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Bear held out his left hand and pointed to a scar between his thumb and index finger. “Same injury. Different friend. We were probably about sixteen and in this little dingy doing some inshore fishing. If we caught a few red fish sometimes we sold them to one of the restaurants on the other side of the causeway for a few bucks. Sometimes they were just good eating. But the only thing we caught that day was a buzz and about an inch of skin off my hand.”

“I’m done on this side,” I said, biting off the thread and tying it off in a series of unbreakable knots. I rethreaded the needle and knelt on the step to the side of Bear. It was an awkward position that had me almost teetering off the edge and he noticed, because he grabbed my forearms and spread his legs, pulling me in between and resting my elbows on his thighs, he released my arms and his hands came around to rest on the small of my back.

“Better,” he said, looking right into my eyes. I was all too aware of his gaze as I started to close off the wound, which was smaller in the front then it was in the back. He watched me as I worked, the edge of his beard brushed against my skin, his breath warm against my neck sending tingles between my thighs.

I needed to concentrate on my stitching before I hurt him again. “There was a picture in the apartment of you when you were younger. You and King with another boy wearing a bow tie. Was that Preppy?”

Bear leaned forward, resting his nose in the crook of my neck and nodded, his lips and beard setting my skin on fire.

So much for concentrating.

I cleared my throat. “Does he live in Logan’s Beach?” I asked, as I finished the last stitch. The thread was short after stitching both the front and back of his shoulder. I had to close my mouth around the thread, my lips flush against his skin as I cut it with my teeth, resisting the urge to taste him with my tongue, before tying it off like I’d done on the other side. I blew on his skin to ease some of the pain and Bear stood up, catching me before I tumbled down the steps and setting me back onto my feet.

“He’s dead,” Bear said, picking up the bottle of vodka and pouring it over both sides of his wound, hissing between his teeth.

That was the end of our personal conversation, after which Bear turned all business. By the time he’d asked how deep the pond in the middle of the grove was and tested the tractor on the side of the house to see if it was running, I was starting to figure out what he’d meant by ‘cleanup.’

After I watched him tie the bodies of his former brothers to what was left of their bikes and sink them into the pond…I had an even better idea.

*     *     *

Thia

“Sun’s up soon,” Bear said, looking off into the distance to where the pink had just started to invade the night sky. He pulled out his phone and pushed a few buttons, his lips moving silently as he read something over, shoving his phone back into his pocket when he was done. He hopped down from the tractor and came around to my side, about to help me down.

I rolled my eyes. I’d been jumping on and off that tractor since I was in diapers. Bear stalked toward me, backlit by the rising sun he was dirty, sweaty and muddy to all hell but he was surrounded with a halo of light like he was an angel from hell. “Bethany messaged me. She arranged for you to be questioned by the sheriff at her office in Coral Pines. He wanted to do it tomorrow, but she managed to push him off for another forty eight hours because she wants to meet with you first and go over some things.”

“What kind of things?” I asked.

“Your story,” Bear said. “She wants to make sure you say the right thing and that you know how to answer his questions.”

“What right thing?” I asked, following him around to the side of the house where he unraveled the hose. “I killed my mom after she killed my dad. That’s all there is to it.”

He let out a frustrated sigh and held up the end of the hose with the nozzle, searching for the spigot.

I stomped over to where the hose bib was hidden by a thorny bush and turned on the water.

“When are you going to learn to stop questioning me and fucking listen? Your story,” he said, closing the distance between us, “will be whatever Bethany tells you it is.”

“When are you going to learn that I don’t like being told what to do?” I crossed my arms over my chest and Bear adjusted the nozzle, testing the spray in the grass.

His eyes burned with anger, a warning not to continue to argue with him. Fine. I won’t argue.

But that didn’t mean I was agreeing with him either.

“You said the sheriff isn’t in office until the afternoon?” he asked.

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