“If you’d just use my truck, you could move all your stuff in one fell swoop instead of in a million stages,” Jake said. “And I told you I’d help.”
“I don’t want your help.”
He let out a rare sigh and rolled around to face her. “You’re still mad that I kicked you out of the nest.”
He caught her hand when she went to walk by him, looking up at her. “You remember why, right?”
“Because your sister’s getting divorced and she needs the room you’d lent me here at the warehouse,” she intoned.
“And . . .?”
“And . . .” She blew out a breath. “You’re tired of me.”
“No,” he said gently. “We agreed that I was a crutch for you. That you needed to get out and live your life.”
“We?” she asked, her voice a little brittle. Because okay, she wasn’t mad at him. She was . . . hurt.
Even as she knew he was right.
They’d been friends since her nineteenth birthday, when she’d applied for a job at SF Tours. He’d just recently left the military and had been through some painful recovery time, and was angry. She’d lost her parents and was equally angry. They’d bonded over that. He sent her for Maritime training and guided her way up the ranks. She couldn’t have done it without him and was grateful, but she’d outgrown needing his help on every little thing. “Look,” she said. “I’m doing what we both agreed needed to be done. I moved on, I’m getting back on the horse, blah blah.”
Jake’s mouth smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. “It’s more than getting on the damn horse. I want you to want to get back into the game of life.”
She sighed. “There’s a reason no one plays Life anymore, Jake, the game’s stupid. Important life decisions can’t be made by a spin of a damn wheel. If it was that easy, I’d spin it right now and get my parents back. I’d make it so that they didn’t kill someone else’s dad and put all those others in the hospital, changing and ruining people’s lives forever. I’d make it so that I could go back a few spaces on the damn board and stay home that night so that no one had to go out and pick me up at a party I should never have sneaked out to in the first place.” She let out a rough breath, a little surprised to find out just how much she’d been holding in. Sneaky little things, emotions.
“Pru,” Jake said softly, pained.
She pulled her hand free. “No. I don’t want to talk about it.” She really didn’t. It took a lot of time and effort to bury the feelings. Dredging them up again only drove her mad. She moved to leave but Jake wheeled around to stop her exit.
“Then how about we talk about the fact that you’ve now helped everyone involved that night?” he said. “You sold the Santa Cruz house you grew up in—the only home you ever knew—to be able to put college scholarships in the hands of the two boys of that woman who was hit crossing the street—even though she survived. You even became friends with them. Hell, I now employ Nick in maintenance and Tim said you were helping him find a place to live now that he’s out of the dorm—”
“Okay now wait a minute,” she said. “I’m not some damn martyr. I sold the house, yes, but I did it because I couldn’t handle the memories. I was eighteen, Jake, it was just too much for me.” She shook her head. “I didn’t give all of that money away. I went to school, I had expenses, I kept what I needed—”
“—Barely. And then there was Shelby, in one of the other cars, remember her? You gave her seed money she needed after her surgery to move to New York like she always wanted.”
“I gave her some help, yes,” she admitted. “Did you know she still limps?”
“You’re still in touch with her?” he asked in disbelief.
She huffed out a breath. “Subject change, please.”
“Sure. Let’s move on to the O’Riley brothers. You made sure they got your parents’ life insurance money, which they presumably used for education and to start their pub. So what now, Pru? It should finally be time to leave the past in the past, but it’s not, so you tell me. What’s really going on here?”
Yeah, Pru. What was going on? She drew in a breath of air, willing herself not to remember—and grieve—the home she’d sold, everything she’d given up. “He’s not happy,” she said.