And though we’d all moved past that and everything had miraculously turned out okay for them, I still hadn’t apologized to her for yelling at her that night...or other things I’d done that weren’t quite respectful to her.
I glanced at Caroline and wrinkled my face, letting her know how uncertain of her idea I was. “I don’t know. You think she’d be willing to help me?”
She just laughed. “Um...it’s Aspen. The engrained English teacher. She lives for this kind of stuff.”
“Well, okay. I guess...I’ll ask her, then.”
Caroline glowed with approval and kissed my nose. Then she returned her attention to the listing of job openings. “Wow, there sure are a lot of opportunities for you...” Her gaze froze on one detail. “And they sure are far away.”
When she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear—her nervous hair fiddling—I knew she didn’t like the distance aspect. I wanted to reassure her and tell her I’d never leave if she didn’t want me to go. But shit, we’d officially been an “us” for all of two minutes now. It was probably a little premature to go making any such promises.
“From the way you marked this one, I can tell it’s your favorite.” She turned to show me which job opening she was talking about. The one I’d circled five times and underlined. The one located in Lake Tahoe. When her fingers went to her hair again, I clenched my teeth.
“Yeah,” I said. It sounded like there was a ton of gravel in my throat. “It’s got the best pay and benefits and is exactly the kind of work I want to do.”
Caroline nodded. “You should definitely apply there, then.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.” I stared at the sheet that was starting to tremble slightly in her hand.
She sniffed as if my indecision was ridiculous. “You should. I mean, it sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime.”
When her hand lifted for her hair a third time, I couldn’t handle it. I caught her wrist to keep her from touching a single lock. Then I brought her fingers to my mouth and kissed them. Her blue eyes looked watery when she looked up at me.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I repeated.
But I did know what I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t going to let her stress about this.
“It’s late. I should be getting you home.”
She groaned and dropped my mock-up resume into her lap. “I hate the going home part of our nights.”
“Me too.” I kissed her hair and slowly removed my portfolio from her lap. “I don’t have to work tomorrow night. How about you tell Gamble you’re doing something with Blondie and come see me instead.”
She hummed and melted into me before saying, “I’m working until nine.”
I growled back. Work, school, brothers. I was tired of everything constantly coming between us. I nipped at her ear, then moved my mouth down to her neck. “Tell him Blondie’s picking you up from work then, and I’ll pick you up instead.”
Her head fell back as I feasted on her neck. With a whimpered moan, she gave in. “Okay.”
Nearly three weeks after starting an affair with Oren, I visited the doctor late on a Friday afternoon. I’d been lucky and gotten in a checkup as one of his last patients of the day so I could go after my classes.
I kind of thought I’d just tell him what I needed and he’d hand me a prescription and maybe a couple free sample packs of birth control. But apparently, that was delusional thinking. Before I quite knew what was happening, I was peeing into a cup, changing into a skimpy sheet thing that opened in the front, and being asked to put my feet into the stirrups of horror. God, I hated gynecologist visits.
I started to think it’d be over and done after a quick pelvis exam, and then I’d finally get my nifty pills to go off and have dirty, amazing sex with Oren. But there was nothing quick about what happened next. In fact, it felt as if time slowed down and every second clicked by at a day’s pace.
The sensation of years had passed an hour later when I walked into the back door of Noel and Aspen’s house, numb and stupefied. Absolutely bone-crushingly numb. I wasn’t even sure how to process what I’d just learned. I sank into the first kitchen chair I encountered.
Aspen found me just like that a few minutes later as I stared in dazed, dull shock at all the pictures Colton had drawn for Aspen tacked to the refrigerator with little fruit magnets.
“Caroline?” Aspen paused and tipped her face to the side. “Are you okay?”