A/N: A few things . . . *peeks between fingers and ducks flying tomatoes* There was an unexpected death in my family recently which will delay updates on my stories. A Measure of Grace won't post this week as scheduled—the next update will be on July 21st. I'm posting this chapter of Speak Now only because it's ready to go, and I'm deeply ashamed it's taken me so long. To my lovely, loyal readers . . . a heartfelt thank you for sticking with me and for all your messages and PMs. I appreciate all of you so much!
Thanks to my awesome prereaders, Keye and Sandy, and my super-awesome beta, SassySue (chayasara), for always dropping everything to read and scream and smooth my words.
~The Long Arm of Karma~
Edward's hand is up my shirt, his lips at my ear. "I want you. I know we decided to wait, and it's okay if we do."
"No." My pelvis rocks up against his, desire flaming through me.
He lifts up and stares down at me with a mixture of hopeful confusion. "No what?"
"Waiting." I let my desire for him emanate from inside, hoping he can see and sense it. "Absolutely no more waiting." Bringing our lips together, I kiss him with everything I have.
We taste and tease. Our limbs tangle as we roll on Edward's bed. Sometimes I'm on top, sometimes he is. We fumble at each other's clothing until shirts and pants and underthings are strewn haphazardly across the floor. We share long, deep kisses, desire-filled fondling, and slow, getting-to-know-you-again touches. The burn inside urges me to rush while another part of my mind warns we should take our time.
"Bella . . ." Edward lands on his back with me atop him, my name a frustrated exhalation. His hands move to my hips, holding me steady. "I don't know if this is the right thing."
I grab his face, my hair skimming his sculpted chest as I lean in close. "It is."
Edward cups the back of my neck and gazes up at me. "You sound so sure."
"I am. Now we can lie naked on your bed and talk about how Dr. Pyke is helping you come to terms with your past or how proud I am that you dumped the bourbon in the sink or how stoked I am that you told me about fucking Tanya's pathetic, delusional attempts to contact you—but I think our time could be better spent. Don't you?"
"When you put it that way . . ." Edward flips our positions, his eyes dark with want. He rubs a thumb across my bottom lip then leans in to bite it, sweeping his tongue across to soothe the sting afterward. "Hold on to me."
I loop my arms around his neck, digging my fingers in the soft strands of his hair. Wrapping my legs around his hips, I press my feet against his backside to urge him inside me.
He hesitates halfway in. "Condom!"
"I hate those things, so I started on the pill."
"How long? Are they effective yet?"
"A few weeks, Edward!" I shift under him impatiently and push my heels harder against his ass. "Get. Inside."
With a slow thrust, he enters me, breathing out a soft, "Oh God."
"Oh God" is an understatement as Edward makes love to me. Slowly. Hard and fast. Tender. Eyes open. Eyes closed. He slides a hand up the back of my thigh to grasp my knee, lifting my leg over one shoulder to allow him to drive deeper.
Always, always, Edward is present in the moment. Whispering sweet words. Moaning my name. His green eyes burn with love and lust when he gazes down at me.
Spirals of heat build inside, and my breaths come heavy, knowing I'm so close. I can't last much longer or stifle the sounds of my approaching release.
"Not yet, beautiful. Hold on for me." Edward releases my leg from his shoulder and rolls on his back, taking me with him. "Finish this. You're in control." He pants, palming my breasts and flicking the nipples with his thumbs. Damp hair curls against his forehead and neck.
Jolts of pleasure flow through me. I tilt my head back, grab the headboard, and ride him hard. Sweat trickles along the channel of my spine and beads on my skin. Edward grasps my hips, guiding me over him until we both fall apart.
A few minutes later, our sweat-slick bodies are entwined beneath the covers. We cling to one another in silence. I suspect he's feeling the same awe and overwhelming surge of love and closeness that I am—something essential that's difficult to define. We remain this way for a long time, and I bask in the warmth and love cocooning me.
