Those lips curved up at the corners, a smile that said he was proud and he should be. Me saying his name at this point was a major accomplishment on his part, and if I had a reward cookie for him, I’d shove it right in his face. “Was that so hard?” he asked.

“Yes. It was hard,” I told him. “It blackened a part of my soul.”

A laugh erupted from him, which surprised the hell out of me. “Your soul is all rainbows and puppy dog tails, babe.”

I snorted. “My soul is deep and dark and full of other infinite meaningless things.”

“Meaningless things?” he repeated with another deep laugh as he reached up and scrubbed his fingers through his dark brown hair. It was cropped close on the sides, but a little longer on top than most cops had. “Well, if that’s the truth, it hasn’t always been that way.” The easy, somewhat—okay, totally— charming grin eased off his mouth and his lips formed a flat line. “Yeah, it wasn’t always like that.”

The next breath hitched in my throat. Reece and I . . . we’d known each other for a long time. When I’d been a freshman in high school, he’d been a junior, and even back then he’d been everything a girl could obsess over, and I’d crushed on him hard. Like, I had drawn hearts with his name in the center, my earliest and lamest doodles, across my notebook and treasured every time he’d smiled at me or looked in my direction. I’d been way too young and didn’t run in his circles, but he’d always been kind to me.

Probably had to do with the fact that he and his older brother, along with his parents, had moved into the house next door to my childhood home.

Anyway, he’d always been good to me and to Charlie, and when he’d left to join the Marines at eighteen, I’d been heartbroken, utterly devastated, because I’d convinced myself we’d get married and populate the world with lots of babies. Those years he was gone had been hard, and I’d never forget the day Mom had called me to tell me he was injured while at war. My heart had stopped and it took a long time for that suffocating ball of dread to lift, even after we were assured that he’d be okay. When he finally came home, I was old enough not to be considered jailbait and we’d actually become friends. Close, good friends. I’d been there for him during the worse moments of his life. Those terrible nights he’d drunk himself into a stupor or become so moody he was like a caged lion ready to bite the hand off anyone who approached him—anyone except me. But then one night with too much whiskey had ruined everything.

I’d spent years infatuated with him, always believing he was unobtainable, and no matter what had transpired between us that night, he would still never be mine.

Frustrated with where my thoughts had gone, I resisted the urge to chuck my tote at him. “Why in the world are we talking about my soul?”

One broad shoulder rose. “You brought it up.”


I opened my mouth to argue, but he was right, I had and that was kind of weird. A fine sheen of sweat had broken out across my forehead. “Why are you here?”

Two steps and his long legs ate up the distance between us. My toes curled against my sandals as I forced myself not to whirl around and scurry away. Reece was tall, coming in around six feet and three inches, and I was an unofficial member of the Lollipop Guild. His size was a wee bit intimidating, also a tiny bit sexy. “It’s about Henry Williams.”

In a split second, I forgot about the messy history Reece and I shared and the current shininess of my soul as I stared up at him. “What?”

“He’s out of jail, Roxy.”

The sweat turned to sleet on my skin. “I . . . I know he is. He’s been out for a couple of months. I kept up with the parole hearings. I—”

“I know,” he said quietly, intensely, and my stomach dropped to the ground. “You didn’t go to his last parole hearing, when he was released.”

That was a statement, more than a question, but I still shook my head. I’d gone to the one before that, but had been barely able to stomach the sight of Henry Williams. And from how the talk was cycling around, there had been a good chance he’d be released at the next hearing and low and behold, he had been. Rumor had it that Henry found God or something like that while in prison. Good for him.

But it didn’t change what he’d done.

Reece took off his sunglasses and startling blue eyes met mine. “I went to the hearing.”

Surprised, I took a step back. My mouth opened, but there were no words. I hadn’t known that—hadn’t even crossed my mind that he would do that or even why he would.

His gaze remained latched to mine. “During the hearing, he asked to—”

“No,” I said, almost shouted. “I know what he wanted. I heard what he wanted to do if he got out, and no. No times a billion. No. And the court can’t give that kind of permission anyway.”

Reece’s expression softened and something—something close to pity filled those eyes. “I know, but sweetheart, you also know you don’t have any say over it either.” There was a pause. “He wants to make amends, Roxy.”

My free hand tightened into a fist as helplessness rose like a swarm of bees inside me. “He can’t make amends for what he did.”

“I agree.”

It took me a moment as I stared up at him to realize what he was getting at, and it was like the ground shifted under my feet. “No,” I whispered, stomach twisting into knots. “Please tell me that Charlie’s parents did not give him permission. Please.”

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