“A deal’s a deal. Ask away.” Bringing the glass to her lips, she tilted her head back and drank. By now, she was feeling more than a little fuzzy.
“What did you mean when you said that all guys were the same?” he asked. “What do you think we’re like?”
“That’s two questions,” she’s said, holding up two fingers to show him.
He laughed. “Come on, Cameron. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but you have no faith in people. Like none. It’s like you’re always watching for someone to stab you in the back.” Shane started moving around the table, sinking the last remaining pool balls into the corner-pockets as he spoke. “People don’t get like that on their own. They get like that when the world turns cruel.”
Coming closer, he stopped just a few feet away, looking at her intently as he waited for an answer. In his eyes, she could tell he wanted to understand her, and it made her cringe at the thought. “Is there a question buried in all that?”
He thought a minute, wording carefully. “What gave you that inherent suspicion of people?”
“This is a stupid game.” She took one last drink and stood, placing the bottle on her stool.
“It was your idea,” he said.
“Well, I have stupid ideas,” she said, chuckling as the world start to tilt around her. She realized she should’ve taken it a little slower on the drinking and grabbed on to the back of the sofa to steady herself.
“Cameron pulls away,” he announced. “What a shocker.”
Insulted, she turned to face him. “Fine. Let’s just say that my fill-in parents weren’t any better than yours were and my only real friend was a very spoiled guy with questionable ethics and a hot temper. So yeah. I have a little bit of a problem not looking for the knife that’s always headed straight for my back. But what I can’t, for the life of me, understand is why you would care.”
He raised an eyebrow, looking startled and a little impressed by her outburst.
“I thought I had you pegged,” she continued, pointing at him. She could feel her drunken tongue starting to ramble, but couldn’t stop it. “I thought you were that tough party-guy, the player who can’t be tamed. But then, you don’t hit on me, you don’t drink and you’re so concerned with finding out who I am, but who are you, Shane? And why do you care?”
He was quiet, taking all of this in. Finally, he lifted himself to sit on the edge of the pool table, looking down at the floor. “You want to know why I care?” he asked. He just looked at her, those wise and insightful eyes studying her in that same damned way they always did. “It’s because I remember you.”
She blinked. She didn’t see how that was relevant. So what? He’d known her a million years ago, before life had a chance to tear everything away. But before she could question, he started telling a story.
“Sam was babysitting you and Chad,” he started. “And my dad was drunk, my mom was already gone and I just wanted to be anywhere but home, so I went over to your house. I remember we were all playing in the back yard—Simon says or something like that. You and Chad were arguing about the rules.”
Figures, she thought with a snort.
“When all of the sudden, the sheriff pulls up and he wants to talk to Sam. I’m standing there—absolutely mortified—because I just knew my dad was being a dick and said I ran away or something.” He took a short pause, inhaling a breath before continuing. “But it wasn’t about me. It was your parents.”
Suddenly, she felt like a hundred pound weight had dropped onto her stomach. It was like being engrossed into a movie, only to find out halfway through that it was a genre you hated. Who did he think he was, to bring this up so unexpectedly?
“When Sam had to tell you guys,” he shook his head, remembering. “Chad just stood there, totally dazed and you…you just started screaming for your mom. For like five minutes, that’s all you did. It was like…like your mind couldn’t process it and all you could do was scream.” He blinked a few times and she noticed his eyes looked damp.
She just listened, trying to remember this, but there was nothing. That memory was long gone.
“For days after you walked around with this…vacant look in your eyes. I remember thinking…” he cleared his throat, “that you were like me now. One of the lost ones.”
She stared at him, speechless, while her rage faded and something softer started to stir inside her.
“Sam thought that a change of scenery, being around another woman would help.” He looked at her again, his voice quiet. “But here you are…with that same exact look in your eyes.”
She glanced away from him as the feeling inside her started to grow, filling her stomach with an uneasy kind of warmth. She realized it felt remarkably like hope, but she couldn’t be sure. It’d been so long since she’d had anything resembling hope or faith.
“I couldn’t help you then, I was just a kid,” he said. “But now…at least I can try.”
When he said that, she wanted to let him. Part of her wanted to open up the same way he just had, and she realized she could tell him everything if she wasn’t careful. It was so aggravating, the way he could do that to her. She needed to keep her outlook realistic and practical; she didn’t have time to believe in things that were never going to happen.
For instance, when he looked at her with those eyes, when he talked about her the way he did and offered the guidance he did, she found herself daring to believe him. Daring to want more than just one kiss or one night with him. She found herself wanting to be with him every day, to have him encourage her every day and somehow find a way to fix her. But to entertain that idea, to hope for it, was silly. She knew enough to understand that just because something starts out to be good; it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Life could take a dark turn at the most unexpected times and even some of the nicest people could hide dangerous personality traits. And even the most normal seeming person could hide the most twisted secrets.