"You awake?" Edward finally asks, fiddling with a lock of my hair.
"Bella, that was—I don't have the words. It was more than making love, for me at least."
"Not just you. I'm right there with you. There was this . . . shift."
"Yes! Exactly." Edward tightens his hold, tucking my head beneath his chin. "I belong to you. Someday, when we're past all of this, I want to make you my wife."
I gasp and try to lift my head, but he tightens his arms.
"Shh . . . let's not talk about it now. I just need you to know my intentions, okay?"
I swallow against the lump forming in my throat. "Okay." My voice is a rough whisper. Inside, my heart is soaring, but Edward's right about waiting to discuss it. He has therapy to get through, and we need to move past Tanya and her craziness. And then there's—
"Oh, shit!" I sit up fast, causing a wave of dizziness. "What time is it? Shit, shit, shit!"
"Seven fifteen. What's wrong?"
I tumble off the bed and start grabbing clothes, tossing Edward's at him and pulling mine on. "Get dressed! We have to pick up Charlie!"
"Your dad?" Edward tilts his head in confusion, his T-shirt still balled against his sculpted chest.
"Remember I told you I spoke to him? Well, his plane should be landing . . . like, now."
"Shit!" Edward finally moves into action, dressing and running around the apartment, gathering his things.
We rush to the Audi, and he drives like a maniac, maneuvering artfully through the city traffic until we reach the highway.
"Okay, so why is your dad flying out?" Edward glances at me then returns his gaze to the road.
"I just—please don't be mad at me, but I heard his voice . . . and the whole ugly story poured out of me. About Tanya and The Quiet Man and—just all of it." I sink into my seat, head bowed. I'm ashamed of the amount of information that spewed forth from my mouth. Maybe that's why I forgot Charlie was coming: avoidance.
Edward rakes a hand through his hair before gripping the steering wheel and blowing out a breath. "Wow. I don't know what to say." His face is tight but impassive, and it's hard to tell if he's pissed when I can't see his eyes.
"Are you mad?"
Ignoring my question, Edward drums his fingers and shakes his head. "Wow. Your father is going to filet me like one of his big catches." He grips my hand. "Give me a good funeral."
"I'm sorry. It just . . . spilled out. That's not all we talked about or even the reason he's coming, if that helps." I shrug, feeling awful that I shared such intimate details with my father. He was really good about it, even tried to comfort me in his gruff way, but I still shared far more than I should have.
Edward's thumb rubs soothing patterns on the tender underside of my wrist. "Bella, I'm not mad at you. I have no right to be, God knows. If the chief isn't coming to kill me, why is he flying in?"
A smile spreads across my face. "Charlie thinks we can nail Tanya to the wall. I'm talking jail time. He's going to speak to the Hanover police, see if they'll extend some courtesy to an out-of-town cop trying to protect his daughter."
"That would be great. Tanya's sending those texts convinced me she won't let go. She'll keep trying to drive a wedge between us." Edward's brows draw together. "Paying someone to fuck her up was pretty sick. What else will she do?"
"You're worried she'll do something violent, aren't you?"
"She already has, Bella! If she's willing to cause herself physical harm, I'm pretty sure she won't have any qualms about hiring someone to hurt one of us."
I swallow hard. "You mean me. Tanya would never hurt you."
Edward grips my hand tighter. "Yeah, maybe. If your dad can do anything to aid us in putting a stop to this madness, I'm all for it." He groans. "Even if he does know how stupid his daughter's boyfriend is."
Rush hour is over, so traffic is moderate, but we still arrive forty-five minutes late. The golden orb of the sun is just dipping below the horizon, and a chill enters the air around us as we run across the parking lot to the terminal.
There must be a lull between arrivals because the airport is nearly deserted. Naturally, the luggage carousel is all the way at the other end. The squeaks of our shoes echo around us as we hustle down the wide corridor. A lone man in a beige uniform mops one section of floor, and a few people mill around the snack bar.
