Wild Ice(3)

By: Rachelle Vaughn

JD shrugged. It was their loss.

“And there’s a fireplace in virtually every room,” Joan boasted. She looked at JD, waiting for him to respond, but he avoided eye contact and scanned the room. Joan pursed her lips and continued with the tour. “To the left is the living room and to the right is the formal dining room. As we move into the kitchen, you’ll notice the custom cherry wood cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.”

The six-burner range and double oven seemed a little excessive to JD, but someone who entertained regularly would probably appreciate the extra details and appliances. Needless to say, he wouldn’t be doing any entertaining—now or in the foreseeable future.

He looked through the glass doors leading out onto the patio. There really wasn’t anyone around for miles. Just grasslands, birds, and a sky that stretched on forever. Beyond an empty field, a row of birch trees ran along what he assumed was the property line. Beyond the trees were acres of grasslands and mudflats. Flocks of geese swarmed the sky, their staggering numbers reminiscent of a horror film.

JD thought he could get used to sharing the property with a bunch of birds. It would be better than a nosy neighbor or well-meaning family and friends. At least Mel would get a kick out of watching the geese fly around like lunatics.

“Do you cook, Mr. Mason?”

Joan’s shrill voice cut through his serenity and he turned to glare at her. “No.”

“Well, with a kitchen like this you might be inspired to start.” She ran her hand over the island, looking like she was auditioning for a job on The Price is Right. Again, she waited for his reply and when he didn’t give her one, she moved the tour upstairs. “There are four spacious bedrooms upstairs, each with its own adjoining bathroom...”

To further add to Joan’s frustration, JD gave each room only a passing glance. While she practically fell over herself over the master bathroom and its garden tub and imported floor tiles, JD only nodded. While she raved about ample storage space and soaring ceilings, JD only muttered “mmm-hmm.” While she gushed about custom light fixtures and dual-pane windows, he kept on walking.

Joan probably interpreted his lack of enthusiasm for disinterest, but JD didn’t need Joan to “sell” the place to him. The truth was he didn’t even need to look at the inside to know he was going to buy the place. He already knew that the minute he drove up to it. But buying it sight unseen would raise even more eyebrows and questions from Little Miss Million-Dollar Smile and that was the last thing he wanted.

A year ago JD would have oohed and awed over the custom kitchen and four-car garage with custom workbench, but today he couldn’t care less about the crown molding, coffered ceilings and state of the art amenities. Now, his only concern was that the house was secluded, private and miles away from the godforsaken Red Valley city limits. He’d lasted six more months in Red Valley than he thought he would and he couldn’t wait to see it in his rear-view mirror for good.

“Okay,” Joan said on a sigh after showing him the enormous walk-in closet. “Let’s go back downstairs and have a look at the backyard.”

In the dining room, Joan pushed open the French doors and moved aside. JD stepped onto the patio and was greeted by the twittering sounds of an orchestra of birds. The location was perfect—except for the noise, of course—and the house was more than JD could have asked for. The birds seemed cheerful here and a bit too upbeat, but he wouldn’t hold that against the place.

“Are you a wildlife enthusiast, Mr. Mason?”

“No,” JD answered. He could tell that his short, abrupt answers were ruffling Joan McKinnon’s feathers, but that didn’t keep him from giving them.

“The reason I ask is because this property borders the Red Valley National Wildlife Refuge.” When JD didn’t respond, she continued on unfazed. “The refuge is made up of 35,000 acres of ponds and seasonal wetlands that provide a habitat for waterfowl.”

She sounded proud of herself for doing the research, but JD wasn’t impressed. Any fool could look information up on the internet and spout it out during a sales pitch.

“So, these birds are always here?” he muttered.

Joan straightened her shoulders, preparing to put a positive spin on the unique location. “They’re only here for a little while in the wintertime during their migration. It’s such a romantic setting, don’t you agree?”

That was the second time Joan had tried to sell him on the romance of the place and JD wasn’t buying it. “How many acres did you say it was on?” Again, he already knew the answer to the question but he wanted her to earn that hefty commission she had coming.