Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Got a Secret ... Can You Keep it? (Part Twenty-three)
Janice gasped and struggled to get to her feet, but Ciel snatched feebly at her sleeve. “Don't leave me.”
Janice's eyes were wild, her face paler than ever. “Okay, but I have to see.” Janice shimmied forward and glanced around the corner of the SUV.
Melinda Jeffries held court within the triad of men—two who wanted to bring her in and one who was grievously devastated—with her gun arm pointed at the sky. The crack of the gunshot echoed in the silence surrounding them. She pivoted slowly, staring each of them down in turn, her gaze ending on Hoffstra. “Who the hell are you?”
“Detective Hoffstra, ma'am. I was hired by the Strohms to locate Janice.” Hoffstra gave off an air of calm as if the conversation were about something mundane.
“And him?” Melinda jabbed her chin in the direction of the man in the plaid shirt.
“Ed Jansen, bounty hunter.” Hoffstra stared past Melinda for a moment, a hardness in his eyes. “Maybe a bit too eager to collect his reward.”
Ed snorted. “Y'all are too easygoing. If I had my way, this filly'd be all trussed up in the backseat of my car and on the way to jail by now.” He rubbed a hand over his stubble-covered jaw and spit in the dirt, all traces of humor leaving his expression. “Crazy bitch coulda killed somebody! This is why I like to work on my own, do shit my way.”
Paul Jeffries strode forward, placing himself between Melinda and Ed, and pointed a finger at Ed. “Put that goddamn gun away! Where's she going out here in the middle of nowhere? The girls are safe—mission accomplished!”
Ed shook his head. “You hear this shit, Hoffstra? Why in the hell would you bring him out here?”
“Stand down, Ed. The deal was Mr. Jeffries got to come with us in exchange for the location.”
“I'll back off when Driving Miss Crazy here puts her weapon DOWN!” Ed shouted back.
The arguing was cut short by the thump of Melinda's gun landing at Paul's feet. She stared at her still-open hand and drew in a deep breath before raising her eyes to meet his. Her mouth worked soundlessly, and then she seemed to crumple, curling in on herself until she melted to the ground in a ball of rocking agony. Aggrieved sobs shook her small frame, the fingers of her right hand tracing the bitter memories mapped across her face.
Paul Jeffries fell to his knees at Melinda's side and embraced her, making unintelligible sounds against the dark tangle of her hair. Tears slid down his cheeks. “Remember the waterfall, Mindy . . .” he pled softly.
Melinda cried harder, her trembling fingers coming up to grasp his strong arms.
Janice watched the scene play out, her body quaking. “How could he after what she did to us . . . to me. He said he loved me.”
Ciel tried to ignore the agonizing pain wracking her body. There were two of Janice now, shimmering in the air above her. “Your aunt's sick, but there's . . . something wrong . . . with a man of his . . . age doing what he did . . . with you.”
Janice didn't answer—or maybe Ciel couldn't hear her anymore. A dark veil washed over Ciel, taking sound and sensation with it. Voices echoed faintly down a dark tunnel, growing hazy and distant until there was nothing.
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook