Why doesn’t he light it himself?

On the way here, I overheard Jarret and Maybe discussing Lorne’s prison sentence. He earned an early release. No parole. No checking in. No routine drug tests. He’s a free man.

Perhaps he has an aversion to drugs? God knows I do.

I meet his frosty green eyes and shiver. “I don’t do drugs.”

“But you’ll do a man three times your age?” His jaw sets. “Didn’t realize you had standards.”

My hackles bristle. This is one of the reasons I need to leave. They will never understand why I did the things I did, and I don’t care enough to enlighten them.

Maybe coughs through an inhale and passes the joint back to Lorne. “Are you always such a dick?”

“Every day. Every breath.” He snatches it from her and motions toward the door. “Leave us.”

She slams her fists on her hips. “If you’re trying to scare me away, it won’t work. I love Jarret, and he loves me.” She holds up her hand, wriggling the engagement ring with a surly smirk. “This means I’m not going anywhere. Deal with it.”

I smile inwardly, in awe of her fire. I liked her the moment I met her, when she showed up at John’s door two years ago demanding answers about her husband, Rogan Cassidy.

She was married to Lorne’s half-brother. Now she’s engaged to Lorne’s… What is Jarret to him? They grew up together on the ranch. They might as well be brothers.

Jarret and Jake killed her husband before they knew about his relationship to the family. Not that it would’ve stopped them. The Holsten men are murderers, through and through.

“You just keep on scowling at me, Lorne. It only makes me want to boop your nose.” Maybe reaches toward him, as if to tap his nose with a finger.

His lips curl, exposing straight white teeth that look dangerously close to biting off her finger.

She yanks her hand back. “Okay, you’re clearly not ready for that. But we’ll get there.” She turns her blue eyes to me. “You need anything?”

“Shoes?” I sit taller.

“She doesn’t need shoes.” Lorne flicks a finger at the door. “Get out.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” She winks at me and strides from the room in a whirl of wild blond curls and cowboy boots.

I glance at Lorne, trying to get a read on his reaction to her. “She’s…different.”

“She’s a vegetarian,” he says, as if that explains everything. He holds out the joint between two long fingers, his voice void of emotion. “This’ll help with the pain.”

Is he actually showing a glimpse of concern?

I don’t know why that makes me soften. Maybe because I really want these aches to go away, and he seems to understand that.

Accepting the herb, I lift it to my lips. The first draw sets my throat on fire, and I hack out a lung. I used to steal my mom’s cannabis when I was a kid, but that was forever ago.

After a few more attempts, I get the hang of it, pulling in the pungent smoke, holding it in my chest, and slowly releasing it.

He cracks the window and reclines in the chair, glaring at me like it’s a completely normal thing to do. As I smoke down half of the joint, I glance between him, the window, the floor, back at him. He really knows how to make a person feel awkward.

“Why did you call Maybe for help?” He holds himself unnaturally still, moving only his lips.

“She offered.” I shrug and flinch at the pain that small movement produces. “Two years ago, she visited John and gave me her phone number. Or rather, she gave it to him but—”

“I know how she did it. Why not call the cops? Or family? Someone you know?”

My heart collapses beneath a deluge of irreparable mistakes. “I have no one.”

“No family?” His gaze dips to my throat.

“No.” I touch the leather choker that holds his attention, and my shoulders loosen.

My Cherokee grandmother made me the necklace before she died. The leather connects to a silver ring at the base of my throat, and a web of woven wire with a turquoise bead at the center fills the hoop.

My ancestors believed these dream catchers warded off the badness in the air. There used to be three silver feathers dangling from mine. I must’ve lost them during one of John’s rampages.

Heaviness seeps into my muscles and desensitizes my brain. The devil’s cabbage—as my grandmother used to call it—is doing its job, the medicated high magnified by the sadness creeping around my armored walls.

Stoned and despondent. A terrible combination in the company of this man.

“I’m gonna go.” I hand him the roach.

He crushes it out on the bottom of his boot and returns it to the tin box. “Tell me why you’re avoiding the cops.”

A rush of lightheadedness bears down on me. My face loses feeling. The room spins, and my insides threaten to heave.

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