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Whispers of You: Chapter 48



I leaned back against the couch and studied the wall—or tried to study the wall. The sexy-as-sin man standing in front of it proved distracting. What was it about jeans and a simple white tee?

Holt pointed to the first square of color painted on the living room wall. “Sage Meadow.”

I made a humming noise.

He pointed to the second, a gray-blue color. “Stormy Sea.”

I nodded.

Holt moved to the third. “Newsprint Gray.”

I frowned at that one.

Holt didn’t miss my expression as he let out an exasperated sigh. “That one’s my favorite.”

“It’s boring.”

He strode toward me, gently pulling me to him. “Might be boring, but it’ll make whatever art we choose for the walls really pop.”

Damn him for having a point.

Holt chuckled, the sound warming me from the inside out.

A hint of annoyance bled into my tone. “What are you laughing at?”

He only laughed harder. “Your expression. You really hate it when I’m right.”

I pinched his side. “If you pick the paint, that means I get the final say on the art.”

Holt leaned in and swept his mouth across mine. “Deal.”

I followed his mouth as he pulled away, hungry for more.

He groaned. “You’re killing me.”

I huffed. “I think that’s the other way around.”

Thanks to my ribs, we were on a strict sex ban, and the order was driving us both up the wall. But that didn’t stop Holt from showing me just how much he wanted and loved me. Ever since our talk, he’d made sure that I knew just where his head and heart were—with me.

Holt glanced down at his watch. “We should go.”

My stomach dipped but I nodded.

“You don’t have to do this. I can meet with Law—”

“No, I want to.” It was time to put all this to rest. As much as we could until the trial, anyway. I needed some of that closure.

Holt wove his fingers through mine. “I’ve got a surprise for you afterward.”

My brow arched at that. “Didn’t Jack warn you off surprises for a while?”

Holt grumbled something under his breath. “This is a good one. Promise.”

I stretched up on my tiptoes, ignoring the twinge in my ribs, and pressed a kiss to the underside of Holt’s jaw. “I trust you.”

He melted into me at that. “How long until the end of the ice age again?”

I laughed. “Two more weeks.”

Holt let out some creative expletives at that, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Holt pulled to a stop in front of the police station, and I stared at the building. I hadn’t been back since my kidnapping. It looked different somehow. Maybe it was knowing that it had housed a killer. Perhaps it was just that it had been forever since I’d been away from work for this long.

I forced myself to open my door and slide out of Holt’s SUV. He was around the vehicle in a flash, taking my hand and squeezing it. I looked up at him. “Thank you. For everything.”

His expression softened, and he bent to kiss me. “Love you, Cricket.”

I’d never get tired of hearing those words. “Love you, too.”

As we started toward the station, the front door swung open, and Nash strode out, a scowl on his face. The downward pull of his lips was so uncharacteristic that my steps faltered.

“Nash Bash?”

His head snapped up from looking at his phone. “Hey.”

Little lines appeared between Holt’s brows. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Nash muttered.

A ball of worry formed in my stomach. “Doesn’t look like nothing.”

Nash grunted.

“Are you turning into Roan? Single-word answers and grunts are all you’re capable of?” Holt asked.

Nash scowled at his brother. “Maddie’s back.”

“Isn’t that a good thing? How long is she here for?” I asked.

A muscle underneath Nash’s eye began to twitch. “Apparently, she moved back. But she didn’t bother to let me know.”

Oh, shit.

Holt winced. “Fiancé make the move with her?”

The muscle that twitched beneath Nash’s eye became a full-on tic. “I don’t know.”

The words were a growl, and I glanced up at Holt in confusion. He gave a small shake of his head and gripped Nash’s shoulder. “Why don’t you talk to her before you go getting all pissed off?”

Nash’s jaw worked back and forth, but he nodded. “I’m going to talk to her now.”

“Good. Tell her I said hi.”

“Me, too,” I added.

Maddie had always been a good friend when she lived in Cedar Ridge. She and Nash had been attached at the hip for as long as I could remember. Nash was different with her than anyone else. Gentler somehow. More serious.

I glanced up at Holt as Nash strode toward the parking lot. “Is he okay?”

“I’m not sure.”