When we finally reach the luggage area, I glance around. My father sits in one of the hard, uncomfortable chairs set aside for passengers waiting to be picked up, his hands folded in his lap. Charlie's inky hair looks like it started out slicked back, but over the course of the day, a few wispy pieces went their own way, sticking up in the front. I notice his hair is curling over the collar of his flannel shirt and feel a pang. Mom used to trim it for him when I was little, and then I was around to remind him to go down to Hal's Barber Shop. He's on his own now, and it makes me a little sad.
"Dad! So sorry I'm late." I bend down to kiss his cheek.
Charlie looks vaguely amused and pats my shoulder. "It's all right." Then he notices Edward, and his mustache twitches. "Hmph!"
"Hello, Chief Swan. Sorry we're late picking you up." Edward extends his hand.
Charlie grunts in answer, rising slowly to shake with Edward, looking him up and down with his keen cop gaze.
"I apologize for not getting Bella here on time." Edward seems susceptible to Charlie's Jedi mind trick—be silent and the guilty will start talking.
Apparently, I still am, too. "It was totally my fault—" I begin, but Charlie holds a hand up.
"I'm pretty sure it was both of you." He turns his dark eyes to Edward. "Your shirt's on backwards, Edwin. Next time you're diddling around with my daughter while I'm languishing in the airport, take an extra minute to hide the evidence."
With that, Charlie picks up his suitcase and starts on the long walk back to the car.
Edward gulps. I just shake my head and conceal a smile. My dad seems to live for giving Edward a hard time, especially after my bout of verbal diarrhea on the phone last night.
We follow Charlie to the end of the terminal and into the parking lot. He strides with purpose right to the Audi and halts behind it, looking impatient.
"How did you know which car was Edward's?"
Charlie's mustache twitches, and his eyebrows rise. "Look around. It's the only ostentatious death trap that looks like a drunk parked it." He pats a palm on the trunk. "You going to open this tin can or what?"
Edward fumbles with the key fob, popping the trunk and unlocking the doors. He takes the suitcase from Charlie and places it inside.
Charlie cranes his head to gander inside the trunk, offering up a harrumph when he finds it neat and clean. I side-eye my dad, who holds back a grin. I offer him the front seat, but he waves a dismissive hand and gets in the back.
"Ostentatious death trap," Edward mutters under his breath as he opens the passenger door for me.
The drive back is silent and awkward. As we reach Hanover, Edward's forehead wrinkles.
"Will you, uh, be staying at my place, Chief Swan?"
"I'm booked at the Marriott." Charlie's tone is gruff.
"You're welcome to bunk with me."
"Thanks, but I intend to enjoy the hotel amenities. Anyway, I heard your flat screen bit the dust recently."
Edward's jaw clenches. "Would you like to stop anywhere before we take you to the hotel?"
"Nope. I've got some room service, a king bed, and pay-per-view waiting for me."
When we arrive at the Hanover Marriott, I insist on going in. Edward waits in the posh lobby while I ride the elevator to the fifth floor with Charlie. We stand next to one another awkwardly as the elevator rises smoothly. There are others in the cab, so we don't speak.
We make our way up a hall with identical doors and plush carpeting that dampens our footfalls. Charlie swipes the key card and swings the door open, allowing me to enter first.
"Dad, did you have to give him such a hard time?" My voice sounds whiny.
Charlie hefts the suitcase onto the foot of the king bed and glances at me. "Sorry, honey. It's just my way."
"Of torturing me?"
"No, 'course not! You're my little girl. If the guy you choose to be with can't take some ribbing from your old man, then he's not worth it."
I roll my eyes. "You're so old-school."
"That a bad thing, little girl?" Charlie toes his shoes off and grabs the remote off the dresser. "Why don't you 'git? Edwin is probably staining his shorts down there."
