“You order wine or mixed drinks at the bar?”
“Mixed. Vodka and whatever the bartender wants.” The rough chuckle makes his chest shake gently and I love the feeling of it. His stubble brushes my neck as he asks, “And then?”
“Grocery store if I need to, although I really only keep K-cups and cardboard pizza in the fridge.”
“You know, the kind that come in a box and you put in the toaster oven?”
That makes him laugh too. The sound of him laughing eases everything.
“You have a pretty smile,” he tells me and his voice is calming.
“You have a pretty smile too,” I tell him back and he makes a face.
He changes the subject quicker than I expect. “We don’t know who broke in.”
My own smile falters and I stare at my fingers, picking absently under my nails at nothing.
“I know that’s not what you wanted to hear and it’s not what I was hoping to tell you. But there are no fingerprints, no cameras anywhere.”
With his hand on my chin, he forces me to look at him as he explains, “We looked into everyone’s surveillance cameras, Beth. It’s not quite legal, but they’ll never know. Whoever it was left no trace at all.”
“So I’ll never know and they could come back.” I’m surprised how much pain accompanies that knowledge. My chest feels like it’s been hollowed out and bricks put in the place of whatever it is I need to survive.
“No. That’s not true. We have a lead on your sister,” he tells me with hope and authority.
“A man named Luke Stevens. He’s no one around here, but he was seen with your sister before she went missing.”
He hands me a picture of a man I’ve never laid eyes on. He’s got to be in his forties, with a clean-cut look to him and I could only imagine what the hell Jenny would have been doing with someone like this.
“You think he did it?” I dare to ask Jase.
“I’m not sure, but I’m going to find him and get as much information as I can from him, cailín tine.”
“Miranda told me she packed her bags,” I say and swallow thickly, needing to calm the adrenaline racing in my blood. “She said Jenny packed before she went missing.” The image of my sister doing just that and then leaving with this man plays in my mind. “Maybe she was in love with him,” I surmise.
“I don’t think–” Jase bites down to stop himself from saying something else.
His inhale is uneven and he looks past me before saying, “I just wanted you to know that I’m working on it. But don’t do this. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you. All we know is that he was seen with her.”
“Seen doing what?”
“Getting into a truck around the time she went missing but they aren’t positive of the date.”
I have no words as the theory in my mind unravels.
“It could be nothing, but we have a name and I’m working on it,” he tells me and takes my hand in his, stopping me from my mindless habit.
“So now there are two names?” I ask, remembering the last time we talked about information.
He nods once, but doesn’t give me the other name. The one he promised wouldn’t help me.
“Which do you think broke into my house?” I ask him and instead of answering, he tells me, “I’m having Seth install a top-of-the-line security system. Everything will be repaired, and all the locks will be changed.”
The information sparks a reaction I don’t expect and I have to pull my hand away, but he doesn’t let me so I blurt out the question, “You want me to go back… to my place?”
“No,” he says and his quick answer alleviates some of the unwanted stress. “I’d prefer you here by my side and for the next twenty-eight days, I want you here at my place. But you need to be able to go home and feel safe. I get that and I wanted to make sure it was safe.”
I can only nod, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do. When he squeezes my hand, I squeeze back and tell him, “Thank you.”
“I have to go. Late-night meeting.”
Late meeting. My lips stay closed although I don’t have to say anything at all. My gaze drops just as my lightheartedness does. I can never forget the life Jase leads. I need to remember.
“Don’t look at me like that.” His voice is low and a threat lays behind the words.
“Like what?” I ask him as if I don’t know what he’s referring to.
“Like I’m less than you for what I do.”
“I don’t,” I protest, hating that it’s obvious.
Biting back my pride, I apologize, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s never going to change, Bethany. This isn’t something I can run away from.”