“In retrospect, anxiety meds probably would have been a better idea after you thought you killed a guy than going on a murderous rampage.”
Shocked, I spat out the water I was using to help swallow my Lexapro.
“Did you seriously just make a joke about that?” I asked, coughing.
“Kinda,” Ally snarked, softly wiping off the drops of water that had gotten on my face with hand. “Humor is good for the soul.”
Rolling my eyes, I put my glass down on Ally’s kitchen counter.
“If you’re gonna make jokes in bad taste, they should at least make sense,” I said, pulling my gloves out of the back pocket of my riding breeches. “I’m fairly certain from the reading I’ve done that I had some kind of temporary insanity back then; it was more than just anxiety.”
“Yeah, well, it’s my house so I can make whatever jokes I want,” she said, wrapping her arms around my waist. “Besides, you’re better now. And soon enough those meds are gonna start kicking your anxiety’s ass.”
I could tell she was about to lean in for a kiss. It was stupid, but every time we’d kissed in the last few days, I’d flashed back to our kiss on New Years. There I was, beaten up, a complete mess and my face in its now permanent state, optimistic but still worried how she’d react to my appearance.
And the second I walked through the door to her home, she took one look at me and planted the warmest kiss I’d ever experienced.
Not having Carter around these last few days was rough, but living with Ally made up for it.
She teased me, licking around my lips.
My tongue caught hers, closing my eyes as Ally shoved me over the counter.
A few wonderful moments later, I opened my eyes, paused the kiss and said, “Tomorrow night. I think I’m almost ready.”
Ally looked a little surprised.
“Are you sure? After everything you’ve been through…”
“I’m sure,” I interrupted. “I want to leave everything else in the past.”
Her face cycled through a series of worried looks before finally settling on a smile. She was glowing. I think my face was glowing back.
“Tomorrow night,” she said, standing us up. “For now, let’s go ride.”
I was still planning on giving up the lavish lifestyle eventually, it was only right, but since I was staying on Ally’s estate, that wasn’t an option. Surprisingly, Daddy had been okay with this arrangement. I hadn’t talked to him myself, Ally had volunteered to do it for me, but with our mansion having been razed, he saw no harm in me staying with her while he stayed in a hotel.
Of course, he still thought I was his. Obviously I had to face him eventually, but…staring him down would be much more difficult than overcoming any emotions of my own.
Right now, I was trying to take it easy. The last few days had just been Ally and I relaxing together. Of course, on top of everything else, Eve had neglected to tell me why Abe hadn’t killed us all on New Years after Malcolm and Shay lost. Rather than live as if I was still on borrowed time, I was working under the theory that something Joey had told him convinced him not to. He’d managed to get through to Gordon so why not his partner?
School had started again, but even ignoring how much of a disaster going back to Cresting would be with my face the way it was, neither of us had the motivation to attend. Certainly far less appealing an option to sleeping in, massages, watching bad movies and riding. For the first couple days, Ally kept suggesting I take one of her exotic drugs to help calm my nerves “And have fun doing it,” but I knew it wasn’t a good idea to mix them with my anxiety meds.
“Hey girl,” I said, greeting Tab as we reached the stables. Thankfully, she hadn’t been hurt during any of the battles at my mansion and I’d been able to have her brought over here.
It had been too long since I’d ridden her. And much as I’d changed, much as I was still changing, it was nice to have something familiar in my life.
While Tab had been safe, we hadn’t managed to salvage the majority of my wardrobe, including my riding gear. Of course it wasn’t too much of a problem since Ally had plenty of riding outfits and the only real difference in our size was the small amount of bulk I’d put on from Malcolm’s training.
I had a variety of choices for what to wear, but I’d thought it’d be cute if we matched. As such, we were both dressed in fully buttoned up white show shirts, beige breeches and Sterfling winter boots.
“Wanna race?” Ally asked once we’d gotten all set and situated on our horses.
“Let’s start slow today,” I answered, exiting the stables with Ally right behind me.
Despite the interminable freezing temperature which had persisted for the last week, it was a pretty nice day out. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining and there wasn’t actually that much wind.
“Hey, have you heard anything about Angie lately?” I asked as we trotted along the acreage.
“Angie?” she asked, surprised that I’d brought her up. “I know its only been a few weeks but it feels like its been almost a year since you talked about her.”
