When he looks over at me the sound stops abruptly. “Why the hell are you looking at me like that?”
I smile and answer honestly. “Because you, Cade Walker, have the sexiest smile I have ever seen, and the most beautiful laugh I have ever heard.”
He shifts uncomfortably. “There is nothing fucking beautiful about me, Red. Never again associate that word with me in the same sentence. And it was more a quiet chuckle than a laugh.”
It definitely was not, but instead of saying that I try to put his wounded male ego at ease. “Okay, sorry, what I meant to say was, your almost quiet chuckle is badass.”
“That’s better.” His lips twitch as I giggle.
Since he seems in a better mood than usual I decide to broach the one thing I’ve been dying to know about him. “Can I ask you something?”
He looks over at me. “You can ask but I can’t promise you I will answer.”
I pause, thinking about his response then nod. “Fair enough.” Clearing my throat, I shift nervously. “Well, I was just wondering… why don’t you believe in God?” I watch him tense and any trace of his earlier easy demeanor completely vanishes. Shoot. Before he misunderstands where I’m going with this, I rush to say, “I’m not judging, I swear. And you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I’m just curious what makes you disbelieve in Him so much.”
He’s quiet for a moment and I wait patiently while he decides if he’s going to answer me or not. To my surprise, he does. “I just don’t. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t believe in shit that can’t be explained.”
I have a feeling it’s more than that. “Some of the best things in life are the unexplainable.”
He turns to me now with irritation in his eyes. “Look around you, Red. If there is a great and powerful God, like so many of you believe, do you really think we would live in a fucked-up world like this?”
I shrug. “I believe we were put on this earth with free will. Why is it His job to fix the mess that others have made? So many people wait for God to change the bad in the world, but I strongly believe it’s Him who’s waiting for us to change it.”
“Oh fuck that!” he snaps harshly. “That’s your old man talking with whatever shit he’s fucking brainwashed you with.”
I try not to let that comment offend me. “I agree that the world we live in can be very ugly, but I also believe the beautiful parts outweigh the bad. There are a lot of cruel people in this world but I strongly believe there are more good ones. That’s why I am here. My father always says…”
“Your father is the worst kind of fucking people out there,” he shouts, interrupting me, fury igniting his eyes like I’ve never seen. “It’s people like him who made up the illusion of God so people would follow him. So he can fucking control them.”
That has my temper spiking. “My father is a pastor, Cade, not…”
“So you think that makes him a good person? You think that because he stands in front of a group of people and preaches a bunch of bullshit that he is automatically good? A fucking minister raped and killed my seven-year-old sister because it was supposedly God’s fucking will!”
Oh my god.
I swallow back the bile that rises in my throat and my heart shatters in a million pieces at the pain in his eyes. I can tell he’s angry about letting that out. He immediately stands up and I try to grab his arm to stop him. “Cade, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…”
“Are you fucking happy now, Faith?” I flinch at the way he sneers my name. “Happy to finally know why I don’t believe in God? It’s people like your father that should be fucking locked up and away from society. Then the world would be a better fucking place!”
I shake my head and tears begin to sting my eyes. “No. That’s not true. My father is a good man. I don’t know who hurt your sister, but I can assure you he was no man of God.”
“Save your fucking preaching for someone who gives a shit. For your sake, Red, I hope one day you wake the fuck up and join reality. The sooner you realize that there is no fucking God, the better off you will be.”
Before I can get in another word, he turns and storms off. I sit stunned and try to absorb what just happened.
A fucking minister raped and killed my seven-year-old sister because it was supposedly God’s fucking will!
Tears begin to stream down my face and my heart breaks for the little girl who never got a chance at life, for the little boy who lost his sister, and for the man that clearly still hurts so much. But most of all, my heart shatters that this is the way our time together has ended, because I know I will never see him again. A sharp pain slices through my chest and my tears flow faster. Why does it feel like I just lost something I never even had?
