Page 4 of Tripping on a Halo

Everyone smiled at him. It was annoyingly difficult to protect a man who attracts people from every direction. What if one of them was a stalker? A killer? A vengeful ex-girlfriend who wanted to cut off his ears and store them in a jar in her kitchen cabinet?

“He can still file a restraining order against you. And I don’t have to tell you what that might do to your trust evaluation.”

“I haven’t done anything to him,” I pointed out, twisting off the lid to a bottled water and popping two Excedrins in my mouth.

“Except be creepy. Super duper creepy.”

“I’m not creepy. I’m… watchful.” I don’t bring up my fear—that something terrible is going to happen to Declan if I don’t protect him. Whenever I mention words like ‘premonition’ or ‘guardian angel’ she turns super weird on me. I can’t exactly blame her. It does sound absolutely psychotic, if you aren’t in my shoes, straddled with fears of an architect’s death, and struggling with the piercing onsets of doom I feel.

The truth is, something was going to happen to Declan Moss. Something terrible. Something deadly. Something I could stop.

The traffic ahead of me cleared, like a sign from God that I was right, this was meant to be, and I better hurry, dammit. I pressed the gas a little too aggressively and almost plowed into a Jeep.

“I’m following you,” Ansley announced, like that would sway me from anything.

“Suit yourself.” I waved the water bottle in the air in a nonchalant way I hoped was visible four cars back. “I’m sure Caleb doesn’t need to be picked up from the babysitter.”

“I’m booking you an appointment with Roger. Next Tuesday. He has an opening at three.”

“I’m not talking to Roger. Dr. Eaton’s got me covered. One shrink is enough for me. And if I did go—which I’m not—I’d have to tell him you’ve been thinking about John Diaggolo’s penis.”

She sputtered out a string of broken sentences. “I haven’t—I don’t—I told you that six years ago.”

“And God, I still remember how beautiful you said it was. Veiny, right? Like a Coke can, I think that was the analogy you used. It scarred me, envisioning it. Envisioning it corrupting my sweet older sister. Maybe I do need to talk to someone about it. Thank God he has an opening. I really need to work through the entire thing in my—”

“Just STOP.” She swore under her breath. “Fine. Jesus! I swear to God, I’m never drinking around you again.”

I smiled. “I love you.”

“You don’t. You hate me, and you’re proving it by heading downtown in this traffic.”

I watched as she changed lanes, heading for her turn, and I lifted a hand in a wave. “Give Caleb a hug for me.”

She growled into the phone, ended the call, and I swigged the last bit of the water.

Where was I? Oh yes.

I am grateful for my sister and all that she brings to my life.

4

This man was giving me a headache. I rubbed my temples and coaxed the stubborn muscles to unclench my brain.

Oblivious to my discomfort, Dr. E kept talking. “Let’s talk about your mother.” The shrink linked his fingers and examined me in the bored manner of someone halfway into a really long Wednesday. He probably kept someone in his garage, chained up by their ankles, and—instead of cutting them up in tiny bits like a normal psychopath—peppered them with questions about their childhood motivations for drawing stick families. At least my crazy was bright and obvious, and celebrated in glorious fashion. His breed—that of manipulation and observation—came with a giant price tag and the ability to yank my trust away.

And that’s really why I was here. Not to talk about my mother, or my obsession with Declan Moss (though he loves to talk about both) but because my competency has to be verified before I receive my trust. And Johnson, Platt, and Falk—the pencil pushing pricks that control it—won’t loosen those purse strings until this fart-knocker signs off on my sanity. I’ve got five more quarterly sessions to suffer through, though my enjoyment levels have increased dramatically since he added a bowl of Tootsie Rolls to the center of his coffee table.

I sighed, examining the strap of my purse, and waited him out.

Dr. Eaton hated silence. I realized this on our second appointment. His MO was to sit mute and wait for me to expel verbal vomit, but if I did the same thing? His pen started tapping and he’d eventually break by repeating my name, then moving on to another question.

“Autumn?” Dr. Eaton cleared his throat. Step 1, complete.

I stretched out my toes and examined my nail polish, freshly applied during last night’s Forensic Files marathon. The color was called Pumpkin Carousel and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, a black jelly base with orange, green, purple and teal holographic glitters throughout it. Also, if I shifted my toes upward in the right light, you could see a gold glittery sheen that shifted green. Dr. Eaton seemed unimpressed by their kaleidoscope of activity, his pen tapping with homicidal insistence upon the page. I decided to put him out of his misery.


Tags: Alessandra Torre Romance
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