.

Josie agreed. It was expected to be the worst summer in the last five years. She'd take a harsh winter, if that meant an easy summer.

"Where do you think Dad is?" Holoce asked.

Josie shrugged. "Beats me. He said it was a surprise and Mom mentioned an old friend coming into town. You got an idea as to who that might be?"

Her brother shook his head. "No clue. All she said was that you used to play with him when you guys were kids."

She swallowed the last of her water and wiped her mouth. It was tempting to grab another, but too much and she'd make herself water logged.

The American Bulldog came trotting into the garage and flopped down on the cool cemented floor. His tongue rolled out and saliva dappled the below his face. Seeing he was out of water, Josie filled his pan and set it beside him.

"There's that vicious junkyard dog," Brian said with a smirk.

Animal was far from vicious but he was protective of Josie if needed be. Because she couldn't leave him alone in her apartment while working, she got to bring him to her job. He got to roam the fields and she could rest easy knowing he wasn't destroying the place while she was away. In the four years she'd owned him, he became the business' mascot. Mort even immortalized him into the logo.

"Yeah, he'll totally lick you to death," Holoce said.

His tail thumped the concrete, as though he knew they were talking about him. She smiled at her companion. The dog's existence made life a little more bearable.

"Well, look who's here," Brian said.

Josie looked back to see her father's red Chevy pickup turning to the driveway. It bounced and bobbed as Mort drove over the mud holes that Josie still hadn't filled in. She cringed internally, knowing she had a lecture coming.

In the passenger seat, she noticed a young man. She couldn't recognize him from the distance they were at. Even as they drew closer, it was hard to tell who he was, though she could see the cowboy hat.

The guys scattered and pretended they were working the entire time. Josie moved for the workbench and began to tinker with a carburetor. The truck doors slammed and her father's laughter drifted into the garage. The mechanics stopped what they were doing and turned their attention on their boss and the stranger standing beside him.

Josie's gaze left her father and was completely focused on the newcomer. He was an Indian dressed as a cowboy, something she always thought was strange. His pale blue shirt was rolled up at the elbows, his wranglers worn from hard work, as were his boots, and his black Stetson was beaten to hell. She never understood why any Indian would want to look like a cowboy. Even if she wasn't a fan of the attire, she still found it oddly fitting on him. He was handsome, tall, lean with muscle, and dark-skinned. His face was oval shaped, his jaw strong, and his nose round.

Mort's hand clamped down on the stranger's shoulder as he introduced his employees.

"This is Blake Winterhouse. His daddy and I served together in Korea."

So, this kid was connected to her father's time in the war. Josie searched her memories but couldn't think as to who his father was.

"Actually, I go by Chukfi, now," the kid said.

"What the hell kind of a name is that?" Brian asked.

Agitation briefly glinted in Chukfi's eyes. He quickly hid it and answered, "It's Choctaw for rabbit. An elder gave it to me a long time ago."

"Oh. I, uh, I'm sorry if I offended."

Chukfi forced a smile. "No need to apologize. It takes a lot to offend me."

He was lying, that much she could tell. She'd guess he got that response often from settlers such as Brian. She didn't have a Seminole name and now as she watched the newcomer; she felt a tinge of irritation over that. Maybe she'd confront her parents about that when she had the chance. After all, Holoce's name meant cloud in the Mvskoke language.

When Mort finished introducing the guys, he turned his attention to Josie. Mort motioned for her to come over and chided her about being antisocial again. She internally winced at his words and wished he didn't out her like that.

"Well, get over here," Mort prodded.

Josie approached the two men but kept close to her father.

"This is my daughter, Josie. She's the second oldest and one of my best mechanics."

Embarrassment came over her at her father's words. She was no slouch when it came to her job, but she wasn't the best, either. That honor went to Abelardo.

Chukfi seemed startled when he laid eyes on her. She wondered what the hell was wrong with him, but she didn't ask. People were strange sometimes. He tipped his hat to her, and she fought back an urge to laugh at such a gesture. Glancing down, she caught sight of his belt buckle. It was gold and featured a cowboy on a bucking bronco. There was something written on it, but she couldn't get a good look without lingering longer than she needed to on his crotch. From what she could tell, it was a buckle from the rodeo.

