Author’s Note: So Carson is a bit paranoid. He’s also a leg guy. Go figure.

A Few Minor Repairs

Carson would have been relieved not to feel like someone was watching him—since that seemed to have happened every time that he was out in a crowd—if he didn’t think that they were all watching Mackenna instead. He knew he kept staring, and he didn’t think he was the only one who was. How could they not? Everyone could see her legs out from underneath the car, and they were a much finer set of legs than he’d realized when she wore pants.

Trouble was, she wasn’t wearing pants right now. He’d thought that her fixing the car in a dress would be something to see, but now he wished she’d stopped to change into her overalls. She hadn’t been joking about protecting her dignity. He didn’t think he’d managed it, not when there were so many people around. He could try and block their view, but he wasn’t enough. He didn’t even manage to cover her with his shadow.

It didn’t help that he kept looking at her legs.

He was pretty damn jealous, too. He should have known that he would be after the way he’d reacted to Larry flirting with her, but it was at least ten times worse knowing that everyone was getting such a good look at her legs.

He knew why she had to take off the longer part of her skirt—at least, he did intellectually; she needed to be able to crawl under and move around underneath the car—but he wished she hadn’t done it. He wanted her legs covered so they’d stop distracting him and anyone else that might walk by.

“Are you almost done?”

“This is sensitive work, you know. You could try and be more patient.”

“There’s patient, and there’s I’m going insane because your legs are very visible underneath there and it’s driving me crazy in more ways than one.”

She laughed. “I didn’t know you were a leg man.”

“Frankly, I didn’t know I was, either, not until you did this. Then again… Everything seems to be changing now that you’re in my life. That sounds so corny, but I’m getting my memories back, I’m joining clubs and driving historic cars, and then there’s… us. That’s got to be the biggest change.”

“I would imagine it would be.”

He knelt down next to her. “You’re done, aren’t you? Now you’re just milking this. You heard me start babbling like an idiot, and you decided to let me go on like an even bigger moron. Admit it.”

She crawled out, a smirk on her face. “You do know me well.”

“I’d hope so since you’ve been hinting around about marriage.”

She frowned. “I never said—well, I did, but you don’t need to act like I suddenly turned into one of those clingy, commitment demanding girls that no man wants to date. I was just—I wanted you to know I wasn’t leaving you. That’s all.”

“So now, if I did ask, you’d say no?”

“I didn’t say that, either.”

He forced a smile. He still wasn’t asking, not until he was sure that he hadn’t killed his father, but if the idea of someone else looking at her legs bothered him this much, he didn’t think he’d have much choice. No one else was going to be touching them. “Ready to get up?”

“Yeah,” she said, accepting his hand and pulling herself up to her feet. She started dusting herself off, and his eyes went right to that torturous hemline of hers.

“I swear, I have to be drooling, and I know I wasn’t the only one,” he told her, and she laughed.

“I know, not the most ladylike look ever, and if not for what I had to do under the car, you’d never be seeing me in such a scandalous way,” she said, continuing to dust off the shorter part of her skirt as she walked around to the back of the car, taking the longer skirt off the side. She slipped it on again, putting herself back in order. The legs were covered. He should be relieved. “You gonna kiss me now or what? I honestly didn’t think I’d manage to get away without one, not with the way you were drooling.”

He rolled his eyes, about to catch her against the car and make her regret egging him on, but then he felt it again. He stopped, turning around, frowning as he tried to find the source of that damned feeling. He didn’t understand—had she just distracted him that well, so much so that he didn’t even notice it before, or was he really going crazy? Why had that feeling come back the moment he was going to kiss her? He’d blame it on a fear of intimacy, but he had been able to kiss her without the paranoia doing this to him, so it wasn’t that. Or not just that. Something else was going on.


“I’m sorry. I feel like someone’s watching me again.”

She cursed. “Come on. We’ll go get the others and get back on the road.”

Author’s Note: Carson’s brothers, even with all their habits that annoy him, really do care. It’s good to have a supportive family when there’s a crisis, and he’s got one.

Lunch Time

“How many of those have you had?”

Larry laughed, passing Nick a root beer float, making his wife roll her eyes. He went back to sucking down his own, and Mackenna could only smile. He was a big kid, a good guy, and she liked him for all that he was. If not for her knowing Carson first, maybe she could have gotten closer to him, but she did have Carson. He was all she needed and more than she thought she’d ever want.

He handed her his bag of chips, and she smiled. She hadn’t even asked for one, but he’d offered them without thinking. That was sweet. She took one, biting into it, and he set the bag down between them.

“I needed something to keep me company while I waited for you,” Larry said. “I will have to get another one.”

