{fifteen}

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"I've got everything with me. See you in a bit."

Alessandra hung up. Pat had called and given her directions to a house on the north side of town. She'd just started driving when her phone went off.

Nate.

"Need any help over there?" he asked once she'd answered her Bluetooth.

"I've got it under control," she said.

"You know where I am if you need me."

Alessandra said goodbye and ended the call. Ten more minutes to the place. At least this was something she felt confident about being able to handle. Unlike anything having to do with her her partner. She sighed. She knew she'd have to deal with him eventually.

Last night had been great, the most relaxed she'd been in months. And then she had to mess it all up. One minute she was doing dishes and the next thing she knew they were almost kissing. What was it about him that she couldn't keep herself in check?

Yes having someone would be nice but not like this. And not with him. Mel had tried to talk her out of it, but she was a big believer in leagues. Especially knowing he was with Carla. The only reason he would be with someone like her was because of convenience. She'd been down that road already. It was paved with gallons of ice cream and boxes of tissue. No time for that.

Alessandra pulled up to the house. The good news was nothing had happened which meant no need to worry about a repeat of last time. Not like he could just go and leave. Ironically enough, she wished he would. But then it would just be her left to deal with whoever was after her. Pat had enough on her plate without having to run to her rescue. And she did feel safer around him.

Alessandra turned off her car. She was making this way more complicated than it needed to be. If she didn't care so much about her perception by everyone, this wouldn't matter. After everything that happened with Dylan last time, she had to show she could maintain her composure. So far she was failing miserably.

She smiled at the lights already hung even when it was the second week of November. It was just her and Alex now, but Thanksgiving and Christmas were still her favorite times of the year. They used to switch off with going to each other's places but these days it was easier for her to come to them. She enjoyed making green bean casserole, chicken empanadas, buñuelos and sweet potato pies to bring.

Alessandra focused her wandering mind again while she got her kit and went to the door, not sure what to expect. It opened before she was able to knock.

"That was quick," Dylan said.

"You said it was important." She stepped past him and walked inside.

The place closed in on her immediately. She took some deep breaths and concentrated on the scene. At least the smell of cake took her mind off of the small space. Anything to cover the stench of stale cigarettes. Alessandra got ready to introduce herself but didn't get the chance.

"I didn't think it would be like this!" Alessandra looked at the young woman who'd spoken.

"Young lady, that's not the point," an older woman said. "You're supposed to be responsible! Now your cousin's dead!" She coughed and wiped her eyes.

"We know you're mad, Miss Vincent." Pat placed her arm on the mother's shoulder. "But we need to get moving in order to catch your niece Sariah's killer."

"We look the same and she lost her ID. It wasn't a problem for me to give it to her," the young woman said.

"Even when you knew what she was into?" Miss Vincent stomped her way to the kitchen. "Dammit Laura, you should have more sense than that. I raised you better."

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