I nod slowly. “Why are we here?”
“Precisely.” She winks, leaning back in her chair, rocking gently. “Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Are humans supposed to mate for life? Is there a god?”
It’s official. I’m overwhelmed. I feel very small at the moment.
“I turned twenty-two on Sunday. And I hate it when people treat me like I’m young and stupid. But if I’m being honest … I feel very young and stupid. I don’t sit around contemplating the meaning of life. I like good movies, wine and chocolate, time with my fiancé, mystery and romance novels. A beach? I’m there. A sale on cute leggings? I’ll buy ten pairs. Adjusting to adulthood and having a degree is overwhelming enough. But past lives? Souls? Dominant and recessive expressions of … whatever? No.”
I shake my head a half dozen times. “That’s not what I want to think about at this time in my life. But I also don’t want to deal with the guilt that comes from knowing who killed my friend and not being able to do anything about it.”
“I understand. I truly do. Let’s talk again next week. In the meantime, I want you to think about a few things. We can try hypnosis to either repress unfavorable memories or bring forth missing pieces. It’s not a guarantee, and it doesn’t come without risks. Also, I want you to consider telling Nathaniel about your memories of Daisy’s death. I know you think it could hurt him and compound the guilt he already feels, but it could also lead to opening up new evidence that could put Doug Mann behind bars. Nathaniel would want that, no matter what the emotional cost is to him. I’m certain of it.”
I slip on my jacket. “And what do I do with my fiancé? I’m so afraid of losing him through all of this.”
“Be honest with him. You want to marry a man who loves and accepts you. Daisy is part of you. She’s not going anywhere.”
Not the answer I want to hear. I smile anyway. “Thank you.”
“Good morning,” I say to Nate, not feeling so good about the morning or the past three days.
“Hey. She’s been changed and fed. The coffee is hot. There’s leftover Thai in the fridge. Help yourself.”
Morgan coos when I take her from Nate. I kiss her rosy cheek. She giggles. I love her.
“I’m not used to being the chipper one. Everything okay?”
I hug Morgan to me and lean against the island. “Griffin’s not speaking to me. Or he’s avoiding me. It feels the same either way. Dr. Greyson passed me off to someone else. And I have something to tell you, but there’s no time, so it will have to wait until later. Or another day. Another week … Whatever.”
“I’m sorry you’re having problems with Griffin. Dr. Greyson wouldn’t pass you off to someone else unless he thought it was in your best interest. And just tell me whatever it is you need to tell me.” He hikes the strap of his messenger bag onto his shoulder while sipping his coffee.
“Oh …” I dig into my pocket and toss his photo onto the counter. “And I stole this photo because I like to look at it. Why? I don’t know. It’s wrong. It’s messed-up beyond words. You should fire me and get a restraining order.”
I crumble inside like an imploding building.
Nate sets his cup on the counter and picks up the photo, bringing it closer to his face, eyes narrowing a fraction. “My first trip to the West Coast. I went with a buddy. He took the shot.” He sets it back on the counter. “Keep it.”
My head juts back. “What? No. Why would I keep it?”
“For the same reason you took it in the first place.” He shrugs.
“No way. It’s so wrong.”
“Why? Are you fantasizing about that guy?” He chuckles like it’s insane.
“Yes. NO! I mean no. God no!” I shake my head and hug Morgan tighter, refocusing my attention from the photo to her.
Nate reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet, trying to fish something out with his big paws. “I’ve carried this around for over twenty years. Does this make you feel better?” He holds out a black and white picture of Daisy. “Her friend did her hair, makeup … even fake nails. Emily liked photography and said Daisy should be a model. She took a bunch of photos. I knew nothing about this until after Daisy died. Emily gave me this one after the funeral. I used to look at it every day. But now …”
My gaze lifts to his.
He shrugs, giving me this look. What look? I’m not sure. But the longer he keeps it plastered to his face, the more certain I feel that it’s the I-don’t-look-at-it-anymore-because-you’re-right-here look.
