Return to poughkeepsie, p.33
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.33

           Debra Anastasia
 
“Damn it, Eve. Why’d you come here? Why are you here?” His eyes raged with suspicion, hurt, and lust. He stepped behind his couch, giving them both a barrier.

  “I don’t know. I couldn’t stop myself.” She hugged her arms to her chest. Just a taste of him was crazy. Her body shuddered with want.

  “How’s your boyfriend, the cop? Does he know you’re here? I sure as hell wouldn’t want my girl at a criminal’s house.” Beckett threw his hands up and gave her a hard stare. “Jesus fucking Christ, you’re gorgeous.”

  Eve walked straight to him, jumping the couch and finding his arms again. Here she couldn’t think, only feel. Her voice was filled with tears. “Fuck you. I love you, and you know it. And you left me for years. I thought…” She gently clawed his face. He looked at the ceiling, hands jammed in his pockets. “I thought you were dead.”

  Beckett exhaled, still looking at the ceiling. “I was dead without you. Every day.”

  She tilted his face to hers and touched his lips, his chest, his gunshot wounds. She pulled his hand out of his pocket and turned it to reveal his brand. Eve put her lips against the outline, grazing the wound with her teeth, then met his gaze.

  “I never wanted you to give up your freedom for mine.” She let go of his hand and stepped back. Her words were out there. He knew how she felt.

  He looked at his feet as her emotions began to burn from the center out.

  “Did you ever…” He looked at her hard and stepped into her space. “…for one second…” He put his hands behind her neck. “…think I wasn’t coming for you? In New York? At the Vitullos’? Here?”

  “Yes.” She nodded. His face was every conundrum she’d ever had. Murder and love. Vengeance and forgiveness.

  “You’re a fucking liar.” He kissed her so hard and fast, she couldn’t even take a breath. His oxygen became her nourishment. The burning center of her emotions flamed over. He tore her clothes from her body. Not for a second was he gentle, and she returned his fervor. Finally, they were naked together. Windows uncovered, lights blazing. Making every mistake in the world.

  “I love you, Eve. You’re the only heart I have.”

  The only thing that could stop him from making love to her now was a SWAT team, and that’s exactly what burst into his house—through the door and the windows.

  Cops screamed, “Freeze!”

  “Hands in the air.”

  “Get on the floor right now.”

  Eve and Beckett went to their knees and then to their bellies. The red and blue lights reflected off their naked skin as they looked into each other’s eyes.

  Eve looked over to see John McHugh crunching through the broken glass. He approached her, knelt for a moment, and covered her with his jacket. She watched as he picked up her clothes scattered around the room and directed her to the bedroom. There he offered them to her and averted his eyes so she could change.

  “What are you looking for?” she asked once she’d dressed.

  “Taylor,” he answered. “It wasn’t my call to have it happen like this, but he’s wanted for questioning in the murder of Chris Simmer.”

  She followed him back to the living room in time to watch Beckett be cuffed in the nude on the floor of his living room.

  “Can you get my dog from the basement and keep him?” he called to her.

  She nodded as an officer put Beckett’s pants in his hands and marched him out the door.

  As the house emptied, Captain McHugh lingered for a moment. “Officer Morales know you’re here?”

  Eve watched through the broken window as Beckett was put in the back of a cruiser. She didn’t answer out loud, but in her head, as she watched a fellow murderer be driven away, the answer was no. No, Ryan didn’t know. And she felt like a fraud and a cheat and a junkie.

  McHugh took her silence for the answer it was. “You need to leave here tonight. There’s no good way to lock up.” He paused for a moment. “Actually, I should take you to the station too. There are quite a few questions you should answer. How about you and I have a quick heart-to-heart here and we spare you that?”

  He didn’t need to explain further, and Eve appreciated his kindness. The station would always be where her life had changed.

  They sat together on Beckett’s couch, and she gave him a carefully edited account of the last few weeks of her life: She’d been hired for some event work and security by Mary Ellen, who quickly proved herself completely crazy. Yes, she’d been held for a time by Mary Ellen’s father after her murder. No, she did not care to press charges or discuss further what he had wanted from her. No, she was no longer employed by the Vitullos. Yes, she planned to stay out of trouble, perhaps stick closer to home and take care of her father.

