Author’s Note: So things are a bit awkward, but they’re also a bit sweet.
“I didn’t know I was that good of a pillow.”
“Can’t be. Pillows don’t talk.”
Carson laughed. He didn’t know how he’d ended up with Mackenna on top of him—she hadn’t so much as changed into her pajamas, so it wasn’t like she’d sleepwalked in here or mistaken his room for hers. He wasn’t sure what she was up to, but he had a feeling the only reason that he’d managed to sleep all the way through the night was that she’d come in for whatever reason she had.
“I’m sure you have things that you should be doing. Car things, event stuff, whatever it is…”
She nodded. “I do. I didn’t mean to sleep so late.”
He’d figured that much out already. He didn’t think he was supposed to wake up with her there, and he knew this was going to be awkward in a moment. He didn’t want to get there, but if he pushed her out, it would be worse. “What is on the docket for today, anyway?”
“There’s a short run today, always is. Sometimes it’s thirty-five miles, sometimes more. I don’t know the specifics because we didn’t look at the program. We wandered off, and so we’d better find Mac and see what we’re in for today.”
“Are you dressing up for it?”
“I might have if I didn’t wake up late, but I guess I’ll just grab a duster and cheat for this one. Tomorrow I’ll get fancier, if I don’t oversleep again. A lot of people don’t even show up for today’s stuff. They’ll drive down today or tomorrow. They do Friday’s events and Saturday’s. Friday is when they do the lake tour and the parade, and the parade is when you see the most costumes. They’re not as common on the run itself. It’s a hundred and twenty miles, and most people aren’t comfortable with them for that long.”
“I’ve done it for a while, and I like sticking it to people who think either a girl can’t know about cars or that I can’t be feminine,” she said, lifting up her head. She sat back, fidgeting a little. “I should go shower.”
“Okay. Don’t use all the hot water.”
She grinned, and he had a feeling if he got into the shower, it would be cold as ice. He watched her go, shaking his head as she did. They were getting way too comfortable with each other, weren’t they? He’d thought she had a thing about going into bedrooms that belonged to men because of her uncle, and yet somehow she’d stayed beside him for… hours. He hoped that was a good thing. It meant that she was healing, too, didn’t it? If she could put her fear away, if she could overcome that memory, then maybe there was hope for him, too.
He rose, walking to his door and trying to remember how the house worked so that he could go get some coffee. He was covered—t-shirt and the sweatpants she hated so much—so he didn’t think he’d offend anyone or anything, and there wasn’t much point in changing until he’d had a chance to shower. He went down the hall, not sure how he’d forgotten about the stairs, but everything was going to be there. He started climbing, stopping abruptly at the top of the stairs, not expecting a dining table to be right in front of him.
“There you are.” A woman greeted him, pushing back her chair and standing to face him. She pointed to the counter. “There’s coffee in the pot there, cups in the cupboard above it, and feel free to help yourself to whatever you need.”
Carson forced a smile. “Thanks. I’m sorry. I don’t think we met, and I know you weren’t expecting me, so—”
“Not to worry. We’re always open to guests. Trust me,” she said, smiling at him. He wanted to say she reminded him of his mother, but he’d never seen his mother look that happy, not even in his earliest memories. He blinked, trying to focus on the woman in front of him and not think about his mother. They didn’t look anything alike—his mother was smaller, frailer, like a porcelain doll whereas this woman was athletic—active, that’s what she was. “I’m Natalie.”
“I think you met my son already. Nate?” She asked, and Carson tried hard not to grimace. He hadn’t liked the son much, and that could have been why Mackenna ended up in his room last night. Maybe he’d done something that set her off. “My husband is already in town, so you’ll have to meet him later.”
“Okay,” he said, going for the coffee pot. “I wasn’t really prepared for this trip, and I didn’t know that Mackenna and Mac stayed with anyone—”
“You don’t have to apologize for anything. You’re running a bit late, though, so you might need to hurry.”
“I’m not sure I’m supposed to go with them this morning. I’ll just… wander around town or something. I’m here to ask people about my car anyway, so… I’ll do that, I guess. Not that I know what to ask or who to—Sorry. I’m babbling. I do that.”
“It’s part of his charm,” Mackenna said, and he turned around to see her at the top of the stairs, hair wet and plastered to her scalp, not looking much like herself. “Shower’s free if you want it.”
“That was fast.”
“We have to hurry. Go shower if you’re going to because we don’t have a lot of time.”
“I think I’ll just stay in town while you—”
“Go shower. Now.”