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Authors: Kathryn Kelly

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BOOK: Incendiary
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But…

I drop the phone and the remote and get to my feet, hurrying to turn up the television’s volume. I don’t move, incredulous, and watching…

I watch…I watch
my
Sloane…

He’s…Gasps of breath escape me and I fall to my knees.

Sloane’s being taken away in handcuffs. The tickers scroll at the bottom of the screen at a rapid pace, almost too fast to read. They’re all about him. Me.
Us.

The headline plastered beneath the reporter’s name is horrible.
Superstar rocker, Sloane Mason, charged with the statutory rape of Houston native Georgiana McCall after she went to the authorities.
             

Shakes seize my body and I choke. My stomach turns and dizziness swirls through me. “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!”

Sloane’s being arrested for...

For…

For
raping
me.

No.
Oh my God. Sloane didn’t force me. He wouldn’t. Don’t they know that? Who would turn him in?

The import of the scene being played out registers and I gag.

God.

They’re saying
I
turned him in. That
I’m
responsible for what I’m seeing—his life crashing and burning in real time, right before my eyes. In front of the world.

They’re saying
I
fucked up Sloane’s life.

God! God! God!

Sloane’s going to hate me. Everyone has betrayed him. Everyone he surrounds himself with has their own agenda. His father is a horrible asshole. His bandmates barely speak to him, and his brothers only want him for money.
He won’t believe that I’d never hurt him.
That, no matter what, I’d take my secret relationship, the identity of my baby’s father, to my grave to protect him.

An even more horrifying headline flicks on the screen.
Georgiana McCall presses charges against rock star, Sloane Mason. Accuses him of sexual assault.

As I read those damning words, my breath whooshes from me. This headline is more succinct, leaving no doubt.
I
did this. Only, I didn’t.

I couldn’t.

I’d never.

Oh my God.

I did.

I sat down with Detective Jackson and…

What exactly did I say to him? What did Grandma arrange once I left? Bile rushes from my stomach. I throw up until nothing is left but dry heaves and overwhelming sobs. This isn’t happening. Not after everything he’s suffered.

The coverage of him being escorted to a police car replays. Helpless, I reach my hand out toward the television.

“Sloane!” I wail. My shoulders, my entire body, continues to shake. Though not physically cold, I shiver. All warmth has been stolen from me, freezing my soul.

The best thing that ever happened to me, the father of my daughter, is ruined and humiliated.

I’ve managed to fuck up anyway.

“Get up, Georgiana,” Grandma snaps.

I didn’t hear her enter.

Instead of complying, I curl into a ball, not caring about the vomit surrounding me.

“Georgiana!”

“I didn’t do this, Grandma,” I hiccup around my tears. She’s here because of Sloane’s breaking news. “Help him. You’ve got to! Please. He’ll be ruined.”

Glaring at me, she huffs out a breath and flicks off the television.

“Lindsey!” Grandma calls the woman she hired to wait on my every need. Just like she has someone do for her. She loves it. I hate it.

Lindsey has to clean up, serve food, and keep me company.

Bustling into the room, she sets the groceries she’s carrying on a side table. “Yes, ma’am, Mrs. Sanderson?”

“See to my granddaughter.”

Lindsey’s gaze drops to where I lay on the floor. “Georgie!”

“Get her up.” Grandma’s kitten heels clip on the floor. “What have you done, Georgiana?”

“What’s wrong?” Unconcerned with my throw-up, Lindsey wraps her arms around me and helps me into a sitting position. “Is it the baby?”

I cling to her, but talk to Grandma. “I didn’t do this! I would never hurt him.”

“You talked to that detective,” Grandma reminds me harshly, not giving a straight answer to the maid and not allowing me to respond as she rants. “Accused Sloane of raping you. You’re humiliating this family. Are you so desperate for that gigolo’s attention you’ll humiliate me and your mother? Isn’t it bad enough you’re having his baby? You’re selfish. Do you know what this will do to my daughter?”

