Authors: Melissa Pearl
Tags: #coming of age, #justice, #young adult, #fugitive, #contemporary romance
It did make me feel better, knowing that at least someone would be doing something, but it didn’t change that fact that the person I wanted to protect had fled in order to protect me and that just felt wrong.
I held tight to the door, my lips slightly ajar as I took in my friend. His hands were in his pockets, his checkered shirt rolled at the sleeves like always.
“What are you doing here, Elliot?”
He kicked the doorstep. “Gimme a break. I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Why?” I stood my ground, still not letting him in.
“Because you’re my friend, you moron and I miss your dumb face.”
A smile erupted over my lips before I could stop it and I pulled the door wide.
He sauntered towards the kitchen. “Where are your olds?”
“Out getting stuff for their big trip.”
I pushed past Elliot and gathered up the stuff on the dining room table, shoving it into the manilla folder so he couldn’t read it. He leaned against one of the chairs with a sigh.
“You know, dude, I’m willing to concede that I was a little harsh on the Dani thing.” His lips pinched tight. “I could see how much you liked her and it was obvious she was into you too. Maybe I was jealous, I don’t know, but…” He pointed at the messy pile of papers in my hand. “You have to concede that you’re keeping stuff from me and you’ve never done that before.”
The hurt look in his eye made me drop the pages back on the table. “I know.”
“Still not ready to tell me?”
“What if I never am?” I crossed my arms and looked at him.
His big nose scrunched, his frown pulling tight for a second, but then he relaxed with a shrug. “I guess I’ll just have to get over it…as long as my friend isn’t suffering, I don’t need to know.”
My arms dropped to my sides, matching the defeated look I could feel etched onto my face. “I don’t just miss her, I’m really worried about her.”
Pulling in a breath, I slid the folder towards him.
“Holy shit,” Elliot whispered twenty minutes later. His eyes were locked on the details of the article and then he dropped it on top of the rest. “You think she’s one of these girls?”
I nodded, flicking the pages with my thumb. “I don’t know which one, but what the articles don’t say is that the murderer was a crooked cop.”
“How do you know?”
“She told me.” I swallowed. “That weekend I went to San Fran to hang out with Uncle Al. I found out that she’d been assuming all these different identities. I called her on it and she spilled the truth.”
“Are you sure? It wasn’t just an act?”
I shook my head, adamant. “It was the truth, man. I know she told me the truth that day…and I promised her I wouldn’t say anything.” I wrapped my knuckles on the table. “But me being Mr. Fixit couldn’t keep my mouth shut and I asked my uncle if he could look into it for me.”
“Dude, this is heavy stuff.” Elliot pointed at it.
“So she ran because you blabbed?”
I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees. “You know what, I actually think she ran to keep us safe.”
Elliot looked skeptical.
“I know you didn’t trust her. I know she lied to us, but she was scared. She still thinks that cop is out to get her and she took off because she didn’t want us in the cross fire.”
Pursing his lips, Elliot picked up Lucy Tate’s notes. “Are you sure she’s not just a killer who wanted to flee before she got caught?” He swung the pages between his thumb and forefinger.
I snatched it out of his hand and dumped it on the table. “She’s not Lucy. I refuse to believe she killed her own parents.”
“Maybe they were bad people. Maybe they deserved it.”
“She’s not a killer, Elliot!” I whacked the table.
“Okay, okay.” He raised his hands in surrender and then gave me that sympathetic look. The one he saved up for when he knew I was really hurting. “Whatever or whoever she is, it doesn’t change the fact she’s gone. You have to get over it, man.”
I jerked out of my seat and paced into the kitchen. “How the hell am I supposed to do that when I know she’s out there facing who knows what?”
“Hey, if she made it here on her own, she’ll be okay. She was a strong, independent chick.”
“Yeah, I know.” I closed my eyes, leaning against the counter and dipping my head. I wanted her to need me. Was that stupid? I just hated the idea of her fending for herself. It was killing me.
I listened to Elliot rise from his seat and quietly approach me. “I know this sucks, dude. I know you want her back, but you can’t let Dani rob you of your year. You still have SATs to pass. You can’t flunk out now.” He slapped his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “You need to focus on graduating. Maybe once the summer rolls around, you and I can go on a Dani-hunt or something. But for now…you have to let her go.”
Elliot was right. I didn’t want him to be, but that didn’t change the facts.
I gave him a stiff nod.
“I’m here if you need anything. You know that, right?”
“Yeah.” I flicked his hand off my shoulder and playfully shoved him away from me.
He grinned back and took a swipe at my head.
“You tell anyone about this conversation, you’re a dead man.” I pointed at him.
“Absolutely! I don’t want people finding out about my soft side. My whole rep will go up in flames. You better not blab, Schultz or your ass is grass.” He pointed at me.
My chuckle was stolen by a touch of sincerity. “Thanks, man. Thanks for being there for me.”
“I always will. Even if you did stand me up for a girl.”
“Never again.” I shook my head, my resolve strengthening. Elliot was right. I needed to get over myself…and Dani. Wallowing was not helping me. I had to let it go.
I knew it wasn’t that simple. It would take time, but with friends like mine, I had a much better chance of making it.
Graduation had come and gone. I’d passed with flying colors as everyone expected me to. The final few weeks of the year had flown by in a blur. Life had been too busy to mope and the files that had lived on the floor beneath my bed, the files I had pulled out on a nightly basis, were now stashed away on a top shelf of my closet. I knew myself well enough to know I’d pull them out again sometime, but for now they had been laid to rest.
