Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2) (38 page)

BOOK: Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2)
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It makes sense that Barbara is the one after me since she blames me for Justin going to prison, but where's Oliver? I know he's here in Long Beach, because he'd been asking for me. Are they working together to kill me?

Barbara smiles coldly at me once I have reached them. She stands directly in front of Ace, the gun about three inches from his forehead, but her eyes are now on focused on me. “I see you've gone and whored yourself out to someone else. You ruined my boy's life, and now you've replaced him with someone new.”

Ace moves a fraction of an inch, and Barbara's eyes flash to Ace with cold warning glinting in their depths. “Do it, pretty boy. Think you can stop my finger from pulling the trigger before you get the gun away from your face? Doubt it. Killing you would be just as good as killing Faith here. I can just as easily take you away from her like she took my Justin.”

His jaw clenches as he stares her down, not saying anything.

“Where's Oliver?” I ask, still keeping my hands up in the air.

I'd just seen one of the curtains in an apartment window on the third floor move slightly. This tells me that we have an audience, and someone likely called the cops. All I need to do is distract Barbara long enough for the police to arrive.

Barbara's eyes narrow on me. “Oliver? What's he got to do with anything?” Her lip curls as she asks in a scathing tone, “You planning on trying to take him from me, too? Not happening, bitch.”

I realize she has no idea Oliver is in town. What the heck is going on? I'm scared, but I do my best not to show it. My main concern is getting that gun off of Ace. “Look, you have me now. Let Ace go, he has nothing to do with any of this,” I try to plead.

Her eyes flash angrily. “He's your boyfriend, isn't he?”

My silence is all the answer she needs.

“Then he has everything to do with this. What'd he do? Flash that fancy Hummer at you and you dropped your panties? Like 'em rich now, do you?” she taunts.

I don't dare look at Ace. I draw in a deep breath and try to keep my panic under control. “Barbara, I never wanted Justin to go to prison. I had no control over the situation once he stabbed me.”

“Liar! You pushed him to do it. You taunted him all the time, made him want you, then put on that little shy girl act. You played with his emotions, and when that wasn't fun enough anymore, you decided to breakup with him. My boy's in prison because of you!”

There's a part of me that's itching to tell her what I really think. No one deserves to be stabbed because they ended a relationship. I didn't deserve any of the things Justin did to me. But with a gun pointed at Ace's head, now is not the time to push forward with the newfound confidence I've found within myself.

“Nothing changes if you kill me,” I point out softly. “He'll still be in prison.”

“No, he won't!” she shouts bitterly, causing me to flinch slightly. “Do you know what they do to good-looking boys in prison? My son has gone through hell. You know what he tried to do three months ago? He tried to kill himself. He's not going to last another month, let alone live out the rest of his sentence. He's given up! My boy wants to die because you put him in that place with those sick monsters,” she accuses.

“Barbara—” My voice is cut off when a car recklessly pulls up into the parking lot.

Barbara stiffens, and her finger tightens on the trigger, causing me and Ace to tense up in alarm. Her eyes flash to the newcomer, and then they widen as Oliver jumps out of the driver's seat and rushes towards us. “Oliver? What are you doing here?” she asks with puzzlement.

“I've been trying to track you down since you left Harrison,” Oliver says as his blue eyes jump from his mother's gun, to Ace, and then to me. “It took a while, but I finally figured out you took off after Faith and that she came here to Long Beach. When I couldn't find you anywhere, I started following Faith. I thought I had you the other night at the theater, but then you disappeared with that crowd that was leaving after the show ended,” he says calmly.

All this time I thought I was being paranoid, when in reality it was Barbara stalking me. She’s been here in Long Beach for weeks, and I’d had no idea. God, she was the one who drove that car through the stoplights when that jogger pushed me out of the way. I hadn’t a clue she was after me, because we’d been concentrating on watching Oliver.

Now, I’m extremely thankful that I’d always taken care to stay in public, and that I never went anywhere secluded on my own. Those decisions had likely saved my life.

My attention shifts back to the present, and it's eerie how Barbara's hand stays steady as she keeps the gun pointed at Ace's head. The only thing keeping Ace from pushing it aside is the fact that there's no guarantee he can get out of the line of fire in time. I allow my eyes to shift to him and find that his eyes are on mine. I can see the simmering anger and frustration in his gaze over the fact that he's virtually helpless. Our fate lies in my hands, and quite possibly Oliver's. Now that I know he's not in Long Beach to kill me—I think—maybe he can calm his mother down.

