Prompt: Look at that building.
What a great question. Why did she change her last name to Appleby? Well, the obvious, of course. A daily reminder of where she came from. Of what she endured. Forgetting would be the dumbest thing she ever did. Because she’d never fall into another trap again.
He wouldn’t understand any of that.
Or maybe he would. His eyes, while they sparkled with a hint of distrust, also shimmered with compassion.
Strange. Since, when they met, he eyed her with disdain and guilt.
“Does it really matter?” She didn’t want to talk about it.
“It does to me.”
Before she could step away, he grabbed her hand and pulled her down to the couch to sit with him. She wasn’t sure she liked the proximity of sitting so close to him, or that he didn’t let go of her hand.
“Who would mimic your paintings? Who knows about them?”
“How did you find them?”
He stared at her for a brief moment, then shrugged. “Does it really matter?”
She couldn’t help but like the grin adorning his face at her response. Extracting her hand slowly, his grip almost told her he didn’t want to let her go, but he did, thankfully.
“You didn’t answer my question. Who knows about your paintings?”
Clasping her hands together, she looked down at her lap. “Not many people. Only two.”
After a long pause, he said, “And they are…you are going to tell me, aren’t you?”
She glanced up. “Because you’re a cop you just expect me to.”
“Yes.” His eyes started to glisten again with an intense emotion. Hope, or at least, she interpreted it that way. “I want to help you as best as I can.”
“Funny. I got the impression you wanted to mark me as a killer.”
“No.” And he could either choose to believe that or not. She honestly didn’t care. Much, anyway.
She hated to admit, she did care somewhat what he thought about her. The reasoning why, well, she didn’t want to ponder that at the moment. Maybe it was the way he kept looking at her. As each second ticked by, the distrust and wariness was slowly ebbing away to faith, as if he didn’t think she was a killer.
“I believe you.”
She couldn’t hold back a snort. “Really? That quickly. Is this some sort of mind game? Good cop, bad cop, but you play both roles. Because I have to say, you’re really good at it.”
He had to be joking with her. She abruptly stood up and moved out of his reach before he could try to stop her from walking away. Maybe she thought she saw a bit of kindness in his eyes, but things like that didn’t happen to her. People didn’t treat her as if she were a murderer one minute, then believe in her innocence in the next. He had to be playing some kind of sick game with her.
She reached her door, almost getting it all the way open before he slammed his hand against it to close it firmly.
“I want you to leave.”
“We’re not done talking.”
She turned around, shrinking against the door as he stood way too close to her liking. “We are.”
He leaned in closer. “You still haven’t told me the two names of the people who know about your paintings.” He moved his hand closer to her head, although still pressed against the door. “I honestly don’t believe you killed that woman anymore. But somebody did. And that somebody mimicked your painting. So…only two other people know.”
He chuckled. “Are you accusing me now?”
“Maybe I am.” She couldn’t stand being boxed in. “Please step back.”
Perhaps he saw the terror in her eyes, because she wasn’t trying to hide it, as he immediately retreated at her request.
A shard of wood cut across her cheek as a hole punctured the door.
He grabbed her arm, swinging her to the ground as more shards of wood splintered in the air, another hole forming close to the first one.
“Move to the kitchen!” He practically shoved her as he pulled his weapon out, little holes marking her floor as they shuffled to the kitchen as quickly as they could. Breathing heavily once they hit safety, she leaned against the cupboard as she watched him pull out his phone.
“I need backup at the Waterfield apartments on Greene Street. Apartment 301. Shooter across the street, most likely on the roof or one of the top floor apartments…” His breathing was just as heavily as he paused, daring a glance around the cabinets to her living room window, shrinking back just as quickly as a few more shots pelted the floor. “Fifth level apartment or higher. Shit…I think it’s the Crownes apartments across the street. Look at that building. Now!”
She felt his hand smooth her fist out and interlock his fingers with hers. Then another hand brushed across her cheek.
“Open your eyes. Look at me, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart? He was using endearments with her now. Why?
Her eyes slowly opened. She couldn’t even recall when she slammed them shut. Hearing him speak on the phone, the things he said. What just happened. It was all too much.
He tilted her gaze to his. “Do you believe me now that someone was following you home?”
She nodded slowly, unable to speak.
Words still wouldn’t form.
His lips softly pressed against hers. Light as a feather and smooth to the touch. He pulled away too soon.
“Someone just tried to kill you. Someone’s using your paintings as a muse for murder. Why won’t you tell me?”
“You kissed me.” He kept talking about murder and killing and all she could focus on was that kiss.
He grinned, a sweet, almost sexier than sin, grin. “I did. I want to do it again. But first, names.”