Author’s Note: As Mackenna says, the answers aren’t always the ones we want.
I hate my job.
Mackenna looked down at her phone with a smile. She hadn’t expected to hear from Carson again, at least not until after he was off of work and complaining about her choice of text message. She was happier about the message than she should be, than she wanted to be. Even though she wanted to share the restoration project with him, she didn’t like her enthusiasm for talking to him. She shouldn’t care so much, and she didn’t want to care this much.
I love mine.
You wouldn’t want to trade, then.
She laughed. No, she wouldn’t. Even if she and Mac were only scraping by, she was not interested in giving up doing what she loved. No. I thought you were working.
I am. Well, I’m not. I don’t want to be.
Something wrong? Besides the usual?
He didn’t respond for a while, and she frowned. She wasn’t much of a texter, and she wasn’t sure if he was, but she didn’t like it when he got quiet on her. It worried her. She grimaced, trying to talk herself out of calling him.
Mac would just shake his head at her. What was it about Carson that got this reaction out of her? She shouldn’t care. She’d never gotten along with the car owners in the past. They didn’t give their cars proper maintenance or even just the attention they deserved. These cars were treasures, rare and wonderful and deserving respect. So many people took them and all that history for granted. She hated watching it happen. Carson had the same attitude toward his inheritance, toward Phantom, so why did she give him a free pass?
The phone rang, and she jerked, shaking her head as she answered it. “Had to call, did you?”
“It would have taken too long to type. I’m not that good at it.”
“Neither am I.” She climbed onto the back of the pickup, wanting to sit for a moment while she talked. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with his car, and she wanted to discuss it with him even though he seemed to want nothing to do with it. “What’s up?”
He let out a breath. “I hate this place. One of these days, the farm they want to destroy will be my family’s. Or yours.”
“How can you work for someone like that?”
“I thought, when I got my degree, that I’d end up helping people like Grandpa. Turns out there’s never any profit in it. It’s so… disgusting, the greed and the manipulation. Just because there’s stuff in or on the land that they want, they want to take away a family’s legacy.”
“And your job is to help them do it?”
“Technically, no, but that’s what always seems to happen.” He muttered a low curse, and she wondered if he’d dropped something. “I should just quit, but the job’s all I have. What am I supposed to do if I quit? I’ve got nothing else, nowhere to go…. Besides, I might need the medical benefits if nothing else.”
“You’re not crazy.”
“No, just a killer.”
“You don’t know that. It’s not like you actually remember pulling the trigger, do you?” He didn’t answer, but she already knew the answer. “You also don’t know how it happened. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was self-defense. If you pulled that trigger, you had a reason. You could have thought he was going to kill you or kidnap you or…”
She grimaced. She didn’t want to bring it up, but there wasn’t much of a way to avoid it, either. “Or he… was molesting you.”
“I don’t know that I want to know anymore.”
She sighed. He couldn’t give up that easily, not with something like this. “Carson, I’m just throwing out possibilities here. If you don’t want to obsess over labeling yourself a killer, then you want a valid reason why you would have felt it was necessary, and then maybe it would torment you so much.”
“Yeah, because I really want to think about my father doing that to me.”
“Of course not, but it might be possible, might be another reason why your grandfather didn’t just tell you what happened.”
Carson’s voice was quiet, troubled. “That’s what worries me.”
She put a hand in her hair, trying to find a way to salvage what she’d done. She didn’t need to push him over the edge, even if she had a valid point. “The answers aren’t necessarily going to be ones you want. In fact, they’re more likely not to be ones you want. Still, it’s the truth, and that’s what you need.”
“Yeah, it is. Um… Look, I need to let you go. I… I think I’m done with work for now, but I… All of a sudden, I need another shower. Or ten.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I know, but you’re all upset now, and that wasn’t what I meant to do—”
He wasn’t, but he hung up on her before she could argue about it.