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The lovers promise, p.4
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       The Lover's Promise, p.4

           J. C. Reed
 
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  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “What did I do this time, huh?” Jett asked, ignoring my question. “Obviously there is a reason you’re calling me, and that reason is because you’re angry again. You’re angry all the time lately, Brooke, but it’s not like you tell me what you’re doing or where you’re going while you keep me waiting, worrying. Turns out you’re just hanging around bars or clubs, waiting for a good hook-up.” His voice dropped low. “Way to go being responsible. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

  “It’s none of your business what I do,” I said through clenched teeth. “I can do whatever I want. It’s not like we’re married, Jett. I don’t have to justify my actions.”

  There was silence, and for a second I thought he had hung up on me. I breathed in, inwardly cursing myself for being so defensive whenever we talked. Eventually, Jett broke the silence.

  “That might be true, Brooke, but hanging out with the wrong kind of people concerns me just as much, given that you’re pregnant with my child.”

  “The wrong kind of people?” I asked, incredulously.

  “Yes, the wrong kind of people,” he repeated slowly. “Say what you want, but I still carry a lot of responsibility toward you and our child. “I had my fair share of encounters with the law, so I know what I’m talking about. And let me tell you this: you’re better off without those people, Brooke. I want you to stay away from them.”

  “I don’t know what to say. How can you—” I choked on my words, shocked as Gina’s face slowly crept back into my mind.

  “How about saying nothing? I have no time for your drama right now, and sure as hell, I’m not in the mood for justifying what I did.”

  Faint footsteps carried over from the background. I held my breath to listen and thought I heard a female voice. A brief exchange of words. My heart sank in my chest as I recognized Tiffany’s voice.

  “Look, we’ll talk tomorrow evening,” Jett said quickly.

  “But…”

  “Tomorrow, Brooke.” He hung up, not even letting me finish.

  I stared at the phone, flummoxed.

  It was her, I was sure of that. I expected another pang of pain to hit my chest, but strangely it never came. Instead, the hole in my heart dripped with emptiness, my mind spinning as I become aware of one fact.

  Jett was moving on.

  And there was some possibility that he might have killed Gina. My eyes fell on the open bottle on the table, beckoning to me, promising to ease my pain. I buried my head into my hands, wishing for once I could numb my body with alcohol.

  I headed straight for the kitchen and boiled water to make myself some tea. Ever since the detective talked about Jett, I hadn’t stopped shaking inside. All my life I had convinced myself that fear was a natural process resulting from forgotten trauma and painful imagination spun by a vivid mind.

  Today I learned there were different kinds of fear:

  Fear of answers.

  Fear of seeing Jett getting into trouble.

  Fear of losing myself in chaos.

  Fear of being so blindly in love that I didn’t see his true colors.

  Fear of losing him to Tiffany.

  My world had become a complete mess where I could no longer see what was true and what wasn’t, whom I could trust and whom I could not.

  What did the detective mean by stating he had been watching Jett for some time now?

  How long was how long? The thing was, even though I didn’t want to, I felt as though I had to know all the answers when I had neither the courage nor the wish to meet Jett. He had hurt me so much that my heart couldn’t face him without being reminded that he had knowingly kept secrets from me. And while I could forgive him for being the way he was, I could never forgive him if I ever found out that he killed Gina.

  I tossed and turned, my mind circling around the fact that Jett was a primary suspect. My head was a dizzy mess, but sleep wouldn’t come, and how could it when my thoughts kept buzzing like a swarm of flies around a carcass? The moment I pushed one irritating thought away, a new one appeared to take its place—confusing me, each one scarier than the last.

  By 2:30 a.m. I was fully awake. The detective’s words just wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to close my eyes, but every time I did, I saw Gina. Jett’s tires had carried traces of her. I wondered if she was still alive when she lay on the street. She must have been or why else would anyone run her over when she had already been stabbed?

  I shuddered at the thought.

  What a terrible death!

