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Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(13)
Author: Meghan March

A yawn escaped my mouth, and I quickly reached up a hand to cover it.

“Long day?” Rix asked, glancing over at me.

“Aren’t they all?”

“This shit with your girl’s got you all off-balance.”

His insightful comment surprised me. “Why do you say that?”

“Because I can’t imagine you’d run out of the house with paint on your face for any other reason.”

My hand flew to my cheek, and the crusty dust of paint met my fingers. Well, hell.

“Didn’t figure you’d be the type to paint your own walls.”

“I wasn’t painting walls,” I said, instantly wondering why I’d corrected him. My painting wasn’t something I talked about. With anyone. Ever.

Rix’s silver eyes lit with understanding, and I knew he put it together. “You’ve got that fancy gallery. You sell your own shit there too?”

“I don’t sell my stuff at all. It’s just a hobby. Something I do when I’m bored.”

The explanation lay like dried paint on my tongue, hard to get out and bad-tasting. Painting for me wasn’t just a hobby. There had been days when it was all that saved me from the darkness.

“Fancy woman, fancy hobby. No surprise there.” Rix’s eyes cut back to me when he slowed at a red light. “The surprise is that I’m finding I’ve got a strong taste for fancy these days.”

Wait, did he mean . . . ? He wasn’t interested in me, was he?

I didn’t know how to reply, and the flashing red and blue lights ahead of us meant that I didn’t have to.

“Oh my God.”

The driver’s side of a dark sedan had mostly been crushed inward by an older SUV, and a telephone pole had cracked in half and landed on the roof of both cars. Lights from police cruisers, fire trucks, and two ambulances lit up the dark night.

“Fuck,” Rix bit out. He slowed the car to a complete stop and turned toward me. “I need you to hold it together.”

My concern over the accident screamed toward panic, and my stomach dipped to the floor. “Wha—why? Is that—”

“The Impala is D-Rock’s.”

My nails bit into my clenched fists as I stared into Rix’s silver eyes. “And the SUV?”

“All you need to know is this wasn’t an accident.”

I swallowed, my mouth already dry as tremors racked my body.

“Oh my God. Holy shit,” I murmured, looking back at the mess of twisted metal. Grabbing the door handle, I yanked at it.

Locked, it’s locked. Unlock it, and find Trinity. She’s okay. She has to be okay.

“Valentina,” Rix snapped, reaching across the car to wrap his hand around my jaw and turn me to face him. “Hold it together. You walk up there flipping the fuck out, it ain’t gonna help your girl. We’ll find her, make sure she’s safe. The impact wasn’t on her side. Now, open the door, pull it together, and go talk to whoever is on the scene who will give you answers.”

I nodded, my head bobbing up and down. “Okay. Okay. Let me go.”

Rix’s grip tightened. “Calm. The fuck. Down.”

I swallowed again, took another deep breath, and released it. “Okay. I’m good. I swear.”

He nodded. “I’m taking your car. I’ll be back in ten. Give me your phone so I can give you my number. You text me as soon as you find out anything, and if she’s at the hospital, I’ll get you there.”

“Okay,” I repeated.

“You walked up to me and gave me shit like no one else would dare. You can hold it together for your girl.” When I nodded again, his thumb brushed over my cheek. “Good. Phone.”

His hand dropped away, and the softness that had been in his eyes faded as I handed over my phone and he added his contact info. I was practically vibrating in my seat, holding back the urge to rip open the door, when he did something else and I heard a buzz from his pocket.

“I got your number now. I’ll be in touch. Go find out what you can.”

“Okay.” When had my vocabulary shrunk to that single word?

He handed the phone back and I turned for the door. Rix’s hand shot out and wrapped around the back of my head, pulling my face toward him as he leaned in. Before I understood his intent, his lips descended on mine for a hard, quick kiss. He pulled away abruptly.

“You got this.”

All I could do was nod again because my vocabulary was nonexistent. Rix kissed me. What kind of alternate universe am I living in?

As soon as he released me, I was out of the car, practically running for the yellow police tape stretched across the road. When I made it there and an officer stopped me, I glanced back and Rix was already gone. My hands shook, and I could still feel the pressure of his lips on mine.

He kissed me. I gave myself a mental slap. Forget about it, Valentina. Not important. I pulled myself together and turned to the cop guarding the police line.

It took ten minutes of begging for information before he threatened to throw me in the back of a squad car, complete with handcuffs as accessories.

“You don’t understand. Her grandmother is elderly, and I’m the only person out here looking for her. I know she was in that car.”

“Ma’am, you need to leave before I make you leave.”

Cops were quickly falling down my list of people who were useful in any way.

“Jones, give me a report.” The familiar voice came from behind me. Both Officer Jones and I spun around to see Detective Hennessy slamming the door of a dark four-door sedan. He walked toward us.

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