“Like you needed company. Jim, Natalie, and Nate were all sitting here when we got here. What happened to them anyway?” Nick asked before he bit into his bison burger, much to his wife’s dismay. So much for the diet she’d tried to put him on.

Larry smiled, scooping up more ice cream. “Well, I think the arrival of their conversation topic of choice might have scattered them a bit.”


Carrie rolled her eyes. “Carson and Mackenna, Nick. Larry’s saying they were talking about the two of them before we got here.”

Carson groaned. Mackenna put a hand on his back. “Hey, at least this whole romantic thing is keeping the focus off your flashbacks. It’s not like you want them involved there. Not until you have them all back. You need more information first. You did not kill your father.”

“Are you on that again? Mackenna’s right. You didn’t. You couldn’t have. I don’t believe that,” Larry said, reaching for Carson’s arm. “Listen to us: none of us thinks you could have done that. I know you think he was shot, and yeah, maybe an eight year old could have pulled the trigger, but I still don’t see why you would have. You’re not a killer. Remember all those hunts you refused to go on?”

“Maybe I refused to do that because I couldn’t stand repeating what I did to Dad.”

“Don’t be a bastard. You are not allowed to talk like that. Stop trying to say you did when you didn’t,” Nick told him. He pointed a finger at him. “You did not kill Dad. Maybe Grandpa did. Maybe Uncle Tim did. Not you. I don’t believe that for a second. Dad wasn’t… he wouldn’t have done anything to you to scare or hurt you that badly, and he didn’t let us handle guns when we were little.”

“You were three, Nick. The hell do you know about it?”

Larry shook his head. “He might have been three, but that doesn’t make him wrong. Dad was a decent guy from everything I remember, everything everyone told us about him when they weren’t talking about how much he ruined by leaving. We had hunting guns all through our childhood, Carson, and no one treated them as a joke or a game or a toy. There is no way that you were goofing off with one and killed Dad. It’s also not like he would have put one in your hands. Something is missing in those memories of yours, and you need that part back before you accuse anyone—including yourself—of killing Dad.”

Carson looked at his brothers, torn between being grateful for them standing up for him and wanting to argue with them, and Mackenna figured she’d better intervene one way or another. “I need to get out to work on Shadow. You want to keep me shaded while I do? Give me tools and something to drink and pretend you’re not trying to peek up my skirt?”


She laughed. “Well, I am going to take part of it off so I can get under the car, so I might need someone to—”

“To keep everyone from staring at you?”

“Not exactly, but I do need some help, and Mac is looking more peaked than I’d like so if Larry and Nick distract him, you and I can fix the car quickly enough. You can even… protect my dignity while I’m at it.”

“Uh…” Carson shook his head. “Not sure I want to know, but you know where you go, I go. That’s just how it is with us.”

“Grab your water. We’re going to want that.”

Author’s Note: I think Nick’s right. If you’re going to go on back roads, do it in an antique car.

Almost Halfway There

“If you ever wanted to learn your way around these back roads, this is how to do it,” Nick said, shifting his spot in the backseat. He leaned back, having the time of his life in the natural air conditioning. Carson rubbed his elbow, glaring at his brother. The back felt too crowded now, though he knew that wasn’t real. They all had plenty of space. He was just annoyed because he wasn’t with Mackenna. It was stupid, but he hadn’t wanted to be separated after that whole feeling of being watched, and now he was less comfortable than ever. He wanted out of the backseat as soon as possible.

He was a bit tempted to grab the papers from Mackenna so that he could figure out how far they were from the next stop.

Mackenna set down the book, shaking her head. “It’s a good thing we’re almost to Buffalo.”

Carson didn’t like that tone or her expression, at least not what he could see of it. “Why?”

“You can’t tell; you wouldn’t hear it or feel it, but I can. Mac can. Shadow’s acting up. I’m gonna need to get a better look at her when we stop for lunch.”

Carson grimaced. That didn’t sound good. Both of them knew the car well enough to know if something was wrong, and from the tight line of Mac’s mouth, it wasn’t something little. “You think it’s bad enough to keep you from finishing?”

“It’s not because of the extra people, is it?” Carrie asked, frowning as she leaned forward to make sure Mackenna could hear her. “I hope we weren’t a problem.”

“Of course not. It’s not an issue of weight or anything like that. Shadow is over a hundred years old. She needs to be handled gently and babied a bit when she gets finicky.”

“The car is not finicky,” Mac said, and Mackenna smiled at him. They were funny together.

He acted like such a grump sometimes, and she’d just laugh it off or needle him until he smiled. The way they argued over the cars was the best part of that, though.

