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.
“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.”