A wood burning fire; that’s what I recognized first. The smoky smell and the crackling logs filled my two senses before my eyes even opened. I was in a bed; It was dark out still unless I was in a room with no windows; and after a few minutes of listening, I realized I was alone.
“Where am I?” I whispered to myself as I sat up; waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness before I started wandering around.
Curiosity brought me to my feet as I saw the flickering light from the fire through the cracked bedroom door. I couldn’t stop myself from looking around. As I walked into the living room I recognized the setting; The fireplace, the couch, the kitchen. I knew this home.
“You’re up.” I heard him say, causing me to spin around in surprise.
“Charlie.” I whispered as I looked him up and down. He had a towel wrapped around his waist, and his shoulders had a light steam rolling off them; Making his entrance that more dramatic. As he made his way closer to me, my eyes focused on a bead of water that rolled down his chest and abs, slowly settling into the hair line that started at his belly button and disappeared under his towel.
“What, um, what are we doing here?” I asked, forcing my eyes to run back up his body and rest on his mouth.
“You needed to rest and I needed to shower so I brought us back to camp” He said simply. “How are you feeling?” He asked. He was close now; Toe to toe. All I could smell was his body wash and shampoo.
“I feel…” I looked up at him so I could meet his gaze. He was looking down at me with an expression in his eyes that matched concern but it was such a foreign look on him I couldn’t take it seriously. “Fuzzy. I feel fuzzy.” I whispered, “Why didn’t we go back to my house?”
“Give it about ten minutes and it will all come back to you.”
“What will come back to me?”
“Everything that led us here.”
I felt like I was dreaming. I couldn’t remember a fucking thing. Why was I drooling over Charlie when I should have been drooling over Liam? Where the hell IS Liam? Why am I here? With Charlie? And why was Charlie looking at me like that? Out of frustration of the unknown I left him in the living room with a huff and went back to his bedroom to look for my clothes.
“I’m assuming I didn’t undress myself?” I yelled to him as I stared at myself in the mirror. I was swimming in one of Charlie’s black t-shirts with no pants.
“You were unconscious, what was I suppose to do?” Charlie asked, leaning in the doorway with a ridiculous grin smeared across his face.
“Um, leave me dressed maybe?” I suggested. “Where are my clothes?”
“On the dresser.” He said calmly, walking over to the dresser to hand me a pair of black cargo pants.
As soon as the material touched my hand it hit me; Leaving Liam’s loft, Charlie grabbing me and kissing me in the parking lot, Charlie fucking me in the parking lot, the warm hood against my ass as he had his way with me outside of the bar, and finally, getting dressed in the back seat as we made our way to the insane asylum and Charlie setting me up just as the cops arrived.
“What?” Charlie asked just as my flashback cleared.
“Why were they there?” I asked him as I took a step back.
“The fucking cops, Charlie. Why were they there!?” I yelled.
“Lower your God damn voice.” He said firmly but I could feel the heat rising to my cheeks.
“You set me up.” I whispered, shaking my head in disbelief.
“Not even close, actually.” He argued.
“You drugged me!”
“So you wouldn’t say anything stupid, Kate!” He yelled, “I couldn’t let you spill any information about your father, they were already in the building, and forgive me but I handle authority better on my own.”
“So they just let you walk out with me? Why were they even there?!” I yelled back.
“John’s parents are getting impatient, Kate. Their son is dead and they want answers. There were a few cops at the bar who recognized us, I thought if I kissed you fast enough they wouldn’t see who we were. I knew shit was about to hit the fan and I just needed more time to solve this fucking case before they got to you.” Charlie explained in a low voice.
“Recognized us?” I repeated, “I don’t under-”
“Come with me.” He growled, pulling me into the bathroom by my elbow.
He turned on the fan. Then the sink. Then the shower.
“Get in.” He demanded.
“Charlie, what the hell is-”
“I’ve undressed you once, Kate, I can do it again.” He threatened as he took a step towards me.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked him with a raised brow.
He wasn’t kidding. It took him one step to close the distance between us and with that he grabbed my shirt by the neck and ripped it down the middle with no effort at all. To my surprise he was gentle when he moved his hands up to my hair, slowly tugging down the band that was holding my pony in its place and tossing it aside.
