Penni had hopped up, tossing a leg over her until she had been sitting on her belly, continuing to beat her until blood poured out of the corner of her mouth and covered her chin.
“Stop!” Pleas and hard hands had lifted her, bringing Penni to awareness to what she done.
“Calm down, Penni.” Train’s low voice had soothed the rage that had nowhere to go. “Go sit on the bench.”
She had sat down on the bench as Shade had helped the beaten woman to her feet. Her friends had been too afraid to move when he had ordered them not to.
Penni had buried her face in her hands, horrified at her behavior. She had not hurt so much as an ant before, yet not only had she beaten the woman; she had enjoyed it. What if Shade and Train hadn’t been there to stop her?
Penni’s stomach had begun to heave, disgusted by the violence she had been capable of.
At that point, the police had arrived, and Penni had started to stand to turn herself over to them.
“Sit still and be quiet,” Shade ordered as the two police officers approached.
She had expected to be arrested. Only when the women and man had left an hour later had she realized the police were leaving.
Shade had sat down on the bench next to her, tossing Train the keys to their mother’s car they had borrowed. “Get the car.”
Train had nodded, laying a hand on her shoulder before leaving.
“I’m a monster.” Penni had stared up at his hooded blue eyes.
“No, you’re not.” His ironic smile hadn’t made her feel better. She’d felt like a disappointment. Their mother had always been so proud of Shade. She had told her friends that he was in the service and told Penni that she should be good or Shade wouldn’t come visit her anymore.
“I won’t do it again. I promise.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
“I will.” She had reached out to take his hand, but Shade had pulled back. He had never touched her.
When she had been little, she would reach out to him, but he would pull back or briefly hold her then move away. He had never held their mother, and Penni had grown used to seeing the look of pain when Shade visited, assuming it had been because he harbored ill-feelings toward her for breaking up with Shade’s father.
As Penni matured, though, she had sensed it was part of Shade’s personality. Remaining aloof didn’t mean he didn’t care. He had visited their mother and her whenever he’d had leave. Each time he had come, he’d brought his friends, which had kept him from spending time alone with her, but she hadn’t cared. She had cherished any time she spent with him, but she hadn’t cried when he’d left. It was just the way it was.
“You were trying to protect someone you love.”
Penni had blushed bright red, embarrassed that he had been voicing her feelings for Train out loud.
“I was just trying to help.”
“You succeeded. Maybe next time, she’ll think twice about picking on someone defenseless, but I doubt it.”
“You’re not mad at me?”
“How could I be mad when I’ve done it too many times to count?”
She had released a shaky breath.
“That doesn’t make it right. Train and I were here to watch out for you. If you react that way when you’re by yourself, it could be a different story. Don’t take on more than you can handle.”
“I won’t. I’m never going to hit anyone again.”
“Yes, you will. You won’t be able to stop yourself. You’re too much like me.”
She had shaken her head. “I wish—”
“You are. I’ve seen it.” When she had kept shaking her head, he had continued, “Mom said you don’t have any friends.”
“I have a lot of friends,” Penni had denied.
Shade had arched a doubtful brow. “Name one.”
“Tania, Emily, Katlin, and Val.”
“You have sleepovers?”
She had frowned. She’d hated sleepovers. “No.”
She had shrugged. “I don’t know. I prefer to sleep in my own bed.”
“Then invite them to your house.”
“It’s hard to when they are so busy. Tania does dance, Emily and Kaitlin do softball, and Val babysits for extra money.”
“Do they make time to have sleepovers?”
Penni hadn’t wanted to lie to her brother. “Yes.”
“Do they invite you?”
“Yes … but I have more homework than they do. My grades are important to me.”
“I’ve seen your grades; they aren’t that important. You have a boyfriend or have someone you like?”
“Don’t tell me you don’t like boys.” Shade already knew the answer.
“I like boys.”
“Train won’t make a move on you because you’re too young and my sister.”
Stubbornly, she had looked away. She wouldn’t be young forever, and Shade would accept it when they were together.
“Maybe he will one day. You don’t know that for sure.”
“What do you feel for Train?”
She couldn’t believe she was having this talk with her brother. It had been the most words that had ever came out of his mouth. Usually, he’d let everyone talk while he had listened.