  When she’d finished, he was silent for a long time. “I can’t promise we won’t revisit all this again,” he said. “But I can’t bring myself to book you right now. No one’s pressed charges, so let’s leave it at that. Please let me know if you find you have relevant information for me in the future.” He walked out and left the door open, an obvious invitation and reminder for her.

  The flashing lights faded until she was alone. After brushing the glass off Beckett’s couch, Eve sat down. Her shirt had to be held together, and she just threw out her bra. She’d been so close to losing control with Beckett. Hell, it took an army to stop what was set in motion by her impulsiveness.

  And where had it come from? For the past few weeks, once she’d confirmed Beckett was alive and had returned to Poughkeepsie, she’d practically lived with Ryan—cuddled into him for no other reason than to feel the comfort of his arms, laugh with him, and avoid thinking about what she’d done as they both healed. Ryan was easy. He was a good man, and he reminded her of who she’d once been, the woman she might have become. But damn it all to hell, in her heart she knew he would never be enough for her now. It was just a version of her who fit with him, never her whole self. Only Beckett understood the person she’d become, the reasons why she’d done what she’d done. They had always been a sexual tsunami. Sometimes pain felt better than nothing real at all.

  But what if it was time for her to be the stronger one? Could she step away, as he’d tried to do—leave him to find his way without her misery as a burden? They loved each other, but what if that was a death wish?

  She had no answers, but there was no reason for her to stay here. And yet she was powerless to move. She brought the snorting, slobbering dog up from the basement when he barked, and after a short romp in the backyard, he curled up in his dog bed like it was his job. She sat with him for hours until the sun rose, the morning breeze laden with dew. Beckett’s house, and the stuff inside, had no barrier now to the weather, to strangers. She was still sitting in glass, watching the curtains blow when she heard gravel popping under tires.

  She heard his mutter of thanks before he walked through the open door. Beckett was already back—now wearing his pants and a scrub shirt. He looked ridiculous. The dog hopped up from his bed and charged Beckett like a bull. As he scooped him up, he locked eyes with Eve, his face strangely vacant.

  “Funniest shit. I get there, and I already have a lawyer. Super fancy. They were barely allowed to ask me shit, and it seems the evidence from the crime scene has been compromised somehow.” Beckett set the dog down and picked up a piece of glass, turning it over and over in his hands. “So I’m back.”

  “Rodolfo. He was teaching you humility. And he may have actually been useful for once.” She tied her shirt in a knot in front of her boobs as Beckett sat on the coffee table.

  “True. Or maybe he gets off on body cavity searches.” He put his head in his hands. “Honestly, I can hardly believe it. McHugh didn’t look happy, but he didn’t vow to hunt me down this time.”

  Eve pulled her hair from her face and twirled it like a rope, tying it in a knot.

  Beckett sighed deeply. He didn’t seem nearly as relieved as he should have. “Why is it I’m not a strong man? Do you have a clue?” He looked at her as if she might
have an answer.

  “Not sure what you mean.” She stood, and there was the gentle sound of glass shards hitting the ground, like angels losing their wings.

  He watched her stand but remained seated. “I promised in my head to leave you be. And when I saw you…I was supposed to be man enough to turn you away. Fuck, I’m not a horny teenager. It’s just you.” He finally did stand. “You break me. You break everything I think I stand for.”

  “I know how you feel. I’m the one who showed up here, remember?” It was this connection that bound them. Their sentence. If there was such a thing as soul mates, there must be hate mates too. Even a knock on the badly damaged door couldn’t drag her eyes from his.

  The dog’s barking and Ryan’s voice filled the room. “Eve, you ready?”

  She felt a smile on her face. Ryan had read the situation and was here to save her from herself. But she reached out for Beckett, trailing her fingers down his arm. It wasn’t goodbye or a promise—just a touch. Then she turned her back on him and took Ryan’s outstretched hand. He stepped behind her and guided her out of Beckett’s new house.