“We usually stop for gas before we go to the high school. They’ve got that built into the route, actually, since this is about the halfway point.”

“How big of a tank does this thing have?” Nick asked. “I didn’t even think about that before, but we didn’t stop for gas before, and I don’t remember you filling up any other time, either.”

“We did after the lake tour and before the parade, but you were busy getting your shirts,” Mackenna told him. “The tank’s six gallons. We don’t drive more than twenty-five miles an hour, so don’t get too happy thinking we’ve got the best gas mileage in the world.”

“Has to be better than Larry’s truck, though. That thing has a leak somewhere or something because he’s always having to fill it up.”

“It’s not just the truck,” Carrie said. “It’s the way he drives, too. If he didn’t have to take off from every light or stop sign like it was a race, he’d save on gas, too.”

“Larry always wanted to be a race car driver.”

“Yeah, I remember that. Even when he’d long since stopped playing with them, he wouldn’t let me use his track,” Carson said, shaking his head. “Oh, that reminds me. Do either of you know what happened to my old car collection? I used to have hundreds of toy cars, and I don’t know where they are or what I would have done with them.”

“Um… Well, you said you never had one of those battery cars, so this can’t be right, but I thought… Mom packed them all up and gave them away after that crash of yours. You’d flip out when you heard the word car, ran screaming from her and Grandpa, and you refused to go in anyone’s car for a while. Larry did offer you his track then, trying to help, but you freaked out. Mom said we weren’t supposed to discuss cars with you again, not unless you brought it up, and she kept you home from school for a bit. Think everyone was told you had mono or something.”

Carson shook his head. “I don’t understand how this all got so screwed up. It…”

Mackenna leaned over the seat. “If your father brought Phantom to your grandfather’s farm the day he died and he did it, supposedly, to start rebuilding the trust he’d broken with you and your family, because you asked him to and told him the toy he gave you wasn’t enough… Having him die by it, having that bullet hit it, that would have made it hard for you to deal with any of your toy cars, and we have to assume that your grandfather locked Phantom away after it happened, knowing that it was somehow tied to your father’s death but not necessarily why. He just knew it upset you so he put it away. He probably thought he was doing it for the best.”

“Grandpa would have done it to protect you.”

Carson nodded. “I know. That part fits with me being the one that killed Dad.”

“Only you didn’t, so don’t say that.”

Author’s Note: The Model T club always shows up in Kingston on the day of the run. The stop is also famous for its pork chops, at least in my family.

Pork Chops and Model Ts

“Nick and Carrie promised to get me one of those pork chops that everyone kept talking about,” Larry said as he got down from the front seat, wiping at his forehead. “I should have brought a hat. This sun is worse than I thought.”

“I’m going to buy Carson one to match his outfit,” Mackenna said, reaching up to ruffle his hair. He grimaced, but she just grinned at him. He should have known. That was the kind of thing that he had to look forward to the rest of his life. For some reason, though, he didn’t mind it. She wrapped her arm around his. “You want to go look at the Model Ts? The car club always has them here, and we’ll be here for a bit since your brothers and Mac will be busy with those pork chops.”

“I suppose it’s a good thing no one here is on a diet,” Carson said, shaking his head. “All diets would be broken after the first stop, right?”

“Yeah,” she said, laughing. She leaned against him as they wandered through the cars, taking a moment to look at each of the Model Ts parked along the side of the road. He couldn’t tell any of the years, but Mackenna knew, of course, and she started to tell him more than he ever needed to know. He didn’t care. He liked hearing her voice, and that was good enough for him. Nothing else mattered.

If he was honest, he was expecting another flashback to hit at any moment, and he wanted to be with her if that happened. He didn’t want his brothers to see him if it happened. Maybe she was right. Maybe this would all be over by the end of the day, and if it was… He did want it. It scared him, but he needed it to end already. This had gone on for too long, and he did not want to draw it out any longer.

He stopped, looking behind him, frowning.

“What?” Mackenna asked, her grip tightening on his arm. She sounded worried, and she looked worried, and that was worse.

“I was just… I feel like someone’s watching me again. It’s stupid. I’m the one that killed him, right? That’s what I said in that thing I got back last night, so why am I feeling like there’s someone watching me again?”

“Because someone is,” she said, putting her hands on his face. “We are probably the most interesting pair here today, and I think we’d win cutest couple, too.”


She nodded. “Think about it—how many times have you kissed me today?”

“Uh… I lost track.”

“Exactly. That could be why there’s people watching. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world or anything sinister.”

