Page 18 of Don't Look Back

A cool breeze picked up a few strands of my hair, tossing them across my face. I shivered and hunkered down in my sweater.

I’m not crazy.

Didn’t Mrs. Messer say that the memories could come back in the form of disjointed images? Images that screamed at me—that bled? A horrible thought struck me. What if the image of Cassie bleeding had been a recollection of something I saw that night? But why would she yell those things at me? There was no answer to that, because I didn’t know what my life was like before Wednesday. And then there were the two notes. The last one talked about blood…and then I saw a bleeding Cassie? I knew the notes weren’t imaginary. Scott had read one. Someone had to be placing them there. To scare me? To warn me?

What pictures?

Surrounded by birds chirping and the dragging swoosh of bare branches rubbing together, I realized another terrible thing. Missing best friend or not, I didn’t want any part of my old life back. I didn’t want to remember the terrible things I’d said and done, but I suppose it didn’t matter. Even if I couldn’t remember who I was, everyone else would never forget. No matter how badly I wanted to ignore the person I used to be, I couldn’t escape a past I didn’t remember.

I must’ve been so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t realize someone had joined me in the little tree hut until I heard the wood creak and groan behind me.

My heart jumped in my throat, then skipped a beat when I turned and saw him sit down beside me. “Carson?”

“You know, you could’ve picked a more comfortable place to hang out. I doubt this place is entirely safe.”

Several moments passed before I could find the ability to say something other than his name. “I didn’t mean to be up here so long.”

“I figured as much.” He tilted his head toward me, eyes shadowed.

I scrubbed my eyes, fighting a yawn. “What time is it?”

“Almost nine thirty.” Carson paused. “Everyone is looking for you. Your parents—Scott and Del. They’re combing the whole town.”

“And you found me?”

Carson laughed. The sound was nice, deep, and warming. I had this impression that I didn’t get to hear him laugh a lot. “I know. It’s a shocker, huh? I was kind of surprised you were in the tree house. No one would have thought to check here. And it was really a last-ditch effort on my part.”

Warmth crept through me as I stared at his half-shadowed face. Our gazes locked, and the heady rush of heat spread lower. “Why were you looking for me? You don’t even…”

“Like you?” he supplied, grinning.

“You hate me.”

His brows shot up. “I don’t hate you. I’ve never hated you. You were…just really hard to like sometimes.” He turned back to the night sky, letting out a soft breath. “Why did you come here? Did you remember this place?”

I twisted my chilled fingers together, pleased that at least he never hated me. It was probably the best news I’d heard all day. “I don’t know. I don’t remember it, but I ended up here anyway.”

“The three of us used to play here when we were little,” he explained. “And when you would get in trouble for not going to piano class or dance class, you’d hide here. I bet you haven’t stepped foot in this tree house since you were eleven, though.”

Piano and dance classes? That explained the music box, but that wasn’t what was important. I thought about the coffee trip this morning. “You know a lot about me.”

“We grew up together.” He was quiet for a moment. “You spent a lot of time here. Scott used to dangle you off the ledge.”

I laughed. “That sounds like fun.”

Carson nudged me with his arm. “You loved it. You had this thing about flying. Once you actually jumped out of this thing. Your brother broke your fall. And he broke his arm.”

My lips kept spreading as I stretched out my legs, wiggling my toes in my sneakers. “Was he mad at me?”

“No.” Carson laughed. “He was scared to death you were going to break your neck. Don’t even get me started on the things you used to do on top of the pool shed. Like I said, you had this thing with flying and a daredevil streak. You still kind of do, actually. Scott was telling me a few weeks ago you went bungee jumping, and apparently Del almost pissed himself.”

Instead of laughing, I felt something heavy pressed down on my chest. I turned away. The sky was dark, full of clouds. No stars, and just a glimpse of the moon.

Carson sat up, his shoulder resting against my back. “What is it?”

I glanced over my shoulder, finding our faces inches apart. A sudden wild curiosity consumed me. I wanted to know if his lips felt as soft as they looked. I bet they were firm, sensual. Dispelling the desire, I lowered my gaze. Not hating me didn’t equal wanting to make out with me. “I asked Del what I was like.”

“And?” His breath was warm, tantalizing on my cheek.

“And all he could tell me was that I liked to shop and party.” I sighed. “But after ten minutes with you, now I know I was sort of an adrenaline junkie. That’s better than being the party girl, right?”

He leaned back, putting some distance between us. “You’re more than a party girl, Sam. You’re smart—incredibly smart. I’d be failing bio if you weren’t my partner. And I can’t fail if I want that scholarship, but anyway, you’re also strong. I mean, come on, how many people who have a complete loss of memory would jump right back into their life? You’re tenacious.”

I flushed. “Tenacious?”

“Yeah, it’s my word of the day.”

Twisting around, I grinned at him. “Your scholarship? Where do you want to go?”

“Penn State,” he responded. “If I can keep my grades up, I’ll get a full ride.”

“That’s awesome.”

Carson stared at me, then laughed and shook his head. “You’re planning on going to Yale. That’s pretty awesome.”

My grin faded. “What if I don’t want to go to Yale now?”

He laughed again. “Your parents would freak out, Sam. And seriously, that’s an opportunity you shouldn’t just give up because things…are different now.”

I tucked my feet under me and sat back. He had a point, but I wondered if Yale was ever my dream or more of my parents’ heritage. “Do you still come to the tree house?”