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He points behind him. “This guy you brought back to your apartment? The guy you allowed near your son? He was arrested for possession, Auburn.”

I shake my head with a disbelieving laugh. I don’t know why Trey is saying these things. He steps aside and I can see Owen again.

My heart grows too heavy to hold, because the look on Owen’s face says it all. I see the apology and the regret. This is what he was going to tell me earlier. This is the confession I told him could wait until Monday.

“Owen?” I say his name in almost a whisper.

“I wanted to tell you,” he says. “It’s not as bad as he’s making it sound, Auburn. I swear.”

Owen begins to take a step toward me, but Trey immediately turns and pushes him against the wall. His arm connects with Owen’s neck. “You have five seconds to get the fuck out.”

Owen’s eyes are still locked with mine, despite the arm that’s pressed against his throat. He nods. “Let me get my things out of her room, and I’ll go.”

Trey eyes him carefully for several seconds and then he releases him. I watch as Owen walks into my room to retrieve his “things.”

I know for a fact Owen didn’t show up here with anything.

Trey is eyeing me now. “Your child’s uncle is a fucking cop and you don’t think to get a background check on the people you allow into your life?”

I have no response to that. He’s right.

Trey shakes his head in disappointment, just as Owen exits my bedroom. Before Trey turns to face him, Owen briefly glances toward the tent. His eyes are telling me something he’s not willing to say out loud. He brushes past Trey and walks out the front door without looking back.

Trey walks to the door and slams it shut. He stands with his hands on his hips, facing me, waiting for an explanation. If I didn’t think he would go back to Lydia and tell her everything that just happened, I’d tell him to fuck off. Instead, I do what I always do. I say anything that will please them.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

He walks toward me and gently squeezes my forearms while he looks me in the eyes.

“I worry about you, Auburn. Please don’t trust anyone until you run them by me first. I could have warned you about him.”

He hugs me, and it takes everything I have to hug him back, but I do.

“You don’t need his reputation coming between you and your son. It wouldn’t be good for you.”

I nod against his chest, but I want to push him away from me for the disguised threat. He’s just like his mother. Always using my situation with AJ to manipulate me. It burns me and strips me of any confidence I momentarily gained from being in Owen’s arms.

I pull away from him and attempt a smile. “I don’t want anything to do with him,” I say. The words are hard for me to say, because there might be actual truth in them. I can’t even think about how angry I am at Owen right now when Trey is still standing in front of me. “Thank you for telling me,” I say as I head to the door. I open it so that he’ll take the hint. “I want to be alone for a while, though. It’s been a long day.”

Trey walks toward the door and backs out. “I’ll see you Sunday night at dinner?”

I nod and force another fake smile to appease him. As soon as I close the door, I lock it and rush to my bedroom. I crawl inside the tent and find a piece of paper on my pillow. I pick it up and read it.

Please come by my studio tonight. We need to talk.

I read Owen’s note so many times, I could likely rewrite it with perfectly matched handwriting. I lie down on the pillow and sigh heavily, because I have no idea what to do. There’s nothing that could excuse the fact that he’s going to jail, or the fact that he lied to me. But despite everything that just happened, every part of me is aching for him. I barely know the guy, yet somehow I can feel that familiar clench of a fist gripping at my heart. I have to see him one more time, even if it’s just to say good-bye.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Owen

I should have told her. The second I was released from custody, I should have gone straight to her apartment and told her everything.

I’ve been pacing the studio floor for over an hour now. I only pace when I’m pissed, and right now I’m not sure I’ve ever been this angry. I’m going to burn a hole into this floor if I don’t stop.

But I know she’s read my message by now. It’s been over two hours since I left it on her pillow and I’m starting to think she’s already given up on me. I don’t blame her. As much as I want to try to convince her that Trey’s not good for her and I’m not as bad as she now thinks I am, I have a feeling I won’t even get that opportunity. There’s no telling what she’s been told about me by now.

Just as I begin to head toward the stairs, I hear a knock on the glass door. I don’t rush to the door. I sprint.

When I open the door, her eyes meet mine briefly before she glances nervously over her shoulder. She grabs the door and quickly slips inside, shutting it behind her.

I hate that. I hate that she’s scared to be here and scared who might have seen her walk in the door.

She doesn’t trust me.

She turns and faces me, and I hate the disappointment flooding her eyes right now.

We need to talk and I don’t want to do it right here, so I reach around her and lock the door. “Thank you for coming.”

She doesn’t respond. She waits for me to say something else.

“Will you come upstairs with me?”

She glances at the hallway over my shoulder and nods. She follows me across the studio and up to my apartment. It’s crazy how different things are between us now. Two hours ago, everything was perfect. And now . . .

It’s amazing how much distance one truth can create between two people.

I walk to the kitchen and offer her something to drink. Maybe if I pour her a drink, the conversation might last longer. There’s so much I want and need to explain to her, if she will just give me that opportunity.

She doesn’t want a drink.

She’s standing in the middle of the room and it appears as if she’s afraid to approach me. Her eyes roam around the room as if she’s never been here before. I can see the look on her face. She sees me differently now that she knows.

I quietly watch her assess the room for a while. Eventually her eyes meet mine again, and there’s a long pause before she works up the courage to ask me what she came here to find out.

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