Colton finally approached me, looking worried. “Are you okay?”
“No,” I growled. “I came here to make sure Caroline was doing fine, and you little fuckers beat the shit out of me. How do you think I am?”
Now Brandt began to look uneasy too. “You mean you’re not the one who made her cry?”
No way could I own up to that, so I said, “Just help me sneak back to her room so I can make this all better again.”
The two brothers glanced at each other before they turned back to me. Then they held out their hands simultaneously, palms up.
“What?” I said before it struck me. “Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You don’t really expect me to pay you after you kicked me in the nuts and gave me another fucking black eye, do you?”
“Yes,” they said together.
Muttering, I hiked up my hip, wincing when it caused me to jostle the family jewels. “This is fucking highway robbery is what this is. I’m a wounded man, and you’re still blackmailing me. Where’s the humanity?” I pulled out two bills. “I only have twenty bucks.”
“That’ll do.” Each boy took a ten-dollar bill and smiled smugly at me. As they started out of the kitchen, I hissed. “Hey! Are you going to help me sneak past your brother or not?”
“Oh, Noel’s not home,” Brandt called back to me. “He and Aspen ran to the grocery store.”
“Motherfucker,” I muttered, slapping my foot against the floor, because damn, those two definitely knew how to damage a guy and then kick him while he was down.
With another curse, I grabbed the counter to pull myself up. I couldn’t believe I’d just gotten played by those two little punks. They kind of made me proud…in the most irritating way possible.
As soon as I gained my footing, I gasped for breath because more blood rushed to my balls with a tender urgency. “Holy shit.” I breathed through my teeth to help abate the throbbing, but every step through the house—with me mostly clinging to the walls—was a torturous son of a bitch.
I didn’t knock when I reached Caroline’s room. I just grabbed the handle and turned, stumbling inside.
Caroline had slunk deep into the corner of the wall on her bed with her knees up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs. Tears poured down her cheeks. Both her eyes and nose were red, telling me she’d been going at it for a while.
She gasped when she looked up and saw me. “Wha...how did you get in here?”
“Through the door.” Forgetting my own injuries, I went to her, climbing onto her bed.
I was such an ass. Here was my strong, feisty, scheming little spitfire, and I’d broken her. Why the fuck had I reacted so adamantly at the doctor’s office when I’d known she was in the building, when I knew this was the topic she was most sensitive about?
“Damn it.” I crawled to her, growling when she shied away from me. “Damn it,” I said again, fisting my hands and setting them against my mouth. My heart broke. It just...completely fucking shattered. “Baby, don’t,” I begged. “Please.” On my knees in front of her, I reached for her hair but was suddenly afraid to touch her. I didn’t want to do anything to hurt her any more than I already had. “I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry.”
She sniffed and lifted her face. “What’re you...what’re you sorry about? You...you didn’t do anything—”
“But I said—”
She shook her head vigorously, shutting me up. “You didn’t say anything I haven’t told myself a million times. I killed my baby. I—”
“Don’t. Shh.” I caught her face and finally hauled her into my arms. When she went to me willingly and clung hard, I gulped in relief, so damn glad she wasn’t mad at me.
“I would be a mother right now. I’d have a baby, and—”
“And you’d be a total MILF.” Okay, so I went for a joke to ease her pain. I thought it might actually work. It’d worked for her before.
But she started sobbing again. “Oren.” Burying her face in her hands, she let her inner pain loose. “This isn’t funny.”
I crumbled. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Shit, see—” I grasped her arms and pressed my forehead to hers. “We all do and say things we regret. For me, it’s a lot of things. But big or small, you gotta figure out a way to forgive yourself and move on from that shit. Since we can’t go back and change it, we gotta just learn from it. And whether you regret this or not—”