The next night I walk up the familiar trail I didn’t think I would ever step foot on again, and look up at the dreary sky that’s about to dump rain any second.
“Watch her not even be here,” I mutter to no one. Hell, what am I saying? Of course she will be, only because of the kid though, not for me. And I don’t blame her. My chest constricts with guilt when I think about the way I lost it on her last night. I still can’t believe I told her about my sister. What is it about her that fucks with my judgment?
I know I shouldn’t come back, but after finding the kid I want to let her know that he is okay. And, if I’m being honest, I also want to see her one more time. I leave tomorrow, and for some reason the thought of not seeing her again has my heart pounding with fucking panic.
It pisses me off that after years of nothing but numbness some redheaded, country girl had to come along and fuck with my dark world. A girl who stands for everything I loathe, yet her smile is all I see every time I close my eyes. One whose presence I constantly ache to be around, when usually, I yearn only for solitude. Whose voice I crave to hear, when I normally crave nothing but silence. A girl I have no business feeling any of this shit for because I will only ruin her. She lives in a world of light and I was long ago swallowed by darkness.
I think about the way she ran up to me last night and threw herself at me… I was so scared something happened to you, you’re never late. Other than Sawyer and Jaxson, I have no one in my life who cares if I live or die. Which is exactly how I like it, and even though her affection completely surprised me and made me uncomfortable, it had also shifted something in my chest. Something I didn’t think I was capable of feeling anymore.
Then I had to go fucking spaz on her and tell her that her dad should be locked up. Jesus, I still can’t believe I said that. Even if I do hate the guy for what he is and everything he stands for, I shouldn’t have said that to her. I shake my head, getting pissed at myself again. Just tell her about the kid, say your piece and get the fuck out of there.
As soon as I walk into the clearing and see her, I come to a sudden stop. She looks nothing like the girl I’ve come to see in the past week. Instead of strumming her guitar with a beautiful smile, she sits with her back against the tree and her arms wrapped around her knees. Her head is turned to the side, facing away from me, and by the gentle shake of her shoulders I can tell she’s crying. My guilt escalates at seeing her like this, but it’s a good reminder of why it’s best to stay away from her after this.
A gust of wind kicks up as I start over to her, and I notice she’s in a dress and cowgirl boots again. Not really great attire for the weather. I also notice she doesn’t have her guitar.
Not wanting to scare her, I purposely make noise as I approach. Her head snaps in my direction, and my heart fucking swells painfully when her wet, green eyes collide with mine.
She wipes her wet cheeks with the back of her hand. “I’m surprised to see you. I thought you left,” she whispers sadly.
I clear my suddenly tight throat and sit down beside her. “Actually, I leave tomorrow but I wanted to come tell you that I found the kid.”
She sits up hopefully. “You found Aadil? Is he okay?”
“Yeah, he seemed to be. I found him at uh… a place where his mom works.” I decide not to share with her that he was at a bar/whorehouse. “He said he was going to try and come tomorrow night to see you.”
She lets out a relieved breath. “Thank God he’s all right. I was going to go and look for him tomorrow if he didn’t come tonight.”
Panic pounds through every vein in my body after she says that. “Not a good idea, Red. You could end up making things worse for the both of you if you go looking for him. Just stay here. He will come to you when he can.”
She watches me silently for a moment, her sad eyes doing shit to my chest that I didn’t think was possible up until a week ago. “Okay. I’ll wait here for him. Thank you for coming and telling me.”
I nod and an awkward silence settles over us. Another gust of wind kicks up, reminding me I don’t have much time with her. I try to find the right words for an apology but she beats me to it.
“I’m sorry about yesterday, Cade. I did not intend for our conversation to end up the way it did. I shouldn’t have pried.”
Well fuck, that makes me feel even more like shit. I avoid looking at her and instead keep my gaze on the trees in the distance. “It’s fine. Clearly it’s a sensitive subject for me and it always will be, but I shouldn’t have exploded like that.” I know it’s a shitty apology but I’m not great at apologizing.