Part 82

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I offered to make her breakfast, but Caitlin said she wasn't all that hungry. She kept quiet as I helped her dress in some new clothes she'd bought yesterday, so we could both hear Chris crashing dishes around in the sink. I was more than happy to avoid the kitchen until Chris was out of it, but Caitlin insisted she wanted to speak to her. I grabbed the wet towels to hang them outside, telling Caitlin she could call me in if she needed anything. So I was outside with a clear view into the kitchen when she walked in.

Chris couldn't miss Caitlin entering the kitchen this time, a beacon of glowing white as the bright sunlight touched her t-shirt, but my sister didn't let on. Caitlin turned the kettle on and began hunting through the cupboards.

"He's not even making you breakfast?" Chris said suddenly over her shoulder, not looking at Caitlin.

Caitlin glanced at her, then looked away. "No, I talked him out of it."

She stared at her in surprise. "How did you manage that? It's difficult to talk him out of anything."

Caitlin laughed, her face lighting up in that irresistible way she had. "Difficult? He's as stubborn as a mule!"

Chris broke into a smile. "Well, yes." She laughed, too.

Caitlin stuck out her hand. "I'm Caitlin. Nathan seemed too preoccupied to introduce me before." Though she tried to hide it, her hand still hurt her and I saw her wince as the pressure of Chris's handshake bordered on painful.

"I'm Chris, his sister, as you've probably already been told." She saw the look on Caitlin's face. "Shit, are you all right?"

"No, but I will be one day," Caitlin said pleasantly as she pulled her hand away.

At that, Chris pushed Caitlin down onto one of the chairs and made coffee for her.

When Caitlin protested, Chris said bluntly, "It still hurts you to walk, doesn't it?"

"Not as much as it did at first, but it still does, a bit," she admitted reluctantly. My heart constricted in my chest – she tried so hard not to let the pain show, but I knew.

"Does he even know?" Chris said, half under her breath. "Look, I don't know what you've been through, what they've done to you or anything. Just don't assume he's some kind of Prince Charming because he rescued you. He's nowhere near perfect – he'll probably just end up hurting you, breaking your heart. He's good at that." She sounded bitter.

I frowned. What in hell does she know about broken hearts? I've never hurt anyone. I'd never hurt Caitlin…

"Do you think badly of me for staying last night?" Caitlin asked her quietly.

"No, it's him –" she broke off, then passionately began again. "What you want to do is your business, and you're not the first." Caitlin tried to say something, but Chris went on. "Not the first girl he's ever brought home, I mean. He'd come in late, not alone, and she'd be gone by morning. I've never seen – or heard – the same girl twice, except when they called to try to get in contact with him again."

I hid my smile. Alanna used to deal with those phone calls – some mad girls I'd slept with, who thought we had a future, though I'd made it perfectly clear there wouldn't be one. I was just that good in bed that they wanted more. It wasn't my fault they weren't up to par. Alanna used to give me an earful about it afterwards. Maybe Chris had heard it once or twice.

"It's been a long time since he brought anyone home, but I'd have thought he'd know better than to seduce you, or play on what he did for you – after all you've been through, you don't need him to hurt you as well!" Chris looked fiercely at me outside and I pretended to be very busy with the towels.

Chris sat down at the table by Caitlin, handing her a coffee. There was silence for a few minutes while they both drank.

Caitlin broke it. "I'm the same age as you. He told me about you, so I knew." When? When had I told her about Chris?

"Just don't let him hurt you," Chris repeated, staring at Caitlin as though she could see bruises. Oh hell, is there a mark where the needle went in? Is she looking at her fingers? I swear the swelling's gone down…

Preoccupied, I didn't notice that Caitlin had been silent, her head bowed. "He said he never wanted to see me hurt." Her voice shook.

When I'd said that, she'd been unconscious in hospital. What else is she remembering? This can only end in tears. I swore and headed inside.

Chris had pushed a box of tissues across the table to her, but Caitlin hadn't noticed. The tears just kept on coming.

I took one look at Caitlin's face and dropped to my knees next to her, arms around her, letting her cry against me.

"What did you say to her?" I demanded of Chris.

"I...I don't know." She sounded puzzled, and I looked up to see her staring at Caitlin, a look of astonishment on her face.

Caitlin stretched her arm out to take a tissue and used it. "I don't think I want breakfast any more. I want to go home."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"I'll be right," Caitlin said fiercely, to herself as much as to us.

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