“Collin.” I was half way down the back hallway when Nate stepped out from the kitchen, still in his dishwashing apron. “You think you could give me a ride home?”

Clutching my hands in my keys, I turned around to face him.

Jesus, he looked tore up—his skin washed out, his eyes hollow and gray. Charlie and Jacob were able to handle everything with a silent stoniness that was really goddamn disconcerting, to be completely honest. Nate, on the other hand, was still too young to have mastered the ability to hide his emotions.

“Dad and Jacob are busy. And I don’t want to bother Jamie.” The muscle in his jaw flexed under his skin when he said her name. “But I know she’s going to be pissed if I don’t leave soon. I was supposed to be gone an hour ago.”

“Sure.” I nodded.

“Thanks, dude. Let me just grab my stuff and let someone know.” He took off his dishwashing apron and turned out of the kitchen towards the bar.

“I’ll wait in the truck,” I called after him.

And that’s how we came to be driving in my truck with Nate pouring his soul out to me.

The second the detective walked into the locker room, my blood froze in my veins. I knew—I knew that something was wrong.” He flexed his hands on his lap. His knuckles still bruised and raw from when he’d introduced them to his locker after the game on Friday night. “She was coming to my game.”

“So you thought you’d take it out on your locker?” I asked him as I turned onto their street.

“It seemed logical at the time.”

Couldn’t say I haven’t been there.

“Nate, I’m going to tell you exactly what I told your sister. This is not your fault. This happened because that man decided to do it. Not for any other reason.” I pulled into the driveway.

“But—”

If I hadn’t had a game that night, I could almost hear him finish the sentence in my mind. But I cut him off before he could get another word out. Slamming the gear into park, I turned to him. “No. No buts. No maybes. No what ifs. There’s only what happened. That’s it.”

I was telling myself just as much as I was telling him.

“She’s your sister. She wasn’t going to miss that game for anything. There’s nothing you, or I, or her could have done differently. Let’s just be thankful things worked out how they did and leave it at that. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m serious, Nate. If we want her to believe it, then we have to believe it too.”

He nodded once. “I hear you,” he said as he climbed out of the truck.