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A man huddled next to a bale of hay with a Great Dane trying to bury its head into the bale. A crack of thunder shook the barn. The dog reversed and sprinted around the open area, banking off the bales and kicking up chaff. An open stall door swung and bounced off the stall adding to the racket of hail thumping on the metal roof.
Lacey raised her hands to ears and scanned the roof for leaks or for evidence that the wind would peel the surface away and leave them exposed to the torrent.
The furry mass barreled into her hip. Lacey hit the cement floor in a cloud of dust. She hadn’t even caught her breath before the dust sent her into rapid fire sneezing.
Over the sound of her sneezes, she heard the man attempting to calm the dog, alternately coaxing and commanding the frazzled mutt.
“Here, babe. It’s okay!”
Lace started to lift herself off the floor in a pushup when she sneezed again. The sneeze must have shaken something in her brain because she suddenly knew who the man with the dog was, which also led to the revelation that she might have been better off in her car, breaking tree limbs or not.
The hail increased its thunder against the roof and the lone light bulb flickered.
Lacey crawled out of her pushup as the man managed to corral the upset dog. He looked up from the caressing the dog and met her gaze.
If she could have sent evil vibes his way, she would have shot poison-tipped darts.
“Lacey,” he said, his voice flat.
“Tom,” she replied, attempting to keep her voice equally toneless, despite the bits of chaff tickling her nose.
“Funny meeting you here.” He rubbed his hands over the dog’s ears. The dog’s tongue lolled out and its eyes were glassy.
“I’m surprised you could find this place.” The meeting was only slightly less humiliating than the one they were supposed to have fifteen months ago. Lacey wiped her face on her sleeve and crawled to a bale of hay. She sat, her nose twitching at non-existent allergens that nicked her composure.
“Was I supposed to?” Tom eased the dog over to another bale of hay, keeping a tight grip on its collar so it couldn’t bolt around the room again.
“Fifteen months ago you told me you would. I must have gotten the date wrong.” Thunder rumbled again, and the dog whined. Tom wrapped his arms around its neck and whispered calming sounds in its ear.
The barn was a small building with thin walls that kept the pouring rain and hail off them, but did little to block the wind howling and slamming through the wood slats.
Lacey wrapped her arms around herself, wishing for the mothball-encased coat in her storage. It had been sixty degrees this morning and now the temperature hovered around thrity.
“You didn’t have to send Kyra in your place.” The dog jerked his head back and forth and licked Tom’s face. Tom wiped his chin on his sleeve.
Lacey ran her hand over her hair, catching another piece of ice in her fingertips and tossing it to the ground.
“I did no such thing,” Lacey shook her head.
“That’s not what she said.” Tom met her gaze. A variety of emotions filtered his eyes. Anger, hurt, irritation.
The hail ceased and quiet filled the barn, quiet so thick it felt like cotton balls in her ears.
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