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Bad For Me(99)

By:Codi Gary

The last person on her list was Everett, even though she hadn’t seen or heard from him since that day in her driveway. Caroline never resisted a chance to tell her that she’d seen him and that he looked good, and Gemma was constantly telling her about all the book orders he’d placed, hinting that he probably wasn’t seeing anyone. But Gracie wasn’t as subtle.

“I asked him straight up if he was dating, and he told me to mind my own damn business.”

Callie tried not to think about it—not until she was ready. She was almost there; she just had a few more steps. Her counselor was happy with her progress, although her counselor had talked Callie out of attempting to make amends with Tristan. On that one, Callie was in complete agreement with Caroline; what she needed to fix had little to do with Tristan, and although she did owe him an apology, she wasn’t sure if reaching out to him was a good idea. Despite how much he’d hurt her, he deserved to start over.

Callie pulled into Jose’s Tires to get out of the snowstorm. She’d paid him off the month before, but he had told her that anytime she needed tires to come and see him, and he’d give her a discount. It was very sweet, and she would probably take him up on it in the next few months for her remaining two tires. In the meantime, she’d picked up a little thank-you gift for him.

Callie pushed open the door and shook the snow off, smiling brightly.

And then she froze.

At the counter, Justin and Valerie Silverton were talking to Jose.

“Callie, I’ll be right with you, sweetie.”

Callie blushed, avoiding the couple’s gazes. Every time she’d seen them around town since that night at Fred’s, she’d headed the other way. She had no desire to hear their opinions about her or why she’d bailed on Everett.

“I can come back.”

As she turned to leave, Valerie called out. “Callie, wait.”

She paused as Valerie came over, rubbing her hands over her large protruding belly.

“I know it’s long overdue, but I wanted to apologize for my attitude toward you at dinner. We shouldn’t have judged you without getting all the facts.”

Callie hadn’t been expecting that, especially considering the way Everett and she had been avoiding each other. “Well, thank you.”

They stood awkwardly for a minute or two while Justin finished up with Jose. When he finally joined his wife, he cleared his throat before he spoke. “I know Val apologized, but I wanted to tell you that I was wrong about you. And we’d like to make it up to you, if you don’t have any dinner plans next weekend.”

“Um, can I get back to you? I’m just not sure.”

“Of course.” He seemed to be struggling for something else to say and finally just blurted, “He misses you.”

A lump of emotion got stuck in her throat. “Tell him hello for me.”

“You should really tell him yourself.”

“Maybe I will.”

“If you don’t come by, Merry Christmas,” Valerie said.

“Merry Christmas to you too.”

They walked past her outside, and Jose said loudly, “Awkward . . . ”

“Shut up, or I’m giving you a lump of coal.”

EVERETT WATCHED THE snow fall from his window, the porch light highlighting the flakes of glittering white in the darkness.

It was almost midnight. He’d gone by his dad’s house a few hours ago with the intention of carrying more wood inside for him, but he hadn’t been there, which worried Everett. It was the anniversary of his mother’s death, and his dad had been in a foul mood all day. When he’d said he was going to a meeting this afternoon, Everett couldn’t keep his thoughts from straying to Callie, and he wondered if they still met for coffee. His dad didn’t talk about it if they did. But tonight, Everett was afraid he’d bypassed the meeting and headed straight to a bar.

Everett tried his cell again, and after five rings, his dad picked up. “Hecklo?” It sounded like he’d hocked a loogie into the phone, his speech was so slurred.

“Dad, where are you?”

“Who is this?” There was a muffled fumbling; then, “Everett, my boy. Come join your old man for a little drink.”

Irritation coursed through him. “How ’bout I just come get you, and you can have a nightcap?”

“Fine, fine. I’m at Buck’s. Your friend Eric keeps telling me I can’t have any more anyway.”

The line went dead, and Everett cursed, shoving his arms into his coat sleeves. There went eight months of his father’s sobriety down the toilet.

Everett resisted the urge to call Callie and tell her what was going on. No matter what had happened between the two of them, he knew she wouldn’t give up on Fred, but he could handle his dad’s drunken scenes.