Chapter Seventeen

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I dreamed about Owen, restlessly, feverishly, and woke up exhausted. I'd fallen asleep with my phone on my pillow. It was 10:30 in the morning and unfortunately I had the day off. I'd so much rather go into work than dwell on this all day.

I gazed at the button on my phone that would let me play Owen's voicemail again. I didn't need to replay it; every word was burned into my brain. I'd woken up so many times last night, trying to decide how to respond to him, but I still couldn't figure out what to say.

Eventually, I decided to be honest. I opened the text message window and typed: I need some time to think. Immediately after I pressed send, I realized that Owen was in California and it was 7:30 in the morning there. Oh, well. Owen was an early riser, anyway.

My phone buzzed. He'd written me back already, as if he'd been waiting for me. It was just one word: Ok.

I wondered if he'd sent the text from bed, like me, if the time difference was enough to put us on the same sleep schedule. Probably not. He was probably out in the yard, building his dad a deck or planting some palm trees in the yard, working up a sweat in the California sunshine.

I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs to the kitchen, where I made myself a pot of coffee. Kaye and Andy had probably left for their run an hour or so ago, and Scott was either still sleeping or watching TV in bed. A man after my own heart, in some ways.

A knock sounded on our front door. Holding my coffee and still wearing a pink pajama tee and shorts with my fluffy slippers, I crossed the living room to the door. Claire stood in front of me on the paved driveway, holding two leashes in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other. Byron stood beside her, looking dignified, while Ferdinand, bigger and fluffier than ever, lolled on the ground and nibbled on one of Byron's legs.

"Claire," I said. "What are you doing here?"

Claire is taller than me, but even she looked small next to her giant dogs. Her slumped shoulders made her look even smaller.

"I came to apologize," Claire said.

"Apologize," I echoed. Of course. I couldn't believe that this hadn't occurred to me last night: Claire obviously knew all along about Owen's trial, and she, unlike Kaye and Andy, also knew that Owen and I had been seeing each other. If anyone, besides Owen, had the responsibility to tell me about his gory past, it was her.

I should have been angry. Furious. And yet... I wasn't. The realization just made me tired.

"Come in." I stepped back from the door and gestured for Claire to sit down at the breakfast bar.

"I brought muffins," Claire said, setting her paper bag down on the counter.

"Thanks." My tone sounded chilly even to my own ears. I fixed Claire a coffee, a little annoyed that I knew how she liked it. Black, three sugars.

"Owen told me yesterday he was flying to California to see his dad," Claire said. "I thought maybe you guys had a fight?"

"I heard about Owen's trial."

Claire's face paled. "I thought that might be it."

"How could he not tell me, Claire? He said that they dated, but he didn't say he was accused of killing her. Kind of a big thing to leave out."

"It's my fault."

I stared at her.

"I told him not to tell you," Claire admitted. "He wanted to, but I thought that it would have been too much for you to hear, especially before you really got to know him. I knew you would find out eventually, but...." She glanced down at Ferdinand, who licked her hand. "I'm sorry, Miranda. I just thought... if you could get to know him a little first, without all the rumors and the gossip, you would know, in your heart, that he couldn't hurt a fly. And especially not Suzanna."

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