Powerless: Chapter 12


Jasper: Any news?

Harvey: Nothing. If I hear anything, you’ll be my first call.

Jasper: Okay.

“I think we should stop for the day.”

We haven’t been on the road for long, but I feel the tug of sleep at the center of my forehead like a weight that wants to push my eyes shut. It’s only gotten worse since the world’s most awkward game of I Spy fizzled out and left us sitting in silence.

All I can hear is the hum of tires against the road. It’s a white noise machine at this point.

Robin’s-egg blue. What was I thinking? It’s just so easy, so reassuring, to fall back into those memories. Sometimes I wish we could go back. It was simple then. I wasn’t recognized everywhere I go. Beau wasn’t missing. She wasn’t running from her life.

But me? I’ve always been running from mine, trying to escape attention.

“Okay.” Sloane looks at me a little too closely, and I raise one hand to bend the brim of my hat, like it might prevent her from seeing me. Because it’s always felt like she looks at me in a way I can’t hide from, like she sees a little too much. “You alright? Want me to find a good place to stop?”

“Yeah. I’m just . . . honestly, Sloane, I’m just really fucking tired. I was all gung ho to leave and now that I have, I’m exhausted.”

“I could drive for a bit?” She says it lightly, but we both know she knows the answer. She’s the only one who knows that whole story, every dirty detail. Everyone else has bits and pieces, but with Sloane, I laid it all out. She was too young to really understand, which I think meant she was too young to judge me.

I sometimes wonder if she judges me now.

I keep my eyes peeled on the rocky rises of the surrounding mountains, so tall and ominous you can see them from the city. We’re well in their midst now, traveling through the rolling yellowed foothills and into the jutting peaks capped with pristine snow. “No. Not with the load we’re hauling. You don’t have any experience with that.”

Her eyes narrow, and I feel it more than see it. “And you do?”

One of my shoulders pops up. “Not recently. But yeah, I’ve hauled plenty of loads of hay in the summer when I was younger. You don’t live at Wishing Well Ranch and not become a full-blown country-boy.”

She doesn’t respond, instead she pulls her phone out, thumbs flying across it. I see a call come in and the screen flashes. Sterling. She quickly declines it and keeps searching.

“You ever gonna talk to him?”

“There is a town called Rose Hill coming up that has a hotel by a lake. Looks pretty.”

I nod. “I know it.”


“Yeah. We had a dry land training camp there once. Beautiful spot. How far does it say?”

“Thirty minutes. Turn off at Junction 91.”

“Okay. I just need you to keep talking to me.”

She straightens in her seat. “Okay. What do you want to talk about? Should we trash talk your coach for forcing you on leave?”

I grumble out a laugh. “No. I already asked you a question.”

Her head swivels away from me to glance out the window, and she taps one thoughtful finger on the tip of her nose. “I forget what it was.”

My lips flatten, and my palms tighten on the steering wheel. She’s lying, but that’s okay. We both have secrets we keep. “I asked if you were ever going to talk to him.”

“Who?” Wide turquoise eyes turn in my direction, and I give her a droll look.

“You tapping your nose to keep it from growing, Pinocchio?”

“I don’t want to talk about it with you.” I ignore the ache in my chest, realizing how we’ve grown apart this past year with Sterling on the scene. Who pulled away first? When did it happen? Could she tell I was looking at her differently?

“Well, there’s no one else here, and I know the way your head works. You talk things out. And I’m good at listening. So spill.”

Her responding laugh is soft and quiet. I know she must be thinking of the way she’d talk at me as a child while I sat around and brooded.

Hilariously, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“I don’t know if he deserves my words really,” is how she starts, and I swear it sucks all the air out of the cab. “The more I think about it, the angrier I am—at myself more than anyone. I went along with it and let him talk to me the way he did, belittle me the way he did. And I just never really cared. I was going through the motions, I think. Focusing on the ballet company. Focusing on my parents. Focusing on every one other than me, and now I look at myself and I . . . I don’t like what I see. I don’t like the choices I’ve made. And I think ignoring him—petty as it might be—is a choice I actually like right now. I don’t even know what I have to say to him, you know? I’m clinging to what little sanity I have, and I don’t want to share it with him. He can’t have it.”

I nod and twist my hands on the wheel, resisting the urge to reach out and touch her, to tell her how proud I am of her. To tell her she could be mine instead. Because I told her I’d listen, and she doesn’t need me complicating her already complicated feelings. And she definitely doesn’t need my stamp of approval on them.

That’s not how feelings work—they just are, no matter what anyone else thinks of them.

