Her voice had been rising steadily through the whole little speech, and I winced by the end because she’d gotten so shrill it actually hurt my ears. To my horror, Em climbed out of the bed and started grabbing things, stuffing them into her backpack.
“I suppose it’s too much to ask whether you shared them with the other guys?” she muttered. “Let me guess, did you give them to the whole club, or just the guys here at the house? I know how much you all enjoy your p**n . I suppose I should feel honored you felt I could compete.”
“Nobody has ever seen those but me,” I told her, holding up my hands defensively. Shit. I’d had girls mad at me before, but I’d never really cared. Jesus—no wonder women hated me, if I made them feel this way. “I swear to you, Em. I kept them for myself . . .”
“Like that makes it better?”
She leaned over and grabbed my phone off the floor, stuffing it into her pocket. Then she swung her backpack over her shoulder and came to stand in front of me, arms crossed over her chest protectively.
Em wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Nope, she just stared at my chest coldly.
“Move out of my way,” she said. “I’m leaving. I can’t stand to be around your lying ass right now.”
“We need to talk—”
She held up a hand.
“You will move out of the way,” she said, every word slow and distinct.
“This isn’t over,” I said carefully. “You go and calm down. Then we’ll talk.”
“I can’t think about that right now,” she muttered, pushing through the door. She started toward the stairs, then turned back to look at me. “You’ve lied to me all along. Makes me wonder . . . What else have you been lying to me about?”
I shook my head.
“Nothing,” I said quietly. Em shrugged.
“I don’t believe you.”
Deke’s bike was parked outside Cookie’s house when I pulled up in the darkness.
Just what I needed.
I punched in the code and crept inside, not wanting to wake her up. It wasn’t that late—only eleven—but she went to bed early because her shop opened at five every morning.
Knowing my luck, Deke would still be up.
I stepped inside, closing the door carefully. No sign of Deke in the living room. He must be sleeping in Silvie’s room. Lucky me. I started down the hallway, but halfway down, Silvie’s door opened, and Cookie stepped out. She froze with a guilty, deer-in-the-headlights look on her face.
“I had a fight with Hunter,” I said quickly. “I don’t want Deke or anyone else to know about it.”
Cookie nodded, then glanced back at Silvie’s door.
“Let’s just say tonight’s a don’t-ask, don’t-tell situation?”
“It’s all about plausible deniability,” I answered, desperate to get away and pretend I hadn’t seen anything. She nodded, then darted down the hall to her own room. I followed her lead, closing my door and locking it behind me. Deke? Ugh. I pulled off my clothes and climbed into bed, staring at the ceiling, my mind spinning. It felt like everything was going horribly wrong.
Hunter had lied to me, keeping my pictures.
Cookie and Deke were . . . doing things I didn’t want to think about.
At least Kit and Dad were still fighting. Not everyone in the world had lost their minds. It would be good to see them tomorrow. I’d leave Portland around ten, and enjoy the holidays Hunter-free. It would give me time to think and decide what I should do about the situation.
I was pretty sure I’d made a terrible mistake. I just wasn’t sure whether that mistake was falling for him in the first place or walking out on him after our fight.
“Wake up!” someone yelled, pounding on my door. I rolled over, trying to figure out what was going on. The spot next to me in bed was empty, and I frowned.
Where was Hunter?
Then it came back. The pictures. Lying bastard.
“Fucking wake up,” Deke shouted at me, his voice grumpy. I stumbled to my feet, thankful I’d pulled on sweats to sleep in last night. I managed to open the door a crack and look out at him.
“What is it?”
“You left something disgusting in the driveway,” he said. “Go clean it up or I will.”
I raised my brows.
“What are you talking about?”
“Go see for yourself,” he muttered. “Oh, and Em?”
“I don’t want to hear any rumors about Cookie. Got me?”
“Cookie is my friend,” I said, trying not to yawn as I rubbed my eyes. “She opened her home to me, she gave me a job, and she treats me like a sister. No matter what I might think about you, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.”
He studied me, eyes narrowed. Then he nodded.
“Okay,” he said. “Good to know.”
I rolled my eyes and shut the door. God. I had no idea what she saw in him. None.
• • •
Five minutes later I stood on the porch, looking out across the lawn to the driveway. My little car was tucked up next to the garage. Boxing it in neatly was Hunter’s truck. I couldn’t see that well, but he seemed to be asleep in the front seat.
I marched over to the truck, slamming my hand down on the hood with a crash. Hunter sat up quickly, and I saw him reach for something. Probably a gun. Good—he might need it if he f**ked with me any more this morning.
He opened his door and stepped out. His face was drawn and tired, his hair messy and tangled, like he’d been running his hands through it. I’m probably a horrible person, but it made me happy to see him suffer a little.
“Hey, Em,” he said, his voice low. “I know you don’t want to see me, but I had to catch you before you took off. I assume you’re still planning to go to Coeur d’Alene?”
“Yes,” I replied, folding my arms. “Probably leaving in a couple of hours. We can talk when I get back, Hunter. I’m still too pissed right now.”
He shook his head slowly.
“Sorry, babe. Can’t let you do that.”
“Drive to Coeur d’Alene by yourself.”
I raised my brows.
“Have you lost your mind? Consider yourself uninvited to Thanksgiving, ass**le.”
“I don’t have to be at your house with you,” he said quietly. “But with all that’s happening, there’s no way I want you driving across the state by yourself. If you don’t let me go with you, they’ll make some prospect do it. Do you really want some poor kid to miss the holiday with his family just so you don’t have to look at me during a car ride?”
