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The Lover's Promise (No Exceptions #3)

By:J.C. Reed

he'd find the killer, I also hoped that, just because Thalia and I happened to be the last people who saw Gina alive, we wouldn't end up as persons of interest.

"Jenna?" Grayson's voice drew me back to reality. "You're the first. The detective would like to ask you a few questions now."

Oh, shit.

The icy knot in my stomach intensified, growing as big as an iceberg under the water's surface. Why did I have to go first when I didn't want to? He'd only pour all his energy into grilling me, and I had no answers, no clues, nothing to help out in any way.

Basically, I was doomed to look like I was guilty.

"Great. I'll be happy to help," I said weakly and shot Grayson a confident smile, avoiding the detective's intense stare. To be honest, I had no idea if he remembered our brief encounters at the hotel, but I could feel his gaze burning a hole in my head. When I finally dared look up, I realized his eyes not only rested on me, but there was also a flicker of recognition clearly written on his face. I froze in horror.

This is what happens when you stare at a guy you don't know, Stewart. You come across as a complete creep.

Back then, I had probably looked like a guilty mess to him. I swallowed down the lump in my throat, and tried to behave as innocently as possible.

"Detective, you're welcome to use my office," Grayson said, oblivious to my frayed nerves.

"Thank you. It won't take long," the man said while his stare remained glued to me.

Please, don't leave me alone with him.

I felt like a lamb scheduled to be slaughtered. My skin began to itch from the strain of trying to act casual. I had done nothing wrong, and yet his intense glance made me feel guilty. Talk about unfair. Talk about the crappiest day of my life. The crappiest of all crappy days.

The detective turned on his heels and motioned for me to follow him, and so I did, unsure what would happen next. To the daunting sound of impending doom, we walked into Grayson's office. I was like that woman in white, ready to be sacrificed to King Kong and could almost hear the proverbial drums beating in the background. I felt completely paralyzed with fear. With my heart pounding hard against my chest, I took a seat and waited for the detective to do the same.

He didn't sit down, which was probably a ruse to infuse respect into a suspect. He wasn't even that tall, so under normal circumstances he wouldn't have intimidated me. But there was nothing normal about today.

I peered around me, considering getting out of Grayson's office by faking fainting. I had always wanted to do that, and figured that was the perfect moment, if only to avoid the probing questions and mistrust that would follow. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then closed my eyes for a moment, envisioning the scene. Just too bad I wasn't cut out for acting. In my head, I promised myself that I'd sign up for some much-needed acting classes. That is, if I ever made it out of here and saved up enough money.

The detective turned the knob and closed the door behind him.

Now we were alone.

Just he and I-behind a closed door.

Dum. Dum Dum.

No, make that doom. Doom-as the imaginary drums continued to pound in my head.

My whole body began to shake slightly as he slid into Grayson's seat and pulled out a notepad from his pocket. The whole situation felt surreal, like I was starring in a horror movie. I almost expected him to retrieve a string of rope and tie up my wrists to the chair, maybe even switch on a neon lamp, or hang me upside down to torture me into giving him the answers he wanted.

Only, I had no answers.

Let the witch hunt begin.

Sighing, I crossed my arms over my chest, ready to face whatever the detective would throw at me.

He glanced around the room and his eyes came to rest on the model pictures on the wall. Grayson's glory. The gems he'd shaped into diamonds-as he liked to proclaim. Every one of his models was up there; everyone but me. It wasn't that much of a surprise, given that I was new and had yet to book a job. A short silence ensued, during which Detective Barrow assessed me, his right hand stroking his neck in a strange manner. I twitched uncomfortably in my chair and crossed my legs, waiting, assessing him back.

"So, Mr. Grayson told me you joined two days ago. Is that correct?" he started eventually.

"Yes." I nodded, staring at him blankly and gradually relaxed, happy that he didn't ask about the hotel. Maybe he didn't remember me after all. Maybe it was just a normal investigation and his frown came as a part of the job description, meaning it had nothing to do with me personally.

"All right." He smiled politely and opened his notepad. "Let's start with the last time you saw Gina alive and we'll take it from there. You mentioned you went out?"

It wasn't a question, but rather a statement. I had mentioned no such thing to him.

I nodded. "After Grayson offered me a trial period to see whether I was cut out for the job, Thalia invited me and Gina for a drink at the La Rue Bar. We had a few drinks, then Gina suggested we visit the Hush Hush bar, and we had some more drinks there."

God, why did it sound like I was a complete party girl when it couldn't be further from the truth?

The detective nodded and scribbled a few words on his notepad without looking up. "What happened after?"

"Gina tried to hook me up with a guy." Cringe. I didn't need to hear the detective's thoughts; I could read them from his expression and they weren't pretty. I brushed my hair out of my face and continued. "I started to feel sick so a guy brought me home. And that was the last time I saw her."

I repeated the same story I had told Thalia: that a stranger drove me home, and then left. "Thalia said she had one last drink with Gina after I left. What happened after that, I don't know. You'll have to ask her."

"The man who drove you