I wanted to sleep another hour in Cut’s arms and I was kicking myself, but this—who could’ve been prepared for this to happen?
“It’s fine. I went to my uncle’s.”
“Cheyenne.” She scooted to the edge of her seat, leaning forward. She placed her hand on my desk. “You are a very kind and resilient young woman. You are intelligent. You are funny. You are caring. I can always tell when Hunter’s read one of your emails. His smile is bigger, and he laughs louder. He’s happier. You make him happier.” She looked down, closing her eyes for a beat. “And I read that file and I’m amazed at the things you’ve done, and this place, this place is amazing. You started this place. I’m very proud to say that you’re Hunter’s sister, and I’d love it if we could form a relationship moving forward? If that is something you'd be interested in?” She paused, sensing my unease, as she then said, “But I will understand if the past is too painful for you. Either way, I want to apologize, and I am hoping that you and Hunter can do more things together. He really adores you.”
My forehead was itching.
I kept rubbing at it, over and over again.
This didn’t happen to people like me.
People like me, we were messed up and we were scorned, and we were judged. We knew our place. I knew my place. Cut had been chipping at that wall, but her being here, apologizing, saying all these things to me, and I was struggling with my brain getting away from me.
Panic was rising up in me, taking over, clogging my veins. It was moving into my throat. It was going to close up my throat and I wouldn’t be able to breathe.
“You need to go. Now.” My ears were starting to pound.
I couldn’t distinguish my own voice or the normal volume.
I might’ve been yelling for all I knew. “Now. You gotta go.”
“Cheyenne.” She pushed up from her chair and was coming around to my side. “What is it? What did I say—”
The door was pushed open, and Reba was there. “What’s going on in here?”
“I—” Natalie’s voice broke. I think that was her? I couldn’t tell.
My skin was crawling. I felt like there were ticks everywhere and I needed to wash them off of me.
“I was trying to apologize for something.”
“Apologize?” Reba pushed her way in my office, shutting the door behind her. “For what? Who are you? How do you know Cheyenne?”
My head was pounding. I reached for my phone, dropping it a few times, and I managed a text to Cut. He’d be done with his practice for the day.
Me: I need you. Come Our Way.
Natalie was speaking over my head, “...Hunter is my son. I only had the best intentions. I swear. I didn’t mean to upset her in any way. I’m trying to make up for the past.”
“Cheyenne. Honey.” Reba was at my side.
Natalie had moved so she was behind the chairs.
When had that happened?
Reba was looking at my phone. “You need me to call someone?”
“Cut—Cut is coming.”
I stuttered. I couldn’t talk now?
“You’re having a panic attack?” Natalie was asking me, sounding panicked herself.
No shit. I hated these things. Another thing wrong with me, Natalie.
Natalie wouldn’t want me around Hunter now, now that she was seeing this. She’d take back all the nice and wonderful things she said.
Horror clamped down on me, stifling me.
“Okay.” Reba’s take-charge voice was coming out. “It was really nice that you came and apologized to Cheyenne, but as you can see, I think you triggered some old anxiety in her.”
“I don’t want to leave her like this. I feel awful.”
“Ma’am, I think it’s best if you go. Cheyenne is kind and forgiving. I feel comfortable enough to speak for her that she’s already feeling worse about this than you do. She’ll reach out. Give her some time.”
My phone buzzed back.
Cut: Outside. I was already close.
Me: Coming out. Stay there.
I showed Reba the phone and she helped me shut everything down. The computer. I needed my keys. My purse.
Natalie watched us, standing back, with her hand to her throat. “I feel so bad. I’m so sorry, Cheyenne. I didn't mean for any of this to happen.”
I was fucked in the head. What’d she think would happen?
But I couldn’t talk. It was taking so much of my energy to focus and make sure I had everything before I left. Reba went to the door, a hand behind Natalie to urge her out. Their heads were bent together, and I knew Reba was smoothing things over for me.
I grabbed my phone and was locking my office door when I heard Dean’s voice.
“Mrs. Carroews! Hello. Are you early for the event tonight?”
I beat a hasty escape, going to the back door and hoping Cut would go back there. It’s where he dropped me off, and as soon I was out the door, I was so grateful to see him.
He took one look at me and hit his AC on full blast. Sometimes focusing on that helped settle me.
I shut my door, and he didn’t say a word. He was driving down the side alley that led from our back parking lot to the street, and he paused before turning.
I looked up.
Natalie was right there. With Dean. They were coming out from the front door.
They saw me, then Cut turned toward them. He was focused on the street, so he didn’t see them.
They saw him.
“I’m okay.” Her first words to me after we drove a few minutes.
Anxiety wasn’t anything new to me. My little brother had anxiety, so I knew she’d tell me what she needed, which she did. She needed me and we were heading out of there, but after that, I wasn’t going to bug her for details on what happened.
I glanced at her, and she was drawing in a deep breath. Her eyes were closed, but she had some color coming back to her face. That was good.
“Stress just kicks things off, and I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Wanna talk about what happened?”
“Natalie came to see me.”
I almost swerved into the oncoming car. “What? Chad’s mom Natalie?”
She looked to me, her voice calm. “Hunter’s mom Natalie.”
“What’d she have to say?”
Her tone got low. “She apologized to me.”
My hands tightened over the steering wheel.
That was a good thing. Wasn’t it?
“I’m okay. I am. This will pass. I’m just off my cycle because I missed so many days, and I didn’t do my cardio this morning.”
“You’re sounding clearer.”
She nodded, but her eyes were still closed. “I’m so sick of this.”
I liked that she texted that she needed me. I really liked that I was so close, since I did a late lunch with my agent downtown. And her anxiety, I could handle it. Her other stuff, I could handle that, too. But this, with what I was starting to hear from her, I wasn’t getting a good feeling and that, I didn’t like.
“Sick of what?”