Barbara frowns at her son. “You were at the theater? Faith was supposed to lose her life that night, but there were too many people around. I didn't realize there'd be so many leaving at the same time. I had no choice but to bail.”

“Mom, you can't kill her. I know you want to, but you have to let her live,” Oliver pleads as sweat begins to break out on his wide forehead.

“Why?” Barbara asks as her eyes fill with tears. Her hand begins to tremble slightly, and I stare at her finger on the trigger worriedly. “Justin's as good as dead, and it's all
her
fault.”

“I know, and I'm not disagreeing. But you love me, right?” Oliver asks as he slowly walks forward to stand near Ace. He's nearly as tall as Ace, only skinny and lanky whereas Ace is all solid muscle. He looks a bit pitiful next to him. As I stare at Oliver, I wonder how in the world he's going to get his mom to back down.

“Of course, I do,” Barbra says instantly.

“Then don't leave me. You kill this guy, or even Faith, and you go to prison. That agony you feel for Justin, that's the same thing I'll feel if you leave me. And what about Dad? He needs you. Mom, he has no idea you've been trying to hurt Faith all this time. If you put away the gun, we can leave Long Beach. He never has to know.”

Barbara is silent for a long moment, her eyes skittering from Ace to Oliver, then she finally stares at me bitterly. “You should die for what you've done to my son.”

I want to scream at her that I did absolutely nothing, that he's the one who almost killed me. Unfortunately, that won't help the situation.

I watch with horror as Oliver calmly reaches up and clamps his hand around the barrel of the gun. “Don't, Mom. For me, please,” he pleads, his expression coaxing as a bead of sweat trickles from his buzzed hairline and down his temple.

Barbara stares at her son, her finger reluctantly easing off the trigger while Oliver gently pushes the barrel away from Ace's head. 

Ace slowly inches his way closer to me, his hand reaching out for my own. When his fingers brush mine, I clasp his hand tightly. 

“Let go of the gun,” Barbara says as she snaps back to reality and struggles to yank the gun out of Oliver's grip.

“I will when they are safely inside. Go,” Oliver says curtly to us.

“No!” Barbara wails as she continues to tug on the gun.

It's a dangerous game Oliver is playing, and I am grateful that in this horrific moment, he's on our side. Ace doesn't need further persuading. He quickly shoves me towards the nearest entrance doorway while shielding me with his body. As we race for the door I hear Barbara screaming, “Let go!”

We're ten feet from the door when we hear Oliver shout, “Duck!”

Next thing I know, I am once again being tackled to the pavement as rapid gunfire echoes throughout the parking lot. My forehead head slams into the pavement as Ace's body lands heavily on mine, his arms folding over my head protectively. I lie there, feeling slightly disoriented as my ears ring and wooziness sweeps over me. I float on a haze of confusion until I feel myself being turned over. I stare up at Ace and watch as he anxiously skims his hands over my body, searching for wounds.

I blink up at him and try to distance myself from the sickening pain that's throbbing behind my forehead. “What happened?”

Ace gives up his search, looking relieved as he peers down at me. “She got control of the gun, and the police stepped in.”

I struggle to sit up, and Ace slips an arm around me. I can hear a commotion going on, so I manage to get my feet beneath me and cautiously stand up. Ace's arm stays wrapped around me protectively as I stare at the scene in the parking lot.

Oliver is crouching over his mother's prone form on pavement, and her clothing is now scarlet red. He's crying with anguish while three police officers hover around him with guns pointed. Two more officers are making their way towards us, guns aimed.

Both Ace and I quickly put our hands up.

Chapter Forty
Faith

 

It's hours later when Ace and I eventually take the elevator up to the second floor. His arm is still wrapped protectively around me while I lean into him, my head resting on his chest near his heart. It has been a traumatic evening, and I am still caught up in the shock of it all. I still can't believe Barbara is dead. 

As for Oliver...I may not like him, but it had been painful to see him mourning his mother. There was a part of me that had wanted to walk over and give him some sort of comfort, but I didn't. It wasn't my place. Oliver did glance at us once as the officers managed to pull him away from his mother's body, and he'd given Ace a respective nod and me a hard stare. I have a feeling he'll always blame me for the deterioration of his family, but I know he'll never seek revenge. If that was what he wanted, he would have done it while he had the chance.

