Beneath These Chains (Page 66)

“How did you get here?”

She lifted her chin. “I drove.”

“You what?”

“I drove.”

Tonight was just jam-packed with surprises, but at least this was a good one—I thought.

“You drove,” I repeated.

“Yeah, I drove.”

“And made it here in one piece, thank fuck.”

Her smile was small. “It’s not like I’ve never driven before. I mean … it’s just been awhile.”

“Whose car?”

“Denton’s Porsche.”

A tiny measure of the tension coiled inside of me eased—until Elle laid her hand on my arm again.

“What happened with Mathieu?”

I squeezed my eyes shut. Not only did I have to tell Elle, but I had to make another call that was absolutely going to gut me.

Black and white. Right and wrong. Honor or cowardice.

I knew what kind of man I was—and wasn’t. And I couldn’t wait before calling Hennessy. He had to know, and anything other than reporting Mathieu as soon as he’d run for it would be … less than honorable.

I had my duty to Mathieu—to protect him from others—but I couldn’t protect him from himself and what he’d done.

Black and white. Right and wrong.

Elle looked at me, the lines in her brow deepening.

My words weren’t well thought out, but they covered the high points. “Mathieu did it. Bree, Jiminy, your stepdad. All of them. With your gun. Hennessy was going to start looking at you next. I tested a round. Compared it. It was a match to the round they recovered from Jiminy.”

Elle’s mouth dropped open, her eyes widening. “Wha—? Wait … What?”

I realized how it sounded. “I knew it wasn’t you; I knew there had to be some other explanation. And that’s how I wound up here.”

“My gun?”

I nodded.

Elle stumbled backward and landed in a beat up La-Z-Boy.

“My gun?”

I closed the two steps between us and crouched in front of her. Her lungs were heaving too fast, her face completely pale. Shit. She was gonna hyperventilate.

“Elle. Calm down. Slow your breathing.” I lifted my hand and cradled her cheek in my palm. She shook so hard, the vibrations carried through me. “It’s gonna be okay, sweet thing. Just slow it down. In. Out. In. Out. That’s a good girl.” When her breathing slowed to a normal pace for a solid minute or so, I relaxed. She was still pale, but not shaking as bad.

“Omigod,” she whispered. “I can’t—That’s just—What in the ever-loving fuck of fucks?”

Miracle of miracles, even in this most fucked up of situations, Elle drew a smile to my lips.

“What in the ever-loving fuck of fucks is right. And yeah, it’s a mess.”

Her golden brown eyes met mine and held. “You’re goddamn right it’s a mess. Holy shit. What are we going to do?”

The we hit me right in the chest and calmed my churning gut some.

“We’re going to deal with it.” And the way we were going to deal with it sent my gut tumbling like a washing machine all over again. I pulled in a deep breath—long and slow—the way I’d just coached Elle, and released it. “But I have to call Hennessy first. That’s where we have to start.”

“I’m so sorry, Lord. I’m so, so sorry.”

Her apology drove home that I wasn’t the only one feeling the pain of loss right now. And not loss because Mathieu was gone—but because the kid I’d thought I’d saved had turned out to be his own breed of monster. It didn’t matter what his motive was. His misguided protectiveness had cost lives. And that couldn’t stand.

“I know.” I shoved my hand in my pocket and palmed my phone. “I gotta do it though. No way around it. Shit. Can’t believe he thought he was protecting me—and you—by doing it.”

I pulled my phone from my pocket and found Hennessy’s number. It rang five times and went to voicemail. My mind scattered, words evading me until the beep. All I said was: “It’s Lord. Call me as soon as you get this.” And then I hung up.

Lead settled in my chest, and I contemplated what to do next. Elle rose on shaky legs and held out a hand.

“Can we go? I think we should go.”

She was right. I looked around Mathieu’s tiny apartment, and I remembered the day I’d given him the key and told him the rent was paid for three months. He’d beamed. The first home of his own he’d ever had.

There was nothing left that I could do here.

Not a goddamn thing.

I threaded my fingers into Elle’s outstretched hand. “Let’s get out of here.”

I shut off the lights, locked the door, and followed Elle out into the parking lot.

A silver Porsche was parked a few feet from my ’Cuda, and we paused on the sidewalk between them.

“I can’t believe you drove.”

“I was worried about you. And with good reason, it seems. I knew I had to find you.” Elle dropped my hand and slid her arms around my waist. I followed suit and held her.

Pressing my lips to her hair, I said, “You drove around to find me because you were worried about me. That’s crazy, sweet thing.”

She pulled away and looked up. She bit her lip for a beat before blurting, “I don’t remember your cell number. I couldn’t call you. I … my phone was in my purse. I’m pretty much the worst at this girlfriend stuff. I’m memorizing it tonight, I swear.”

Again—against all odds—I smiled. “You good to drive home?”