Chapter 11

Abigail gingerly leaned against the headrest and let her eyes fall closed. She appreciated that the pain meds had taken her throbbing head and wrist and pushed it to a dull background ache. The drive had been fairly silent and smooth and Abigail felt herself drifting off. Her mild slumber was interrupted when Carter's sharp and heavy exhale brought her back to full consciousness. She glanced over noticing his rigid posture and tight grip on the wheel. Abigail had been consumed with her physical state and trying to piece together what had happened she hadn't fully acknowledged Carter when he showed up at the hospital. Avery had told her she would call Tyson to meet her so she was surprised by Carter's presence. She immediately felt his sensitive nature damaged by her lack of enthusiasm that it was he who showed up and be her ride back. Her apology to any offense he felt had eased the tension some but his agitation and clear annoyance continued to exude from him. Abigail didn't engage, instead, she closed her eyes and let the warmth of the sun beating on the window relax her.

"So, did you see the guy?"

Abigail let her head lull in his direction. She couldn't help but feel his tone was harsh and demanding. His energy had shifted again but still held a dark intensity. It began to intrigue her as to why he would be so upset, but she was too exhausted to dig further.

"I don't know, maybe," she answered plainly. If she knew anything it was not to divulge any information especially to a want to be reporter. She would give any of the information that had begun to come into focus to her sister. The thought of speaking to Avery had her sitting up straighter.

"Can I use your phone to try Avery, again?"

"Why bother?" He shrugged not taking his eyes from the road.

"I wouldn't even ask if I had my phone."

"I gave it back to you, and Avery's up at the cabin, with no reception. More to the point she's in no rush to check on you."

"What's your problem?"

"I don't have a problem. It's your sister that has the problem. She has been nothing but inconsiderate and unappreciative of what I've done for you."

"Seriously, Carter?" Abigail no longer restrained her growing irritation with whatever caused him to suddenly be so irate. "Try seeing past your own self for once."

"It's all I do! That's why I helped you." His hands came off the steering wheel briefly to emphasize his frustration. "It's not just today. She doesn't give me the time of day, she gives off such a negative vibe."

"I know you're not talking about Avery," she said in disbelief. "What's really pissing you off?"

He released a breath that hissed passed his tightly drawn lips. "All I've everyone's try to be your friend, Abigail."

"No, Carter all you've tried to is shove that damn podcast down my throat. That's not a way to be my friend."

"I don't get your problem with Grayson. He's just doing what journalists are supposed to. Reveal the truth."

"The truth?" Abigail snorted. "Carter, have you ever looked up if this guy is even credible?"

"I know he is."

"Oh, you just know he is? Then it's all settled," she replied with obvious sarcasm.

"You're not being very fair."

"Credibility is everything to be a good journalist. Carter, the guy doesn't even exist. His name is fake; he has no credentials or any credible platforms. He's a coward hiding behind his keyboard and microphone with no grasp on the actual truth."

Carter didn't answer verbally, while his chest heaved in the anger that exuded from him. It was a new behavior from a man she had normally seen calm and unfazed by anything. She chose not to engage further and was thankful her turn off was quickly approaching.

Carter maintained the jagged silence as he smoothly and slowly turned onto her drive. Once the car came to a stop he shoved the gear to park and flung his belt to the side before he drove his shoulder into the door to open it. Abigail watched his movements wondering why he'd want to even get out and not just peel away once she cleared the vehicle. She figured he wasn't going anywhere until his point was made. She felt her own energy drain more at the thought of the conversation continuing. As he twisted from the seat she caught sight of an object that slipped from the pocket of his board-shorts. It bounced slightly on the edge of the seat then against the door that he had violently slammed shut. Abigail watched it curiously for a moment as it settled on the floorboard before she stretched her arm out to retrieve it. With it, between her fingers, she immediately recognized it as her cell phone. She glanced up at Carter moving swiftly towards the porch and then back to her phone. She powered it on, but the battery flashed a warning before the screen went black again. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but found no rational reason he should have kept it from her or lied. With it tightly in hand, she moved to confront Carter.

He was waiting impatiently at her door; arms crossed and a deep scowl that scrunched his face and hid his eyes.

She disregarded his attitude as her own rising temper had her speaking before she had fully rounded the car. "You said you gave me back my phone."

"I did, and look there it is in your hand." He mocked pointing to the device in her hand. "That's must be one gnarly head injury."

"Honestly, I don't have the energy anymore for this ridiculous behavior. You can just leave."

She pushed past him and entered her code to the keypad to unlock the door. As soon as it beeped she pushed inward wanting to create more space from the man hovering behind her. Instead of the grunt of annoyance she expected to hear, she felt herself being propelled forward. She spun with the momentum and saw Avery's Range Rover approaching through the sliver of space left just as Carter slammed the door shut and threw the bolt lock in place.

Abigail regained her balance and threw her arms up in exasperation. "Have you lost your mind?"

"I need a moment to explain that's all."

She stepped back slightly at her intensity. He held a frantic look that began to really worry her.