  When the clock hit 3.05 a.m. I couldn’t bear it anymore and jumped out of the bed. As I switched on the lights any traces of tiredness were gone. The apartment was so quiet I could hear a bird screeching outside. A glance into Sylvie’s bedroom confirmed she wasn’t back from her blind date.

  I tied my hair into a bun and pondered what to do. Sylvie was right, all the stress and emotional strain weren’t good for my baby. I had to be more positive before my stomach turned into knots of worry.

  I retrieved the self-help book from where I had left it on the table and returned to my room, then sank down on the bed and leaned back against the pillows. It was a pretty little pink book full of daily, positive affirmations Sylvie read whenever she was down, frustrated, or confused about life, which usually included the basics. It sure had done her good reading it right before she landed a top position as an accountant at a well-known firm. Too bad there was nothing in it to cover a freaking-out-about-a-killer-on-the-loose situation like mine. But maybe it would help me calm down a little.

  I turned the book over, more out of desperation than curiosity, scanned the instructions, then flicked open a page and started reading out loud.

  I’m happy and whole because my life is perfect, the affirmation said.

  I stared at the words. Even repeating them felt hard—like big lumps of stone in my mouth, weighing down my tongue. Did I believe them? Hell, no. My life couldn’t be further from perfect right now.

  I feel loved and safe.

  Are you kidding me? I grimaced as I repeated the words. What a load of bullshit. I hadn’t felt safe in a long time and I doubted I ever would again. I turned the next page, unable to control the hysteria bubbling at the back of my throat. Scanning the rest of the affirmations, I wondered what was the purpose of self-deluding myself anymore?

  The knowledge of being in the unknown and trying to force myself to hold onto positive thoughts when I lived in fear angered me. Another screeching outside. I stopped and closed the book. It was one thing to believe in a positive future, and another to delude myself. Knowing damn well that Jett and Tiffany were probably together, laughing, making love, was the last thing that could possibly make me feel good right now. It actually made me feel downright miserable.

  In an angry move, I threw the book onto the bed.

  The positive affirmations didn’t help, and they sure didn’t calm me. Time to face the hard facts, go over theories while trying to stay objective. There was only one way to do it. I booted my laptop and started to make a list in search for the worst-case scenario. Maybe if I listed on paper all my recent issues I had with him, the pieces of my puzzle would automatically fall into place and I would get all the answers I needed.

  Once I finished, I leaned back and began to chew on a pen.

  1. Jett had failed to disclose to me that he visited his brother the last couple of weeks. He also failed to mention that Nate was released from prison.

  2. Jett had met Tiffany behind my back and failed to tell me about their past.

  3. Jett had pretended to go to work while attending a meeting in the hotel conference room with God knows who on the same day Nate was released.

  4. The detective’s evidence showed that Jett met the first victim, Sarah, in a coffee shop two weeks ago, on the same day she died. Although I had no concrete proof that Jett knew Gina, I knew he was at the club that night, watching us, which meant he saw not only me, but also her—two victims who h
appened to be at the same place as Jett, and died within hours.

  Why all the secrets? Assuming the detective was right and Jett was a murderer, why kill Sarah and Gina? The detective said he had found no connection between the two girls yet, so they must have been random victims. As much as I tried to, I couldn’t image Jett hurting anyone. I couldn’t imagine him to be cruel, heartless, and sick.

  A player yes, but not a murderer.

  Except…

  I drew a slow breath as memories of waking up in a hospital flooded my mind. Back then when I had been abducted, Jett did everything to find and save me—he even shot one of my captors.

  Was protecting someone equal to being a cold-blooded killer?

  I had no idea. All I knew was that I had always felt safe around Jett. And for some reason, I still did. However, I also had to take into account that I was in love and possibly biased. Nate and Jett’s father were both convincing liars. Maybe Jett had inherited that family trait.