When he put it that way, I felt like a bitch. Of course I didn’t.
“Okay, you can drive with me,” I said. “But you’re on your own once we get there.
“I’ll be driving,” he said. “We’ll leave your car here. I’ll stay with friends or in a hotel, but I’m delivering you safe to your family.”
“Controlling much? What’s wrong with my car?”
“Babe, think it through. If I’m in Coeur d’Alene for the weekend, I’ll need some way to get around. You’ll have your sister and dad to ride with.”
I glared at him a moment longer, because he was making sense and that was frustrating as all hell.
“I hate it when you’re right,” I finally muttered. He gave me a crooked smile, so sexy I actually felt a twinge down below.
“Well, lately I’m not right very much,” Hunter said. “Don’t know if it makes a difference, but I’m really damned sorry for what I did to you.”
“About that,” I said, glancing away. “You’re going to need a new phone. Yours may have gotten smashed up a little more after I left last night. . . maybe run over a couple times.”
“Kinda figured there might be a tragic accident,” he said with a straight face. “I’ll pick one up.”
“What about the pictures?” I asked. “Where else do you have them?”
“They were backed up on my laptop,” Hunter said. He caught and held my gaze. “I erased all but one last night. Secure erased, overwritten on the hard drive. Nobody will be able to get to them now.”
I considered, wondering if he was telling the truth.
“I don’t know whether to believe you. And what’s this ‘all but one’ bullshit?”
Hunter glanced down at the pavement.
“I kept it,” he admitted. “My favorite. I figured if you’re dumping my ass, I wanted something to remember you by. As for believing me, I guess the only way to get there is for you to give me another chance. Give me a shot, Em. No more lies. We both know there’s shit I can’t tell you—”
I cut him off, holding up a hand.
“Club stuff wasn’t part of this,” I said. “And you know that I know better, so don’t try to use it as an excuse.”
He sighed, leaning back against his truck, hands in his pockets. I tried to think, figure out what to do.
“You can drive me home,” I said slowly. “But you’re not staying with me, and this isn’t me saying we’re back together. I need time to think things through, decide if you’re worth the risk. I won’t be with someone I can’t trust.”
“I understand,” he said. “If nothing else, I’m relieved you’ll let me see you home. We all want you safe—me and your dad both. He and I aren’t on the same side very much, but I respect the hell out of him. He raised a daughter who won’t take my shit.”
I turned away, my eyes suddenly full of tears.
“Deke says you need to leave,” I said. “Come pick me up at ten.”
“Will you actually be here?”
Swinging back around, I narrowed my eyes at him.
“I guess you’ll just have to trust me, Hunter. Don’t worry, I’m not the liar in this relationship. I’ll be here.”
“Guess I earned that,” he muttered.
“Damned straight. Now get out of here before Deke has a temper tantrum.”
I watched Em out of the corner of my eye as I drove. She was staring out the window at the desert, apparently fascinated by the vast expanse of nothing. Either that or she just wouldn’t look at or talk to me because she was pissed off.
Still pissed off, that was.
We’d been on the road for three hours, and the only time she’d said a word was when she needed a pit stop. It’d felt like a huge victory this morning when she’d agreed to ride with me—like getting a second chance. Now I was starting to worry it was just a ride, that she’d never talk to me again. That f**king hurt. Hurt in a way I’d never experienced before. Like real pain, physical pain.
I was starting to hate this romance shit. Life is just so much damned easier when you don’t feel anything.
I had to make it end.
Spotting an exit up ahead, I flipped on my turn signal.
“What’s up?” she asked, turning to me and frowning.
“You’ll see,” I murmured. We pulled off the freeway and I turned onto the small, lonely road and started driving. A few minutes later we passed behind a big hill littered with exposed rock formations and tumbleweeds. I slowed and shifted the truck into park, swiveling to face her. She stared straight ahead.
“Em,” I started.
“I’m not ready to talk to you,” she said. “Just keep driving. I don’t know how I’ll feel after the weekend, but I just want a break from you right now.”
“You want to kick me in the balls again?”
Christ, did those words just come out of my mouth?
Em looked at me. Finally.
“What is this, some kind of joke?” she demanded. “You think me kicking you will change what you did?”
I shook my head slowly.
“Nope, I know it won’t change a thing,” I said. “But it might make you feel a little better, at least it seemed to last time. If it does, that’s good enough for me.”
“I won’t promise to forgive you.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“You’re insane,” she muttered, but I could see her softening, her mouth twitching. Thank f**k for that. “Kicking you in the nuts won’t fix anything.”
My balls agreed one hundred percent.
“But you know what? Last time it really did make me feel better. Let’s do it.”
I swallowed, then opened the truck door and stepped outside slowly. Em climbed out, and we met in front of the truck. I spread my legs, crossed my arms, and waited.
“Close your eyes,” Em said, her voice cold. Somehow that was worse, but I did it anyway. “And pull down your pants. Briefs, too.”
“That’s not part of the deal.”
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll get back in the truck. Let’s go.”
I looked up at the sky and swallowed, wondering how I could care about someone so much and want to strangle her so badly at the same time. Then I unbuckled my pants and dropped them, closing my eyes. Nothing. She walked back to the truck and I heard her digging around.
“Do it,” I growled. “I can’t just stand here forever, waiting.”
“If you insist. Are you ready?” she asked, her voice soft.
“Fucking do it already, Em.”
“Okay, get ready.”