Page 27

 Kristen Ashley

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“Don’t be a dick,” Chace clipped. “You know your relationship with someone involved with someone involved in an investigation is pertinent to that investigation. You also know it’s seriously pertinent to me partnerin’ with you on this investigation and if you’d shared, I could have f**kin’ finessed it.”
He was right.
And that sucked.
Deck said nothing.
Chace studied his friend.
Then he murmured, “Jesus, she’s it for you.”
“Look at the picture, Chace,” he pointed to the photo on the floor. “All that’s been there fourteen years and I didn’t see it. Fucked around, pinin’ for f**kin’ Elsbeth and I didn’t see it. She kept it hidden from me. From everybody. Now, for some reason, she’s let it out. But what’s worse, she’s been a town over and I didn’t know it. I didn’t know she took down the veil. Part of that, I’ll add, is thanks to you not sharin’ that info. Now I’ve had it without havin’ it for seventy-two hours and she’s disappeared.”
“You’ll find her.”
“And what do you think I’m gonna find?” Deck asked. “You know her history. You knew her before. She tries it with Dane, finds out he’s f**ked. She was willin’ to go there with me, not eager, freaked, but I got her there, and she thinks I played her. What am I gonna find, Chace?”
“Just talk to her, man.”
“This kinda shit can take her right back behind that veil she’s been hidin’ behind since that shit happened to her when she was twelve.”
His friend’s eyes lit with understanding, Chace moved closer and his voice got lower. “Then find her and talk to her, man.”
Deck held Chace’s eyes then it occurred to him Emme was out there pissed, maybe hurt, and he was wasting time. So he jerked up his chin.
But he didn’t move to the door.
He stated, “Kenton Douglas knew he didn’t approach Emme. He knew she was mine. He’s not stupid either so I reckon he also knows how she’s mine. He’s impatient to make his mark. I think he’s got good in him. I think he’ll do good things for the office. But you, Henry, Shaughnessy, Carole, watch out. Enthusiasm like that can turn bad.”
“He jumped the gun and Emme’s Mick’s, Deck. You don’t know Mick well but he considers every citizen of Gnaw Bone his personal responsibility. You weren’t here when Douglas got back from talkin’ to Emme, but Mick was not real pleased because Douglas didn’t even tell Mick he was makin’ that ride. Mick also understood you had a connection and he’s the kind of man who would have told you he was rollin’ out in a cruiser so you’d have a heads-up. So, what I’m sayin’ is, this isn’t lost on us.”
They held each other’s gazes for a moment before Deck murmured, “I gotta find my girl.”
“You want my help?” Chace offered.
“You feel like cruisin’ a few streets before goin’ home to Faye, yeah.”
Deck knew the answer before Chace gave it to him.
“I can do that.”
Deck nodded. They moved out and Deck avoided Douglas as he did so.
No one stopped him. His file was thorough. Officers went out to pick up suspects after three pages were read. They were busy following leads Deck gave them and corroborating evidence he supplied.
But Deck’s job was done.
So it was time to find Emme.
* * *
Four and a half hours later…
As Deck’s truck moved down the street to his house, he knew why neither he, nor any of his boys, nor Chace, nor anyone he’d put a feeler out to could find Emme.
Because she was at his house.
He did not know if that was good or bad.
But he reckoned it was bad.
He hit his garage door opener, drove by her Bronco in his drive and parked in the garage.
Snow was being forecast for the night. He’d move her truck in after they had the conversation he figured they were going to have.
He found her in his great room, no jacket, no scarf, no purse. She’d lit out so pissed she likely hadn’t grabbed anything but her keys.
She was sitting on one of his denim-covered sofas, Buford sitting on the floor by her side, his head on her knee, her hand scratching behind his ears. His dog didn’t move anything except his eyes to Deck when he walked in, that was how much he liked exactly where he was. Hell, Deck reckoned this could have been their positions for the last seven hours, Buford liked to have his ears scratched that much.
He stopped moving, they locked eyes and before he could say a word, she started.
“You knew me for five years, didn’t even mildly flirt. You,” she lifted her hands and did air quotation marks, “run into me three days ago when I’m with Dane, after nine years of nothing, you’ve got all the time in the world for me.”
She interrupted him, saying, “Don’t even start. Whatever you’ve got to say will be full of shit.” He took two steps toward her but she halted his progress by hissing, “Don’t bother. I’m leaving.”
She gave Buford one last stroke and rose from the couch as he spoke. “Emme, listen to me.”
“No f**king way,” she told the floor, eyes to her feet, feet moving fast.
Deck moved faster.
He cut her off and she tried rounding him so he shifted and cut her off again.
She took two steps back and squared off, eyes slicing back to his.
“Let me pass, Jacob,” she demanded.
“Baby, you gotta—”
He didn’t get that out. For some reason, his words tripped something in her and she advanced, fast. Shoving a palm into his chest, she pushed hard. He rocked back and caught her wrist in his hand.
“I missed you.”
She leaned into him and her hand. “You played me.”
His hand tightened around her wrist and he growled, “I f**kin’ did not.”
“Bullshit,” she snapped.
“Listen to me.”
“Fuck that,” she bit out. “This is for the birds. Next time I’m puking my guts out and so goddamned tired, I want to cry because I have to pull myself out of bed to get a 7Up to settle my stomach but I’m too f**king tired to even cry, I won’t lie there and think how f**ked-up shitty it is to be so goddamned alone and so f**king lonely. Scared I’ll die, no one will care. No man. No kids. Fuck that. I’ll lie there knowing all I had and all I ever had to depend on is me and that’ll get me through.”