I wanted to ask her more questions, but her stiffness told me she was done sharing for now. “I just don’t know. Something doesn’t feel right.”
“When does something like this ever feel right?” Avery asked softly.
Again, good point, but as I trekked through my memories of that night, I knew I was missing something—something forced out of my head by the trauma of it, and that had been pretty damn traumatizing.
Then it hit me as I lifted my gaze and met Calla’s. I started to rise as my heart pounded in my chest. “Oh my God.”
“What?” Calla stood too, even though she looked confused. She looked at Avery, who was also starting to rise. “What?” she said. “What the hell, Teresa?”
I shook my head as it sunk in. How had I forgotten this? “Pink scarf.”
“Huh.” She looked at Avery again.
“There was a pink scarf on the dorm door!” My legs gave out, and I plopped back on the couch. “Holy crap . . .”
“Are you okay?” Avery grasped my arm, her fingers cool. “Should I call Jase? Cam?”
“No! But I need to go give my statement! I need to do it now.” I felt sick. “I need to go to the police.”
“All right.” Calla grabbed her keys. “We can take you, but you have to tell us what the hell is going on.”
“The pink scarf—Debbie always hung a pink scarf on the door whenever Erik was there and they wanted privacy,” I explained in a rush, my hands shaking. “She hung that damn pink scarf when she didn’t want to be interrupted.”
“Okaaay.” Avery drew the word out.
“You don’t understand.” I took a shallow breath. “There was a pink scarf on the door when I got there. I thought she was in there with Erik and they’d gotten back together. That pink scarf means Erik was there earlier!”
Avery and Calla got what I was saying to them, that Debbie hadn’t been alone at some point during the evening, but it didn’t seem to register on the importance scale for them.
But it did for me.
My brain was not willing to accept the idea that Debbie committed suicide. It wasn’t that I was naive and didn’t believe that it was possible, but Erik had been there and to me, it made more sense that the f**ker lost his temper and—and really hurt her.
They took me to the police to give my statement and while I’d stressed the importance of the pink scarf and that it had meant that Debbie hadn’t been alone, they didn’t appear too overly concerned.
“We plan on talking to her ex-boyfriend later today,” the officer said, guiding me out of the office, to where Calla and Avery waited. He smiled, but it was tight and fake, and I felt like one of those nosy little old ladies who ran the neighborhood watch and always reported things incorrectly.
“So what did they say?” Avery asked once we were back in Calla’s car.
I sighed. “I told them what I saw and what I knew. That her and Erik had broken up and that he . . .” I bit down on my lip, realizing I’d never told them how Debbie’s relationship was. It felt wrong somehow, even though she had never asked me to not tell anyone, but I’d been so embarrassed—still was—and I knew she probably never wanted anyone to know. I’d told the police and they’d written down what I’d seen—the bruises and what Debbie had told me, but I could tell that they really thought Debbie had killed herself. And without anyone there to file charges against Erik, there’d be nothing they could do.
Avery peeked over the passenger seat, her brown eyes wide. “He hit her, didn’t he?”
Wondering if she could read minds, I glanced at the rearview mirror, finding Calla’s gaze darting from the road to it. “Yeah, he . . . he hit her. I asked her about it once and she denied it, but then she told me the truth after, well . . .” Cam still didn’t know about that and I wanted to keep it that way. “Well, she told me the night before she died.”
“Jesus,” Calla muttered.
My gaze met Avery’s, and she smiled sympathetically. “Anyway, I told them what I knew and how the pink scarf had to have meant that Erik had been there. They said they were planning on talking to him today.”
She nibbled on her lower lip. “Do you think he really did it to her and then . . . hung her up?”
I shuddered at the prospect. “I don’t know how anyone could do that to someone, but there are really messed-up people in this world.”
Calla nodded. “So very true.”
“And he’s lost his temper with her before. Maybe it wasn’t on purpose,” I wondered out loud. “And then he panicked and made it look like a suicide.”
“It sounds a little out there, but people have done crazier stuff.” Avery turned in her seat and looked out the window. “I’ve learned to never underestimate people.”
“Yeah,” I breathed, sitting back.
It seemed crazy to sit here and consider that a college-age guy might’ve killed his ex-girlfriend—accident or not—and then staged it as a suicide, but like Calla and Avery both said, people had committed crazier acts.
Cam and Jase were already back at the apartment and the moment we stepped through the doors, they started bombarding us with questions about what went down at the police.
Neither boy looked like they had done each other any bodily harm, and I spied two pink boxes sitting on the kitchen counter. I couldn’t help but grin as I sat beside Jase on the couch. Him and his cupcakes. It was contagious, spreading to Cam.
“We didn’t get everything, but we got enough that you’ll be fine for a while.” Jase reached over, tucking my hair back. “Everything is in your bedroom.”
“Thank you so much.” I looked between the boys. “Both of you.”
“No problem.” Cam wrapped his arms around Avery, tucking her back against his chest. “Just don’t burn down my apartment.”
Everyone laughed while I shot him a dirty look. Calla was the first to bow out, having to head into work for a short shift, and then Avery and Cam got that googly-eyed look about them. They soon made an exit.
Jase reached for me, tugging me back so I rested curled against his chest. As much as I wanted to shut my brain down and simply enjoy being in his arms, I couldn’t.
“You think I’m jumping to conclusions, don’t you?” I asked, thinking back to what I told him about my visit to the police and my suspicions.
