Rival Page 79

Which Mrs. Caruthers? I felt like asking, but I resisted. No one would know about our marriage yet, and our parents had to find out from us and no one else if we were going to be taken seriously.

“Officers,” I assured, “these are family issues. I would never have touched my stepmother. Fallon is here of her own free will, and there is no problem.”

“Mr. Caruthers,” the male cop started. “We know who your father is—”

But then all hell broke loose. A woman and her cameraman rushed up behind the police officers and stuck a microphone between them in my direction. I reared back, and Fallon grabbed my hand.

“Madoc Caruthers?” the woman shouted, stumbling into the cops. “Son of Jason Caruthers? Are you having an affair with your stepsister? Her mother claims you kidnapped her?”

My f**king heart lodged like a baseball in my throat, and I couldn’t breathe.

Motherfucker! Shit!

I swallowed, looking down at Fallon.

“Now, that’s enough!” one of the officers growled, both turning around and holding up their hands to shield us from the intrusion.

What the hell? My dad was a big deal, but not that big of a deal. Someone had to have tipped these people off.

The female cop kept her voice calm. “Let’s get this under control. You’re interfering with police business.”

“Is he holding you against your will?” The reporter shook her brown bangs out of her eyes, looking intense and determined.

I leaned over to grab the door to close it, but Fallon barked.

“Stop,” she ordered. “He’s not Mr. Caruthers. And he’s not holding me against my will, for Christ’s sake! And we’re not having some sordid relationship. He’s my . . .”

Oh, no.

“. . . husband!” she finished.

I closed my eyes, wincing, and let out a low groan.

Shit. Fuck. Son of a bitch.

I shoved Fallon back, grabbed the door, and slammed it shut, hearing the cops ordering the reporter and her cameraman away.

Locking the door, I slid down the wall next to it and crashed to my ass.

Knees bent, I rested my forearms on them and banged my head against the wall once.

“Awesome.” I breathed in and out, barely noticing that Fallon stayed where I’d pushed her out of the way.

My fists clenched, and I was sure my face was beet red. I felt stupid. Why did I always underestimate Patricia?

“Oh, my God,” she finally said, looking dazed. “That was creepy. My mother’s insane.”

“No, she’s smart,” I said flatly. “We just made the news and embarrassed my father.”

Her head fell, and she walked over and sat down next to me.

“Madoc, I’m sorry. I panicked.”

I put my arms around her. “It’s okay. I guess we don’t have to worry about making the rounds to the parents anymore.”

Everyone—and I mean everyone—was going to know I was married by the time they went to sleep tonight. There would be no end to the texts and calls for a while as my family and friends would all want to know what was going on.

“How did they know we were here?” she asked.

“I registered under my name.” I sounded less embarrassed than I actually was. “Your mom wouldn’t have had to work too hard to find us if she found out we weren’t at school.”

Her chest fell hard. “That’s going to be on the eleven o’clock news.”

“And it’ll be on the Internet in about five minutes. Media outlets have to compete with the speed of Facebook, after all. They’ll have that loaded up in no time.”

I sat there, quiet and stunned, trying to figure out what to do next.

“Look at me,” she urged.

I did and fell back into the comfort of her green eyes.

“We can’t stay here,” she stated. “Where should we go?”

Leaning my head back, I licked my lips, thinking.

Fallon and I did nothing wrong. We weren’t running away just so we could have a mini-honeymoon. And we weren’t starting our marriage fearing our parents’ wrath. If we wanted to be respected as adults, then we had to face the music.

I stood up, pulling her after me. “Home,” I said. “We’re going home.”

• • •

It was about ten o’clock by the time we rolled into the driveway at my house. The pitch-black sky exploded with stars, and the conifer trees Addie had had planted so that we could have green all year bent with the light wind.

The cops had come back to our room for a few remaining questions.

Yes, Fallon and I are married. Here’s the signed license.

No, I did not kidnap her, of course. See? No bruises, and she’s smiling.

Yes, I threatened my stepmom, and I’m using the “daddy” card on this one. You can’t touch me, because I’m Madoc Caruthers.

Now, please go. We’re honeymooning.

They left, we showered and got presentable, and we drove the hour it took to get to Shelburne Falls.

“Wait,” I ordered when Fallon started to open her door.

Getting out and rounding the front, I let her out of the car, took her hand, and walked side by side with her to the front step.

I took her chilled face in my hands. “We’re not raising our voices, and we’re not apologizing.”

She nodded and together we entered the house.

The foyer and all of the rooms off it were dark, and the house hummed with only the sounds of clocks ticking and heat pouring out of the vents. The smell of grilled steaks and leather hit me, and I immediately felt at home. It’s what my house always smelled like.

Prev Next