Anger wells up inside me, and I shove out of Lindsey’s arms. “Mom?” I spit, tears streaming from my eyes. “
MOM!
What about Sloane, Grandma?”

I crawl the short distance to the television and turn it back on, not caring that I’m spreading vomit. I’ve lost my mind. Or, maybe, Grandma has lost
hers
.

Pointing a shaky finger at her, I glance over my shoulder. “If it isn’t about him, then who is it about?” I yell. “He’s the one arrested, charged with my rape.”

The station is recycling the moment he’s being led away, over and over. My name, my accusations, flash on the screen. “There’s nothing about Mom! He’s being arrested.
I’m
being accused of
having
him arrested. Proof this is about him. Sloane! Not Mom.”

She lifts a haughty brow, turning eviler by the second, and looks down her nose at me. “What makes you think this isn’t about you?” she sneers. “That someone isn’t thinking of your well-being?”

“You’d have to give a fuck about me first,” I yell.

Grandma’s eyes widen, then narrow. I brace myself for her retaliation. “I’ve had it!” she hisses. “This is the last straw, doing this to your mother. This baby is going up for adoption.”

“No!” I cry, even more frantic. I should’ve expected this penalty. Completely raw and exposed, I didn’t. “No. Grandma, my God, please.” I reach for her, but at her hateful look I snatch my fingers away.

She turns toward the door.

“Someone called me,” I wail. “A few days ago. Before the detective’s visit. Someone called me. I-I thought it was Kiln…
no,
I
know
it was Kiln.” I’m sure of it now. He’s the only one who’d set both Sloane and me up. “I wanted to talk to Sloane. He wouldn’t let me. So I asked him to tell Sloane about Bryn.” He’d want to know, wouldn’t he? “Then, the detective visited me and—”

Grandma’s eyes narrow and she sweeps me with a merciless scowl. “She goes up for adoption,” she repeats. “I already have a couple in mind.”

She’s pressured me to do this for months. I’ve got to reason with her somehow. “I c-can’t…I mean, no.” I lay my hand on my stomach. “I love her.” Because I love her father so much.

“Do you know what this scandal will do to Cassandra?”

My lips tremble. I try my best not to think of Mom and Dad, and remind myself that I don’t need them. If they don’t love me, I’m not required to love them or miss them.

Grandma still visits Mom. Sometimes, they have lunch together or go shopping. Grandma tells me all about their visits. If Mom’s still unhappy over Sloane, then she’d seek revenge at any and all costs. “Did you do this, Grandma?” I ask in a whisper, around my tears. “Did you turn Sloane in?”

Despite how scared and crushed I am, I need to know.

“Are you questioning me?”

Swallowing, I nod and lift my regard to hers. She’s in a red pants suit with a white blouse and gold jewelry as accents. Burgundy lipstick doesn’t hide the severity of her mouth. Power and determination cling to her. It’s in every move she makes and each outfit she chooses.

“You’re questioning me?” she repeats for clarification.

“Yes, Grandma. For Sloane.”

She comes closer and I tense at her unrelenting intimidation. She might hit me like Mom and Crowell did.

Crowell.
I forgot I was on the phone with him.

“Look at me,” Grandma orders.

“Yes, ma’am,” I mumble.

“As much as I’d like to say I’m the one responsible for Sloane’s downfall, I can’t. Besides,
your
voice is on the audio.”

“What audio?” Then I remember. The voice recorder. My mouth slackens at the last nail in my coffin. “I asked Detective Jackson…” I rub my eyes. “I asked if his recorder was on.” It’s too much. Too. Much. Sobs burst from me, draining my energy.

I can’t stand. Besides, Grandma is hovering over me, in the position of power she loves. Hands on hips, she begins to pace.

