Page 5

 Kristen Ashley

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“You know her,” Deck whispered, also losing patience, and he watched his friend’s face. Definite concern but also indecision.
He knew Emme.
Chace went from the academy into Carnal’s Police Department and stayed there but that didn’t mean Deck didn’t spend time with Chace throughout all Deck’s travels. Chace had met Elsbeth. Chace had spent time with her. And with Elsbeth came Emme. So Chace had spent time with Emme too.
“Her change is remarkable, Deck,” Chace noted again. “That’s something to take into account.”
At his words, Deck felt the ghost of her fingers digging into his shoulder through his coat. Saw the dimple. Heard her call him honey.
And he knew her history. Elsbeth told him. He knew what she’d survived. He knew what made her what she was.
He didn’t know what made her what she was now, but he was going to find out at dinner.
Last, he knew Emme would not be a part of a crew who burgled homes across an entire county and recruited high school students to do it. Not for the attention of the likes Dane McFarland. Not for money. Not for power. Not for anything.
“She’s up first. I investigate her. Clear her. Then clear her of this shit,” Deck stated.
“You work that with me,” Chace returned.
“Suit yourself. But dinner with Emme tonight is just her and me.”
Chace studied him.
Deck took it then looked to Douglas. “You got a file for me?”
“It’ll be delivered to your house by three thirty,” Douglas replied.
“Contracts will be emailed to you by then. My crew will be in tomorrow at eight to be deputized,” Deck replied.
“You gonna be with them?” Douglas asked.
“Wouldn’t miss that shit for the world,” Deck answered, cut his eyes through the people in the room, noting Henry Gibbons looked amused, Mick Shaughnessy looked annoyed, Carole Weatherspoon looked reflective and Chace still looked worried.
Then he walked out of office, out of the station and to his truck.
Chapter Two
Deck stood at his dining room table, chin tipped down, eyes scanning the carnage in the photo on top of the mess of papers that was spread out across his table that had once been three thick but organized police files.
A kid. Boy. Seventeen years of age. Hair too long. Clothes ill-fitting by design. Top of his head blown off since he put the barrel of a gun under his chin and pulled the trigger.
He’d been bonded out two hours before. They were pushing to try him as an adult. They were doing this because, in the six months the burglaries had been occurring with increasing frequency across the county, he’d been the first one they caught.
Not the first one who was seen. There were two others, both boys, described as young, but since the burglaries occurred in the dead of night, the vehicles used stolen and later dumped and no fingerprints, no IDs had been made. But both the others seen were noted as no older than eighteen.
They were hoping the one they caught would run scared and talk. He’d lawyered up, his family bonded him out, but the cops made it clear that things would go smoother on him, he turned rat.
Two hours later, he’d got his dad’s gun and, instead of talking, took his own life.
Bad shit.
Dark shit.
And no way Dane McFarland would make a kid run that scared he’d blow the top of his head off instead of talking. And no way the likes of Dane McFarland could make a kid follow him to the dark side.
He shoved papers and pictures aside and found a messy stack he’d made. He flipped through them, examining them closely even if it made his throat prickle.
Emme. The new, beautiful, stylish Emme with McFarland.
He couldn’t get used to seeing her like that, even as long as he studied those photos. If the dimple wasn’t there, he wouldn’t believe it was her. And if there weren’t shots of her without sunglasses so he could see her eyes. Eyes he always thought of as exotic. Perfect almonds coming to points at the sides that tipped up, back then her most attractive feature (outside the dimple) by far. Now it was debatable.
Jeff was right. She and McFarland spent a lot of time together. And McFarland wanted it known she was his. He did this by touching her all the f**king time. Hand to her hip, her waist, the small of her back. Arm around her shoulders. Her in both his arms, his mouth locked to hers. PDA and lots of it.
If Deck didn’t know her and he had that dimple in his bed, those light brown eyes he could make dance, he’d likely do the same.
But he didn’t like it with McFarland. It wasn’t just possessive. It wasn’t at all protective. It was a statement and it was borderline creepy.
He couldn’t see Emme putting up with that.
And he didn’t like that she was.
He had to get her shot of this guy.
What he could see was what Chace said. Whatever made her make the change, grow her hair, get her style together, take off weight, could mean she was finally moving beyond what happened to her and looking to enter the game, find a man. And maybe after not having one for as long as he’d known her, before (if what Elsbeth said was true) and likely for a while after, it could make her think she struck gold with a tall, good-looking, built guy who showed her a f**kload of attention. This might make her put up with a load of shit that might send up red flags she’d ignore just to get that attention, the kind she’d never had.
His eyes drifted to his mantel and the long, polished, handsomely carved wooden box sitting there.
Seeing that box, he again couldn’t see Emme doing that.
Further, McFarland had tried that possessive bullshit with her in front of Deck and she ended it in a second.
He was whipped. She was not the one having the wool pulled. He had her and he was still gagging for more.
This made Deck’s throat prickle further due to the fact that, he didn’t know Emme, he saw what he saw, he’d be switching pictures on that whiteboard. McFarland bottom right corner, Emme, top center.
But, his eyes aimed to that box, he knew her.
That shit couldn’t be.
He looked back down, shoving the pictures aside and scanning the reports.
He got why they pinpointed McFarland as boss. He had a sister who was a high school chemistry teacher in Carnal. He had a brother who was a high school history teacher in Gnaw Bone. The dead kid’s history teacher. Black lines from McFarland to both of them. The sister had a red line between her and her boyfriend, a known dealer who worked the Carnal/Gnaw Bone/Chantelle triangle. Another red line from that dealer to McFarland since they’d been best friends since high school.