“I know it doesn’t really matter, but did she ever tell you why her sister…?” I feel bad for even asking, so I don’t finish my question.

He shakes his head, knowing where I was leading anyway. “They found a suicide note in one of her journals, but apart from it saying she was depressed, they hadn’t known anything was wrong. Mia said she never suspected she had depression and that’s part of the reason she took it so hard. She hadn’t seen it coming at all.”

“So, you think all of this could be the reason?” I ask, trying to piece some of it together.

“I think her little games of playing puppet master with me and our relationship made her feel in control of something. Once she realized I wasn’t going to let her manipulate and play me anymore, she felt that abandonment all over again. She was more attached to the idea of her and me more than actually being with me. She craved control, and once I took it away from her, all those past feelings must’ve swooped back in, knowing she couldn’t get what she wanted.”

I nod in agreement. “She’s having some kind of episode,” I state. “You guys breaking up triggered those feelings from her past. She feels that you abandoned her just like her sister did, and now I’m the only person in her way of getting what she wants.”

Which means she’d probably stop at nothing to make that happen.

“We’ve been broken up for months,” he says. “Something had to have triggered it all of a sudden.”

“When’s her sister’s birthday?” I ask. “Or the day she passed away? Those are usually pretty significant to someone in mourning.”

“I don’t know her birthday, but I know the date of her death.” I see his eyes piecing something together. He grabs his phone out of his pocket and pulls up the calendar. “It was three days ago.”



There are a hundred new questions swirling around in my mind, and I don’t even know where to begin with sorting them out. All that matters right now is keeping Courtney safe and making sure she stays safe. I want her to feel safe too, but I know that’s not going to happen until we file the restraining order and a report. Mia is clearly unpredictable and unstable right now.

Courtney and I spent the rest of the night talking and lying in bed together until we both fall asleep around two in the morning. The curtains do nothing to shield the sun beaming inside and wakes us up at eight. We both shower and dress and get back on the road to find somewhere to eat breakfast. I know we said we didn’t want to rush back, but the urgency to get home and unwind from everything is more crucial at the moment.

If Mia is having a psychotic meltdown, she’s going to need more help than I anticipated. A restraining order might be the one thing that sets her off the deep end.

“Sweetheart?” I whisper, shaking her leg as she sleeps in the passenger seat. After breakfast, I drove the rest of the way to Sacramento and halfway there, she fell asleep. “We’re almost home.”

She groans and slowly opens her eyes, taking in our surroundings. She breathes a sigh of relief when she sees the house in front of us. “Thank God,” she mutters. “Home sweet home.”

“I didn’t know people really said that,” I say with a low laugh.

“Of course they do,” she tells me, the corner of her lips tilting up. “Maybe it’s a Southern thing.”

“I think that to myself about you at least ninety percent of the time.” I chuckle, turning to look into her sweet blue eyes. “It’s one of the many things I love about you.”

She squeezes my hand that’s still resting on her thigh and puckers her lips into a kiss. “I love you, too. I’m sorry this trip didn’t turn out like we’d expected. I know this was the last thing you needed added onto your plate right now.”

I’ve been trying to push the images of that night on duty out of my mind since we left, and I hate that being back home has those memories flooding back in.

“You have nothing to be sorry for. I don’t want you to worry about a thing. I’ll take care of this and we can go back to how things were before they—”

“Erupted like a volcano of fiery ash?” she fills in for me.

I shift the car into park and switch off the car. “Yeah, exactly.” I turn and face her, gripping my other hand over our intertwined fingers. “We’re going to get through this,” I reassure her. “I know things have been rough lately, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect you.”

“I know. You don’t have to worry. I’m not going anywhere.” She smiles, and I cup her chin and bring her lips to mine. They’re soft and warm and tastes like every bit of Courtney.

Tags: Kennedy Fox The Checkmate Duet Erotic
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