Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(11)

by Meghan March

I watched him out of the corner of my eye, wondering if there was more to him than I’d thought.

The girls’ pale shoulders slumped again, but they didn’t say another word as we walked to my car. Honestly, what could they say?

“Keys, duchess.” Rix held out the hand that wasn’t laced with mine.

I jerked my head up to meet his gaze. “What?”

“Keys. I’m driving.”

I looked from him to my Tesla. “But it’s my car.”

“And I’m not the kind of man who lets a woman drive me around.”

A chunk of the points I’d just awarded him in my brain slid away. “Are you serious? That’s ridiculous.”

He walked me around to the passenger door before he responded.

“You ever take tactical driving lessons? You know evasive maneuvers and defensive driving techniques? The kind that keep people safe in fucked-up situations?”

The question stumped me. “Excuse me?”

“I’ll take that as a no. Now, give me the keys and get in.”

Safe. The word echoed in my brain.

He didn’t even know me, but he was concerned about my safety. And with him, I felt safe, even though he scared the hell out of me. How was that even possible?

Because he’s already defended you. Rescued you. And he might be a scary motherfucker, but apparently he’s on your side.

I reached into my purse and pulled out the keys. “Okay. You can drive. Just . . . be nice to my car.”

The door handles had already popped out when I’d gotten close with the key, and Rix pulled open the passenger side for me. As I climbed in, he said, “Like I’d hurt this car.” With a ghost of a smile, he added, “Been dying to drive it.”

“What—” He shut the door before I could finish, but when he climbed in the driver’s side, I continued. “How much of your speech was true, and how much was you just wanting to drive because you like my car?”

Rix’s expression turned serious again. “Every damn thing I’ve said to you is fucking true, but it doesn’t mean you should ever trust me.”

The man was bluntly honest, and I couldn’t help but respect it. If I had to guess one thing about Rix, I’d be willing to put my money on always knowing where I stood with him, despite his warning. Not that I needed to know where I stood with him, because as soon as I knew Trinity was safe, I’d never see him again.

After I pointed out a few oddities of driving a Tesla, Rix was cruising along the streets of New Orleans toward Trinity’s grandma’s house. I’d texted her again, but still no answer. She’d better be home, asleep, or I was going to lose my ever-loving mind.

A yawn escaped my mouth, and I quickly reached up a hand to cover it.

“Long day?” Rix asked, glancing over at me.

“Aren’t they all?”

“This shit with your girl’s got you all off-balance.”

His insightful comment surprised me. “Why do you say that?”

“Because I can’t imagine you’d run out of the house with paint on your face for any other reason.”

My hand flew to my cheek, and the crusty dust of paint met my fingers. Well, hell.

“Didn’t figure you’d be the type to paint your own walls.”

“I wasn’t painting walls,” I said, instantly wondering why I’d corrected him. My painting wasn’t something I talked about. With anyone. Ever.

Rix’s silver eyes lit with understanding, and I knew he put it together. “You’ve got that fancy gallery. You sell your own shit there too?”

“I don’t sell my stuff at all. It’s just a hobby. Something I do when I’m bored.”

The explanation lay like dried paint on my tongue, hard to get out and bad-tasting. Painting for me wasn’t just a hobby. There had been days when it was all that saved me from the darkness.

“Fancy woman, fancy hobby. No surprise there.” Rix’s eyes cut back to me when he slowed at a red light. “The surprise is that I’m finding I’ve got a strong taste for fancy these days.”

Wait, did he mean . . . ? He wasn’t interested in me, was he?

I didn’t know how to reply, and the flashing red and blue lights ahead of us meant that I didn’t have to.

“Oh my God.”

The driver’s side of a dark sedan had mostly been crushed inward by an older SUV, and a telephone pole had cracked in half and landed on the roof of both cars. Lights from police cruisers, fire trucks, and two ambulances lit up the dark night.

“Fuck,” Rix bit out. He slowed the car to a complete stop and turned toward me. “I need you to hold it together.”

My concern over the accident screamed toward panic, and my stomach dipped to the floor. “Wha—why? Is that—”

“The Impala is D-Rock’s.”

My nails bit into my clenched fists as I stared into Rix’s silver eyes. “And the SUV?”

“All you need to know is this wasn’t an accident.”

I swallowed, my mouth already dry as tremors racked my body.

“Oh my God. Holy shit,” I murmured, looking back at the mess of twisted metal. Grabbing the door handle, I yanked at it.

Locked, it’s locked. Unlock it, and find Trinity. She’s okay. She has to be okay.

“Valentina,” Rix snapped, reaching across the car to wrap his hand around my jaw and turn me to face him. “Hold it together. You walk up there flipping the fuck out, it ain’t gonna help your girl. We’ll find her, make sure she’s safe. The impact wasn’t on her side. Now, open the door, pull it together, and go talk to whoever is on the scene who will give you answers.”

I nodded, my head bobbing up and down. “Okay. Okay. Let me go.”

Rix’s grip tightened. “Calm. The fuck. Down.”

I swallowed again, took another deep breath, and released it. “Okay. I’m good. I swear.”

He nodded. “I’m taking your car. I’ll be back in ten. Give me your phone so I can give you my number. You text me as soon as you find out anything, and if she’s at the hospital, I’ll get you there.”

“Okay,” I repeated.

“You walked up to me and gave me shit like no one else would dare. You can hold it together for your girl.” When I nodded again, his thumb brushed over my cheek. “Good. Phone.”