He brushed my hair back and pressed a kiss to my temple. “I wouldn’t say you were jumping. Maybe hopping, but you’re right. Erik has one hell of a temper, and it wouldn’t be the first time someone lost control and did something like that.”
At least he wasn’t saying I was crazy. “Do you think the police will do an autopsy?”
“I don’t know.” His hold on me was secure. “You’d think they would just in case.”
I prayed that they did. If my suspicions were correct, then wouldn’t it show in the exam? I hated even thinking about Debbie in terms of autopsies and cause of death, like that was what she’d been reduced to.
“You know what it makes me wonder about?” I said, closing my eyes. “What if Jeremy had gotten to that point? He could’ve easily been Erik, if that’s what he did.”
Jase stiffened and he didn’t say anything for a long moment. “Then thank God Cam beat the ever-living shit out of him. Sorry. I know how that makes you feel, but thank God is all I can say.”
“Yeah,” I whispered, my stomach soured by the idea that Erik had murdered Debbie, but the more I thought about it, the more I feared that it was the truth.
“I want you to promise me something, okay?” he said, tipping my chin up with his fingers, until I could see his eyes. “I don’t want you being anywhere near Erik, especially alone.”
“That won’t be a problem,” I said dryly.
One side of his lips hitched up. “And unless you’re talking to the police or one of us, I don’t want you to voice your suspicions.”
Ready to argue that fine point, I opened my mouth, but he shook his head. “Not because I think you should be silent, but if Erik did do this, I don’t want you in danger because he thinks you know the truth. That’s all I’m saying.”
I smiled a little. “Okay. I can do that.”
We stayed like that for a little while, watching the natural light fade out of the living room. Wind picked up outside, rolling across the sides of the building. A long night yawned ahead and I didn’t want to face it alone.
“Stay the night with me?” I asked, knowing it was asking a lot. He probably wanted to swing by the farm or go to the frat.
“Already ahead of you.” He grinned, jerking his chin at a backpack sitting next to the recliner. I hadn’t even noticed it. “I picked up a change of clothing when we were out. Just need a shower.”
“Thank you.” I stretched up, kissing his cheek. “Thank you for everything.”
He tipped his forehead against mine. “Why don’t you order some Chinese? The place down the street delivers, and I’ll hop into the shower.”
Sounded like a good plan. I placed the order while he dipped into the bathroom. The moment the water came on, I found myself staring at the door, heart pounding.
What would he do if I just joined him?
I bit down on my lip as I entertained the image of me stripping, sans crutches and knee brace, and sexily slinking into the shower. Picking up the soap . . .
Turning my attention to hobbling into my new bedroom, I unpacked what I could until I heard the shower turn off. I made my way back into the hall as the bathroom door opened. “I ordered chicken—whoa.”
Jase stood in the doorway, his hair wet and curling around his chiseled cheekbones. The fine sprinkling of hair on his chest was damp. The jeans he’d thrown on hung low on his hips, revealing those V-shaped muscles on either side of his hips.
“Is chicken whoa a new plate?” he teased, dragging a white towel down those rippled abs.
“It’s a kind of plate I want to eat.”
His eyes flashed silver and he started toward me, a look of stark hunger carved into his face. Just as his fingers brushed my cheeks, the doorbell rang.
He groaned as he backed off. “I’ll get it.”
Mouth dry, I watched him go to the door. The deliveryman got an eyeful of Jase’s half nak*dness, but I doubted it was oddest thing the teenager had ever seen. We ate dinner on the couch, watching TV.
He remained there while I headed into the shower, washing away the funk of the day. I wished the water sluicing over my skin could rid me of what I saw when I closed my eyes or how my thoughts kept going back to that pink scarf and Erik.
Could he’ve really done it? From what I’d seen and from what Debbie had told me, he had the temper. When he’d swung that bag around, he’d been on the verge of losing control, but swinging a bag violently didn’t mean he was capable of murder.
The water had started to go lukewarm when I stepped out and wrapped a fluffy green towel around me. Getting the brace on proved difficult with wet skin and I nearly broke a sweat by the time I finished.
Jase wasn’t in the living room when I stepped out of the steamed-up bathroom. Holding on to the tightly wrapped towel, I quietly made my way into the bedroom.
He was hanging up my clothes, humming a song under his breath. He didn’t hear me as I stopped in the doorway. My throat closed up as he slipped a sweater onto a hanger he must’ve found in the closet or snatched from the dorm. When he turned to my bed and picked up the stack of jeans—folded jeans—all my clothes were put away.
“You’re a keeper.”
He backed out of the closet, looking toward the door. A single pair of jeans were in his hands, forgotten as his silvery gaze traveled from the top of my head down to my curled toes. “Damn.”
I flushed to the roots of my hair. “Thank you for putting my clothes away.”
“Uh-huh.” He dropped my jeans on the floor and stalked toward me. The look in his gaze made me want to back up and run toward him. He placed just the tips of his fingers on my arms, his gaze burning into mine. “I’m going to make this crazy suggestion, okay?”
One side of his lips tipped up. “I think you should walk around like this at least twice a day when I’m around. Once in the morning. Once at night.”
I laughed. “You just want me to prance around in a towel then?”
“Prance. Walk. Sit. Stand. Breathe.” He brushed his lips across my cheekbone, causing me to shiver. “I’ll be okay with any of those things.”
Turning my head just the slightest, our lips glided together. The kiss started off sweet as he drew his fingertips up to my cheek. My grasp on my towel loosened as his tongue flicked over my lips, coaxing my mouth open.