Lost and found sisters, p.35
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.35
 

           Jill Shalvis

  She wished she had half his calm. “Yes, she is going to kill me. And if for some reason she doesn’t, she’s going to run to L.A. even faster now, without looking back.”

  “You stole her car, Tee. You crashed it into a tree and demolished both. I’m not sure what the hell you were thinking, but you must’ve known you were pretty much saying fuck you when you took her car without permission, not to mention without a driver’s license.”

  Is that what she’d been doing? Trying to push Quinn away before Quinn did it first? Yes. Yes, okay, fine, that’s exactly what she’d been doing, which made her . . . a child.

  Her head was killing her from the cut above her eyebrow, but they said she didn’t have a concussion, just a broken arm.

  The ER nurse had called her lucky. Tilly laughed bleakly at the thought of being lucky. She hadn’t been lucky a single day of her godforsaken life.

  Except maybe the day Quinn had come into it . . .

  The thought made her want to cry. Luckily she never cried. At least not that she’d admit to. “How did you get so smart?” she asked Dylan.

  “The smartest girl I know taught me.”

  She snorted. “Maybe she’s not really all that.”

  “She is.”

  She blew out a sigh. “I don’t know why I did it. I wanted to stop hurting. I wanted to be somewhere I’m wanted—”

  “Tee,” Dylan whispered, voice pained.

  She shook her head, unable to say anything else.

  “From what you’ve told me, you’re like her, you know,” Dylan said. “Quinn. You’re both stubborn. Single-minded.” He paused and smiled. “And always sure you’re right . . .”

  “I don’t know why I called you.”

  “. . . beautiful.”

  She met his warm gaze.

  “Courageous,” he whispered.

  Her throat got tighter.

  “Cares about other people like no one else I know,” he went on and paused. “I think you got scared because you’re afraid to believe in love.”

  “Well, look who’s talking,” she managed.

  Holding eye contact, he set a hand on either side of her hips and leaned in. “You’ve been sweet and kind and patient with me, Tilly.”

  She couldn’t tear her eyes from his, so deep and dark and full of the haunting, hollow experiences he’d had in his life, none of which had anything to do with sweet and kind and patient. “It’s easy to be those things with you,” she said. “I love you, Dylan.”

  He closed his eyes briefly, as though both pained and moved, and then he looked at her again. “I know you do. And I’m even starting to believe it. I love you too, Tilly.”

  Completely melted, she lifted her one good arm and set her hand on his biceps. “Dylan—”

  “So maybe you can try to be as kind and sweet and patient with Quinn,” he said. “Because she’s going to barrel in here any second now, frightened, freaked, and half out of her mind.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Because that’s how I felt when you called me.”

  Guilt swamped Tilly. Guilt and remorse, because she hadn’t even called Quinn herself, she’d let the cop do it.

  They were still staring at each other when Quinn came running into the room looking just like Dylan had said—frightened, freaked, and half out of her mind.

  “Oh my God,” Quinn said, tears in her voice as she rushed to the bed.

  Dylan backed away, making room for her. She cupped Tilly’s face, staring at the butterfly bandage over her eye, taking in the cast on her arm. “Oh my God.”

  “You already said that,” Tilly said.

  Chuck had come in behind Quinn. Probably he’d given her a ride.

  Tilly met Chuck’s gaze and he gave her a very small, relieved smile.

  Quinn expelled a breath of air like she’d been holding her breath for too long. And then to Tilly’s horror, Quinn’s eyes filled with tears.

  “No,” Tilly said. “No, no, no . . . there’s no crying allowed in the hospital. It’s a rule, I swear it!”

  “Are you okay?” Quinn demanded.

  “Yeah.” She swallowed hard. “I’m sorry about your car.”

  “Forget the car,” Quinn said and hugged her tight.

  So tight she couldn’t draw in air. “Um, you’re squeezing me pretty tight—”

  Quinn’s arms tightened even more.

  “Okay,” Tilly squeaked out and patted Quinn awkwardly on the back. “Okay, but I. Can’t. Breathe—”

  “I was worried sick about you!”

  Over Quinn’s shoulder, Tilly met Dylan’s gaze, the one that said I told you so. She tried to sigh but couldn’t draw a breath. “No, really, I don’t need any air or anything—”

  “Do you have any idea what could have happened?” Quinn demanded, voice quivering. “You could’ve—” When she broke off, clearly unable to speak, the reality of the situation hit Tilly.

