Page 49

That just made her cry harder and wrap her arms around him, burrowing herself against him.

My heart was breaking for Karla. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she’d been going through.

“Karla. What happened tonight?” Greyson asked once he and his daughter finally let go of each other.

She rubbed her left hand up and down her right arm, that was covered in some kind of junk. “Missy called me and asked if I wanted to hang out. I thought it was some kind of joke because she spent the past year ignoring me since she started dating Colton Stevens, a senior jerk, and well, Colton said he wouldn’t date her if she hung out with a freak like me.”

“Who’s Missy?” I asked.

“Karla’s old best friend,” Greyson answered. “Go on. She called you and what?”

“Well, she and Colton came and picked me up, saying they wanted to make up for not talking to me. They wanted to take me to a party at his parents’ house, since they were out of town, so after some convincing, I agreed to go. Then, I got here, and everyone just started calling me a freak, and they…they…” Her eyes watered over and she shivered, clearly reliving what had happened. “They said that my face looked like trash, so I should smell like it, too. And they all started dumping stuff on me, and rubbing raw meat and crap against me.”

Greyson was visibly livid. He glanced to the house. “Stay here, Karla.”

“What? No, Dad! You can’t—”

“I said stay here,” he ordered, marching straight for the house where the party was currently taking place. He pounded his fist on the front door. When a boy answered it, he had a smug look on his face.

“Uh, yeah?” he said, looking at Greyson.

“Are you Colton?” Greyson asked. “This your house?”


Greyson pointed to Karla. “Did you do this to my daughter?”

Colton looked down at Karla and then chuckled a little. “No, I think the tree did that to her when she got fucked up last year.”

Greyson tensed up and his hand formed a fist. The moment I saw this, I hurried up to the porch and stepped between the two.

“Greyson. Breathe.”

“Yeah, old man. You might have a heart attack,” Colton remarked, looking smug as ever. I wanted to hit him, too. “Hey, look everyone. Hunch called her daddy to come save the day. He smells just as bad as she does,” he joked, looking back into his house and making his friends laugh.

“Listen, you little shit,” Greyson hissed, his hands gripped tighter than ever before. “If you ever come near my daughter again, or say some bullshit about her, I’m going to—”

“Going to what? Kick my ass? Newsflash, old-timer, I’m seventeen. If you lay a hand on me, I will call the cops. You can’t hit a minor. I’m not stupid.”

“Let’s find out,” Greyson said, pulling his fist back, but I caught it midair.

“Greyson, you don’t want to do this,” I whispered.

“Trust me, I do,” he argued, his eyes piercing into Colton as if he was seconds away from murder.

“Greyson, look at me,” I ordered.


“Greyson, look at me,” I demanded once more.

“No.” He tightened his arm even more, and I could feel the intensity coursing through his veins.

“Grey!” I placed my hand on his cheek and forced him to look my way. We locked eyes and I lowered my voice, feeling chills race over me as I stared into his fiery eyes. “This isn’t you. This isn’t you,” I softly spoke. The force of his arm began to relax and he began to lower it right as Colton decided to speak again.

“Yeah, and how about you get off my porch and go take a shower? You smell like your disgusting daughter,” Colton huffed.

For goodness’ sake, it was as if this little prick wanted to get his butt kicked.

Greyson’s strength resurfaced as Colton’s words hit his ears, instant anger rising once more throughout every inch of his body. He was so tense that I wasn’t certain I could hold his arm down much longer, but luckily I didn’t have to.

Lorelai came marching pass me, with butterfly wings on her back, and she kicked her leg up in the air, right between Colton’s legs. “You leave my sister alone, you little bitch!” Lorelai shouted, kicking Colton straight in his privates.

Greyson’s arm dropped as both of our jaws practically hit the ground in shock.

Oh, my gosh, Lorelai just kicked a seventeen-year-old’s ass.

I’d never been so proud in my life.

Colton tumbled over, howling as he placed his hands over his junk. “Oh, my God!” he cried, whimpering in pain. “What the hell?!”

“Dude! Colton just got his ass kicked by a kid!” a guy hollered, and everyone started laughing their heads off.

Greyson bent down to the crying boy and nudged him with a shoe. “Like I said. Leave my daughter alone. Or my other daughter will do that again. Only harder.” He turned to Lorelai and me. “Come on, girls. Let’s go.”

