Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(14)


by Meghan March

Crap. Didn’t plan on that.

Instantly I was reminded that Rix had told me to sleep. I guess it was a good thing I didn’t take my orders from him. Stretching my neck from side to side, I knew today would be hellishly long, and not even mostly because of the lack of sleep—no, because of the lack of Trinity.

No call or text from Rix had to mean he’d learned nothing. But he would bring her home safe. He had to.

When had I started trusting him? The question rolled through my brain as I cleaned my brushes and laid them out to dry.

He makes you feel safe. When has that ever happened before?

Never.

I’D HEARD NOTHING FROM RIX all day. I sold paintings to customers and checked my phone every few minutes, just to make sure it hadn’t mysteriously turned off or something. But no, it was functioning normally, and Rix still hadn’t contacted me.

My finger hovered over the contact he’d added in my phone, but I didn’t call. Calling was too intimate. A text, maybe? This was the debate I’d been having with myself for hours.

I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to know something.

VALENTINA: Any news? Please say you have news.

VALENTINA: This is Valentina, by the way. Hi.

I fired off the messages without thinking, and then when I read them, I felt like a moron. God, it was probably a good thing I’d never, ever try sexting because I’d probably be the absolute worst at that too.

I stared at my phone for a full two minutes—based on the Salvador Dali melting clock ticking away on my desk—and got no response. Gritting my teeth, I tossed the phone down on the blotter and walked away.

Two feet. That’s as far as I got before it buzzed.

I spun around and grabbed it like it might grow legs and walk away before I could read the response.

RIX: No.

VALENTINA: Give me something. Anything. Where is she?

RIX: I’m coming to you.

What? He was coming here? Shit.

I glanced at the clock again. It was too early for me to close up shop and go home, so he had to be coming here. But I didn’t have time to think about anything further, or about what it might be like to have Rix in my gallery, because the repaired chime sounded and the man himself walked through the front door.

I had to do a double-take. Instead of worn jeans and a T-shirt, today he was wearing dark jeans and a pale blue button-down shirt. None of the ink on his arms was visible, and he looked like any customer that might walk into my gallery—and with his broad shoulders filling out the shirt to perfection, he looked better than most.

That’s when it occurred to me why he looked familiar. The man could have been a double for Shemar Moore. I was standing there, silent and slack-jawed, most likely, as I came to this realization.

Rix raised his chin at me. “If it had taken you any longer to work up the guts to text me, you wouldn’t have needed to.”

Snapping back to reality, I demanded, “Is Trinity okay? Where is she?”

“I’ve been given assurances that she’s fine. No one will touch her.”

His response didn’t allay my concern. “What do you mean, given assurances? Why didn’t you get her back?”

Rix said nothing, but turned and walked toward the door.

“Don’t leave, dammit. I’m not done with you.” Once again, I’d forgotten who I was talking to.

He flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED and locked the door before stalking toward me, his eyes never leaving mine. “Ain’t going nowhere, duchess. Because it seems I gotta explain some shit to you.” Even dressed as he was, Rix was still every bit as dangerous as he had appeared before.

I walked backward until my butt bumped into my desk. “Explain what?”

“That I don’t take orders from you.” He stopped a foot away from me.

What was he going to do? We were in full view of the windows on Royal Street. I derived a certain sense of safety in that fact, and kept pushing him.

“You said you were getting her back.”

He gave me a nod. “And I am. But your timetable doesn’t matter in my world. I do this my way.”

“Last night you said—”

“That I’d get her back, and I will.”

“What are you waiting for? A full moon? A solar eclipse? A sign from the heavens? There’s no reason to wait.” I realized I sounded ridiculous but I didn’t care.

“You don’t need to know why, you just need to wait.”

“But they could be hurting her!” My patience was gone. Done. Out the window.

“They won’t fucking touch her. And you’re gonna go on about your business, just like you normally would. Nothin’ has changed in your world. You don’t know a thing about this, and no one else knows about this.”

“Are you crazy?”

Rix crossed his arms. “You’re gonna do exactly what I told you, because anything else is gonna put your girl in more danger. You go to the cops and it’s all over.”

Talk about a leap of faith. “You’re serious.” I met his intense silver stare. “You really expect me to trust that you have it under control, and go on about my routine?”

“Yes.”

“And pretend nothing is wrong?”

“Yes.”

He was implacable. That was the only word for it.

“I can’t.”

“You don’t have a choice.”

“What about updates? Are you going to make me wait and wonder?”

“In person only. Anything else isn’t a good idea.”

Both my eyebrows shot up. “Paranoid much?”

“I call it smart.”

“How long? At least tell me that. How long is it going to take?”

Rix’s jaw tensed before he answered. “As long as it takes. I’m working it from more than one angle. She’ll be fine. I give you my word.”

The last words he spoke were so low and solemn that I knew he was deadly serious. Rix had just given his vow to return Trinity safely. In this situation, the only thing I could do was hope that his threats were scarier than the other guys. I didn’t know how to navigate this world, but something told me that having Rix on my side was like having a ringer on your team.

“Fine.”

He watched me, as if gauging the sincerity of my answer.

I squeezed my hands together to avoid fidgeting. For a moment, I wondered what it would take for Rix to lose a measure of that intensity, and laugh and smile easily.