Author’s Note: Mackenna has a way of changing everything. She’s that type of friend, apparently.
Carson sat on his bed, arms wrapped around his knees, trying to figure out if he was remembering or just freaking out because the possibilities that Mackenna raised made him extremely uncomfortable. He didn’t want to be a killer, no, but he also didn’t know that he was okay with a self-defense explanation for his actions—if he was even the one that had killed his father. His latest dream seemed to suggest that maybe he might have been—or maybe he was just injured because of something else—the killer or his father and not necessarily because of anything else.
He closed his eyes. He wanted a straight answer. After all this time, if his mind was going to crumble, shouldn’t it have done it by now? Why did he have to have all the questions and none of the answers?
Mackenna was right—he needed the truth. No matter how bad it was, he was not going to be okay until he had it. Even if it was the worst possible scenario, that had to be better than being tormented by endless questions and possibilities, each worse than the last.
His phone rang, and he cursed as he jumped, hitting the headboard with a wince. Damn, he’d gotten jumpy again. He might have to go see the doctor for sleeping pills or anti-anxiety meds, not that he wanted to, but he didn’t need to repeat the times when he didn’t sleep for almost a week because he couldn’t relax, he was too stressed, too terrified to close his eyes.
He glanced at the screen. He’d figured it was Mackenna. No surprise there. “Hi.”
“Well, don’t sound so pleased to hear from me.”
“I’m not sure I am. I don’t know. Things are weird right now. On the one hand, I keep talking to you because I’ve got no one else, and I’m terrified of being alone. On the other hand, the stuff we keep discussing scares me, so… I don’t want to talk to you.”
“What if I called you up to say that I found something in the car that could answer all your questions?”
“If you’re joking, I might have to kill you,” he said, and then groaned when he realized what he’d just said. “Damn it. I can’t even talk without bringing up all this crap. This isn’t right. I don’t care what happened to me or how close to a nervous breakdown I might have been—if Grandpa knew, he should have told me. One way or another, I should just know.”
“Yeah,” she said, letting out a breath. “Look, I didn’t find any groundbreaking clues or letters or anything like that in the car. I took the pictures—just about every angle I could get of each inch, wanting to make sure I knew for sure where I started from and could see what I’d done. Mostly, it’s so I know what I did wrong if I take too much apart.”
“Well, so I didn’t actually do anything with Phantom yet. I have to ask you—do you want her fully restored or not?”
“I thought I told you—I don’t have the money for that. I also don’t know anything about cars like that, so you can just… keep it. I can’t have my family knowing I’m pursuing anything with it.”
“I already told you if you’re worried about that, then you should just tell them it’s not the car, it’s the mechanic.”
He put a hand to his head. “That’s crossing a line I don’t think either of us is interested in crossing. I mean, you feel sorry for me, right? So there’s that. There’s the whole possible killer thing, too. We’re just not going to complicate things further by a fake relationship, too. Hell, with the way I work, I’d screw up a fake one, too, the way I always manage to do the real ones.”
“Oh? What do you do to the real ones?”
He caught the edge to her voice, and he frowned. “Um, Mackenna, I… I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and I do really need a friend right now, and I didn’t mean to imply that this whole friend thing we’ve got going isn’t real, but as for taking it further…”
“Good grief. All I suggested was that you tell someone else that it was about me, not that we were actually going there. You’d think I’d just proposed the way you’re freaking out about it. For the record, I am not interested in being more than your friend. I don’t do relationships. I don’t even like people that much, so you don’t have to worry about me getting… clingy or thinking we’re something we’re not. I just think your family might buy that you thought you might want to see more of a woman you happened to meet—maybe that’s why your grandfather left you the car. It’s got nothing to do with the murder. He wanted you to meet me. He’s matchmaking from the grave.”
She laughed. “Well, it’s a possibility, too, and you have to admit, it’s a better one than the one I brought up earlier.”
“You know what? You should come back out here anyway. Don’t worry about your family—we have extra rooms, they don’t have to know you’re staying with us, and you might even be able to drive back the same day depending on how long it takes—but you should see the car, think about what your options are—Mac has two Maxwells, I think I said that before. Anyway, one of them is original, almost a hundred percent original and unrestored. The second one has been restored a couple times. They’ll give you an idea of what’s involved and what you want to see. Plus… you can go for a drive in one. It’ll show you just what you inherited—and it is not junk.”
“Yeah. Especially since I don’t want to work tomorrow—maybe ever again—and I’ve pretty much kissed my promotion goodbye, so…”
“So come out, see your car, see Mac’s cars, and make a decision. You can take a day to do that, and it might just help with all the stress you’re under.”
“You mean it? You’re coming out first thing in the morning?”
He let out a breath. “A part of me is tempted to say I could come out now, but no, that’s a bad idea. It’s a stupid one.”
“Why? You’re not going to sleep. I’m not going to sleep. We’d end up talking on the phone all night, so why not talk in person with the car to look over?”
“I don’t know.”
“Just come. That way I don’t have to spend hours worrying about you because you hung up on me. Again. You have a bad habit of doing that.”
“See you soon,” she said, hanging up on him.