"Stop already. You know damn well his name is—"
"Edward. Yeah, I know. Let your old man have his fun." He points a finger at me. "And don't you go reassuring him. The boy should be kept off-balance. It's good for the soul, and there's less chance I'll have to ram my foot up his ass later."
Charlie puts an arm around my shoulders and pulls me in for a quick hug. He leads me toward the door, obviously ready for me to leave.
"Dad, what do you have planned? You know, with the locals?"
"Oh, yeah! Pick me up at eight tomorrow morning. Bring Edwin. We have a meeting with the assistant DA."
My leg jitters continually while Bella is upstairs with her father. I try to relax into the plush couch in the Marriott lobby, but instead of comfort, I feel as if I'm being eaten. It's probably not just the couch but also the fear gnawing at my gut, warning that Chief Swan is never going to accept me. He looks at me as the jerk who broke his daughter's heart and made a mess of . . . everything. He's not wrong.
I rub my forehead in an attempt to ward off a tension headache. The garish light gleaming from the overhead chandelier isn't helping.
Ever since the conversation in the car on the way to the airport, I can't stop worrying. Bella was right when she said Tanya would go after her and not me. So many scenarios flit through my mind. By the time I realize it's happening, my jaw is tight and my fists are clenched.
"Hey." Bella's voice is soft, but I'm startled anyway, my heart throbbing in my chest.
"Hi." I link our fingers and tug her over to me, pulling her down on my lap.
She giggles as we settle deeper into the couch monster and loops her arms around my neck. "It feels like we're going to be sucked into this thing, like in some cheesy horror movie."
Something is bothering Bella. I can tell. "What is it? Did your dad finally convince you I'm a bad bet?"
"No. Charlie likes you, but it might be . . . oh, another decade before he lets you in on it." She laughs, nuzzling her nose against my neck. "We do need to pick him up early in the morning, though. He arranged a meeting at the police department."
"He spoke to the prosecutor's office. They didn't seem interested until he mentioned Phil Grayson. Now they're salivating to meet with us."
I'll find a way to deal with Charlie's ribbing if it means a chance to end Tanya's reign of terror for good.
The ride from the Marriott to the Hanover Police Department isn't as tension-filled as yesterday's airport run. Charlie seems downright jovial this morning, a fact I find vaguely annoying in my sleep-deprived state.
Bella slept deeply, flopped on her stomach with one arm hanging over the edge of the bed. For me, Bella's soft snores, the ticking of the clock, or the scrape of a branch against my window seemed amplified, a nefarious plan hatched by the universe to keep me awake.
The two cups of coffee I just downed are eroding the lining of my empty stomach. Bella told me to eat. I should have listened.
"—take you and Edward to dinner. How does that sound?"
Charlie actually saying my name right sweeps away the fog shrouding my brain. I try to piece together what he was saying. He's being nice to me, and I don't want to piss him off. I receive a sharp nudge from Bella's elbow.
"Sounds great, Chief Swan."
He coughs, muttering something under his breath, then says, "Charlie."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"You deaf, son? Enough with this Chief stuff—call me Charlie."
I grin, glancing at him in the rearview. "Does this mean you're starting to like me, Charlie?"
"Heck no! Don't turn a grope into going steady."
Bella turns in her seat. "Dad! What's wrong with you?"
Charlie twirls a finger in the air. "Just you turn around now. There's nothing wrong with me."
Bella rolls her eyes, and I fight to suppress a smile. I think he's starting to accept me.
I guide the Audi into a spot on the street and feed the parking meter a few quarters. A brisk wind whips up, carrying bits of debris and old leaves on the updraft. The three of us walk half a block to the entrance of the Hanover Police Department, which is housed in a sleek, modern building that's all sharp angles and glass.
We climb the steps and enter the large, open lobby. Black leather chairs line one side. A makeup-less female officer with dark hair pulled into a severe bun greets us through a speaker. "Can I help you?"