Sound suddenly blares around me. She’s turned the volume up. I drop my hands to witness this living nightmare. Coverage is in full swing. It’s a madhouse. The crush of reporters and paparazzi surrounding Sloane is insane and intimidating.

“I’m having a little girl.” My voice trumpets through the television as footage of Sloane loops from him on stage, to signing autographs, to various famous women he’s dated, to his arrest hours ago. “I’m carrying Sloane’s daughter.”

My fucking voice is the soundtrack to Sloane’s life in the spotlight. The words I spoke to Kiln. What I said to Detective Jackson. But everything is taken out of context. Some of the statements aren’t from me at all. And…and this isn’t an interrogation, this is an interview with a reporter.

“No. No. No. I didn’t do this. This is an
interview
, not questioning from a detective.”

Her eyes widen, and my possible truthfulness finally dawns on her. “So someone set you up? My granddaughter?” She says it as if it’s inconceivable anyone related to her would be susceptible to blackmail and setups. It’s like I’m sacrosanct. Untouchable.

By everyone except my family.

“You didn’t agree to this?”

I shake my head, unable to speak.

“So someone
really
had the audacity to set you up?”

She confuses me so much. Grandma has me living just as I always have, in the lap of luxury. I want for nothing. At least, not materialistically. Sometimes, she shows me a tidbit of kindness. Those occasions are rare. Mostly, I’m persona non grata.

Failing my high school courses was the last straw. Until now. Someone has framed me and the wheels in her head turn. Her outrage stems more from the fact that someone dared fuck with a member of the great Helen Sanderson’s family than out of any real consideration of me.

But she won’t handle this on my behalf or Sloane’s. She’ll do it for Mom, which means she’ll throw him under the bus. Unless I do something. Can I do anything? I wipe my face.

Upon Mom’s release from the mental hospital, she sat for several interviews, revealing her depression and encouraging women to shed their shame and obtain help.

I can do something, too. I can campaign on behalf of Sloane, proclaim his innocence. Surely we can obtain that tape. There are ways to detect doctored audio.

“Can I release a statement?” I ask timidly. I don’t have a publicist. All I have is me and what I know of Sloane. “I’ll say I had nothing to do with these accusations.” Even better… “Can you release a statement, Grandma?”

“I’ll get to the bottom of this,” she vows, tight with anger, before storming out and slamming my door shut, not taking a moment to consider what I asked of her. I glance at my phone and stumble to it, sick at the goings-on of the past hour.

Picking the phone up, I press it. The call with Crowell has ended. I’m not sure how much he heard, but maybe, he’ll help me to undo this. He’ll advise me about how to reach the press.

I swallow. Crowell hates Sloane.

Once again, I’m alone, literally and metaphorically. I glance at my trembling hands, scrunching my nose at my soiled sundress. Vomit still dirties the floor. My belly tightens and my shoulders heave, so I wrap my arms around my enormous stomach. My doctor estimates Bryn is already seven pounds, and I still have seven days left before my due date. She’s a big baby.

Lindsey and I stare at one another for a long time. As I wait for her to walk away, I can think of nothing to say, not even a plea to ask her to stay. Sooner or later, everyone leaves me. Josh is returning to town next week, bowing to my request he come in for the birth of the baby.

He isn’t happy I’m pregnant, but he’s coming home for me. If I don’t go into labor within a week of his arrival, he’s warned me he won’t be in town when his niece is born.

Lindsey nods to my vomit. “Why don’t you clean yourself up while I see to this mess in here?”

I blink, feeling trapped inside of a suffocating bubble. Her words penetrate my haze. I comprehend them slowly. Full understanding dawns on me and I start in surprise. “You’re not leaving?”

“Do you want me to?”

“No, of course not.”

“Why would you think I’d leave now?”

Shrugging, I lower my lashes. “Everyone does.”

Not commenting, she surprises me and offers me a hug, which I haven’t received since Sloane left me.

BOOK: Incendiary
6.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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