He put his hands over hers, leaning forward to kiss her. That was what he wanted to believe, that it was nothing. He didn’t know that he did believe it, but he would rather pretend that he did. He didn’t need to be all paranoid. He didn’t want to think that there was someone after him. If that piece of memory was right, then there couldn’t be. He was the killer, and he couldn’t go after himself.

She patted his cheek and stepped back, studying him for a moment. He had a feeling that she was going to try and distract him again, and he thought he looked forward to it. She was good. Then again, he thought she was good at just about everything she did. “Are you at all hungry?”


“There are more cars if you want to look at them.”

“I don’t think that I want to look at anything but you right now.” He grimaced after he heard himself, shaking his head. That was dumb He should think before he spoke. “That didn’t come out right. I just… You help me stay calm.”

She shook her head. “You were fine the first time, trust me.”

Author’s Note: I think it’s best when the characters can help and heal each other. It’s not just one or the other. It’s both of them or a group/family effort. That’s the best way.

Give and Take

“Are you okay? You haven’t said a word since Litchfield.”

Carson glanced toward his brother in the front seat and then lowered his head onto Mackenna’s shoulder. He took her hand, and she frowned down at him, wondering what had brought this on. “I suppose I’d sound like child if I said they’d make me go home.”

“What?” She sat back, looking at him. “Wait—you had another flashback? At the museum? You didn’t tell anyone?”

He sighed. “I didn’t want to. It’s… It’s still not enough, and I didn’t want my brothers trying to make me go back to the hotel or something. I… I just wanted to be with you, and that may be stupid, but I feel a lot better around you than I do around them. They make me nervous or frustrated, but you… you’re different. You always have been, from the moment I met you. I don’t know what it is about you, but I feel comfortable with you in a way I haven’t felt around anyone else before.”

She smiled at him, brushing back his hair. “You know what it is, but you don’t want to say it.”

He straightened up, looking out the other side of the car. “Dad did buy Phantom. He said he did it for us, for a new start. He said he got some kind of deal, but I still don’t know where that money came from or what happened after he showed up with her.”

“I imagine that it wasn’t long after he did that he was killed or everyone would have seen the car before the day you inherited what was in the barn. Must have been the same day.”

“I… I can narrow it down a bit more. It was harvest time. I remember that because I was supposed to stay in the barn. They were treating me like a baby, and I was so mad at them for it…”

“Okay, that’s good. We’ve got another piece,” she said, scooting closer to him so that she could catch his face with her hand. “I think you might just get all of it back today. Or tomorrow. Look at how fast it’s coming now, and soon there won’t be any gaps. You’ll just know. You’ll know everything you had doubts about before, and that… You’ll finally be able to heal.”

He leaned forward, grazing her cheek with a kiss before putting his head down on her shoulder again. “I hope so. I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I know my brothers would put a stop to it, but I don’t want to do that. I need it to end.”

“I know.”

“I wish I could help you like you’ve helped me. I feel like I’m just a giant burden. You’re either talking me down or talking me through something, and what kind of a friendship is that?”

“Did you or did you not take care of me when I was drunk? Did you let me sleep on you when I was fed up with Nate? Did you wear a costume because I asked you to? Did you get past all my walls and the defenses I put up so no one could ever hurt me the way my aunt did? You do more than you think, Carson. I just don’t always show it when I’m struggling. I get mad. I get drunk. I don’t have flashbacks because there’s not much to flashback to. That moment after I opened the door to my uncle’s body is never all that clear, and while I can hear that one neighbor of ours creaking around the floor, hunting for me while I hope he doesn’t check the back of my closet, I never remember him finding me. I can hear dozens of arguments with my aunt’s father and all his stupid rules and the way he made me feel like I was nothing, but those aren’t the same as what you have. I didn’t lock them away, not like you did. I don’t have them rushing back at me in the same way.”

“You are a rare and special person, Mackenna. What that idiot said to you—I don’t care what it was—he was wrong. If that neighbor did anything to you, I think we might have to find him and make him pay for it somehow. And if being with me means you can step into a man’s bedroom again without that image in your head or the smell setting you off, then… I’m glad.”

“I should have listed that off, too. The bedroom thing. Thank you for that,” she told him, kissing his cheek. He smiled, and she wrapped her arms around his stomach. All of what he’d done for her made her all the more convinced that he hadn’t killed his father, and she hoped the rest of those memories came back soon so that he’d stop thinking he had.

He was a good man, a rare one, and she didn’t care how screwed up he was. She had a feeling she was in love with him, as much as she’d denied it before, and she didn’t know what they’d do after all this was over, but whatever it was, they’d do it together.

