Sugar Free Page 53

And probably keep her campaign contribution intact.

But whatever.

The point being, we all came to the condo and cracked open the liquor to celebrate. Sela followed Kerry’s suit and had whiskey, Dennis and I beer, Doug sipped on red wine, while William alternated between shots of whiskey chased by beer. Maria was the only one not drinking since she was planning on driving a drunk William home, and Roger wasn’t kidding…he caught the red-eye flight out of San Francisco.

Doug found out that Hammond was going to give a press conference, and had in fact been fielding a few calls from reporters wanting a statement from the defendants, so we’d all been waiting for this news segment as we celebrated.

“…said that evidence came to light—a video apparently—that supported Miss Halstead’s claim of self-defense and that Mr. North was not involved at all. ADA Hammond has said that video will be released once the victim’s family has been able to view it. In a call to North’s attorney, Doug Shriver, a statement was issued on behalf of both defendants where they stated, ‘We’re just happy to have this ordeal over and look forward to moving on with our lives.’ ”

The reporter signs off and everyone starts the happy buzz of chatter again, but Sela and I lock eyes on each other.

Yes, we are ready to move on with our lives, although I have no clue what that will even look like.

It doesn’t matter though. Just yesterday, I thought it might involve living in a dusty village in southern Mexico where Sela and I would raise goats or something.

She smiles at me, and I would have loved her there as much as here, regardless if we smelled like goat shit.

I look around at the people in my home. Some people I’ve known forever—namely Caroline and Ally, who came over as soon as I called them from the courthouse. Most of the others are recent additions to my life and I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve this type of support. I’ve done bad things and screwed up a few times over the past few months. I’ve contemplated killing someone, bribed another, and eventually covered up a murder.

Because I did it all in the name of love doesn’t make me a good man.

It merely makes me clichéd.

Regardless, I can’t castigate myself anymore tonight, as I’m merely too happy and satisfied that Sela’s safe and she’s not leaving my side. We’ve come out the winners in this frightful game of cat and mouse, and I’m going to relish the victory.



Can I atone for these sins?

God I hope so.

“More whiskey?” I hear from behind me and turn with a smile to see Dennis walking into the kitchen. Just over his shoulder, I can see the rest of our motley gang standing around, talking about our victory. Beck gives me a quick glance, smiles, and goes back to talking to Caroline, who has her arm around his waist and her other grasping a glass of wine.

“Well, we are celebrating, right?” I ask with a laugh, and set the glasses on the counter while I reach for the bottle of Jack.

“That we are,” he agrees as he goes to the fridge to pull out another beer.

As I pour the amber liquid into the glasses, already feeling an impending hangover, Dennis walks over to me and leans a hip against the counter. “You holding up okay?”

I give him a quick look and then back to the pour. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

His voice lowers and he says, “It’s just…have you even processed what happened with JT? Things moved so fast and you and Beck got all tied up in not getting caught.”

Slick, icy fingers grab ahold of my spine, sending shivers upward until my neck prickles. Dennis is surprisingly adept at reading people, and honestly, I hadn’t realized I hadn’t processed what I did until I watched that video this morning. Or rather, I watched until the moment I swung that letter opener. I didn’t need that grisly moment stamped upon my memory.

Having lived through the actual horror, I just didn’t need the reminder.

I set the bottle down and recap it, turning to face him and resting my opposite hip against the counter. I have no problem admitting to him, “I’m horrified by what I did. I didn’t realize taking a human life, even of a human being I detested beyond anything in this world, would feel so—so—”

“Burdensome?” he guesses.


Burdensome. That’s exactly it.

“I feel like I’ll have a reckoning one day because it was wrong,” I tell him truthfully. “Because I did something that wasn’t within my right to do. I’m not sure if I believe in a higher power or what, but I have this feeling—just deep in my gut—that says I’ve been tainted by it. And I haven’t really understood that feeling until just now. Because I didn’t have time to think about it before.”

Dennis nods, his eyes soulful and full of grave understanding. “I think the guilt is a common feeling, Sela. Anytime you do harm, a good person is going to feel it.”

“Will it go away?” I ask him, wondering if perhaps my penance is to always feel it.

He shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s not an emotion I’m all that used to feeling.”

I blink at him in surprise. “You say that as if you’re implying you’re not a good person. Look at everything you’ve done for Beck and me. You were going to put yourself at criminal risk for us by authenticating that video if the ADA didn’t dismiss the charges.”

Dennis gives a low laugh, his eyes shining with amusement. “You’re adorable,” he says with flashing teeth.

“I don’t understand,” I say, because I know he’s gently mocking me for something.

“Sela, with my contacts, my former family…I wasn’t going to get charged with anything,” he says quietly. Not in an egotistical, I’m-above-the law way, but in a way that says simply I’m the man who’s sold his soul to the devil, and with that sacrifice also comes great rewards.

Potentially evil rewards, but great nonetheless.

I shake my head at him. “Maybe so, but I refuse to think of you as anything less than a good man.”

He smiles at me and pushes off from the counter. “Just remember one thing,” he says before he heads back into the party. “Don’t ever forget what that fuck did to you. The pain he caused. The innocence he destroyed. Go back to that anger and let it help fill part of that deep pit of guilt you’re developing, because by my way of thinking, JT deserved what he got and I’m glad you did it.”

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