(Not Professionally Edited)
C.J and Jessica rushed into the police station with only the knowledge that their daughter had been arrested on suspicion of arson.
“This has to be a mistake,” Jessica fretted; her heals clicking on the scared linoleum floor as she raced down the corridor beside C.J.
Taking Jessica’s hand in his, he gave it a gentle reassuring squeeze. “Of course it is, and we’ll deal with it.” C.J came to a halt when he saw his old buddy, Captain Lewis step out from around the corner. “Bob, what the hell is going on?”
He was a tall man, and big, well over six three and two hundred and twenty pounds. He’d earned his reputation for being straightforward and anyone that knew him knew he didn’t stand for bull in his precinct.
Clearing his throat, Bob began. “I’ll give you what my men told me, so don’t bite my head off until I’m done. Sam came in a few hours ago, ranting about knowing where the missing children were, insisting the detectives go with her. They drove to a farm owned by a Mr. Bennett, whom Sam insisted murdered several missing children. When they arrived, they noticed that one of the barns was on fire. Sam claims that the owner buried the bodies in the paddock then torched the place when she came snooping. The owner claims he found her snooping around, and when he threatened to call the police to have her removed, she got belligerent. He says she must have returned a short time later and set the place on fire. They have in evidence a gold lighter, which Bennett claims to have seen Sam holding. Sam is a fighter, takes after the both of you for that. Unfortunately she pushed my officers too far and they had to take her down and cuff her.” Bob threw his hand up. “She’s not badly injured, maybe a few bruises. Given the struggle and the evidence my officers had no choice, but to arrest her and stop glaring at me like that, C.J., I know what you’re thinking.”
“You know? Is that your child locked up in a room right now, accused of arson? No! It’s mine. This is insane. She couldn’t have started the fire. I know my daughter and she isn’t capable of it. Just because you have a lighter, and she was on the property, doesn’t prove she started the fire. It could have been his lighter.”
Bob ran a hand through his hair with an obvious show of the stress. “The lighter has your initials on it, C.J. It’s the one Jessica gave you when your miniseries came out.”
“That can’t be,” Jessica gasped. “There must be some other explanation.”
“Fine, you have my lighter, but it doesn’t prove she started the fire.” He spotted his lawyer as he came out of the room they were holding Sam in. “Tad! Thank god you’re here. You have to do something. This is ridiculous.”
“Calm down, C.J., she hasn’t been formally charged but she is a suspect. I’ve convinced the detectives to release her while they investigate. She has no priors, which works in her favor.”
“We need to see her,” Jessica demanded, clutching tightly to her husband.
“Of course.” Bob opened the door, and stepped aside.
With his chin lifted, C.J. walked past his friend and to his daughter.
“Mom, Dad! I am so glad to see the both of you.” Sam rushed to her feet. “I didn’t do it. Bennett did it, to cover his tracks. I swear.”
“Stay calm, honey.” Jessica stroked her daughters’ face, wiping the dirt that smudged her cheeks. “Are you hurt?”
Sam shook her head. “They won’t believe me, but I was there. I saw them. I felt them. I know he buried them there.”
“Sam,” C.J. stepped in, his voice stern. Grabbing hold of her shoulders, he gave her a good hard shake. “You need to calm down now, do you understand?”
Nodding, she took a deep breath and relaxed. “I want to go home,” Sam pleaded.
“And that’s where you’re going.” Pulling her daughter into her arms, Jessica stroked her hair and back in a slow, calm, soothing motion.
Taking his wife and daughter in his hands, C.J. led them out of the room.
He was never going to forget the way she looked at them when she’d first seen them.
Sam had argued with her parents to drop her off at her house until she’d been practically blue in the face. They’d put up a good fight, stressing she would be better off with them, but Sam held strong. She wanted to go to her home, shower in her washroom, sleep in her bed.
She was grateful she won. Though her parents escorted her inside, they agreed they wouldn’t stay long.
As she walked into her house, greeted by a confused Trent, she wondered when her parents would question her about the incident.
She grabbed a bottle of water from her fridge, removed the cap and drank a quarter before she spoke. “I didn’t start the fire.”
“We know,” her parents said at once.
“When I left this morning, I went looking at the churches on my list to see if anything popped out at me. Well, something did.” She took another swig of water. “I knew the instant I saw it that I had the right one. It isn’t the priest. It’s the guy who owns the farm adjoining the church property. How he ties in with the church or the children I’m not sure, but I know without a doubt that he is the guy.” She capped the bottle and continued. “He killed them there then he buried them in the old paddock, which he burnt to the ground to cover himself. I didn’t do it.”
Her mother took her hand and together they sat on the sofa. “We know.”
“You’re certain he’s the one?” her father asked.
“As positive as I am that you and I see the dead. He’s the one, Dad, no mistake about it.” She could still feel the icky vibes that came off of Bennett. It felt like slime coating her bones.
“Then give me his name and I’ll do some checking into him.”
Protectiveness had her voice lifting just a bit. “I can do this, Dad.”
“I know you can, but I want to help, and I have connections that can help me.”
“You’re not supposed to be working yet, remember?”
“I’ll get your mother to help me. You need to rest, Sam. If you keep this up you’ll be staring at ugly padded walls, your arms tied behind your back, drugged out of your mind, before the week is over.” He sat beside her, taking her hand. “I’ve listened to you, I stopped smoking. I’m even wearing the damn patch—that, might I add—itches like hell.” He lifted his sleeve to prove he wore it. “I’m doing as I was told to prevent another heart attack. Now it’s your turn to listen to us and do as you’re told before you end up in a mental ward.” He lifted her face in his hands, his eyes matching the determination in hers. “Go to bed, stay there for at least a few hours, then rest on the couch for at least a day.”
