With Every Heartbeat
Page 23

 Linda Kage

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I was still pretty mad at myself by the time I returned to Caroline. But she looked worried out of her mind until she spotted me. Rushing forward, she asked, “Are you okay? I was about to send search and rescue in for you.”
“Oh, I…I…I’m sorry.” I glanced across the parking lot, only to find Quinn watching us.
When he caught sight of me looking back, he turned away. I wondered what was going through his head, what kind of freak he must think I was. I turned to Caroline, slightly sick to my stomach.
“I kind of got stuck in there when Quinn and Cora slipped inside to make out. I guess I should’ve cleared my throat or something to let them know I was there, but—”
Caroline held up a hand and rolled her eyes. “Say no more. I totally get it. I’d hide out for a while too. My brother catches his girlfriend Aspen around the house, all the time, thinking they’re ‘alone,’ and I never know if I should tell them I’m right there or what?”
I let out a silent breath of relief, glad I wasn’t the only person who’d ever gone through that kind of dilemma. “What do you usually do?”
She grinned mischievously. “I usually wait until they’re going really hot and heavy before I make a loud noise and scare the hell out of them.”
With a laugh, I shook my head. “You’re kind of devious, aren’t you?”
Her smile faded. Turning away to focus on scrubbing the last car of the day, waiting on us to clean it, she murmured, “I used to be, I guess.”
Realizing I’d hit some kind of trigger, I sobered and silently got to work rinsing what she’d just cleaned.
But great. Now I had another reason to feel crappy. I’d somehow offended the only person I’d really connected with since moving here.
The guys ended up winning over the girls, washing eight more cars than they had.
Ten led some bizarre victory dance, but I was too busy glancing across the parking lot and checking on Zoey to join in...not that I would’ve anyway. Dancing was not my thing.
It still bothered me that she’d been hiding in the warehouse. Had something scared her? Someone bothered her? I didn’t like remembering how lost and alone she’d looked.
She’d been away from her abusive father for barely a full day. Maybe it had been too soon for Cora to start dragging her around to social events.
Except she looked okay now.
She actually smiled at something Noel’s sister was saying to her and brushed a stray piece of hair out of her face when the wind blew it into her eyes. Her hands motioned as she answered, and Caroline threw her head back before letting out a belly laugh.
Noel straightened at the sound and glanced across the lot to watch them. “Holy shit,” he murmured, stopping at my side. “That’s Caroline. She’s...God, she’s laughing.” The concept seemed completely unheard of to him. Turning to me, he looked utterly amazed as he murmured, “I can’t believe she’s laughing. I haven’t seen her laugh all summer.”
His lips twitched into a relieved kind of smile. “Whoever that blonde talking to her is, I freaking love her.”
I sucked in a breath, startled by how much I wanted to hurt Noel Gamble, my biggest idol on the planet, in that moment.
Ten chuckled and patted Noel’s shoulder. “Watch what you say, Gam, or Hamilton’s likely to knock your teeth out. Blondie’s here with him today.”
Noel wrinkled his brow before he did a double take, glancing from me to Zoey and back to me again. “Wait. What?”
With a sigh, I sent a brief glare Ten’s way before answering. “Her name’s Zoey. She’s Cora’s new roommate.”
“Really?” Noel brightened. “So, she really did come here with you today?”
I nodded warily, wondering where he was going with this. I knew he hadn’t been literal when he’d said he loved her. But hearing those words come from his mouth while he was looking at her had not struck me the right way.
“Great.” Noel clasped his hands together, grinning madly. “You guys should come get some pizza with us for supper.”
I faltered, not wanting Zoey near him for some reason I couldn’t explain.
As if reading the indecision on my face, he stepped closer. “This is the most alive I’ve seen my sister in months. She’d holed herself up in her room since she moved here. I am not about to let her lose out on her first attempt at making a friend. Please, man. Just see if your Zoey girl can spend a little more time with Caroline.”
“Okay.” I sighed, wondering for the millionth time what had happened to Caroline Gamble. It must’ve really messed her up. And I probably should’ve told Noel not to call her my Zoey, but I didn’t. “I’ll ask Cora and Zoey if that’s okay with them.”