Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(5)


by Meghan March

“You should’ve stayed in the conference room, Valentina,” Hennessy said without looking away from the computer monitor.

“Well, I wasn’t just going to sit there and look pretty while you figure out if the girl I’ve known for years is caught up with something she probably doesn’t even understand. Trinity is good people. She’s bright, hardworking, and loves art, and she wants to paint and own her own gallery. She’s not the kind of girl who falls for a guy in a gang. She’s smarter than that.”

Hennessy finally looked at me. “Are you sure? Some people say you can’t choose who you fall for.”

When I didn’t address that comment, Hennessy’s attention went back to the monitor as mug shots started to appear. One was of a very handsome young black man, and Hennessy clicked on it.

“Derrick Rockins, also known as D-Rock, is a low-level member of the New Orleans Down ’n Out, also known as the NODOs, which is the gang currently headed by Rix.”

I straightened in the chair, disbelief warring with fear. No. Way. This had to be a mistake.

“Please tell me you’re joking.”

“Sorry, Valentina. Your girl got hooked up with a guy in the wrong crowd.”

My concern for Trinity mounted exponentially. “So that’s all the more reason to investigate that she’s missing, right? I mean, who knows what could have happened to her? She’s in danger. Clearly.”

My voice was rising with every word, and I could only imagine what my face looked like right now as panic zipped through my system, but Hennessy never lost his unflappable calm.

“She’s eighteen. She’s made her choices. Keep calling her, and if you don’t hear from her by tomorrow, get her grandmother to give us a call to file the report. For adults, it’s usually best if a close family member is the one to report the disappearance.”

“But—”

Hennessy stood, cutting off my words. “The girl is probably holed up with her boyfriend somewhere and will more than likely show up today. If she doesn’t, then we can worry.”

I shot out of my chair, crossed my arms, and stared down Hennessy. “You don’t know her. This isn’t like her at all. And I swear to God, if something happens to her, I’m going to rain down hell on this police department for refusing to take me seriously.”

Hennessy’s gaze dropped to the floor as he debated what to say in the face of my threat. Capitalizing on his inattention, my eyes shot to the computer screen where Derrick Rockins’s information was listed—including his address. If the police wouldn’t take me seriously, I’d do my own digging.

Without waiting for a response, I spun and took a step away from Hennessy. When his big hand caught my elbow and pulled me to a stop, I met his bright green gaze with my determined one.

“Don’t do anything stupid, Valentina. This isn’t something you want to get involved in. Get the grandmother to call me tomorrow, and we’ll figure it out.”

I hoped my face was set into an unreadable mask, because I had absolutely no intention of following his directive. Shaking off Hennessy’s arm, I straightened my shoulders and gripped my handbag.

“I’ll do whatever the hell I want. I care about her, even if it’s clear that you guys don’t.”

Whatever Hennessy was going to reply was lost when the doors to the room swung open and a loud group of officers entered.

I slipped out behind them. I was on a mission.

I SHOULDN’T BE HERE.

I knew it the minute I drove into this neighborhood, and so did the men on stoops eying my red Tesla roadster. I had a feeling they weren’t admiring its awesome engineering. But to find Trinity, I was willing to do whatever it took.

Driving slowly, I searched the fronts of the dilapidated houses for the address I’d memorized from Hennessy’s computer screen. Most of the house numbers were barely hanging on. I checked the slip of paper I’d written the address on. I was in the right place.

Psyching myself up, I parked and pushed open the door to the car, locked it, and hugged my purse close to my body. I swore I could feel eyes on me from every direction.

Doesn’t matter. I’ve got this.

Mental pep talk complete, I glanced back at my car, hoping it would still be there when I got back. Hennessy was right. I had no business being here, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

Forcing confidence into my stride, I headed for the sidewalk and the gnarled chain-link gate blocking the walk up to the house. Luckily the metal latch was in good working order, which meant I probably wouldn’t need a tetanus shot from touching it.

After opening the gate partway and sliding inside the yard, I took a deep breath and strode up the cracked concrete to the porch. At least the steps had been recently replaced, so I wasn’t at risk of falling through them as I climbed up. The screen door also looked relatively new, but the doorbell I pressed looked ancient.

I listened for the telltale chime from inside that would let me know the thing actually worked, but heard nothing. Pressing it a few more times for good measure, I continued to wait. Nothing.

“Ain’t fixed yet.”

I spun around at the deep, rough voice coming from behind me. A man leaned against the inside of the gate, watching me. I hadn’t even heard him come through it. Clutching my purse closer, I thought about the Smith & Wesson inside and prayed to God I never had to use it.

Something about this guy told me I might need it. Menace. It came off him in waves. But under it, he was also strangely gorgeous, which didn’t make sense.

I took in his light caramel-colored skin, hair buzzed to a dark shadow, his T-shirt stretching across a broad, well-muscled chest. Intricate designs in black ink wrapped around thick biceps and forearms. I dragged my gaze back to his face, finding his piercing silver eyes assessing me as carefully as I did him.

Swallowing, I got to my purpose for being here. “Do you know Derrick Rockins?”

The man’s carved features gave nothing away. Jesus. Was his going to be the last face I saw before I ended up in the trunk of a car and my parents had to file a missing person’s report for me?

My heart hammered and my palms sweat where I held on to the leather of my purse.

After a long silence, he finally responded. “This ain’t the kind of neighborhood you come to and start asking questions. Woman like you? It won’t take long before someone decides not to let you leave.”