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Oh! Like a kick in the stomach, those words twisted up my insides. I didn’t know how to respond to that. Last Jax knew, which was just from a few days ago, things were on the up and up between Reece and me. Now, I wasn’t so sure.

“I’ll tell you what, though. Whoever this guy is, he’s a dead man.” Brock’s lips curved into a smirk. “The girl who works in our office. She’s Isaiah’s cousin.”

“Holy shit,” muttered Jax.

My sentiments exactly. Isaiah was sort of infamous around these parts. To outsiders, he appeared like a legit businessman, but all the locals, including the police, knew he was much more than that. He ran Philadelphia and all the surrounding towns and cities. To put it simply, he was not a man to mess with, and he was smart about his under-the-table dealings, because law enforcement could never pin anything on him.

It was Isaiah who Calla’s mom had stolen drugs from, to the tune of millions of dollars’ worth of heroin. Because of how far reaching and powerful Isaiah was, Calla’s mom wasn’t even living in this time zone anymore. The only way for her to stay alive was to disappear.

But Isaiah had a code of ethics. One of his boys—Mack—had gone after Calla since he was the one who was supposed to be handling her mother. Isaiah hadn’t been cool with that since Calla was innocent in all of this. No one could prove it, but when Mack’s body was found on a back road with a bullet in his head, everyone knew that had Isaiah written all over it.

Even though his boys hung out in here, I’d only seen Isaiah a few times. Once every blue moon, he strolled into Mona’s, and he always left amazing tips.

“Yep. So not only are the police looking for this fucker, so will Isaiah’s boys, and this guy better hope the police find him first or the inside of a trunk is the last thing he’s ever gonna see.” Brock leaned back, crossing massive arms across his broad chest. One shoulder rose. “Then again, I kind of hope Isaiah does find him first.”

Might make me a bad person but I sort of hoped the same thing.

Brock hung out to the end of the shift and the boys walked me out to my car. There was still no sign of Reece, not a single missed call or text. The hurting I’d been carrying with me during the twenty-four hours turned to bitter-tasting panic.

Before everything had gone to shit Tuesday morning, he’d told me he wanted to have lunch and when he left, he said we were okay and that he would call. A tiny part of me was holding out for Thursday afternoon.

Reece would call. We would have lunch. He wasn’t a dick. Never had been, so I knew he wouldn’t bail on me like that.

The street outside the Victorian was quiet and there was a chill in the night air as I walked up the pathway to the porch. I could almost feel autumn, and it wasn’t too far away. After such a long and hot summer, I couldn’t wait for pumpkin spice and mums.

Opening the door, I stepped inside my dark apartment and closed the door behind me. I don’t know why, but as soon as the lock clicked into place, goose bumps raced over my flesh. Icy fingers trailed down my spine, and I froze as I stared in the dark recesses of my apartment.

The distinct feeling of not being alone surrounded me. Tiny hairs rose all over my body. My chest rose and fell rapidly as I stood there. Maybe I should’ve said something to the guys about the weird stuff happening in my apartment. If I had, they would’ve demanded to come home with me, but it had seemed too foolish to mention, too weird and unexplainable.

Now, I thought I might have a heart attack.

Blindly, I reached out, my fingers brushing the shade of the lamp before finding the tiny switch. I flipped the light on and a soft glow spread across the living room, but the shadows seemed to have darkened everywhere else.

Reaching into my purse, I wrapped my hand around my cell phone and pulled it out. I quietly inched forward, placing my purse on the recliner. Holding on to my phone, I went into the kitchen, turning on lights.

Nothing out of place.

As I opened up the dishwasher, half expecting to find a bra-and-panty set stuffed in there, my breath hitched in my throat as my ears strained to hear sound.

Something—something came from the back of the house, where my bedrooms were. The sound of a door shutting softly? I wasn’t sure.

I spun around, heart racing. Fear tiptoed over my skin. Had I heard a door closing? Or was it just my imagination? At this point, I couldn’t be sure, but I grabbed a huge-ass psycho butcher knife out of its block.

Taking a deep breath, I made my way through the entire apartment. Nothing was out of the ordinary, no doors open when they shouldn’t be or vice versa, and with all the lights on, even the bathroom’s, I plopped down on the bed, sighing.

I really needed to go to the local church and order an exorcism.

Glancing down at the scary knife I still held, I sat it on the bed beside me and then I looked at the phone. I could totally text Reece. Tell him I thought I heard something in my apartment. He would come over, and it wouldn’t be a lie, but . . .

But it wouldn’t be right.

That . . . that was like reaching a whole new level of desperation, and I wasn’t to that point. Yet.

I didn’t get much sleep. Weirded out by the way my apartment felt when I entered and everything else that had been going on, I woke up every hour until the sun rose and then I finally gave up.

At the butt crack of dawn, I found myself in my studio. The Jackson Square painting forgotten, I stared at a blank piece of canvas and then I grabbed my paintbrush. There wasn’t any thought behind what I was doing. My hand had a mind of its own. I was on autopilot. Hours passed, and my back and neck ached from sitting so long in virtually the same position.

Rubbing the cramp in my lower back, I leaned back in the stool. I tilted my head to the side and muttered, “Fuck me.”

The background of the painting was the robin’s egg blue of my kitchen walls and the bright white of the cabinets. No big deal there, but it was what was in the center of the painting that made me want to get a lobotomy.

The skin tone had been hard to capture, mixing browns and pinks and yellows together until I got as close as I could to the golden tone. The shoulders had been easy to shape on the canvas, but shading the contoured muscles had been the hardest. My wrist didn’t appreciate all the hard work it had taken to get the right curve of his spine, the corded muscles on either side. The black pants had been the easiest.

I’d painted Reece like I had seen him in the kitchen Tuesday morning.

Squeezing my eyes shut, it did nothing to ease the burn in my eyes or stop the tears from building. Frustration rose in me. I knew without looking at my phone that it was past ten in the morning. That knowledge made my chest ache and my stomach feel wrong, like I’d eaten too much.