"Hi, Josie," Chukfi finally spoke. He smiled shyly at her and she found it almost... cute. "Been a long time since I seen you. Last we left off, you were knee high."

"I guess it has, because I... don't really remember you. My childhood felt like one big blur," she confessed.

He nodded. "I bet. You were what, six, when I saw you last?"

"That was so long ago."

One memory did come back to her, but she wasn't sure if it was him or not. She could see an older boy sticking a firecracker in an anthill and they'd hide behind a rock and watch it go off. She squealed with delight and beg him to do it again.

Mort grinned. "I can't believe you don't remember Blake –uh- Chukfi. Remember my friend, John Winterhouse? This is his son."

She remembered John well enough. He'd often stop by to visit when he was in town and bring gifts for the kids. It always drove her mother crazy when he'd bring them the noisiest toys. When Star Wars hit theaters, he'd bought her brother's action figures and her a Princess Leia costume. Josie ran around the neighborhood with her toy gun blasting the neighborhood kids dressed as Storm Troopers. Thinking about it brought back a longing for a simpler time when she wasn't worried about what was lurking around the corner.

"Chukfi's here for the summer and fall," Mort went on. "Monday he starts working for us and I've given him yours and Emily's old room until he can find his own place."

Panic jolted through her. When she moved out two years ago, she had packed everything except her little black book. It went missing shortly after she dropped out and now she worried Chukfi would find it and turn it into her parents.

"You okay, Josie?" Mort asked. "You look frightened."

Josie swallowed. "No, I'm fine. It's just this heat."

"Quit being a baby," Brian said.

She scowled at him but didn't say a word.

"It is pretty hot," Chukfi agreed.

"Josie, you coming by after work? Your mom has some stuff for you."

She thought of her book again and her knees almost buckled. "Sure! I can do that."

"Great!" Mort gave Chukfi a slap on the back. "Come with me into my office, kid. We got a lot to catch up on."

When her dad and the newcomer disappeared into the back, she continued her day as usual. Rotating tires, changing oil, replacing spark plugs, and helping Abelardo replace a radiator were all in a day's work for her. It had been easy, but boring. By the end of the day she was exhausted and her back was killing her again. She couldn't wait to take a midol and a hot shower.

She said little to her father when she clocked out. Animal tried jumping on Chukfi but she pulled him away by the collar and gave the Choctaw man an apology. He laughed it off, told her it was okay, and that he didn't mind dogs jumping on him.

When she approached her car, she opened the passenger side for Animal before walking around the front. She paused for only a moment to admire the machine in front of her. Her 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, gleamed in the sun, as if it were winking at her. It was only the object of any real value that she owned and she was proud of it. When she saw it for sale in the newspaper two years earlier, she knew she had to make it hers.

She climbed in and with a turn of a key; it roared to life, snagging the attention of the boys across the yard. Without giving them another glance, she sped off into the evening sun, leaving them all in the dust.

"Show off!" Abelardo called out to her.

As Mort Blair watch his daughter drive away, all he could do was shake his head. He turned to the others and with a grin said, "That girl is wilder than anything I've seen before."

They all agreed. Chukfi didn't know to think. The last time he saw her, she was six, and he was ten and she chased after him while he and his cousin, Marcus, peddled away on their bikes. She'd flopped down in the middle of a dusty road and bawled her eyes out as he rode away. When he returned home later that evening she was gone, but his parents laid into him for leaving her behind. She was always a pesky little kid wanting to get in his way. Every time Mort came over with Josie and Emily, he would complain to his dad about how annoying those girls were. John Winterhouse would only laugh and say: "You'll understand when you're older, son."

But Josie wasn't a kid anymore.

When he saw her standing by that workbench, his breath hitched and his heart took off like a Mustang. With her soft, round features, and those almond shaped eyes, it was hard to not notice her. When she stepped into the light, her eyes went from being a deep brown to an auburn, reminding him of whiskey.

She didn't remember though and while he wasn't surprised, he was disappointed all the same.

After her tail lights disappeared behind the hill, he turned and followed after Mort.