- A Serialized Novel -

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

Author’s Note: Mac’s complaint is a familiar one. We usually hit Crystal long after all the cookies are gone. Sometimes when the lemonade is, too.

Cookies and Assumptions

“You gave your cookie to Mac.”

Carson nodded. Even though the signs above the refreshments said they were for the car run, he had a feeling that they’d been swiped by people who were not part of the run at all. Maybe even Nick, since he and Carrie had been here when Mackenna drove in. Then again, his brother was a passenger part of the time, so he could be allowed a cookie and some of the lemonade.

Really, though, they should have had bigger vats for the drinks and more goodies like the earlier stops had if they wanted to be sure that the drivers got some. Mac had been disappointed to see the box was empty, and Carson had passed him the cookie Carrie’d given him. He didn’t much care if he had a cookie or not.

“Thank you,” Mackenna said before she kissing his cheek. “That was sweet of you, and you have no idea how much that means to Mac. He’s always missing out on the cookies.”

“I wasn’t hungry.”

She put a hand on his cheek. “If I could, I would shake those memories right back into your head, make it so that you had them all and so that you knew for sure that you didn’t do it. I know you didn’t. Your brothers know you didn’t. You’re the only one that thinks you did.”

“I think I love you.”

“I think you do, too.”

He frowned. “That’s not a joke. I didn’t actually intend to say that. It’s not like I should feel this way about anyone, and not now, not when I might be a killer. It’s not like this is good timing or I even know that I feel the way I think I feel. I am so messed up right now, and I hate the confusion and the guilt and the rest of it. I may have put too much on you because you’re one of few things that seems clear, even when this thing is complicated as hell.”

“All right, make it simple. You want to kiss me?”

“Are you suggesting that every time I have any kind of doubts, I just kiss you and forget about them?”

“It would work, wouldn’t it?”

“For a little while. Not forever.” He leaned his head against hers. “It would be nice if I could just forget everything else and be with you, but we both know life doesn’t work that way. We can’t avoid our problems. I mean, most of mine are in my head, so where am I going to go to run away from that?”

She wrapped her arms around him. “You don’t have to run anywhere. You’ve got me. We’re going to get you remembering things, and after you have your memories back… Well, then we’ll fix Phantom, I guess, assuming that we don’t have to give her up because of how your father got her, and we can live on the farm… You can get a new job that you don’t hate—or at least don’t hate as much—and we’ll just… be us, I suppose. That sound good to you?”


“You’re just leaving out having the period wedding.”

“Damn it, Larry. No one asked you,” Carson said, trying not to groan. How much of that had his brothers heard, anyway? He didn’t want to know, not really. All that would do was humiliate him, and he thought he’d had enough of that already.

“It sounds like a good idea to me,” Carrie said, leaning against her husband. Nick smiled, nodding. Great. Carson was outnumbered, and if they didn’t elope, it would be a period wedding, the kind of horror that only his brothers could create. Them as wedding planners… Now that was a nightmare.

“I’d have to make a new dress.”

“Mackenna, do not give in to them. Please.”

“You could help me pick what to make.”

“I don’t actually remember either of us asking that question. Not officially. We never said we were doing that.”

“Someone’s got cold feet.”

“Larry, don’t make me kill you, too,” Carson snapped, walking away from all of them. He didn’t want to joke about it. It wasn’t funny, and while he did want to hold onto Mackenna and the hope that he hadn’t done anything to his father, he didn’t believe that. He couldn’t think about marriage right now. She’d been distracting him, and it worked, but Larry had gone and ruined all of that, and Carson just needed to get away from them.


“I need a minute alone.”

“Only a minute,” Mackenna said, biting her lip. “You take any longer than that, and I’ll get worried. Don’t make me worry, okay? I don’t want anything to happen to you. Don’t even worry about the whole wedding thing. That—It’s not important right now. You staying safe. That is. That’s what matters. So you come back, all right?”

“All right.”

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