"That's fine, but let me open the door for Avery." Abigail carefully moved closer. "And, I need to speak to her."

"Not before I say what I need to." Carter leaped forward intercepting her before she reached the handle; his hand encircled the soft cast that was protecting her broken bone and yanked her towards him. She tried to swallow the escaping sound from the sharp pain and flinched at the spit that flew from his lips.

She tried to speak but her voice caught as his grip tightened. The intensity of the physical anguish enlisted by his grasp had her head spinning in a wave of dizziness and she felt herself break into a cold sweat. Wracked with confusion to his purpose of being so uncharacteristically violent she dug her heels in and tried to pull back. Words were held hostage in her throat as the growing fear created a knot she couldn't seem to work past.

The echo of Avery's demanding voice beyond the door added to his nervous and unstable presence. She was afraid of Carter's intentions, but she couldn't allow anything more to happen. With the slight distraction, she recoiled again and tried to call out to alert Avery of what was occurring. Her actions were halted when Carter's other hand clamped across her lips muffling any sound that tried to escape. The next realization she had was hitting the ground with his weight keeping her pinned beneath him.

"Can we talk now?" He hissed. "Or are you going to make assumptions and judgments before you know the real truth?"

His nostrils flared and his mouth creased into a thin line but Abigail couldn't look away from his eyes. They were empty and cold. He had flipped from a goofy annoying coworker to something dangerous. She felt if she kept contact and he finally saw the pureness of her fear he would return to reality. She tried to calm the jumbled panic consuming her thoughts and come up with a way to fight back, or at least negotiate with him somehow, but the crushing hold he had on her wrist kept her distracted and within his control. The hot tears began to stream and she tried to blink them away. She hated feeling weak and she fought her facial response to keep him from really seeing that she was breaking inside. It felt like an eternity before the whoosh of the door flying open changed the room's dynamic.

With a blur of movement, the crushing weight was lifted. With the lightness, Abigail rolled to her side and slunk away from the action now happening feet from her. Avery had easily flipped Carter onto his stomach, restraining his arms behind him. She smoothly cinched a pair of handcuffs across his wrists. He was pleading with her but Avery wasn't acknowledging him. She was looking to Abigail. Abigail felt her concern and urgency to separate her from the danger. Abigail's heart shook uncontrollably within her chest. Her breath became erratic and she tried to relay she was okay, but she wasn't. She was far from okay. Just hours earlier she was attacked by a man that had murdered two women. She had tried to reconcile the events and now they had been compounded with a new fear from someone she thought she could trust.

Carter's continued pleading broke their visual communication. "I didn't do it. I wasn't at the cabin."

"I know," Avery grunted as she brought Carter to his feet.

"Let me explai-" Carter's mouth opened in surprise and looked over his shoulder in confusion. "What?"

"You don't have time to get up to the cabin. Mary Kramer had called the office reporting seeing you at Turner's Cove pulling your kayak out of the water." She circled her hand just above his elbow and began to escort him towards the door. "Neighborhood watch in action."

"Wait." Carter anchored his feet and fought against Avery's guiding direction. "I need to explain it to her. She can't hear it from you, you don't understand either."

"What is he talking about, Avery?" Abigail asked using the back of her couch to assist her in returning to her feet.

Avery tilted her head towards Carter. "What is it that you think I know?"

Carter's head dropped in defeat. "I saw your messages to Abigail. I had her phone."

Avery's face twisted in brief anger but in the same instance her eyes closed and Abigail could she was centering herself for what to do next. Avery was extremely calculated but his words and actions threw her off and now she was trying to recover. When her lids opened her focus had shifted to Abigail. The intensity her sister exuded scared Abigail. She held the same look when she was trying to find the right words to ease inevitable bad news. Abigail didn't know what could be said to twist the narrative even more, but she was over being in the dark.

"Spit it out already," Abigail demanded.

Avery dipped her shoulder and nodded towards Carter. She loosened her grip on his arms just enough that she could turn to face her. He wasn't a large man but having been overpowered and under Avery's control, he appeared more like a scared teenager than the arrogant man he constantly presented to be. Abigail noticed that Avery's body shifted to a more balanced stance that prepared her for the delivery of what he was about to say. Abigail adjusted her footing to mimic her sister's, unsure what was about to be divulged.

"I'm Grayson," he blurted out.

Abigail let out a short laugh in disbelief. Carter straightened in defense and Abigail saw the seriousness exuding from him. She couldn't believe it and didn't want to. Carter in her eyes wasn't smart enough to pull off such a con. And how did he? Questions bogged her mind but she shook them off to regain a shred of sanity.

"No way." Abigail looked at Avery for reassurance that he was lying.

"It's true," Avery added solemnly.

Abigail flipped from the shock of the revelation back to confusion. His violent and anger filled reaction to her didn't warrant such a confession.

"You literally lost your mind on me and that's it. You're the loser behind the microphone?"

Anger flashed across his face again. "This is what I mean. If you let me explain it all maybe you wouldn't be so cruel."

"I'm cruel? Carter, you just went full-on crazy right now."

