Strict Confidence (Rochester Trilogy #2) by Skye Warren



He comes to stand close, murmuring low so as not to wake her. “The fire chief let me come in and take some things from the scene, so I looked through the wreckage. Nothing much was salvageable, but I boxed up what I could find. I stacked it in the back.”

“What did he say?”

“He didn’t say anything yet. They gathered evidence, but he hasn’t made his determination yet. I’m going to meet him in a couple days and get his final ruling when he releases the scene.”

Unease clenches my stomach. I want a ruling, because it will put my mind at ease. But what if the ruling isn’t what I want? “I’ll see if any of her stuff is in there. We can wash out the smoke.”

“Hell, buy her all new shit. Make it fucking expensive.” Another glance to the sleeping child. And a sigh. “But yeah, she would rather have her old clothes.”

“Maybe I would rather have my old clothes, too.”

He gives me a hard look. Everything I wore before was from Walmart or Goodwill, threadbare or secondhand, except what he gave me. “What did you lose?”

I shake my head. “It’s nothing.”

“It’s something.” The gravity of him pulls me closer. “Tell me, Jane.”

“It was a photo. I kept it at the bottom of my suitcase. Before that, I’d get a garbage bag to carry my things. So it was creased and folded and spilled on, but it was the only picture I had.” Tears gather, hot and sharp. I don’t want to cry. Definitely not in front of Beau, but they spill over anyway. It was the only picture I had, with his illegible handwriting scrawled on the back. The only semblance of a family heirloom that existed in my life. Gone.

“I’ll find it,” he says, his teeth gritted.

“Don’t.” The word comes out like an order. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

I’m talking about more than an old, bent photograph. I’m talking about us. About this strange purgatory we’re living since the fire. He understands. The knowledge sits in his dark eyes. “I’m not lying to you, Jane.”

“You’re not telling me the whole truth, either.”

He looks away. It’s an admission. A refusal. My heart squeezes, but then he looks back at me and pins me with a stare. “I would tell you everything if I didn’t think you’d run for the hills.”

“Is that supposed to be comforting?”

A ghost of a smile. “Not really.”

I glance at Paige, because it’s easier to talk about her. It’s easier to use her as a wedge between us. Ironic, because she’s also the glue keeping us together. “I’ll have to check the boxes for the game. There’s nothing that’s an exact match online. So far she shakes her head at everything I show her.”

“There’s no way the game made it through the fire. I’ll get in touch with Hasbro and see if they have something in a warehouse somewhere. Or at least a line to a collector.”

A soft laugh, which makes me cough. My eyes sting as I force it to be as quiet as possible. “Sometimes you seem almost normal. And then other times, you’re…”

His lips quirk. “I’m what?”

“Rich.”

He frowns as if I said something wrong, though it can hardly be a surprise that he’s wealthy. “Clothes. Board games. That’s what money is good for. It doesn’t help with the important things.”

“Like what?” I ask, my tone challenging.

A glance at Paige. He pitches his voice lower. “Like keeping her safe.”

Worry runs through my veins. “What does that mean?”

“We’re in a new place. You know how she likes to hide. We’ll have to keep a close eye on her. That’s all I mean.” He looks sincere. He sounds sincere.

I swallow hard. “Beau, did someone set that fire?”

“I told you Causey is a bastard. Don’t let him get into your head.”

“Then what started it?”

“They don’t know yet, and there’s no point assuming the worst. There are a million options in an old house. Faulty wiring and materials that aren’t up to code.”

“Or someone put the chemicals there to start a fire.” My heart thumps heavy with the possibility. It’s been in my head since Detective Joe Causey questioned me.

“We were the only ones in the house.”

I shiver. “That we know of.”