Sierra snorted. “No. Because you picked a fight with her first thing this morning.”
Rory turned around, startled that Sierra nearly looked her in the eye—few women were her height. “No, I tried to have a discussion with her. But she won’t talk to me about this, when we talk about everything else.”
“You talk about everything with her?” Sierra asked skeptically.
“Because I call bullshit on that.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “In fact, I know it’s bullshit.”
“How?” Rory folded her arms over her chest, her posture equally argumentative.
“I was there last night, remember? Listening to your drunken rant.”
Ah fuck. Goddamn Jaegermeister.
Sierra wore a smug look. “Rielle doesn’t know what happened between you and Dalton, does she?”
Rory felt her cheeks heat up. “That’s different.”
“How? Did you tell your mom how many guys you’ve slept with in college? Or their names? Or whether you went into the date expecting it’d be the start of a relationship and not just a one-night stand?”
She opened her mouth. Closed it. How the hell was Sierra so freakin’ observant? She was a spoiled sixteen-year-old kid.
“You can talk to your mom about a lot of things, Rory. But you draw a line with her.”
“So why are you so pissed off that she’s doing the same thing with you? Do you really want explicit details about what sex is like between her and my dad?”
“Then what is your fucking problem?”
“My fucking problem is him,” she lied, embarrassed to tell her the real issue. “He’s going to hurt her.”
Sierra rolled her eyes. “Assume much? And don’t give me that crap about him being a—” she made quotes in the air around the word, “—McKay.”
“He is what he is.”
“You’d think you were a West with the big chip you’ve got on your shoulder about the McKays.”
Rory’s eyes turned shrewd. “Maybe there’s validity in the Wests’ point of view. Seems the McKays screw everyone over.”
“The point is, you assume that my dad will screw your mom over. But you know what? I’ve never thought for a single second that your mom might be a gold digger.”
“Why would you even say that?”
“Because my dad has money. Your mom doesn’t. Maybe she seduced him.”
This girl was on some serious crack. “That’s bullshit. My mom is not like that.”
“Yeah? And my dad is not some asshole heartbreaker.”
They stared at each other.
“So much for our agreement last night to stay out of it,” Rory said.
“I tried to, but you won’t let it go.”
“Fine. I’m done. So is that why you’re following me around this morning? To be all smug and shit?”
“Following you around?” Sierra snorted. “As if. I tracked you down to make sure you were still gonna bring up that thing before you left.”
Rory played dumb. “What thing?”
“That thing we discussed last night where you tell my dad that he’s retarding my social development in Sundance by not letting me drive? Remember?”
Sierra looked annoyed. “Don’t be a dick, Rory.”
“All right. But remember you told me I could say it however I wanted—”
“I never said that!”
“Yes, you did.”
“Was that before or after you told Dalton—”
“What’s going on?” Gavin asked sharply.
When had he snuck in?
Of course Gavin gave Rory the evil eye, not his precious Sierra.
“What’s going on? We’re about to demonstrate our favorite cage fighting techniques. Sierra was bragging about a couple of illegal moves and I called her on it.”
“My money is on Sierra.” He flashed his teeth. “I wanted to talk to you about—”
“Last night?” Rory supplied. “Fine. Sierra was my designated driver. And since I don’t have a curfew, I wasn’t ready to leave at midnight. Her lateness is my fault.” But she wouldn’t apologize for it. “However, during my chat with your daughter, I found out a few things that concerned me more than her missing curfew.”
“Such as why you’re basically keeping her a prisoner out here. You’ve lived here almost three months? And you haven’t taken her to the Golden Boot? Or to Ziggy’s? Or to the Twin Pines? The only reason she went into Dewey’s was to sell raffle tickets with Marin. Those are the hangout spots for everyone in this town, even teenagers.”
Gavin studied Sierra but she was picking her fingernails.