Author’s Note: So, I admit I don’t remember all the exhibits I’ve seen in that Litchfield museum. I am pretty sure there were some cars in one, though. There definitely are wedding dresses. 😉

Museums and Memories

Carson wandered around the second floor of the museum, trying not to think about what Mackenna might be thinking about after seeing the wedding dresses in the case downstairs. She had brought it up earlier, and while he didn’t know that he hated the idea, he was a bit worried by her talking about it.

No, he was more than a bit worried.

He might just be terrified of the idea.

The trouble was that he was more than likely a killer—he’d said he killed his father—and he couldn’t let her do it, no matter how much he needed her and wanted to keep her for the forever that marriage promised. He knew most people didn’t see it that way—most people seemed to have no idea what marriage was supposed to be like anymore—but he always figured if he got married, he’d stay married. Like Nick had, like Larry had tried to do, maybe even like his mother had. That wasn’t fair to Mackenna, not if he was a killer.

He made his way around to the other glass case, looking over the little trinkets in the exhibit. He had to wonder what had happened to all those cars that he had been given as a child. He could have sworn he had some like the ones in there, and if he did, then he might have something of value there.

Something beeped, and Carson looked up from his cars, frowning. Everyone else was out helping with the harvest, and he’d been told just to stay in the house until they were all done because otherwise he’d be in the way and possibly get hurt. He hated the way they treated him like a baby. He was eight now; he wasn’t a baby.

“What do you think?”

Carson swallowed. His father was back again. He didn’t know why he had come back. He’d thought he’d said not to because all he did was make everyone else angry or upset, and Carson didn’t think he should be here. “I think you should go.”

His father lifted him up, and Carson struggled, trying to get back down. “Stop it. I don’t want to go anywhere. Let me down.”

“You haven’t even looked yet.”

“Looked at what—Oh.”

Carson had to stare. That was all he could do. He couldn’t look away, not when he was seeing what he was. This wasn’t quite like the one that his dad had given him as a toy, but it was kind of close, with the same funny wheels. Different color—this one was more black than that shiny blue of his toy—but it had the steering wheel on the wrong side just like the little one did. Strange, though. It didn’t have a roof. The toy had a weird one, a tan one that was kind of squarish, but this one was open. Like a convertible.

His father set him down in the front seat of the car. Carson wobbled, grabbing hold of the back of it to keep from falling. The leather on the seat was all hard and old, worse than that saddle of Grandpa’s that had cracked. Yuck.

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she? Oh, she needs a bit of work, but she is a real special lady, isn’t she?”

“Dad, it’s a car, not a person.”

His father laughed. “Some people call cars ladies. I happened to find this one, and she is something, isn’t she? I can’t believe the deal I got on her.”

“You did this so I would trust you?”

His father touched his cheek. “Yes. I want my family back. I made a mistake—several of them, actually—but I’m back now. I’m going to do the right thing, not just for you, but for your brothers and your mom, too. I swear.”

He frowned, biting his lip. “I don’t know.”

“This is a new start. One for all of us. It’ll be good, son, I promise.”

Author’s Note: Every year, we stop in Litchfield and look at the museum there. I had to write a bit about it. I have pictures if anyone’s interested in seeing them.

Appreciating History

“I can’t believe your grandfather is in the backseat.”

Mackenna smiled, tempted to grab Carson’s hand, but she kept both of them on the wheel when she was driving the Maxwells. She didn’t necessarily need them there for control, but as much as Carson was afraid of wrecking the cars, she had felt the same way in her early days of driving them, and she got in the habit of holding on with both hands unless she needed to shift gears. They had a nice, flat stretch of road, not a lot of curves or turns, not until they got closer to Litchfield, and that made her job easier.

It was also part of why she got to drive this part and Mac wasn’t.

“I think he decided not to split either of the couples. Your brother and his wife arranged things with Larry so they’d ride together the whole time they were in the car, and now there’s… us.”

Carson nodded, jumping when she honked the horn for the people watching on the side of the road. He glared at her, and she grinned. Next time they did this, though, he needed a hat. She had a feeling he was going to get sunburned by the end of the day. When they stopped again, she’d make sure that he put on some sunscreen.

“We’re getting close to Litchfield,” she said, and he glanced back at Nick and Carrie. Nothing had happened since the starting gun set him off—no memories had surfaced, at least—and Carson seemed to be doing well again. Mackenna figured he was still up to finishing the run, though his overprotective siblings might disagree with her. She thought he could get the rest of his memories back today, and while it might make it a rough time on the run, it was the best thing for Carson.

He’d have his past. He’d have the answers that had been locked away for years. He’d know what happened to his father—he’d know that he wasn’t the killer—and he’d be able to move on, to overcome all that had been holding him back all this time.

