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Authors: Minka Kent

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BOOK: When I Was You
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“He has demons,” she says, dabbing the inner corners of her eyes before shaking her head. “I knew they were deep. I just didn’t know they were this deep.”

“He lied to you. He lied to us both. How could you have known?” Never in a million years did I ever imagine I’d be sitting here comforting my imposter.

It crosses my mind for a moment that perhaps Niall—Shane—put her up to this. Perhaps this entire thing is nothing more than a ruse or a distraction or something to divert me—though from what I’m not sure.

“How did you know I was here?” I ask. “At the Pavilion today?”

She crumples one of the napkins in her hand, sitting up straighter. “I didn’t. I’d been driving around all day, trying to be anywhere but home, and I saw the car. There aren’t a lot of red A4s in town. Anyway, I pulled in . . . and then I saw you.”

I suppose stranger things have happened.

She glances down as if she’s lost in thought. “Thank you for talking to me, Brienne. I wanted to get my facts straight before I confronted Shane.”

“What’s his last name?” I ask. I’ve decided as soon as I leave, I’m going straight to the police, and after that I’m staying with Marisol.

“Knudsen,” she says.

And just like that, I know his real name: Shane Knudsen.

“I don’t think I caught your name,” I say.

“Sam.” She tucks a glossy brown strand of hair behind one ear, and I can’t help but check out her earrings. They’re small studs the color of citrine—nothing close to anything I own. “Sam Tucker.”

“What are you going to do now, Sam?” I ask.

She glances at the sidewalk, her arms crossed in front of her hips. And she shrugs. “Going to go tell him goodbye.”

“Do you think that’s safe?” I worry the inside of my lip.

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell him we talked.”

“No. I mean, do you think it’s safe for you? How’s he going to take it?” I ask.

“He’s not going to be happy about it, but he loves me. He’d never hurt me.”

CHAPTER 54

N
IALL

A car pulls into the driveway just past seven thirty.

Brienne’s finally home, which is a relief. I’d spent most of the day so focused on Sam that I didn’t stop to give much thought to the fact that Brienne basically went MIA.

But now she’s back.

I wait in the kitchen, checking my phone again.

Still no text from Sam.

A second later, the back door swings open.

“Hey, I wondered when you—” I stop talking when I realize it isn’t Brienne at all. “Sam, what are you doing here?”

I’m torn between wanting to berate her for ignoring me all day and having the nerve to walk into “Eleanor’s” house like she owns the place, but I force myself to remain calm.

“How could you?” Her voice trembles.

That’s a loaded question. I contemplate a response before deciding playing dumb is going to be in my best interest.

“You
lied
to me, Shane. And you’ve never lied to me.” She glances down, as if she can’t look at me right now. “Or maybe you have, and I was just too stupid to realize it.”

“Sam, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Gaslighting worked on Brienne. It should work on Sam, too.

She scoffs before crossing her arms over her chest. “I know who Brienne is.”

I wait for her to elaborate on how she knows, my ears pulsing hot and my heart in my throat.

She doesn’t.

“You told me Brienne Dougray wasn’t real,” Sam says. “And then you dressed me up like her. You
used
me.”

“Baby.” I’ll get on my knees right now if that’s what it’s going to take. A lump forms in my throat as I search for the right words. “I’m so sorry. Let me explain. I’ll tell you everything.”

I sound like every blowhard, second-chance-begging boyfriend from every romance movie ever made, but in this moment, I couldn’t care less. I’ll say and do whatever it takes to make this right, to get back in her good graces. She’s the only thing I’ve ever had and the only thing I ever want. She’s my constant. My everything.

I want to ask her how she found out who Brienne was, but the last thing a remorseful man should be asking is, “How’d ya catch me?” I’m sure I’ll find out later, when the smoke has cleared and she’s had time to cool off.

“Why, Shane?” Her eyes search mine.

“You have to understand,” I say. And then, just as I promised, I tell her everything. I tell her about Sonya’s asshole parents and her dying wish. I tell her about how perfectly everything aligned. I tell her about all the plans I have for us, for the future. And how the money I’ve taken so far has barely put a dent in Brienne’s net worth.

Sam is silent, warring with my justifications, but I’m confident she’ll come around. She’ll see it my way. She always does.

“No, Shane,” she says a moment later, voice broken. “Why’d you throw us away?”

I wrinkle my nose. “I didn’t throw us away. I did this for us.”

“You did this for yourself.” Her expression sours, and she turns her back to me, hand reaching for the back door.

“Sam, wait.” I can’t breathe. “We can fix this.”

She turns back to me. “No.
You
can fix this. And you will. Just leave me out of it.”

She’s on the back steps now, and I’m scrambling after her—something I’ve never done in my entire life. Over twenty-some years together and plenty of fights, not once has Sam ever walked away from me.

I stop and check my watch. I have no idea when Brienne’s coming back, but it’s probably better that Sam leaves, just in case. Sam isn’t the confrontational type, but I don’t know what Brienne will say or do if she comes face-to-face with her doppelgänger in her own home.

If the past is any indication, Sam’ll throw a fit, have her moment, and be back later. This time tomorrow she’ll be all kisses and apologies and make-up sex, and everything will be back to the way it’s always been.

I watch from the kitchen window as Sam backs out and speeds away.

She’ll be back.

She always comes back.

It’s almost eight when I send Brienne a text:
WORRIED ABOUT YOU. COMING HOME ANYTIME SOON OR SHOULD I SEND A SEARCH PARTY? :-)

It shows as “delivered” immediately, and I wait for a few minutes to see if it changes to “read.”

It doesn’t.

Dragging my hands through my hair, I decide this day can screw itself, and I head upstairs to change for bed. But before I turn in for the night, I grab the syringe and load it with a full draw of potassium chloride on the off chance the opportunity presents itself sooner than later. When I’m done, I place it in my top nightstand drawer and climb into bed.

I check my phone one last time, the brightness searing into my vision in the dark room. Brienne still hasn’t read my message.

Setting the phone facedown on the empty side of the bed, I roll to my side and shut my eyes. I’m moments from drifting off when I hear the back door open and close, the sound unmistakable in this silent old house.

Flinging the covers off my legs, I sit up and attempt to get out of bed making the least amount of noise as possible. Grabbing the syringe, I make sure it’s capped before tucking it into the waistband of my sweats, and then I make my way to the hall, stopping at the top of the stairs.

The gentle pad of her footsteps down her hallway travels up to mine, and I take the first few steps, ducking down until I can peer through the dining room windows. From where I stand, I catch the tail end of her red car parked in the driveway.

I take the rest of the stairs in silence and round the banister when I get to the bottom, making my way to her room at the end of the hall. I’m moving in damn near slow motion, but my body is reeling, a surge of energy expanding to every extremity as my stomach cartwheels and my heart beats off rhythm.

Her bedroom door is cracked, open maybe a foot or so, but her room is dark. Peeking in, I spot Brienne standing in front of her dresser, her dark hair shining against the moonlight that trickles in from her window.

Reaching for the syringe, I pull it from my elastic waistband and ready the warm plastic in my damp palm.

CHAPTER 55

B
RIENNE

“So what now?” I ask the detective when I’ve finished unloading my case.

Baker is the same detective they assigned to my assault case last year. In fact, I’m almost positive he’s the only detective the department has. While I’m disappointed in the lack of leads that came out of the last case, this one more or less solves itself.

“We’re going to dispatch someone over there shortly to bring him in,” he says. He hasn’t made eye contact with me more than a handful of times over the past hour. Either he thinks I’m certifiable, or he’s trying to wrap his head around this entire thing.

“And then what?” I ask. “Can you apprehend him? How does that work?”

I realize now that I’m shaking, and it has nothing to do with the temperature of his stuffy office. It’s adrenaline.

I shook for weeks after my attack, uncontrollable tremors that made my muscles ache for days at a time.

“Do you have a safe place you can stay tonight?” he asks.

“I do. But aren’t you going to take him into custody?”

Baker’s green eyes are half-winced. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s not quite like that for identity theft. And I’m not sure we’d have enough evidence
to get a warrant. You’ve given me quite a compelling story here, but aside from a few screenshots of your bank account, I’m not sure there’s enough hard evidence to build your case just yet. But filing a report is a good start. I suggest you get yourself a good attorney first thing Monday.”

I chew the inner corner of my lip.

This is exactly what I was afraid of. He isn’t taking me seriously, and there isn’t enough evidence to have Shane apprehended. They’re going to question him. And he’s going to run. I know it.

“Oh, by the way, been meaning to call you,” Detective Baker says, perking up. “Got a match on that DNA in your assault case from last year.”

“Oh, my God.” I lean forward. I vaguely recall they were able to scrape DNA from beneath my nails, but they told me not to get my hopes up and reminded me that sometimes it takes months to get results.

He turns to his computer, pecking in his password and entering some black-screened database.

“Name’s Derek Dunham,” he says. “He’s currently serving time in Anamosa for a string of robberies he committed earlier this year.” He angles the screen so I can see it better. The mug shot shows a young adult man with sandy hair, blue eyes, a pointed nose, and neck tattoos. “You know him?”

I study his face. “I’ve never seen him in my life.”

Baker was right all along. It was random. Truly a crime of opportunity.

I’m disappointed in the fact that a human being would do this to an innocent stranger, but the relief that floods my veins is a small consolation. At least I wasn’t targeted.

“All right, well, I’m going to send one of my guys over to the house,” he says. “I suggest you find a place to stay for the night, and we’ll reconvene in the morning.”

I leave the station, texting Marisol as I head to my car. I let her know I’m on my way—but it’s the strangest thing.

I thought I’d feel relief after this.

I thought I’d feel like we’re making progress.

Instead, as I drive across town to Marisol’s neighborhood, my body shivers harder than ever.

Shane is a planner. He pivots and strategizes. He’s quick on his feet. If he had a contingency plan for everything, why wouldn’t he have a plan for this? All along, I’ve been worried about what would happen if Shane disappears, if he leaves town.

But what if he stays?

Oh, God. What then?

CHAPTER 56

N
IALL

I’m halfway across her room, the sound of my movements camouflaged by the noisy ceiling fan whirling above us, when I’ve already decided how I’m going to dispose of her body tomorrow. I’m three steps away when I’ve decided I’m going to have to talk Sam into posing as Brienne first thing Monday so we can unfreeze her accounts.

Just a few more withdrawals, and we’ll be golden.

My hand is wrapped around the syringe, and I move it into position before uncapping it. I’ve never killed anyone with my bare hands before, if you can count this as that. When Sam’s stepdad passed, I surfed two straight weeks on a wave of adrenaline. It was a power trip like you wouldn’t believe. I can only imagine how I’m going to feel after this.

Honestly, it’s unfortunate that Brienne has to die.

She’s the last of Sonya’s bloodline, all that’s left of Sonya in this world.

But really this is her fault. She never should have left Crestview. She never should have had the nerve to think she could beat me at my own game. She never should have underestimated me.

I take a long, hard breath.

And then I count to three.

The dark room that surrounds us goes pitch-black for a moment, and when I come to, I’ve pulled her against me.

She struggles under my hold, fighting with everything she’s got, but I’m bigger.

Stronger.

More determined.

CHAPTER 57

B
RIENNE

I can’t stop thinking about the last thing Sam said to me earlier today: that she was going to tell Shane goodbye.

A man as ruthless and self-centered as him won’t take it lightly. I can’t imagine he’ll shrug his shoulders, give her a devil-may-care “okay,” and let her walk out of his life without any kind of a fight.

Sam seemed sweet. Naive but sweet. I’m sure she knows him better than anyone, but then again, she had no idea he was masterminding this grand scheme, lying to her and using her, all the while convincing her she was the love of his life.

“What’s wrong?” Marisol stands in the doorway of the guest room I’m currently inhabiting in her house. “You’re chewing your nails. You never chew your nails.”

“I keep thinking of Sam,” I say. Marisol wrinkles her nose until she realizes who Sam is. When I left the police station this afternoon, I came straight here, seeking refuge at Marisol’s place, and I filled her in. “She was going to break it off with Niall—Shane, I mean. But I just have this bad feeling . . . I think I should drive by and see if she’s there.”

BOOK: When I Was You
11.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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