- A Serialized Novel -

Sorting out Carson's legacy only leads to more questions.

Author’s Note: I am tempted to quote here. Guess I will. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” Don’t know that it fits Carson’s situation, but I couldn’t resist. 🙂

A Bit of Paranoia

“Why are you pacing like that?”

“I keep feeling like someone’s watching me, but every time I look for them, I can’t see them. Apparently, I can’t stop the paranoia here.”

Mackenna frowned, pulling herself out from under Shadow to get a good look at Carson. He wasn’t kidding. She had thought maybe he was getting impatient, sick of watching her tinker around with the engine, but she’d seen him worked up before, and this was different. He was downright twitchy now. Every couple seconds, he jerked and looked in a new direction, but while there were people around, she didn’t see anyone watching them. He rubbed at his neck, biting his lip, and she was almost certain he’d bolt in another minute.

“Okay,” she said, moving toward him and putting her hands on his cheeks to get his eyes on her and her alone. “Calm down and breathe. It’s possible this is nothing more than the lead up to a flashback, and while that can be unsettling, if you try and relax, maybe it won’t be so hard to take.”

He closed his eyes, trying to breathe through it. “I don’t know that I can stay here. Maybe it’s the heat, but I’m going to puke. I need to… to go.”

“Here,” she said, unclipping the Woodsman’s keys from her belt and putting them in his hand. “Go sit in the cab for a moment. We’ll go, I promise, but unfortunately, I can’t leave the cars sitting out like this. I need to put Shadow back together and push them both back in the trailer before we can. Okay?”

Carson grimaced. “I don’t want to make you stop working. Maybe if I walk up by myself—”

“Don’t even think about it. It’s not happening. Not only do you not feel good, but if this isn’t just paranoia, then you need to stick close to someone. We don’t know that your father’s killer isn’t dead. I mean, we’ve been theorizing that it’s someone in your family—you, your mother, or your grandfather—but we don’t know that for sure. We don’t know that it’s not someone else. What about your uncle?”

“I’ve had that thought a few times, and I don’t… It’s still possible, since I know he hated my father and he doesn’t like me, but I don’t know how he’d know that we were here to follow us. I haven’t spoken to the man since the will got read. I’m not planning on it, either. I’m not sure I should talk to him in general, but if someone in my family did it… My uncle’s a good suspect.”

She nodded, wondering why he hadn’t been a part of more of their theories. The worst case scenario thing, was it? Or was it because Carson felt he wouldn’t have blocked memories of his uncle killing his father just because he’d never gotten them back? She didn’t know. They’d have to talk that through some later, when he was calmer.

“I’m going to try and sit, then. You finish what you need to do on Shadow.”

“I will,” she told him, giving the area a quick look and wondering if she could flag someone down to help her push the Maxwells back in the trailer. She might be able to do it on her own, but she didn’t like that idea very much. She was not looking forward to getting hurt. That was not part of the plan.

“Mackenna? Mac said you were down here with the cars, so if you are, I’m supposed to—well, I came down to tell you that my parents might be winning the candlelight tour battle this year—and I wanted to apologize, too.”

She gave Nate a half-smile as he rounded the trailer. At least now she had help, not that she wanted to deal with his shrink-like crap at the moment and she had to wonder if he was what set Carson off or not, but at least she wouldn’t have to push either car by herself. “I’m not so sure they can win that candlelight battle, though. Shadow’s not quite up to it. I’ve been working on her engine since we got back, and I’m not finished. Can you help me put Phantom away, though?”

“Why? I thought the idea was to show that one off as much as possible.”

“Carson’s not feeling good, and I don’t want to leave the cars out while I take him back to your parents’ place.”

“I can take him if he wants. This heat is pretty brutal, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” she said with a nod, though it had little to do with the heat, and she didn’t know that she wanted to leave Carson alone if he was headed into a flashback. “I appreciate the offer, Nate, but if you’d help me with the cars, I think that would be better.”

“You afraid to leave him alone with me?”

She let out a breath. “No, but it’s not just the heat, and you don’t need to be—”

“You know, that kind of thing is my field—or it will be, soon enough. You could let me try and help,” Nate said, leaning against Shadow and giving her a pointed look. “There’s a reason why my profession exists, and it is for this kind of thing.”

“I know, but Carson’s not—”

“Do you honestly think I’d hurt him in any way?”

She grimaced. “No, but you know I don’t… I’ve never thought much of your profession, and what he got from his last shrink didn’t help, either. He just avoided the issue and took meds to stay calm. That’s not going to cure anything.”

“True, but since I don’t have the license to prescribe yet, you don’t have to worry about that with me. Let me talk to him. If he doesn’t want my help, he doesn’t have to take it.”

She sighed. A part of her still wanted to argue about it, but it was Carson’s choice, and she shouldn’t try and make it for him. “Fine. Go talk to him, but if you upset him, I’m kicking your ass. Fair warning.”

“I didn’t need it—I know you better than that—but thanks anyway.”

She rolled her eyes as Nate walked away, cursing as she went back under Shadow, hoping to finish the adjustments as quick as she could so that she could take care of Carson and not deal with Nate. That would be better for all of them.

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