“He said we should get together for a drink and toast to Erica. Who says that? She wasn’t his friend. He was nothing but a creepy neighbor. And he knew my name. I never told him my name!”
“He probably heard me say it the day Erica died and you accused him of being a murderer.”
I dig my teeth into my lower lip. “No. What if I misheard him? What if he said Daisy and not Swayze?”
“Fuck … not this—”
“Yes. THIS! This. This. This! You have to accept this, Griffin. Like it or not, the only explanation for what I know and the memories I have is that I’m her. She’s me. The idea of reincarnation might not make sense to you or a whole helluva lot of other people, but it is, in fact, the only explanation. This is a bone-deep feeling I have about Doug Mann. I see things in my mind. I hear his voice. I hear her voice. The memories of Nate’s past. The images I have of seemingly complete strangers … Gah!”
I throw my arms up in the air. “My whole past! This is the reason I knew more than I should have known of very specific things. I knew what she knew. All those stupid tests. All those wasted years. No one even thought to consider I brought forth pieces of another life. It’s like young prodigies, only I’m not a prodigy. I’m just a girl who was murdered by some sick bastard. My soul wasn’t finished.”
His jaw relaxes as his gaze clouds over.
I wait. It’s a lot to process. Maybe if I keep feeding this to him in manageable doses, he’ll come to terms with it and accept me for who I am and who I was.
“Salmon, green beans, and sweet potatoes.”
Okay. Maybe I gave him an overdose of it tonight.
He blinks, refocusing on me for a split second before turning back to his dinner preparation.
We eat in silence.
We get ready for bed.
We find the comfort of each other’s arms.
We do it all without sharing another word.
I guess sometimes life has to figure itself out.
“I saw you pull in. Nice truck.” Nate grins.
Slipping off my jacket, I blow a kiss to Morgan rolling around on a blanket with a dozen toys. “Looks like you’re feeling better.”
He butters a piece of toast. “Better? Yes. Awesome? No. But I don’t like missing class.”
I grunt a laugh. “I think expecting an awesome day is just flat-out greedy. Yesterday was a terrible day. I don’t need awesome. I’m good with not terrible. You should be too.”
Morgan grins when I get on all fours and nuzzle my nose into her neck.
“If I recall correctly, I was the one groaning in misery yesterday. How did your day go down the drain between leaving my house and going to bed last night?”
Sitting back on my heels, I draw in a big breath. “On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store. The guy who murdered my friend, Erica, was in line behind me. I hurried out to my car and one of my bags broke. Then I dropped my keys. He picked them up and taunted me with them. Then completely flustered, I backed out and hit another car. When I got home, I tried to explain to Griffin why I need to draw Doug in and catch him so he doesn’t do to another girl what he did to Erica and Daisy.”
Nate freezes midway to taking another bite of toast. Eyes unblinking.
It came out. Daisy just came out of my mouth in a flurry of frustration and raw emotions.
“What did you just say?”
My gaze shifts to Morgan. I tickle the bottom of her feet. “The man who killed Erica is the same man who killed Daisy.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says with an edge of irritation to his voice.
I laugh. It’s not funny. Yet it is incredibly ironic. “You don’t have to believe me. It’s probably in your best interest if you don’t. But I said it and that’s all that matters. Dr. Albright said I should tell you.” I shrug, keeping my focus on Morgan. “There. Now I’ve told you. Maybe she’ll be proud of me for doing my homework.”
“Don’t ever say that again. Understood?”
I look up, meeting his hardened expression. “Are you kidding me?” My eyes bulge out of my head. “I realize you feel responsible for not being with Daisy. I get it. In some ways you feel responsible for her death—which you are not. But don’t you dare scold me for saying what’s in my head. Can you even begin to comprehend what this means to me? When my mind flips on the replay reel and I see Doug and his bloodied face, and I hear his words, it’s not some book or movie. It’s my life. I’m remembering the end of my life as Daisy Gallagher. I’m on the verge of remembering my death!