Charlie steps up and flashes his badge. "Chief Swan from the Forks, Washington PD. We have an appointment."
"I'm Officer Prentiss. Welcome to Hanover, Chief Swan. Who do you have with you?"
"Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. They should be on your list as well."
She looks down and nods. "Yes, they are. Any weapons?"
"Nope." Charlie turns to us, mustache twitching. "You guys packing any heat?"
Bella shakes her head.
I raise my hands. "Left my Uzi at home."
"Wise guy," Charlie mutters.
Officer Prentiss smiles. "I'll buzz you in. Once you clear the metal detector, take a right, then your first left, and you're meeting in Room 213."
The officer manning the metal detector conducts a perfunctory check and waves us through, wishing us a good day.
The utilitarian halls are hushed. We pass several closed doors, and I wonder what's going on behind them. Charlie knocks on the door marked 213 before swinging it open. The room is currently unoccupied. A long table runs along one wall below a large two-way mirror. A camera is mounted in one corner. On the other side of the mirror is a standard interrogation room with a table and two chairs all bolted to the floor. Another camera monitors from above.
The first thing I notice is how frigid it is in here. I shiver involuntarily, and Charlie grunts.
"Discomfort tactic, meant to get the criminals talking." His dark eyes glint craftily. "Need to make any confessions, Cullen?"
"No, sir." I rub my arms in an attempt to warm them.
Bella laughs, offering a sheepish smile as she shrugs into the cardigan that's been draped over her arm. "Sorry, Edward. I learned the old 'freezing room trick' a long time ago—part of being a cop's daughter."
Charlie looks entirely too gleeful at my expense. I force myself to smile instead of glare; remaining a good sport will work to my benefit.
The door opens and a woman sweeps into the room, followed by a slight floral scent. "Good morning, Chief Swan. Mare Sharma."
Charlie shakes her hand. "ADA Sharma, thanks for agreeing to meet us. This is my daughter, Bella Swan, and her boyfriend, Edward Cullen."
Mare Sharma presents an intimidating presence—from spiked heels to an expertly tailored power suit hugging every curve, to the blood-red lipstick highlighting sensual lips, to raven hair swept into a complicated but elegant twist. The crisp white blouse peeking from beneath the fitted navy jacket features a low-cut but respectable neckline, and the red hankie tucked into the pocket of her suit jacket matches her lipstick. The image of a matador waving a red scarf flits through my mind; I suspect the ADA is the bull charging anyone who dares to cross her.
"Ms. Swan." She shakes hands with Bella before taking my own with a firm hold. "Mr. Cullen."
She smirks when I simply nod.
The woman exudes sexuality, moves like a panther, and her steel-gray eyes seem to capture and catalog everything. If she had a theme song, it would probably be "Maneater." The funny thing is I don't find her attractive at all.
I sling an arm around Bella's shoulders and hold her close, hoping Bella—and everyone else in the room—senses my disinterest.
Charlie hasn't even looked our way, though. Apparently, he is smitten by the ADA's charms.
Mare Sharma grabs a thick folder from a holder on the back of the door and invites us to sit in the row of chairs at the long table beside the two-way mirror. She paces the floor, spiked heels punctuating each step as she pages through the file.
"Chief Swan, Brad Martin filled me in on the particulars of why you requested this meeting. I understand Tanya Denali committed a crime in your jurisdiction for which the statute of limitations has nearly run out. Factoring in that your own daughter was a victim and that another party might be implicated in that case, I understand why you're interested in Ms. Denali's alleged conspiracy which took place here in Hanover." She stops in front of Charlie, looking down at him with a satisfied gleam in her eyes. "It just so happens that I've been building a case against one Philip Grayson for drug trafficking, among other things. I'm prepared to offer Grayson immunity in the Denali attack if he's willing to give her up."
Bella sucks in a breath. "You can help us?"
"If Grayson is willing to play ball."
"Why would you do that? Won't it slow down your case against him?"
