Authors: Kathryn Kelly
The detective scowls at my reply. I squirm, trying to convince myself that I’m being silly and panicking for nothing.
“I need to know about him.”
have the answers to whatever questions you have?” My attempt to affect the tone Grandma would use, or even Mom, is a big, fat fail.
I need her to help me, and she isn’t here.
isn’t here. I’m either getting rid of this man on my own or not. It’s on me, so I think fast and strive for ignorance. “He’s that lead singer of Phoenix Rising, isn’t he?”
His lips thin. He shouldn’t do that. With his nonexistent top lip, he looks frightening. “Don’t play games, young lady.”
Okay, so judging by his tone, frightening is the goal. The kindness I first heard from him is gone, turning into total douchebaggery.
“I’m here to discover the exact nature of the relationship the two of you had.” Again, he looks pointedly at my stomach. “Obviously, it was sexual, which is a felony because you’re a minor.”
Heat burns into me, sweeping up my neck and into my face. I release one of my imprisoned hands and fan myself to cool off my embarrassment. I’m sure I’m crimson at his stern condescension.
My brain fumbles for another excuse and seizes upon one he provided to me. I’m a minor, huh?
All right, dickhead
“Shouldn’t my guardian be present?” I press, searching for an out. “I’m under eighteen.”
“Don’t pretend to know the law,” he chastises, his superiority undented by my revelation.
My heart sinks, but I’m determined not to show my ignorance. I
know the law, a fact I’m not about to admit. I swore never to betray Sloane. That won’t ever change. Slipping deeper into whatever mire the detective’s creating, I lift my phone. Grandma hasn’t answered my text, but she’ll talk to me if she isn’t in a meeting. “Let me call my grandmother.”
“No.” He nods to the thick folder. “This won’t take long.”
“What’s in there?” Suspicion momentarily suspends my unease. The sight of the voice recorder reminds me of its presence. I point to it. “That isn’t on, is it?”
His look is thoughtful, ping-ponging between me and the small, black device. “Should it be?”
Inwardly, I groan at my big mouth, covering it up by rolling my eyes and dropping the subject. “What’s in the folder?”
His grating smile annoys me. I never thought anyone would out-asshole Kiln, but Detective Jackson’s smug smirk shoots him to the top of my Biggest-Asshole-on-Earth list.
“I’ll get to the folder after you answer my questions,” he promises coolly.
Fuck, back to this living nightmare. Disturbing thoughts rise in my head. Perhaps, Sloane hasn’t called today because he can’t. Maybe, he’s in trouble, and they’re looking to me for answers to help a case along.
Kiln wanted revenge. No,
I can’t see the dickhole changing. Lost in my need for Sloane, I ignored my knowledge of his and Kiln’s history and blurted out I’m carrying Sloane’s daughter.
My womb squeezes and the baby moves, rippling my belly. Either her little hand or her foot travels from one side of me to the other. She’s dancing inside of me, just like Sloane moves across a stage. My hands press on my stomach, and the detective’s smugness increases, right along with my fear.
“It’s his, isn’t it?”
This asshole is relentless.
“No.” I’m determined to correct this. I love Sloane, and I don’t care if he doesn’t love me. Loving people who don’t love me back is the story of my life, so I’m accustomed.
Oh my God, I can’t wait until I see the back of this fucking jerk. Instead of allowing him to continue interrogating me, my mind drifts to another solution. “May I plead the fifth?”
A brief moment of amusement flickers in his light green eyes before he clears his throat and turns back into a big asshole.
“You can answer my questions here or I can escort you to the station and we talk there.”
Every time I seize control, he snatches it back.
“Am I in trouble?” I hate the small tremble in my voice. Hearing it empowers him.
“What was the nature of your relationship with Sloane Mason?” he bites out, ignoring my question, aware he has the upper hand.
I don’t relish lying to an officer of the law, but no way in fucking hell is he getting me—
“And need I remind you the severity of punishment for perjury?”
He’s like a mind reader. I search for an out, a plausible solution. “You can only commit perjury when you lie under oath.”
“I’ve had enough of your bullshit pretense. You don’t know the goddamn law. You don’t know much of anything. Where do you get your bogus information?”
Glancing down, I blink away tears of humiliation. I read about perjury in a book, although I can’t remember which one, or even the storyline. But it’s how I’ve learned most of what I know. No one listens to me when I tell them teachers go too fast for me to follow. Even tutors explain things to me, but go into little depth, listening to what Grandma says. She pays them an exorbitant amount of money to make me feel stupid.
“If you lie to protect Sloane or win him back, you’re the one who’ll suffer.”
His intuition pushes me steadily into a corner, closer to the breaking point. My hormones are already crazy. I’m moments away from either sobbing my heart out or yelling at him like a madwoman.
Neither would be wise or impressive. I’m a woman. Now more than ever, Sloane needs me to be grown.
“Answer me!” The detective barks, losing patience. “Did you have a sexual relationship with Sloane Mason?” he asks, despite my apparent distraction as I eye the buzzer used to summon servants.
Would they even come for me?
Frustrated with myself and the situation, I clamp my mouth shut.
He growls and springs to his feet, bounding next to me. His new proximity removes the comfort of having a table separating my spot on the settee from his on the sofa. He should’ve asked me to sit next to him. The sofa is bigger than this thing.
“If you’re in jail, what becomes of your baby? It becomes a ward of the state.” He leans in closer. I have no room to get out of his reach. “Do you want that?”
Sniffling, I swipe at my tears, glancing behind him toward the door, hoping to see Grandma gliding in. It’s empty. She hasn’t returned.
“Do you want your child to become a ward of the state?” he snarls. “Or would you send it to Sloane? The father?”
