Word Count: 1,699
Neither said a word the rest of the way to Nathan's house. He knew she was crying and felt like shit for being the reason. He just didn't know what to say because whatever he said would come out as him yelling. Or he'd say more things he might regret.
Surely she had to realize. Had to know he'd be pissed beyond all belief when he found out. All the times he'd told her how important it was that he stay out, keep his nose clean, the efforts he and Matty had gone through to achieve what so few he'd known growing up could manage. She didn't know about Montana specifically, and for that he was very glad of right now. The last thing he needed was someone having dirt like that on not just him but Matty.
Men like Chris were the more common occurrence. Make an attempt and at the first whiff of trouble, turn high tail and return to where you feel safest. The mob had an uncanny way of making you feel that way despite enlisting you to break laws every which way you could.
In the blink of an eye that could have been gone. He'd laugh at the idea of getting busted for something stupid when the cops hadn't been able to touch him for anything else ever if it wasn't so scary to him.
And that was one of the reasons he was pissed. He, Matty, and Chris had gotten out of Montana alive, had gotten away with the crime scene being attributed to a corrupt local cop. They'd been lucky. Too lucky. Johnny not so lucky. And neither Matty nor Taylor believed that luck would continue to shine on them quite to that extent. Certainly, they never imagined one of the four of them would go down the way Johnny Marbles had.
He decided to walk her to the front door. Probably more than he should have done, but it had become engrained in him over the past few months to ensure the house was secure. And so he got out of the car with her to do just that.
She used the alarm code to gain access to the house and he followed her, surprised she hadn't said anything now that they were here. He wasn't going to stay in his apartment here tonight and he hoped that he didn't get the call tomorrow saying he had to be back tomorrow night. He was really looking forward to having until Monday morning off.
Maybe she took him walking to the door as a sign he had calmed down. Wasn't mad. Hurt. Because she chose to speak then.
"I'll bring your things back with me tomorrow or Monday."
"So that's it?"
"What else is there?"
"I don't know. Don't I mean anything?"
He shrugged a little. "I don't do liars, Claire. I laid everything on the table for you. Told you who I was, where I'm from. Fuck, I shared my dreams with you."
"And I'm so glad," she said, moving to touch him. If she did it, if he felt her hands on him he might not be strong enough to walk away now and end this like he should. He knew what she could do with those hands. Hell, he'd long ago stopped being able to come from a hand job. She'd taken that as a challenge, wanting to prove that he still could. And she had succeeded in that challenge.
"Save it," he said, pushing those thoughts from his mind. "You lied to me!"
"I did not! I didn't lie."
"You didn't tell me the truth. It's the same thing. I lived my life surrounded by people who thought it was slick to get away with that. I don't think it is. The first night at the club I can forgive, but after that. Every time here. Christ, my house where a cop could be watching. Knowing what you know about me. Where I've come from. How my father treated me like shit."
"What does that have to do with my not being eighteen?"
"Because you did the same thing."
"What? Oh my God, I did not."
"You did. You led me to believe something that wasn't true. You used me."
"I used you? I'm not the one who wanted to have sex at a Yankees game today."
"You've got this perverse little thing with Monroe going on. You don't want him now, but he wouldn't leave you alone unless you had someone for the now. I was here in your house. Can't get much handier than that."
"That's what you think?"
"I think at some point before taking me in you that you could have said something."
"And I thought you knew!"
"I don't do jailbait. Never have."
"So, what? Two months from now I'm suddenly old enough?"
"I imagine so, but not for me."
"You can't mean that."
"I can. I do."
"So, you can do that? You can come back here tomorrow or Monday and act like nothing's happened?"
"I have to."
"I don't get it. I didn't mean to lie to you. I didn't even mean for anything to happen between us again. I don't get why you can't forgive me."
"Maybe I will one day, but I'm not banking on it."
"Claire stop," a very familiar voice from behind her said. She closed her eyes with a shake of her head. This couldn't be happening. He couldn't be here of all days. He could tell by the scowl on Taylor's face that she wasn't imagining it and he seemed to know exactly who the man was.
"Christ," Taylor murmured.
"What are you doing here?" She finally turned to look at him. She hadn't seen him in months and normally he'd have been a sight for sore eyes. He wasn't right now, though, because she had no idea how much of their conversation he'd actually heard. Taylor would have seen the door open. Wouldn't he have?
"I was in town on business. I came by earlier to see my daughter but the staff indicated they hadn't seen you all day. That your room didn't appear to have been slept in last night. They had no idea where you had gone off to. So, I came back tonight not sure whether I should call the police to have them start looking for you."
"Clearly not," he said, taking a spot next to her where he offered her the comfort she really wanted from Taylor. This was one time she didn't want her dad's arms around her. "You can leave, thank you. I will be talking to you when Nathan gets back," he said and Claire winced at the tone in his voice. There was no question he was talking to Taylor and not her.
"I said I'll talk to him when Nathan returns."
"You going to be all right, Claire?" Taylor asked her. She knew what he was asking, wondering if her father would hurt her or spend the rest of the night yelling at her.
"It would seem you weren't too concerned for her well being just a minute ago so no need to start worrying on it now. She'll be fine."
Oh God. It was the stuff nightmares were made of. Taylor left without waiting for Claire to answer his question. She wouldn't have given a different answer anyway. Her dad would never hurt her. Taylor she wasn't so sure about.
"What were you thinking?"
"Dad, please, I can't talk about this now."
"I sent you here to."
"I know! Just stop, please. I really don't want to talk about it."
"All right," he said, hugging her finally. And that was exactly what she needed. She didn't want to talk about it. She didn't want to get any lectures. She wanted to cry and she wanted her daddy to hold her and make it better. Only this was something she doubted her dad could kiss and make better. "I won't make you."
She cried so hard she thought she'd never be able to stop. Her ability didn't prevent her from feeling pain, but this was nothing she'd ever felt before.
Her dad was true to his word, he didn't say anything. He didn't scold her. He didn't yell. He just led her down the hall toward the kitchen.
"I already ate," she said with a sniffle.
"I was going to see if I could rustle us up some cookies or ice cream."
"Too old for ice cream?"
She laughed softly, taking his offered handkerchief. "No," she said softly.
"That's good, because I remember more than once that it was an ideal solution."
"That was when I was a kid and needed a band-aid because I fell and scraped my knee or something."
"I don't think I have any band-aids for this, sweetheart."
They sat in the kitchen, managing to find not just ice cream but chocolate syrup to drizzle on top of it. He spooned enough for both of them out of the container, letting her do the honors with the drizzle.
"Dad?" she said, licking her spoon after taking the first bite of the chocolate covered ice cream.
"Can you stay tonight?"
"As if I have anywhere else to be."
"You're welcome, Claire Bear."
She gave a slight smile, though it wasn't a very real one and he knew that. The most important thing to her, though, was that she felt like her heart had just been broken into a million pieces and her father was here, sitting by her side eating ice cream with her, and doing his best to fight the urge to lecture her. She had no idea what she'd be doing right now if she'd come home to Nathan. Try as he might, he wasn't her dad. He wouldn't have thought of ice cream she was pretty sure.
And that made her start crying all over again.
And still her dad sat quietly, noticing her distress for sure but not forcing her to do anything just yet. She imagined tomorrow would be a different story, but for tonight she could feel safe.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com