“I didn’t snap at her, and she wasn’t doing everything right. She put herself and Seth in danger, and she knew she was wrong.”
“Yeah, she screwed up. Who hasn’t? But she was doing everything right with Seth.”
I cross my arms over my chest to suppress the need to punch my brother and break his nose all over again.
“I get that you were panicked, but so was she, and you were a dick,” Zack repeats. “Before you got in the ambulance you told her you needed to go take care of your family. You made it pretty clear that Cara wasn’t included in that.”
“She was devastated,” Mom chimes in. “I didn’t want her to drive herself, but she insisted.”
“Fuck.” I push my hands through my hair and pace across the small space. “I didn’t mean that.”
“I know.” Mom smiles at me and pats my arm reassuringly. “You were worried about our boy. But you hurt your girl today.”
“Where is she?” I ask again, fear and anger growing in me. “If she promised Seth she’d be here, she should be here.”
“Go find her,” Zack suggests, lounging back in his chair and watching me calmly.
“I’ll wait until Seth is out of surgery.”
I pull my cell out and send Cara a text, just in case she turns her phone back on.
I just need to know that you’re safe, baby. Seth is in surgery. Please call me.
The following three hours drag in a blur of more bad coffee, pacing and sitting, and more pacing.
I continue to call Cara’s phone, getting more and more angry each time I hear her voice mail.
When I find her, I’m going to take her over my knee and spank her spectacular ass until it glows.
The surgeon finally walks into the room and smiles. “Mr. King?”
“There are three of us,” Dad tells him with a grin. “Zack is Seth’s father.”
“Seth is doing great. The surgery went well, and he’ll be moved to his room in about half an hour. He’s already coming out of the anesthetic. He’ll be in a cast for a while, and there won’t be any more swimming this summer, but he should be recovered by the time school starts.”
“Can I see him?” Zack asks anxiously.
“The nurse will come get you when he’s in his room.”
“Thank you,” we all murmur.
“Okay, go find your girl.” Mom grins at me and leans her head on Dad’s shoulder. “We’ve got things handled here.”
* * *
Her car is in the driveway, and my anger spikes again. She’s home, rather than at the hospital as she promised.
She belongs with us.
I pound on her front door after ringing the doorbell.
I peek in her windows, but don’t see any movement, so I make my way around her small house to the back door and pound there for a good five minutes, still not getting an answer.
I’m really fucking sick of not having Cara answer me.
I pull my phone out and call her number again and curse a blue streak when I get her voice mail.
Returning to her front door, I continue to pound until my fist is sore.
“She’s not there.”
I twirl at the sound of Ty’s angry voice behind me. He’s standing a good five yards away on Cara’s sidewalk, his hands shoved in his pockets and his face as angry as I’ve ever seen it.
“Where the fuck is she?”
He smirks and shakes his head. “I can’t tell you that.”
My feet carry me down the steps and to my best friend of nearly thirty years without any thought, and I grip his shirt in my fists, pushing my nose an inch away from his.
“Where. The. Fuck. Is. She?”
“She’s not home. I don’t know what the hell happened, but she couldn’t even talk to me, Josh.” Ty narrows his eyes on me. “I should kick your ass. Cara is as much my sister as Jilly is, and she was shattered when I saw her.”
“Tell me where she is.” I drop my hands and step back, panting. My heart is racing, and for the first time, true fear joins the anger in my gut.
“No.” He shakes his head and pushes his hands through his hair. “I can’t. The women in my life have taken too much shit from assholes.”
“Goddamn it, Ty, you know that’s not me!” I yell, and pace away, frustration rolling off me.
“You didn’t see her face.” He shakes his head. “She won’t see you now. How is Seth?”
“He’ll be fine.” I swallow as I remember the scene at the creek. Seth crying and sitting in the frigid water, and Cara standing with him, holding his leg, reassuring him.
I fucked up.
“Please.” I meet Ty’s gaze with mine. “This was a misunderstanding. C’mon, Ty, you know I love her.”
“Go be with your family. Keep me updated.”
“You didn’t see her, man. You’d do the same. Go be with Seth and give Cara a few days to calm down.”
With that, he turns, hands still in his pockets, and walks toward his house without looking back.
* * *
“Ty knows where she is,” I inform my parents, and slump in a chair as they eat chicken from a bucket in a hospital waiting room.
I’ve never before seen my mom eat chicken that she herself didn’t fry.
“He’s right,” Mom mutters, and frowns at the mashed potatoes and gravy. “She’ll come around. Give her some breathing room.”
“I need to apologize and shake some sense into her.” I stand and pace around the room. “Is Seth awake?”
“He is. Zack is with him,” Dad confirms. “Your chicken is so much better than this,” he mutters to Mom, who smiles lovingly at him.
Zack saunters in and sinks in a chair, grabbing a piece of chicken as he does.
“How is he?” Mom asks.
“Pretty good, actually. A bit sleepy, but he’s not in any pain.”
I call Cara’s phone, elated when it rings, but curse when it goes to voice mail yet again.
“That horrible language isn’t going to make her answer the phone,” Mom says matter-of-factly.
“I just wish I knew where she is.” The adrenaline is gone now, replaced by worry. Regret.
“You could go ask Seth,” Zack mentions casually, as if my world weren’t falling apart around me. “He’s talking to her right now.”
I immediately hurry out of the waiting room, down the hall to Seth’s room, and push my way inside. He glances up with Zack’s cell pressed to his ear and says, “I won’t.”