Her stomach twisted, and she wondered if her sudden need to have his hand or the whole idea of grabbing a minister was about him changing his mind after he got his memories back. He’d still want her then, still need her, not in the same way, but he would.

Wouldn’t he?

“They’re announcing us,” Carson said, and she blinked, trying to focus again. She’d been on autopilot there for a bit, even as the policeman helped direct them into town. She should have been paying attention to that, not worrying about him leaving her.

She felt a bit pathetic when she looked back on it. She didn’t let people in so that they couldn’t do this to her. She didn’t want to worry about what they were going to do or say or do, didn’t want to fear being abandoned. Her aunt had done a lot to ruin her trust, and now that she had let someone besides Mac in—really in—she was too close, too afraid of losing him.

She slowed the car down and parked it in lane with the others, letting her foot off the gas so that it died. Carson touched her hand. “Something wrong?”

“They have coffee and stuff in the pavilion. There’s a neat little museum over there, and most of us stop to use the restrooms there.”

“Yeah, but that’s not what’s bothering you.”

She sighed, leaning her head against his shoulder. “I’m just kicking myself for being an idiot. It’s not important.”

“You sure?”


He gave her his hand. “Show me the museum?”

She smiled at him, letting him help her down out of the car. Her skirt made it a bit harder to get in and out, even as much as she’d tried to make all of her outfits as practical as possible. She stepped down, smoothing it out, and she caught him watching her with that look he always gave her right before he kissed her.

This one was short, as brief as the way his hand brushed against her cheek. “We’re going to have to stop doing this all the time.”

She laughed. “Not necessarily. I think your brother and his wife almost prove that.”

Carson rolled his eyes, and Mackenna wrapped her arm around his, walking up to the museum with him. He stared up at the top of it, his eyes on the building, on the castle-like facade. She let him wander around—she’d seen it all before, but she liked to come in every year and she was also curious about his reaction to what he saw.

“I take it the civil war was rather big in this area. Strange to think about. I guess we always assume it was further east and south. Like… Georgia. Gone with the Wind and all that. Oh, wait, there’s Pennsylvania, the Gettysburg address and—”

“History was never your best subject in school, was it?”

He grimaced. “No, not really. I admit… It was kind of boring. Don’t give me that look. I just… It didn’t—I have a better appreciation of it now. I do. That’s because of you. Thank you.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome.”

Author’s Note: If you dress up in costume on the car run, random people will take your picture. You just have to accept that because it’s inevitable.

Making a Bit of a Spectacle

“Have some coffee or something. How are you feeling?” Mackenna asked, shoving a cup at him. He saw the plate full of goodies, baked things full of chocolate and a lot more, and a part of him wanted to eat them, but the rest of him didn’t.

“They are going to make me go home. I know it.”

She gave his brothers and Carrie a look and then shook her head. “You know I won’t let that happen. You need this, need to unlock the rest of those memories, and while it might be hard while you’re in the middle of it, you will be better off in the end. You can’t go on thinking that you’re a killer. You need that part clear.”

He nodded, taking a sip from the cup she’d given him. “I don’t know, though. If I stay with you, I’ll end up costing you and Mac the run, and he hates me enough already.”

“He doesn’t hate you.”

“He does.”

“I think you’d better try that old-fashioned thing and ask him for my hand at this point, but I still don’t think he hates you. I think he might have been frustrated with both of us—I think everyone who assumed we were more than we thought we were was—but now that we accept that we are, too, that should change,” Mackenna said, putting her hand on his arm. “You do want that, don’t you?”

“Um… I don’t think we should discuss that until I’ve got my memories back. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“I don’t believe you’re a killer. We’re standing outside a church. You want to grab their minister and make it official that I’m not walking away?”

Carson stared at her. “Did I even wake up this morning? I don’t think this can be real. No. I mean, if it is, and I’m not still dreaming, I don’t want to rush in there and do anything we might regret. I also don’t… I don’t want you doing it because you think you have to convince me of anything. I want you, and I need you, and I think that’s not going to stop any time soon—”

“Sounds like it’s not rushing anything to me.”

He laughed, dropping his coffee and kissing her. If she kept talking like that, he’d do something else stupid, so kissing her seemed like the best way of keeping her from saying anything else. He didn’t want to give in to anything, not when he didn’t have all his memories. He shouldn’t even be kissing her, but he couldn’t resist her right now.

“You are not leaving me,” she said, leaning her head against his shoulder. “You are not allowed to, not even to go home and clear your head.”

