A Perfect Ten

Page 76

With a sigh, I nodded. “I just can’t stop.”

“He makes you happy.”

I glanced at her, scowling slightly. “Well, yeah. Did you think he’d make me miserable?”

“No, but I thought you guys would...I don’t know, argue more, I guess.”

I shrugged, thinking it through. “We do...kind of. But we seem to be just as quick to make up. Disagreeing with him is like...foreplay.”

Zoey sputtered out a laugh. “Okay, that’s more than I wanted to know, but still, I’m glad for you. I hope it all comes out okay.”

“So do I.” I leaned over and slapped a quick kiss to her cheek as she pulled into my driveway. “Thank you for being the best friend ever.”

“Just take care of yourself,” she warned as I opened the door. “And call if Noel gets mad. I’ll tell him you stayed on our couch.”

I felt bad for making her lie as much as I already had, so I blew her a kiss after I slid out of the car. Then I jogged to the back door, thinking I’d be less likely to run into anyone in the kitchen than the living room.

But there Noel sat at the kitchen table, reading something on the laptop in front of him. He looked up as I eased open the door. When our gazes met, I froze.

“You’re home,” was all he said.

I came the rest of the way inside and shut the door quietly behind me. “Yep,” I answered the obvious.

“I left you about a dozen messages.”

“And I answered you.”

“All you said was, ‘I’m fine.’”

I shrugged and glanced away. “Well…I was.”

“No, you weren’t.” Clasping his hands together, he set his elbows on the table and kept watching me. The fact that he wasn’t shouting was a small miracle, but still…I didn’t really want to talk to him just yet. I needed time to prepare my words.

“Where were you?” he asked.

I snorted and shook my head. When I started for the doorway to leave the kitchen, he hopped from his chair and darted into my path.

“Caroline, I’m sorry.”

I stopped abruptly and gaped up at him, not at all expecting an apology.

He blew out a breath and spiked a hand through his hair. “Aspen told me not to ask where you stayed all night, and fuck. Here, it’s the first thing I ask. What I really want to know is, are you okay?”

Now that was completely unexpected. “What?” I had to ask, sure I’d misheard him.

He flushed. “I was way out of line last night. And I’m…you know I never meant to hurt you, right?”

I blew out a breath, realizing he was talking about my doctor’s visit. Oren had successfully made me forget it for a while. I’d even forgotten to tell Zoey about it.

Lifting my chin, I glanced into his concerned blue eyes, the same color as my own. “You didn’t hurt me, Noel. I hurt myself. I did this to myself.”

When my chin trembled, he muttered, “Shit,” under his breath and yanked me to him for a hard hug. “But I didn’t have to be an inconsiderate ass about it, and I…I’m so damn sorry, kiddo. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.”

Well, not thinking about it had been working the best so far. But now that he was talking about it again, my eyes stung. “I just wish…” I choked out. “I wish I’d done so many things differently. I wish…”

“I know.” He stroked my hair slowly. “I feel like shit because I wasn’t there for you when you went through all that. If only I’d been there, if only I hadn’t made you feel as if you couldn’t come to me for help—”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” I started, but he shushed me.

“Yeah, I did. I was supposed to protect you and take care of you. Instead, I yelled at you when you told me you were pregnant. I made you—”

“Noel, you can’t take credit for everything I did wrong. I made my own decisions, and I’ve had to live with them. I’ve had to—” My voice choked up. “I deserve this, you know. I killed my first baby, I kept it from even starting its life, from taking its first breath, I don’t deserve another chance—”

“Care, don’t talk that way. Don’t—” He grasped my arms and looked deep into my eyes. “You were a scared, seventeen-year-old girl alone with no one around to hold your hand. And you’d already told me about it. That meant you were ready and willing to have that baby. I don’t think you ever planned on getting an abortion. I think that little dick’s mommy and daddy got a hold of you and intimidated you into it. They flashed a fuck load of money into your face and—”

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