“He’s handsome, strong, and he doesn’t argue when I want to play cards …” Penni had trailed off when she couldn’t think of anything else. Then she had finished in a rush. “He’s more mature than boys my age.”
“Or maybe you’re telling yourself that as an excuse for why you’re not getting involved with boys your own age. I don’t see any tears in your eyes when we leave. As a matter of fact, I never saw you cry at all when you were a baby. Mom used to worry about it … like she did with me.”
Penni couldn’t tell what point Shade had been trying to make. Of course she’d cried, but it hadn’t been often.
“Shit … What do I know? I just wanted you to know that I’m like that, too.”
“You have tons of friends, and I’ve seen pictures of your girlfriends.”
“Yes, but I feel differently than they do. I don’t love anything or anyone. If any of them walked out of my life, I wouldn’t miss them. The difference between us is I don’t give a damn about anyone, while you’re like the butterfly I used to call you when you were a kid. A butterfly will go from a limb to a flower, attracted by anything that catches their interest. You stay a while, and then, when you’re ready, you fly away.”
A friend she had known since kindergarten had moved away last year. Though Penni had expected to feel the loss, she hadn’t, just found another girl to share lunch with.
What he had been saying couldn’t be true, though. She had friends she talked to every day. She had been one of the most popular students in her school.
Penni had searched her mind, not coming up with one close friend she’d shared all her secret with. She would have lunch, movies, and even shopping trips with her friends, but she couldn’t recall giving them any clue of the person she was inside.
Out of the corner of her eye, she had seen their mother’s car come to a stop. Train hadn’t made a move to exit the car, giving them time to talk.
Penni had stood when Shade had, grabbing his hand before he’d moved away.
“So you don’t love me?” Penni had asked curiously.
“I feel for you as much as I can feel for Mom and Dad. Mom sent me to psychiatrists when I was in elementary school because I wasn’t making friends. She thought it was because we moved around so much and because she had depression, so she couldn’t bond with me. I see her watching you the same why she watched me. I thought I’d save you from sitting in a doctor’s office once a week.”
He hadn’t answered her question.
Staring up at her brother, she had understood the words he’d left unspoken. Bravely looking into his beautiful blue eyes, she could see the soul he kept from everyone, including himself.
“Well, we didn’t move around when I was a kid, so she can’t blame my father like she did yours. We inherited it from her, didn’t we?”
“I think so.”
Penni had nodded.
He hadn’t removed his hand as they’d walked toward the car.
“Shade … Do you think you’ll ever love someone?”
Tightening her hold on Shade’s hand, she prevented him from opening the car door.
“I think you’re wrong. We can love. I love Mom, Dad, and you. I know you love me …” Penni had rushed to say, not giving him the chance to deny her words. “We are different; I agree with you there. We may not love a lot, but when we do, they’re special. You’re special, Shade, and one day, you’re going to find the woman who proves it to you. Just like I will find the man who proves it to me.”
Penni had elbowed her brother in his ribs. “It’s a secret. He doesn’t know it yet.”
“Believe me, he knows.”
Confidently, she had shot him a calculated smile. “Not yet, but he will.”
The slamming of the door had Jackal jerking awake. He was halfway out of the bed, one hand searching behind him for Penni. She was gone, and the room was filled with Last Riders.
Viper was standing at the small table, picking up his gun and tucking it into the back of his jeans.
His gaze then went to Shade, who must have been the one to slam the door since he was standing in front of it.
“Where is she?” Jackal asked.
Shade leaned back against the door, folding his arms across his chest. “Heading to Treepoint.”
Jackal picked up the alarm clock on the bedside table, throwing it at the wall across the room. She had left without telling him good-bye.
“Tell me you’re not stupid enough to think you could keep her?”
Jackal remained silent, putting on his socks and boots.
Shade shook his head at Viper. “Yes, he was.”