"Let me go, Nathan!" Joe demanded, grabbing the back of Nathan's pants to push herself up so that she could scowl his way.
"Are you going to behave if I do?"
"Yes!" she lied and everyone knew it. She was eager to kick his ass and as much as he'd enjoy a good laugh it probably was for the best if he didn't have a reason to put his hands on her right now.
"Will it make you feel better if I take you out to dinner?" Nathan offered even as he headed for the door.
Joe glared at him for a moment as she thought it over. "Can I have dessert?"
"When the hell did you turn into such a little gold digger?" Nathan demanded, earning a rather cute little eye roll from Joe.
"Don't turn your back on her, Nathan!" he called after them, "or she'll add an appetizer!"
"Are you still mad at me?" he asked as he stepped into the bunkroom and tossed his sleeping bag and backpack on the empty bunk.
She didn't look at him while she jammed the pillow into the pillowcase with more force than he thought was necessary.
"Why would I be mad at you?" she asked mockingly.
He could easily think of five things for her to be pissed at him for. There was getting her pulled out of the Muster competition, getting her ass on light duty, their little fight last week, sending her on a bumpy little joy ride, but the thing that probably pissed her off the most was when he convinced Bill not to allow Joe to switch to a different shift. As long as she was safe, and he made damn sure that she was, he really didn't care if she was pissed at him.
In fact it would probably be for the best if she didn't talk to him for a week or two. That should be more than enough time for them to forget their moment of stupidity and get over it. There was no doubt in his mind that in a month or two they'd be laughing their asses off about what almost happened. That moment couldn't come fast enough for him.
They hadn't spent any time together or spoken in a week and he missed her. He felt so damn lost without her. Being without her was hell and he'd do whatever it took to get them back to where they needed to be, where he needed them to be. He needed to talk to her, touch her and hold her.
For the past week he hadn't been allowed to do any of those things. This past week had been the first time since they were kids that they'd ever really spent any time apart and he'd hated it. Every day the ache in his chest intensified until he didn't think he'd survive another moment without her.
He'd tried calling her, but he only got her voicemail. The few times he swung by to see her hadn't gone well either. After the third time she slammed the door shut in his face he'd gotten a little desperate and bought one of those milkshakes that she was addicted to only to have the little brat snatch it out of his hand before slamming the door shut in his face.
Obviously she needed time and he'd give it to her if it meant that things would go back to the way things used to be. Of course the fact that she couldn't get away from him and was stuck working with him for at least forty hours a week probably had something to do with his calm acceptance of the cold shoulder she was giving him, but whatever. He got to spend time with her and that's all that mattered.
She tossed her bag on the freshly made bed, grabbed a book and threw him a killing glare as she walked past him. He should probably give her some space, he mused, but then again she'd had a week without him. He followed after her, knowing that she'd probably kick his ass, but what the hell, it would be worth it just to see her smile.
"Let me up," she whispered tightly as she struggled to get up, but the big jerk simply tightened his arm around her waist and held her on his lap.
"Hold you tighter?" he asked, sounding put out. "Fine. I suppose I could do that."
Not laughing was one of the hardest things she'd done in a while, but somehow she managed it. She was mad at him, pissed actually and she couldn't believe that he had the nerve to act like nothing was wrong, but this was Eric and they both knew that she couldn't stay mad at him for long no matter how hard she tried.
After what the jerk did she really should stay good and mad at him for a long time, but she just couldn't. She hated the fact that she'd pretty much forgiven him. He cared about her even if he was going about it in a dumb ass way. Instead of talking to her he'd gone the high handed route, but that was Eric and he wasn't going to change and to be honest she didn't want him to.
That didn't mean he got to control her life. He didn't. He may think that he had a say in her life, but he didn't. As much as she appreciated him, Nathan and Alice, she was still very much on her own. She loved them more than anything, but she wasn't their responsibility and sure as hell didn't want them to see her as the burden they got stuck with.
Eric might want to take care of her, but she didn't want to be his responsibility. That was the reason why they'd never moved in together even when they were first starting out in life and sharing an apartment would have made sense. It was the same reason why she worked two mind numbingly boring jobs to pay for EMT training even though Alice and Nathan both offered to pay for it and why she refused to let anyone co-sign with her when she bought her house even though she probably would have gotten a better mortgage if Alice had signed.
Her mother might have been comfortable with leaving everyone else to take care of her responsibility, but she never would be. She liked taking care of herself. She loved knowing that she would never have to depend on another person again for anything as long as she lived.
It was because she could take care of herself that she would never have to worry about coming home only to find her things thrown out because someone didn't pay the bills. She would never have to worry about going hungry or being cold in the winter. She paid her bills, bought her food, had no debt besides her mortgage and had money in the bank for an emergency and paramedic school and last week that had been more than enough to allow her to sleep at night.
Now she was worried. She wasn't sure if it was because of the close call she had or what Eric said, but he had a valid point. Not that she would ever tell him. That would only encourage him and his bossy ways, but she now realized that she needed a backup in case something ever happened that prevented her from working as an EMT.
Her savings were decent and could probably hold her over for eight months, but that wasn't good enough. She never wanted to struggle to pay the bills and she sure as hell didn't want to be put in the situation where she had to take a handout, especially from Alice, Nathan, or Eric, her family. If it ever came to that she would split town, because she just couldn't become someone's charity case.