I don’t like this look one single bit.
When I break the stare-off, he slips the photo back into his wallet. “I have to go. But just remember … Daisy and I were friends first and foremost.”
“So you think we should be friends?”
Grabbing his cup, he saunters to the back door. “Why not?”
“Why not?” I say to Morgan after the door shuts behind Nate. “Because I can’t be friends with men who I’ve had sex with in my dreams.”
Then, because I’m hell-bent on ruining my life before I hit twenty-five, I grab the photo off the counter and slide it back in my pocket.
Griffin has done a stupendous job of working late every night since my birthday and sneaking in after I’m asleep, only to be out the door before I wake up.
No love notes on the nightstand.
Tonight I eat dinner alone, leaving him a taco salad in the fridge in case he wants it when he comes inside later. But I miss him. I think he’s waiting for me to bridge this gap between us with an apology for being me. Dr. Albright is right. Daisy is an irremovable part of me. I can’t let her go any more than I can leave my foot at home for the day.
Maybe I can negotiate a truce for now. I grab my sweatshirt and head out to the garage. The door is shut since it’s cooler outside, so I go through the access door at the back. A woman with long black hair, leather chaps, and the tightest shirt I have ever seen, glances at me from my bucket next to Griffin.
Griffin sits back on his heels and looks over his shoulder, eyeing me for a few seconds with no smile. “Need something?”
My bucket. I need my bucket. Why is this woman sitting on my bucket!
“I made taco salad.” And that’s my bucket.
“Put it in the fridge.” He turns back toward the motorcycle.
No “thank you.” No introduction.
I squint. “Excuse me?”
The bucket thief runs her fingers (which have rings on every single one) through her eternally long hair. “My name’s Apple. Thanks for loaning your guy to me for the night. Something’s knocking with my girl, and I leave for Cali tomorrow.”
Fritter. Pie. Crisp. Dumpling. Turnover. Jelly. Who names their child Apple!
I sigh with a soft smile. I know this answer—the same generation of stoned hippies who named their kid Swayze. Do I say hi or my condolences?
I say Bitch, get off my bucket, and I don’t loan my guy to anyone. Okay, I don’t say that either.
“I’m Swayze. And you can come inside and wait if you don’t want to sit out here on that uncomfortable bucket while he works on your bike.”
“Are you kidding?” She eyes Griff, nudging the toe of her boot against his leg. And he gives her a smile. A fucking smile! Like they’re sharing some secret message. “I used to watch Griff all the time. It’s mesmerizing. I could watch him all day.”
I’m fond of blue, but all I can see right now is red.
She pulls a stick of gum out of her pocket and rips half of it off with her teeth and holds the other half up to Griffin’s mouth.
I’m ready to pound her into applesauce and drag him by his nuts into the house. The only thing that stops me (other than the fact that she looks like she could kick my ass) is Griffin’s headshake as she tempts him with her gum.
“Your loss. It’s spearmint, your favorite.” She grins at him, shoving the other half into her mouth before glancing back over at me like she forgot I’m here. “Man, I never imagined Griff settling down with a sweet girl like you. Good for you, babe.” She nudges his leg again.
Babe … BABE!?!
My right eye twitches as I try to hear past the pounding in my ears. He doesn’t acknowledge her flirting, but he doesn’t tell her to stop either. And he’s not telling her to get off my bucket. But even worse … I can tell this is a woman who has had sex with my man and therefore I hate her. And I hate him right now too.
Twenty-two was supposed to be my year of maturity. Epic fail. Maybe twenty-three will be my year.
I clear my throat. Griff looks over his shoulder again.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I bite my lips together for a few seconds to even out my breath. “How much longer will you be?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. Do you need something?”
Apple pulls her gum out in a long string, then twists it around her tongue. My gaze ping-pongs between the two of them. I suppose she does look more like the kind of woman who would be with a guy like Griffin. She’s sexy and flirty. Clearly she’s confident. And she has tattoos and rides a motorcycle.
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