City of the Lost Page 115

I shouldn’t need to make excuses. But Beth’s staring at me, and all I can think about is her warning me away from Dalton. I consider her a friend, and it feels wrong to get caught like this when I haven’t breathed a word of it to her. Except there hasn’t been a word to breathe. Whatever I felt, I’ve never been the sort to confide in friends that way. Let’s be honest—I’ve never needed to, because I’ve never felt like this.

“The stitches seem fine,” I say, as if that’s an excuse. See, we didn’t actually have sex.

I go inside and let her examine me. She doesn’t say a word. When Dalton comes with coffee, I’m sitting on the bed in my bra and panties. He kicks open the door, his hands full, and Beth jumps to say, “Casey’s—” but he notices my state of undress and walks in anyway, and I guess that answers any lingering question.

This is the first time he’s seen quite so much of me, and while it shouldn’t be the circumstances I want, it actually is, because nothing can put a damper on a hot-and-heavy moment faster than pulling off a girl’s clothing to see scar tissue.

He just walks over and hands me my coffee. Then he sits in his chair until Beth goes to wet a cloth for the dried blood. He waits until he hears her footsteps on the stairs, then he’s there, leaning over to kiss me, his hands running up my sides, and normally, when guys do that, they make some effort to avoid the scars. Dalton runs his hands over me, everywhere, as we kiss. Then Beth’s footsteps sound on the stairs again and he’s back in his chair before she comes in.

When she finishes her checkup, Dalton asks before I do, “How long until I get my detective back on her feet?” and Beth hesitates, as if she suspects this isn’t really what he’s asking.

“I should be up and around today,” I say. “Everything’s healing. I’d like some non-opiate painkillers, but otherwise I’m good to go.”

“I’d rather you wait another day, Casey,” Beth says.

“I feel fine.” Which is a lie, but I have a high pain threshold and low sitting-on-my-ass threshold.

“Stay in bed this morning,” Dalton says. “Get up after lunch. See how it goes.”

“Nothing too strenuous, though,” Beth says.

“Sure,” I say. Dalton sneaks me a quirk of a smile behind Beth’s back. I cross my fingers, and he chuckles. She turns at the sound, but he’s stone-faced again, sipping his coffee.

“Casey has something she wants to talk to you about,” he says. “I’m going to let her do that while I make a few stops. I’ll bring back breakfast for the patient.”

He walks over and brushes his lips across my forehead, and I guess that means we definitely aren’t hiding. Dalton isn’t the sneaking-in-shadows type, and I understand that better now—he has so much he conceals that the rest is on the table, take it or leave it, no excuses.

He leaves. I get dressed, and I’m sliding into bed when Beth says, “I don’t mean to pry, Casey …”

Then don’t is what I want to say. But I know she means well.

“Yes, you warned me,” I say. “And I had no intention of anything happening with Eric. It just … did.”

“It shouldn’t have.” Her voice is sharper than I expect, and when I look over, her face is drawn with worry. “I’m sorry, Casey. I hate to interfere, but this is a bad idea.”

I prop up on my pillows. “You’re concerned for him. I get that. But I would never do anything to hurt Eric.”

“It’s not Eric I’m worried about.”

That surprises me, and I look over to see those worry lines etched deeper.

“Eric is a friend,” she says. “And as a friend, I only want the best for him. But I consider you a friend, too, Casey, and there are things about Eric … It’s not as simple as it seems. He’s not as simple as he seems.”

“I know.”

Her look sharpens to impatience then. “You can say that, but you really don’t. I have his medical file. There are aspects to his past …” She straightens. “There are things in his past that he does not talk about. Absolutely does not. I attempted to broach it once, and he shut me down so fast I nearly got whiplash.”

His medical files. Of course. He may have had health issues when he arrived in Rockton. If there is one record of Dalton’s past, that’s where it would be.

“If you mean how he got to Rockton …” I say carefully.

“That he’s lived here all his life?” She shakes her head. “He hasn’t, Casey, and I can’t tell you any more than that, except that what happened to him before that means he’s a deeply damaged man and—”

“I know.”

“You don’t. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be harsh, but—”

“His files show that he wasn’t born in Rockton,” I say. “They tell where he was born. How he lived as a child. How he ended up here.”

She has her mouth open as if she was ready to argue before I got a word out. Now she stares at me, open-mouthed, and says, “He told you,” and I see her expression, and I wish to God I’d just kept my damned mouth shut. She’s been his friend for years, and he refused to acknowledge what happened, and now he’s spilling his guts to someone he met a few weeks ago.

She straightens. “Yes, of course. That’s Eric. If he’s going to … get involved with you, he’s going to make sure you know what you’re getting into. He’s a good man, Casey. But he’s also dealing with some serious psychological issues. I think the damage can be fixed. It takes years, though, and as hard as I’ve been trying, I’m not sure I’ve made any inroads.”

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