47. Purple Rain

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Boy, Peyton was pissed off

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Boy, Peyton was pissed off.

I stopped toying with the plastic and rhinestone crown sitting on my lap and stole another glance at him. He drove, windows down, the hot wind blowing through his hair. But his mouth was set in a deep frown, his brows furrowed over the bridge of his nose. He had his left elbow propped across the edge of the window and periodically bit down on the second knuckle of his hand.

"Are you gonna ignore me forever?" I asked.

He stared at me as though I'd grown horns before returning his attention to the road. What was he thinking? No idea.

Panting and flushed, Satan and I had trotted back into the arena to a crowd hushed in reverent silence. Apparently, the Nat Geo choppers had been in the air and had broadcasted the whole thing on the Jumbotron.

A pale and drawn Peyton had been waiting for me in the ring, his mother's cardigan clutched in his hands. When I'd jumped off the horse, he'd wordlessly wrapped the silky cashmere around my shoulders.

The crowd exploded into whistles and applause, but as perspective changing as Satan's ride had been, it wasn't like it altered my personality. Like Jake, I didn't enjoy the spotlight, never will.

Peyton had taken my hand and pulled, his mouth pressed tight in anger. Once we were away from the crowd, he'd let me have it.

I mean, I got why he was upset. I'd have been too, had our roles been reversed. I could only imagine what he must've felt when he saw me walking into that arena. He knew I rode, but not to what extent.

He'd called it a brainless stunt when it was anything but. I wanted to explain, but Peyton didn't ride and would never understand. And I understood that.

Then of course, there'd been the cardigan. While I wasn't necessarily enjoying my state of undress, I wasn't ashamed of it. It was my body and I was free to do whatever I pleased with it. And it certainly wasn't tawdry, something that needed to be hastily covered up.

Either way, while I'd appreciated the concern, gee, what a downer it had been. 

A bug splattered its guts across the windshield. 

"Be happy for me, Peyton, I did good." I said, placing the shitty little crown on my head. I brought my hands to my mouth and rapidly batted my eyelashes, blinking away imaginary tears of joy. "I'm Miss Canyon, Texas! The first and only!"

He tried not to laugh, but he wasn't made of stone. And when he did, the sound of it warmed my soul. Peyton so rarely laughed.

"You're a dork. I am happy for you. You did do good. I'm sorry I reacted badly, it was terrifying to watch you, I was so sure you were going to die."

I reached over and squeezed his arm. 

It's amazing how easy it is to fall back into the rhythm of things when you're with old friends. We caught up on life and I told him about the move, about Gunnar. He didn't say anything for a long time, then offered his financial assistance again. I told him I'd think about it. If Jake didn't come up with something else, I'd take Peyton up on it. I wasn't stupid and I didn't want to die. But it would be my absolute last resort.

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