I couldn’t respond or breathe. My thoughts were on a loop. I don’t know you. I don’t know you. Over and over…I don’t know you.
When he put me down, I had to fight the urge to run away. Over his shoulder, my mom watched us, squeezing the gold around her wrists.
The front door opened behind her, and my brother strolled in. Sweat plastered his hair to his cheeks. An iPod hung from his fingers. Behind him was Carson. My chest did a weird leap, and I stepped back, tripping over my own feet.
Del caught my arm, steadying me with a rich laugh. “You’re so jumpy.”
“I wonder why,” muttered Scott, eyeing us.
Carson had his baseball cap pulled down low, shielding his extraordinary eyes. All I could see was the tight-lipped smile he gave my mom. “Hey, Del,” Carson said.
Del gave him a curt nod.
“Boys, why don’t you go down to the basement?” Mom shooed them toward the stairs. “I don’t care what you sweat on down there.”
My gaze was fixed on Carson, even as Del dropped an arm around my shoulders. Scott bumped his best friend as they shuffled past us. I lowered my eyes, unable to shake the feeling I’d been caught doing something bad.
“Carson, can you tell your father I need to see him first thing Monday morning?” Mom’s voice carried through the large house. “The trees around the pool house need to be cut back….”
Del laughed, shaking his head. “I don’t know why your brother hangs out with Carson.”
I lifted my head, frowning. “I guess he likes him.”
“They have nothing in common.” Del took my hand, leading me through the archway toward the small rec room that I liked. Maybe I had liked that room before, and he knew that. Hope sparked. He sent a devilish grin over his shoulder.
I started to smile back, thinking I liked his grin.
“Has Carson been hanging around here a lot?” he asked, pulling me down on the couch beside him, holding my hand.
“I really don’t know.” I glanced down at our joined hands. His was so much larger. “He was here on Friday, but…”
“You don’t remember. Right.” He squeezed my hand. “I keep forgetting that. Oh, I almost forgot this.” He let go of my hand and stood, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a tiny, flat blue box. “I wanted to give this back to you.”
“Back to me?” I took the gift box, sliding my finger under the lid.
“Yeah, you…you left it at my place before you…well, before everything happened.” He looked away, swallowing. “I put it back in the box for you.”
Removing the lid, I picked up the piece of cotton. A silver chain peeked out, and at the end was a crooked heart. Tiffany’s. I knew a damn Tiffany’s box when I saw one, but I didn’t know the boy who’d given it to me. “I’ve worn this?”
Del nodded, taking the box and setting it aside. “Nothing about this necklace seems familiar?”
I shook my head. “Why did I take it off?”
His lashes lowered, shielding his eyes. A long second passed before he responded. “You wanted…to take a shower.”
“Why did I want to take a shower at your place?”
Del’s brows pinched, and a flush stained his cheeks. “You didn’t want to go back to your house without showering, because we’d…”
My gaze dropped to the heart, and understanding slowly crept in. “We’ve had…sex?”
He rubbed the bridge of his nose and nodded.
Heat swept over my cheeks and down my neck. We’d had sex, and I didn’t even remember. “Was that my first time?”
Del shook his head, blowing a little breath. “No. We’ve been dating for several years, Sammy.”
I wasn’t sure what was worse: having this epically awkward conversation or not even remembering my first time with him. Hands shaking, I clasped the silver chain around my neck. The slight weight felt unbearably heavy for some reason. A tide of frustration rolled over me, itching under my skin. How could I not remember any of this? Tears built behind my eyes, and the urge to run kicked me in the stomach again.
“It’s okay.” Del forced a smile. “Your parents warned me that you wouldn’t remember anything. And you don’t, right? Not even the night you disappeared?”
My knees felt weak as I stood. “I don’t remember anything. I had to ask my mom yesterday when my birthday was.” I let out a choked laugh as I faced him. “The doctor says I might get my memories back, though.”
He shifted on the couch, his eyes deepening until they were almost as dark as his pupils. “Is there anything I can do to help?” His voice turned serious. “Because I’ve always had your back, Sammy, and I always will.”
I frowned, thinking that was a strange way to put things.
“Anything?” he prodded again.
Doubtful. But as I stared at him longer, I realized that maybe he could. “I saw you the night I disappeared?” When he nodded, excitement hummed like that rapid beat of hummingbird wings. This was a start. “What were we doing besides…?”
“It was late Saturday night, and we were just hanging out and talking. Among other things,” he added with a grin, “we were watching old videos of my baseball games.”
Stimulating. “Do you know when I left?”
“It was around nine. I wanted us to go hang out with Trey, but you got this text.”
“Wait. Who’s Trey?”
Del leaned back, kicking his feet up on the coffee table. I didn’t even have to remember my mom to know she’d freak if she saw that. “Trey is a good friend of mine. He was Cassie’s boyfriend, but they broke up a few days before…she went missing.”
“She had a boyfriend?” I sat beside him, eager to learn more.
He nodded. “They fought. A lot. Their arguments were pretty much a source of entertainment to everyone.”
“Did we fight?”
“No. Never,” he said quickly. “We had—have a perfect relationship.” He leaned over, brushing his lips over my cheek. “Just like our parents.”
Warning bells went off. From what I’d seen, my parents did not have a perfect relationship. Since I came…came home, I hadn’t even seen them touch or even be in the same room together longer than a few minutes. I fiddled with the silver heart. “So…I got a text, and I left?”
“Yeah.” He sat back. Disappointment pulled at his lips, and I felt as if I’d done something wrong. “I think it was from Cassie, but you didn’t say. You left my house mad.”