“About Gavin.” I put my fork down, sighing. “Everyone is talking about him.”
“They are.” Heidi frowned. “And no one really talks to me, so if I’ve heard about it, that really does mean everyone is talking about it.”
Well, that was reassuring.
I dared a quick look at Jensen. Chin tilted down, he was pulling his lasagna apart layer by layer, as if he were searching for something hidden in it. “We need to prove that Gavin didn’t do anything.”
Jensen looked up, his eyebrows raised. “And how would we do that?”
“That’s a good question,” Heidi added, twisting the long strands of red hair into a braid.
“I haven’t gotten that far in my thought process,” I grumbled.
“Well, considering that you’re not Nancy Drew, and I’m not one of the Hardy Boys, I’m not sure exactly what we can do.” One side of his mouth quirked up when I glared at him. “Look, I’m not being a smartass.”
“Okay, maybe a little, but let’s look at this seriously. What can we really do? The cops are investigating it, and it’s not like we can launch our own investigation. None of us know what to look for.”
“Another good point,” Heidi chimed in, and I was beginning to wonder if she was going to be of any help at all. “You can’t go and check out the farmhouse. That’s a crime scene, and the police would’ve pulled anything that could be considered evidence.”
“And we can’t get to that evidence.” He poked at his lasagna. “Unless you know how to break into a police station, which if you did, that would be kind of hot.”
I rolled my eyes.
“This is real life.” Jensen’s gaze found mine. “Not a book or a TV show where teenagers suddenly turn into seasoned investigators. We’re not private detectives, and the last thing I want you to do is put yourself in danger.”
There was very little I could say to that. Jensen and Heidi were right. None of us would even know where to start. Hell, I’d forgotten to call Trooper Ritter about the damn bird this morning, so I already made a lousy detective.
Heidi reached across the table, squeezing my hand. “The police will find something that proves Gavin had nothing to do with what happened to Vee. They probably already have, and when they find the person behind this, Gavin won’t have anything to worry about.”
“Okay.” I forced a smile I didn’t feel. “You’re right.”
Her green eyes lit up. “I know.”
“Want my peaches?” Jensen slid his tray toward mine.
My gaze flicked from him to the fruit.
“You know you want it,” he coaxed.
Heidi giggled. “That sounds remarkably dirty.”
“Doesn’t it?” He tossed her a careless grin, the kind that left a trail of girls in its midst. “Deliciously dirty.”
Biting down on my lip, I tried to stop the smile from forming, because it felt wrong after our conversation. I picked up my fork, though, and scooped up the peaches. “Thank you.”
I took a bite of the sugary goodness and a bit of its juice trickled out, escaping the corner of my lips. I reached for my napkin, but I never made it.
“I’ll get it.” Before I could react, Jensen dipped his head, angling it so it looked like he was kissing me, and I thought that was what he was about to do.
I tensed up. Our first real kiss was about to go down in the school cafeteria.
Except he didn’t kiss me, not really. Instead, the quick flick of his tongue caught the juice on my lower lip.
I gasped as heat zinged from my lips through my body.
Jensen pulled back, his eyes a crystal blue behind a thick fringe of lashes. “Mmm. Tasty.”
“Oh dear,” whispered Heidi, her hand pressed against her chest. “I think I just got pregnant watching that, and I don’t even think I like boys.”
My cheeks burst with heat. I was torn between climbing under the table, yelling at Jensen, and grabbing him and fusing our mouths together when a shadow appeared. In sort of a daze with my lip tingling, I glanced up.
Brock stood there, staring down at Jensen. “Yo, you got a second?”
He leaned back, cocking his head to the side. “No. Not really.”
Surprise splashed across Brock’s face and then he glanced at me. The hollows of his cheeks started to turn red. “You serious?”
“Do I look like I’m joking?”
Whoa. My eyes widened. What was up with the attitude?
Brock’s expression darkened as his gaze settled on us, sending a chill right down my spine. “Whatever, man. Catch you later.”
“Wow.” Heidi’s eyes were wide, watching Brock stiffly retreat back to his table. “He was not happy with you.”
Jensen shrugged his shoulder. “I’m not worried about him.”
The thing was, when I thought about the farmhouse and how Brock had disappeared, I kind of was.
IT WAS IN art class when I remembered I had an appointment with Dr. Oliver after school. Jensen offered to take me, and while I argued that I could take myself, he didn’t relent until I begrudgingly allowed him to drive me there.
And wait for me.
He did promise me a smoothie afterward, which made agreeing not the hardest thing to do, because who couldn’t use a smoothie?
Dr. Oliver’s office was on Foxcroft Avenue, on the third floor of a brick building, and as I stepped off the elevator, I realized that a faint antiseptic scent clung to every breath I took.
My sandaled feet were quiet against the worn brown carpet as I made my way down the narrow hall that was all too familiar. The glass in the door up ahead was blurred out. Dr. Oliver took privacy very seriously.
I knew not to knock. There was no receptionist in the evening. I passed the potted palm trees and stopped at the second door that was cracked open. “Hello?”
“Ella?” Dr. Oliver called. “Go ahead and come in.”
Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the door. The good doctor stood with his back to me, shaking a small can over his large aquarium. The guy was obsessed with his fish. I took a seat in front of his desk without being told.
“How are you doing today?” he asked politely.
Knowing he was going to do his shrink thing no matter which way I answered, I decided to go with honesty. “Tired.”
“I imagine so. Your mother said you haven’t been sleeping well?” He screwed the lid onto the bottle and set it aside. Turning toward me, he pulled off his wire frame glasses and smiled. He looked the same way as I remembered—dark trimmed beard, brown eyes, thinning hair.
I nodded. “I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“Because of the attack and subsequent situations, I imagine.” He dropped into his chair, slipping his glasses back on. “You know the drill, Ella.”
Swallowing a sigh, I slumped in the chair. Of course I knew the drill. Talk about my feelings. Talk about my fears. Blah, blah. I wanted to get this over and done with. There was a strawberry smoothie at the end of this dark cloud. So I told him how I felt—how I was scared. I admitted that I was having nightmares, that every little sound had me jumping out of my skin.
Dr. Oliver listened quietly, like he always did, fingers steepled under his chin. When I finished, he totally jumped right into the unexpected. “So you’ve been hanging out with Jensen Carver again.”
My brows climbed up my forehead. Exactly how he went from my fear of being murdered to who I was hanging out with was beyond me. “How did you know?”
He smiled as he tapped a finger off his temple. “I’m psychic.”
I stared at him.
Dr. Oliver sighed. “The window faces the front parking lot.” He gestured behind him. “I saw you get out of his truck.”
“Anyway.” He drew the word out, and I cracked a grin. “When did you guys start talking? After the night of the attack?” When I nodded, his fingers went back to his chin. “And how is your relationship?”
I could feel the heat creeping across my cheeks. “It’s okay.”