“It’s ridiculous,” I repeated to my friends as we sat in Kyle’s living room. ”Blue would never kill anyone.”
“Everyone sitting in this room knows that,” Torren said, giving my shoulder a small squeeze. “They’ve got the wrong girl. They’ll soon know that.”
As usual my boys had flown in from wherever they were to come and stand behind me. Justin, Torren, Jordan, Kyle, Chase and even my dad. They took care of everything, calling their very high-profile lawyers, hiring private investigators, PR statements-they didn’t leave any stone unturned. All I had to do was keep it together-and eat, well at least try to. Blue’s mom was the only one allowed to see her, the rest of us had been turned away.
“Why would she kill Gemma anyway?” Justin asked. “I doubt they’ve seen each other since high school graduation.”
“She told me she bumped into Gemma in an elevator at my apartment, when she was coming up to see me,” Maddie said. “That was the morning she woke up stripped of all her clothes…” she clutched her coffee mug and winced. “I’m sure Deacon did it. He set it up to look like it was Blue.”
“How did she die?” My father inquired. “Has a post-mortem been done?” The doctor in him surfaced as he asked all the pertinent questions.
“The police say she was found in her bed. There were signs of a struggle,” Chase replied, his face contorted. “They suspect she was smothered.”
“And Blue was supposedly the last person to be seen with her,” Justin added.
“I can’t see Blue doing that…” I said to no one in particular. “This is just crazy.”
“Why don’t we split up and help the investigators track down Deacon?” Kyle the ever practical one proposed. He knew sitting around, waiting and doing nothing was killing me. “The attorneys are at the station helping Blue get bail and there’s not much we can do about that, but let them do what they do best. However, we can look for this scumbag before he strikes again.”
“Agreed,” was the unanimous response.
“I wish I could come but the hospital just paged me,” my dad smiled apologetically.
“That’s okay. Go to work Dad. I think we can manage.” Ii said as I walked him out.
He hugged me when the elevator stopped and swished open. “It’s going to work out. She’s a tough cookie, your Blue. “
“Thanks for being here dad.”
When he left, I didn’t go back to join the others but slid down the wall and drooped my head on my knees, thinking about the mess that was going on. There was an APB out for Deacon, I doubted very much he’d make contact. It was too risky.
“Hey,” Maddie’s voice got my attention. “Are you okay? Don’t answer that-it was a stupid question.”
“You think?” My lips twitched as I looked up at her.
She smiled and sat beside me, resting her blonde head on my shoulder. “She was paying him off to protect you, you know?”
“What do you mean?”
“He…” she sighed, and seemed to battle within herself. “Deacon was using Zara to-she was going to kill you Corbyn.”
“Zara would never-”
Her head snapped up and she held a hand up. “Let me finish before you jump to protect your precious Zara?” Maddie interrupted in a stern tone. “You’re so quick to jump to her defense and yet so quick to condemn Blue. She’s not as innocent as you think for your own information.”
A shadow of guilt darkened my eyes. “I…”
“Nothing to say?” she leaned back and smirked.
“I didn’t know. I had no idea she was paying him off because of me. I thought she was doing it for Ashton…”
“She was doing it for you.”
“I didn’t know…”
“Deacon was pulling Zara’s strings and given her orders to finish you. You have to believe that.”
“I can’t…” I still couldn’t see Zara being vindictive enough to commit murder. But there was no use in living in denial. It was clear that I was wrong about her.
“All that fighting seems so petty now doesn’t it?”
“Pretty much,” I grunted and drew my knees up against my chest. “She told you about it?”
“She never cheated on you, you know? She might not say it but she loves you. More than you deserve,” she nudged my arm with her elbow and snickered softly.
“But I saw-she slept with another guy in her car after we-” I dropped my head against her wall and sighed. “It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“You might not remember getting freaky in her car but she was hurt that you didn’t. She thought you’d gifted her with something precious and you couldn’t even share the precious moment with her. It’s like it meant nothing…” she furrowed her brows and glanced at me. “I’m disappointed in you Corbs. I’d expect such behavior from Jordan or Torren. Not you.”
“I found a wrapper! What was I supposed to think?!”
“A wrapper that you used,” she rolled her eyes. “You jumped to the wrong conclusion and your low opinion of her, hurt her more than you will ever know.”
“It’s-I-she-are you trying to tell me that…” I am such an idiot. I owed her an apology.
