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Her expression is exactly how I want to remember her. It’s not a happy expression. In fact, she looks kind of sad. I want to think it’s the same look she’ll get on her face every time she thinks about me. A look that reveals how much she misses me. Even when she shouldn’t.

I drag the painting to a spot against the wall. I find the confession she left on my pillow this morning, and I attach it to the wall next to her face. I pull the box of confessions she’s left me over the last few weeks, and I attach those all around her painting.

I take a step back and I stare at the only piece I have left of her.

“What ever happened between you and Auburn?” Harrison asks.

I shrug.

“The usual?”

I shake my head. “Not even close.”

He cocks an eyebrow. “Wow,” he says. “That’s a first. Pretty sure I want to hear the rest of this story.” He grabs another beer and slides it across the bar toward me. He leans over and pops the tab. “Give me the condensed version, though. I close in a few hours.”

I laugh. “That’s easy. She’s the reason for it all, Harrison.”

He looks at me with a confused expression.

“You said condensed,” I tell him. “That’s the condensed version.”

Harrison shakes his head. “Well in that case, I change my mind. I want the detailed version.”

I smile and look down at my phone. It’s already after ten. “Maybe next time. I’ve already been here for two hours.” I lay money on the bar and take one last sip of the beer. He waves me off as I turn to head back to my studio. The painting I finished of her earlier should be close to dry now. I think this might be the first painting I ever hang in the bedroom area of my apartment.

I pull my key out of my pocket and slide it into the door, but the door isn’t locked.

I know I locked it. I never leave here without locking it.

I push the door open, and the second I do, my whole world stops. I look to my left. To my right. I walk further into my studio and I spin around, staring at the damage that’s been done to everything I own. Everything I’ve worked for.

Red paint lines the walls, the floors, covers every painting in the entire downstairs area. The first thing I do is rush to one of the paintings closest to me. I touch the paint smeared across the canvas and can tell it’s already drying. It’s probably been drying for about an hour now. Whoever did this was waiting for me to walk out of the studio tonight.

As soon as Trey comes to mind, that’s when the real panic sets in. I immediately scale the stairs and head straight to my workroom. As soon as I swing open the door, I bend over and press my hands to my thighs. I exhale a huge sigh of relief.

They didn’t touch it.

Whoever was here didn’t touch the painting I made of her. After I allow myself a few minutes to recover, I stand and walk to her painting. Even though the painting hasn’t been touched, something is different.

Something is off.

And that’s when I notice the confession she left on my pillow.

It’s missing.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Auburn

Are you expecting company?” I ask Emory. Someone is knocking on our door, so I look down at my phone. It’s after ten.

She shakes her head. “It’s not for me. Humans don’t like me.”

I laugh and make my way to the door. When I look through the peephole and see Trey, I sigh heavily.

“Whoever it is, you seem disappointed,” Emory says flatly. “Must be your boyfriend.” She stands and makes her way toward her bedroom, and I’m thankful she’s at least learned the meaning of privacy.

I open the door to let him in. I’m a little confused as to why he’s here in the first place. It’s after ten at night, and he said he was out of town until tomorrow.

As soon as the door is open, he rushes inside. He kisses me briefly on the cheek and says, “I need to use your restroom.”

His hurried appearance throws me off for a second as I watch him remove his things from his belt. Gun, handcuffs, car keys. He sets it all on the bar, and I can’t help but notice the sweat dripping down his temple. He looks nervous. “Go ahead,” I say, gesturing toward the restroom. “Make yourself at home.”

He heads straight for the restroom and as soon as he opens the door, I experience a small moment of panic.

“Wait!” I say, rushing behind him. He steps away from the door, and I brush past him. I walk to the sink and pick up all the seashell soaps. I walk out of the restroom and he’s eyeing my hands curiously.

“What am I supposed to wash my hands with now?” he asks.

I nod my head toward the cabinet. “There’s liquid soap in there,” I tell him. I look down at the soaps in my hands. “These aren’t for guests.”

He closes the door in my face, and I walk the soaps to my room, feeling a little ridiculous.

I have serious issues.

I set the soap down on my nightstand and pick up my phone. I have several missed text messages, and only one of them is from my mother. I scroll through them and they’re all from Owen. I start at the bottom and work my way up.

Call me.

Are you okay?

It’s important.

Meat dress.

Please call me.

If you don’t respond to my text in five minutes, I’m coming over.

I immediately text him back.

Don’t come over, Trey is here. I’m fine.

I hit send and then type him another message.

Are you okay?

He pings me back immediately.

Someone broke into my studio tonight. They destroyed everything.

My hand flies up to my mouth, and I gasp.

He took your confession, Auburn.

My heart is in my throat, and I quickly glance up to make sure Trey isn’t standing at my door. I don’t want him to see my reaction right now, or he’ll want to know who I’m texting. I quickly send Owen another message.

Did you call the police?

His response comes through just as I hear the door to the bathroom open.

And tell them what, Auburn? To come clean up their mess?

I read the text twice.

Their mess?

I immediately hit delete on all the messages. I set the phone down and try to appear casual, but Owen’s last message is playing over and over in my head. He thinks Trey did this?

I want to say that Owen is wrong. I want to say that Trey wouldn’t be capable of doing something like what was done to Owen, but I don’t know what or who to believe anymore.

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