He smiled, wrapping his arm around her waist. Both of them jerked when the camera flashes hit them. The light was a bit off-center, not right in their eyes, but he had to blink anyway, and he didn’t like the idea of their moment being stolen like that.

She grimaced. “I should have remembered that we’re kind of… an attraction. The cars are the main one, but since we’re dressed up, we’re almost as entertaining.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have dressed up, then.”

“I don’t know that we wouldn’t have made a spectacle of ourselves anyway. We’re kind of doing that all by ourselves. Well, maybe a lot of it is my reputation proceeding me, since a lot of people on this run or who follow it know me. Let’s just say that… Chambers hasn’t been the only one to make that assumption about me, so I might just have surprised everyone by being with you. I can promise that you are the first guy I ever dragged onto the run, which was part of why everyone believed we were in love from the minute we got here.”

He sighed. “You know… they may have been right about that.”

“Is that your way of saying you’re in love with me?”


She laughed, putting a hand on his cheek and drawing him in for another kiss, and once again the action was a lot better than words.

Author’s Note: So he had to remember something after that starting gun. Another piece of the puzzle. Carson’s getting closer to the answers. That’s not always easy.

Memories and Shock

The shot echoed around the barn, and still Carson didn’t realize that it had hit him until a full minute had passed. He couldn’t think. He didn’t know what to do. He knew that he’d heard a gun—no, it wasn’t the same as Grandpa’s hunting rifles or Larry’s BB gun—but he did know the sound of a shot, and in that instant, he’d frozen.

The pain made him come back to himself, and he stared at his side and the blood and didn’t understand that, either. A gunshot. He’d been gunshot. No. He’d be dead if he got shot. He remembered Grandpa and Uncle Tim lecturing his brothers and him, too. They had to be very careful with the guns and never play with them. Hunting was not playing. They had to know that they could kill every time they took a shot, and they had to respect what the gun was.

He always hated those lectures, but then he didn’t much like the guns, either. He didn’t like seeing what his family brought home when they hunted. He’d lock himself in his room and cry later after everyone else was busy cleaning up the game.

Wait. Was he game? That couldn’t be right.

“You bastard,” his father said, and Carson heard another shot, louder than the first, so loud that he couldn’t hear anything else. He felt dizzy. Sick. Where was the gun?

“Carson, please, open up your eyes and look at me. That’s it now; that’s better,” Mackenna said, her hand in his hair and on his cheek. His vision cleared, letting him see her. She was watching him, frowning, and he thought she was scared, scared for him. “You feel okay? I think that’s the worst I’ve ever seen you.”

“Worst I’ve seen,” Larry said, and Carson didn’t need to look at him to know that his brother was worried. He sat up, looking around. Mac had stopped the Maxwell for him—he was ruining everything for everyone again. “What happened?”

“I think I was doing a bit more than just… remembering. I had… When the shot went off, I went into shock, I guess, and I didn’t realize I’d been shot right away, and then when I saw I was bleeding, I didn’t understand. Then Dad spoke, and there was another shot.”

“You think you fired it?” Larry asked, leaning over the back of the seat. “Carson, I don’t believe that. You didn’t kill Dad. I can’t believe he would have tried to hurt you, and I can’t see you using the gun. Remember how much you hated when you had to come hunting with us? You’d stand there with your eyes closed, biting your lip, trying not to see them die or cry when they did. No way you did that to Dad. No.”

“That is what I’ve been trying to tell him all morning, but last night he got back a part where he said he did it, and I don’t think he’s going to believe us until he gets it all back.”

“Probably not. He is stubborn that way.”

“He can hear you.”

“I know. Look, let’s—Nick and Carrie were going to meet us at the first stop, so why don’t we get this car back on the road, and then you two can finish your run? Carson can come with us.”

“No,” Mackenna said, the word coming out like a bullet. “I know you’re his family, but Carson needs to be with me. He copes with the flashbacks better when I’m around. True, I’m being selfish. I want him with me so I that I don’t have to worry about him when he’s out of my sight. This could be the end of anything he gets back today—I figured that starting gun would set him off, and it did—but that’s not going to happen again.”

Carson lowered his head onto her shoulder. He didn’t know what to do anymore, but he didn’t want to ruin everyone’s day, either. “I’d like to stay with Mackenna, but I refuse to be the reason that Mac doesn’t finish the run.”

She ran her fingers through his hair, and he thought it was helping relax him, but at this point he wasn’t sure. “The idea was to have the others rotate through, switching out at a given stop, so that means they’ll be close by if need be. It also means that we have plenty of prearranged places where we can stop and Carson can leave if he’s having more flashbacks. That’s if he wants and if it’s an issue. If this is the point where he finally gets all the pieces, I think it’ll be better in the long run, even if it’s hard right now.”