“I see that light bulb going on,” she tapped me on my temple. “On a scale of one to ten, how stupid do you feel right now, Coleman?”
“Eleven!” I let out a short, dry laugh. “I have a lot of groveling to do, don’t I?”
“You’re lucky she loves you and has already forgiven you.”
She was right. “Where do you think Deacon could be hiding?”
We lapsed into silence and she scrambled to her feet, pressing the elevator button like the house was on fire and she was trying to get away. “Don’t just sit there! Let’s go!”
Just as the doors were about to seal shut, a hand slid through the small opening. “I know you weren’t going without me,” Kyle said as he and the rest of the boys filed in. “Fill us in.”
“Maddie-I don’t have a clue,” I shrugged and all eyes turned to Maddie.
“I think I know where Deacon is,” she answered the inquisitive stares. “At my dad’s lake-house. We spent some time there and I told him he was welcome to use it anytime.”
“Thanks for the info but you’re not coming with us,” Chase told her firmly.
“But if it wasn’t for me-
“He’s right Maddie,” I sided with my brother. “This could be dangerous.”
“You’re going with your security detail aren’t you?” she argued. “I’ll be safe, right?”
“You’ll be safer at home little one,” Jordan ruffled her hair and pressed the up button. “We don’t need any more casualties.”
“Besides we need someone to stay here in case Deacon calls or something,” I pointed out.
She scowled at me and muttered the word “Traitor.”
“Sorry,” I mouthed back prior to her flouncing out of the lift.
We split up into two groups, Torren and Chase went with Jordan while Justin and I rode with Kyle. The highways were quiet in the mid-morning, and we drove the three hours that took us there faster than expected.
On reaching the lakeside, we parked our cars on the far side of the woods, about a hundred yards from the house. A sailing boat could be seen lying on its side a few feet from the lakeside bank. We crept through the trees, creeping down the faded path, taking advantage of every bush for cover as we surrounded the chalet.
There were no other sounds, no movement but ours. The morning was quiet, no insects chirping, no water gurgling. Suddenly we heard a loud crashing sound coming from inside and before we knew it, the door burst open and Ashton hurtled down the steps of the screened porch. Deacon bolted after him and tackled him, grabbing onto his ankle but AJ kicked him with his other foot. He flailed for a moment then went still, pinned between the car and the garage. He flailed wildly and then fell limp when he was pinned to the ground.
Taking advantage of the distraction we sprang into action.
“Let the kid go Deacon. It’s over!” Chase shouted as they were the first to approach him.
“Stay back!” he yelled a warning, snatching up Ashton by the scruff of his neck. “I’ll kill him! Don’t think I’m bluffing.”
“Newsflash!” Jordan chuckled as he cracked his knuckles. “You’re out numbered jackass. Give it up.”
“I’m the one in control here!” he shouted, dragging the small boy backwards to the house.
“You’re surrounded,” Kyle’s voice rang out as he stepped out from behind the shrubs, giving me and other guys the signal to round the house and ambush Deacon from behind. “You’re not going to win this one. Let the boy go.”
“Why would I do that?!”
“You’re scaring the kid, can’t you see that?” Chase dared to move closer. “He’s innocent in all of this. Let him go and then we can talk about this like men.”
“This kid is my meal ticket,” his dark eyes leered at Ashton, scaring him even more. “And since you hotshots are getting involved it means I’m upping my asking price. Ten million.”
Jordan bent over and held his knees and laughed. “Can you believe this guy?!” he grinned and clutched his stomach.
“Twenty!” he hollered. “You think I’m playing games?!”
“The police are on their way,” Kyle relayed the news in a calm voice. “The game is up actually.”
With a grimace, she skulked next to a tree stump and pulled out the axe that was nestled in it. I had played discuss throw in school and was going to employ the same tactics. I know this was totally different but I hoped I wouldn’t miss. I never did. With the discus that is.
Justin gave me a ‘what are you doing look?’ but I ignored him and prepared to take my aim. The other guys were doing a great job of distracting my target but also threw me an ‘are you crazy look?’
While his back was still turned, I gripped the handle of the axe more tightly, stilling my clammy hands. I couldn’t miss. I closed out the rest of the world and focused. I could do this. I took a step pack and hefted it over my shoulder and let it loose.
The axe flew through the air and slammed into Deacon’s back body, the sharp blade brutally striking its mark and sinking into the soft flesh with a sickening crunch, before his knees buckled and he dropped to the ground with an agonizing scream.