Carter Reed

Page 10


He frowned and took the seat across from me.
He moved like a ghost and folded into the seat with a grace of a panther, one that stirred with purpose.
“What are you thinking, Emma?”
I jerked at my name. It was foreign to me. The sensual way he had spoken before was gone. It was then that I realized he had done it on purpose. He wanted to invoke desire within me so he had. Was everything about him a weapon? His voice, his eyes, his body, his mind?
I looked down at my plate. “You’ve changed.”
“Yes,” he sighed. “I suppose I have. Things were,” he hesitated, “easier back then.”
I looked back up.
He amended, “Relatively speaking, I guess.”
“You guess?” Anger flared up in me. AJ had been addicted to gambling and drugs. He owed the mob money and they killed him because of it. Our parents had been absent since before I could remember, and Carter hadn’t had it easier. With a drunk as a father and an addict as a mother, he spent most of his nights on our couch. For as long as I could remember, he always had bruises when he would come over.
I spat out, “You must be remembering things differently than me. Things never got easier, it just changed.”
A small chuckle set the hairs on the back of my neck upright. He sat back in his chair. “Things were easier for me, Emma. I didn’t have to worry about killing people.”
My eyes narrowed. “Are you trying to scare me?”
He leaned forward. “I’m not the same boy who needs somewhere to sleep anymore. Looks to me like our roles have changed, Emma.” A hard wall slipped over his face. “Why don’t you tell me the real reason you’re here? You sought me out. Here I am. What’s your crisis?”
I sucked in my breath. If only it were that easy. I shook my head. “Are you kidding me?”
“Did I say something to offend you?” A faint glimmer of a smile flared, but it was gone. His eyes fell flat again. “You came to me. You tell me why.”
I opened my mouth.
“And you can drop your attitude. I don’t tolerate it from my men. I won’t tolerate it from you, whether you knew me in the past or not.”
I closed my mouth and sat there stunned. He was right. I wouldn’t talk like this to another in his position. The Carter I had known was no longer. I saw that now. I realized that now. Pushing up from the table, I knew I’d made a mistake. “I’m sorry. I need to go.”
“Stop,” he ordered.
I fell back down, but it wasn’t because I made a conscious decision. My body reacted to his command. He said it and I obeyed. I sat for a second, blinking in a daze, as I comprehended what happened. It was so instant, so quick.
As anger boiled again, I leaned forward. I was ready with a scathing comment, but he sighed.
His eyes softened. “I haven’t heard from AJ’s little sister in ten years. I’d like to know the reason you’re here now.”
All the anger, resentment, and foolish feelings vanished. I remembered my reason and the nightmare flooded back. Panic and desperation were my friends again. They clung to me. I struggled to find the words. When my arm started to shake, he seemed to grow colder. His eyes darkened and anger stirred in them.
“Who hurt you, Emma?” His voice was sensual, but there was an underlining tone of icy disdain.
Fresh shivers wracked me. My eyes clasped shut. What had I done to him? I felt his hatred. It gutted me.
“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what happened.”
I choked out, “But maybe you’ll hurt me.”
“I would never hurt you.”
“Promise?” I held my breath. I was depending on him, everything centered on him. Mallory needed him. I needed him.
“I promise.”
Relief washed over me and I sagged in my chair. My throat choked up. Then I whispered, in a hoarse voice, “I did something.”
He nodded.
My insides tightened. I couldn’t say it. It’d be real, but I already had said it out loud. Still, Carter was different. Once he knew, I couldn’t undo whatever would happen next.
“What did you do?” He softened his tone.
He was persuading me now. He wanted me to confide in him. If only it were that easy. I could just open up and share my problems to him, but no. Was this the right decision? Could I trust him? I didn’t know him anymore. He was the Cold Killer. I hadn’t known that man from before. I only knew the boy he’d been.
I looked at him. The tears blurred him in my vision.
“I know you’re debating whether or not to tell me what happened, but if you’re here with me then I’m your only choice. I know you. I remember the smart girl you were. I was always proud of how you handled yourself. You were a survivor, all those years ago. I knew it then. I know it now.” He leaned forward. A glimmer of the old Carter shone through to me. “You have to tell me. I won’t hurt you. I’ve already promised you that.”
I nodded. He was right. He was so right. He was the only one. But I couldn’t look at him. I hung my head and whispered, “I killed someone.”
There was no reaction. Just a question. The ball of fear in me loosened. “He was hurting my roommate.”
“Who did you kill, Emma?”
He said my name so that it felt like he was caressing me with it. I relaxed a bit more. It was easier to speak. “He was raping her when I went into the apartment.” Then, I closed up. I couldn’t say. He was the mob. Carter was the mob. Carter would hand me over.
“Who was raping your roommate?”
I shook my head again. “I can’t say it.”
“You have to.” Gone was the softness. He had hardened again.
I jerked back in my chair. The stranger sat across from me once more. Now I knew for sure, I had to get out of there. I tried to swallow over the knot of terror that was lodged in my throat again. I looked for the door. I could make it—there was a guard out there. My eyes swung back to Carter. I would have to stop him. He couldn’t alert the guard about me. But how? I had no idea.
His phone rang from a room. He must’ve left it. When he turned, I bolted for the door. It was my only chance.
He caught me around the waist. I made it to him, but that was as far as I got. As he picked me up with one iron-clad arm, he said over my struggles, “You’re being ridiculous, Emma.”