Author’s Note: It’s always so awkward trying to salvage things after a bad conversation.
“We don’t have anything going until the meeting with the tow drivers,” Mackenna said, not sure how to talk to him at this point. She knew they’d discussed adopting each other, they’d even discussed marriage in a joking sort of way, but they’d never made a real promise about any kind of… forever, and even if they had, promises could be empty, with less meaning than the words used to make them. Her aunt had given her plenty of them over the years. It’s okay, Mac. We’ll be all right. Just a few more months at this place, and we’ll be out on our own in a real apartment. No more of the ones without walls, I promise. No, Mac, I fixed the lock, I swear, and I never gave out any keys. You must be imagining things again. You know how you get. None of that ever happened.
Mackenna wrapped the duster around her. She shouldn’t need it in this heat, but that voice, those memories, always gave her a chill. “The repairs on Shadow seem to have done the trick. I’m not going to be working on anything else today.”
Carson nodded, putting his hands in his pockets. “That’s good, right?”
She shrugged. “It is, and it isn’t.”
“How much do you think your grandfather hates me?”
She frowned. “I’m telling you—Mac doesn’t hate you. He’s a bit gruff with everyone, and I know he’s been that way with you, but that doesn’t mean that he hates you.”
“I don’t know. I think I keep making him mad, and that’s going to be kind of awkward. Or very awkward. Well, if I ask what I was thinking of asking, yeah, it’ll be very awkward. I’m sorry, it’s just… You’d mentioned it before, and I think I have to, since I don’t have the money to keep my apartment, and I have to break the lease… so… I was going to… um…”
“Is this about staying with us for longer?”
“Mac won’t like that, but… yeah. I know I didn’t—I’m not necessarily going to leave the instant you fix the car. I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. We’re friends now. Family, even, sort of, and I’m not in much of a position to leave, but I still think you… deserve the car, that’s all.”
She found herself smiling, her stomach feeling a little off, and she was about to blame that on the heat when she found herself up in the air. She shoved against the arms around her waist, trying to get down. “Here she is, our favorite lady mechanic.”
“Larry, you idiot, let go of her,” Carson said, shaking his head as he moved to separate his brother from her. She hadn’t even heard someone coming up behind her, and she should have. She took a deep breath, trying to calm down now that she was on the ground again.
“You look the part, too. Very authentic,” Nick said, smiling as he pushed another woman forward. “This is my wife, Carrie. Carrie, this is Mackenna. She’s ‘not’ Carson’s girlfriend.”
“Do not even start.” Carson rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe you invited them. I blame you.”
Mackenna shrugged. “I thought they’d get a kick out of seeing the parade and taking turns riding in the Maxwell, too. I didn’t know they’d all come today, though. They missed the main part since that run’s already over, but they can join us for the dinner meet-n-greet later, and in the meantime… We should just take a drive.”
“I’m not sure they’d want that after being in the car for at least five hours.”
“This is different, and we won’t be able to go once the sun sets, so…” She shrugged, looking at each of the others in turn. “Well, if you want to go for a short drive in the antique, we need to go now. Otherwise… We tend to spend the afternoon in the Legion until the meeting with the tow drivers, and then we eat and end up at the Legion. We’re rather boring, all things considered.”
“Hardly,” Carrie said, giving Carson a pointed look. He shook his head, and Mackenna decided that she was not going to let this turn into another one of those conversations. They had better things to do with their time.
“All right. Which of you two very manly men is going to get the engine started? Remember, it is a crank, so there’s work involved.”
“Me,” Larry said, and Carson snorted. His brother pushed him, and he just kept on laughing. Mackenna smiled. Nick tried to beat him to the car, and Carrie just sighed.
“Oh, come on. They’re fun. Otherwise you would never have married Nick,” Mackenna said, getting a smile from Carson. Carrie frowned. Mackenna moved over to the car. “Easy now. You have to push it in and hold it, then turn. If you turn it the wrong way or lose your grip, it’ll kick, and that can break your arm. Careful.”
“I think you better show them how it’s done,” Carson told her, and she grinned. She would enjoy putting his brothers in their place. Again. This afternoon would be a lot of fun.