Page 14

 Kristen Ashley

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His Emme. Smart as a whip.
But as he moved around inside, even with the walls not re-patched after electrical work, it was a home. It was furnished in a mix of antiques and modern that worked beautifully, albeit it was furnished sparsely. But in that place, it’d take years to fill it with furniture.
Upstairs, more of the same except many of the rooms were closed, draft protectors at their bases, radiators off inside, rooms freezing cold, no furniture or even boxes in those rooms.
Except one room, a guest room, was entirely refinished. Its bathroom the same. The only rooms he saw that were complete. All in keeping with her décor, but in those rooms, mostly antiques, black-and-white mosaic floor in the bathroom, claw-footed tub, beveled mirrors, heavy wood queen-size bed with lots of pillows and understated but attractive bedclothes.
He kept moving through the house.
No stolen property.
No burglary gang command center.
Just a home. A big one. A f**ked-up one that would one day be sheer beauty. But a home.
The last room he went to was the room he knew to be her bedroom. It was unlikely he’d find anything there, but Deck was always thorough.
But there was something outside of being thorough that drew him there. Something he’d contemplate later, after he got her shot of McFarland.
Cautious, silent, he turned the knob to the closed door and hoped it didn’t creak. Then again, not a floorboard or a door creaked as he moved through the house so someone knew how to use WD-40.
The door opened silently.
He turned out his flashlight, moved in and stopped dead.
The large windows were covered but with sheers, the curtains were opened. The room was warm.
And the moonlight illuminated Emme in bed.
She was on her side and had her back to him.
Her bare back.
The covers were pulled up to her h*ps but not high. He could see the curve of her hip, the top of the round of her ass.
No panties.
Just all that sleek skin of her back, shoulder, side, her hair splayed dark against the light of the sheets
His body reacted, his mind engaged, and seeing her, remembering all she was to him, knowing that had not changed, not ever, spending time with her that night, Jacob Decker made an instant decision.
He also began to back out of the room.
He tore his eyes from a naked, just-fucked-by-another-guy Emme in bed. His mind consumed with what he’d decided and all he felt knowing f**king Dane f**king McFarland had his hands on her, his mouth on her, his dick inside her, when he spied the small, opened jeweler’s box on her nightstand, he almost missed it.
But he saw it, stopped and his eyes narrowed on it.
Furtively, he moved to the bed and stared at that box, the ring inside.
Quickly, he picked it up, moved quietly out of the room, down the hall and tugged out his phone. He took a picture of the large oval ruby surrounded by diamonds and set in white gold.
Just as quickly, he went back, replaced it, backed out of the room and closed the door.
Then he got the f**k out of the house, throat now burning, gut tight, shafts of piercing pain driving through his brain.
He pulled out his phone and texted Chace, I’m out. You lose him?
No. I’m on him. He’s taking a meet. I’ll send a car.
Copy, Deck typed in.
New guy. Don’t know this guy. Got pictures, Chace texted back.
Good, Deck replied but didn’t share about the ring. He’d do that in person tomorrow when he could state plain to all involved how they were going to proceed.
He shoved his phone back in his pocket and moved through the woods.
He stood and waited, hidden by a tree, and only came out when Jeff Jessup rolled up in his SUV.
Jessup took Deck to Chace’s Yukon and while he did, Deck did not invite discussion. Jessup, not stupid by a long shot, didn’t push it. Jessup also had a very pretty wife and a new baby so he didn’t have time to shoot the shit. Deck knew the man just wanted to get home.
Jessup dropped him at the Yukon and Deck swung into Chace’s vehicle. Chace and Deck would switch trucks tomorrow.
Deck drove home.
When he got there, he pulled out the files, flipping through, finding it.
A picture taken for an insurance company.
He got out his phone and pulled up the shot of the ring.
He looked between his phone and the picture.
McFarland had given Emme a stolen ruby ring.
Dumb f**king moron.
And they had the dumb f**k but they had him with fruit from a poisonous tree. He’d got the photo searching Emme’s home without a warrant and Deck not yet being deputized.
It was inadmissible evidence seeing he got it essentially while breaking and entering.
They couldn’t use it.
“Fuck,” Deck hissed.
With no choice but to wait until the next day, he put the file back, got ready for bed and slid between the sheets.
He did not find sleep.
This was not unusual. Since he was a kid, he slept deep but he never slept long. For as long as he could remember, he needed four hours a night, no more. It drove his mom and dad ’round the bend. Elsbeth hated it, bitched about it all the time and refused to entertain the idea of keeping him close so he could read, or do other things, when he woke early. So when he woke, he left her in bed and spent his early awake hours elsewhere.
But he wasn’t finding sleep that night because this was the norm.
He wasn’t finding it because, thirty miles away, Emme, his f**king Emme, was lying na**d in a bed in a ramshackle mansion that looked good but needed a shit ton of work that, on her own, would take a f**k of a lot longer than a decade and a half, a bed where she’d been f**ked by a criminal, a stolen ten-thousand-dollar ring sitting on her nightstand.
“Fuck,” Deck clipped and rolled.
An hour later, still not finding sleep, he knifed out of bed.
Not knowing why, he went to the kaleidoscope on the mantel. He nabbed it, its box and took them to his bedroom.
He put them on his nightstand and stared at its shadow in the dark.
Five minutes later, he found sleep.
Chapter Five
Where I’m Takin’ Us
I looked out my office window, down to the yard, my eyes to the bustling activity, and I did this tapping my phone on my desk.
I should be working but I wasn’t thinking about work.
I was thinking about Jacob.
More precisely, I was thinking about calling Jacob, had an overwhelming urge to do so.
I was also trying not to do so because I had a boyfriend, even though he was a boyfriend I wasn’t all that sure about. He was sweet, he was into me, but he was just… off.
Then again, I didn’t have a lot of experience so what did I know?