“What?” I said, loosening my grip on his shirt. His eyes were wide, crazed, and he couldn’t stop smiling. “Handled what?”
“He said his car was acting up. He asked me to check under the hood because he and Emma were going on a trip out of town for the day. I knew him coming to me that day was a sign—he wanted me to do it.”
“Cut the brake cord under his hood. He was giving Elizabeth back to me. Because I won the coin toss. And everything went great, except when he took the car onto the freeway, Emma wasn’t in the backseat. She was home sick.”
I couldn’t comprehend his words. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. “You tried to kill them? You rigged his car?”
“I WON THE COIN TOSS!” he cried, as if he were actually making sense.
“You’re a lunatic.”
He released a breath of air. “I’m a lunatic? You’re sitting here in love with a woman whose husband killed your family!”
“He didn’t kill them. You did. You killed my family.”
He waved his finger back and forth. “No, Steven was behind the wheel driving the car. He was the one driving. I was just the mere mechanic under the hood.”
I slammed him against the car over and over again. “This isn’t some kind of game, Tanner. These are people’s lives you’re playing with!”
“Life is a game, Tristan. And I advise you to back off. Because I won her. It’s now time for me to collect my prize, and the last thing I need is someone else to get in my way.”
“You’re sick,” I said, walking away from him. “And if you come anywhere near Elizabeth I will kill you myself.”
Tanner laughed again. “Come on, buddy. You would kill me? When it comes to killing, I’m pretty sure I have you beat three times over. Four if you count later tonight.”
“Come on. You didn’t think I could have Elizabeth with a little girl always reminding her of her dead husband, did you?”
“If you touch Emma,” I warned, seconds away from slamming my fist into his face.
“What? What are you going to do? Kill me?”
I didn’t even remember hitting him.
But I did remember him collapsing to the ground.
“Lizzie!” I shouted, entering the café. “We need to talk.”
She hardly glanced my way, giving me the cold shoulder. “Tristan, I’m working. And I’m pretty sure we’ve already spoken enough.”
I wrapped my hand around her forearm and slightly pulled her. “Lizzie, seriously.”
“Let her go,” Faye said, marching in front of us. “Now!”
“Faye, you don’t understand. Lizzie, it was Tanner. All of this was him. He was behind the notes, the accident, he was behind all of it.”
“What are you talking about?” Elizabeth asked, confusion floating in her eyes.
“I’ll explain it all later, but for now I need to know where Emma is. She’s in trouble, Lizzie.”
Faye gasped lightly. “What did you do to Tanner?” she asked, staring across the street. Two police officers were talking to him, and Tanner was pointing my way. Fuck.
“He’s insane. He said he was going to hurt Emma.”
Elizabeth was shaking, nerves taking her over. “Why would you say such a thing? I know Tanner has his moments, but he would never…”
She was interrupted as the cops came into the café. “Tristan Cole, you are under arrest for the attack on Tanner Chase.”
“What?” Elizabeth gasped, running her hands through her hair, confusion in her eyes. “What’s going on?”
The cop kept speaking as they went to handcuff me. “It turns out this guy was caught on Tanner Chase’s auto shop security cameras attacking him.” He began to speak to me. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.”
They dragged me out of the shop, and Elizabeth hurried outside to follow us. “Wait, this is a misunderstanding. Tristan, tell them. Tell them it’s a mistake,” she begged.
“Lizzie. Check on Emma. Okay? Just make sure she’s okay.” I really hoped she would believe me. I really hoped she would make sure Emma was all right.
“I leave the shop with you for three hours and come back to find you locked behind bars,” Mr. Henson joked.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, confused.
He cocked an eyebrow as a cop unlocked my cell door. “I think I’m paying your bail.”
“How did you know I was in here?”
“Oh. I did a tarot card reading.” I narrowed my eyes and he laughed. “Tristan, this is the most gossiping town of all towns. I overheard people talking about it. Plus,” he said as we rounded the corner of the hallway. “This little birdie dropped me a line.”
Elizabeth stood up from the bench in the front lobby and rushed over to me. “Tristan, what’s going on?”
“Is Emma safe?”
She nodded. “She’s with her grandparents.”
“Did you tell them what’s going on?”
“Not yet, I just asked them to watch her. I honestly don’t even know what’s happening, Tristan.”
“Tanner did this, Lizzie. All of this is Tanner. He left you the notes these past five months, not me. He’s the one who caused the accident with Steven’s car. He told me it was him, Lizzie. You have to believe me. He thinks all of this is some kind of sick game, and I’m certain he’s not going to stop until he gets the prize.”