Authors: Bella Love-Wins
Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #New Adult and College Romance, #New Adult and College, #Coming of Age, #Mystery Thrillers and Suspense, #Women's Fiction
The Wild Flames Series, Book 2
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. March 10, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Bella Love-Wins.
Written by Bella Love-Wins.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This series is dedicated to love and friendship. May the lover in your bed also be your true friend.
~ Can a man and a woman be ‘just friends’ forever?
Or will one always fall for the other? ~
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Once again thank you, I hope you enjoy TORCHED!
he sun peeked through the window of the hotel suite in Paradise Inn as Kevin walked out onto the balcony. A cool autumn breeze greeted him. It was a much different scene playing out before him, compared to the night before. It was peaceful, and most of the police activity had diminished. Only one patrol car remained. Kevin wondered if everyone else was out looking for his brother.
Jake was smart, despite some of his most recent behavior. He would easily find places to hide. Kevin was sure he wasn’t in custody. Had that been the case, Jake would have called him. As he stretched, he turned his attention to the sounds behind him. The water cascading from the shower sounded so inviting, promising a brief escape. Tara was almost finished and would hopefully be more relaxed.
Kevin absent-mindedly ran his hands over the banister of the balcony, and his thoughts returned to his brother.
How could Jake do this?
It was still a struggle to accept the truth. It didn’t seem real. All the lines between certainty and doubt were blurred. Only one image stood out. The obsessive look in Jake’s eyes when he talked about Tara was almost frightening. Jake was in love with her, and was under the impression she had the same feelings for him. Kevin shook his head as he thought about it. His brother was delusional and needed help. Making the call had been the right thing to do.
As he reminded himself that he had no other choice, he felt Tara’s arms wrap around his waist. Her touch was so electric, it tugged at his chest every time.
“Do you feel better?” he asked, turning around so he could face her.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and nodded slightly.
“A little,” she answered.
She was so beautiful, even in a hotel bathrobe, with her hair twisted up into a wet bun.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through this,” he said, searching deep in her eyes.
“You have been through a lot, too,” she replied, slowly reaching up to touch his nose. “Is it still tender?”
Kevin couldn’t hold back his instinctive wince. A pain shot through his nose.
“Just a little,” he said.
It was sore and hurt like hell, but he didn’t want her worrying about it.
“Do I have a black eye?” he asked.
Tara shrugged. “Slightly. It’s not as bad as I thought.”
“I suppose we have to look on the bright side.” He snickered. The vision of the fight made him tense up. “If there is one.”
Tara smiled. “We’ll get through it. I think we can get through just about anything, as long as we have each other.”
Kevin had never imagined she could be so strong. They had spent the night wrapped in each other’s arms. He didn’t want to let her go. He kept telling himself he wanted to keep her safe, but the truth was...he needed her comfort.
“I love you, Tara,” he whispered. He leaned down and planted a soft kiss on her lips. Sadly, the sound of the phone ringing in the background tugged him from his trance. He sighed, pulling from her embrace to step back inside and answer his phone. “Hello?”
“Hello, is this Mr. Kevin Crawford?” a male voice asked on the other end.
Kevin glanced up at Tara. “Yes. This is Kevin.”
“My name is Sergeant Lucas Sullivan and I’m a Desk Sergeant at Forrest Hills PD. Officers Jessup and Grayson would like to ask you a few questions and wondered if you’d be available today to come into the station.”
Kevin felt a pit forming in his stomach. He wanted to forget about the past few weeks. He had done his part and called in an anonymous tip to alert the police about Jake. It should have been enough that he blocked his phone number before calling. Now he had to find a way there in person, and with his car still stranded in the woods.
“I could possibly be there after lunch...maybe one o’clock,” he replied with frustration, hearing the slight falter in his voice.
“Thank you. I’ll be sure to let them know.” The call disconnected before Kevin could reply.
He put the phone down and turned to Tara.
“What was that about?” she asked.
“The police want to talk to me.”
Kevin did his best to sound confident, but hesitation already had a foothold in his mind. He noticed Tara’s wide-eyed expression, and knew he had to give her some reassurance.
“It’ll be fine,” he started. “They probably just want to—”
“To question how Jake could have been with us, when he murdered Amy,” Tara said abruptly.
Her face fell as she slumped down to the sofa. Kevin saw the panic in her eyes.
“The truth is going to come out, Kevin,” she blurted. “We’re going to get thrown in jail and everyone’s going to think we had something to do with it. How are we going to explain all of this?”
He took her hand to get her attention. She had a tormented expression on her face, as if she thought their world was coming to an end.
“Nothing good can come of this,” she said, seeming drained of energy.
Kevin motioned for her to sit down. Her hand remained in his grasp. She looked away from him, but not before he saw tears in her eyes. “Hey...look at me.”
She shook her head, keeping her eyes downcast. He reached up with his other hand and touched her chin. She slowly turned her head, until she looked in his direction.
