Dirty Daddies

Page 33

I don’t knock, just charge on in and expect to find a war breaking out, but it looks as though it’s already happened.
Muddy boot prints everywhere, and oh fuck how I cringe inside. I stare open-mouthed at the state of the living room, cursing as I spot the smashed frames on the mantelpiece.
I’m calling his name as I charge down the hallway, following the boot prints through to the kitchen and on through again to the dining room.
I take a breath as I find them, my heart thumping with the relief that she hasn’t gone running. Not yet, anyway.
“I can explain,” I begin, but Jack’s face looks like thunder. “This isn’t Carrie’s fault.”
“Which fucking bit of it?” he snaps, and I cringe again as I notice this room has hardly fared better than the others.
Carrie’s voice is breathy when she speaks. “I tried to save a crow. His leg was stuck in a fence. He freaked out, flew everywhere.”
I try to take in the story, breaking out in a cold sweat when I notice Jack’s sculpture is missing from the top of the display cabinet. I notice the brush and the pan full of glass at his feet and the furniture polish in Carrie’s hand.
Oh God, no.
“I’ll pay for the damage,” I say, and Jack sneers at me.
“Yeah, just PayPal me your retirement fund, why don’t you?”
Carrie looks on blankly and I hope he doesn’t elaborate and tell her how expensive that ornament was.
He doesn’t.
“This is so fucking out of order,” he snaps and I nod because it is.
“I’m sorry,” I say, which is the truth of it. “I was in a corner. I was trying to do the right thing.”
“The right thing would have been to book her into a fucking hotel, Mike. The right thing would have been to let me know you’re using my fucking house as emergency accommodation. The right thing would have been to fucking tell me you found her in the fucking first place.”
I nod through all of it. Yes, yes and more yes.
I feel like a fucking idiot, more off the rails than even I fully realised.
“It isn’t his fault,” Carrie offers and her simple defence makes my heart pang.
“It is my fault,” I counter. “This was my decision, Carrie didn’t ask to come here.”
“The crow’s your fault,” Carrie tells Jack and I will her to shut up before she talks herself into a bigger hole than we’re in already. “You need to fix your fucking fence. It’s dangerous.”
It’s a three way stand-off, all of us staring and nobody speaking a word.
Jack’s pissed, his shoulders rigid and his eyes dark as he looks from one of us to the other, but he hasn’t called the police, and Carrie is still standing here, still staying put amongst the chaos.
I gesture her toward me. “I’ll book you into a hotel in Coleford. You’ll be safe there. Get your things and wait in the car for me, I’ll be out just as soon as I’ve finished up talking to Jack.”
She dithers, and it breaks my heart that she doesn’t want to leave here, not even with Jack on the warpath.
I hand her the car keys and she heads for the kitchen without argument. It’s a first.
“Wait,” Jack says, and we both look at him. “Coleford?! What the fuck is there for her in fucking Coleford?”
I shrug. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to book her a room in town.”
I’m thinking of her hobbling through the night on a mission to escape something. I’m thinking about her running when she bumps into Bill and Rosie, or drinking herself unconscious with Eddie Stevens just as soon as he realises she’s back.
“I don’t want to stay in Coleford,” she says and her eyes are wide as they crash into mine. “I want to stay with you.”
Jack groans. He turns a full circle with his hands in his hair and then he points a finger between us. “Is this a thing?”
“A thing?” I ask, but Carrie’s already nodding.
I forget what little filter she has.
“It’s not a thing,” I say, even though it pains. Carrie looks as though I’ve struck her all over again, and that pains worse. I sigh as I look at her. “I care about you,” I say. “Very much. But this can’t be a… thing, Carrie. It wouldn’t be right.”
Her cheeks flush, her mouth closed tight as she hugs her arms around herself. I’d give anything to touch her, but I can’t.
“Well?” Jack asks. “Is it a fucking thing or isn’t it?”
I shake my head. “Christ, Jack. You know me. Do you even need to ask?”
“Of course I need to fucking ask,” he says. “And I need to know what the fuck you’re planning on doing from here.”
It’s the tone of his voice – the edge of interest under the anger. The hair on the back of my neck bristles, my blood running cold.