Chapter Sixteen

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I sat on the bench, numb and speechless, while Mrs. Gautier made an apologetic goodbye, and said something else about my painting at the Graveside. I hardly heard her. I felt like I was separating into a hundred tiny pieces, each floating away, spirit-like, into the graveyard.

It couldn't be true. I knew Owen. He would never hurt anyone.

Then I remembered the way he had grabbed Scott by the throat after the fire at the Lodge, and how unbearably cold he'd been to me yesterday, at the Widow's Walk, even though he could tell I was upset.

I had such strong feelings for him already, but I had only known him for a few weeks. And I was the same stupid girl who moved to Connecticut with Rhys after only a month.

I pressed my face into my knees and hugged the tops of my boots. What kind of man keeps his dead girlfriend's self-portrait locked in his spare room?

He promised to tell me everything, but all he told me was that he and Suzanna dated. He let me believe that the town didn't like him because he tried to have Suzanna all to himself. He let me feel sorry for him!

Yesterday, at the Widow's Walk, he'd wanted to tell me something. Could it truly have been this? Now that we've slept together, I thought you should know that I killed Suze. I drowned her, off of East Beach.

No—there had to be some other secret, dividing him from the town. Some other explanation for Suze's death that didn't involve the man I had just slept with.

I had to know. My limbs moving slowly and awkwardly, as if I were underwater, I found my phone and dialed Owen's number.

It rang and rang while I tried not to think about what I was going to say.

Then, horribly, it went to voicemail.

I listened to Owen's deep, even voice asking me to leave him a message and I wanted to cry.

It beeped.

"Hi. It's Miranda." I tried to control the shaking of my voice, without success. "If you have a moment... I would like to know what you were going to tell me yesterday. I just heard something about... Suzanna... and I...." I swallowed, but no more words would come. My face flushing, I hung up. Of course I had to go all stiff and proper and British.

Memories circled me like vultures: his hands on my skin, his scent, his gentle laugh.

Feverishly, I stood up and began packing up my paints. I had to know more. I had to know everything.

#

I found my housemates sitting around a campfire in the backyard, making s'mores and drinking Schlitz. Kaye had come back home from Portland while I was out, and I had never been more relieved to see her.

"There you are!" Kaye glanced up from the marshmallow she was toasting to smile at me.

"More errands?" Andy winked at me as he handed me a toasting stick.

I meant to respond with a joke, but the words got lost.

Owen killed her. He drowned her off of East Beach.

I sank into one of the plastic lawn chairs in between Kaye and Andy, holding the stick across my lap.

"Can I ask you guys something?"

Kaye and Andy both looked at me, Kaye's wide smile faltering and Andy's pierced eyebrow arching. On the other side of the campfire, Scott was staring into the depths of his beer can.

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