New Winslow S6E44

Tara ended up being a little later than she’d anticipated. By the time she came flying in the door with profuse, unnecessary, apologies, Cleo’s mother was already in her pajamas with a movie on. Cleo considered going straight home, but the temptation of Liv’s cookies and the idea of seeing her friends for a few minutes after a difficult day won out. So fifteen minutes after Tara arrived, she was walking into Liv’s apartment. It was like magic, the way her shoulders immediately dropped as she stepped into the warm living room.

Andrew was sitting on one of the couches, his laptop and scattered notebooks in front of him on the coffee table as he hunched over them taking careful notes. He looked up and smiled as she came in. “Hey,” he said, setting down his pen. “What are you doing here?”

“You’re going to fuck up your back sitting like that,” Cleo said as he stood up and stretched.

“Too late, I’ve worked desk jobs for ten years.”

He gave her a tight hug. “Liv made cookies, I assume that’s what you’re here for?”

“That and the pleasure of your company.”

Andrew laughed and started for the kitchen as she followed behind. Olivia was sitting at the kitchen table with a couple cookies and an untouched cup of tea beside her. She also smiled, but it still looked weary.

“What’s going on?” Cleo asked.

Olivia shook her head. “It’s nothing,” she said. “Rough day stayed rough.”

“Is Noah upstairs?”

“Outside,” she said, gesturing toward the back door. “He said something about repairs, but he’s been out there for a while. I’m almost positive he’s not drinking, but he’s been a fucking asshole all afternoon so I’m giving him space. Otherwise I might kill him.”

She sounded more tired than angry and Cleo was uncomfortably reminded of last year. “I’m going to go talk to him,” she said.

“I wouldn’t.”

“My mom yelled at me over pancakes tonight, I’ll be fine.”

That got a legitimate laugh out of Olivia. “I mean, if you want to,” she said. “I figured I’d wait til tomorrow.”

Cleo hadn’t been the target of much of the impact of Noah’s addiction issues, that had been Olivia. So maybe he’d either listen to her or she could take the brunt of whatever mood he was in. She went to the counter and got a couple cookies, then slipped out the back door into the chilly night air.

She immediately spotted Noah kneeling beside the stairs to his apartment, hammering something into place under the glow of the floodlight. He looked over, saw her, and she could see him resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “Hey, Cleo.”

“Nice to see you too.”

“Sorry, I’m in a pissy mood. I just want to be alone right now.”

She was tempted to give him what he said he wanted, but there was something on his face that made her pause. She couldn’t help thinking about that last night before he’d left, how scared he’d looked underneath all the anger. There was something like that to him right now as he looked up at her.

“Have a cookie with me first,” she said, holding up the napkin with the cookies tucked inside. “Then I’ll fuck off.”

Noah’s face fell. “No, Cleo, I didn’t mean…”

She felt a little bad for the hyperbole, but he set down the hammer and came over, so she’d accept the twinge of conscience. “We can either talk or just sit here,” she said, motioning toward the base of the steps to Olivia’s deck. “Either one’s fine by me.”

Noah sat down beside her and took the offered cookie, but didn’t eat it. Instead, he just held it as he gazed out into the dark yard. Cleo was tempted to start talking about something, anything, but she stayed quiet like she’d promised.

It was a cool night, but the bitter chill of winter had finally given way and there was no wind to speak of. The snow was mostly gone, beyond a few small patches along the edge of the house. Looking across the yard, she could see that the door to the small shed was open, but it was far too dark to see inside it. The firepit was set up, though the chairs were stacked and tipped over on the ground beside it. Stars sparkled over the tree line. There were so many, Cleo could get lost in them if she tried to count them all.

“I’m fucking this all up again.”

Noah’s voice beside her made her jump. He was still looking out in the yard and for a second, she thought maybe she’d been hearing things. Then he took a shaky breath. “I don’t think I can do this.”

“What’s this?”

“All of it,” he replied. “The Limerick. Staying sober. Being a goddamn human being. I told Liv and Andrew I could open a business with them. This is Liv’s dream and all of Andrew’s money. And it’s too late to take it back. We all messed up trusting me to do this.”

“Did something happen?”

“Not yet.”

That was a relief, at least. “Have you talked to them?”

“No. And I’m not going to. I know I’ve been a fucking asshole today.”

She didn’t move to deny it and a small, self-deprecating smile showed up on his face. “I don’t want to go in and interrupt their night to apologize,” he continued, the smile gone now. “I don’t have the right to keep coming in and out of your lives, hurting you all like that.”

The cookie was still in his hand and he still wasn’t looking at her. “I can’t leave and mess things up like that, but I think maybe it’d be better if I wasn’t here.”

This might be beyond her skills. Dreading his reaction, Cleo cleared her throat. “Do you think you might-”

“I’m not going to hurt myself.”

That was a relief, but only half answered her concern. After her silence apparently went on a beat too long, he said, “I’m not going to drink either.”

He sounded so rough that she couldn’t help reaching over to rub his knee. “Do you still want to do the Limerick?” she asked.

“Of course,” Noah answered immediately, to her relief. “More than anything.”

“It wouldn’t be better if you were gone,” Cleo said. “Any of it. Okay? So please stay.”

Noah sniffed and nodded quickly. “Is there anyone you want me to call?” Cleo asked. “If you don’t want to talk to us, I mean? Which is fine, you don’t need to-”

He shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said. “I’m just going to go upstairs.”

“Can I join?”

She knew she was pushing her luck. And the smile he gave her was just exasperated enough that she knew he felt the same way. “Shouldn’t you be getting out of town?” he asked.

Yeah, she absolutely should be. And Edie wasn’t going to be happy when they found out she’d stayed longer. But Edie had also been in Noah’s position before and was very understanding about that. So hopefully it wouldn’t be an issue. And if it was, then Cleo would just have to deal with it. “I’ve got time,” she said, though that usual part of her was still screaming to get out of town.

Of course, that part was quieter than it had been since Edie got stuck. Because that was what happened to Cleo every time. She just didn’t learn.

“I’m just going to take a shower,” Noah said. “If you want to, then sure. But you don’t have to.”

“I want to,” she said. “Come on, let’s watch a horror movie and really fuck me up before I drive home in the dark tonight. I’ve got like forty minutes through the woods to get back.”

He laughed, most of the exasperation gone from his face as he smiled at her. “I need to finish this first,” he said, motioning toward the wobbly railing. “There’s so much more to do.”

“Tomorrow,” she said.

He looked like he was about to fight, then relented. “Fine.”

They stood up and Noah looked down at the cookie in his hand as though surprised to find it there. Then he turned and hurried up the stairs. Cleo glanced over and saw Liv standing in the back window of her apartment. She gave her a thumbs up and Liv responded with a relieved smile. Then Cleo turned and followed Noah up to his house, already dreading her post-movie ride home.




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The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

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