Kash came to kneel in front of me and grabbed my chin in one hand to make me look up at him. His anger was gone and he looked just as lost as Mason. “Baby, what are you talking about? Tell me what was wrong in here.”

I told him about the lingerie, journal, and laptop, how they were laid out, and I whispered to him about the song that had been clicked on. His expression grew darker with each new item, and when I told him about the dishwasher, he made Mason go look in it. “So . . . so the pancakes weren’t you either?”

The boys stopped talking and looked at me again. “There were pancakes too?”

“No. Remember the night I was making pancakes for you when you came over? The night Mason came to hide from his boss.” When Kash nodded, I continued. “When I got out of the shower that night, the skillet was out and turned on. There were bowls, measuring cups, the whisk, and pancake mix. I thought you were trying to hint that you wanted me to make them for you.” Both of their eyebrows shot straight up. Oh my God, it really hadn’t been them. What the hell was happening?!

“Shit,” Kash mumbled, and his head fell back. He just looked at the ceiling for a few moments before whispering something to Mason. Mason walked quickly out of the apartment, his phone going to his ear. “Rach, I need to tell you something. But I don’t want you upset with me. You need to know that Mason and I did this to protect you, all right?”

My stomach dropped and I could swear my heart skipped a few beats.

“Do you trust me?”

Of course I trust him . . . or I did, up until tonight. And after that intro to the conversation, I’m really starting to rethink all that. And why did Mason leave? I think I need him here with me. Where is Candice? Shouldn’t she be home soon? Why the hell was the dishwasher on . . . Oh my God! Kash is going to tell me that I’m insane and he’s going to send me away. I’m the crazy girl who turns on dishwashers with nothing in them and lays out lingerie!

“Do. You. Trust me?”

“I’m not crazy!” I snapped, and then my hands flew over my mouth. That’s exactly what crazy people say! “Why is it so hot in here?”

“Rachel . . . Rach. Come on, babe, just breathe, you’re going to make yourself pass out.” Kash was suddenly on the couch with me, pulling me to the side and into him so my back was against his chest. He took deep breaths in and out and kept one hand on my chest, forcing me to breathe in sync with him. “Better?” he asked softly in my ear after a couple minutes of our breathing together.


My body slumped into his and I shut my eyes. “Yeah.”

“You’re not crazy, sweetheart. I need you to listen to me though, all right?”

I nodded. “And I do trust you.”

With a kiss to my temple, he moved me out from between his legs and situated me so we were facing each other. “Now, let me say all of this before you respond, and try to keep an open mind.” He cracked his neck and thought for too long before he began. “I didn’t take you on the trip to The Vineyard for the sole purpose of us being alone. The trip was amazing. I loved every second with you. But I took you to get you away from here. A couple days before we left, Mason and I separately ran into a guy who was looking in your windows. When he was confronted, he said he was your dad.”

I gasped and jerked back. That’s not possible. My mouth opened but Kash spoke before I could get anything out.

“We both knew he wasn’t. We didn’t even have to know about your parents’ being gone to know he wasn’t. He was stumbling over his own words, and when I was talking to him he got a phone call. He said it was you, and whomever he was talking to let him go on acting like it was you. Said you were out eating breakfast with Candice and he was going to meet you. While all of this was going on, you were asleep in my bed and Candice was at camp.

“Mason and I kept a watch for the next couple days; that’s why we tried to get you and Candice to go out so much. He kept coming back; he’d just sit in the parking lot in a dark green Explorer for hours on end, and every once in a while he’d come back and try to get in your apartment or just look in the windows. He got a few more calls while in the breezeway that we were able to listen to. And in the one I heard the morning that we left, he was calling the person he spoke to West.”

My heart was pounding. I didn’t understand what was happening now any more than I had earlier. “West, as in Blake?”

“We think so.”

“Oh my God.” Hyperventilating back full force.

Kash’s face grew tense. “He also said that the package had come in and he’d be putting it on your car as soon as you came back . . . and then ‘West’ could track you.”

“There’s a tracking device on my car?!”

“Baby, no. He put one on but you and I were already gone. Mason took it off and destroyed it.”

“Oh my God,” I repeated, and dropped my head into my hands. “Why is he doing this?”