I’ve been told repeatedly I’m not responsible for what happened on that highway, but it doesn’t change the way I feel.

I feel responsible.

“I feel sick over my dad.” Icy tendrils slide down my spine. As far as I’m concerned, her dad is a colossal piece of shit, but I’m not going to be the one to tell her. I’m not sure she’d ever forgive me if I did. “But I’m so angry at him too. The messages he’s left me . . .” Her top teeth clamp down hard on her pillowy bottom lip like hurting herself will make the pain of her father’s betrayal sting less somehow.

“He’s being a real piece of shit. You know that?” Her voice is harsher now, it clashes with the soft femininity of her. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. “Like I could just . . . I don’t know, throw a tantrum and stomp on his foot or something equally childish. I’m so disappointed.

“What did he say to you?” I ask tersely, already wishing I hadn’t, already knowing it will make me hate the man more than I already do. Knowing it will pull the scab off an old wound.

“He included Sterling in the text and told me to do my wifely duty and come home immediately.” She snorts and I silently rage. His face pops up in my mind, and I imagine driving my blocker into it. “I responded with the only thing I’ve said directly to either of them since you broke me out of that church.”

I arch a brow, hoping she’ll share her response.

“I told him I’m no one’s wife and I don’t owe either of them shit.” A strangled laugh bursts from my lips, and she smiles at me, looking mighty satisfied with herself. “They can both mull that over while I continue to ignore them.”

No, Sloane doesn’t need my approval. But goddamn, she has it anyway.

“King-size bed or two twins? Or separate rooms?” The woman behind the counter eyes me in a way I’ve encountered a million times. Like she recognizes me, and . . . like she wants me.

I’m not especially comfortable with either of those looks. It’s why I keep my cap on and try to blend into the scenery, which is hard to accomplish at six-foot- three in a small hotel lobby with no one else around.

Glancing down at Sloane beside me, I fold at the brim of my hat, wondering when it might snap from the repeated pressure.

Sloane is outright glaring at the woman. She did this when she was younger, when she had the most blatant childhood crush on me. Beau made fun of me about it, and I’d have to tell him to shut his big mouth so he wouldn’t embarrass her.

“We’ll take—”

“Two twins,” Sloane supplies while still staring at the woman with a blank look on her face. She peeks up at me from behind dark lashes, blonde tendrils slipping down around her temple, and gives me a shy smile and a shrug. “More fun that way.”

Fun. I wonder for who because the more time I spend one-on-one with her, the more it seems like torture. Like a video reel of missed opportunities. Of me being oblivious. Of me being too big of a coward to pursue her when I had an inkling of something more.

But being paralyzed by indecision isn’t new for me. The only place I don’t feel that is usually on the ice, between those pipes.

That’s when I feel in control of my life. I feel safe there somehow.

Spending another night in the same room as Sloane feels a lot less safe than facing flying pieces of frozen rubber somehow.

For four seconds, I flash images in my mind of her and I tangled up together. Skin sliding on skin. Her moaning my name. I think about bending her over the back of the lobby couch and peeling those leggings down her firm thighs, telling her exactly what to do while I watch.

And then I force myself to stop.

“Okay. Here are your room keys.” She slides a small envelope across the desk, and I can hear the woman talking about Wi-Fi passwords and where to eat, but I turn away to stare at the crystalline glacier lake out the windows. I’m too tired to focus on anything other than how the water is the exact color of Sloane’s eyes.

I was wrong about the sky. I was wrong about the eggshell.

It’s the glacier lake.

I see her everywhere.

A gentle hand at the center of my back returns my focus to the charming lobby of the small boutique hotel. “Ready?”

With one of our bags in each hand, I nod and let Sloane lead the way. Her lean figure pulls ahead of me to walk down the hallway. “Apparently, there are only main floor rooms right now.”

“I just need somewhere to sleep for a bit. I was going to get you your own room.”

Her hand flicks over her shoulder, dismissing the comment. “Saves us money this way.”

I almost laugh. Neither of us needs to be concerned with saving money. I know—like I did when I was younger—Sloane keeps me close because she worries about me.

She stops abruptly, glancing between the envelope in her hand and the number on the door. “Here we go.” She swipes the key card and with a soft beep, the door unlocks.

We enter the room, and it’s nicer than I expected, spacious with a sliding glass patio door that opens onto a small courtyard facing the aquamarine lake. Best of all, the beds look so damn good.

Without saying a word, I walk across the room, kick off my shoes, drop my coat and hat on the floor, and flop down onto the bed closest to the windows.

I drift off staring at the crystal-blue water. Day dreaming about the girl with crystal-blue eyes.


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