Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 27

Anger contorted his face. “And you don’t think it kills me to think of you with Jonah Pruitt of all people? How could you, Rose? Jonah Pruitt,” he spat. “And what the hell is going on between you and Mason?”

I shoved his arm off my waist. “I don’t owe you an answer. Not after I found out about you and Hilary, but I’m going to tell you anyway: I’m not sleeping with Jonah Pruitt. He’s my friend and he’s my therapist. There’s nothing between us.”

He jolted and seemed dazed. “And Mason?”

I shook my head, anger seeping into my words. “That is none of your business.”

“So you’re with him.”

“I’m with no one. No one. I could hardly breathe when you left me, Joe. I struggled to get up every morning and survive. How could I possibly consider being with someone else before now?”

He looked like I’d shot him.

“But I’d like to thank you. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to see you today, but now I know. I needed closure and you’ve definitely given me that. Now I can move on without feeling guilty.”

His eyes pleaded with me. “Rose, I love you.”

“Do you? I thought so, but now I’m not so sure. I think you love the escape from your family that I seemed to offer. But you’re not strong enough to stay away from them and I’m obviously not reason enough.”

He grabbed me again and buried his face in my hair. “No, Rose. No. I love you more than I’ve loved anyone in my whole life. But I’m not as strong as you. Without you everything seems hopeless and pointless.”

I closed my eyes and tried to keep from crying. Could I blame him for what he’d done? We were over and he was lonely. But Hilary? I took a step back. “No. I could forgive you for anyone else, but not her. Not after my vision, and not after what happened to Savannah. How could you, Joe? Hilary’s partially responsible for her death.”

His hands clenched at his sides. “Go ahead and finish it. Who else is responsible?”

“You,” I choked out. “You. And I could forgive you for that too, even though you destroyed Mason in the process—” I shook my head. “But I can’t forgive this.”

“So that’s it? We’re just over?”

“We were already over. You told me that we were over when you walked out my door. Has anything changed? Has your father taken back his threat?”

He closed his eyes and turned away. “No.”

“There’s nothing to discuss. We’re done.”

He turned back to me, his eyes pleading. “How can you say that? I gave up everything including you to save you!”

I fought to catch my breath. “I know. And I’ll always be grateful for that. But why are you set on destroying your entire life? I can’t accept responsibility for that. You have to.” I looked up at the ceiling, trying not to cry. “I have to go.”

“Don’t leave me, Rose. I’m begging you.”

“I can’t do this, Joe. I can’t. I can’t be with you after you’ve been with her. Can’t you see? I would never be able to trust you. I’d always be waiting for you to go back to her.” I turned around and walked toward the door.

“What about Daniel Crocker?”

I stopped but didn’t face him. “What about him?”

“He’s going to be out for revenge. I want to protect you.”

I slowly spun around. “The state police think he’s in Shreveport.”

“But they don’t know that for sure, do they?”

“No.”

“You’re unprotected.” He took several breaths and I could see he was trying to work out a plan.

“No. I’m not.”

His jaw clenched.

“I have Mason. Just like I did a month ago when he stopped Jonah’s mother from shooting me. And last July when he scared away Jimmy DeWade after he attacked me in my house. Mason’s there for me now, just like he’s always been.”

Before Joe could answer, I unlocked the door and opened it, a dozen pairs of prying eyes focused on me.

Hilary stood two feet on the other side of the curtain and if looks could kill, I’d have a dozen knives in my back. I offered her a grim smile. “He’s all yours. I wish you a very happy life together, but somehow I find that unlikely.”

Her mouth dropped open, then she recovered and disappeared into the back.

Violet held Muffy, smiling sweetly and talking to a cameraman, but her smile faded as her gaze turned to me. I could see she was dying to ask what happened, but there was only one person I wanted to see right now. He was standing in the back corner where I’d left him. I moved through the crowd and slipped my hand into his.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Eight

“What about Muffy?” Mason asked as he led me to his car.

“I told my niece Muffy could have a sleepover with her tonight. I was supposed to leave her with Violet anyway.”

He nodded as he opened the passenger door and shut the door behind me before getting in and starting the car. He stayed silent until he’d pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street. “Are you okay?”

“Surprisingly better than expected.” I couldn’t believe it was true. I felt badly for Joe, but I had realized something in that back room. He had spent his life making messes and then scrambling to clean them up. While he’d told me that very thing, seeing firsthand proof of it was eye-opening and freeing.

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