  Beckett watched her leave with the cop. In him a war was raging—that she would leave. That she could leave. It would take a pack of rabid zombies to tear him from her. Maybe she was only in his veins, and he wasn’t in hers. He clenched his fists, forgetting about the glass shard he still held until he noticed blood dripping down his forearm, covering his new brand and his old Sorry tattoo.

  He looked despondently at the mess for a while before finding a broom. It took him hours to rectify the destruction, and all the time his mind flashed through stills of her here: opening the door, her naked breast, the way her skin goose-bumped as his fingers touched her, gasps, growls. All of it so Eve. How she could walk out his door, that she was strong enough to break the connection his body was glued into, even when she wasn’t there, had stunned him stupid. He’d always figured they’d drown together in the endlessness of their attraction. He loved her so much—it was like the devil himself was squeezing his heart. And she’d said she loved him…

  How could something he felt this intensely, this impossibly, be wrong? His love had to be right for her. Wasn’t there a way to make it right for her? Be a better man. His vow from long ago echoed in his head. But although he could find a way to accomplish most tasks, that one had eluded him. And now—even more so after this latest police station stunt—he was chained to the soul-sucking Rodolfo Vitullo. Maybe his love just wasn’t enough.

  The suburban neighborhood he was currently occupying was full of life now, and neighbors strolled outside for a look at the house that had caused all the commotion. He needed to get a glass company in here. He needed to be a good neighbor. And if he really loved Eve—sick, twisted bastard that he was—he needed to push her toward something more than he could give her. Even if she wasn’t sure she wanted it, she deserved the chance to figure her life out, no matter how long it took. Hell, he owed her five years.

  So much in his life felt out of his hands now, so Beckett turned to the shit he knew he needed to get done. He needed to get the damn money back from twatbag Sevan Harmon, and he needed to check in on Chery and Vere. And probably he should’ve started with Rodolfo’s crap, but damned if he didn’t need a win first—a win he’d brought about on his own.

  Chery answered her own phone, which was good.

  “Hey, pretty. How’s things?” Beckett slid down the wall in the hall and sat on the floor.

  “Beckett, how are you?” He listened to the background noise on her call, trying to figure out if she was still in the hospital. “I’m better. I’ll be checking out of this crappy hotel in a few minutes.” Her voice held hesitation.

  “Glad to hear it. Just so you know, the liquor store and my house are going to be put in your name. Chaos will manage the store, and he’s on my payroll. But if he pisses you off in any way, I’ll send someone else.” He heard her exhale in relief.

  “That’s too much. Boss, I’m just a cashier.”

  “Nah. You’re a fantastic person, and you’re Vere’s sister, so that makes you super important. And you’re a hell of a cashier as well. Speaking of which, I took G, and I know Vere must be disappointed. Would it be okay if I got her a dog?” Beckett looked at the ceiling, picturing Vere’s sweet face.

  “Well, sure. You don’t have to do that, though. You’ve done so much. I can’t thank you en—”

  Beckett interrupted her. “It was nothing. Listen, I’ve another offer for you, and it is what it is. No pressure—just an option. I did some thinking on your baby situation, like you asked me to.”

  “Okay.” She sounded hesitant.

  “If you want to pass that baby on to a set of parents, I know a couple that’ll take him.” Beckett heard the words come out of his mouth and realized it was almost too big a decision to make.

  Silence was her only answer for a long while. Then Chery asked Beckett to tell her all about them. He left nothing out. By the time he was done describing his brother and sister-in-law, Chery would’ve been able to pick them out in a crowd without ever having seen a picture.

  “They sound amazing. And real. I’d love to meet them,” Chery commented before telling him she had to go. The nurse was there with her exit papers. Beckett heard Chaos’s greeting in the background as he hung up, which made him smile.

  The next number he hadn’t called in five years, though he still texted her on occasion.

  “How’s Gandhi? Is there a problem?” Kristen was all business when she answered.

