Home > Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(7)

Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(7)
Karen Rose

Daisy didn’t like that. It’s curiosity. Nothing more.

Go on thinking that if it makes you feel better, the snide voice whispered in her mind.

Yes. Yes, it does, she answered back. Firmly, because the snide voice had to be nipped in the bud. It was the same voice that tempted her to have “just a taste” when her anxiety started to overwhelm her. Like right now. Just a little taste. Beer. A sip of beer wouldn’t be so bad, would it? One little beer?

No. She gritted her teeth. Nip it in the bud.

He hadn’t answered her, she realized. He was still watching her and she wondered how much of that little internal chat had been broadcasted from her expression.

“Well?” she pressed. “Why is the locket special?”

A throat clearing had her turning around to where Rafe’s partner, Erin, sat waiting patiently. “Let’s get your statement, Daisy,” Erin said levelly, and Daisy didn’t miss the flicker of gratitude in Rafe’s eyes. Evidently Agent Reynolds had made a bit of a slip.

So she’d focus on that. On the locket. On the mystery. Not on the fact that tonight was her father’s worst nightmare coming to life and that he’d probably be on the next flight to Sacramento as soon as he found out. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Daisy gave them a terse nod and retook her seat next to where her bag sat on the tabletop, Brutus nestled comfortably inside. She could hear the dog’s gentle snores if she listened hard enough. It grounded her.

Rafe and Gideon took their seats, Gideon on her right and Rafe on the other side of the table. Erin Rhee was still on her left, having not moved since Rafe had stepped out, saying he’d had to make a call. Which had presumably been to Gideon Reynolds.

Because of the locket. Her skin quivering with nervous energy, Daisy reached into her bag, giving Brutus a gentle stroke before withdrawing an emery board from one of the inside pockets. “They clipped my nails in the ER,” she said, filing away the sharp edges of her newly cut nails. Because she’d scratched her attacker as she’d managed to escape.

“They’ll grow back,” Rafe said soothingly.

“I don’t think I want them to. They got in the way tonight. My nails, I mean. I did a joint lock on his hand but my thumbnail was so long that it kept me from digging in as deep as I needed to, to incapacitate him. I could be dead because I’d had a mani-pedi,” she added lightly.

She needed to stop talking. Her nerves were showing. Focus on the story. On Gideon Reynolds’s face. On anything that’s not the memory of his arm across your throat.

“You did a joint lock?” Gideon asked carefully, his doubt evident.

Meeting his eyes, she nodded. “Yes, I did. Want me to demonstrate?”

Gideon shook his head quickly, seeming unsure if she was serious or not. “No. That won’t be necessary.”

Rafe bit back a smile. “No, it’s really not. She could take either one of us down. It’s true,” he declared when Gideon gave him a disbelieving stare. “She ‘demonstrated’ on me when I questioned her ability to defend herself. Not that you ever should have needed to, Daisy.” Sober now, he pressed a button on a remote that turned on the video recorder. “Today is Thursday, February sixteenth. It is ten fifty-six. I am Detective Raphael Sokolov. With me are Detective Erin Rhee, Special Agent Gideon Reynolds, and Eleanor Marie Dawson, also known as Daisy. We are here to take Miss Dawson’s statement.”

Daisy gave Rafe a dirty look. She hated her first name and he knew it. “Thank you for that.”

Rafe’s expression remained sober, but his dark eyes softened. “What happened tonight?” he asked gently.

Daisy drew a shaky breath. “Where should I start?”

“Wherever you’d like,” Erin said. “If we need you to back up, we’ll let you know.”

“All right.” She set the emery board aside. Folded her hands on the table. Then gave up and stuck her hand back into her bag, stroking Brutus’s fuzzy ears because her anxiety was clawing at her from the inside out. She did not want to talk about this again. “My friend Trish Hart and I were leaving the community center on J Street, walking toward the Forty-niner Diner.” Abruptly she turned to Erin Rhee. “Did Trish get home okay?”

“She did,” Erin promised. “I walked her to her door myself and waited until she was safely inside.”