“Whatever happened to being positive over this?” He smiled tenderly at her. “I know it won’t be easy, but you said it yourself...as long as we have each other, it’ll work out.” She nodded, but still looked troubled. “I promise you. I won’t let anything happen to you. You can trust me. You know that, right?” A trickle of tears had fallen down her cheek, and he brushed them away.
A heavy-hearted sigh escaped her. “Yes, but...”
He placed his finger to her irresistible lips. “Trust me. We’ll get through this.” He moved closer, replacing his finger with his mouth. She started to relax into the kiss. When he felt confident enough, he pulled away. “Let’s get dressed and find someone to take care of the car.” He stood up, pulling her to her feet. The apprehension was evident, but he’d keep his promise. He had no other choice.
ara wanted to be strong for Kevin’s sake. When the news reports began to showcase the hat Kevin had bought Jake when he was younger, she had no doubt Jake was the murderer. The realization hit her hard and she didn’t know if she’d be able to get through the night. However, Kevin remained positive. He held her close, and it helped her feel secure enough to sleep. He’d appeared tired last night. It was her turn to be the strong one. He needed her, and she didn’t want to let him down.
They walked back to his car. Neither of them said a word, but the occasional heavy sigh and clearing of a throat could be heard. She couldn’t stop thinking about the day ahead of them.
What would they say? Would they believe him? What if they didn’t believe him?
The tow truck had not arrived yet, so the minute they reached the car, Kevin went into action.
He climbed into his car and attempted to start it. Again, it only sputtered and died. Tara shoved her hands into her coat pockets as she watched Kevin try again. It didn’t change the outcome.
“Are you out of gas?” she asked.
“Doubtful. I just got gas two days ago and I filled the tank up.” He pulled the lever to the hood, then got out of the car and went around to the front. Tara held back, because she didn’t want to be in his way. He looked over the engine. She listened to his slight murmurs, until he eventually closed the hood and went back to the car, retrieving the keys.
“Come up with anything?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I never was too handy when it came to cars.” He leaned against the side of the vehicle, where they’d have to wait for the tow truck. She didn’t mind the wait, but it gave her too much time to ponder the possibilities of what could happen. “It doesn’t help to think about what you can’t control,” he said.
She snorted, surprised he’d picked up on her thoughts, and opened her mouth to say something.
He continued before she had the chance. “I know...I’ve been thinking the same thing.”
“You have?” she asked in a curious tone.
He nodded. “What can I possibly say to them? Will they believe my story? If they don’t...I can’t even imagine what will happen.” He raised his bottom lip, seeming deep in contemplation. “Am I right for being a little afraid?”
It was like he’d read her mind.
“I supposed I’m just worried,” she answered.
“I know, but I’m not going to let anything happen to you or me. I’ll handle it and until then...we’ll have to leave it at that. Can you?”
She wanted to believe it. She could trust him. She had to. She saw a tow truck heading toward them, and she wanted him to hear her answer before the driver would be within earshot.
“I can,” she replied. She reached across and took his hand, gently squeezing it. It felt good saying those words.
They both stepped back and waited for the tow truck driver to park. The driver, a short, burly man in his forties, stepped down and surveyed the car, before he approached them.
“Where’d you like me to take it?” he asked. He didn’t bother to say hello.
“Um...wherever isn’t too expensive. I guess you could take it to the shop on Waverly Avenue,” Kevin said.
Waverly Avenue would be the closest one for them to get to.
“Okay. I’ll load her up.” The man began the process of attaching the car to the tow truck.
“How are we going to get there?” Tara whispered.
Kevin glanced at her, and then turned back to the tow truck driver. “Are you able to give us a lift there?”
She had not expected the suggestion. The driver turned around to look at Kevin and then Tara. He may have been sizing them up.
“Sure, if you don’t mind being cramped.”
“Thank you,” Kevin said. He glanced at Tara and smiled proudly. They waited for him to finish hooking up the car before he directed them both into the truck.
Tara hung back, hoping Kevin would get into the vehicle first and sit next to the strange man. Instead, Kevin motioned for her to enter first. She stared in shock, having never ridden in a tow truck before, but proceeded and climbed into the passenger side.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered.
“What, first time in such a rocking ride?” the driver chimed in.
“Um, yes,” she confirmed.
“Well, don’t you worry about a thing, little lady,” he said, chewing a little harder on the toothpick in his mouth. “I’ll get you over there in a jiffy.”
Once they were all seated, he started the truck and took off. Immediately, Tara was relieved that the auto repair shop was only a few minutes away. She was sandwiched between the two men, with very little wiggle room. She found herself inching closer and closer to Kevin. The driver was a lot huskier than Kevin. Periodically he shifted in his seat, which made Tara uncomfortable.
He also smelled of Mint and tobacco, which choked her whenever she got a strong whiff. When he pulled into the parking lot of their destination, she couldn’t get out fast enough.
“Thank you for the ride,” Kevin said, helping Tara down from the truck.
“No problem. Good luck with your car.”
While the tow truck driver unloaded the car, they headed into the reception area. They were one step closer to getting the car fixed. Next, they needed to get over to the police station. She already wanted the day over.