Mare Sharma smiles, slow and predatory. "Your father had impeccable timing. Just before he called me, we arrested someone close to Grayson who's willing to roll over on him. He has access to some damning evidence. Once I was tipped off about Grayson's potential involvement in the Denali attack, we ran DNA on the blood and skin under Tanya Denali's fingernails." Her eyes gleam with undisguised satisfaction. "We set up a DUI stop and made sure to snag Grayson a few days ago. A little birdie told me he never touches his own product, so he was more than happy to submit to testing—so arrogant, in fact, that he waived his right to a lawyer and allowed a hair follicle test. The document he signed allows us to check his DNA against the database for open cases. Imagine my surprise when he was a match. Philip Grayson attacked Tanya Denali."
"Holy shit." I stare at her, open mouthed. Hearing it out loud makes it more real. I knew Tanya was a devious bitch, but a sick sensation explodes in the pit of my stomach all over again.
Bella nods slowly. "I'm not surprised at all."
Charlie shakes his head. "Unbelievable."
"That's not all, folks. We put Philip Grayson in a lineup, and Tanya didn't identify him."
Charlie perks up. "Does she know about the DNA?"
"No. She was heavily medicated, and her sister granted permission for us to collect evidence. Everything is aboveboard. If we can get Grayson to roll on Denali, we can take her down."
Bella does a fist pump. "Yes!" Her face flushes. "Sorry."
Mare Sharma laughs throatily. "There's nothing to be sorry about. If all goes well, we'll be putting away two criminals today."
She agrees to allow us to remain in the meeting room during the interrogation, citing professional courtesy. I suspect she's an exhibitionist, but it doesn't matter to me as long as Tanya is no longer a threat to Bella.
Phil Grayson is escorted to the interrogation room by an officer who then leaves, shutting the door behind him.
Grayson doesn't look dangerous. His lank dishwater-brown hair, pale skin, and flat brown eyes give him a nondescript appearance. He's your next-door neighbor, the mechanic who fixes your car, or the bartender mixing your drinks. Forgettable, plain, nonthreatening.
He slouches in the chair and smirks at the one-way mirror, offering a little wave, though his hands are cuffed together. His attitude seems cocky, almost as if he believes the police are bluffing. Maybe he's been in this seat before and walked away free, but this time is going to be different.
My fists clench, and I rub them against my jeans.I want to take Tanya down so badly I can taste it.
Bella grabs my hand and uncurls my fingers, lacing hers between them. "We're so close, Edward."
"I know." I squeeze her hand.
The door of the interrogation room opens, and Mare Sharma stalks in. Her movements are measured and slow.
"Well, hello there!" Grayson does a doubletake, looking the ADA up and down with appreciation. "You're much prettier than the doughnut-eater that escorted me in here."
She continues pacing slowly before the mirror, issuing a small huff that might pass for a laugh. "I'm Assistant District Attorney Mare Sharma."
"Impressive. What's Mare short for?"
She shoots him a withering look. "Mare." She pauses then unbuttons her fitted jacket and perches on the corner of the table opposite him. "Mr. Grayson, I have a proposal for you."
"I've never been proposed to by such a pretty lady before." He presents his hands. "How about you take these cuffs off, and we can—"
Mare Sharma slams her delicate fist on the metal table and doesn't even flinch. Her voice remains low and even. "That's enough. I've met snakes with more charm than you, Mr. Grayson. We're here because your DNA was a match in one of my cases."
"Ah . . . that harmless little form you people had me sign. Pretty tricky. Your idea?"
"It was."She smiles, but there's no warmth in it.
"Perhaps I should lawyer up this time around."
The ADA nods, slipping a recorder from her pocket. "Perhaps you should. Of course, that takes my deal off the table." She pushes the record button. "This is Assistant District Attorney Mare Sharma speaking with Philip Octavius Grayson—"
"Oh, must you use my middle name?" He interrupts, smiling up at the ADA winningly.
