Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 79

“He’s gone. We need to move.”

I blinked again. Where were we? Then the danger we were facing sunk in and I sat upright with a start but found myself clumsy and stiff.

He grabbed my upper arm. “He’s gone and they’ve headed south. Our plan worked. Partially thanks to Muffy.”

Crocker had sent Deputy Miller after her. Which meant that my vision about them had come true. I sent a silent prayer of thanks. “So we need to keep going?”

“Yeah.” He sounded worried. “How are you feeling?”

“Sleepy and cold.”

“You’re showing signs of hypothermia, but it’ll help if we get you moving. And I’ll give you back the blanket as soon as we’re off this cliff.”

We scooted to the edge. Getting down was going to be more difficult than climbing up had been, especially with my new lack of coordination.

Mason turned and lowered his legs before dropping to his feet. I mimicked him and he grabbed my waist, helping me steady my feet. He scrambled down the loose rocks, holding my hand to help guide me down.

“Do we have to go down the other hill we climbed?”

“No, not yet. We can walk along this ridge for a while.”

My feet felt like I was lugging bags of potatoes.

Mason opened his bag and pulled out the two blankets. He draped one around my shoulders, looking into my eyes as he did it. “We’ll try to find a house, like we talked about. We need to get out of the cold.” He slung the bag over his shoulder. After interlacing his fingers with mine, he began to walk. While his hands were cold, they felt warmer than mine and helped me regain some feeling in my fingers.

The hill was flat and mostly covered in pine trees, which helped keep us hidden from down below. After we’d traveled for thirty minutes or so, the land began to slope sideways. I started to slide, but Mason held me tightly to his side.

“I think it’s time to go down.”

He was right, but the incline was steep. As clumsy as I was, I didn’t see how I could get down gracefully.

Mason started the descent first, still holding my hand, but I pulled away. He turned to me in surprise.

“I’ll make us both fall. I have another way.” I offered him a smile in case he was worried I’d lost my mind. “Violet and I used to roam my aunt and uncle’s land, and they had some hills like these. We’d climb up, and then I’d be too scared to climb back down. Violet wasn’t, but she never called me a baby. She would just take my hand and say it was a slide and that we could slide down together.”

“So you plan to slide down on your butt?”

“Yeah. It beats falling flat on my face.”

He shook his head with a grin. “I have a better idea. How about you grab one tree and then reach for another?”

I smirked. “It’s worth a try.”

I reached for a tree several feet beneath me and wrapped my arms around it, picking out which tree to lunge for next.

“So Violet wasn’t always jealous of you?” Mason asked, standing by a tree next to mine.

I nearly slid past the next tree. “No, she used to be my best friend. I guess she always was until I met Neely Kate.”

Mason ran several feet past me and then looked back up at me.

“Show-off.”

“Were you her best friend?”

I lunged for another tree. “I’m not sure. I used to think so, but you know what they say about hindsight.”

“Despite everything, I know she loves you, Rose.”

“I know…” While I knew it was true, I still struggled with her behavior.

“Jealousy makes people do funny things.”

We’d made it down about ten feet with another twenty feet to go.

“She hurt me, Mason. All this time I thought she was helping me, but she was really trying to hold me back.”

“Maybe she thought she was helping you.”

“She’s always insisted that she acts the way she does to protect me. Joe told me that she was hurting me by not letting me face the world on my own two feet.”

Mason held onto the tree next to me, looking into my face. “And which do you think it was?”

I slid down to the next tree. “Maybe a combination. I really don’t think she ever set out to hurt me, at least up until she let everyone believe I’d stolen her money. But before that, I think she thought she was helping.”

“It’s all in the intent, Rose. When I file charges against someone, especially in murder cases, I have to look at the intent.”

“I’m not sure I can ever totally forgive her. We gave up everything for her and she’s still sneaking around and purposefully hurting me.” I reached for the next tree, realizing we only had ten feet left.

Mason followed behind me. “What do you mean we gave up everything for her?”

My mouth dropped open. Why had I let that slip? I couldn’t lie to him, but I didn’t want to hurt him. I hurried down the hill, not stopping between trees.

He reached the bottom before I did. “Rose, who is we?”

Mason deserved the truth, even though I worried about his reaction. “Joe and me.”

He blinked, all expression fading from his face. “What did you give up?”

“Mason, there’s something you don’t know.”

“Obviously.” There was no anger behind the word, but I could see a storm brewing behind his eyes. Not that I could blame him.

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