“Get in.” He repeated, his breath brushing against my bare chest.
The water was a little hot but it felt nice running over my head and down my back. The last time I was in Charlie’s shower the bathroom filled up with more than hot steam. We were all over each other; kissing, grabbed, moaning, fucking. My mouth started to water just thinking about it. Forcing myself to concentrate on the moments ahead, I watched as Charlie loosened the towel that was hanging on his hips and hung it on the back of the door.
His eyes never left mine as he stepped into the glass shower. My heart was racing; I was nervous. What the hell was about to happen? I wondered to myself as he stared down at me with frustration.
“I know the police officers that were at the asylum tonight.” He said with a low tone. “Personally. I know their names, I know their families, I know what beer they drink, and I know every single one of their bad jokes.” He was staring past me now, his mind somewhere else. “Up until a month ago I was one of them, Kate. I sat next to them, I laughed with them, I defended them. After four years of nothing but bullshit paper pushing and traffic enforcement I was promoted to detective.” He sighed, “Four brutal years after that, I resigned.”
I blinked up at him, not believing what I just heard. “You…” I shook my head, “You were a cop? You? Why? Why did you tell me that?” I asked.
“You would have figured it out sooner or later.” He said with a straight face.
“So has everyone else figured it out?” I asked with big eyes.
“No. I don’t let anyone that close. Every time I left I made up some solo mission excuse, but in reality I was just heading into the city.” He explained.
Again, I didn’t understand. “Charlie, why are you here?” I whispered up at him.
By the look on his face, I could tell this story didn’t have much of a bright side. “When Abigale married Liam,” He sighed with what seemed to be frustration, “I needed to get the hell out of here. I needed to keep busy. Lou was becoming shadier as the days led on and I wasn’t needed here anymore.” He shrugged, “I was young, I was active, I was bored, so I joined the academy. I disappeared. No one in a million years would have expected that from a kid like me, and I was okay for a while until Abigale was murdered.”
“Murdered?” I blurted out, “I thought she got sick and died?” I asked, blinking up at him.
Charlie shrugged, “That’s what Liam decided to tell his kid when the time came, and it just stuck I guess. None of us wanted to believe it anyways.” He shook his head, “I begged for that fucking case but I wasn’t experienced enough. I think that’s the moment I decided I wanted to go for detective.”
My mind was reeling; Maybe that’s why Liam was so angry with me? I wondered just as Charlie started to speak again.
“Anyway, by the time I made detective the case was closed. They never found the murderer and only new evidence pertaining to the case could reopen it. That’s when I started to build my relationship back up with Lou. Even if the case had reopened though, I couldn’t go anywhere near it because of the history I had with Abigale and Liam. So, I made my way around the problem the best way I knew how.” He shrugged, “I hired three men to be my eyes and ears of this place; Finn, Brandon, and Kirk.”
I frowned, “I don’t understand, where’s the connection between Abigale’s death and this place?” I asked, leaning into him.
“Abigale was a sweet girl, but she was tough. If she had any enemies, I’d bet the bank she made them here.” He said with a firm tone.
I felt sick to my stomach, “So you think someone she met at camp killed her, and that’s why you’ve been living here?” I asked with a small frown.
Charlie’s gaze slowly moved from my eyes, down to my wet feet, “Hearing it out loud sounds as pathetic as it feels.” He said under his breath.
“Charlie…” I whispered as I moved my hand up to his cheek, “I understand what you’re doing, okay? But at some point, you’re going to have to let this go. All of this. You can’t let this one thing that got away consume your life, no matter how important she was to you. Finding out her murderer wont bring her back. Trust me. I know a thing or two about loss.”
He nodded, “Right. Well. Keep your mouth shut about this and we wont have any problems.” He said as he backed out of my reach.
“Wow.” I whispered, “Just like that and the cold shoulder is back, huh?”
“Kate,” He sighed, “You need to get one thing straight-”
“No.” I shook my head, “YOU need to get one thing straight. I am sick and tired of this emotional rollercoaster you have me on. We’re friends.” I shrugged, “We’re friends who occasionally fuck and its great, but don’t treat me like shit because you’re too scared of getting close to someone. We’re just friends, Charlie. Got it?”
