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Thankfully, Shane doesn’t point out the irony of that statement. If he had, I’m pretty sure twin laser beams would have shot from Faith’s eyeballs to slice him in half. “Faith, if you wanted to go out, you could have talked to me. That part of town isn’t suitable—”
“Jesus, do you hear yourself? You sound like Da.”
Faith’s sobbed statement shuts Shane down cold. His hands drop from the steering wheel to lay in his lap. His sister isn’t finished, though. As I sit frozen in my seat, I listen to what I suspect is years of frustration pour out of her. It’s stilted and unnatural coming from the normally happy-go-lucky Faith, but it’s like she can’t control it. While I understand what she’s going through, I feel so horribly out of place sitting there, listening like an interloper. Once again I start to exit the car, just as Faith delivers the final blow.
“You left, Shane. You left because you couldn’t live under his thumb. Well, take a good, long look in the mirror, because you’re exactly like him. You are him.”
She slams the door and runs into the inn. My hand drops from my door, and I slump back in my seat. Tension hums in the car, and I know where it’s coming from. Shane is probably blaming this debacle on me. I’m woman enough to admit he might be half right. While this little scene was inevitable in my estimation, I urged it along by taking Faith out tonight.
There is also a shred of decency left inside me, apparently, because I feel bad on Shane’s behalf. Just a little. Like Shane, my sister had the unfortunate luck to be born first, giving her a sense of responsibility for me. The same kind Shane feels for Faith. It’s not something either one of them can turn off. Some people are built to care about others more than themselves. I’m not declaring him right or making excuses for him, but in that moment, I can see he didn’t just swoop into O’Kelly’s tonight like an overprotective father purely to be an ass**le. There’s something more complicated simmering under the surface.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
I jerk my attention away from him to look out the windshield once more, wondering what he’s imagined on my face since he’s not even looking directly at me. Of course, it’s starting to rain again and droplets are obscuring my view of the street. On the spot, it turns the car into a closed-off void of which myself and Shane are the only residents. The feeling is only compounded by the darkness and lack of pedestrians on the usually busy street. There is no other sound apart from rain pattering on the roof, but both of our minds are clicking away. I can almost make it out over the steady downpour. “She didn’t mean it.”
He laughs without humor. “And what would you know about it, Willa? You don’t know a damn thing about us.” He’s silent a moment. “No. She meant every word of it.”
“I’m not getting involved,” I mean to say inside my head, but it slips out. Why do these lapses in my verbal skills keep happening around him?
“People like you can’t help getting involved.”
I peer through the near darkness at him, genuinely curious. “People like me?”
Finally, he looks over at me, but his eyes have gone blank. “You think everything can be solved with your unique logic or a snappy comeback. This isn’t one of your sappy Hollywood movies. Real life is more complicated than that.”
“Real life.”
“Are you just planning on repeating everything I say?”
Annoyed, I grab my purse and begin to dig through it, looking for my room key. I’m not going to sit here much longer in his über-pissed-off presence. Besides, despite my declaration that I don’t want to get involved, I have the urge to check on Faith. “God, Shane, what are you so f**king angry about?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
The rain starts to fall harder, pelting the roof, making me hesitant to leave the car and get soaked. “Answer it for yourself, since you seem to have me figured out.”
He sighs, but there’s anticipation in it. As if he’s thrilled to have the chance to finally let me know what he thinks of me. “If a breakup has sent you four-thousand miles away just to recover, I’m guessing there hasn’t been a ton of adversity in your life.”
“Really.” I hold in the burst of laughter dying to escape. “What sent you away from here?”
His expression hardens. “We weren’t talking about me.”
“We are now.”
Shane considers me a moment. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a righteous pain in the arse?”
I smile sweetly. “If I had a nickel…”
“Right.” He runs an impatient hand through his hair, and I try not to stare at the muscle flexing in his arms, stretching the fabric of his shirt. “Suffice it to say my father and I never saw eye to eye. When Faith says I’m just like him, she means to say I’m a controlling bastard.”
The harshness in his voice cuts through me. There are more unresolved issues here than raindrops on the windshield. “I thought the Irish were superstitious people. You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.”
“I only speak the truth.” He’s all restless energy now, shifting in his seat, adjusting mirrors. “So let me guess. Your parents are in full support of this ridiculous pilgrimage to discover yourself. Maybe one of them has a friend on the committee that named you the contest winner?” Blue eyes drill into mine. “What would you know about having your every move criticized? Being told to get back behind the bar where you belong? You wouldn’t understand a goddamn thing about it.”
“You’re right. I don’t get it.” My anger is whipping through my chest like a gale wind. Never, I’ve never talked about my past with anyone outside my sister, save Evan. But I want to put this f**ker in his place so badly now, that I can’t hold back. It all comes spilling from my lips, even though I know I’ll regret it the second I finish talking. “I understand nothing about having a controlling parent. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mom who brings you toast, even though it’s cold and rock hard. Or a father. Period.” I push my door open, no longer giving a damn about the rain. “I’ll see your overprotective daddy and raise you a prostitute mother with a nasty heroin habit. You cocky motherfucker.”
Slowly, he sits up straighter in the driver’s seat. “Wait—”
I slam the door on his stunned expression and stomp through the pooling water toward the inn. Through the wall of sound that is the torrential rain, I barely make out the sound of Shane’s driver-side door opening and closing. All I can focus on is getting inside, getting to my room, so I can scream into a pillow and try to forget I’ve just been reduced to a petulant teenager. I hate that he’s the only one who’s ever done it to me. With Evan, I allowed every piece of information about my mother, my past, to be revealed at my own comfortable pace. He’d never pushed or pried, never shown me anything but…
Pity. Horrible, gooey, unwelcome pity. It hits me like a lightning rod, how much I’d resented Evan for that. From the beginning. Yet I’m only seeing it now. Awesome timing.
I’m just about to reach the entrance when Shane hooks an arm around my waist. I whirl around to push him away, but he pulls me back against his hard frame, walking us to the dark alley that runs alongside the inn.