Collectors of rare stolen goods are weird. Me? I’d want to show that shit off, but in this kind of situation, you can’t. Everything’s a secret.
I’m starting to really hate secrets.
Without thought I shut the safe and take the velvet box with me, stashing it deep in the bottom of my duffel bag. Sweat dots my forehead when I zip up the bag and sit back, my heart hammering so hard it’s all I can hear.
I shouldn’t have taken the necklace. If Rose finds out, I’m ruined. Not only because she could rat me out to the police.
But because she’ll hate me for stealing from her. And I can’t blame her.
Muttering under my breath, I go to the closet and slam the door shut, banging the wall with my clenched fist. I don’t know what the hell is going on between me and Rose, but she means something to me. She’s more than a friend. More than a casual fuck. I like her. I could see myself falling for her if I don’t watch it.
Which means I need to fucking watch it.
Grabbing my cell, I call Mom, waiting for her to answer. She does on the third ring, sounding breathless and harried and so fucking annoyed I almost hang up.
But she has caller ID and she will know it’s me on the other end, so I don’t bother. I’d rather get this conversation over with.
“Mom,” I say, and she cuts me off before I can get another word out.
“Caden! Where the hell are you? You need to come home.”
Shit. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, you’re going to be so mad at me.” She’s walking through the house, I can tell by the briskness of her words, the sound of her heels clicking loudly on the tile floor. I hear the yip of one of her annoying-as-fuck dogs in the background and I settle heavily in a chair, bracing myself for the bad news.
“What did you do?” I ask wearily, ready for one of her usual excuses, wondering which one it’ll be this time.
“Well, you know I’ve been having trouble lately with my headaches. Did I tell you about them? No? Anyway, I’ve been taking it easy, staying at home because I think the weather is causing them. It’s so blessedly hot here. But I broke down because I needed to go to the store a few days ago so I hopped in the car, went shopping, and when I was done, I had a blinding headache. Positively blinding. It was awful. So miserable. The sun hurt my eyes and not even my sunglasses could help, and those Chanel glasses are some of the best I’ve ever owned. I’ve had them for twenty years. Did you know they were a gift from your father? Well, anyway …”
“Mom,” I interrupt her. “Get to the part where you did something that’s going to make me so mad.”
“Right, right. Fine.” She takes a deep breath. “I became frustrated with the headache and the fact that I couldn’t get rid of it, so I finally just got back into the car and drove home. I miss not having a hired car and driver, Caden. I miss it so much.”
Oh my God. The woman wants and wants. I’ve wondered more than once if she drove Dad to do what he did. Not fair, but …
Yeah. Something to consider.
“So I’m driving. The sun is so bright and traffic was so heavy. I panicked. I don’t do well under pressure, you know. And then I …” Her voice drifts and I close my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose.
It’s going to be bad. I think I know where she’s going with this, but I need to hear what she has to say. “You what?”
“I wrecked the car. Oh, Caden, I’m so, so sorry. I don’t know what happened. One minute I’m driving along and everything is fine, though the headache is making it a bit hard for me to see, but the sunglasses helped a little. And then the next thing another car darts out in front of me and I hit it. God, the noise! The crunching and the squeal of the tires were so loud. I got so scared I swerved right and hit the curb, smashing right into a fire hydrant.”
Of course she did. “You’re kidding.”
“I wish I were, darling. It was just a mess. Water everywhere. The horn got stuck and went on and on, bleating like a dying cow. The accident made the local news,” she admits, her voice low. She sounds embarrassed. “It was awful.”
Hell. It sounds like my very worst nightmare come to life. “So the car is a lost cause.”
“Both cars a lost cause, and since it was my fault … and the lady got so mad at me she started to yell and was throwing around words like lawsuit and, well, I didn’t know what to do. So I called Stanley.”
Great. Here comes another bill. “Why did you call your lawyer?”
“I thought he could help me. Give me the proper advice I needed,” she admits, her voice small.
“Mom. He just wants to keep you talking so he can then send you a ridiculous bill for three hours’ worth of assistance on a phone call. And he can’t help you yet. You need to talk to the insurance company first.”
“That’s exactly what Stanley said!” She sounds surprised, like she has zero faith in me and I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“Oh, you know me. I get confused about the time change with you being in London. And you’re with your little friend, so I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“What little friend?” Unease creeps over my skin. What does she know? How could she know who I’m with? Hell, how could she know anything?
“That Mitchell Landers. Remember how pudgy he was when you two were in the seventh grade? That boy drove me crazy. I know he’s the one who introduced you to marijuana,” she says irritably.