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My throat is closing up and suddenly I can’t swallow. My face becomes hot and prickly and the tears spring forth. They are running down my face before I can even blink. And the funny part—the thing that always gets me, makes me sadder than anything else—is hearing how people felt when they found out I was alive.
I don’t know why that makes me so damn sad, but it’s like a moment in their lives. My moment is their moment. And it’s something people remember. All the people who knew the old me told me about their moment.
I was in the icecream store, buying a cone for my kids, the booking officer said as she fingerprinted me when I was charged with the murders. And we sat in that icecream shop all afternoon with the rest of the customers, just watching the story unfold.
Her day stood still.
I was at work and heard it on the radio, the receptionist at my psychiatrist’s office said. And then we turned on the break room TV and no one worked the rest of the day. Even the patients watched.
When I came back, I stopped people’s lives, that’s how traumatic it was for them.
Now just imagine how traumatic it was for me.
“Oh my God, Grace. That was you?” Kristi scoots her chair closer to me and puts her arm around me.
I say nothing. Not even a nod.
“And then”—Jack picks right back up with his recollection, and my heart is beating so fast I think I might pass out—“you disappeared again. Just poof. They refused to answer any questions, just said the charges were dropped and that was the end of it. Daisy Bryndle disappeared off the face of the earth.”
We sit in silence as I struggle to put Daisy away. It takes me a couple minutes of long, deep draws of air to calm myself. “I was adopted,” I finally croak out. “A family adopted me.” Jack just stares, like I’m going to elaborate, but I’ve been living with this secret for ten years. If he thinks this one conversation is enough to make me give it up, he’s out of his mind.
He finally nods and accepts the fact that he won’t be the first person to hear my story. “So what are you two gonna do?”
“We’re gonna go sit at the pool and relax,” Kristi says. “Sound good, Grace?”
I can’t reply because there’s a huge rock in my throat. It’s stuck there, just waiting for me to say something so it can unleash all the pent-up sadness and fear.
So I just say nothing.
I don’t care what we do now. As long as it doesn’t involve talking about my past, I’m up for it.
CONNER’S PHONE rings and he looks over at me. “It’s Tray.” I nod at him and he accepts the call. “Yeah,” he says, looking at me. Then he nods. I look over at Felicity and she’s biting her nails. She gives me a tenuous smile. “Got it.” And the call ends. “He’s in a room down the hall.”“Well.” I let out a sarcastic laugh. “How convenient. Doesn’t he just think of everything?”
“We ready?” Conner asks, ignoring my statement.
I look over at Felicity and she shrugs. “Good luck.”
Conner and I exit the room. He checks the plaques on the wall that tell us where to go to find the room Tray is waiting in, and then we take a left and walk around the corner.
“Remind me why this is a good idea?”
“Vaughn, are you in or not? We’ve got ten seconds to decide. He’s got video of Sam. Do you really want that shit on YouTube tonight?”
I stop walking and grab his arm to make him stop with me. “Is it bad? That Sam stuff? I mean, what are we talking about here?”
“It was last Christmas, just after they met.”
“Did you ask her about it?”
Conner laughs. “Are you crazy? That’s enough to set her off right there. But I’ve spent a lot of time with her over the past few months. She seemed fine to me. And she came and stayed with me a few days up in Santa Barbara before the wedding. She was great. So I’m thinking it was a one-time thing. Maybe even related to Tray, ya know? We need to just get rid of this guy.”
“But Grace? What about that?”
“If he really knows something, then I’ve got a plan. Just trust me, bro. This is my area of expertise. You handle the media, I’ll handle this.”
I nod and let out a long breath. “OK, let’s do this then.”
“At the very least, V, it buys us some much needed information.”
We continue walking and a few seconds later we round another corner and we’re face to face with the door. Conner looks over at me as he knocks.
It opens to a goon pointing a gun at my head. “Come in,” he barks in a low voice.
What choice do we have? We enter the room and find ourselves in a suite larger than the one I’m booked in.
I spot Tray sitting at the bar on the other end of the room. He looks like fucking shit.
“Do you have information for me?” Conner asks.
I say nothing. I might be tempted to choke this asshole out, and that would definitely be a bad idea since he’s got a bodyguard.
Tray points to a computer sitting on the other end of the bar. “It’s on the flash drive. Watch it.”
Conner walks over to the computer and fucks with it for a second and then a video pops up. The sound is low, but I can still hear the hitches and stuttering in Sam’s voice. It’s Christmas—I know this because she’s sitting in her old room at the parents’ house and her bed is filled with wrapping paper and boxes. Sam always sleeps over the parents’ house on Christmas Eve and she brings all her gifts with her to wrap them. It’s a tradition she’s had since her first year in college.