“And I’m sorry … I didn’t want to share this burden with you, even when Dr. Albright said I should. It just came out. Now you have to decide … what’s it going to be, Nate? Are we friends? If I forgive you for breaking up with me over your stubborn pride, will you listen to me? I need someone to listen to me. Someone who will believe me. Someone who will help me stop this sick bastard from killing another innocent person.”
This new, intimidating, really pissed off looking Nate steps closer. “You’re lying to me. So cancel whatever fucking plans you may have tonight because as soon as I get home, you’re telling me everything before I let you take one step out of this house.”
“Don’t swear in front of your daughter,” I grit through a tight smile. This is not my fault. I’m not a liar. He’s not going to make me feel like I’ve done something wrong.
The muscles in his jaw twitch a few times. Why have I been making the men in my life so angry lately?
It’s NOT my fault!
I pick up Morgan and move her arm like a puppet’s. “Bye, Daddy. You’re going to be late if you don’t stop scowling at my favorite nanny.”
“Swayze …” he says my name like he’s warning me to keep my tongue in my mouth.
I hold every emotion inside. If I let him break me in the process of trying to protect himself, we all suffer and Doug remains a free man. I need Nate’s help, so I’ll take a few verbal punches and scowls of distrust to put an end to this nightmare.
Griffin’s working late. I tell him I’m going to an exercise class; he doesn’t question it since I have always been sporadic with my gym visits. And it’s not a lie. I do have my workout clothes in the truck, I just might not get there until later. Or at all.
Professor: I’m leaving now. My dad will be there soon to get Morgan. Pack her diaper bag and formula. And DON’T LEAVE.
Me: I’ve read this three times and I don’t see a ‘please.’ Surely I’m just missing it????
He doesn’t respond.
Within ten minutes his dad arrives.
“Hello?” He calls from the front door.
I fasten Morgan into her carrier. “Coming.” Slinging the diaper bag over my shoulder, I deliver Morgan to her grandpa.
“Hi, you must be Swayze.”
I nod at the familiar face. “I’d say you must be Mr. Hunt, but there’s no missing the resemblance.”
“The hair give it away?”
I hand him the diaper bag and smile. “The eyes.”
“Sure.” He gives me a playful grin.
“I just fed her and changed her diaper, but everything’s in the diaper bag, including extra outfits.”
He takes Morgan. “Well, I hope you get your contract renegotiated. Nathaniel speaks highly of you. I’d hate for him to lose such a good nanny.”
“My contract …” I nod slowly. “Yeah.”
He points over my shoulder. “I’m taking the other car since there’s a car seat base in the back.”
“Of course.” I step aside and follow him to the back garage door.
“It was nice to meet you, Swayze.”
“You too, Mr. Hunt.”
“Call me David.”
“Okay, David. Do you need help getting her seat in the base?”
“Nope. Nathaniel showed me a while back when he went out with some friends.”
The professor has friends. Of course he does. Everyone has friends. But since he hasn’t mentioned them to me, it’s as if they don’t exist.
When he pulls out, I give him one final wave and press the button to the garage door. It stops halfway down and goes back up.
The professor’s SUV pulls into its spot. He looks as intimidating as he did when he left this morning. Time didn’t soften his anger.
He shuts the door and pins me with one look that makes my knees shake. “Get inside. No dinner.”
I hold my ground. He stops two steps below me, putting us at eye level.
“You need to say the word please. I’m not your employee at the moment.”
“Why are you so mad?”
He bulldozes his way past me. I drag my feet behind him into the kitchen.
Tossing his messenger bag on the sofa, he turns. “Who are you?”
I squint. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not her. Daisy would never do this. I don’t appreciate whatever sick and twisted game this is you’re playing. You can’t just come out of fucking nowhere with this murder accusation. What the hell is wrong with you?”