I shake my head but refuse to give up. “This is intimidation.” The rude effect I’m striving for is ruined by my tears. “You can’t do this. I have rights. I know I do.”
Minors have rights, don’t they? Consternation replaces his severity, and I know I’ve succeeded in hitting a nerve. We stare at one another. Long moments tick away. The moment my tears dry up, he starts talking again.
“Sloane seduced you,” he insists.
At the unyielding conclusion he throws at me, I scoff. He thinks he knows the ins and outs of my relationship with Sloane. “Sloane seduced me,” I mimic sarcastically. Disbelief curls around my echoing voice. I’m too shocked to phrase it as a question. Irritation finally burrows into me. For now, my emotional pendulum takes a swing in the other direction. It’s so much better than my dread. Sooner or later, I’ll milk my annoyance dry and cry again. “Yes, Sloane seduced me!” I screech, caught up in my mock confession. “Poor Georgiana. I’m only sixteen. Too stupid to know the trouble a grown man could get into if he fucked me.”
Detective Jackson glares at me, his thigh pressing against mine. I’m in a corner and the way he angles his legs blocks my escape.
Who is this man?
He’s part detective and part thug, with a demeanor vacillating between authoritarian and sinister.
“You’re not sixteen now. You’re almost eighteen. But you’re pregnant and under-aged, and it has come to our attention the baby’s father is Sloane.”
He’s not only here to intimidate me but to also put words in my mouth.
“What the fuck—” The stupid phone call from Kiln rises in my head once again.
Glancing away, he adjusts his legs, and I seize his inattention to scramble to my feet. Yes, I’m ungraceful, but I’m not trying to impress the dickhead, so fuck him.
Not moving far away from his reach, I hold out my hands. “Arrest me. Grandma will get me out. She’ll also have your ass for a bunch of bullshit. Yes, I wanted Sloane! He never once returned my calls, despite the many messages I left for him. A shitload. A fuck ton.”
I inch toward hysterical, pregnant female. Judging by Josh when I’d be PMS’ing, men tend to get far away from girls who are in a snit.
“Sit down,” he orders in a harsh voice. A dark red hue flushes his skin. As if he’s a breath away from screaming my head off. His nostrils flare.
Huffing, I return to my seat and fold my arms, resting on the ridge of my stomach, though the gesture isn’t deliberate. A tiny thrill shoots through me that I’m touching my belly and no hell is breaking loose. For a moment, all the drama surrounding me is gone. It’s only Bryn and I. As soon as I get upstairs, I’ll tell her how happy I am to have her.
I’ve been reading to her every day for months from storybooks centering on math and science. I want her smarter than me, which won’t be too hard to achieve. My daughter will be something great one day.
Another stare down is going on between Detective Jackson and me, and I slide my hands to my side. Whether I feel up my stomach or not, the asshole isn’t changing his mind. He drums his fingers on his thigh while I chew on my nails. We can sit here all fucking day.
he can take me down to the station, but the one thing I’m
doing is betraying Sloane. It doesn’t matter how much he’s hurt me. I won’t ruin his life out of petty vengeance. All it’ll do is cause more pain and heartache, and it isn’t worth it.
“You can be called as a hostile witness if it comes to it,” Detective Jackson finally says.
In my head, I do a happy dance. Not because of his statement, but because I outlasted him.
“What do you know about Stefanie Mason’s drowning?”
It takes a moment to process the change of topic. When I do, my heart slams against my chest. This question is even worse than his determination to prove Sloane and me had a sexual relationship. Frowning, I purse my lips and strive for a blank look. He’s thinking of every possible technique to back me into a corner. Details about Sloane’s sister isn’t widely known, and her death is completely hushed. “Is she Sloane’s wife or something?”
Anger steams from him. I offer him a small smile though I’m scared enough to go into labor today, just under a week from my due date. The baby moves, and my stomach hurts.
“Suppose I tell you I have proof Sloane Mason murdered Stefanie, the woman who might be his wife. Or
. Would you be so apt to protect him then?”
The situation degenerates by the second. I’m nauseated and dizzy. To counteract my panic, I gnaw off the nail on my pinky and spit it out. Despite his proximity to me, the nail doesn’t have enough velocity to land in his eye. Still, it’s close to him. Checkmate. He jumps to his feet, ready to go.
“Did you know you fucked a murderer?”
I want him gone!
Instead, I respond, praying I don’t flinch and ruin my bland façade. Not that I doubt Sloane, but I don’t want to fuck up in any way. “Nope. Since I didn’t
Sloane, and he’s the murderer you’re referring to. By the way, if I were you, I’d insert the word
when you’re randomly accusing people of heinous crimes. I’d think that’s Detective 101.” I lift a brow. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I’ve had enough of this.” He digs into his pockets and pulls out a pair of handcuffs. “You’re coming to the station where you will have a videotaped interrogation.”
The moment he reaches for me, the sound of my grandmother’s voice bounces into the room, equaling my own angelic choir.
“What’s going on in here?”
There’s nothing saintly about Grandma. Her tone reminds me of an ice pick stabbing away at bits of frozen water. It’s cold and precise, and enough to discolor Detective Jackson’s features.
She walks closer and squints for effect. Her eyesight is perfect. Besides, it’s easy to see the metal cuffs. “Are those handcuffs?” she asks in feigned confusion. Her square-toed, square-heeled pumps are loud on the floor as she circles from one side of the detective to the other. “For
“You’re Mrs. Sanderson, I presume.” The cop attempts to speak with intimidation, but he adjusts his tie and collar and steps back. “Her grandmother.”
She smiles tightly. I sniff with superiority. Asshole deserves whatever she does to him. It’s always in everyone’s best interests to stay on Grandma’s good side.
“You presume correct, Detective Jackson.”
One of the maids seems to have filled her in on particulars such as his name, saving me the trouble of introductions.