“You don’t know what high school is like in a small town. I do. Most kids in her class have been in the same class since kindergarten. They won’t welcome her with open arms because she’s new. But any time she brings it up—asking when she’ll finally get to drive—you shut her down. I don’t know if you’re dangling her car as some sort of reward, or not letting her drive as some sort of punishment, but the truth is she’s being ostracized…because of you.
“She goes to school and she comes home. That’s it. She’s been to three football games. She’s not in any school clubs. You don’t belong to a church. How are the kids supposed to get to know her when the only time they see her is at school? And you scheduled a family party on the one night of cheerleading tryouts so she couldn’t even do that.”
Gavin wasn’t glaring at Rory; his sole focus was on Sierra. He crossed the room. “Sierra. Sweetheart? Can you look at me please?”
Sierra raised her head.
“Is what Rory’s saying true?”
Gavin looked baffled. “Why didn’t you say anything to me before now?”
“I did! Last week and every week. But you never listen to me. You think every time I bring it up it’s only about me driving and it’s not. Since we moved here we hardly ever do anything. We cook here. We watch movies and TV here. We don’t go out to eat and we used to go out all the time in Arizona. We used to go out and do things. You don’t even let me go grocery shopping with you anymore. You work from here. It’s like you’ve become a hermit and you expect me to be one too. It’s not fair.”
“You’re right. It’s not. Get your coat. We’ll go into town for a late breakfast and we’ll talk about this.”
“Can I drive?”
“Why is that always the first question out of your mouth?”
“See! This is exactly what I’m talking about.”
They argued all the way down the stairs.
After they were gone, Rory returned downstairs and whistled for her dog. Jingle trotted over. She patted Jingle’s head. “You ready to hit the road, mutt?”
Sadie loped over to see what the barking was about.
“So you’re really leaving?” her mom asked.
“After all that’s gone on, it’s probably best.” She looked up at her mother, leaning against the wall in the dining room. “This isn’t me throwing a tantrum. Or punishing you. I have some stuff to work through.”
“I get that. But why did you come home this weekend? Is there something else going on you wanted to talk to me about?”
She shrugged. “It’ll keep.”
“Yes. I probably shouldn’t have come anyway. If I get back in time, I can pick up a shift at the bar and I can always use the extra cash.” She regretted the words right after they left her mouth.
“Sweetheart, if you need money—”
“I don’t.” Rory slipped her coat on and zipped it. She patted her pockets to make sure she had her gloves. “I’ll text you when I get to Laramie.”
Her mom hugged her tightly. “I love you.”
Rory closed her eyes. Her mother was so tough and strong and proud. And yet fragile. Sometimes she came off brusque, but Rory knew it was only because every day of Rielle Wetzler’s life had been filled with purpose. Work to accomplish. But beneath that life-toughened demeanor was a tender heart. She hid it well, masking that vulnerability with grit. Rory’s gut clenched with fear that her mom would show those soft parts of herself to Gavin and he wouldn’t appreciate them. Or worse, that he’d somehow destroy them and destroy part of her mom in the process. “I love you too.”
She pulled back and really scrutinized her mother. It sucked that little snot Sierra was right. Her mom did look happy. Very happy.
“What? Do I have woodchips on my face or something?”
“No.” Rory fingered the short ends of her mom’s hair and smiled. “So is Ainsley gloating?”
“She told you if you cut your hair, you’d hook yourself a man. It appears she was right.”
“No offense, but there’s nothing in these boxes that I can use for my report,” Sierra complained.
“You did call Vi and thank her, right?” Then a thought occurred to him. “You didn’t tell her this information is worthless, did you?”
“God, Dad, way to think so highly of me. I’m not a completely thankless brat.”
Speaking of brat… Gavin held his tongue and waited for his daughter to continue.
“When I called Vi to say thanks, after like the millionth time you reminded me, she asked if she could pick me up at the bus stop tomorrow and take me to Spearfish.”
“Because Amelia’s birthday is coming up and she wants me to help her shop for presents. She needs my advice, since she hasn’t ever really shopped for girls.”