  Quinn had lost Beth in a car accident. The loss had devastated her, and now Tilly’s stupidity and selfishness had brought back all the pain and horror and shock.

  She was the biggest jerk on the planet, and knowing it, wrapped her arms around Quinn and returned the hug. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry for . . .” Well, everything. But before she could say it, a nurse bustled in, doing her nurse thing.

  After checking Tilly for what felt like the thousandth time, she said, “I’m getting your release papers ready. We’ve got some paperwork to go over.”

  It was an hour and a half before they actually got to leave. Then they spent another half an hour at the pharmacy.

  The car ride home was tense.

  Quinn had said very little after hugging Tilly tight enough to crack her ribs. She was vibrating with tension and emotions though, and Tilly wished she’d just let them loose but had no idea how to make that happen.

  Chuck dropped them off at the house, where they found Mick waiting for them on the porch. Mick hugged both Quinn and Tilly, and they went inside, Mick moving to the kitchen to give them some privacy.

  Quinn stood in the living room and tossed her purse to the coffee table before putting her hands on her hips and staring down at her shoes.

  Tilly stood there uncertainly. She wanted to sneak away to her bedroom, pull the covers over her head, and wait for her mom to come bring her hot chocolate.

  But that wasn’t going to happen.

  Quinn finally seemed to find her words. “Running away is never the answer, Tilly.”

  Tilly was smart enough to know that already, but she wasn’t smart enough to keep her mouth shut. “You ran away from L.A. and your parents.”

  Quinn gaped at her like a fish for a moment. “I didn’t run away! I ran to something. To someone, as a matter of fact. A someone who doesn’t seem to give a shit.”

  Tilly’s stomach hit her toes. “I—”

  “Oh, no. You had your chance to speak and you chose to open a can of worms, so let’s do this,” Quinn said. Actually, yelled. She was totally yelling. And also crying, which made Tilly feel like the biggest asshat on the planet.

  “Maybe you don’t realize it,” Tilly said. “But you’re talking in all caps.”

  “Do you think this has been easy for me?” Quinn pressed a hand to her own chest. Or at least that’s what Tilly thought she said, but Quinn was an open-mouthed crier and it was getting harder and harder to understand her.

  “I know nothing about raising someone! But I’m trying, okay? And I get that I fail a lot, but I’m not going anywhere. You hear me, Tilly? I get that I’m not Carolyn, not even close, but you know what? I’m willing to try for second best because sometimes that’s just how life works. But you have to meet me halfway.”

  Tilly opened her mouth but Quinn jabbed a finger at her and kept talking. “I never got to ask Carolyn questions, and I have questions, Tilly. I mean, did she also have one foot that was half a size bigger than the other? Or get murderous urges during PMS? And how about love, huh? Did she suck at
it as badly as I do, because . . .”

  The rest of that sentence was lost behind the crying, but it sounded like “and now I can’t even afford to fix that damn shower and I really need more hot water!”

  Okay, she’d totally sent her sister over the edge. Completely over the edge. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

  Quinn stopped talking and crying to blow her nose, and then she . . . walked away. She went down the hallway and a minute later her bedroom door slammed shut.

  Which was shocking because Quinn never slammed doors. She never lost her shit at all and Tilly was standing there wondering what the hell to do when Mick appeared at her side.

  “Come to the kitchen,” he said.

  “But Quinn—”

  “—needs a moment.” Without another word he moved back to the kitchen.

  With a sigh, Tilly followed him.

  Mick pushed a mug across the counter toward her.

  Hot chocolate.

  She blinked away tears and that’s when she saw the ingredients . . . everywhere. Bowls, mixer, eggs, milk . . . Flour was tipped over and spilled out across the counter and floor, like someone had knocked it over in a rush.

  “That was Quinn,” Mick said quietly. “She dropped everything to get to the hospital the second she got the call.”

  She lifted her shocked gaze to his. “Why was she baking? She cooks all day. Baking is the last thing she’d want to do.”

  “She signed your guardianship papers,” Mick said. “She wanted to surprise you with a cake.”

  “But she hates to bake.”

  He just looked at her.

  She closed her eyes. “She said she was going to L.A.”

  “Yes. To tell her parents she was moving to Wildstone. To stay.”

  Tilly was stunned.

