Sugar Free Page 6

“She’s fine,” Caroline assures me in an undertone. “She’s a smart kid and senses something, but she’s also happily watching her favorite show. I fed her while you were in the shower and she’ll probably fall asleep on the couch before too long.”

I glance at the couch as we walk into the living room, and Ally is lying there with a soft chenille blanket, normally kept in the hall closet, tucked around her. Her eyes are drowsy looking as she stares at Sofia the First. I want to go over to her, stroke her soft hair and act as if nothing’s wrong. I want to joke with her, see her dimples and bask in the joy of a little girl just hanging out at her Uncle Beck’s for the night.

But I don’t because I’m afraid I might crumble from just her sweet ordinary child ways, which would be too much goodness for me to comprehend right now. Ally is the one good thing that came out of all this family’s horror.

So I walk past her and follow Caroline to the kitchen, but just as we cross in front of the foyer, I hear the key slipping into the dead bolt of the door and I pause to see Beck walking in.

My heart slams to almost a complete halt, my chest constricting and the breath going stale in my lungs. He looks scared and stressed, and while there’s probably a million different possibilities that could cause that, my first thought is that JT isn’t dead.

Caroline stops in midstep, but rather than freeze to inaction, she turns to grab my elbow and pulls me three steps into the foyer so we are almost toe-to-toe with Beck as he closes the door and engages the lock.

“What’s wrong?” she whispers so Ally doesn’t hear us.

Beck’s tired eyes pass over Caroline briefly, but then slide to me where they shimmer with frustration. “The police are at JT’s house. They’ve found him.”

“But how—” I start to say, because how in the fuck was he found so fast?

Beck ignores me, turning to Caroline. “Get Ally and get out of here now. I expect the police will come to pay me a visit. Could be tomorrow, could be in five minutes, so get out of here now.”

“But—” Caroline says in astonishment.

“Get the fuck out of here now,” Beck whispers harshly but still so low that Ally is oblivious to us. “I want you far away from here when they show up. I don’t want you becoming a potential witness to anything associated with JT.”

“What’s that mean?” I ask, stepping into him and putting a hand on his chest.

His gaze comes back to me. “By virtue of my long relationship with him, I’m going to be a potential suspect. They’re going to come and talk to me. I don’t want Caroline involved.”

I spin toward her and give a quick jerk of my head toward the living room. “He’s right. Get Ally and get going.”

Caroline’s no fool. She doesn’t spare us even a second more before turning away and hurrying into the living room. I hear her say, “Come on, honey. Let’s get your shoes on and head home. It’s getting late.”

“I don’t suppose I could talk you into packing a bag and heading to your dad’s?” Beck says softly, and I turn back to look at him with raised eyebrows. He doesn’t look apologetic over his suggestion. “We’ll say you went there right after school to spend a few days with him. Your dad would cover.”

I shake my head almost violently and practically growl at him. “Don’t even fucking think about trying to shield me from this, Beck. If they come, then I’ll be here by your side, and if they even think you had anything to do with this, I’m telling them every goddamn thing that happened.”

I expect him to argue.

I expect him to be angry at me, because I know he’s in full-blown protective mode.

I expect—at the very least—for him to look annoyed at me, because after the mess I’ve created, he deserves to at least look a bit put out.

Instead, he snatches me to him so roughly my head snaps, but then I’m engulfed in his arms, which wrap around me tight. He squeezes me hard and his voice is desperate. “We’ll get through this. I swear we will.”

I nod against him, not because I believe what he’s saying, but because he needs to believe that I trust in him right now.

The sad truth, however, is that I think that both of us are getting ready to fall down the rabbit hole and there’s not going to be any way out for us.

The knock on the door comes sooner than I expected, and only a little over an hour since Caroline and Ally left. I’ve been lying on the couch spooning with Sela, waiting for the other shoe to drop when they show up. The TV’s been on, but neither one of us is absorbing. My hand is idly stroking her hip, wanting nothing more than to carry her into bed and for us to pretend none of this happened.

That means I could strip her down, eat her out, fuck her hard. All of the stuff that’s been so damn good and that I’ve taken completely for granted.

But instead, Sela gives a quavering sigh when she hears the confident knock and we both push up and off the couch. Our eyes meet briefly and we both take a deep breath.

“Just do as we discussed earlier and it will be okay,” I whisper.

She nods, her face pale but her gaze determined.

I turn away from her, square my shoulders, and head toward the foyer. I hear the creak of leather as Sela lies back down on the couch, presenting the picture of lazy Monday evening happiness of just vegging out in front of the TV and streaming some mindless comedy we found on Netflix.

I present the same, and it was done intentionally. I’d put on a pair of sweatpants, a ratty T-shirt, and my hair was flattened on one side from resting against the pillow on the couch. I hoped to look like a guy who wasn’t just a few hours ago getting ready to wipe down a murder scene and potentially sink a body deep into Richardson Bay.

Putting my eye to the peephole, I need to determine who would be sent to my house.

Uniformed cops or plainclothes.

I see a white, middle-aged man and a black woman probably in her late twenties. Both in dress pants and shirts without jackets, the man sporting a loosely knotted tie. Both are clearly detectives; I know this not because I can see their badges, but by the somber yet superior looks on their faces. Still, I school my features and try not to look overly surprised when I open the door.

Had they been uniformed cops, my eyes would be wide with concern.

But I think the best tactic at this point is to feign ignorance because for all I know, they could be Amway salesmen.

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