“That’s not all.” A whimper left my throat and I pulled my legs back up onto the couch to curl into a ball. “I knew I needed to get you out of here so I already had my stuff packed and was waiting for him to leave—he would randomly leave for anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour—and I heard another call. All I heard was him talking about you being at the mall, like he was confirming that’s what someone said, and then he said he was on his way there. You and Candice came back fifteen minutes later. That’s why I didn’t give you time to pack or get ready, and Mason texted me saying he came back not even ten minutes after we left.”

“How did they know we were at the mall?!”

Kash grimaced. “Is Candice in contact with Blake a lot?”

My head snapped back. “What? Why would you ask that?”

“Someone had to tell Blake that the two of you were at the mall. Was Candice texting or calling anyone that day? Does she tell you if she talks to him?”

“She knows I don’t want to talk about him; she was so mad when I told her about what he did. That was the first time she’d ever gotten mad at me like that. So we don’t talk about him or that day at all. I mean—she and Eli went to go see him that night Eli was in town, but that was . . . that was Eli who brought it up. Not her. But Candice is always texting someone—like, it’s weird if she’s not on her phone—so I can’t say who she ever is or isn’t talking to. But I do know she talks to him a lot at our classes and hangs out with him.”

He nodded his head and sighed heavily as he held my stare. “I don’t want to say this about her, but I think she’s unknowingly giving Blake information about you.”

I was going to throw up. Or pass out. Okay, maybe both. Trying to take deep breaths, I clasped my hands together and the shaking in my body seemed to only get worse. “She didn’t believe me, but she wouldn’t hurt me.” But she still may have told Blake where you work . . .

“I’m not saying that. I said ‘unknowingly.’ If she’s telling him anything, she doesn’t realize she is, because he’s probably asking in a way where she wouldn’t realize it. I can’t be sure though, we’d need her phone.”

“Why is he doing this—why can’t he just leave me alone? Wait. Why are you telling me all this now? Do you think that guy was in here?” All the blood drained from my face. “Oh God. Was it Blake? Was Blake in here?”

“I don’t know, Rach. But who else knows about the journal and song other than me?”

“Um, C-Candice’s entire family knows about the journal, but only Candice knows about the song.”

“And who knows about pancakes besides us?” he asked softly, and reached for me.

“Oh God,” I cried, and my vision instantly blurred as I let him pull me back into his lap.

“Shh. It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m going to keep you safe. I swear.” His lips brushed my forehead and he held me tighter to him. “If Candice hasn’t told him about those things, then either Blake or the other guy is watching us a lot closer than we thought. Do you know a Marvin Cross?”

I tried to think, but my head was spinning with all this new information. “Um, I don’t—I don’t think so. It doesn’t sound familiar. Why?”

“That’s the guy’s name. If you ever see a dark green Explorer, I want you to call me.”

“How do you know his name?”

There was a short pause before his answer. “We called the police and had them run the license plate on the car.”

I didn’t think they would just give that information out. But I was so shaken up, I was sure I was just second-guessing everything right now. I shuddered when I thought about all the times I’d been near Blake recently. The possessive gleam in his eyes . . . his smile, like he had a secret . . . his vows to remind me whom I belonged to. I thought I’d been terrified of him before, but after all this new information, I knew I’d had no idea what he was capable of and fear ran through my veins like ice. “I can’t keep going to school. He’s always there, I can’t—I don’t want to be near him. And what if he knows where our apartment is? What if Candice told him? I can’t stay here, we need to leave! Oh, God—”

Kash grabbed my cheeks and kissed me soft and slow until my body sagged with exhaustion from everything I’d just learned. “I’ll keep you safe, Rachel. If you want to get away from here again, I’ll make it happen. Say the word and we’re gone, I swear.”

I sighed heavily and whispered against his lips, “Thank you.”



“WHY ARE YOU leaving so early?” Candice unwrapped her hair from the towel and vigorously rubbed at it before tossing the towel back into her room. “Or are you going to meet up with your man before class?”

I’d stayed with Kash last night and had only come back to change. “No, I’m, uh— Candice . . . I decided I’m going to withdraw from my courses.”

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