Chapter Twenty-Three

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The house had never felt so empty. Andy had left for work about an hour ago, and Kaye was still working a double shift. I'd been so eager to leave, but now that I was home, I wished I was anywhere else. We still hadn't replaced the chairs at the kitchen island. The space between the living room and the kitchen felt desolate; and when I walked from one to the other, I imagined drops of blood and wine on the scrubbed pine floors.

I tried to make myself some dinner, but everything tasted like ash. I kept thinking about Rhys, and my argument with Margot, and the stares and comments I'd gotten all day. A sense of foreboding pressed at my ribs.

Maybe Scott's home, I thought, glancing at the stairs. Truthfully, I didn't know if Scott being home would make me feel better or worse. It had to be better, right? He was my housemate; we were friends, sort of. Being with him had to be better than being alone.

Upstairs, as I walked towards Scott's room, that nagging sense of foreboding got worse and worse. It was like a thorn, digging in deeper with every breath.

The death threats.

The words appeared in my mind as if someone had whispered them into my ear. I knew instantly what they meant: everyone thought Owen had hurt me. That wouldn't just bring more gossip and stares and irritating comments. The death threats would get worse, too.

Scott's door was slightly open. Inexplicably, my stomach clenched. "Scott? You home? Want to get some dinner or something?"

I knew he wasn't there, but I knocked anyway. For some reason, keeping up the pretense felt important. "Scott?"

I pushed the door open. The days were still short enough that his room was in almost complete darkness, with just the faintest wisp of twilit clouds outside his window.

"Scott, are you in here?"

When I switched on the light, his room looked normal. A typical guy's room—band posters on the walls, an unmade bed, laundry scattered on the floor. Only one thing struck me as strange. The very top of an ornate, scrolling picture frame was just visible in the narrow space between Scott's bed and the far wall.

I crept across the room and tilted the picture frame back, leaning it against the wall. All of the breath left my body.

It was one of Suze's paintings from the Artist's Lodge. One of the paintings that had been destroyed in the fire—except it hadn't been destroyed after all.

There had to be some kind of rational explanation. Scott must have bought it or borrowed it from Matthew, sometime after I'd seen it hanging at the Lodge but before the Lodge had caught fire.

The only thing was, Scott didn't strike me as an elaborately framed oil painting kind of guy. And if he was, why had he left it on the floor, half-hidden behind his bed?

Biting my lip, I frowned down at the painting. It was the one of a small group of people standing on a rainy beach. I hadn't thought too much about it at the Lodge. Back then, I'd thought it was hard to make much out about the people she'd painted.

Looking at it now, that had changed completely. This tall woman on the right had white-blond hair. It was pulled back in a ponytail instead of in a pixie cut, but still, she had to be Kaye, didn't she? And the man standing beside her was heavier than Andy was now, but he had Andy's dark hair, and I was pretty sure he had gauges in his earlobes. He had to be Andy. Suze had even captured the way Andy looked at Kaye—the amused smile, the calm set to his eyes, the sense that, just by looking at her, he was completely and totally happy in the universe.

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