The door opened again, and this time it was Abel. “How’s my girl?”

I grinned, letting go of Holt’s hand and striding toward my mentor. “I’m good.”

He wrapped me in a gentle hug. “It’s damn good to see you up and about.”

“It feels good to be up and about.” Even if my ribs were tender and I looked like I’d gone a few rounds with a heavyweight boxer, the fresh air and getting out of the tiny cabin felt amazing.

“Lawson’s waiting for you in his office,” Abel informed us.

Holt reached out a hand to Abel. “How’ve you been?”

Abel harrumphed. “Missing this one like a limb.” He leaned closer to Holt conspiratorially. “She’s the best dispatcher I got. The other ones are too damn chatty.”

I choked on a laugh. “It’s called being friendly.”

“It’s called not being able to shut up,” Abel said.

“I heard that,” Lucille called from dispatch.

“I wanted you to,” Abel shot back.

I sent her a sympathetic look. “I’ll be back in a week or two.”

She lifted her hands to the heavens. “Praise the good Lord above.”

“Oh, shut it, you two,” Abel griped.

Holt grinned but gave my hand a gentle tug. “We should go.”

He led me through the sea of desks. Officers all stopped what they were doing to say hello and ask how I was doing. I couldn’t help that my gaze traveled to the two empty desks. My throat tightened as I took in Amber’s space. It had been cleared of all her belongings as if she’d never existed at all.

Holt squeezed my hand, reading me like a book as always. “This is the hardest it’ll be. The first time back.”

I nodded. “Have you heard how Clint’s doing?”

“He asked Law for a week off. I think he’s struggling to come to terms with everything that happened.”

“I need to go see him.”

Holt pressed a kiss to my temple. “Tomorrow. I’ll go with you.”


He rapped on Lawson’s door, and the chief immediately told us to come in.

As we stepped inside, Lawson smiled. “It’s good to have you back here.”

“It’s good to be back.” The words weren’t a lie. Because as hard as it had been to walk into this space, it was wonderful, too. It reminded me how much people cared about me. How many I had on my team.

Lawson gestured to the chairs. “Have a seat. You want something to drink?”

We both shook our heads.

Lawson settled back in his desk chair. “I won’t beat around the bush. The district attorney has charged Jude with accessory to murder and three counts of first-degree murder.”

I swallowed, trying to clear the lump in my throat. “Is he talking?”

“Only to his lawyer. But Randy turned chatty the moment he found out that Jude tried to frame his little brother. Apparently, Jude was the mastermind ten years ago. He got Randy and Paul thinking about payback with all the people who had supposedly wronged them. He was the one who came up with the plan and told them to steal Randy’s father’s guns. They kept quiet because they got a thrill out of us missing one of them.”

Holt’s hand tightened around mine. “Jude was using them as cover for what he really wanted.”

Lawson nodded slowly. “Looks that way. And we can only guess he did the same with Amber.”

“It twisted her, what happened to her brother,” I said quietly.

Lawson studied me before he spoke. “Trauma can do that, especially when you don’t have the right support around you afterward. No amount of punishment would ever be enough for her. Because it would never take away her pain.”

A heaviness settled over me. So much hurt. Destruction. Death. And it was a vicious cycle that never seemed to end.

“It feels hopeless.” And I hated that feeling.

A knock sounded on Lawson’s door. He straightened in his chair. “Someone has wanted to talk to you. I hope it’s okay that I told him to meet us here.”

Confusion furrowed my brow, but I nodded. “Sure.”

“Come in,” Lawson called.

The door opened, and Joe Sullivan hovered in the threshold. He had dark circles under his eyes, but his hair wasn’t quite as disheveled as it usually was.

Holt tensed at my side and glared at Lawson.

“Have a seat, Joe,” Lawson invited, ignoring Holt’s flare of anger.

Joe swallowed hard but moved to the couch Lawson had pushed against the wall in his office. He sat, clasping his hands, his nails digging in.

No one said anything for a few moments.

I shifted in my chair and turned to face Joe. “Are you doing okay?”

His head snapped up at that, his mouth opening and closing a few times before he spoke. “I wasn’t there to hurt you.” He swallowed again, glancing at Holt. “I’m sorry I shot at you. I couldn’t see who was chasing me. I thought it was the shooter.”