“I hate not knowing,” Carson said, though he didn’t look forward to having all his memories, either. He didn’t know how to deal with that.

“We go to Grove City,” Mac said, nudging Larry out so that he could get down. He went to the front of the car, cranking it back to life. Carson let out a breath. That man had to hate him by now after all the trouble he’d caused. “You see how you feel by the time we’re there.”

“All right.”

Mackenna took his hand. “I think you’re really close to the end now.”

“I know. That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Author’s Note: Mackenna needed to share a bit of her thoughts on what Carson just did. 🙂

Time for the Starting Gun

He shouldn’t have kissed her, but then she shouldn’t have kissed him, so they were even. She didn’t know that she’d ever consider it a mistake, though. She had known for a while that she wanted to keep him around, and while she’d never admitted—not even to herself—that she’d wanted this, she would be a fool to let it go. Where else was she going to find a man who dressed up for a car run for her? She wouldn’t. She knew he was damaged and full of issues, but so was she. They fit. They made each other better.

This kiss made everything better. She almost laughed at that, knowing it was a silly thing to think, but things had been leading up to this for a while. Both of them had tried to say they weren’t, but they had. Things had changed. They wouldn’t be the same again, but she thought she could get used to the way they were now.

The horn bleeped, and Carson jerked, almost falling over in his panic. Mackenna reached for him, holding him steady. She put her hands on his face, getting him to look at her. “Easy. It was just Mac beeping the horn. I think he wants us to get ready to go. That’s all. You don’t have to panic now. We’re just going to get the car started again and be ready to go.”


“It’s all right. You don’t have to jump at every little thing. No one here wants to hurt you,” she told him, and some of the panic seemed to leave his eyes, his body relaxing a little as it did. She glared at Mac, not sure why he’d felt he had to do that to them. They would have responded if he’d just said something—true, Carson was a surprisingly good kisser, not that she had much experience with that, but since they already had a rather deep bond, the physical stuff had been even better—so he didn’t have to beep the horn. They still had ears even if they were lost in a kiss.

“Time to go.”

She sighed, taking her hands off Carson’s face. Of course it was. She already knew it was. She had only meant to get Carson his cufflinks, but then things had… happened. Now their relationship had changed, and it was a bit awkward—worse because Mac had interrupted him the way he had. “I know, Mac, but you didn’t have to honk the horn.”

“It was my idea. I wasn’t sure either of you would come up for air again.”

Carson frowned, looking over at Larry. Neither of them had been expecting to see either of his brothers before the run, but Larry must have changed his mind. “What are you doing here?”

“What a thing to ask.” Larry shook his head. He gave Carson a long look, studying him for a reaction. “You really that upset about me being here?”

Carson let out a breath. “I’m just… It’s been quite a morning.”

“I bet.”

Mackenna put her hand over Carson’s mouth before he could tell his brother that he was a killer. She wasn’t willing to let him go around saying that. He wasn’t a killer, and she knew that his memories would prove it when he had them all back. She waited for him to glare at her before she let go. “Let’s get the car started.”

Mac went to the crank, turning it like the expert he was, and it caught on the first try. She rolled her eyes. The car always did that for him. Larry looked at Carson and then at Mackenna. “You know, if you hadn’t insisted that this wasn’t what it was all this time, I wouldn’t have—”

“It only was this morning that it became… that,” she said, wrapping her hand around Carson’s. “It’s very, very new. Different, but good.”

Carson gave her a smile, but it wasn’t much of one. She refused to let go of his hand. He was not allowed to give up, not now of all times. She had just kissed him, hasn’t she? That was worth staying strong, another reason to keep going, and she could give him plenty more, too. She would make sure that he made it through this because she needed and wanted him just as much as he needed her. “Come sit down. I’ll make Larry navigate. We get the backseat.”

Larry laughed. “I see how it is. You two gonna make out?”

“Maybe,” Mackenna said, shrugging. She saw Carson frowning again, and she dragged him over to the car. In a minute, they’d be all lined up, ready to fire the starting gun, and she didn’t think it was a good idea to have him standing when it went off, not after the way he’d reacted to the horn. No, she wanted him sitting down and in her arms when that happened.

“I’m…” Carson couldn’t find words, so he sat down, looking like he was in a mood again. “This is so weird.”

“I know, but it’s not bad,” she told him, sitting down and arranging her skirt. She grabbed the blanket and put it over their laps while Larry climbed in next to Mac. “It’s good.”

Carson nodded. “About that whole—”

The starting gun went off, and he buried his head in her shoulder, shuddering.