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“I need to know she’s okay before I can leave.” I stand my ground. “So, if you know where she is, just tell me.”
Pity fills his eyes. “All I know is that she was in trouble with a guy named Marcus Dalemaring.”
“Marcus Dalemaring?” The Marcus my mother mentioned on the voice mail. “I don’t know who that is.”
“You wouldn’t. He showed up here about a year ago and has gotten a pretty good rep for selling drugs and hiring out prostitution.” Joe pushes back from the counter. “From what I understand, your mother was helping him with his business.”
“You mean she was one of his prostitutes?” I shake my head. Things never change with her. “Or was it drugs this time?”
“I think she brought in new clients for him,” he explains as he picks up a rag. “And from what I understand, that involved her in a lot of money transactions, so I’m pretty sure you can piece together what happened.”
“Who the hell would trust her with money?”
“A pimp and a drug dealer,” he explains as he scrubs down the dirty counters. “Especially one who hasn’t lived here long enough to know your mother’s reputation for fucking over people.”
“So, she screwed him over, and he threatened to kill her,” I mumble, realizing how right my aunt was when she said my mother was probably dead in a ditch somewhere. The harsh reality painfully sinks in. She really might be dead this time. I knew it could be a possibility, but I’m suddenly realizing how likely of an outcome it could be.
“That’s just what I heard, but who knows exactly what happened.”
“Do you have any idea where I can find this Marcus Dalemaring guy?”
“No.” He drapes the rag over his shoulder. “And, even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. Get in your car and go home, Jax.” With that, he turns his back to me and walks off toward the storage area.
“Now what do we do?” Clara stares up at me with concern.
“Now we go.” I gently nudge her toward the door.
“But what about your mom?” she asks as she tucks in her elbows and squeezes past people.
“We’ll keep looking for her tomorrow, but right now, I need to get you back to the hotel. It’s already way past dark.” I steer her through the crowd and out the door.
We both inhale the fresh air the moment we step outside.
“I’m going to have to do a body inspection when I get home,” Clara says as I usher her past gawkers. “Make sure I didn’t contract something solely from the air. It smelled like I was breathing STD’s.”
“Yeah...” I’m distracted by my thoughts as I try to figure out what to do next.
Keep asking around until I find this Marcus guy? Go home like Joe insisted I should?
“All right.” Clara grinds to a halt and stops me with her. “Tell me what you’re thinking because I know you have to be thinking about something important for you to pass up commenting on my body inspection remark.”
“I’m just trying to figure out what to do next. If I should go home or not.”
“Do you want to go home?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“You really want to know?” she asks and I nod. “I think we drove a long way out here to find out what happened to her, because it was eating up at you not knowing. I think, if we go back now without figuring out where she is, it’ll drive you crazy.”
She’s right. If I went back home right now, what happened to my mother would haunt me, maybe even for the rest of my life.
“You’re right. I think we should stay.” I lace our fingers together and head for the car again. “But on one condition.”
She’s staring down at our interlocked hands, looking puzzled as hell. “And what’s that?”
“That when we get back to the motel, you’ll let me help you with your body inspection.”
She looks up at me and rolls her eyes, but doesn’t comment or try to swat me. In fact, she seems like she briefly considers letting me.
I bite back a smile. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you might want that to happen.”
Now she moves in for the swat, but I capture her hand and jerk her against my body. I’ve had such a shitty night and all I want to do is not feel shitty. Being with Clara does that for me. I want her, even though it’s not Friday. I want her in my car, in the motel room, everywhere. All the time. Every day.
Even though I know she’ll get upset, I lean down and let my mouth linger on hers, waiting for her to pull back and end the kiss. Instead, she parts her lips. I don’t know why she does it. Perhaps she feels bad for me. I don’t care what the reason is.
I slide my arms around her, press her body against mine, and kiss her deeply. Our mouths move slowly and I savor each breathless whimper she makes. She tastes like tequila with a hint of French fries and the feel of her body heat nearly smothers me in the best way possible. I don’t come up for air until she moans out my name and I have to stop; otherwise, I’m going to rip off her clothes right here in the parking lot.