  “He’s a snoring, humping mess, and I love him.” Beckett smiled. “He’s actually been amazing for a friend of mine who has autism. Unfortunately, I can’t even imagine parting with G, and I’ve had to move back to Poughkeepsie. You have anybody in the shelter who needs a get-out-of-death-free card? I’ll get them all their shots and cut off their balls and shit.”

  “You know, you were the best wrong choice I ever made. Come by tomorrow, after hours like last time. I got a few I’d love to show you.”

  After hanging up with Kristen, Beckett sat in the hallway a little longer. She was correct. He was always the wrong choice.

  37

  Good Soul

  RYAN KEPT LOOKING OVER AT EVE, but she was quiet the whole way back from that asshole’s house. Her clothes were in disarray—like she’d been attacked. But he couldn’t imagine anyone getting one over on her now.

  He hated that he’d pussied out and gone to get her. But McHugh had a soft spot for Eve, and what was he supposed to do after his captain told him her location? Ryan definitely had a soft spot for her too.

  She took a shower when they got home, leaving the whole apartment smelling like her conditioner and lotion when she was done. She came out with wet hair, in a tank top and jeans. He had brunch almost ready, so she set out plates and glasses. Still Eve said nothing. She was so damn hard to read. They sat when he’d put the food on the table.

  Finally, the silence did him in. “I’m not going to get you again. Ever.”

  She put down her fork and regarded him.

  “This isn’t a threat. It’s me telling you I’m never pulling you out of his house. I’m not a forgiving kind of guy.” Ryan forced himself to keep eating.

  “You shouldn’t be. And I never asked you to come for me.”

  “I know we haven’t been…intimate. And I have no claims on you. It’s just…” He wanted to be firm, be some sort of alpha for her.

  She waited, with a look in her clear blue eyes that said she already knew everything he was planning to tell her.

  “You don’t need to hear this.” He put his fork down.

  Eve stood and pulled her wet hair to one side. As a reflex, he slid his chair out as she sat in his lap. Her eyes went from sharp and clear to a faraway gaze.

  She hugged his head to her chest and kissed the top of his head. He put his arms around her waist. “You’re my dream guy, from a long time ago. When I was a kid? Ugh. I had the hugest crush on pol
icemen—the uniform, the gun. I had fantasies of getting pulled over and the cop asking for my number. God, I was so naïve.” She grabbed his chin and made him look in her eyes. “You deserve to find a lady who still believes in that stuff. Someone you’d be a hero to.” She was soft, her whole face was easy, unguarded.

  “I’ll be your hero.” He knew it was cheesy, but he was dead serious.

  “I’m a perp, Ryan. I’m the bad guy. The worst.”

  She was still soft. He didn’t know what the hell she was even saying. She stood and twisted so she could straddle him. Almost urgently, like she was leaving.

  “I’ve killed people. More than I can count anymore. So much blood…”

  Ryan leaned forward and placed one finger on the button of her jeans. She allowed the kiss he gave her as he used the finger to lift her tank top above her taut abs. His lust pounded in his ears, between his legs. He was barely able to hear her over the rush of his desire. For months they’d spent endless time together, pretended to be in love, yet she’d never made love to him.

  “Would sex with me make it all better?” she demanded. “Could you live with who I am? Could you sleep next to a person who can torture a grown man until he cries for his mother?”

  Her lips were saying words he knew he should heed. There was a warning for his heart laced in the syllables. Instead Ryan stood, lifting her, and walked her to the couch, where he lay her on her back. She looked defeated, disappointed.

  “I have no idea what the fuck you want. Is this a confession? An offering? Are you having fun teasing me? Teasing my dick? Fuck, Eve, I just got you out of a murdering bastard’s house.”

  She just lay there, like she expected as much from him. He sat on the coffee table.

  “That’s what I am, Ryan. And I want to make sure you hate me,” she said quietly. Eve turned her face toward the cushion, her hair dripping like gold silk off his crappy couch.

  “Well, that’s the bitch of it. ’Cause I’m pretty damn sure I love you.” The words sounded much more hollow than they’d felt in his chest.

 

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