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The Lover's Promise (No Exceptions #3)

By:J.C. Reed

recognized one of the coffee shops not far from our office building. There was no time stamp on the photo; nothing to give away what was going on, except that Jett had been buying coffee for two. He didn't seem particularly engrossed in whatever the woman was saying, but the way her body was turned to him-a little too close-while she looked up straight at him made me wonder why he seemed so lost in thought, almost as if he was considering what to say in reply to her.

"So, do you recognize him?" the detective asked, disrupting my trail of thought. "He's our primary suspect."

As slowly as I could, I forced myself to shake my head. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't talk. I was too shocked. Too afraid that any word I might utter would betray the truth. Too afraid that the truth would shatter me. Too afraid of everything-and in particular of not knowing what the hell was going on.

"Who did you say this was again?" I asked in a hushed tone, faking innocence as best as I could, but beneath the layers of nonchalance, my voice was shaking. I prayed silently that if the detective sensed it, he'd assume it was because I was afraid of the killer. Just to be sure, I added nervously, "I can't believe she's dead."

"The victim's name is Sarah Smith. The man in the picture is Jett Mayfield."

Upon hearing Jett's name, I bit my tongue hard to suppress a sharp intake of air.

The detective regarded me for a moment before he continued, "We've been watching him for some time, ever since we received this picture. Earlier today we found his car abandoned two miles from the club. The tires had traces of Gina's DNA on them, which links him to the murder scene."

I didn't know much about evidence, but even to me that sounded incriminating enough. Alarm bells began to ring somewhere in my head.

Jett wasn't a killer. I opened my mouth and closed it an instant later because I couldn't tell the detective the truth. I couldn't reveal that I knew Jett, that we had once dated, that he was the father of my unborn child.

I knew Jett. Maybe not as well as I once thought, but good enough to be convinced that he wasn't a killer. His brother was.

But the truth was I didn't know for sure.

Jett had never been an open book. He liked to keep secrets. He had sides to him I didn't know about; sides I was afraid to learn of. He had accompanied me home, but I couldn't say for sure he had stayed with me throughout the entire night.

"You said you found traces on the car," I began warily. "But I thought Gina was stabbed in the street." I kept my voice deliberately low, so he wouldn't hear the turmoil in my tone. As I stared at Jett's face in utter dismay, my heart continued to hammer in my chest. For a few moments, I was afraid to look up out of fear the detective would see right through me.

"She was. Someone ran her over with a car after her throat was cut open. This is all we know for now until we get the autopsy report next week," the detective said.

I felt sick to the core, I feared I might just vomit. My legs were shaking so bad, I knew if I if I weren't sitting down, my legs would have given way under me.

"I'm sorry about your friend," the detective said, misinterpreting my silence. "We're doing the best we can to find out what happened."

"Did you arrest this man?" I asked quietly. Every fiber of my being screamed.

"No. We had to let him go." The detective sounded pissed off. "Unless we have undeniable, concrete proof we have to treat him as not guilty. People with money always get preferential treatment." He grimaced and spat out the word "money" as though it was pure evil, then handed me his card. "If you see him or remember anything, no matter how trivial, call me. We need all the evidence we can get. It's in everyone's best interest to keep the city safe from people like him."

I nodded. He smiled gently, and as I stood, I forced myself to return his smile. On shaky feet, I gathered all the courage I could muster and left Grayson's office, heading straight for the bathroom.

As I splashed my face with cold water, the numbness resulting from shock began to wear off and complete realization kicked in.

The police thought Jett was a killer.

And I had just lied to them. I didn't even know why I didn't just reveal that I knew him. Why was I protecting him? Maybe because I couldn't believe Jett was a killer.

But what if he was?

What if he was … the thought was too horrible, too depressing, too shocking to continue. It broke my heart to think that the man I loved could be capable of killing innocents, so I decided to push it to the back of my mind instead of dealing with the consequent implications.

My mind reeled as I said goodbye to Grayson, then called a taxi and gave the driver Sylvie's address. Snuggled in the backseat, I rested my head against the window, the coldness intensifying the icy shudders that had been circling through my body ever since I saw Jett's face on the snapshot inside the detective's folder.

I felt physically sick. From all the possible things in life, this was what I had expected the least. It had to be a mistake-a stupid, silly mistake-because Jett was a lot of things, but most certainly not a killer. But what if I was blindly in love and not seeing him for who he truly was?

As much as I had hoped the detective had confused him with his brother, I knew it was impossible. Even though Nate was not his biological brother, the two of them looked alike. But Nate had only recently been released from jail, and the first murder victim had been killed two weeks before.

I closed my eyes, swallowing the bitter taste of the nausea rising inside me, and tried to ignore the severe warning bells ringing in my head as I thought back to the detective's words.

I will contact you once I have more questions. With your help, I'll get him.

It all would have sounded harmless-if it just