I giggled, thinking I liked the way he thought.
“What about you?” Jensen nudged me with his elbow again.
Wiggling my toes, I thought real hard about that. High school was so far away, college even further. It was like forever from now, but I plucked the first thing out of my head that came to mind. “I’d like to be a veterinarian.”
“And save all the turtles in the world?” Jensen teased.
Gavin laughed. “We could help you. Okay. I guess . . . I guess I’d like to be a doctor. They make a lot of money.”
My lips split into a wider grin and then I turned my head toward Penn. “What about you?”
Penn stared up at the blur of tree leaves and the dazzling light peeking through them. He shook his head slightly and then said, “I want to be a teacher and a veterinarian and a doctor. I want to be everything.”
The coppery red and golden leaves dazzled under the bright sunlight as a cool breeze circled through the front yard, stirring the hair around my shoulders. Behind me, the front door opened, and I willed myself not to jump.
Over the last four days, every little noise had me almost coming out of my skin. A deep childlike part of me expected another killer to resurface, even though I knew there wasn’t anyone else.
They found Wendy in Penn’s old house. She was in another bedroom, and she was surprisingly still alive. I didn’t understand how or why. No one knew and we would probably never know, but she was alive and in the hospital, and I guessed that was one silver lining in the dark clouds.
And the media attention was beginning to fade away, turning toward some other tragic situation in some other small town. Things were starting to return to normal.
Jensen sat down beside me on the porch step, and when I looked over at him, I couldn’t help but see the deep purple bruise along his temple. It seemed to never want to fade. Then again, my face still looked a bit like hamburger meat.
“Your mom is planning on making chili for dinner.” He smiled. “She asked me what my favorite soup was. I went with chili.”
I laughed softly. “Mom’s in love with you.”
“Just like her daughter, huh?”
“Something like that.”
Jensen leaned in, brushing his lips across mine. He kissed me softly and carefully, aware of the tender corner of my mouth. When he broke contact, he pressed his forehead against mine.
“So what do you want to do today? We have all Sunday for ourselves.”
Jensen and I hadn’t been back to school since everything had gone down. Monday would be our first day back. Part of me was looking forward to the return to normalcy, but I knew there’d be a lot of looks, a lot of questions.
A lot of memories.
“What are you thinking?” he asked as he shifted toward me.
My gaze roamed over his face and then over the yard. Leaves fluttered to the grass. “Why do you think he did it?” It was the first time since that night that I had asked the question. I couldn’t bring myself to really talk about it before then.
There was a beat of silence. “Gavin?”
Swallowing against the burn of tears, I nodded. “Why do you think he just didn’t tell the truth when it came to what happened to Penn? He might not have been in that much trouble.”
“God, I hate to say this, but he was messed up. None of us saw that and we all . . .”
We all carried guilt, thinking we had driven Penn to kill himself. Worse yet, that was what his family had believed for four years. Now we all knew the truth, but there were still so many questions.
“We may never know.” Gently tugging on my arm until I stood and sat between his legs, he wrapped his arms around me from behind. Both of our bodies were well on the way to healing, but every so often, one wrong move would have us creeping around like we were destined for the retirement home. My lips were still sore, as was my cheek. Jensen was still getting a mean headache once a day.
I rested my head against his chin. “He said you were beginning to see it—to see him.”
“It was just some of the things he said, but I don’t think I really believed it was him, that it could be him.” He sighed. “Even though Gavin and I hadn’t been close in years, I never would have thought he’d do this—that he’d plan it out . . . that he’d kill people. The thing is, we’re never going to know why. Not really. And we’ve got to move past that.”
Tears pricked the back of my eyes. Gavin had taken all those answers to the grave. That was something else I tried not to think about—how Gavin and Shaw had died. It sucked knowing it was by my hand, but there was no guilt. I protected myself—I saved myself.
As crazy as it sounded, I . . . God, I found myself missing Gavin and then I’d remember everything he’d done. He’d killed Penn, accident or not, and then he helped kill Vee, Monica, and Brock. It was a confusing mix of feelings that I guessed I would sort out one day.
“I know,” I said finally.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said, when I tilted my head back and our eyes met. “His parents . . .”
That hurt, too. They had no idea the darkness their son was hiding. From what I could tell, they hadn’t been aware of any of it. They’d been completely in the dark like the rest of us, and they had to be hurting far worse.
“You don’t think—”
“No,” I said, already knowing what he was going to ask. “I don’t blame myself for . . . for any of this. Shaw and Gavin did what they did.” I closed my eyes as his fingers threaded through my hair.
Jensen’s arms tightened and he didn’t respond, but I knew he was relieved to hear that. I wasn’t telling a load of crap, either. Over the last couple of days I’d done a lot of thinking. I had to. My gaze returned to the sky, and I thought about the night it had all started for me, staring up at the stars thinking they looked like tiny tiki torches.
I’d been so excited about my upcoming year and the knowledge I’d be leaving, going away to college soon. I wanted that night back.
I knew I could have it back.
It would just take a little time.
And probably a bit of therapy.
Okay, a lot of therapy.
The door behind us opened, and we turned. Mom stood, clutching her cellphone in her hand. “Linds’ parents just called.”
MY HEART RACED the whole way to the hospital and up the elevator, Jensen holding my hand tightly as we hurried down the wide hall. The door to her room was ajar. I stopped, almost too afraid to go through it. Looking up at Jensen, he smiled and nodded.
Letting go of his hand, I pushed open the door and the waterworks began almost immediately. Tears spilled down my face and I didn’t even care.
Linds was sitting up in bed. She was awake. She was alive.
Our eyes met, and I rushed forward, almost knocking her dad out of the way to get to her. I almost joined her on the bed, that was how tight I held her, and nothing—nothing felt better than her hugging me back.
I talked to her, muffling words that didn’t make any sense whatsoever, and she did the same. I wasn’t sure how much time passed before Jensen placed a hand on my back.
“Come on.” Amusement colored his tone. “She probably needs to breathe.”
Reluctantly, I sat back on the edge of the bed, wiping my hands under my eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m just so happy.”
“Me too,” Linds sniffed.
Jensen made a sound as he sat behind me. “If you two are so happy, why are you both sobbing?”
“You’re a boy,” I grumbled, looking around. Linds’ parents had left. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I guess not.” He looped his arms around my waist and peered over my shoulder. “I’m happy to see you awake, Linds. You’re looking good.”
A wobbly smile appeared on her paler than normal face. “If I only knew being in a coma would get you to tell me I looked good, I would’ve done it a lot sooner.”
I laughed, so damn relieved, because this was Linds—she was okay and she was normal. I wiped under my eyes again. “God, I am so happy.”
“Me too.” She leaned back against her mountain of pillows. “And I’ll be even happier when they tell me I can eat something.”