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Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(9)
Author: Meghan March

His name didn’t seem to fit him.

Stop, Valentina. Just stop. He’s not important, he’s not relevant, he shouldn’t even exist to you.

I was just starting to believe the things I was telling myself when my phone vibrated from the side table where I’d left it. After quickly cleaning my hands and wiping them dry on a rag, I reached for it.

Two things struck me at the same time: I’d been painting for hours. It was after midnight. And the second was: Trinity.

I answered immediately. “Are you okay?”

Her voice, which I expected to be filled with excitement over what Rix had told me, was shaking when she spoke. “Can you come get me? I’m scared, V. Something’s wrong here and I’m freaking out.”

Protectiveness to rival a mama bear roared to life within me. “Baby girl, I’m coming for you. Just tell me where you are.”

She rattled off an address, one that was almost the same as the one I’d already visited today, except for two transposed numbers. Apparently my memory sucked when I was sneaking peeks at a cop’s computer screen.

“Is that Derrick’s house?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m in the bathroom. I just want to go home, but there are people downstairs and they’re yelling, and I can’t find Derrick. I don’t know what to do. I tried to go out the back, but one of his friends wouldn’t let me leave and told me to get out of the way.”

I thought about the neighborhood she was in, and was happy someone didn’t let her run out into the night by herself. I’d had no idea she’d been hanging out there the last few months, or I definitely would’ve had something to say about it.

She might only be my employee now, but I’d watched her grow up from awkward middle schooler to a bright and beautiful woman. I’d given her birthday and Christmas presents. I’d taken her prom dress shopping. I’d done all of the things a parent would have done that her grandmother was too old or too uninterested to do.

“It’s okay, honey. I’ll be right there.”

I didn’t bother changing except to toss off my smock and grab a light cotton zip-up hoodie. It was still humid and hot, but it was late and I wanted to be covered when I ventured back into the lion’s den. Because this was the lion’s den. It was Rix’s world, and he’d made no bones about the fact that I didn’t belong in it.

Well, dammit, I don’t want to be back in it. But I had no choice.

My mind raced as I drove my Tesla back to the same street I’d parked on this afternoon, wondering how I’d flip-flopped the numbers of Derrick’s address when I’d jotted them down. I could have circumvented my encounter with Rix altogether, but that didn’t matter now. I just hoped I wasn’t walking into another confrontation with him.

No lights were visible from the house I now assumed was Rix’s. Good. He never needed to know I was here. In and out. Quick and quiet. Get my girl and go.

Every light was on in the run-down house two doors down, and cars with dark-tinted windows lined the street. It was the address she’d given me. I parked my car a few houses up and once again marshaled my courage. I’d texted Trinity when I was at a stop sign about a block away, but she still hadn’t responded.

Did I wait or did I go? I waited for another minute. Still nothing. Screw it. I was going in so I could get out of here just as quickly.

With no plan other than to get my girl, I stepped over beer bottles and crushed cans to make my way up the front walk. The house was similar to Rix’s but it hadn’t been repaired. The steps were caving in, the screen door was falling off its hinges, and more blue paint had peeled off the house than stayed on.

I thought about knocking but didn’t bother as the door flew open and two drunk girls stumbled out. Their mini skirts and tube tops revealed more than they left to the imagination, and their makeup was so dark and smoky, they’d almost assuredly look like raccoons in a few hours. But I could use them for information.

“Have you seen a girl named Trinity? She’s got long, dark hair with a pink streak on the side, and she’s about five seven.”

One girl giggled but the other, seemingly a touch more sober than her friend, nodded. “Yeah. She’s D-Rock’s girl. I saw her in there.”

Oh, thank God. A wave of relief rolled through me. This day was all going to be a bad memory tomorrow.

“Do you know where in there?” I asked.

The girl shook her head, and grabbed the top edge of her tube top before it slid down and caused a wardrobe malfunction. “Try D-Rock’s room. It’s in the back but it might be occupied, if you know what I mean.”

She winked and grabbed the other girl’s hand, and they tripped their way down the steps and the sidewalk to the street. They chatted as they lit their cigarettes, ignoring me completely.

Whatever Trinity had been worried about didn’t seem to be troubling these girls at all, but still I entered the house with extreme caution—and my gun-packing purse tucked tight against my side.

Someone chose the moment I reached for the door handle to turn the music up to earsplitting levels. I pulled the door open, grateful the latch didn’t come off in my hand, and stepped into a tiny entryway that connected to a living room and kitchen combination. The paneled hallway in front of me ran down the center of the house.

I got looks from people in both the kitchen and the living room, and I think a few catcalls, but I couldn’t hear them over the music. One guy on the torn couch licked his lips and gave me a chin jerk, but I ignored him and made my way down the hall toward the back, where I hoped I’d find Trinity. I made it about five feet before someone—a very large someone—burst from a room and stumbled into me.

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