I can finally lay my past to rest.

Ace is stoically silent as we wait for the elevator to open up on our floor. It's been a very intense couple of hours and quite exhausting answering all the questions. Once we'd been released to leave the crime scene, we'd simply clung to each other as we'd gone inside and made our way to the elevator.

The doors slide open, and we step into the hallway. I spy Zoey and Caleb immediately. They are lounging outside my apartment door, clearly waiting on us. As we walk towards them, Zoey spies us first and she quickly bounds towards us, flinging herself at Ace. He lets go of me to wrap his arms around her while I'm engulfed in a warm hug from Caleb.

Emotional tears prick my eyes as I cling to him. I almost lost my life for the second time in just over a year. As I tremble from the reality of it, I let my body lean against Caleb’s with exhaustion. My elbows have bandages on them, and it hurts every time I bend them. My knees ache, my head throbs, and my tongue hurts just to talk. I'd refused a trip to the hospital—much to Ace's irritation—and had been released from the paramedics with a slight concussion and some abrasions. Thankfully, I didn't need stitches for my tongue.

“We couldn't believe it when someone hollered in the hallway that someone had a gun in the parking lot. The second we heard the news, we knew it had to do with Faith,” Caleb says grimly as he rubs my back.

“The neighbor’s down the hall let us into their apartment since their window overlooks the parking lot. That is one nightmare I never want to have to watch again,” I hear Zoey say shakily. “We thought you guys were goners at the end until you stood up.”

“It was close,” Ace agrees.

“Who was that woman?” Caleb asks. “I thought it was Oliver who was after Faith.”

I'm not in the mood to be a part of the conversation, so I keep my head tucked into Caleb's chest while he continues to comfort me.

“Long fucking story, and she's about to drop,” I hear Ace say as I feel his hands on my shoulders. I'm once again pulled into the protectiveness of his embrace.

I look up at Caleb with pleading eyes. “Will you call my parents and tell them I'm safe? Tell them it was Barbara all along, and that it's over. I'll call them later tonight, I just...”

“She doesn't feel up to answering another round of questions. She's banged up and has a concussion. I just want to get her inside and let her unwind for a while before she starts getting grilled again,” Ace finishes for me.

“Yes, I’ll call them, and I'll be sure to point out that you'll call them when you're ready,” Caleb agrees as he leans forward to give me one last careful hug. Zoey hugs me too, and then Ace is ushering me inside. He directs me straight to the couch and hovers over me as I sink into the cushions, my eyes flickering shut with relief. It simply feels good to sit.

“No sleeping,” Ace warns. “I'm going to go run you a bath. Don't move.”

I open my eyes to peer up at him with amusement. “You don't have to fuss over me.”

“My adrenaline is still rushing, and I need something to do,” he bites out before he turns and walks off down the hallway.

Yikes. I get the feeling he's mad at me. I'm sure he'll clue me in soon enough, so I'm not going to dwell on his anger. He'll talk when he's ready.

A soft sigh escapes me as my thoughts shift, and I relax and wait for the bath to be ready. It sounds wonderful, and it'll keep my muscles from tightening up. I'm going to be extremely sore tomorrow. I see Daisy bound into the living room, and she immediately jumps up on my lap. I smile and pet her for a few minutes until I remember I have to feed her. After easing her off my lap, I gingerly rise to my feet, wincing slightly as my sore knees protest.

I'm just squatting down and pouring Daisy's food in her bowl when I hear Ace say, “What is it with you refusing the simplest of orders?”

My eyes roll as I cautiously stand up and set the box of food on the counter. I see that he's standing several feet away, arms crossed as he watches me. He's been ridiculously bossy lately when it comes to protecting me. I've always known Ace is stubborn and a man of action, so I'd known that if he ever found out about Oliver, he'd go all alpha male on me.

“I'm not an invalid,” I point out.

His expression tightens. “No, you're not. But is it that hard to follow an order when it's in your best interest?”

My eyebrows rise. “Until recently, no.” I smile sweetly at him. “I have you to thank for that.”

Amusement flickers in his intense gaze before he outright glares at me. “When I say crawl under the cars and go for the door that means go for the goddamned door. You don't fucking stand up like you're in a damned whack-a-mole game so that you can get your head blown off.”

“I was worried about you,” I say defensively.

His expression softens as he walks over to me. “You scared the ever lovin' shit out of me.”

