Doug Mann is a killer.
My friend was murdered.
Daisy was murdered.
Nate didn’t tell me that. He’s never told me how she died.
“Where are you, Swayz?” Griffin pulls me into his arms.
“Erica’s dead,” I mumble.
He kisses my forehead. “I know. I’m so sorry.”
“He killed her.”
“If he did, I’m sure the police will figure it out. You definitely put him on their radar yesterday.”
“Maybe. Let’s go.” I pull away. “Before Morgan wakes up.”
Griffin lifts the infant carrier. My gaze flicks to his.
“If you don’t trust me to carry her, then we have issues to discuss.”
“I trust you with my life.” I smile, stopping short of telling him that means I trust him with Morgan, because whether it’s right or not, she’s part of my life.
Slinging her diaper bag over my shoulder, I open the door to the dull chattering of students and instructors flowing in both directions. Griffin, with baby in tow, garners as many hungry female eyes—if not more—than Griffin without Morgan.
I turn. Nate catches up to us just before we reach the stairs. He gives Griffin a stiff smile. I’m sure it’s the normal reaction to seeing a stranger taking off with his baby.
“Hey, I’m so sorry about this morning.”
He shakes his head as if to brush off my apology; his gaze shifts to Griffin every few seconds.
“Nate, er Nathaniel … I mean Professor Hunt …” Nothing awkward about this. I’m starting to sweat. “This is Griffin. Griff, this is …” Don’t fuck it up. “Professor Nathaniel Hunt.”
Too late. I fucked it up, and the expressions on both of their faces confirms it.
“Nathaniel.” Nate holds out his hand.
Griffin shakes it. “Nice to meet you.”
“So is everything okay?” Nate asks, looking only at me.
“No. Yesterday Swayze’s neighbor—her friend—was found dead in the apartment above hers.”
I shoot Griffin a slight scowl.
“Jesus … I’m so sorry. Swayze, why didn’t you tell me? You shouldn’t be watching Morgan today.”
Griffin has an I-told-you-so expression pasted on his face.
“I’m fine.” I’m as far from fine as one could be. “Griffin took the day off to help me out, even though he didn’t need to take the day off.”
Griffin’s expression doesn’t change. He thinks he knows what’s best for me. And if I weren’t so stubborn, I’d admit that it’s true.
“So …” I shrug. “We’re fine. Morgan will have double the attention. Double the care.”
“Unless, you distract each other.”
I try not to read into Nate’s comment, but there’s an underlying tone to it that bleeds distrust. Does he not trust me because of what happened to Erica? Is it Griffin? Does he really think I’d let anything happen to Morgan?
“We’re good, Professor. But thanks for your vote of confidence.”
Nate inspects me for a few more seconds before giving Griffin one final glance. “I have to get to class. Thanks for coming to get her.”
“It’s fine.” I shake my head like it’s no big deal. “See you later.”
“So this is the house my mom gushed over,” Griffin says, carrying Morgan’s infant carrier into Nate’s house.
“It’s just a house.” I wash my hands at the kitchen sink.
“You have no desire to live in something like this?” He deposits the carrier on the floor and inspects the great room.
No. And neither does the Nate I remember.
“I want to live with you.” I take Morgan out of the carrier.
She fists at her eyes and mouth, arching her back as I bring her to my shoulder. It’s weird seeing Griffin in Nate’s house, such a clash of my worlds.
“Having just enough?” He gazes out the window to the unarguably impressive yard, green and meticulously manicured. “Because that’s what living with me is—having just enough.”
Easing into the recliner, I grin. “Yes.”
“Two small bedrooms and a dinky kitchen?” Griffin moves on to inspect the mantle. My tatted bad-boy-looking man wears the hell out of those faded jeans and black tee that looks a size too small with his cut chest and thick arms.
“Yes.” I chuckle, finding his glimpse of insecurity adorable.
“Used vehicles? Detached garage? A do-it-yourself lifestyle?”
“Do I really have to answer you?”