Slowly, his mouth went from a firm line to a small smirk, “You sure you’re not going to fall in love with me, Red?” He asked, looking me up and down.
“Trust me, you’re not my type.” I lied with a small laugh and I pushed him out of the shower, “Now give me a minute, I have to wash my hair and think about what just happened.” I said as I shut the shower door and grabbed his shampoo.
“I’ll be out here.” He said before he left me alone to wash up.
“Can I ask you something?” I asked Charlie as I walked up to him, blacked out in my cargo pants and fresh black t-shirt.
“Sure.” He said, crossing his arms over his bare chest as he leaned next to the fireplace.
“Why did you quit the po-” I couldn’t finish my question. Charlie had his hand against my mouth in seconds.
“Not here.” He whispered, leaning in so his lips were brushing against my neck, “Never here.”
I closed my eyes, “Got it.” I mumbled softly into his hand before he dropped it to my waist.
I tried to control my thoughts as his lips kissed up my neck and continued along my jawline. I wasn’t sure what he had planned but my body instantly started to heat up the second his lips met my skin. He had a pair of jeans on that hugged his crotch deliciously, and the fact that he had his bulge pressing into my hip made my mind wander that much more.
“Charlie?” I whispered as his hand reached around to my ass, getting a firm grip as he pulled me as close as I could get to him.
“Kate?” He whispered into my ear before he started nibbling at my lobe; sending chills up my spine.
A loud knock at the front door jolted me out of my trance and out of Charlie’s grip at lightening speed. He stood there, staring down at me with that evil grin as if he was waiting for me to come back to him; keep them waiting until he was finished tasting me. I couldn’t decide if it was rude or sexy.
“The door…” I breathed.
“I heard it.” He said, holding me against the wall with just his gaze.
They knocked a second time.
“Persistent.” He said under his breath as he turned to look at the door.
They knocked again.
That time Charlie grabbed his pistol that was sitting on the coffee table and walked to the door, opening it quickly.
“I’m sorry to bother you this late, but you need to see this.” I heard from a shadow of a man before I watched Charlie nod and shut the door.
“News at an hour like this can’t be good.” He said with a sigh as he dropped the manila folder on the coffee table and sat down on the couch.
“Do you have any idea what its about?” I asked, taking a seat next to him.
“No I do not.” He whispered as he opened the folder and pulled out a stack of papers.
I didn’t think it was polite to get into his business, so I sat back and examined my cuticles.
After about thirty seconds of reading, Charlie spoke up. “Did your father ever mention you having a brother or sister?” He asked, looking back at me with a furrowed brow.
“What? No. Why?” I asked sitting up.
“Because it looks like you do.” He said handing me the papers, “A few years before you were born he had a child, a daughter.” He rubbed the scruff on his jaw, “He must have signed off on someone else raising her.”
“Oh my god…” I whispered, staring at the birth certificate.
“That’s not even the bad part.” He whispered, “Look at the name.”
Blinking away tears, I focused on the name that was printed, “Annabelle Lucius.” I whispered.
Charlie stayed silent.
“I’m confused; why do I have your sisters birth certificate?” I asked.
He sighed, “Because you two share the same father.”
I looked closer, “Mother, Lynn Lucius. Father, James Fox.” I swallowed, “Anna and I are half sisters?”
“Looks like it.” He said, throwing the envelope on the table.
“This is weird. Does she know that Lou isn’t her real father?” I asked him.
He shrugged, “I have no idea.”
“Why do you seem upset? This isn’t bad news. I mean, its weird news…”
“I can’t believe I never even thought to look into her background.” He whispered to himself.
“Charlie, talk to me. I don’t understand what’s going on. Why is this bad?” I asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“After learning what your father suffered from, everything makes so much fucking sense.” He started, “A couple years ago we had to put Anna into a mental institution after a few sessions with her therapist.” He sighed, “He said he was worried she would cause harm to herself or others. I didn’t really get into it, I had a lot on my plate then and a crazy sister wouldn’t help matters so I just left it alone and went on with my life. Anna has always been one to do stupid shit for attention so I just blew it off.”
“If Anna suffers from the same addiction as your father,” He laughed, “Were going to be in trouble.”
