Dad shook his head. “You still can’t even say her name out loud, can you?”
I shot Caroline a sharp warning glance, telling her to keep her trap shut. Her eyes were wide as she took in my dysfunctional family scene. Fuck, she was going to have so many questions after this. What had I been thinking to bring her along?
“Mrs. Tenning,” she said, turning to my mom. “I don’t know if this helps ease your mind any, but Oren’s been visiting a therapist.”
Say what? I shot her a startled glance, but she didn’t even look my way. Focusing on my parents, she clasped her hands to her chest with a genuine show of compassion. “I mean, I know it hasn’t done much for him yet, but he’s actually gone to a few sessions, which should mean something, right? He’s admitted he needs help. Isn’t that what they say is half the battle?”
My mother’s eyes glistened with tears as she turned to me. “Are you really? Oh, Oren. That’s amazing. I’m so proud of you.”
As she hugged me, I met Caroline’s gaze, widening my gaze to silently ask what the fuck she thought she was doing.
“Thanks,” I muttered to my mom as I pushed out of her warm embrace that I actually kind of missed feeling. “It’s my fault she’s dead, but you’re so proud of me. That makes everything so much fucking better.”
Unable to handle a second more of this shit, I spun away from them and marched off. My head raced in a million different directions as I stormed blindly from the restaurant. I automatically started for my truck, but visions of my sister’s bloody face covered in glass as she lay slumped against a steering wheel had me stopping in my tracks. Her scream as she shouted for me to help her echoed through my head.
I was in no shape to drive, so I pivoted right and started down the quiet sidewalk, dodging out of the way of the overhead street lamps so I could keep to the shadows.
I didn’t get very far before a breathless Caroline caught up with me, jogging to reach my side. She panted as she tried to keep pace. “You weren’t planning on deserting me here, were you? With your parents...whom I just met.”
I sent her a quick, hard glare. “You want to come with me, you better keep up.”
“Oh, don’t think I can’t.” She had to half jog, but she managed to keep up, and she didn’t complain.
In fact, the infuriating woman stayed absolutely, blessedly silent...which only pissed me off more. Why wasn’t she yelling at me, telling me off for how rude I’d been to my “amazing” parents, demanding to know what that had been about back there? I was in the mood to fight, but how the hell was I was supposed to pick a fight with such a supportive, amazing girlfriend?
“Damn it!” I kicked a post office mailbox we passed in an attempt to vent. “How dare they fucking forgive me so easily?”
Caroline didn’t answer. All she did was tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, telling me how nervous she was. I clenched my teeth, instantly contrite for putting her into such a situation.
Glancing at her, I said, “I can’t believe you fucking lied for me. Therapy?”
I snorted. Me in therapy? What the fuck ever.
“What?” She sent me a rueful smile and a shrug. “I’m Daisy Gamble’s daughter. I know all about lying.”
I shook my head and finally let a smile slip free. The woman did have a fiercely conniving side, but so far, she’d always used it to my benefit, from sneaking into my room to rock my fucking world to getting my parents off my back. Frankly, I could kiss the shit out of her for the way she lied.
Glancing around the dead street of my small hometown, she asked, “Where are we going, anyway?”
I shook my head, unable to keep my temper intact. Just being around her mellowed whatever anger I wanted to feel. Damn woman had a bad habit of making me too happy whenever she was around.
“I need to go to my place.” I sent her a scowl in a last-ditch effort to hang on to my anger, but fuck, she looked really pretty with her cheeks flushed from the effort it took to keep up with me. “And since you’re all about being my shadow, I guess you’re coming with me.”
Strangely, I actually wanted to show her my place I used to go to be alone when I was a kid. I’d never taken anyone there before, hence the alone part. Not even my sister. But it somehow felt right to take Caroline.
“You have a place?” Sending me a sidelong glance, she started to smile. “That’s so neat.”
I snorted. “Of course I have a place. Everyone has a place.”
But she shook her head. “I don’t have a place.”