  “And because you’re a minor and you don’t have a license,” Mick went on, speaking kindly but not sugar-coating it, “and because she signed those papers, you’re her responsibility. And that includes legally. She could be in trouble for you driving underage and without a license, and be held liable for all damages.”

  And still, Quinn’s first and only concern had been for Tilly. About getting to her. Seeing her with her own eyes. “But it wasn’t her fault,” Tilly whispered past a throat that felt like she’d swallowed shards of glass. “Isn’t there anything that can be done?”

  “Yes,” Mick said, not pulling punches. “To soften the blow for herself, Quinn could have you charged with stealing her car.”

  Tilly was pretty sure she was going to pass out. She gripped the counter and stared at the spilled flour.

  Mick gave her arm a gentle squeeze. “But we both know that Quinn would never in a million years do anything like that to you. Or at least I’m hoping you know that.”

  Tilly nodded. Because she did know it.

  “Do you know why?” Mick asked.

  “Because she loves me,” Tilly whispered.

  “She does.” There was a smile in his voice. “Although once the dust settles, she might be a little pissed about not having a car to sell. She’d planned on using the money from it to update this house and the café.”

  Oh, God. She covered her face and felt Mick turn her to him and pull her in for a hug. “I’m not trying to hurt you,” he said. “But I’m not going to stand around and let you use her for a punching bag when she’s trying so hard either.”

  Tilly nodded and sniffed.

  “Did you just wipe your nose on my shirt?”

  She choked out a laugh. “No!” When she pulled back, she saw that he was teasing her and realized it had worked. He was a really good guy. Maybe as good as Dylan. “Mick?”

  “Yeah?”

  “I’m not the only one all screwed up, you know. My sister has trust issues.”

  He nodded. “I know.”

  “She’d never put this into words, but she’d been hurt, big time. By her adoptive parents. By my mom. By that Brock guy.” She paused. “By me.” She shook her head. “I don’t think she believes in love.”

  “I know that too,” he said. “And until she came along and changed my mind, I’d have said she wasn’t the only one.”

  She stared at him.

  He let her, seemingly unbothered by her scrutiny.

  “I broke her heart,” she said quietly. “I’m going to fix it and then I’m never going to do it again.”

  “Good.”

  “But now I need you to look me in the eyes and give me your word that you’re not going to ever do it either,” she said.

  He held eye contact and nodded with the solemnness the moment called for. “You have my word.”

  “Okay.” She nodded back. “Now there’s something I have to do.” She went back to her room and pulled out the box she’d been hiding under her bed. She set it in the hallway next to Quinn’s shut door. She hesitated, wanting to knock, but she was afraid to make things any worse.

  Mostly she just felt like crap. She’d known Quinn wanted to go back to L.A. and she’d assumed the worst. That she’d stay in L.A. and Tilly would have to go back to living with Chuck.

  Chuck had been good to her. He’d done the best he could, but his place had never been home.

  This was home.

  And she’d blown it.

  Chapter 36

  My mom used to say that the fastest land mammal on earth is the teenager who sees Mom pulling into the driveway and realizes they forgot to do some chores.

  —From “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  Quinn got up the next morning not letting herself think too much or she’d lose it. When Mick had finally joined her in bed last night, they hadn’t talked. She hadn’t the brain power for it. Instead, he’d done his best to distract her from her stress and anxiety, and he was a most excellent distractor. It had proved all but impossible to think of anything past her desperate need for him when he had her in bed.

  Or in the shower.

  Or up against a wall.

  He wasn’t in the bed now, but given that his side of the mattress was still warm and that Coop was still snoozing in the corner, he hadn’t gone far. On a run, maybe.

  She got up and nearly tripped over Tink.

  “Mew,” she said in a tone that suggested she was close to starving to death.

  Just beyond the cat, just outside Quinn’s bedroom door, was a small chest she’d never seen before. She picked it up and moved into the kitchen with Tink on her heels, finding the place clean of her baking mess.

  Tilly stood at the stovetop making breakfast. She’d even made coffee, cast on her arm and all. The teen nudged a mug toward her, gave a tentative smile and . . . burst into tears, sobbing out words like “sorry” and “I don’t know what I was thinking” and “please don’t hate me . . .”

  Quinn set the small chest down and moved in close. She took the spatula out of Tilly’s hand, turned off the flames, and then pulled her in for a hug. “Of course I don’t hate you.”

 
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