“Could have been. People like him don’t kill everyone they associate with. Think of the fucked-up serial killers who have had wives and children.”
“So who does he choose? Why Daisy? Why Erica?”
I shake my head. “I really don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. He was clearly upset with Daisy for cutting his face. Did he kidnap her? How long was she missing before they found her body? Did her slashing his face thwart other plans he had for her? He was a sick fuck.”
“Let’s just drop it. It doesn’t matter.”
She pulls her hand out of mine, hugging herself. “You think he did stuff to her or was planning on it?”
I rub the back of my neck. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t deserve our thoughts.”
“How can you say it doesn’t matter? How can you believe that I was her, yet say it doesn’t matter if that sick bastard did unthinkable things to her—to me.”
I hold my tongue for a few seconds. She’s here. Alone. She walked away from Nate and that life. She walked away from the past. But she’s right. It will always be with her, just beneath the surface.
Just like I will always think of Doug’s lifeless body hanging from a noose. And she will always think of dying tragically.
“He’s dead. You can’t change what happened. So it doesn’t matter.” I grab her face and lean down until my nose brushes hers, until we share the same breath. “We will bear each other’s burdens forever. But for us to have everything, the burdens have to live in silence. We can never give them a voice.” I close my eyes. “And I want everything with you.”
She drifts forward to kiss me. I pull back, releasing her.
“Let’s live in the now. And right now I want food.” I take her hand again and lead her to the door.
I open the door and shoot her a confused look.
I grin. “Are you sure?”
She rolls her eyes. “Yes. And so is my bank. You owe me grocery money.”
“I’ll work it off later.”
After the race ends, I manage to get shoved into the hallway with the rest of the departing crowd. Lifting on to my tiptoes, I try to see Griffin. He’s right inside the doorway, chatting it up with some of his friends.
On a defeated sigh, I head to the stairs and back down to my apartment. It’s almost ten. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted.
After I get my face washed and teeth brushed, I lift my shirt and stare at my refection in the mirror. He cut me with the jagged piece of metal I used to cut him. I shake my head.
“Unbelievable,” I whisper.
Investigators probably dismissed it as a cut from the dock or the boat in my struggle. I don’t know. But all this time I’ve worn my past on my chest.
I crawl into bed. The second I get the light shut off, there’s a knock at my door.
“Really?” I throw back the covers and turn on the light.
No surprise, or maybe the best surprise of my life, Griffin’s on the opposite side of the peephole. I open the door.
He inspects my nightshirt which happens to be his shirt. “Nice shirt.”
“I think so.”
He steps toward me. I step back. The door shuts behind him. He locks it.
I raise a single eyebrow. “Are you staying?”
Griffin exchanged his jeans and boots for exercise shorts and untied running shoes, no socks. “Do you want me to stay?” He takes another step toward me.
This time I don’t step back. “Wanna crawl under the sheets with me and hide out for the night?” I shrug. “Not because we have to … just because we want to?”
He ditches his shirt. I ditch mine. He slips off his shoes and gazes upon me expectantly. My eyes rove along his chest, jerking to meet his gaze again when he clears his throat.
“You’re still wearing two things. I only have one.”
“Do I really still have two items of clothing on?”
Of course … he’s not wearing briefs under those shorts.
I rub my lips together. He still hasn’t kissed my lips. It’s been seven months. I’m dying. It’s a brutal replay of when we first started dating.
“You’re toying with me.”
Trapping his lower lip between his teeth, he inspects me for a few long seconds. “Am I?”
“The way you toyed with me on our third date.”
“Ah … our third date.” He smirks. “It was a really good one as I recall.”
I nod, hating the rush of insecurities. How many dates did he have with Ginny? Three? More than three?
It’s none of my business.
Will he compare me to her now? Was she better in bed?
It’s none of my business.
I hate when shit’s not my business, but I need to know.
“All,” he says.
My mind rebounds back to the present.
He steps toward me. I back up. We do this dance until the back of my legs hit the bed.
“I said we have to be all or nothing. There’s not a middle for us. To be all …” He curls my hair behind my ear.
“Or everything … That means I accept your past and you accept mine. And that past includes the months we’ve been apart.”
How does he read my mind?
“I left. You stayed. And life went on for both of us.”
I know what he’s implying. He thought we were over. So did I. But it still stings.
“I didn’t have sex with Nate.”
Tension settles along his forehead. “You don’t have to tell me that.” His fingers ghost up my arm.
“I need you to know.”
“I already knew.”
“You …” My jaw unhinges and I scoff in disbelief as I sit on the end of the bed, grabbing a blanket to hold over my bared chest. “How could you know? Were you in touch with Nate behind my back? Is this what he meant when he said you told him to keep an eye on me? Is this how he knew you were the one who killed Doug?”
Griffin pushes a heavy breath out of his nose. “Before I left town, I paid him a visit. Yes, I told him to keep an eye on you. I told him to take care of you. And then I told him you were safe.”
“You told him you killed Doug. Because he knew. That’s how I knew.”
“What did he say? You told him you killed a man. He could have turned you in. You could have been arrested for murder.”
Griffin shakes his head. “I knew he wouldn’t. We both wanted the same thing—you safe.”
“Nothing? He said nothing? Asked no questions?”
“He said ‘thank you.’ And before I walked out the door, he asked me why I was leaving you.”
God, my heart hurts hearing this. “What did you say?” I whisper.
The pads of his fingers brush the angle of my jaw. “I said you weren’t mine. And the pain on his face told me you weren’t his either.”
You’re not mine to kiss.
My head bows in shame. Such a painful irony. I’ve been loved by two men, neither feeling they were the worthy one, when the truth is I’m the one not worthy of this kind of love from them.
In another life, I let Nate go when I should have fought for us. I went to the abandoned property when he told me not to go. Why? I don’t know. I may never know why. But for over two decades, he’s lived with the guilt.
“I needed to know … everything. How Daisy died. How she felt. Why she went to the property alone. The unknown consumed me like a cancer. Just this …” I grimace. “This unnerving need. A drug. An addiction stronger than anything.”
My gaze inches up to meet his. “You.”
His face wrinkles with confusion.
“Doug was the driving force. But when I found out he was dead and I couldn’t call you or text you, I felt so fucking empty. I felt dead.” I shake my head slowly. “I no longer cared. The addiction was gone. The fear was gone. You were gone. So I just … stopped.
“I stopped seeing Dr. Albright. The visions in my head were nothing more than whispers, white noise. They no longer fed a need—a curiosity. In some ways they died the day I went to Doug’s apartment.”
I blink, releasing a lone tear. “I let part of me—her—die with him. And for a while I felt so lonely and filled with anger. Anger toward Daisy for hijacking my life. Anger toward you for leaving. Anger toward Nate for everything—sitting in Dr. Greyson’s lobby. Putting out an ad for a nanny. Hiring me. Just … everything.”
I laugh. “I was so angry. But there was Morgan. She was the innocent one. And my love for her is incredible. So after a while, I thought—okay, life, is this where I’m supposed to be? Here with Nate and Morgan?”
My gaze shifts to the side, trying to figure out how to explain how I got from there to here.
“And what was the answer?”
I grunt. “Nate’s answer was I wasn’t his. In his book, I could never be his when another man killed to save my life. But honestly … I think he knew who I was even when I didn’t know.”
“And who are you?”