Killing Julie

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Chapter 82

She thought that the magazine cover was in poor taste. Maggie should have had more sense. A local photographer had snapped the photograph just as Cade and Rory emerged from the woods. Maggie bought full rights, wrote the story herself, and within forty-eight hours, the photo of American Faces’ Cayden Ransome carrying Rory Cullers, wrapped in his jacket with her bare legs dangling, went viral.

“There’s nothing wrong with a little leg, Roar,” Selina teased, sitting at the foot of Rory’s hospital bed as they waited for Cade to pick her up. She was being released today and, save for her arm in its sling and the fading bruises on her face, looked ready to face the world.

Selina made sure no one would find fault with Rory’s appearance today, reminding her that a small media circus was going on and the last thing Rory needed was to end up in the tabloids with headlines about a nervous breakdown. To that end, she didn’t give her friend a moment to argue. She insisted that Rory take a shower and wash her hair. She had a new outfit for her as well, compliments of Isadora, who was waiting at Rory’s house as per Cade’s request.

Selina, who’d been privy to that conversation the night before in the hospital foyer, had been impressed by the way that Cade had stood so firm, and made a mental note to tell Rory about it. Seeing Rory glaring out the window and in far from a pleasant mood, Selina didn’t think it was the right time. “I like those white slacks your mom sent. You have to admit that Isadora has taste. The wide cuffs are pretty sharp and perfect for those sandals. Now, aren’t you glad I insisted on you painting your nails?”

“No. I want to sneak out the back door. I don’t see why I have to do this, Selina,” said Rory, annoyed.

“Sneaking out would be impossible. You know how reporters are,” Selina teased, trying to lighten her friend’s mood. “You may as well get used to it. You and Cade are going to be famous for a while.”

“I don’t have to get used to anything. I can let it go away. And there is something wrong with a ‘little leg’ when they’re your legs and you’re a bloody mess because some maniac just tried to kill you. Now change the subject, please.”


Groaning, Rory collapsed into a nearby chair and buried her face in her hands. “Yes!”

Exasperated, Selina pulled Rory’s hands away and forced her to look up. “No. You have to talk about it. Look, there’s a burned cabin and a few dead bodies in your past now, kiddo, and – like it or not – you are the romantic heroine at the center of it all. Myself, I liked the way you tore his face up. Now don’t mess up your make-up or else I’ll have to do it all over again.”

Rory stood up, returning to staring out the window, her expression emotionless. “Selina, I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t like the memories.”

“Who would? But you have to face it one of these days. Ignoring your own kidnapping and attempted murder is simply not a healthy option.”

“Want to bet?”

Selina hid her smile at her friend’s belligerence, considering that for the last three days, Rory had simply lain in the hospital bed and let the world keep moving. She refused to turn on her television set and refused to read anything after seeing the American Faces article.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, she didn’t say a word about her ordeal, and she acted as if the world had paused for the time that she was held at Alex’s and had resumed spinning the next morning in the hospital. The exception was the night she was rescued, when she talked to the detectives.

Selina had been there, holding her hand throughout the initial questioning and rape kit, and then during the more detailed interview after surgery on her arm. Not once did Rory make eye contact, holding Selina’s hand tightly and staring at the ceiling. She flinched only occasionally.

“Yeah, Roar, I do want to bet.”

Cade, coming to bring her home, could hear Rory shouting long before he entered her room. Alexander Webster deserved to rot in hell, with Paul DeLuca right beside him, and that Officer Welsch was going to be very sorry he didn’t take things more seriously because she was a reporter, damn it, and she knew how to investigate.

“Sounds like she’s finally getting it out of her system,” he remarked to the nurse on duty before going into her room. “No need to worry. She’s just making up for lost time.”

With her back to the door, Rory didn’t hear the door open. Nor did she see the grin on Selina’s face when Cade walked in.

“And if he thinks he can waltz in here and just take me home and live happily ever after without saying what he should have said long ago, he has another thing coming! I am not some doll to be passed from man to man! If Cayden doesn’t declare himself, he’s not getting anything from me, Selina! Just watch! I am not having sex with him ever again!”

“I would hope not,” said a deep voice laced with amusement.

Rory stopped dead and turned red. She also refused to turn around and kept her tone as haughty as she could when she spoke again. “And why would that be?”

Winking at Selina, Cade nodded his head toward the door, silently asking her to leave. She didn’t need to be told twice and hurried from the room, pausing only to plant a quick kiss on his cheek and whisper good luck.

You get accustomed to certain things, but Rory didn’t think that would be quite possible with Cade. When she told him to go away, he’d stay. When she pushed at him, he pushed back. And for the last three days, he’d sat with her and said little, waiting for her to speak rather than begging her like everyone else.

And now, as he put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him, as he smiled and reached out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, she realized that she had no idea what he was planning.

“Because, Rory, I have no intention of what we do to ever be ‘just sex.’ I’m going to make love to you. Every night and every day and every chance I get. I want to be there to fight with you about verbs and articles and whatever else strikes our fancy. I want to make you crazy and keep you on your toes and make sure that your life is never anything but what you want it to be. What we want it to be. Together.”

“What are you saying, Cade?”

“I’m saying that I love you, Rory Cullers, and I want for you to be with me. Forever. If you’ll have me.”

She smiled. “I think I’d like that, Cade.”

“What are you saying, Rory?”

“I’m saying I love you, too, Cayden Ransome, and I would love to be with you. Forever.”

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