  I tapped the pen against my lips as my mind dove deeper into the past, back to a time when Jett had tried to deceive me to get his hands on the Italian estate, a past I had tried to forget. My hands shook slightly as I jotted down the next fact:

  5. Jett wanted the Lucazzone estate, which I had inherited, for his family.

  I looked down at the dark words, unable to stop an ice-cold shudder from running down my spine at the possibility that the last piece of the puzzle might have been in front of me the whole time; that the answers to all my questions might be much simpler than I previously thought. What if everything really was part of a strategy and Jett was involved with the club?

  I drew a slow breath and closed my eyes for a few seconds.

  Jett had said he didn’t want the estate anymore, but what if that was a lie, a ploy to get my trust? What if, when the first plan to get the estate didn’t work, Jett had to play the caring, protective boyfriend all the while siding with his brother?

  By insisting on getting my promise to stay close to him, he would make sure I didn’t run away, and by tracing my phone, he would always know where to find me. Gina and Sarah might have been killed as part of the club’s traditions. It all would make sense…if it just weren’t so hard for me to imagine.

  The thought that Jett had played me caused another surge of rage and nausea to wash over me. Without wasting another second, I crumpled the paper into a ball, and typed ‘Signs that your boyfriend is a killer” into the Google search browser, ignoring the last word.

  I almost choked when the search engine came up with over forty million results.

  Holy heck.

  I stared at the numbers.

  Did that many people have doubts about their boyfriends’ mental state?

  Wow. Just wow. What a crazy mad world!

  I shook my head, both amazed and frightened. I knew for a fact that most psychos were intelligent people who looked charming—the kind of people that smiled in your face and tried to kill you at the moment you trusted them. They were in your social circles, always pretending to like you while planning for months and years in advance—like my sister’s boyfriend Danny had done when he sold her to the club—the very club Nate attended.

  Without scrolling down, I clicked on the third link that read, “Test if your boyfriend’s a psycho,” and started going through each question.

  Does he have a secret room, a drawer that he doesn’t want you to touch?

  I had no idea. My mind traveled back to all the countless times I had been in Jett’s office. The possibility that I could sniff around never occurred to me. And when I moved in with him, Jett had assured me that nothing was off-limits, so I always assumed there was no need to check on him.

  Does he seem obsessive, manipulative, bordering on narcissistic?

  I shook my head. Jett wasn’t manipulative. Controlling, yes, and very possessive, but he wasn’t narcissistic, and sure as hell I had never seen him obsessive, unless it was about work.

  Does he like to play mental games with you, where he works you up into a state of frenzy, and then pulls away, sometimes showing cracks in the mask in the form of saying things that hurt you? Does he have episodes where he suddenly erupts out of anger and lashes out, hurting you in the process, then apologizing profoundly?

  I shook my head again, and again, as I went through each question. Jett had never done anything of that sort. Keeping secrets, yes, but he had never choked me, beat me, or humiliated me. And sure as hell he had never hurt me on purpose.

  I swallowed as I pressed the finish button, my heart racing in my chest as the results were calculated. Finally a new page loaded with the results:

  Congratulations. Your boyfriend is normal. There is only a 7% chance you’re dating a psycho.

  I stared at the number.

  Seven percent.

  That was like... almost nothing. I could deal with almost nothing.

  Feeling the weight lifting off my shoulders, I leaned back, more convinced than ever that Jett wasn’t Gina’s killer; that there must be something else going on, something that I wasn’t seeing. The thought of seeing Jett wasn’t so bad now. In fact, I was beginning to look forward to it. The day had been a disaster so far, but tomorrow everything would work out. I had to believe that. Tomorrow, I’d get the chance to ask him all the questions that kept burning holes in my mind, and he would explain. Feeling a tremendous fatigue washing over me, I let hope engulf me and finally I closed my eyes.

  The sound of screeching echoed through the walls. A soft hand touched my cheek and my neck. Gentle at first, then harder, more tempestuous, more urgent, only to be replaced with something soft, warm—and wet. I opened my eyes. My heart fluttered as my eyes met Jett’s, and I sucked in my breath.

