Home > Ride Steady (Chaos #3)(7)

Ride Steady (Chaos #3)(7)
Author: Kristen Ashley

She stared at him and he had a weird feeling she knew he was lying.

It wasn’t like they didn’t speak.

She said “hey” whenever she’d catch his eyes.

She’d tripped down the stairs when she was a sophomore and he was close so he caught her. She’d laughed, told him she was a klutz, and thanked him for saving her from taking a header. In return, he’d told her it was no problem then he took off.

They’d had a substitute teacher once who was a scatterbrain and kept dropping the chalk, and Carissa caught his eyes in class and rolled hers.

She’d also been in front of him in line at Dairy Queen with her dad once when he was there getting Mrs. Heely a hot fudge sundae and she’d shared that Blizzards with Reese’s Pieces and Cups were the bomb.

There was more, but not enough she’d know he was lying.

Still, she did, and he knew it when she asked, “Are you sure you’re okay?” and he knew she wasn’t asking about his face.

“You heard about Mr. Robinson?”

She did. He saw it move over her expression. Her obvious distress weirdly making her even prettier.

“Yeah,” she said softly. “Sucks. He’s totally awesome. He’d be such a good dad.”

“Yeah,” he agreed.

“So, you’re upset about him?” she asked.

“Who wouldn’t be?” he asked back.

“No one,” she murmured, still eyeing him.

Totally didn’t believe him. There was something more, but he wasn’t saying what.

“I’m good, Carissa,” he said firmly.

“If you say so,” she replied doubtfully.

Her eyes strayed to his car. She opened her mouth but closed it and stared into his car.

He turned his head and saw what she saw. His bag. His stuff. Shit from his house.

He looked back at her just in time for her to curl her hand on his, which was resting on top of the open car door, seeming not to care his knuckles were torn and bloody.

“Carson,” she whispered but said nothing more.

“I’m good, Carissa,” he stated, and it came out firm but it also came out rough.

Because she was touching him.

God, just her hand on his felt good.

“You’ve never been good,” she shocked him by saying. It was quiet but he could tell it was also angry. Her hand squeezed his carefully. “But you will be.”

“Yeah,” he grunted, feeling a lot, too much. Her touch. Her being that close. The knowledge that she’d paid attention to him like he did her. The warmth in her eyes mixed with anger and compassion.

No pity.

He knew why she was there. Her mother was sick. Some treatment that wasn’t working. Everyone was talking about it. It wasn’t looking good.

She’d lost her sister.

She was going to lose her mother.

And she still cheered their team to victory, took his back with her bitch girlfriends, was the most popular girl at school dating the most popular guy (who was still a dick and didn’t deserve her), became homecoming queen with big smiles and was nice to everybody.

She didn’t feel pity. She’d lived through a lot.

She felt something else, because she got it like he did. She got that life could seriously suck.

And that something else was something he liked.

Then again, he liked everything about Carissa Teodoro.

“Good stuff for you out there, Carson,” she said, tipping her head very slightly toward his car, telling him he had her support. Telling him she agreed with what he was doing. Telling him she didn’t think he was weak. Pathetic. A loser. Lame. Telling him she thought something else entirely. “Good stuff. A good life. A beautiful life. You’ll get it. I know it. Because you deserve it.”

Not knowing what else to say, he muttered, “Thanks.”

“I’m picking up my mom, but after I drop her off at home, do you want… I mean, are you in a hurry?”

After asking that, she grinned at him.

His world ended.

Right there, his world was done. Because there was nothing that would be better than Carissa Teodoro standing a foot away with her hand warm on his, grinning up at him.


“We could go have a Blizzard before you go,” she finished.

“Gotta get where I’m goin’.”

It killed him, but that was his response.

This was because she was not his to have.

She was golden. Nothing beat her. She smiled through pain and made you believe it.

He’d just kicked his father in the face after beating the shit out of him because he was done getting his ass kicked for anything, much less something as stupid as an oil stain on the garage floor.

That was his life. That was him.

That meant he had no business having a Blizzard with Carissa Teodoro.

She didn’t need the darkness that gathered inside him, bigger and bigger every day. Darkness he had to fight back so it didn’t black him out.

She needed to stay golden.

And Carson Steele had no idea in that moment as the darkness swept through him that, in turning down that Blizzard, he’d made the biggest mistake of his life.

And he’d changed the course of hers in a way that he would have bled to have stopped it. Bled until he was dry so she could have better.

In that moment, in the parking garage outside Swedish, she was disappointed. She didn’t hide it.

But she did curl her fingers tighter on his and lean in.

She smelled like flowers.

“Okay, Carson,” she said softly. “Go after your beautiful life.”

He cleared his throat, pulled his hand from under hers, and muttered, “Will do.”

Her grin became a smile.

Then she proved him wrong.

His world hadn’t ended a minute earlier.

It ended then, when she leaned in, going up on her toes, lifting her hand to curl it on his shoulder as she reached high to touch her lips to his cheek.

He stood stock-still.

“Later,” she whispered into his ear, let him go, and turned. He watched, motionless, as she did that thing she did, skip-walking, her skirt bouncing side to side, her hair swinging, so full of energy and life even after losing her sister, even while losing her mother, she couldn’t just put one foot in front of the other like normal people.

He watched her until she disappeared into the stairwell.

Then he changed his plans.

He didn’t hightail it out of Denver.

He slept in his car. He went to school the next day, doing it late, walking through the empty halls, heading straight to Carissa Teodoro’s locker.

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