Uncle Alex hadn’t contacted me again. I assumed his deadlines were still looming and he hadn’t gotten back to the files. It was actually a relief.
I still thought about Dani every day. The way her blue eyes would study me, the way her soft lips would curve at the corners and how deliciously warm her tongue felt against mine. I didn’t think I’d ever get over her completely. I’d never stop thinking about our time together, about how I could have fallen in love with her…or how I probably had, but never thought to admit it.
I missed her.
I wanted her back, but that was not going to happen and so life went on.
Elliot and I had a big summer planned. We were taking the girls camping for a week while AJ went to some summer cooking school. We also had plenty of events planned at my place. My parents had left two days ago, flown off to Europe for their second honeymoon. It was actually a relief to see them go.
The house was quiet and I liked it that way. I tipped the rest of my coffee into the sink and checked my watch. Elliot was busy with his dad today and the girls had gone off on some shopping spree. I told AJ I might stop by the restaurant for dinner, but I didn’t know if I could be bothered.
The doorbell rang.
I frowned, wondering if it was the girls coming to show me their purchases. Surely not. Did I really have to deal with that? That was a boyfriend’s job. I plastered on a grin wanting to be a good sport and flung the door open.
My smiled fled, as did the air in my lungs.
“Hi, Zach.” Her voice was whisper soft…and beautiful.
I couldn’t speak. I swallowed past the lump in my throat, gripping the door and just staring at her. She looked terrible. Her hair was a scraggly mess down her back, her blue eyes looked tired and bereft of hope. Her lips were dry and peeling and her hands wouldn’t stop shaking as she squeezed them together.
“I um…” She licked her bottom lip. “It’s been… Well…”
“What are you doing here, Dani?”
She winced as I said her name.
“I know I don’t have a right to be standing at your door. There’s no apology big enough to make up for running away like that and there’s no apology big enough for coming back.” She grimaced. “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.” Her chin trembled as she sucked in a breath. “I’m scared and running’s always kept me safe in the past. But it doesn’t seem to matter how far I go, I…you…” She paused, her lips quirking to the side. “You are impossible to run away from.”
My heart did a little somersault before taking off for the Grand Prix.
She tucked a grimy strand of hair behind her ear with a dirty finger. “I guess I just couldn’t live with…” She blinked rapidly, looking down to the ground. I still couldn’t find my voice. I wanted to know what she had to say and I didn’t want my words getting in the way.
She finally huffed out a breath as if summoning all her courage. “I never introduced myself to you properly.”
My insides hitched, wondering if she was about to give me a gift she’d given no one else before.
Her complete trust.
Her hand jerked out in front of me, asking to be shaken. “I’m Lucy Tate.”
At first my insides shuddered to a stop.
As in the parent killer?
I gazed at her open expression, the peace offering her hand was providing, and I couldn’t make myself believe it. There was more to her story and I knew without a doubt that she would let me have it.
I stepped forward, wrapping my fingers around her quivering hand.
“Nice to meet you, Lucy.” A slow smile spread across my face as I gently pulled her into my arms.
Lucy. I now knew Lucy.
It was a small thought that comforted me, filled me with a burst of hope so strong my insides were sizzling.
Her arms came around my back, squeezing tight, and my smile grew.
I was holding Lucy and this time I wasn’t planning on ever letting her go.
Lucy’s story continues in
(A Fugitive Novel, #2)
Keep reading for a sneak peek of what’s coming on May 18th, 2014.
The ride back to Danville had been quicker than I expected. The trucker who picked me up near Bakersfield had made a detour on his way to San Francisco, just to drop me off.
“Thanks for the ride,” I mumbled, jumping from the cab.
His deep brown eyes shimmered with warmth. “You take care of yourself, quiet one.”
I grinned and flicked him a wave before slamming the heavy door and watching him drive off.
He was a good guy. A family man who I knew all about after our three-and-a-half hour trip together. I had barely said two words the entire trip and he’d filled in the space nicely. It was a good distraction from my beehive of thoughts. My body was buzzing with so many emotions I could barely function.
Hiking my bag onto my shoulder, I orientated myself. Trucky Derek had dropped me off on the outskirts of town. I recognized the buildings and took a deep breath before heading towards the brick house near the middle of town.
I never usually hitched, walking was more my style. Six weeks ago I had walked out of Danville, scurried away from the love of my life because I was scared. I made it all the way to San Diego. I could practically smell Mexico, but I just could not make myself cross that line.
I was a grimy, stinking mess when I finally admitted this to myself. I crawled behind a smelly dumpster and sobbed until my belly ached. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave him. At least I couldn’t do it without telling him how sorry I was.
The next morning, startled awake by yet another nightmare, I stood on shaking limbs and began my trek back north. It took me eleven days to reach Bakersfield and when I bumped into Derek, I just could not refuse his offer of a ride. I knew it was foolhardy, but I had to get to Zach. The need within me had grown desperate.
I slowed to a stop outside his house, the white door so familiar. I had walked through it for several study sessions in the little time we’d had together. His parents were so cool. I loved the warmth of his house, the comfort it provided. Sure, it did remind me of a sweet childhood that was snatched away from me in an act of brutality that left a gnarly scar on my soul. I had found that part unsettling, but it hadn’t been enough to stop me from coming back. I entered Zach’s world and fell in love with it