The Drafter

Page 103

“Morning,” he said, moving adroitly despite his cast to give her a quick kiss. “Don’t change for me. I like the way you look in jeans. Ready?”

“Almost. I just need to feed Carnac.”

“Why do you even have that cat?” he said, his good mood souring as his eyes lingered on her pendant, and she tucked it behind her sweater. “Haven’t his owners called yet?”

Shrugging, she shut the door. “I like him. I hope they never do. He doesn’t hog the covers, and he doesn’t eat my ice cream.”

Allen shuffled to the breakfast bar, sighing as he levered his backside up onto a stool. Peri went to the kitchen, keenly feeling the distance between them. There was always space, and she didn’t know why. Was it his guilt that she’d lost so much to save his life, or had the loss of memory changed her and he didn’t love her anymore? She knew she and Allen had once had a good relationship by the heartache that flooded her when she thought about having lost it. She was trying. Allen was trying. But she still felt … broken.

“Peri, have you thought about moving back in with me?” he said, and she accidentally ripped the pouch all the way open, spilling it. “I wouldn’t even mind the cat box,” he said sourly.

“No,” she said, trying to get the spilled cat food in the bowl. “Allen, I’m sorry,” she said to ease the bite of her words. “I appreciate you not making a big deal about me moving out in the first place, and until I remember something more, it feels, I don’t know.” Allen made a face, and she gestured helplessly. “We need to do a few tasks together. That’s all.”

Gaze down, he picked at the edge of his cast. It had everyone’s name on it but hers. She didn’t know why she hadn’t signed it. She was with him all the time, it seemed. “Psych keeps telling me to be patient,” he said softly.

“Psych is right.” Leaning over the counter, she gave him a kiss. His knobby-knuckled hand rose to caress her jawline, and her fingers slipped from his smooth-shaven face. Her eye twitched and she pulled up and away. “Let me clean this up and we can go.”


She could feel him watching her as she wiped the counter down and washed her hands. “How come you never knit anymore?” Allen asked, and she looked up, startled.

“Ah, because it’s spring?” she said, eyes going to her canvas bag tucked beside the couch. “It’s not as if I need it.” No, she didn’t need the soft red scarf anymore, but clearly it bothered her that it wasn’t finished yet, since it was still out.

“I like it when you knit,” he said, and she came around the counter, looking for her purse.

“I’ll finish it this weekend, then,” she said as she found it and went to the front closet for her coat. Good God, why did I buy a red coat? To match a scarf I haven’t finished? Her fingers on the smooth finish felt numb, and her focus blurred. The jacket smelled like real leather, but she didn’t remember buying it, and she had her doubts.

“Why does Bill want to meet at Overdraft, anyway?” she said as she came out from behind the closet door. “Sandy always fills the Juke’sBox playlist with suicide country crap.”

Allen laughed as he slid from the stool. “You’d rather go into Opti for a formal psych review? Give the guy a break. You’re his best drafter and he doesn’t want to push you.”

Peri forced her shoulders down, but the fear of drafting settled like ice in her middle, and she had to fight to keep her hand from her pendant. “I suppose,” she said dully. “Ready?”

“You want to drive?” he said, holding up his cast in explanation.

“Absolutely,” she said as she headed for the door, eager to feel the smooth power of her Mantis around her.

A ground-floor apartment, she thought in dismay as she locked up. Even after a month, she didn’t feel safe. She could not believe she’d let Allen talk her into it. It might have had something to do with that second-story balcony he’d fallen off.

The April morning air still held the dampness of last night’s rain, and Peri paced to her car, hesitating with her hand on the handle for the car to recognize her and unlock. Allen hobbled to the other side. She liked driving, and the truth was, his cast made her nervous. Sliding in, she felt the car wake up around her, and for a moment, she felt good as she lost herself to the pavement and motion. Allen chatted about getting his cast off and the rehab to rebuild the muscle. He figured it would be at least a month before they got an assignment, and that was fine with her. She wanted some time to do her own research, research she hadn’t told anyone about.

Her fingers gripping the wheel went tight, and she forced them to relax before Allen noticed. Silas. She wanted him dead, and she wanted to be the one to do it—needed to be the one to do it. It was his face that haunted her nightmares, and the growing urge to end his life filled her with more anticipation, more drive than she’d felt in the last six weeks.

Lost in thought, Peri nearly missed the turn into the strip mall where Overdraft was. The parking lot was almost empty, traffic moving fast just a few feet beyond. It was a cold, ugly place this early in the morning. A man in a tight-fitting overcoat stood under the overhang as if waiting for a ride, and she eyed him suspiciously.

“I don’t see Bill’s car,” Allen said as he leaned forward to peer through the front window.

“He’s always late,” Peri said. “Or he might have walked it. He’s been threatening to work out more. I saw him on the track last week.”

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