I grab half of my sandwich and take a bite. “You make it sound like I’m going to hop in bed with him,” I mumble.
“Can we talk woman to woman?”
“You’re carrying around a shirtless picture of him in your pocket. I just worry that if he put those lips on your neck, you’d wonder what they’d feel like in other places. Where would it stop, if not in his bed?”
“It’s not going there.” I don’t mean to sound so prickly. “We’re friends, but more than that, Morgan is attached to me and I’m attached to her too. The fact is he needs me to take care of her, and I need a job. I like my job. And in a non-jumping-in-his-bed way, Nate and Morgan feel like extended family.”
“I’m your family. Griffin, his parents, and his sisters are your family. We love you. This cannot end well, and you know it. And if what you said about Doug Mann is correct, it’s not safe for you to be anywhere he can easily find you. Tomorrow you need to go back to the police and plead your case, make them understand. Honey, Griffin isn’t trying to tear you away from Nate and Morgan, he’s trying to protect you.”
“The police are not going to buy my reincarnation story no matter how hard I try to sell it. And I’m not going to spend the rest of my life running. I want to figure something out so I don’t have to leave my home.”
“Your home or Nate?”
I bite my tongue because it’s covered in defensive words that won’t justify anything.
“I need to get home.”
With a sad, defeated smile, Mom pulls me in for a hug. “I’m on your side no matter what. All I want is for you to be happy.”
“Nice to see you again, Swayze. Please, have a seat.”
“Thank you.” I take my seat across from Dr. Albright. I like her. She’s warm and approachable.
“I’m good, but thank you.”
“How have things been since we last talked?”
“Interesting I suppose is the best word. I told Nate that I think Daisy was murdered. He wasn’t real receptive at first, in fact, he was quite angry, but I think we’re good now. He’s worried about Doug. And I think he’s frustrated that the only proof we have is that of a twenty-two-year-old girl who claims to be his dead friend’s reincarnated soul. The police aren’t receptive to that.”
She nods once before sipping her tea.
“I told my mom everything too. I think the hardest part for me is all the gaps that I haven’t been able to fill in yet.”
“We could try to fill some of them in with hypnosis, but you’d need to be sure it’s what you really want. There are pros and cons with it. You would need to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.”
I wring my hands in my lap. “What are the pros?”
“Possible increased memory of certain events. Deeper understanding. Validation. Maybe even what it would take to put a murderer behind bars.”
“Hypnosis is recognized as something reliable and valid in a court of law?”
“I’m thinking more along the lines of you remembering something that might help shed new light on the case. Something officials missed the first time.”
I nod. “And the cons?”
“Well, the most obvious one is it might not work on you. Beyond that … there’s the possibility that the very information that could put Doug Mann behind bars might also give you images or memories that you can’t forget. The kind that give you nightmares. The kind that lead to PTSD. It’s a risky tradeoff, and I don’t want to downplay it at all.”
“Right now I don’t remember the exact details of Daisy’s death. My death.” I cringe. It’s still so incredibly weird. “But you’re saying I could. And who wants to relive their death, especially if it was tragic and traumatizing?”
“Precisely. But the chances are truly slim. The unconscious mind is there to protect you. Most of the time we can’t bring forth memories that our conscious mind can’t handle.”
“But if Doug preys on another innocent woman, and I feel like I could have prevented it …”
“It would be hard to stomach it.”
I nod. “But if I spend the rest of my life reliving my death …”
Dr. Albright relinquishes a soft sigh. “I’ve had personal experience with this. They were able to use hypnosis to suppress the memory I had of a tragic death. But there’s no guarantee it would work. It’s a really tough decision, however you look at it. That’s why I want you to think long and hard before you make it. I want you to discuss it with family because it could impact them too.”
Her neatly-trimmed fingernail traces the rim of her tea cup while honest eyes hold their gaze on me. “Yes, but the way you perceive yourself could change too. If you connect on a deeper level with your life as Daisy, it could change who you are as a person now.”
“Because I will feel more like Daisy?”
“I could feel closer to Nate?”
Do I want to feel closer to Nate?
“You’re late.” Griffin slips on his jacket before I get the door shut.
“Late for what?” I deposit my purse on the kitchen chair.
His eyes widen, disbelief rolling off every inch of his body, which happens to look hot as fuck tonight. Griffin screams filthy sex when he wears those faded worn jeans and that Doobie Brothers vintage motorcycle tee.
I press the heel of my hand to my forehead. “Bowling. That’s right. That’s tonight.” Bowling with his work buddies.
“The look on your face says I’m going by myself.”
“No. You’re not going by yourself.” I hustle past him to the bedroom. “I just got distracted at Dr. Albright’s office. Let me change into something less homely than yoga pants and a hoodie.”
“I’m already late. Don’t worry about it. Where are the keys to my truck?”
“My purse. And I’m coming. Just wait!” I hop from one foot to the other, tugging on my jeans. “Where’s my red V-neck shirt?” Riffling through the shirts in the closet, I can’t find it.
“I’ll be home before midnight. Don’t wait up.”
“Son of a bitch,” I mumble, seizing the first shirt I can rip off the hanger and tugging it on while I chase after him. “Just WAIT!”
My plea goes unheard. He’s out the door. I snatch my purse, grab my shoes, and sprint after him. The annoyance on his face when I hop in the truck is no match for my scowl—thanks to my shoeless feet taking the brunt of his impatience.
“Hello? What the heck? I said I was coming.”
Glancing in the rearview mirror, he backs out of the driveway. “Yeah, well you say a lot of things.”
I bite back the what-crawled-up-your-butt-and-died comment because I don’t relish the idea of being locked out of the house later. But seriously, it’s an appropriate question for the circumstances.
“Is this about me being a little late? Or me being a little late because I was with Dr. Albright?” I shove my feet into my ankle boots.
His grip on the steering wheel tightens just like his jaw that’s holding back his answer.
“Whatever.” I glance out my window at the streetlights flickering on like a farewell wink to the last sliver of sun. Too bad I’m not good at playing the cold shoulder game. “Aren’t you going to ask me about my day? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. Morgan said ‘see’ but I think she meant Z because I’ve been trying to teach her my name. Then I ordered a sub for lunch and they forgot the pickles, and Nate doesn’t have pickles at his house. Like … who doesn’t have pickles? It’s a staple, no different than ketchup and mustard.”
Griffin responds by turning on the radio, a nice little slap in the face.
I continue, only much louder so he hears me over the music. “Dr. Albright discussed hypnosis with me. I’m not sure I can be hypnotized, but I’m considering it.”
Off goes the radio.
“What did you just say?” Griffin gives me a sidelong glance, much longer than he should since he’s driving.
“Pickles. They forgot my pickles.”
“Fuck the pickles.” His attention returns to the road.
“Well …” I murmur, “it’s an option, but not really my thing.”
My humor falls flat on my audience of one.
I slide my hands beneath my legs to tame the nerves. “Because Doug Mann needs to be in prison. Because I won’t feel safe until he is. Because this patchy memory has left me feeling like I’m anchored to the past and losing sight of my future.”
“This has gone too far. Reincarnation? Hypnosis? Murder mystery? Do you hear yourself?”
“You don’t believe me.”
“I don’t know what to believe!” His knuckles blanch over the steering wheel.
“Then believe me. Trust me. Help me.”
A cynical laugh cuts through the air. “Help you? How am I supposed to help you?”
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