Breathe, little girl.
I could hear my mother’s voice as she whispered into my ear again. Plates had been shattered. The kitchen table was flipped upside down. Doors were ripped off their hinges. With each crash and roar coming from the other room, my little fingers had dug into her arm. That was the night he left.
I thought nothing could get worse for us.
I was staring down the barrel of a gun now.
I’d been wrong.
They came in when we were sleeping. They were silent until our bedroom door was kicked open, and a loud male voice shouted, “Police! Police! We have a search warrant!” They flooded into the room. It felt like a stampede was entering, as the floorboards jostled and the bed shook. I sat up, dazed, but Elijah was already up. He kicked off the bed sheets, grabbed his jeans, and ran to the window. “Freeze! Stop right there and let me see your hands. Freeze!”
A strong hand grabbed my arm, and I was yanked upright. I soared through the air and hit against the far wall. It all happened in the blink of an eye.
I can’t believe this is happening, I thought while in the air, right before I crashed into the wall with that thud. Elijah and I had been at a rave three hours earlier. The night had been filled with techno music, neon lights, and sweat that came from too much dancing, too much sex, and too much fun. And now this—I wanted to curse. I wasn’t dumb. What was happening before my eyes brought back all my brother’s warnings.
“He sells drugs, Bri.”
Braden had been so sure. I had been sure he was wrong. I had laughed at him and walked away, shaking my head, but a part of me had wondered. The money I found in boxes and bags that were stuffed everywhere. The chest he kept a lock on and refused to tell me what was inside. The nightly visits from people who were never allowed inside the house. After the first few fights, I stopped asking, because the truth was, I didn’t want to know.
Living in Grant West allowed me to live in that denial. Our town wasn’t a large city, but we had a large university and two technical colleges. The population swarmed tenfold during the school months, and because of all the newbies in town, the locals formed a tight unit. Sometimes they mixed with us. That was inevitable, especially at bars and sporting events. We tried not to associate with outsiders, but I knew one person that did. Elijah. All those college parties he dragged me to, only to disappear as soon as we walked through the door—those college students were his customers.
I was pulled from my thoughts when the cop pushed me face-first into the wall. He kicked my legs open, wrenched my arms behind my back, and slapped handcuffs onto my wrists. I winced as the cold metal cut into my skin, but ignored the pain and twisted my head to the window to see Elijah on the window frame, poised to jump.
The cop closest to Elijah yelled, “Elijah Turner, get on the floor!” Elijah stopped and spun around to face the room. His crystal green eyes jerked to mine, and his shoulders heaved up and down. The scratch marks I had left a few hours ago stretched with each breath he took.
So much passed between us in that look.
He had lied to me, but I had let him.
Everything was tuned out. The police were still yelling for him to stand down. Their guns remained aimed right at him, but he was looking at me.
He had lied to me. We were over, repeated in my mind over and over again.
Then I saw a shift in him. An apology flashed in his gaze, and I knew he was going to jump. I twisted in his direction. “No!”
The officer slammed me back into the wall. “Stay.” His knee pressed into the back of my thigh, holding me in place, and he pushed down on my handcuffs, making them bite into my wrists, but I didn’t feel it.
Please don’t, Elijah, I silently pleaded with him.
He read my unspoken message and took a deep breath in resignation. He was going to surrender. Relief flared through me. I was pissed at him, but jumping would have made things worse. I still cared about him.
The police sensed the shift in him and moved in. They dragged him from the window, pushed him to his knees, and handcuffed him. Once he was in custody, they took him first, leading him out the door. I was next. A female officer took my arm and led me out of the bedroom, into another room. As they did, I could hear drawers, boxes, and books being dumped onto the floor from Elijah’s room.
The officer searched me. My clothes were brought in, and she searched them, too. She went through the pockets of my jeans, checked my shirt and my bra before tossing it to the guy in charge of me. My flip-flops were next. The bottoms were inspected. They were looking for a secret compartment in anything. When nothing was found, she returned my clothes, and I was allowed to re-dress.
When I was taken out, I saw police officers searching all over—other rooms, the bathrooms, and the living room. Even the stair rails. Someone tossed my bag to the female holding my arm. It was unzipped, and the front pockets were pulled out; they had searched it. Another cop came over to us with my wallet. I watched her rifle through everything before she pushed it into the main compartment of my bag and zipped it back up. She said to the cop, “That’s hers. She might need it.” She met my gaze then. “We took your phone. It might have evidence on it.”
I hissed as I was yanked forward again. That was my phone, dammit.
Looking around for Elijah, I saw him in the second cruiser parked outside. When he turned to me, I pulled my gaze away. This was his fault. I had heard the rumors, but I had trusted him. I turned my back on a lot of people because I chose to believe my boyfriend. Elijah had never lied to me before, but this was one big-ass lie.
The cop led me to a different cruiser, and I was pushed into the backseat. Her hand covered my head until I cleared the door. Once inside, she popped into the front seat and turned up the heat. It was then that I realized how cold it was. The clock on her dashboard said it was 4:17 a.m., cold for the little clothing I was wearing. She didn’t say anything before she left again, shutting her door, and I was alone.
I was numb.
I was shocked.
I was livid.
I kept playing out the image of the cops bursting through the door. Elijah. This was his fault. No, it was mine. I should’ve listened to my brother. No. I was going back to my boyfriend. This was all his fault. Well. Check that. Ex-boyfriend now.
Hell. I was tired, too—tired and wired at the same time. My chest was moving up and down at a rapid pace. My skin was crawling, but I wanted to curl under a blanket at the same time. I understood why criminals looked crazy on those cop shows, if this was what they were feeling.