“I'd do it again in a heartbeat,” I say firmly. “It's you and me or not at all.”

He reaches out and runs the pad of his thumb over my lower lip. “The way it should be,” he agrees as he lets go of his anger towards me. “Let's get you in the tub.”

I allow him to lead me into the bathroom, and I see that the tub is filled almost to the top. He'd even added bubble bath, so there's a coating of fluffy bubbles across the top. “That looks like heaven to me,” I say longingly as I make a move to pull off my top, but wince when my elbows begin to bend.

“Let me.” Ace very gently eases my shirt over my head. While I stand motionless, he strips me down carefully until I'm completely naked. Then, he helps me step in the tub. I sink down into the bubbles, sighing as the warm water seeps into my skin. I'm careful to keep my elbows on the rim of the tub so the bandages won't get soaked.

Ace looks down at me with a hint of playful regret. “I'd be in there with you if you weren't hurting.”

“You should join me anyway,” I coax.

He shakes his head. “Our dinner was trampled in the parking lot, and I bet you're just as hungry as I am. You game for pizza?”

My mouth waters. “Definitely.”

“I'll go order it while you relax.”

I watch him disappear out the open door and spy Daisy peeking in at me, her green eyes looking curious. I usually take showers, not baths. This is a new sight for her. I smile as she cautiously enters the bathroom and sniffs the scented air. She quickly decides I'm not doing anything interesting and takes off, tail perked up as she goes in search of Ace.

Ace is back a couple minutes later, and he walks over to settle on the bathroom floor next to the tub. His eyes scans my body beneath the scattered bubbles, and he gives me a wicked look. “Need help washing anything?”

I laugh and shake my head. “Sex is never too far from your thoughts, is it?”

“Not when you're around,” he says with a grin before his eyes drop to my lips. “That tongue of yours is going to pose some interesting problems for the next few weeks.”

My heart sinks as I realize for the first time that I won't be experiencing any of Ace's seductive kisses until it heals. When I’d bit my tongue in the parking lot, I’d bit it damned good.

“Faith?”

“Hmm?” I ask as I gaze at him with heavy-lidded eyes. The warm bath has me feeling relaxed and comfortable.

“Now that you're safe, do you want me to move my shit back to my apartment?” he asks lightly, his eyes searching mine intently.

“I'd rather you stay,” I say, my eyes locking on his.

Life's too short to be hesitating over something that makes complete sense. Most people would probably consider living together after less than a month of dating to be rushing things. I don't agree. I think we're right on track.

Ace grins. “That's good since I had absolutely no intention of moving out.”

I give him an impish look. “You do realize that you're going to have to meet my family, right? Maybe we could fly to Harrison this coming weekend instead of driving down the coast.”

His gray eyes widen with comical horror. “This weekend? Already? Babe, your dad hates me right now. Can't we wait until this whole thing blows over for a bit before I have to face him?” He looks at me with adorable uncertainty. “I'm not sure how to get myself out of the doghouse where he's concerned.”

“You'll be fine,” I assure. “And I was kidding. I want you all to myself next weekend. But I do want you to meet my parents and Ben. They'll love you like I do,” I promise.

He leans forward and places a gentle kiss on my lips. “I hope so, because I'm not going anywhere. It's you and me from now on. You're it for me, and I'm never letting you go,” he says as his gray eyes stare into mine with an assuredness that lets me know that we're going to be just fine. We might have more hurdles to overcome in the future, but Ace will always meet me halfway.

A sense of contentment washes over me, and I savor it. I feel complete and whole again. My past has now been put to rest, and I have a future with Ace to look forward to.

Life is good.

No.

Life is
great.

 

 

Dear Reader,

 

I never truly understood how important book reviews are to an author until I became an author myself. They help offer more insight about the book for those that haven’t yet made up their minds if they’d like to purchase it. If you have a few minutes to spare before you move on to the next novel on your Kindle or reading device, please consider going to Amazon.com and writing a review. Thank you in advance to those of you who will choose to share your thoughts with other readers. As a self-published author, it is very much appreciated!! Also, whether you leave a review or not, thank you for purchasing this book. You, the reader, are the reason I continue to write.

 

Sincerely,

Dani Matthews

 

 

Jeremy’s story, Caged, is now available at Amazon.com. For further updates on upcoming novels, you can visit my author page at www.Facebook.com/DaniMatthews,author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK: Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2)
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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