“Can we step outside? I’d like to explain what’s happened,” Miller says, and Tyler helps me up, then tells everyone we’ll be back. When we get outside, we walk away from where anyone might hear us talk. Tyler settles me against his side with his arm around my shoulders, and Miller stands in front of us with his hands tucked into his jeans.
“Charles didn’t personally set the fire or trash your house. He had the grandson of a client of his do it. He told the kid that he would throw his grandmother’s case if he didn’t do what he asked. His grandmother needs around-the-clock care that, without the money from winning that claim, they would never be able to afford. The kid didn’t know any better, thought he didn’t have a choice, so he agreed. At first the kid didn’t think things would be bad, but when he asked him to get rid of your dog, he freaked. He told me he couldn’t do it, that the dog was cool, so he just took off his collar and then called the ASPCA to pick him up.”
“Oh my God,” I whisper, and Tyler’s arm tightens.
“When Charles asked him to set the fire, he did it, but he didn’t think the place would burn like it did.”
“And then he had him trash Leah’s house. What the fuck was the point of all this?” Tyler barks.
“He never told him what his issue was with Leah. He just told him what he wanted done.” Miller looks at me. “What was your relationship with him? I know you mentioned him when we spoke.”
“We dated when we were much younger,” I say. “It didn’t work out, but like I said, we were young. We went on one date a while back, but I didn’t go out with him again after that.” I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Charles is the one behind the fire and the break-in at my place.
“He was pissed,” Tyler snarls, then pulls in a breath. “Leah and I got together not long after they had their date. She didn’t tell him that she wasn’t interested, but she never called him or messaged him after either. His ego couldn’t handle the idea of her not wanting him, and he obviously lost his fucking mind. Please tell me he’s going to jail.”
“Knowing how much money he has and who his dad is, I’m going to be honest. He will probably be out in a couple hours without any real charges against him. What I have on him is not much, and it’s his word against a kid who’s been in jail before for robbery and theft. I know he did it, you know he did it, and tonight, everyone in the restaurant saw him get arrested. Those people are all going to start asking questions, talking, and paying attention to him so closely he’s going to feel like he’s under a microscope. Hopefully, that will stop him from doing stupid shit again.”
“Hopefully,” Tyler agrees.
“You’ve got my number if something happens. In the meantime, know we are keeping an eye on him. If he so much as sneezes in your direction, we’ll deal with it.” He pats Tyler’s shoulder. “Sucks why I’m here, but it was nice seeing you two. And if anything else happens with the case, I’ll let you know.”
“Thanks.” I give him a smile. I’m half-tempted to ask him if he’s single and if he likes cupcakes, but I don’t.
“Have a good night.” He lifts his chin before he walks off.
“Well, now what?” I turn until I’m chest to chest with Tyler, and then I tip my head back to look at him and rest my hands on his chest.
“Now what?” He wraps his hands around my jaw.
“There’s no more unknown bad guy. Your mom has come around and accepted that you’re happy here. We’re engaged and are going to move in together, even though we kinda already do live together.”
“So now what do we do?”
“Live our happily ever after.”
“I like that idea,” I agree with a smile as he leans down and presses his mouth to mine.
ENJOY THE MAGIC
With a fresh cup of coffee, I head outside through the sliding glass doors and lean against the rail of the deck, taking in the beauty of Tennessee. This last year has flown by in a flash and, thankfully, has been mostly drama-free. Charles moved away from town two months after being arrested. Rumor was that his father’s law firm had taken a hit because of his actions. To save his business, his dad couldn’t keep him at the firm, but he did help him get a job in another state. I haven’t heard anything about him since then, and honestly, that’s okay with me.
Even though neither Leah nor Scott pressed charges against him, the kid who set the fire and trashed Leah’s house still pled guilty to all the charges and served six months in jail. After he was released, he and his grandmother stopped by Leah’s salon and apologized. Just like Leah, I felt bad for the kid. He was placed in an uncomfortable situation, where he had a really difficult decision to make: he had to choose between taking care of his family and letting harm come to them. He chose wrong, but in the end him admitting what he’d done spoke volumes for his character. From what I’ve heard, he’s in college and doing community service. He’s also paying restitution to the insurance company that covered the items destroyed in the fire by working part-time at a mechanic shop in town.