Chapter 25 - "Were you waiting for us?"

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Carter lay completely still, her mind blank, her thoughts kept at bay by a numbness. A numbness had settled everywhere except for the pain in her chest. Her father's footsteps echoed through the apartment as he moved about, and a second later her door squeaked open.

"Time to get up, Sarge," he said.

Carter made no sign that she had heard him.

"Sarge?" he said, peering down at her.

"I heard you," she said, her voice flat.

Her father waited for her to move, but she didn't. A concerned frown entered his expression, but he said nothing.

"I'll have something for you to eat when you get out of the shower," he said.


The wood was cool under her bare feet, but she barely noticed it. Blindly grabbing her uniform, she headed to the bathroom. The scalding water woke up her body and pushed at the numbness that clung to her.

When she stepped into the living room, her father looked up from his phone. He sat at the dining table, dressed in a black suit, his arm still in its sling. Carter's damp hair hung loose over her shoulders and darkened the navy blue of her blazer. She settled in a seat across from him, a plate of steaming eggs and toast before her.

"We don't eat breakfast," she said. "Unless it's in liquid form."

Her father shrugged and leaned back in his chair. She picked up her fork and started eating. When half the contents on the plate were gone, he spoke.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

At the question, Carter looked up at him, feeling her words of confusion, anger and pain rise into her throat. But they were never voiced. Behind the hint of concern on his face, she noticed the burdened, weary look in her father's eyes. She swallowed the words, forcing them to the back of her mind. She pursed her lips and shook her head, covering up any emotion her expression might show.

"No," she said. "There's nothing to talk about."

Her father shifted forward and Carter read the insistence in his face before he could say it. She rose, cutting off anything he would say.

"We should get going," she said. "Thanks for breakfast."

In silence, they left the apartment and climbed into the car. Neither spoke as they drove, their minds preoccupied with their own troubled thoughts. The voices of the newscasters kept them company as they drove, but neither of the car's occupant heard a word.

Her father stopped the car a few feet from the stone steps of the school. Only a few other cars lined the drive, the hour still early. He turned to Carter and she met his gaze. Behind their eyes they could read the thoughts that neither of them knew how to voice.

"Have a good day," Carter said. "Try not to get shot again. I hear offices can be dangerous places."

The joke lacked heart as did her father's chuckle.

"You too," he said. "Stay out of trouble. I love you, Sarge."

"I love you too, Captain."

Deciding against entering the school, Carter stopped at the low stone wall beside the front doors, she hoisted herself up and sat, her legs dangling, the scent of coffee drifted through the air as students passed her, steaming cups in hand. Blaring music was cut off as engines were stopped and keys pulled from ignitions. The sky was dotted with bleak looking clouds that heralded rain.

A silver Bentley swerved into an open space and Lucas stepped from the driver's seat. His roaming gaze landed on Carter perched on the wall and a smirk cut across his face. A group of guys moved over to him and he greeted them with a nod. Carter remained unfazed by Lucas's entrance, not feeling the need to intimidate him today, her eyes searching for one car only.

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