He didn’t know how Charlotte had managed to convince him to leave, but she was in the passenger side of his cruiser now, with a bag at her feet that held the damn thermos and uneaten sandwiches.
He was driving back to town. The moment felt surreal as he thought back on his desperation the night before, rushing out in response to the call from Eva, who had been looking to him to make everything right.
The crime scene techs had taped off the cabin and yard and were photographing everything. The ambulance was just ahead of them, and Ryan was behind. His brother had said nothing more after he managed to steer Marcus to the cruiser and told him to walk away before he did or said something really stupid.
“I’ll drop you at the station, and then I’ll get a hold of Bert, finish the reports, and try to get a handle on how official the charges are in the system, if she’s even been processed,” Marcus said. He’d see exactly where Reine was, and Eva. Then there was Tommy and his next of kin. “Oh, shit!” He smacked the steering wheel.
Charlotte didn’t pull her gaze from him. “What is it, Marcus?”
He shook his head. “Tommy’s father. He’s on his way. Then there’s the Wisconsin sheriff’s office. Did anyone call them?”
“Colby will handle that part. You need some rest.”
“Yeah, no time for that,” he said, and even he didn’t miss the sharpness in his tone.
Charlotte simply sighed the way she did, never rattled by him. “Well, at least take a minute to grab a shower, a hot one, to get your head together, and some food, a change of clothes…”
He was still shaking his head. He could be damn stubborn when he had his mind set on something. “No, I’ll change at the office. You go on home and get some rest. I’m sure there’s a clean shirt there…”
“Marcus, I swear to God, everything at the station can wait. You walk in the station now, you’re only going to be knocking heads with everyone. Take a minute and get your head together. I know you’re pissed off, and I am too, but I also know it’s not beyond you to start butting heads with Lonnie. Then there’s Sheriff Frank. In case you didn’t hear him, because I did, you need a plan, something better than going in and knocking heads together to get the charges against Reine dropped. You need me to remind you that your acting superior ordered you to back down? I was there. I heard him. You and I both know none of this is sitting too well, and I agree with you, but let me remind you that you could actually make things for Reine and Eva so much worse.”
There was something about the way she spoke. He knew she was right, but he didn’t agree. He took in the ambulance in front of him, which was turning right to the morgue, and the sheriff’s department, which was straight ahead.
“Marcus, please.” Charlotte gestured to the left, where his bachelor pad was, a one-room loft above the Chinese restaurant on main street, only a few blocks from the sheriff’s office. “Get showered. I’ll make you something to eat while you get cleaned up, and some fresh coffee, and you give yourself a second to settle and stop acting on emotion. Isn’t that what you tell me?”
He took in the turn to his place, then the road ahead, which led right to the sheriff’s office. He should really take her back there, let her get in her gray Subaru, and send her home. “So you’re using my words of wisdom on me? Kind of fucked up, isn’t it, Charlotte, considering you haven’t heard me yet or listened?”
“Of course I hear you, Marcus. I always hear you and listen to you. My pride is the only reason I haven’t done what you’ve said, even though I know you’re right, because then I’d have to admit that every choice I’ve made was wrong. I know it was. I can see it in your eyes every day. But you know that already. I think you know me better than anyone ever could. Please…” She gestured to the turn. It was there in her voice, in her eyes.
He didn’t know why he did it, but he flicked the signal and turned left, seeing the red brick of the building where he lived, then parked. It wasn’t a good idea, taking her upstairs with him. “You should go home,” he said again, knowing it was just words.
She just opened her door. “And you need a shower and some food. I already told you I’m not going anywhere. You scared the hell out of me tonight, Marcus. When Lonnie called in to the station to say you’d been taken hostage and how dire the situation was…” She stopped talking as her voice caught. He could feel the emotion between them, and she didn’t have to say anything else. Her hazel eyes couldn’t hide everything that had been left unspoken between them. “Don’t do that again to me. Not ever, Marcus.”
He knew every bad choice was made in the heat of the moment. He said nothing. Instead, he pushed open his door and climbed out into the early morning light, taking in the quiet street. The sun was just coming up, and Charlotte Roy was standing right there, waiting for him.
So why was this a bad idea? Was it the fact that she was still married, still roommates with a man she didn’t love?