I don’t even realize I’m shaking until Jase holds me from behind, pulling me into his chest. And again, I’m stiff.
His embrace is calming and masculine, wrapped in warmth. It’s designed to comfort, just like the small kiss he plants on my neck. But I can’t relax. I can’t.
“Why did they do this?” My question turns to broken pieces of whispered syllables in the air.
“Stay with me. I’ll make sure we find them and get your book back.” His soothing words do nothing to change what’s happened and where my mind leads me.
None of this would have happened if Jenny hadn’t died; if she hadn’t gotten herself into this mess. It always leads back to Jenny and with her name on the tip of my tongue, tears threaten again to fall.
All the calm words and pretty promises couldn’t keep the tremors at bay.
“I want to know who they were. They knew what they were doing. It’s the men who murdered Jenny. That’s why they took the book.”
Every memory of my sister always brings out the worst in me.
Angry tears form but don’t fall as I take in a heavy breath and shove Jase away. I’m good at doing that. At shoving people away.
Those bastards came here. They took her book from me, the last thing she left me and the only thing that had a message from her. The only key I had to finding out what happened to her.
“Call the cops,” I demand, wiping at my eyes with the sleeve of my sweater. The words scratch my throat on their way out.
“No.” He answers hard.
“Call them!” I screech, shoving my fists into Jase’s chest to get him away from me. Anger is nothing compared to what I feel. He grabs my wrists quicker than I can register, forcing me to stare up at him. He can stare all he wants; he can try to hold me, try to bend me to his will, nothing will get through to me. Once he learns that, he’ll leave.
It’s only when I look into his eyes in this foyer, with this fear and the memories of Jenny that I realize it’s just as it was a week and a half ago when he first knocked on my door. Nothing has changed.
“Just go,” I seethe.
“Calm down.” He grits the words through his teeth, the irritation barely contained in his voice.
“I’m calling the cops.” I stare into his eyes as I speak.
“No, you’re not. You’re going to come with me. You’re going to wait while I find the men who did this and make this right.” Every word from his mouth is a demand. They strike me and dare me not to obey.
Ripping my hands away from him, I step back and then step back again. My teeth grind so hard against one another they could crack.
Jase knows better than to approach me as I reach for my shoes and then gather my phone without a word spoken. He thinks I’m obeying him. Going along with what he says and listening like a good girl.
Never in my life has someone bossed me around and told me what to do. Not until Jenny went away and Jase came storming into my life. The bitter acknowledgement stays with me as I prepare to get the hell away from here.
He walks around my place as I silently put on my shoes and grab my coat, my car keys still in the right pocket. Beneath the heavy fabric is my purse, the wallet still there.
And the knowledge is a smack in the face.
They had to know it would be obvious that it wasn’t a robbery. Maybe they were counting on me not calling the police. Maybe they know about Jase. They thought I’d run to him?
A chill flows down my spine as I stare up at the man I’ve been sleeping with, the man I thought I was falling for. He nods toward the door, telling me he has to make a call before we leave.
I don’t answer him, not trusting myself to speak.
Instead, while he’s on the phone on the porch I walk right past his car and get into my own, speeding off quickly enough so that all he can do is run into the street as I stare into my rearview mirror watching him.
The deafening silence is my only companion as I run away from it all, toward God knows where. I have no idea where I’m going or how I’ll find a way out of this mess. The second I get around the corner, panic takes over. Realizing this is my life; this is what my life has become.
The tires screech as I yank the wheel to the left and turn into the neighbor’s long drive. Slamming on the brakes and parking, I turn off the car, feeling a sickness churn in my gut.