Stomach churning, I took a step away from Gamble. “So what did I do to Caroline, then?”
He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe I even had to ask. “The fact that you had to hide what you had with her and didn’t even have the balls to let me know about it tells me everything I need to know. She’s just not that important to you.”
“That’s complete bullshit. She—”
“She wouldn’t have become your dirty little secret if you’d been open about it from the very beginning. That’s all she was to him too. That first prick who knocked her up. She was just his trailer-park-trash dirty little secret. And you’re making her go through that all over again. If she’d meant anything to you, you wouldn’t have gone behind my back, you wouldn’t have hidden your so-called feelings. You would’ve fought to be with her openly instead of sneaking around like a fucking coward.”
“Jesus, man.” I shook my head. “If this is the way you’ve always thought of me, then why were you ever my friend?”
“Because I’m not a woman. It never bothered me what you did to complete strangers, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want you to become involved with a girl who’s important to me.”
I shook my head slowly. It was enlightening to learn what some of the closest people in my life really thought of me. And not in a good way. I didn’t know what to say to him. Not even one of my stupid, smart-ass comments came to mind. It felt as if he’d just handed me my ass and no matter how I tried to reason it in my brain, I didn’t belong with Caroline. I didn’t deserve her. I’d never treat her right, and if I really cared about her, I’d stay away.
But the very idea made me want to puke.
Not sure what to even do, I just turned away and walked off in a strange daze.
Fear crowded my stomach like a noxious gas, giving me a painful case of indigestion. It was hard to even function I was so scared.
Last week, I’d been hurt. Every time I’d thought about Oren, I’d envisioned him with a new girl in some awful kinky position, and agony had wracked me until I was dizzy with it. So I’d stayed away to protect myself, to heal, and get over my own pity party.
I’d spent a lot of time with Zoey, helping her deal with her pregnancy fears, and I’d begun to calm down. Then I began to miss him. But I also grew uncertain because I wasn’t sure how to approach him and apologize for running off and doing exactly what I’d promised him I wouldn’t do.
Seeing him in my brother’s yard today had been a blessing as much as it had been terrifying. It’d been too long since I’d seen him, talked to him, kissed him. I wanted to run over and tackle him, drag him to my bedroom and have my wicked way with him. But then the nerves had instantly knotted in my stomach because I didn’t even know how I was supposed to face him after I’d left him last week. I’d been so ashamed of myself for letting my tender little feelings get the best of me.
Ignoring him had seemed like the only option until he’d forced my hand, until he’d made me look into his eyes and face the truth. He’d missed me too. He’d hurt without me.
From that point on, everything spiraled out of control. I hadn’t been able to let him think I didn’t care. Noel hadn’t been able to stay away, and he’d tried to keep us apart. And Oren hadn’t been able to step back and be meek about it; he’d yelled right back at my brother, making everything explode.
When he’d chased after Noel and then didn’t return to the backyard when Noel did, I knew they’d had more words.
“Gamble,” Pick started, but Noel held up a hand. “Why don’t all you backstabbing motherfuckers get out of my yard? The party’s over.”
“Does he mean us too?” Colton asked Aspen.
“No.” Noel pointed to them. “You guys...inside.”
Aspen was pale as she ushered Brandt and Colton away. I grabbed my brother’s arm. “Noel.”
He wouldn’t even look at me. He shoved his palm in my face. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, too bad.” I tightened my grip. “This isn’t going to go away just because you want it to.”
He glanced at me, his jaw stiff and eyes flashing. “Caroline.”
But I didn’t heed his warning. “I did this,” I said. “I started it. I came on to him multiple times before I had to resort to trickery and sneak into his room.”
Wincing, he turned his face away. “I don’t want to hear this.”