Angry, I slam the door shut and round the truck. I won’t be played by another devil in high heels. Once is enough. And I won’t start thinking Gia deserves a hero for what she did tonight. Even if she does, there’s a reason I’ve stayed away from my sister. I’m nobody’s hero.
Inhaling, I climb inside the truck and shut the door, the powerful crackle of Gia’s anger a brutal contrast to the soft scent of woman that teases my nostrils with punishing precision. I don’t remember Meg ever working me over like this.
I glance in Gia’s direction and she stares forward, refusing to look at me, further proving she is not planning to play the wilting flower. Nope. She is not playing the victim like Meg at all. The question remains though, is she a lying bitch like Meg?
Flipping on the overhead light, I lean down to reconnect the wires in the dash when Gia makes a soft sound and says, “You know what’s pathetic?” I still, waiting for an answer, not sure what to expect as she adds, “I don’t know you or trust you any more than you do me, but I trust you more than anyone else I know right now.”
That statement reaches inside me and burns me in places I keep telling myself can’t be burned anymore. No one understands what “trust no one” means more than I do. No one. If Gia is telling the truth, if she’s ultimately the innocent victim that she’s trying not to be in a world she doesn’t belong inside of, then maybe, just maybe, I do have a chance to be her hero. The truth shall set me free. And her, too. “Then you’re a fool,” I tell her, “because even I don’t trust me.”
“HOW LONG ARE WE GOING to be on the road?” Gia asks about thirty minutes after we hit the highway, the first thing she’s said since my warning about trust. But then, I get the feeling she chooses her battles cautiously, which tells me her decisions tonight, no matter what their motivation, weren’t made lightly. She knew the magnitude of every choice she made, including getting in this truck with me instead of screaming for help.
I glance at the dash that reads midnight, calculating the drive to our Lubbock destination. “Five hours.”
“I can take a shift driving.”
I snort. “Not a chance in hell.”
“There’s no way you’ve had any sleep,” she argues, clearly not intimidated by her role as captive.
“Staring at the walls of the interrogation room wasn’t exactly exciting.”
“Bleeding while tied to a chair doesn’t count as sleep.”
“I’ll sleep when I can actually close my eyes.”
“It’s not like I’m going to stab you to death with my finger while you sleep and I’m trying to drive this monster of a truck.”
I give her an incredulous look. “Are you daring me to kill you?”
“If I was, I’d just let you drive without complaint.”
“You do remember me saying you’re my prisoner, right?”
“I also remember you saying you need my help. That makes me pretty safe until you don’t need me anymore.”
“You have big balls for a woman, but then, I guess that’s what it takes to set off a bomb like you did.”
“They’re called brains, not balls, as my mother used to love to tell my father.”
“No one likes a smartass,” I comment dryly, not missing the past-tense reference, and reluctantly admiring her fearless determination, even if it is irritating as hell.
“Then you, Chad, must not have any friends.”
“You think I’m a smartass? Well, fuck me. I was shooting for asshole, not smartass. I’ll try harder. And I don’t keep friends around to stab me in the back. Or prisoners, for that matter.”
“Oh, you’re an asshole, but from what I overheard when I walked into that warehouse tonight, Sheridan’s crew seemed to think you’d taken smartass to epic proportions while they questioned you. They hated you; they were plotting to cut one of your toes off so the injury wouldn’t show. It was the head of the chemistry department who chose the truth serum option. He has a weak stomach.”
“I guess I should thank him the next time I see him—right before I kill him.”
“Don’t bother. He’s a bigger asshole than you. And what you said about friends—friends don’t stab you in the back. Real friends are family, and you can count on family. They don’t let you down.”
Until they do, I think, her declaration like acid burning through an open wound, leaving me ready to end this conversation. Reaching behind the seat, I snag the bag I’d given her earlier and set it between us. “Your fifty thousand dollar pillow. Never let it be said I don’t know how to treat a lady. Lie down and rest.”
“You told me not to trust you,” she argues, curling her feet onto the seat toward the door and staring out of the windshield. “So I don’t. That means I’ll have to make sure you stay awake. We’ll just have to talk for four hours. Or five, right?”
“Forget it. We are not talking for five hours.”
“Not about anything important, of course,” she says, as if I haven’t spoken, “since we don’t trust each other. How about football? I personally think the Cowboys will never win again until Jerry Jones retires and hands over the leadership to someone else.”
I don’t do random conversation. It’s dangerous. It makes you give away little details, like Gia’s past-tense reference to her family—but I have to give it to her. Every male born and raised in Texas has an opinion about the Cowboys, and I fight the ridiculous urge to give her mine now by turning up the radio. A Garth Brooks song, “Friends in Low Places,” instantly transports me to Jasmine Heights. To home and family. To a white-painted wooden house, green grass, and family barbecues. A few lines play in my head and then those images go up in flames, the house on fire, and I am living the part of my history I don’t want to relive. The part I’m always reliving.