"This is all wrong." Carter shook his head. "The rest doesn't matter, forget it."

"Now you're not going to say it. You're pathetic, Carter."

"Abigail, wait," Avery warned.

Abigail knew he was overly sensitive and she was pushing the line again; her tongue was sharp, but he had purposefully grabbed her injured arm and slammed her into the ground. She saw nothing wrong with her words or reactions, and unsure as to why her sister would make her take a pause from expressing her feelings. Not wanting to waste another breath she took a step back.

"I'm done," she said directing her words to Avery.

Avery remained silent, nodded, and pushed Carter forward. Even with the action of leaving, her focus didn't break from Abigail. Her sister paused briefly, what her eyes told Abigail was that whatever Carter held back was just another bomb ready to explode onto the chaos already stirring around them.

"I'm coming right back," Avery promised.

Abigail didn't even flinch an acknowledgment but when the door closed she slowly turned and walked to the kitchen and opened the freezer. With a frozen bag of peas in her hand, she mindlessly made her way to her bedroom. The weight of the day felt crushing and with the heaviness she collapsed onto her bed. She was slowly slipping over the edge; she had felt this in waves before throughout her life. The grief, fear, and trauma she experienced never left her, it just changed shape. Now she had the attack at the cabin and the revelation of Carter being Grayson to add on. It was enough to send her over completely. She pulled the Velcro straps from her brace and cradled her injured arm before she added the makeshift ice pack onto her wrist. She welcomed the sting of the intense cold as it shocked her from the numbness she was letting overtake her.

Her distracted mind came to focus when Avery filled her doorframe. Abigail turned her head away willing herself not to cry. She knew if she really looked at her sister she wouldn't be able to hold the tears back. Avery lowered herself next to her and cupped her hand to her face and with a gentle force made Abigail look at her. She didn't speak or ask how she was, she didn't need to, and instead, she pulled Abigail into her and held her. The embrace broke any structure that was left holding together her strength. She was faintly aware of her sobs and trembling body.

"I'm so sorry," Avery whispered into her ear.

The apology caught Abigail off guard and she drew back. "Why are you sorry?"

"Because you don't deserve this, and I should have protected you better."

Abigail shook her head. "I don't understand, how could you protect me from something you can't see or know?"

Avery drew in a breath and held it for a few seconds. She was holding onto so much, but only revealed small bits of her real struggles. As much as it was affecting her, Avery was in the middle of it too, but in a different capacity. She was charged with trying to piece the recent events and murders together and over the top of her was the resident's expectations to make them feel safe. It was something Abigail hadn't considered. She had always turned the attention back around. Her focus has always been on helping others through difficult times. Only a few times had she experienced Avery so vulnerable that she needed Abigail to hold her up for once. Before Avery had made the decision to leave Redwood PD she had taken time off and stayed with Abigail. Abigail knew it was bad when Avery refused any contact for days. Abigail forced her support onto her sister, and it not only increased their bond but also settled the debate she had about coming home for good. They had been through so much turbulence that is felt as no one else could fully relate and couldn't offer support beyond the surface. The support that would wane as time passed and they moved on.

"I'm just thankful you're okay." Avery finally said.

"What is it you're keeping from me about Carter?"

Avery stood in response to her question and began to cut a small circle in the carpet. Abigail's anxiety increase as she tried in vain to prepare herself for whatever information Avery felt was almost too heavy to divulge.

"I have gone through how to tell you, how to make it not sting, but it is going to no matter how I spin it."

"Okay." Abigail encouraged.

"Carter." Avery paused and stopped moving to fully face her sister. "He's Chandler Mason's son."

Abigail gritted her teeth to keep her from cursing. She didn't want to believe it.

"You're sure?"

Avery nodded and took her place next to Abigail again. "Do you remember that woman that disrupted the trial? She came in declaring she was Chandler's alibi and there was a conspiracy against him?"

"Vaguely." Abigail shrugged.

"Her name was Brittany Reid. She's Carter's mother."

"Do you think he's involved with the murders?"

"I don't know, but my list of questions seem endless at the moment."

Abigail's hand clamped down onto her sisters. "You should probably get to it then."

Avery studied her closely, she was reading her every microexpression. There was no hiding from her sister, but Avery wouldn't push it. Abigail would really open up when she was ready.

"I'll call you when I remember anything about what happened at the cabin," Abigail promised.

"I know you will." Avery stood and pulled her phone out. She typed as she talked. "Two of the Sheriff's best are out front, Anthony and Jess. They will be checking the perimeter periodically, but if you hear or see anything that worries you, call them, and me, anytime. They're here to keep you safe."

Abigail only nodded her understanding. She would have preferred that Avery stayed but she knew that was selfish and would only add guilt to what she knew Avery was already feeling. She just wanted to shower and wash the day off, and if her mind cooperated maybe get some sleep. She doubted it as the visual from the morning at the cabin kept a corner of her mind occupied ready to leap to the forefront when she let her guard down.

A/N: Thank you for patience on my slow updates and taking the time to read! Drop a review to let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!