Her irises are two chips of flint as she pauses then presses the record button again, with emphasis. "Speaking with Philip Octavius Grayson." She goes on to state the date, time, and other pertinent details. "Mr. Grayson, would you prefer to have a lawyer present?" She waits expectantly for his answer.
"That won't be necessary."
"You acknowledge you're waiving the right to counsel?"
"Yes, but I reserve the right to request an attorney if your deal isn't to my liking."
A well-timed knock sounds on the door, and an officer hands the ADA a thick folder. She opens the cover and pages through the information casually, raising an eyebrow.
Phil Grayson leans back in his chair with a confident air. He believes no one can touch him.
"Mr. Grayson, do you know why you're here?"
"No idea, but I'm guessing it's not my unpaid parking tickets."
"Are you familiar with Tanya Denali?"
"Who?" He's clearly taken off guard and twitches with a surprise he quickly tamps down.
"The hot little pillhead with all the curves?" Grayson attempts to mimic the shape of a woman's body in the air, difficult with cuffed hands.
"How do you know she's a pillhead?"
"I've seen her around The Quiet Man and Skunk's making purchases. Not too many hotties like her scoring drugs, you know?"
"Rumor has it you supply the dealers in that territory."
Grayson shows the first inkling of anger. "That's bullshit. I never fuck with drugs. Want to test me?"
"We already have. Just because you don't partake doesn't preclude you from dealing."
"Very well. Tell me where you were the evening of the seventeenth at approximately 11:30 pm."
Grayson shrugs. "Hell, I have trouble remembering where I was the other day!"
Mare Sharma goes into shark mode. "Let me give you a refresher." She pulls several sheets of paper from the stack in the folder and lays them out in front of Grayson. "Stills from traffic cameras taken the evening in question. Does this help jog your poor memory?"
He stares at the group of photos on the table for a long moment. "Look, Mare—may I call you Mare?—let's get to the point. You have a deal for me? State it, or get me a phone so I can call that lawyer." His jaw is set, but his eyes give away nothing.
Mare Sharma sits down across from him and pulls another paper out of the file, holding it down with one palm. "Very well, Mr. Grayson. We can dispense with the foreplay. On the night in question, you entered the lobby of 451 Wilson Street, broke into Tanya Denali's apartment, and attacked her. Before we waste time on denials, your DNA was found beneath Ms. Denali's fingernails." She's all business now, finished playing cat to Grayson's mouse. "There may be other damning evidence in my possession."
Grayson looks her in the eye calmly and raises his cuffed hands, cupping one around his ear. "I have yet to hear a deal."
"It's come to my attention that Tanya Denali may not be the innocent victim she proclaims to be. The evidence we've gathered could put you away, but I'm willing to grant you immunity if you roll on Tanya. Tell me how it really went down."
A slow smile spreads across Philip Grayson's face, and he looks the ADA over with an assessing expression tinged with grudging admiration. "You drive a hard bargain, Mare. I can do that—I'll even toss in the recording of her proposition. The crazy bitch hired me."
Bella's nails dig into my thigh. "I knew it!"
I sling an arm around Bella's shoulders and plant a kiss in her hair. "You were right all along."
Charlie scrubs a hand over his face. "This might work if Grayson doesn't get wind of what the ADA is up to. Gotta give the lady credit—she's got balls."
Philip Grayson is led from the room with the promise he will produce a recording "from the cloud" of Tanya hiring him to attack her.
We wait silently in the tension-filled observation room for nearly an hour before the interrogation room door opens and Mare Sharma leads Tanya in.
"Have a seat, Ms. Denali."
Tanya struts into the room, teetering on mile-high Louboutins, encased in a tight black skirt that hugs every curve, and a filmy purple blouse with a plunging neckline. Her strawberry blonde hair falls in soft ringlets over her shoulders and back. She sits in the same chair Grayson occupied earlier.