“Fine, but only today.”
“Today’s a start.” He kissed her on the cheek. “I love you.”
She frowned. “You have a funny way of showing it, bully.” But the smile slipped out despite her determination not to. “I love you, too.” Looking up at her mother, the smile widened. “I don’t know what I would do without the two of you.”
Sam didn’t go to bed like she’d promised her parents. Instead she showered then slipped into a loose silky night shirt that came just to her knees. Grabbing the bottle of water she couldn’t seem to be without these days, and a plate of fresh vegetables, Sam curled up on the sofa to watch some TV. She dozed off and on, when fatigue got to be too much for her. In her sleep she didn’t dream, but instead peacefulness wrapped her in loving arms. When she woke just after seven in the evening to the rumblings of her stomach, she sat up and rubbed her eyes.
Too tired to cook, she ordered take-out, and when it arrived, she sat on the sofa, watching TV while nibbling on hot spicy Chinese noodles. When the doorbell rang, she figured it was one of her family members checking up on her.
The last person she expected to see was Ethan.
She let him in, noticing he wasn’t wearing his usual silly brown wig and beard. She was about to question why he wasn’t wearing it when he pulled her into his arms and took her breath away with a long luxurious and very rousing kiss.
When he finally released her, he rested his forehead on hers and held her head in both his hands, without saying a word.
“I had to see you.” He kissed her head then keeping her face in his palms, looked into her eyes with so much emotion it made Sam’s legs weak. “Colleen was so distraught after receiving a call today and asked me to allow her time off. I got the watch by the way, you could have given it back to me, but that’s not important. She told me what happened and I had to just come by and see that you were all right.”
“I wish she would learn to keep her mouth shut.” But being with Ethan was just what she’d needed. It was such a struggle. She wanted him, needed him, but she didn’t want to be the other woman in a relationship that may very well break her heart.
“I pried it out of her. She now has an extra weeks’ vacation coming, though I doubt she’ll take it. Stubborn woman. Good lord, Samantha, they arrested you for arson?”
He left her breathless. Not just looking at him, but with the quick way he spoke. She pulled away because if she didn’t, she knew she would crumble in his arms. “I was detained and questioned, not arrested, and I’m still a suspect. It’s all bull-shit. Why aren’t you wearing your disguise?”
He took her hand in his, holding it to his chest. “I forgot in my rush to see you. Tell me what happened.”
She tugged her hand free, taking a sizable step away from him. “We can’t do this, Ethan. You shouldn’t be here.”
“Can’t we at least try to be friends?”
“Ethan,” she said on a sigh.
“I’m willing to settle for friendship, Samantha, but I cannot stay away from you so save your breath. Have you eaten today, you look pale?”
Because she had a feeling he wouldn’t leave even if she pushed him out the door, Sam gave in. “I ate.” She motioned toward the take-out boxes. “You bribed my sister into telling you with a week’s vacation?”
“A paid week off and it was worth it.” He sat on the sofa next to her, grabbing one of the boxes and looking inside. When he forked up some rice and held it to her mouth, she shook her head, so he ate it.
“I’ll make sure and call her later and give her hell.” She handed him a napkin. “Here, wouldn’t want you to mess up that expensive suit.”
He glanced down at his navy suit, absently, and shrugged. “They’re a dime a dozen.” He sampled from another box, giving an appreciative moan.
“I doubt that very much. I know expensive when I see it and that did not cost you a mere dime. Do you ever wear anything besides suits?”
“You’ve seen me in jeans.”
“That’s different, they weren’t yours. Seriously, do you always wear suits?”
Smiling, he licked sauce from his lips. “I like the feel of suits and I enjoy looking good, but no, I don’t always wear suits. When I’m not in the office, when I’m lounging at home, I dress down. I’ve even been known to wear a baggy pair of sweat pants.” He teased her, working a smile from her lips.
“I’d pay to see that.” She shook her head. “Now that just sounded—”
“How much would you pay to see me in sweats?”
Her brow furrowed. “It was a stupid comment.”
“Oh, have some fun. How much?”
She let out a long breath and gave in. “Fifty bucks.”
He snorted, digging into a box of noodles. “Fifty dollars. You’re a famous artist now. You can afford much more than fifty dollars.”
Dignity took hold, and lifting her chin, Sam upped the bet. “Two hundred, then.”
“Now we’re talking. Two hundred it is. Where would you suggest I go buy a pair of sweat pants?”
She laughed, giving in to his humor. “You’re crazy.”
“I made you laugh, that was well worth any money in the world.” He touched a finger to her mouth. “You look so pretty when you laugh.”
She sobered and shifted her head so his finger no longer touched her mouth. “Friends, Ethan, remember.”
“It was meant in a friendly manner. What's on TV tonight?”
“Let’s see.” She flicked the channels, stopped on a movie.
“This looks interesting. I love a good thriller.”
Curling her legs under her, she got comfortable. They sat and watched the movie like a regular couple might, enjoying the suspense and sharing her bottled water. She dozed off on the sofa some time later, and woke when Ethan lifted her in his arms and carried her to her bed.
“Don’t go,” she mumbled, half asleep.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Covering her up, he slid in beside her, kicking off his shoes first. “I’m never leaving you again.”