Holt’s jaw was hard, but his tone stayed even. “Why were you there?”

Joe’s eyes sought me out. “My brother was good to me. Made sure I had food and that my dad didn’t beat the crap out of me.”

My heart clenched.

“But he wasn’t good to other people. I know that.” Unshed tears glistened in his eyes. “You didn’t deserve what happened to you. And you were always so…nice. It would’ve been easier if you’d treated me like trash. But you never did. You always said hi and smiled like you were happy to see me.” Joe took a deep breath. “I didn’t want anything else to happen to you.”

My fingers dug into Holt’s hand. “You were watching out for me.”

He shrugged. “I figured if someone was going after the victims of what happened before, they’d come for you.” His face hardened. “I wasn’t going to let that happen.”

Slowly, I forced myself to release Holt’s hand and stood. I moved to the couch and sat next to him. Then, I did the only thing I could think to do. I wrapped my arms around the boy. Because that was what he was…a boy. Not even eighteen and scared out of his mind. Yet he’d tried to do the right thing.

“You’re a good person,” I whispered.

Joe’s shoulders began to shake with silent sobs.

“Thank you for wanting to protect me.”

He cried harder. “I’m sorry my brother hurt you.”

“Me, too. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love him. For all he was to you. It’s impossible to turn that off. And you shouldn’t have to. It just shows the type of person you are—loyal and kind.”

“I think you’re the only one who thinks that.” Joe sniffed.

I pulled back, meeting his eyes. “Other people will see that. You just have to give them a chance.”

“He’s going to,” Lawson said. “Joe’s got a scholarship to the University of Washington, and he’s gonna live with a friend of mine. Get a fresh start.”

Pressure built behind my eyes. “That sounds amazing.”

Joe blushed. “It’ll be good. I leave right after graduation.”

I squeezed his hand. “I’m happy for you.”

He studied me for a minute. “Maybe I could email you and tell you how I’m doing? That I’m making something of my life.”

“I’d like that,” I said hoarsely.

I was quiet as Holt drove us back to the cabin. But I wasn’t alone in that silence. Holt’s fingers wove through mine, and he had our joined hands resting on his thigh.

“You have the best heart of anyone I’ve ever known,” he said, his voice thick. “What you gave that boy… Never seen a greater gift. He has a chance because of you.”

My fingers tightened around Holt’s. “You dropping any charges against him didn’t hurt either.”

The corner of his mouth kicked up. “Like I had a choice after you made him your new best friend.”

I chuckled as Holt took the road that led away from the cabin and up the hillside. “Where are you going?”

“You’ll see.”

My chest tightened as he drove past the turnoff for the barn where Amber and Jude had kept me. The SUV climbed higher until we reached a spot that overlooked the lake. The view was stunning.

Holt turned off the engine and climbed out. He rounded the vehicle and opened my door, leading me toward a small overlook.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, leaning against him. “I’ve never been up here.”

He pressed his lips to the top of my head. “This land, do you still love it?”

I understood what was beneath the question. So many hard things had happened here—so many terrifying things. But there was so much more to this place. “How could I not? It’s where you came back to me. Where we fell in love all over again. It’ll always be my favorite place in the world.”

Holt’s expression filled with such tenderness that it made my heart ache. “Good.”

“Now who’s turning into Roan with the one-word sentences?”

He chuckled and then took my mouth in a slow kiss, one that poured all that tenderness into my soul. I swore I could feel his love for me in that touch of lips and tongues.

I came away breathless. “I take that back. You can say it all without a word.”

Holt framed my face with his hands, the rough pads of his fingers soothing everything in me. “I thought we could build a home here. One that’s ours.”

My eyes widened. “This property isn’t even for sale.”

He shrugged. “I had a word with the owner. Made an offer they couldn’t ignore. It would mean we owned the land from here to the lake. We could keep the cabin for guests or as a sort of boathouse for days on the lake. But I want a life with you. Children with you. All the things we dreamed of. And I want us to build it from the ground up. Together.”

Tears spilled from my eyes. “Holt.”

His mouth curved. “Is that a yes? You’re with me?”

I threw my arms around him. “I’m with you.”


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