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Good Girl Complex: Chapter 36

MACKENZIE

From the living room, I hear a commotion in Cooper’s bedroom. A sharp snap off the wall and something clattering to the wooden floor. Suddenly, Cooper barrels down the hall.

Daisy, barking her head off because she gets rambunctious about an hour before it’s time to feed her, chases after him as he tramples through the living room.

“Hey, you okay?” I jump up from the couch.

“Fine,” he says, growling the words through gritted teeth. He doesn’t pause to even look at me.

“What’s wrong?”

Rather than get a reply, I watch him fling open the sliding glass door and stomp outside. He slams the door shut in Daisy’s face, barely missing her, though she seems only disappointed that he’s going outside without her.

To appease her, I put out her food, then grab my shoes to go hunting for Cooper. I find him a hundred yards down the beach throwing small pieces of driftwood at the waves. By the time I reach him, I’m regretting not grabbing a sweater first or at least putting on some long pants, rather than running out in shorts and a T-shirt. It’s nearly dark and a steady breeze turns my skin bumpy in minutes.

“What happened?” I ask him.

“Go home.” His voice is eerily flat, a stark contradiction of his angry, violent movements.

“Okay, no. So let’s move on to the part where you just tell me.”

“Damn it, Mac, not now, alright? Let it be.” He kicks up sand, searching for something else to throw and growing more frustrated at the lack of options.

“I want to. I would, if I thought it would help. But I don’t think it will, so…”

He drags his hands through his hair. He’d throw his own head at the tide if he could get it off his neck. “Why do you have to be so damn…” The rest comes out only as grunts.

“Born this way, I guess.” Disregarding his frustration, I sit and invite him to join me.

Several seconds of silence eventually break his will and he plops down on the sand.

“What’s up?” I ask quietly.

“She stole it.”

“What?”

Cooper refuses to look at me, his gaze glued to the water. “My emergency fund. Every last dollar.”

“Wait, your mom?” Dismay ripples through me. “You’re sure?”

He huffs out a humorless laugh. “Positive. Not even Evan knows where I keep my stash.”

Damn. That’s harsh.

“I should have hidden it the second she showed up,” he says, groaning. “She found my pot when I was thirteen and smoked it all when I was at school. I forgot about that until tonight, forgot she knew about the hiding spot. Or maybe I just gave her too much credit not to steal from her own kids.”

“I’m sorry.” It sounds inadequate under the circumstances. How do I apologize to someone for a lifetime of pain? “How much did she take?”

“Twelve grand,” he mutters.

Jeez. Okay. My brain kicks into solution mode, because that’s how I operate. Whenever there’s a problem with one of my websites, an unwelcome snag in the hotel renos, I become analytical. I assess the problem and try to find a way to fix it.

“That sucks, it really does. I know you’re pissed off and feel betrayed, and you have every right to feel that way.” I link my arm through his and lean my head on his shoulder. For support. And because I’m freezing. Cooper always runs warm, a perpetual source of heat. “But at least it’s only money, right? I can help you. I can replace it.”

“Seriously?” He rips his arm from me. “Why would you—” Cooper can’t finish the sentence. He jumps to his feet. “What the fuck, Mac? Why is that always where your head goes? Throw money at the problem.”

“I thought money was the problem,” I protest.

The thunderous look on his face pricks my nerves. Why is it every time I offer to do something nice for him, I get sand kicked in my eye?

“How many different ways do I have to say it?” he shouts at me. “I don’t want your goddamn money. Do you even grasp how infantilizing it is to have your girlfriend constantly following you around with her purse open?”

“That’s not what I do,” I answer, my jaw tight. This guy is pushing the limits of my patience. He wants to be mad at his mom, fine. He wants to vent, good. But I’m not the bad guy here. “I’m only trying to help. You need money, I have more than enough. Why is that wrong? The money doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“We know.” The words come out as a long, sullen sigh. “That’s the whole fucking point. You clones throw it around like party favors and expect the rest of us to be grateful for the invitation. I’m not another servant groveling at your feet for tips, goddamn it.”

So it’s like that. I’m back to being a “clone.” Fine.

“You know what, Coop? How about you deal with your own hang-ups instead of heaving all your insecurities on me? I’m getting real fucking sick of withstanding the worst of everyone’s little townie microaggressions. Get over it. Because let me tell you something from experience: Rich or poor, bad parents are just bad parents. Your mom sucks. Welcome to the club. Having money wouldn’t have made her stay.”

I regret the words the second they fly out of my mouth.

Both of us stand there astonished at what we’ve witnessed. How quickly we went for blood. Every pent-up feeling I’ve had since my parents cut me off came rushing back to the surface, and I threw it all in Cooper’s face as if it were his fault—exactly what I accused him of doing seconds ago.

Overwrought with remorse, I scramble to apologize. But he’s already storming off, shouting over his shoulder not to follow him unless this is the last conversation we ever want to have. This time, I take his word for it.

Hours later, though, when he hasn’t returned and Evan asks if I know why Cooper’s phone is going straight to voicemail, I start to worry. If he were only mad at me, fine, I’d accept that. But the way he tore out of here … the rage in his eyes … There are a thousand ways a guy like Cooper can get himself into trouble.

It only takes one.


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