Chapter Seven: The Sheriff's Nephew

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After dropping off Divya at her family's brick two-story on Maple Street (and forcing Divya to a blood pact of secrecy regarding the stolen Archives material), Freddie shoved herself back onto the bike and pedaled home.

Everything in her body ached, but she was so close. And there was still one more thing she needed to finish before she could collapse on her bed and study the stolen ledgers: her civic duty.

Yes, a life of crime might call to her, but at the end of the day, she was a Good Girl.

Freddie spotted Bowman's house as soon as she turned on the street. She lived across from Freddie. Not directly, but two houses over in a white stucco with ivy that covered everything in green—or, at this time of year, in brilliant, fiery red.

It glowed like a jack-o-lantern, and when Freddie coasted to a stop in front, she caught sight of an unfamiliar Honda Civic in the driveway. It's taillights were still on, and as Freddie rolled up behind it, the car cut off and the driver's door swung wide.

A jean-clad leg slid out along with a pair of black Vans. Then a pale head and navy-striped rugby tee followed.

Suddenly Theo Porter was standing in Sheriff Bowman's driveway.

Freddie squeezed her breaks so hard, she almost tumbled off. Only a lucky angle let her regain balance—which, thank god. She did not need to crash her bike in front of Theo Porter. Or anyone, really.

He blinked at Freddie. And she blinked at him.

It was weird to see him without his RH Prep uniform. Plus, his hair wasn't so perfectly combed, which looked even weirder. (Although Freddie also had to admit, it looked better. He had very full, very touchable hair—which ugh, why was she thinking this about the enemy?).

"What are you doing here?" he asked, shutting the car door.

"I need to see the Sheriff." Freddie slung off her bike. "What are you doing here?"

"Uh, the Sheriff is my aunt." He shrugged like this was the most obvious thing in the world.

And with a swoop in her gut, Freddie supposed it was—which, wow, what a terrible detective she was. She'd known Bowman's maiden name was Porter, and she'd known that Bowman had a nephew in high school. Except...she thought he lived in Chicago.

"Then how come I've never seen you here before?" Her grip tightened on her handlebars. He was walking toward her. Not threatening, but still the enemy.

Montagues versus Capulets, and all that.

He paused three paces away. "I hadn't been arrested before, that's why." He folded his arms over his chest, and his thumb tapped his bicep. "Now, however, I am required to eat dinner with my aunt and uncle every night until I graduate. Thank you for that."

"You're welcome," Freddie said cheerily, and Theo's thumb tapped faster.

As far as Freddie was concerned, though, nightly dinners seemed a very reasonable punishment. "The research does suggest that eating together as a family leads to better life choices, Mr. Porter."

His lips twitched—although with a smile or annoyance, she couldn't quite say. And now his thumb was really tapping. "My aunt is a terrible cook, Gellar. Like, I'd rather eat glass shards."

"Good thing for you," said Sheriff Bowman, walking up behind her nephew, "tonight you won't have to do either. We're going to the Quick-Bis."

Theo's hand fell to his sides, and for a half a second, his eyes squeezed shut. Freddie could practically hear him thinking, Shit, shit, shit. But when his eyelids lifted again, it was with the slightest smile. "Well-played, Gellar. Well-played." Then he angled toward his aunt and added, "You have Spiderman stealth, Aunt Rita."

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