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I was also freaking out because Jacob would be in that house with me (maybe) and we’d be together for the first time as a different kind of us (except for his hurried fly-by at my office to give me his keys, which included him kissing my forehead again—which was very nice—but that was all it included) and I didn’t know if I was ready for that.
I was. I was looking forward to it. Anxiously. Excitedly.
I just also wasn’t. Mostly because I was thinking on it, panicked.
I was walking down the stairs, thinking these thoughts, when I saw the police cruiser through my own not-so-panoramic but nonetheless fabulous etched windows that luckily had never been broken that flanked my huge front door.
So I would not be going over to Jacob’s house imminently.
But I had no idea that things were going to change dramatically in ways no one would expect.
Even when they were watching a police cruiser pulling up their drive.
Five hours later…
“Deck,” Chace warned low, his hand in Deck’s chest, holding him back from Kenton Douglas.
“Tell me you’re shitting me,” Deck demanded, his eyes locked to Douglas.
“She was in the possession of physical evidence that linked Dane McFarland to a crew of thieves who have been working this county for six months, recruiting vulnerable high school students to do their dirty work,” Douglas replied. “That evidence had to be collected, as did her statement. Jesus, Decker, you told us about the ring yourself. And I took her statement with a deputy, and you’re right. She corroborated your report that she thought it was a gift he purchased and was visibly stunned by the news it wasn’t. It’s clear she has no knowledge of what’s going on. So clear, we didn’t even ask her to go to the station.”
The news Emme was “visibly stunned” made Deck, already unhappy, seriously f**king unhappy.
“You approached her without telling me,” Deck shot back. “And I told you when I told you about the ring that in any dealings with Emme, you don’t do shit without telling me.”
“You’re not running this investigation, Decker. We can’t sit on evidence,” Douglas returned.
“An hour after you visited her, I handed you enough to bring them all in without that f**kin’ ring,” Deck snarled.
“She can’t keep stolen property,” Douglas retorted.
“I didn’t say she’d keep it,” Deck gritted. “Fuck, she didn’t even want it when she thought it was a gift McFarland bought her. But I wanted to be the one to tell her her ex-boyfriend was involved in that mess.”
“I’m thinking maybe you should have divulged how deep your link to her was before you signed the contract,” Douglas fired back, watching him closely.
“That wasn’t pertinent to the investigation,” Deck replied.
Douglas’s brows shot up and Deck knew why. That was bullshit and they both knew it.
He just didn’t give a f**k.
Deck continued, “I told you I wouldn’t blow your investigation. I also told you I’d clear her. I didn’t say smack about the investigation and I cleared her within twenty-four hours. You yourself questioned her and you know she’s an innocent in this whole gig or she’d be being booked like the rest of them are right now. You have not one material or circumstantial piece of evidence that ties her to that f**ked-up shit. But she was mine to handle. I made that clear and you visited her at her goddamned house.”
“You’re right. We don’t have any evidence and that’s why she’s not one of the five people arrested tonight,” Douglas returned. “But that ring is evidence and it needed to be procured, today, not whenever you got around to it.”
Chace said, “Kent, give me a minute with Deck, will you?”
Douglas looked to Chace then to Deck. He jerked up his chin and walked out of Shaughnessy’s office, leaving the two men alone.
Chace dropped his hand and stepped away but held Deck’s eyes.
“What the f**k is goin’on?” he asked low.
“Emme’s mine,” Deck answered and watched Chace’s head jerk.
“Mine,” Deck bit out.
Light dawned so Chace started, “I thought you said—”
Deck cut him off. “Things changed.”
Chace’s brows went up. “In seventy-two hours?”
Deck moved to the whiteboard, ripped off the black-and-white picture of Emme and threw it at Chace. It sliced through the air and landed on the floor, faceup.
“That,” he pointed to the picture, “comes with all that’s Emme, and all that’s Emme has f**kin’ been Emme for f**kin’ years. Had dinner with her twice. Talked to her on the phone a lot more than that. So, yeah, in seventy-two f**kin’ hours, and I wish I had seventy-one of them back.”
“She’s not arrested, Deck,” Chace said carefully. “She’s cleared. She isn’t even a suspect. Douglas and his deputy talked to her less than an hour. You said she wasn’t tight with this guy and that she’s even breakin’ up with him. This is done for her. What’s the big f**kin’ deal?”
“The big f**kin’ deal is, she’s supposed to be at my house and she was supposed to text me when she got there four and a half hours ago. She didn’t. I called. She picked up and then she hung up on me without even sayin’ hi. This happened five f**kin’ times. That’s the big f**kin’ deal.”
“Oh shit,” Chace muttered, knowing what that meant.
“Yeah. Douglas shared and she’s got ideas seein’ as me and McFarland are probably the only two who knew about that ring. She doesn’t know about my work, but she isn’t stupid. Even not knowing, she knows. I asked Max to go to her place to check she’s okay, she wasn’t home. No Bronco. Made calls. Got boys lookin’ everywhere, not hard to spot a bronze Bronco with a f**kin’ glittery butterfly hangin’ from the rearview. Hours. Nothing.”
“You told me things changed, I could have finessed that for you,” Chace told him.
“Sorry, man, I was too busy solving a case in three days you and a task force of your brethren couldn’t solve in six months. Should have kept you up to speed on who I decided I’m gonna take to my bed. I’ll do that next time.”