“Thank you,” Daisy whispered. Trish had been so shaken up, crying with her in the ER until Irina and Karl had arrived to stand vigil. Daisy had insisted Trish go home because hospitals were one of her friend’s triggers, threatening her sobriety.

Erin’s smile was steady. “You’re welcome.”

Daisy forced herself to continue, just wanting this part over with. “Trish and I walk to the diner every week.” She glanced up at the camera on the wall. Fuck it, she thought. Straightening her shoulders, she lifted her chin. “We attend AA on Thursday nights.”

Gideon’s eyes widened, but he met her gaze evenly when she wordlessly dared him to say a word in judgment. He gave her a steady nod, and that it left her feeling settled inside shouldn’t have been a thing. But it was.

“I felt someone following me a few minutes after we started walking,” she went on. “Just a tickle at the back of my neck.” She shrugged. “I thought it was someone my dad had hired. I never considered someone was actually stalking me.”

Gideon’s brows rose. “Why would you think your father would have you followed?”

“Because he’s done it before,” she answered truthfully. “He . . . worries about me.” She considered her words, then realized she didn’t care. She wasn’t hiding anything because she had nothing to be ashamed of.

Keep on telling yourself that if it makes you feel better, honey.

Shut the ever-loving-fuck up.

“My father didn’t see the signs of my alcoholism until my sister brought it to his attention. By then, I was pretty fucked up.” She glanced up at the camera again, then flicked her gaze to Rafe. “Can I say ‘fucked up’?”

Rafe smiled at her. “You can if you want.”

“All right, then. I was fucked up. And I had to go to rehab. After that, he watched me like a hawk. Had our ranch hand follow me around everywhere. Back then it was because we were afraid and in hiding.”

Gideon’s brows shot up higher, scrunching his forehead. “In hiding? Why?”

Why? The question honestly surprised her. “You don’t know, Agent Reynolds?” She gave Rafe a side-eye. “I thought your mother would have told him already.” The woman had been trying to push them together for months now.

You must meet him, Irina would say in her brusque way, her accent thick, but her sweet nature abundantly clear in the smile that was always on her face. He’s a good man. Handsome, too, she’d add slyly. Then she’d regale Daisy with stories of when Rafe and Gideon were boys in school, always ending with a frank appraisal. He’d be good for you, dochka. Let me give him your phone number. Which Daisy had always politely declined, even though hearing Irina calling her “daughter” always made her feel so safe and included that she’d almost wanted to comply.

“My mother is actually very good at keeping secrets,” Rafe said.

Good to know. Irina had gotten the handsome part right, at least. With his perfectly combed hair and perfectly pressed blue suit that sat perfectly on broad shoulders, not to mention his perfect face, Gideon Reynolds could have walked out of a men’s fashion ad. Hopefully he was not only a good man but discreet as well, because if he didn’t know her life story before, he was about to.

“You want me to tell the whole sordid tale for the record?” she asked lightly, because she hated this part, too. Hated airing her family’s very dirty laundry. Not that it would be the first time, but still.

“Maybe just give us the Reader’s Digest version,” Rafe suggested.

Her lips twitched, which she suspected was Rafe’s intent. “Okay. I can do that. My father was convinced that my stepmother’s ex-husband was stalking her so that he could kidnap their child—my stepsister, Taylor. Dad moved us all up past Eureka and bought a ranch. All through shell corporations, because he’s cagey that way. He taught us how to shoot and defend ourselves in case Taylor’s biological father came to take her away. We lived in isolation for twelve years, doing drills every day like some kind of mini-paramilitary squad. And then my stepmother died. On her deathbed, she confessed to Taylor that she’d lied about the whole thing. Her ex had never stalked her, had never threatened her or Taylor. It had all been a lie. We lost our adolescence because of a lie.”

“And then?” Gideon prompted.

Daisy realized she’d been staring at the wall. Remembering those final days, Donna so emaciated, the cancer having eaten her up. Taylor had been heartbroken. So had her father. So was I. Until they’d learned what Donna had done to them all. And then Daisy had hated her with the power of a thousand suns. But it had been too late. The woman was gone, leaving them all broken and confused.

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