Her eyes widen as I lean back in my seat. I thought about it every second we sat outside the department. She needs to be my wife.

“You’re fucking crazy to think I’d take that proposal seriously.”

“If something happens–”

“I’d go to jail,” she cuts me off, her fire blazing as the irritation grows in her eyes. “I’d rather go to jail than marry someone because I accidentally saw something I shouldn’t have.” She eyes me as if I’ve lost it, and maybe I have. “I’ll stick to my story that I don’t know how any of it happened and I don’t have anything else to say. Thank you very much,” she says, and her final quip comes with the crossing of her legs away from me. She stares out the window again and it’s then I realize where the term ‘cold shoulder’ comes from.

“I had a moment, Bethany. Don’t hold this against me.” My voice is calm and like a balm it visibly soothes her prickly demeanor.

She’s slow to look over her shoulder, peeking at me before saying, “Everyone has moments, but it scared the fuck out of me, Jase.”

“I’ll apologize again, I’m sorry-”

“I don’t want an apology.” Her entire tone changes, and a different side of her I’ve never seen presents itself. She’s calm, receptive, concerned even. “What the hell happened?”

I’ve never spoken about Angie to anyone so openly. Not even my brothers know all the details. Not Seth. No one.

I repeat forcefully, “I had a moment.”

She pauses, considering me, but returns to the cold condition she had moments ago as she says, “I want to go home.”

“No.” I answer her with more force than I intended.

“Yes,” she snaps back. “You can have your moment. But if you aren’t going to tell me what the hell happened, I’m not going back to your place right now so I can have my own damn moment.”

I shouldn’t be so turned on by her anger.

“You still owe me twenty-seven days.” I remind her of the only card I have to play, leaning closer and daring her to fight me. The tension in the car thickens and heats.

“Fuck you,” she retorts far too casually, pulling the sleeves of the large white sweater she was given in the department down her arms. It’s a simple plain sweatshirt material, and it does nothing to show off her figure. I had Linders offer it to her since her own shirt was confiscated… and now incinerated back at The Red Room like it should have been initially. Before she ran.

“Did you forget about our deal?”

She ignores my question and replies, “I had three hundred thousand in cash in the back of my car.”

“They destroyed it.”

The question’s there, lingering in her gaze. “I’m well aware of that,” she says, then swallows loud enough to hear. “Is it really about a debt for you?”

“Would I ask you to marry me if I only cared about a debt?” I question her unspoken thoughts.

Time pauses and it feels like I have her back, like she’s close enough to hold on to forever so long as I don’t slip up.

“The suggestion wasn’t asked, it was told. In order to save me from having to testify… It’s not the same.”

When she speaks, she’s careful with every word. “I don’t want to be under your thumb, Jase,” she admits. “That’s all this is. I’m playing into your hands over and over. I think I have control in situations when I don’t.”

I’m just as careful with my reply. “I know I fucked up. I shouldn’t have let you see me like that–”

“Why?” she cuts me off. “Why wait there for me to see? You had to know I would.”

And just like that, she’s slipping away again.

I can’t fucking breathe. This damn shirt feels like a noose around my neck; I clutch at it, unbuttoning my collar.

“I need you right now.” The words fall from me and I’m not even aware that they have until she threads her fingers between mine and squeezes.

“You can tell me,” she whispers.

How do I tell her the truth: I killed a man who hurt a woman I barely knew and it doesn’t feel like it was enough? How do I tell her I can’t get what happened years ago out of my head and the sight from that night will never leave me? How do I share that burden with anyone?

Let alone with her, a woman I can’t lose? I’m barely conscious of it myself.

“Jase, I deserve to know.”

My gaze drifts from hers and finds Seth’s in the rearview mirror.

“I don’t have answers right now.”

“That’s becoming a theme for you, isn’t it?” she bites back, pulling her warm hand away from mine. Leaning forward she places her hand on the leather seat in front of her. “Seth, please take me home.”

There’s no room for negotiation in my tone. “You’re coming home with me.”

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