“Anything,” I answer as my eyelids fall heavily without second-guessing and my eyes pop open wider, remembering all the bits and pieces he told me about The Red Room. “Maybe about your brothers?”
Once again Jase’s lips find my neck, and this time he leaves an open-mouthed kiss there. I’m starting to love those kinds of kisses. I think they’re my favorite. “I had four brothers, now I have three and I recently learned that my younger brother, the one I was closest with…” He hesitates and again that small space on my neck feels the prickle of the air instead of his warmth. “I found out his death wasn’t an accident; it was murder. And it was supposed to be me, not him.”
“Oh my God,” I whisper, completely shocked. My heart breaks in half for him. I know the pain of losing a sibling, the agony of blaming yourself. But knowing it was supposed to be you instead? “I’m so sorry.” I put every ounce of sincerity into my words and pray it doesn’t come out the way everyone else says, like the people who say it simply because they don’t know what else to say. “I’m really sorry.”
Jase doesn’t say anything at all. Not for a while until he requests the same from me. “Tell me something.”
“I can’t figure you out, Jase,” I answer him almost immediately.
“You already know who I am, cailín tine. Don’t let me fool you.”
I look over my shoulder to ask him, “What’s that mean? Cailín tine?”
He gives me one of those smirks, but it’s almost sad and short lived. “Fiery girl.”
My entire body betrayed me earlier, and so does my heart in this moment, beating just for him with a warmth I’ve never felt before.
As I nuzzle back down into the pillow, I remember Officer Walsh and I spit out the words before I hide them forever. “A cop came asking about you today. He knocked at my door.”
Nerves prick down my neck, but Jase’s touch remains soothing and his voice calm when he asks, “What was his name?”
“Cody Walsh,” I answer and then feel Jase’s nod as his nose runs along my neck.
“He won’t be a problem. He’s just new.”
“Don’t you want to know what I told him?”
“If you want to tell me.”
“I didn’t tell him anything.”
His response is to kiss my neck. Then my jaw. He tries to lie back down, leaving my lips wanting but I take them with my own. Reaching up to grip the back of his neck, and pulling myself off the comfort of the bed.
It’s a quick kiss, but it was mine to have. And mine to give.
“What was that for?” he asks me, and I answer him honestly. “I wanted you to have it.”
Turning my back to him, I lie back under the covers. There are no more questions or conversations. With my eyes wide open, I pretend to sleep. After a short while, the bed protests under the weight of him moving, the covers are shrugged off behind me and I listen to him leave. Across the wooden floorboards, down the stairs. I can only faintly hear him in the living room, but I recognize the sound of the front door opening and closing.
All the while, there’s this vise wrapped around my heart. Keeping it still, not allowing it to move the way it used to.
“What happened to her? To Jennifer Parks?”
Seth hesitates. Seated across from me, he slides forward to readjust before leaning back into an auburn leather armchair. It’s silent in the back of The Red Room. Not a single beat of the music or murmur of the guests makes its way through these doors.
Nothing makes it out of them either.
It’s a decadent but vacant space. A simple, but too-fucking-expensive iron and driftwood desk with no drawers stands in the middle of the room. My chair is at one end, while two matching chairs are on the other side. Not a damn thing else in the room.
The stubble on my jaw is rough; I’m way past due for a shave as I run my hand along my jaw as I wait for Seth’s answer.
“I’m still working on it, but let me tell you what I’ve got so far.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” The rage is inexplicable as I slam the edge of my fist down on the desk. It jolts and I clench my jaw, hating that something like this can get to me.
I focus on calming my shit down, ignoring the irritation and Seth’s questioning gaze.
All day I’ve been on edge. Ever since I left Bethany’s place, the second the sun rose.
“It goes deeper than you think, Boss.” His voice is low, testing my patience and apologetic even.
“Let me have it,” I speak and gesture for him to get going.
“She went missing on December twenty-eighth, but before then she was in and out of her sister’s home and several friends’ places. It was January seventeenth that the burned remains, including several of her teeth, were found in a trunk at the bottom of the Rattle River on the west side of town.”