He glances over his shoulder, hands tucked into his pockets. “No.” He shoots me a grin before turning back around. “What’s up with the camera in the corner?”
“Nanny cam or security … I haven’t figure it out yet.”
“He’s watching us?”
I laugh, looking directly at the camera. “Yes. The professor is a little creepy.” Nuzzling my nose into Morgan’s neck, I find my baby voice. “Isn’t your daddy a little creepy? Yes … I think he is.”
Griffin turns with a grin on his face. “She’s cute.”
“Yes … she’s adorable.”
He folds his body onto the sofa, fingers interlaced between his widespread legs. “Are you ready to tell me who Morgan Daisy Gallagher is or was?”
I shoot a nervous glance at the camera. Nate should be in class, but … “It’s complicated.”
“Well, good thing we have all day.”
I hate these stupid cameras.
“Swayz, out with it. You completely lost it with that guy yesterday over the girl in that picture you showed us. I’m sure the police will revisit you as they investigate this guy. I need to know what’s going on.”
He’s already said too much.
“We’ll talk later.” I nod toward the camera, giving him a tight smile. “Okay?”
Impatience tugs at his mouth, but he lets it go. I don’t like how the thoughts in my head wedge their way between us. It scares me. The grim reaper disguised as little memories, crooking his finger at me, beckoning me to surrender. What if the day comes where I can’t separate who I know I am from the impostor’s voice in my head?
After lunch, Griffin rocks Morgan while I call my mom. She’s texted me several times, just to check on me and see if I’ve made an appointment with Dr. Greyson. I agree to make an appointment. It’s the only way to calm her nerves.
Wish someone would calm mine. It’s impossible to think of Doug Mann and breathe at the same time.
“Aww …” I smile at my guy when I see he’s rocked her to sleep.
Griffin with a sleeping baby on his chest … this makes me want one of my own. But it doesn’t lessen my desire to be with Morgan.
Right here. Right now. It hits me.
Nate named his daughter after his best friend. He thinks he named her after me.
How will I ever explain all of this to Griffin?
We give our attention to Morgan for the rest of the day, but I don’t miss Griffin’s restrained smiles, like concern strangling happiness.
Who am I?
What’s happening to my life?
Am I living in a parallel universe?
We say a final goodbye to Erica.
A mother’s weeps shatter the silence as the earth embraces the lowered casket.
Yet … Doug Mann lives in his apartment. A free man. A murderer.
The police questioned me again yesterday because they can’t tie him to Erica’s death—a death they are certain was an accident. An accidental drowning. Are you kidding me? A cardiologist accidentally drowning in a bathtub? I couldn’t give them anything more than vague memories dating back to a time before I was alive. And they won’t arrest him based solely on my gut, which swears with every fiber of my being that he killed her.
Griffin pulls into an empty parking lot as I stare at the hem of my black dress resting just above my knees. I should have worn tall boots instead of tights and heels. My knees knocked throughout the burial as chills pimpled along my skin. It’s not that cold out. It’s the memories—they’re chilling.
“Look at me.”
I lift my head, but I don’t look at him. Behind dark glasses, my eyes focus on the nothingness around us.
“I won’t be ignored any longer. The police questioned you. The funeral is over. It’s time we talk about this. I’ve been patient, but it’s time to tell me, Swayz.”
I close my eyes. I open my eyes. It doesn’t matter. The vision holds space in my mind. It doesn’t need light to be seen, and it won’t stop replaying. The real world fades like an echo, leaving this deep suffocating silence.
His bloodied face.
Tears fill her brown eyes, reflecting the image of her killer. With a blink, life drains from her face, dissolving the fear, surrendering one final breath.
The darkest darkness.
“Nate’s childhood friend was Morgan Daisy Gallagher. I see her. I see him—Doug Mann. The cut on his face—raw and oozing crimson. They’re just flashes, but they’re real.” I ease my head to the side, meeting Griffin’s gaze, my brows drawn together. “Nate thinks I’m her.”
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