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“I will.”
“And if you hear from Chase, tell him I want to see him immediately, then call me.”
She nodded, but it wasn’t the most confident nod. What was Burnett going to do? He turned as if to go and she realized she needed answers.
“Wait,” Della said. “Have you heard from the Vampire Council? Did Chase get in touch with them? Has the FRU made a definite decision about me and Chase working together?” If he hadn’t told her about the files, there was a chance he hadn’t told her about the other things.
From the look on his face, she was right. “The Vampire Council called and I asked about the possibility of Chase working for the FRU. Or at least you and Chase collaborating, and I was told they would consider it. I’m sure the FRU will accept it, but…”
“But what?” she asked.
He looked back through the woods to make sure the other agents were gone. “But if they discover he’s the one who took those files, they aren’t going to let him work with us. They’ll arrest him the first chance they get. He can’t be doing shit like that. The FRU doesn’t tolerate disobedience. And if you care about him, make sure he understands that.”
If she cared about him?
She did care. The thought hit that she’d just planned on going to see Steve—whom she also cared about. That’s when she remembered her realization from earlier. She was hurting Steve. She had two choices. Give up working with Chase. Or give up Steve.
The mere thought of losing Steve sent every emotional nerve in her body rebelling and singing a tune of heartbreak. But the idea of pushing away Chase and lessening her chances of finding Natasha and Liam hurt, too.
Was there really no other way?
Find Natasha! Find Natasha!
Della’s heart did a tumble when she heard the voice, but honestly, she wasn’t sure if it was the ghost speaking or just her remembering.
“I have to go,” Burnett said, bringing Della back to the present.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
He looked down at her. “About what?”
“About Chase.” Then suddenly, she couldn’t let him answer, afraid she wouldn’t like it. “Look, you can’t tell the FRU that it was him who broke in.” She sensed Chase would help find Natasha. That somehow he was part of the plan and that was the reason they’d been called to the falls at the same time. “Don’t do it for Chase, do it for Natasha and Liam.”
Burnett ran a hand over the back of his neck and squeezed as if to relieve some tension. “I wasn’t planning on turning him in, but let’s hope he didn’t leave any evidence behind that will lead them to him. I won’t be able to stop them if they figure out it was him.”
She nodded. “Are you sure I can’t come? I could start going over the files you have on the two girls named Natasha.”
Burnett scowled at her. “Della, I’m almost certain you’re going to be working this case, and that Chase will be your partner, but you need to deal with losing your cousin for at least a day. You need rebound time.”
“I’ve dealt with it for almost a month now,” she said. “This…” She waved to the grave, “This was my closure.”
His lips tightened in frustration like they always did when she argued with him. Yet, she knew he couldn’t dispute her logic. The fact that her emotions had no logic was her own secret. She had a feeling she’d be rebounding over Chan’s death for a long time to come.
“I can understand that, but you still can’t go tonight. I don’t have clearance to bring you on the case. Go see Steve, and then get some rest. Be ready to start on this tomorrow.”
He took off. Della moved back to Chan’s gravesite. She dropped back down on the cold earth and just sat there, curled up in a ball, trying to emotionally come to terms with her most pressing problems.
Chan’s death.
Natasha and Liam.
Steve and Chase.
The stars and moon slowly faded. A tiny slice of sun chased the night away, but even with the promise of a new day, a sense of isolation filled her. She sat extra still, surrounded by gravestones. Alone.
The chill came back and she had to amend her last thought. Maybe she wasn’t really alone. She looked around. She didn’t see anyone. But she felt someone. Goose bumps spidered down her arms and spine.
“Do I know you?” Her words seemed to be swallowed by the predawn gray. She stared back at Chan’s grave. The sun peeked a little higher above the eastern horizon, and stripes of bright pink and purple appeared.
She watched the ball of orange as it slowly inched up into the sky, drowning out the sunrise colors, but bringing dusty light and some white clouds that swayed in the blue sky. She tried to ignore the chill. A chill that felt haunted.
Her gaze locked on the sky as the cold around her increased and the clouds began to form shapes. Shapes that looked almost like three people posing for a …
Remembering the picture, she pulled it out and studied it again. When she looked up to compare the crazy cloud formation, it was gone. She stared again at the image, then turned it over. There, scribbled in light pencil, so light she’d missed it earlier, were three names. Chan, Miao—who was Chan’s mother—and …
“Damn.” Her voice seemed small in the big haunted place.
Chan knew Natasha? Was it the same Natasha? But what the hell was the connection?
Standing, she walked over to Chan’s grave. She stared at the tombstone, the light breeze sending the yellow flowers dancing in front of the engraving.