My phone rings way earlier on Monday morning than I’m used to, especially after being up late for the show Saturday, then working back-to-back shifts at the Winner’s Circle on Sunday. My stomach clenches. After my cousin’s death, phone calls at odd hours make me anxious. No one calls late at night or early in the morning with good news.
I fumble for my phone and freeze when I see the caller ID: LEXINGTON POLICE DEPT.
Instantly, I’m awake. My first thought is of Delilah. I’d put the police department number in my contacts after she died. I used to call them regularly, asking for updates on her case, but the answer was always the same: nothing new.
The phone chirps again and I swipe to answer it.
“Hello?” I sound tentative and scared. Probably because I am.
“Mackenzie Walker, please,” a crisp voice asks.
“Um, this is she.”
The voice warms. “This is Officer Letisha Matthews from the Lexington Police Department. We spoke about your records request last week?”
For a moment I’m confused, my hazy morning thoughts still tangled up in Delilah. When I don’t answer immediately, Officer Matthews adds, “About the Peg Graham murder?”
I almost laugh with relief but realize at the last minute how inappropriate that would be. “Right, of course,” I stumble to answer. I feel like an idiot.
“I just wanted to let you know the first batch of files is ready,” Office Matthews continues. “You seemed pretty eager, so I figured you wouldn’t want to wait before diving in.”
I blink, surprised. “That’s great.” My eyes fall on the box of horseshoes I’d dumped in the corner of my room on Saturday. There’d been no return address on the package, no way to track who’d sent it. Maybe it was meant to be a prank, but my gut still tells me it was meant as a warning.
If I’m going to back down from the investigation, now would be the time.
Officer Matthews mistakes my silence as hesitation. “Unless you’ve changed your mind about looking into this.”
“No,” I tell her quickly. I think through my day, trying to remember what’s on my schedule. Naturally, Mondays would be my most packed. I had to pick up extra classes to graduate on time after taking a semester off. “Is it okay if I drop by in the afternoon?”
There’s a brief pause. “Of course. Make sure to ask for me when you get here, okay, Mackenzie?”
Something about her tone leaves me a little uneasy. Like she’s still wary of my motives for looking into Peg Graham’s murder. Or maybe I’m projecting. I try to summon my inner Mackenzie. “Of course. I’ll see you this afternoon, Officer Matthews.”
I spend the day with a hyped-up sense of anticipation. Not only because I’ll finally be getting my hands on the official police files, but also because my last class in the afternoon is Anthro.
The one I share with Ryan Graham-Carlisle.
I’m nervous to see him again. During my visit to the farm, he’d been more open about his mother’s murder than I’d expected. I felt like he was allowing me to see something about himself and his life that no one else ever had. It’s made me think of him differently.
Before, I’d considered him just another preppy rich kid, albeit one with a tragic past. But now I’d caught a glimpse of how that tragedy had changed him. I’d seen the hole that his mother’s death had left in his life.
A hole similar to the one Delilah’s death had left in my own life.
Of course, there’d also been the moment on the bed when I’d thought he’d been about to kiss me. I keep reminding myself that it had been a ruse—a lie to explain my presence at the house. But part of it had felt like it could be real. Like there might have been a hint of desire in Ryan’s eyes.
It’s hard not to think that might change things between us. Unless I’ve imagined the whole thing. That’s the problem: I don’t know how much to trust Ryan. Or how much to trust myself around him.
He’s not in the lecture hall when I arrive, and I have to force myself to focus on the professor instead of glancing toward the door, waiting for him. When class is finally over, I scan the room. No Ryan.
Feeling more disappointed than I have any right to, I shove my laptop into my bag and start for the door.
Ryan’s waiting for me in the hallway. His eyes light up when he spots me, and I feel an instant flutter in my stomach.
“Hey,” I say. I force myself not to glance at his lips. I feel awkward and overly aware of my body. “How was the rest of your weekend?”
He shrugs. “Okay.” He doesn’t elaborate, or explain why he was missing from class. Or even really look me in the eye. “Got a second?”...