  Dressed in a pair of black jeans and a white shirt that showed off his tanned skin and tattoos, Jett couldn’t look more gorgeous. With hair that dark, eyes that green, and skin that bronze, he was an awakening beauty, ready to stir everyone from their deepest slumber. He sure had woken me.

  “What are you doing here?” I asked, stunned to see him. All traces of sleep were gone, my heart pounding so hard I was sure he could hear it.

  “I let myself in.” He smiled and showed me the key in his palm before he stacked it away. It was the key I had given him for emergencies. “I hope you don’t mind.”

  In spite of the recent developments, I felt a tremendous relief that he was back. Looking around, I realized I was still in my bed and Jett was hovering over me—his height both frightening and enthralling. I must have fallen asleep and hours must have passed because the last rays of sunlight were shining through the window, casting a soft glow on the dark hardwood floor. It was probably late afternoon or early evening. For a moment, I watched the way the light turned into a beautiful shade of orange and red, which I hadn’t seen since Italy. It was unusual for New York City.

  “I’m sorry,” Jett whispered, and I turned my head back to him. My heart lurched again. Even though he was usually hard to read, I could see the sorrow etched on his beautiful face, and I felt sad, too.

  “About what?”

  He shook his head slowly, his lips pressed into a tight line. “I feel terrible about what happened. I had no right to hurt you.” His tone was soft, and the skin on his forehead crinkled.

  “What about Tiffany?” I asked.

  “She doesn’t matter.” He lifted my chin and our eyes connected for a moment before I averted them again. “I missed you, Brooke. I had to come and see if you’re okay.”

  A soft smile lit Jett’s lips as our eyes met again, and slowly dimples appeared.

  Oh God.

  Those dimples. Those lips. Those magnificent arms. The sunlight caught in his green eyes that reminded me of a wild garden. A savage garden. Wild. Unkempt. Full of secrets. Lost in them, I had to find a way out of the labyrinth. No guy I had ever met had that effect on me. Any sorrow, any pain—all vanished because of his smile.

  “Maybe I missed you, too,” I whispered. “And I’m sorr
y about what I said that morning. Of what I thought of you. I didn’t mean any of it.”

  “I know, baby. They were just words.” He stretched out his arms and his hands cupped my face. I leaned against his soft skin, marveling in the safety his hands seemed to provide. They were warm. Calloused. Strong. “Words don’t mean anything.”

  I nodded. For a few seconds, neither of us spoke, until he stirred.

  “Come here.” He let go of my face and held out his hand. I grabbed it and interlaced my fingers with his. With a gentle move he pulled me up and pressed me against his hard body, and I couldn’t help but notice how perfect he was, the way he did nothing and yet did everything—to me, to my whole being. Leaning against his sculpted chest, it felt so good to be in his arms, smelling his scent, hearing the pounding of his heart. To be back with him, forgetting the problems we had. To touch him and be with him, knowing that he loved me enough to return to me. Loved me enough to miss me. I had never known how much I loved him and how much I still wanted to be with him until that very moment when all problems didn’t matter anymore as long as we had each other.

  “I missed you, Brooke,” he repeated, his thumb stroking the line of my jaw. “I missed us, but more so I missed this. Your face. Your voice. You.”

  My eyes felt moist, and something hard lodged in my throat, rendering me unable to speak.

  “But I have to be honest with you,” he continued, cocking a sexy eyebrow as his hand slid down my back. “It’s not the only reason I’m here. I miss you underneath me. I miss seeing you come. I miss dipping my tongue inside you and savoring your taste, knowing it’s me who can give you that much pleasure. Right now I just want to rip off your bathrobe and fuck you until you’re mine again.”

  “I’m already yours. You know that,” I whispered.

  He shook his head slowly. “No, you’re not. I still have to tame you.”

  “I’m not tamable. You’d better get used to it.”

 
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