- A Serialized Novel -

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

Author’s Note: So I thought it was time to discuss Mackenna’s issues for a change. Well, when I rewrote this section, at least.

Nosy Would-Be Friends

“I didn’t mean to scare off your friend earlier.”

Mackenna shrugged. She didn’t know that anything could have made Carson stick around after his flashback and then the others interrupting them while they needed to sort things out. He needed some space, and she hoped that he would be able to sleep through the night this time. She knew that she shouldn’t be watching him from his doorway, but she had this need to keep an eye on him.

“I was joking about the lovebirds thing, but you’re not the business partners you tried to say you are, or you wouldn’t be standing here watching him. You look worried, and that’s not something I thought I’d see,” Nate said, leaning against the door frame. He was always a bit nosy—sometimes she wondered if he wanted something more from her than their awkward casual acquaintance, but he hadn’t pushed. It was better that way. “This about that bullet hole in the car?”

“Carson witnessed his father’s murder,” she said, using the simplest explanation of the situation as possible. “He was just a kid, and he doesn’t remember all the details, so he’s struggling with that at the moment. Having inherited the car, that brought more of it back, but not enough.”

Nate nodded. “That’s gotta suck. I take it he brought the car to you? You never mentioned him before, so he’s not an old friend—”

“Exactly what are you trying to get at, Nate? Carson’s business is his own. I’ve told you more than I intended to already.”

“Just curious.”

“Curious.” She shook her head, turning away from the room. She didn’t want to risk waking Carson, not after the way that memory had shaken him. He needed to sleep. She walked back to the rec room, sitting down on the couch. “What does it matter?”

Nate took the other side of the couch. “Well, I could blame it on the fact that we were the only people around under thirty and above ten that were wandering around the run for a while. I wanted to call us friends. You never did.”

She shrugged. She hadn’t made a secret of the fact that she didn’t want to be friends. “Being the same age was all we had in common. There was no friendship there.”

“You mean I never had anything bad happen to me so I couldn’t possibly understand you or get past your walls.”

She glared at him. “What do you know about my walls? You all gossip about me when I’m not around? Is that it?”

“My parents made friends with your grandparents. They know about you being with your uncle when he died. It’s not much of a secret. You’ve always been kind of… abrupt, even rude, and people couldn’t get to know you. You snapped at everyone back in the beginning, you know. When we got to know you, we liked you, but you don’t make that easy.”

She pulled her legs in and put her head on them. “I don’t need people to like me.”

“Sure you do. Everyone does.”

Nate touched her shoulder. She jerked away from him. He sighed. “Mac, you know you’re not an island. We all need people.”

“I’ve got people.”

“Is it really such a threat to have a friend that didn’t live anywhere near you?”

She shoved him away. “I have plenty of friends. Plenty of male friends, if you want to go there, too, so what I have with Carson is not all that weird or that surprising.”

Nate shook his head. “I never said anything about that. If I did, you’d just assume I was getting upset because I was interested in you. I’m not, not in the way you think.”

“I don’t assume everyone wants me. I know they don’t.” She rose. “This is going to end in a fight, and I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow. I’m going to get some sleep.”

“You don’t have to go. We can change subjects.”

She wasn’t interested in talking. She didn’t want to go into any of the details she had a feeling Nate wanted to get at. That was the trouble with someone who was studying to be a psychologist, they were way too nosy, wanting to get at all of her issues and fix her. She didn’t need him doing that, and she’d have to make sure Carson knew that Nate would be analyzing him any time they interacted. He’d been talking about going to a shrink, but she didn’t know that he wanted Nate to be that person.

“I’m going check on Carson again, and then I’m going to bed.”

“Have you ever wondered why all your friends are guys?”

“If you must know, it’s because of my aunt. She let me down in a big way, and why would I ever want someone like her in my life again? I don’t. You men are tragically predictable, and I can talk cars with most of you. I don’t have anything in common with ‘girls,’ and I don’t like them.”

Nate nodded. She rolled her eyes and walked away. She should have smacked him, but then he’d start in on her violent side or something like that. She didn’t need that on top of everything else. She hesitated in Carson’s doorway, not sure she could or even wanted to step past the threshold, but then she did, crossing over to the empty side of the bed.

She climbed up next to him, and Carson opened his eyes, not quite awake. “Something wrong?”

“No. Go back to sleep.”

He shifted closer to her, and she smiled, letting her head rest against his shoulder before she closed her eyes. Nate had pissed her off, but she already felt a lot better now that she was next to Carson. Her grandfather was wrong. Fixing Carson was fixing her.

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