“Could I see your badge?”
He’s quick to take it out, passing it to me and when he does, his fingers brush against mine. The physical contact is a little too close I think at first, but then I peek up at him and he’s all business. It’s all in my head.
“Sorry, I just didn’t expect to see any more cops now that the funeral’s passed,” I tell him, whipping up the excuse on a dime and praying it explains my hesitation as I pass back his badge. Again his fingers brush mine and although I’m well aware of that fact, he doesn’t show any sign that he noticed.
“The funeral?” he questions and I feel the blood drain from my face.
“My sister’s; isn’t that why you’re here?” My voice is calm but drenched in sorrow. Real sorrow. I stand there pretending I know nothing of the past few days but my grief. I think back to what I felt the night my estranged family left me alone and I had to sleep knowing Jenny was really gone. That the world has accepted that, and I needed to as well.
I’m only a sister in mourning. That’s all I choose to be right now.
“I’m sorry to hear about your loss.” He clears his throat, bringing his closed fist to his mouth as he looks to his right, away from me and then adds, “I’m here on different matters.”
Finally, he looks back at me, and at the same time I feel my heart pounding, filling with so much anxiety, it feels as if it will burst.
As I grip the edge of my door, letting him see the nerves and apprehension, he asks, “Do you mind if I come in?”
A second passes as I look past him to his cruiser. The pounding inside my chest intensifies.
I don’t know what to do, and I’m terrified to make the wrong decision.
“Is this a bad time?” he asks when I don’t answer, his voice carrying my attention back to him.
The light blue eyes that pierce into me tell me it’s all right, there’s a kindness there, a caring soul somewhere deep inside. A small voice inside my head is screaming at me to tell him about Jase. The voice says I’ll be safe. There will be no debt, and all of this will be over.
But a bigger side, the side of me that’s taken over, the side I don’t recognize, isn’t ready for this to end. Already I love being touched by Jase Cross. I crave for that powerful man to use me, and I’m determined to use him in return to get answers.
I can practically hear his sinful voice, luring me into a darkness I may never come out of.
And that’s why I tell him, “I’m sorry, it’s just a bad time. I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
The officer nods his head in understanding, but his eyes are assessing and my body tenses. Just go. Please, go.
“I’m new here,” he tells me. “I came down from upstate New York.”
I nod, blinking away the confusion. I anticipated him saying goodbye and apologizing, but instead he shuffles his feet on my porch, shoving his hands into his pockets as he speaks.
“I wanted to come to a smaller city, somewhere with fewer problems and a slower pace.”
A genuine, soft sound of amusement comes from me, forcing the semblance of a smile to my lips. “You aren’t going to find that here,” I tell him.
“So I noticed. Born and raised?” he asks, and I nod.
“My mom moved here when she was pregnant with my sister, before I was born. It was just us three for the longest time.”
“Your sister who just passed?” he asks, inflecting his tone with an appropriate amount of sympathy as his voice lowers, and again I only nod. With the small movement comes a pang in my chest. Every reminder of her is like hearing the news that she’s missing all over again. Or worse, the news that they found her and my worst fear was realized.
“I’m sorry. I lost my brother a while ago. We were close, so I can understand the loss.”
I have to look up to the sky, letting out a slow exhale to keep from tearing up. He doesn’t know. No one could know what we went through this past year.
“I’m getting the lay of the land here, and it seems like there may be a bit of trouble from a man who owns a vehicle spotted at your address recently.”
My teeth sink into my bottom lip and I try to keep my expression neutral until I can ask, “Who would that be?”
“Jase Cross. His entire family and a few others are associated with murder and drug rings, along with other criminal activity.”
It’s a long moment that passes, a frigid gust of wind traveling between us before I tell him, “Like I said, this isn’t a good time for me.”