“Holy shit.” I whispered, dropping my hands into my lap.
“Where is she?” He asked me.
“Um, well, last time I was with her was yesterday at the house.”
“Was she there when you left?”
“I think so?”
“Who else was there?”
“Finn. Just her and Finn.”
“Finish getting ready, were leaving in twenty.” Charlie said, standing up quickly.
“Where are we going?” I asked, looking up at him.
“Your house.” He said over his shoulder.
“I’ll call Finn.” I whispered.
“Charlie?” I said softly once we were on the road.
“Yea?” He whispered.
I stared at the sunrise on the horizon, “What made you quit?” I finally asked him.
He shrugged, “I guess I was just sick of solving murders.” He said simply.
I nodded slowly, thinking about what he dealt with on a daily basis and how difficult that must have been when he couldn’t do anything about Abigale’s case.
“You really loved her, didn’t you?” I asked with a small smirk.
“Yes I did.” He said in a disappointing tone.
“What are we going to do if Anna is who we think she is?” I asked nervously.
“I have no idea.” He said honestly.
I nodded, “Finn wasn’t answering his cell, you think he’s okay?” I asked, worried about my friend.
“Finn can handle his own.” He said with a nod.
“He’s gonna be so mad at me for not keeping him posted.” I whispered.
“He’ll just be happy you’re okay.” Charlie reassured me.
“Yea.” I said as I rested my head back and closed my eyes, “Hopefully.”
I didn’t need to see it; I could smell it. “Smoke.” I said as I sat up in my seat.
We were a block away from my house, getting ready to turn the corner and I was trying to prepare myself for what was next. I wasn’t ready to see my childhood home up in flames but the feeling in my gut was concern for Finn more than anything. I couldn’t lose another important person in my life, I just couldn’t.
“Charlie.” I said as we parked across the street from my house. I could see the orange flame dancing through my bedroom window.
Without another thought, I climbed out of the car and ran across the street to my front yard, looking for a safe place enter.
“Kate!” Charlie yelled, running after me. “You cannot go in there. Do you understand me?”
“Finn could be in there, Charlie! We’re not leaving him in there to die!” I argued, running around to the back yard.
“Just LISTEN.” He yelled.
“NO!” I yelled back as I ran to the back door and opened it.
The entire main level was clouded with smoke; I couldn’t see anything. “Finn!” I yelled as I dropped to my hands and knee’s and crawled through the kitchen. I was scared to look up, if my fate was to be crushed by a burning ceiling then I didn’t want to know it. So I kept crawling, ignoring the heat, ignoring the smoke, ignoring the burning in my lungs until I felt a limp body in front of me.
“Charlie! He’s here!” I yelled.
“I’m right behind you.” He said with a cough, “I’ve got him, just get out of here.”
“No, I’m not-”
“Kate! NOW!” He yelled.
Swallowing my pride, I did as he said and made my way safely out of the house; gasping for clean air as soon as I landed in the cool grass.
“Finn!” I heard Charlie yell as he walked out of the house with an unconscious Finn thrown over his shoulder.
He dropped to his knee’s next to me and laid Finn down on his back, “Come on, brother. Talk to me.” Charlie said as he prepped Finn for CPR. “He’s not breathing.” He whispered to himself.
“Charlie.” I whispered, holding back tears.
“Check for any open wounds, Kate. NOW.” Charlie demanded.
With shaky hands I looked all over his body for a wound, not finding a single scratch until I reached his head. “Th-The left side of his head is bleeding, it looks like he got knocked out.” I observed.
“Good.” Charlie said as he checked his airway.
“Good?!” I asked.
“Yes. Good. It’s better that he was knocked out by a hit to the head than the smoke in his lungs. Hopefully since he was on the ground when the fire started that he barley inhaled the smoke.” He said between breaths that he was giving Finn.
“But” I started.
“Listen.” He said, interrupting me. Sirens were echoing through the neighborhood. “The fire truck is almost here; I need you to be gone before they arrive.”
“No. I’m not leaving.” I argued.
“Kate.” He clenched his jaw, “I need to stay with Finn. You cannot be here when they arrive, trust me.”
“I’m not leaving!” I repeated.
“Fine.” He growled, “Then get ready to face the music.”