Bella stiffens beside me, and I cover her hand with mine, sweeping my thumb gently over her skin.
Tanya's attack was several weeks ago, and any outward damage has either healed or is concealed with artfully applied makeup. There's no question she's a beautiful woman, but what I know about Tanya renders her repugnant to me.
Tanya taps long, manicured nails on the metal table. She looks Mare Sharma up and down, and I can tell by the gleam in her eyes that she's sizing up the ADA.
"Ms. Denali, I believe we've identified your attacker."
Tanya stares back coolly. "The Hanover police have dragged me down here multiple times to look at mug books and suspects, but nothing has come of it. What makes you think they found the guy this time?"
"We collected blood and tissue from under your fingernails, Ms. Denali, and we've located a match."
A haughty, sour expression flits over Tanya's face. "They never did a rape kit because he never got that far! Are you sure you didn't mislabel this so-called evidence?"
Mare Sharma offers a condescending smile. "You were sedated after the attack, so your sister gave permission. Now, I'm going to lay several mug shots in front of you. Tell me if any of them seem familiar."
She lays down a photo.
I'd bet my life this one is Grayson.
Tanya scratches the left side of her nose with a fingernail—it's her tell. Only someone who knows and has observed Tanya would realize it. Kate knows—we joked about what a shitty poker player Tanya would be.
"Anything, Ms. Denali? Would you like to cycle through them again?"
Tanya rests her head in her hands. "I—I just don't know. That night is such a blur."
"Understandable. Do you need a moment? Can we get you a coffee?" Mare Sharma lays a comforting hand on Tanya's shoulder, but the gleam in her eyes is predatory.
"Coffee would be great."
The ADA knocks on the door and asks an officer to fetch a cup of coffee. She takes the seat across from Tanya and spreads the mug shots out. "Take another look." Her tone is encouraging. "One of these men is the perpetrator."
Tanya touches the photos with trembling hands. "You're sure?"
"Aside from the physical evidence from the scene, his image was captured by traffic cameras on Wilson Street the night of your attack."
"I just don't know."
"So you're not acquainted with any of these men?"
The officer returns with a paper cup of coffee. A curl of steam rises from the top, and Tanya grasps the wooden stick, stirring slowly. She scratches the side of her nose again and sips her coffee.
Mare Sharma is called from the room briefly and returns with a tablet and a smug expression. "Ms. Denali, this footage has just come into my possession. I'm going to show you a clip, and then we can talk."
Tanya glances up, apprehension stiffening her posture and registering in her eyes. She doesn't like to be cornered, and she's never liked surprises.
Before she can protest, the ADA taps the screen. I can't see what they see, but Tanya's face pales. "Turn it off."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Turn it off!" Tanya's signature shriek bounces off the walls, distorted as it filters through the speaker.
Mare Sharma drops all pretenses and smacks her palms down on the table, causing Tanya to jump. "So much for your claim that you're unfamiliar with the men in these mug shots." She slides three of the photos from the pile and lays them before Tanya, tapping them in turn. "Jason Albright. Skip Nielsen. Philip Grayson. Would you care to amend your previous statement, Ms. Denali?"
Tanya sits silent for a moment, what she does when gearing up for a confrontation.
Blue eyes, glittering dangerously, rise to meet Mare Sharma's straightforward gray gaze. "I. Want. My. Lawyer."
A/N: Again, thank you for sticking with me. I know it's been a long, drawn out journey. FYI: there's one chapter left, and the wait won't be so long for the final update.
I'm working on what started out as a May to December entry and careened out of control (what a surprise!). The title is Do No Harm and features older doctor Edward, younger nurse Bella, and the bittersweet, forbidden love they share. Did I mention lemony and forbidden? I won't start posting until the story is complete, so if this sounds like your cuppa, keep me on author alert. ;-)
Follow me on Twitter: at SaritaDreaming or at SarahAisling
Fanfiction blog: saritadreaming dot word press dot com