We headed back to the car and all climbed inside. Before putting the car in drive, Greyson pulled out his cell phone.

“What are you doing?” Karla asked him, wearingly.

“I’m calling the police station to report a noise complaint,” he said matter-of-factly. When the call was picked up, Greyson cleared his throat. “Hello? Hi. I’m calling to report a noise complaint at 1143 W Shore Street. There seems to be a party taking place, and I’m pretty sure there is underage drinking going on. Thank you.”

He hung up the phone, and when I glanced back at the girls, I noticed there was a small smile on Karla’s face.

“Thanks, Dad,” she whispered.

“Always, Karla,” he replied. He turned around to face her, put a hand on her knee, and gently squeezed. “Always.”

“Why does it smell like farts in here?” Lorelai shouted, making us all laugh a little.

“Let’s get home to shower,” Greyson said. “But first, Lorelai, I’m very proud of you for standing up for your sister, but in the future, let’s not kick people. And we can’t call people those names, okay?”

“But Daddy, he was a little bitch,” she insisted.

“Where did you even learn that word?” he asked, baffled.

Don’t say me, don’t say me.

“Eleanor said it to Caroline’s mom, but she said don’t tell you because you might fire her,” she said.

What a traitor.

I had to turn my head to keep her from seeing me laughing. Greyson glanced my way with a smirk before putting his grown-up voice back on.

“Yes, but it’s not kind or appropriate. Especially for a girl your age.”

“Which part isn’t kind? Little or bitch?” she asked, seeming truly confused.

“The second part,” he told her.

“So bitch?” she asked.

Karla started snickering. “Yeah, Lorelai. Don’t say that. But thank you for having my back.”

“I’ll always have your back, Karla. You’re my best friend.”

I noticed Karla smiling from Lorelai’s comment and she whispered, “You’re my best friend, too, kiddo.”

We drove home in silence, other than Lorelai mentioning the smell, and when we pulled up to the house we all climbed out of the car. I was planning on putting Lorelai back to bed while Greyson and Karla took their showers. As we were walking, all of our footsteps stopped as Greyson spoke from behind us.

“I owe you an apology,” he said, making us all turn to look his way.

His shoulders were rounded forward as he rubbed his hand over his mouth, and his eyes were locked on Karla.

“What?” Karla asked.

“I let you down, and for that, I owe you an apology.”

“Dad…I’m the one who snuck out without telling you.” Karla rubbed her shoulder, nervously swaying. “If anyone’s sorry, it should be me.”

Greyson shook his head. “No, I haven’t been here for you this past year. I checked out, and fell into work, just to keep from facing the fact of what I took away from you. What I took away from us all. And I am sorry, Karla. If I would’ve been around, maybe tonight wouldn’t have happened. Maybe you wouldn’t have felt abandoned or lonely… I, um, I know you won’t forgive me right away. Truth is, I don’t deserve your forgiveness. But, I want you to know that I’m here now. Okay? I screwed up, and I abandoned you, I abandoned this family, and I am sorry, but I’m here. So, even when you feel lonely, I just want you to know that you aren’t alone. I’m here, Karla. I’m back, and I won’t leave you again.”

Karla appeared as if she didn’t know how to react. She bit her bottom lip and wrapped her arms around her body. “I hated you, you know. For leaving.” She sniffled and wiped the back of her hand against her eyes. “I needed you and you weren’t here.”

He walked toward her, nodding. “I know. I can’t change the mistakes I made, but I promise you from this point on I will spend each day trying to make it up to you.”

She still seemed unsure as she looked down at the ground, her figure slightly shaking. “You promise, promise?” she asked, glancing back toward her father. “You won’t keep working all the time?”

He held his pinky finger out toward her. “Pinky promise,” he whispered.

My heart about exploded when Karla walked over to her father and linked her pinky with his.

Greyson nodded over to Lorelai and held his other pinky out toward her. “You, too, Lorelai.”

She hurried over to him and locked pinkies with her father and with her sister, making a small circle. “What about Eleanor, Daddy?” she asked, glancing my way.

Everyone turned to me, and I stepped back, feeling fully out of place. That was their family moment, and in a way, I was intruding just by being there. “Oh, no, Lorelai. I think it’s just a family pinky promise.”