Sugar Free Page 49

That was viable.

But it wasn’t optimal.

It left me rotting in prison without my soul mate.

So I started to consider a life elsewhere. There were a ton of countries that didn’t have extradition treaties with the U.S., some exotic, others that would ensure a hard life for us. Didn’t really matter though. I was going to rely on Dennis getting us to the one where we had the best chance of never being found. Preferably a country with a good plastic surgeon who could make Sela and me look different.

We had options and that’s all that mattered. By the next morning, I was convinced it was the right thing to do, so I laid my plan out to William when he arrived at my condo as we’d discussed the previous day. Our intention was to ride to the courthouse together in a show of solidarity and also so we could lean on each other. I was surprised he took very little convincing, and he only wanted to be assured it could be done cleanly without us getting caught and no blowback on family.

I assured him it could be done, even though I hadn’t been able to talk to Dennis then. I was putting a lot of faith in his abilities to rescue us, and I wasn’t about to let William know that I was flying by the seat of my pants for the time being.

“When will you leave?” she asks, determination in her voice, but it’s not hiding the heavy sadness I know she’s feeling. The fact that my sister didn’t even bother to question my decision shows the love she has for me and her desire to see me happy.

“As soon as it can be arranged,” I tell her, watching as Ally runs up to the overlook for the polar bear exhibit. “I’m waiting on Dennis to call me back.”

More silence for a moment as we stop several feet from Ally so she can’t hear us. Caroline disengages her arm from around my waist and turns to face me. “What do I tell Ally?”

I give her a helpless look and shrug. “I have no clue. Just that I love her and I’ll miss her very much. And maybe, let her know her uncle was a good guy, huh?”

Tears well up in Caroline’s eyes and her lower lip quivers. “I’ll tell her he was the best. Better than any man alive.”

She walks into me and my arms wrap around her tight. In order to prevent me breaking down in a public place, I tell her urgently, “Ally’s college is funded. Papers in my office. I’ve also got my attorney setting up a trust today that will put ten million at your disposal.”

“I don’t want—” she sobs.

“It will make me feel better,” I tell her with a gruff voice before kissing her on her head. “I need to know my girls are taken care of, okay?”

She nods against me, squeezes me tighter.

“Also,” I continue quickly so I can get this out of the way. “I’m transferring ownership of The Sugar Bowl to you. I have no clue if it will be worth anything after this is over, but hire a good business attorney right away and listen to their advice.”

She starts crying in earnest now, tears wetting my shirt as her fingers dig into my back. “I can’t do this without you.”

“You can do anything, Caroline,” I tell her softly. “That’s how much faith I have in you.”

A tugging on my jeans at my thigh catches my attention and I look down to see Ally standing there. I give her a smile and blink my eyes to chase away my sorrow.

“Uncle Beck, did you know that polar bears’ fur isn’t white? It’s actually hollow and just reflects light?” she asks with a bright smile on her face, but then it slides a little as she takes in my somber look and the fact her mom is clinging to me while crying.

“That’s an amazing fact,” I tell her with a shaky voice. “I didn’t know that.”

Caroline pulls away, and with her face turned from Ally’s, tries to surreptitiously wipe the tears away. Ally, of course, is way too savvy for that.

“What’s wrong with Mommy?” she asks, her own face starting to crumble at the thought of something terrible having happened.

“Nothing,” I say quickly as I squat down in front of Ally. “Just your mommy and Uncle Beck being silly, sentimental fools.”

I can tell that doesn’t quite answer her question, so I go for redirection instead.

“Hey,” I say as if I’m struck with sudden brilliance as I pull my phone out of my pocket. “Let’s do a selfie with me, you, Mommy, and the polar bears.”

“Okay,” she says, her lips peeling into a grin. I look at her full set of little teeth and realize I won’t see the cuteness of when she loses those front ones. A strong stab of misery and regret hits me deep, but I shuffle my brood over in front of the rail that looks over the enclosure. I squat down again and pull Ally in between my legs, turn her around to face away from me. Then Caroline squats down beside me, throwing her arm over my shoulder, and for a moment almost throwing me off balance. My legs tighten and I stay in place, looping an arm around Ally’s waist to hold her tight. With my other arm extended out holding my iPhone, I position it until I see all three faces looking back at me. Ally with her big smile, Caroline with lost eyes, and me looking like a man who’s getting ready to lose some of the most precious items in his life.

I make myself put a smile on my face, because this is definitely one I’m going to print. I just hope Ally will remember this day as a happy one when she no longer has me around.

I snap a few pictures and we all stand up. “What do you want to see next?”

“Can we have another ice cream?” Ally asks, and she knows I won’t deny her.

“Of course you can,” I tell her, and Caroline pulls the map out of her back pocket to find the nearest concession stand to us.

My phone starts ringing in my hand. I had it on vibrate and it startles me a moment, and when I look at the screen, my heart gives a jolt to see Dennis Flaherty on the screen.

“I’ll be just a moment,” I tell Caroline as I step away.

“Hey, man,” I say into the phone as soon as I connect.

“I am so sorry I’m just now calling,” he says, and I wince because the line is filled with static. “We’ve been offshore for two days and I didn’t even have my phone on me. Now what the fuck is going on? I’ve got a few voice mails from the police wanting me to call them.”

“Long story short,” I say as I lower my voice and walk away until I find a relatively quiet spot near an overflowing garbage can. “JT lured Sela to his house. Went after her. She stabbed him and he’s dead. The district attorney isn’t buying self-defense, and both of us have been charged with murder. They’re calling you to verify my alibi at lunch that day.”

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