It wasn’t my fault I’d had so much on my plate.
“Yeah. I, uh…I want to know how she’s doing.”
At this point, there was no potential way to mend my relationship with Angie Cart. Every attempt I’d made at making things right had only made things worse. She would always hate me.
And I was okay with that.
If I was really going to put everything behind me, I needed to accept the things I couldn’t change. I needed to remember that while it didn’t make me innocent, I was mentally ill and a victim of abuse. And that at my core, I was good.
God I wish I could go to a real therapist instead of just listening to self-help podcasts.
Even still, I wanted Angie to be happy.
At my core, I am good, I breathed. I am not my mistakes.
“She hasn’t posted anywhere in a while as far as I can tell,” Ally said. “Last I’d heard, she’d lost her scholarship to Cresting.”
She did lose it. Just like she told me she was going to. Like she told me right before I pushed her wheelchair over.
My stomach felt a bubbling sensation as I took a breath.
“I should do what I said I was going to do,” I said. “Before my breakdown that day. I can send her a check.”
Ally’s face changed to an apologetic smile.
“She’s not gonna forgive you. That boat has sailed.”
“I know. But I don’t care. She deserves better. Hell, I’ll send the check anonymously just so she has no reservations about cashing it.” I paused. “This isn’t for me. It’s just for her.”
Ally turned her head away from me and had her horse, Destine, get as close to Tab and I as possible.
“Have I told you lately how proud I am?” she asked.
“Shut up,” I blushed, lightly punching her shoulder.
I tilted my head down.
“Did I ever actually tell you what was going through my mind when I first started all of this? Before I thought I’d killed anyone?”
“I don’t think so,” she answered, putting her pointer finger to her chin. “Weren’t you just stealing crap for fun?”
“It’s so stupid,” I laughed. “I, uh, I had this idea. This idea where I’d make everyone fear me and get the rich to donate a lot of their money towards charities which help animals.” Completely embarrassingly, I snorted. “As if I couldn’t already donate all the money in the world myself.”
Keeping one hand on her reins, she put her other hand on my shoulder.
“Just shows that even if you were still in queen bitch mode back then, your heart was still in the right place.”
“It shows that I was an idiot,” I replied. “I know I keep bringing this up, I really am gonna do it. Once I bring Daddy down, I’m gonna donate the entire fortune to charities”
“And you know I support you all the way on that. Just don’t expect me to give up all of my inheritance.”
Moving her hand off me so I could better focus, I asked, “What are you talking about?”
“Well, we are taking down your dad’s church, right? My dad’s a part of it.”
“And you don’t have any problem with this?” I asked. “My father is an evil bastard…” she grinned hearing me say that. “…but yours…”
“Chose to work with him,” she interrupted. “He’s just as guilty.” Ally looked to the sky. “Besides, it’s not like I’ve ever had any kind of relationship with him. If he’d ever actually tried as a dad, I probably wouldn’t have tried more drugs than there are countries by the time I was 13.”
“Hmm. I guess you’re right,” I said. “You know, I will never understand how you can do many drugs and still stay so pretty.”
“It’s a gift,” she said cheerfully. “Probably from my mom.”
It wasn’t too loud, but I heard a branch on a nearby tree snap. Had the wind been as bad as it was the last few days, I probably wouldn’t have heard it at all.
Looking up into the tree, I could see that it hadn’t been broken deliberately.
“I’ll be right back,” I quickly said.
The next instant, I’d teleported myself into the branches of the tree the snap had come from. And I looked into the eyes of the one who’d broken it.
She looked okay. As good as you can look in a tank top and cargo pants and no make-up. But her face wasn’t saying anything. It was blank. She was just sitting up here whittling something, not an emotion present.
Olivia stood up.
There were so many things I wanted to say. Things I wanted to ask. Things I wanted her to say. “I’m sorry.” “Are you sorry?” “How have you been?” “Do you know what I’ve been through?” “Aren’t you shocked by my face?” “What are you doing here?” “Why the Hell did Carter turn into a monster?” What is going on?”
But as she took the few steps necessary to close the gap between us, I only had one response.
“I missed you,” I said, wrapping my arms around her massive shoulders.
“Me too Raina,” she said with sadness in her voice as she put her equally massive arms around me. “Me too.”