Home > Vow of Deception (Deception Trilogy #1)(4)

Vow of Deception (Deception Trilogy #1)(4)
Author: Rina Kent

Pissed off at him and at my reaction toward him, I toss the handkerchief in a trash can and storm in the opposite direction.

I need a hot meal and a bed tonight, and if it means meeting the devil again to have them, so be it.

 

 

3

 

 

Winter

 

 

I stop before rounding the corner toward the shelter.

Saying I’ll face the devil and actually doing so are two different things. After all, I clawed at his face, kicked him in the balls, then shoved him against his desk the last time I saw him.

He might really catch me and force me to spend a day in the police station.

A low growl escapes my stomach and I wince as it contracts against itself. I can almost feel it opening its mouth and when it finds nothing, makes this god-awful sound.

I wrap an arm around my middle as if that will magically appease the ache.

Okay, I’ll just try to sneak in some soup and leave. Many homeless people who don’t spend the night here come only for meals, so my plan shouldn’t be weird.

I pull my hood over my head and rub my hands together in a half-assed attempt to warm them as I round the corner.

Two police cars are parked in front of the shelter with their blue and red lights on. A few news vans are scattered around the shabby building. Reporters and cameramen are everywhere, like bugs searching for a juicy piece of trash to bite down on.

Don’t tell me that slimy asshole called the police and the media because of me? I only kicked him. Okay, maybe I clawed at his face and punched him, too, but that was in self-defense. He’s the one who called me into his office and was feeling me up where he wasn’t supposed to be touching.

I might have little—okay, nothing—but I can protect myself against bastards like him.

But if I tell that to the police or the media, they won’t believe me. Why would the respectable director of a homeless shelter, who’s also running for mayor, touch an insignificant, dirty person like me?

I really should search for another shelter. But will they let me in if Richard has already blacklisted me?

Was it the clawing, the punching, or the kicking that sealed the deal for him? If it was the latter, so be it. Because kicking him in the balls isn’t something I regret in the least.

A pebble hits me upside the head and I wince, turning around. A smile lifts my mouth when I make eye contact with the only person I’d call my friend in this shithole.

“Larry!” I whisper-yell.

“Come here.” He motions at me to join him in a small alleyway that’s used for tossing trash.

I briskly move to his side and wince at the smell of garbage. Not that Larry and I are the best smelling people around, considering the limited amount of time we get to shower.

Larry’s tan skin appears even darker in the shadows. He’s a middle-aged man—around mid-fifties, as he told me—and he has the wrinkles around his eyes as proof of the time he’s spent on this earth. His features are harsh, angular, and the bone in his nose protrudes due to being broken before.

He’s wearing a second-hand hot orange cashmere coat that he got from some charity. His boots and gloves are navy blue. Obviously, his sense of fashion is definitely better than mine.

We met a few weeks ago at one of the subway stations and he shared his dinner with me. I gave him half of my precious beer and we somehow became best friends. The one thing I love most about Larry’s company is that he’s not the talkative type. We both daydream in each other’s presence, not bothering to ask too many questions. We’ve found camaraderie in silence. In shutting the door on the world. He knows about my alcohol problem, though, and he told me that he’s a veteran.

Larry is the one who brought me to this shithole, saying we’d get free meals and a warm bed. We’ve stuck around for each other, so when one is sleeping, the other takes guard so no one touches us. When there are no beds available, we sit beside each other, I lay my head on his shoulder, and we sleep like that.

“I’ve been searching all over for you.” He pants. “Where have you been?”

“Around.”

“Did you steal some beer again?”

“No!”

“Winter…” he pinches the bridge of his nose as if I'm an insolent child.

“Okay. Only one. I didn’t have any change.”

“We agreed to never steal.”

“Desperate times, Larry. Besides, you know I don’t like the sober me. She has issues.” Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling off-balance all afternoon. I have a low alcohol tolerance, but even I need more than a single beer to get drunk.

“Winter…”

“Forget about me.” I throw a dismissive hand in the shelter’s general direction. “What happened here?”

He thins his lips before releasing them. “I ought to ask you that.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Why do you think the police and the media are here?”

“Because Richard called them over to demonize me?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then what?”

“Richard was found dead in his office this morning.”

I pause, a strange sensation gripping me by the throat and confiscating my air supply. When I speak, it’s in a strained whisper. “What?”

“The cleaning staff found him in a pool of his own blood and the police are suspecting you did it.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. I don’t know if Richard called them before he died or if the staff and the others witnessed that you were the last person who saw him alive.”

My fists clench on either side of me. “I didn’t kill him, Larry. I didn’t do it.”

His brows draw over his wrinkled eyes as he sighs. He has thick skin with some blotches, probably due to staying out in the sun for so many years. “I know.”

“Really?”

“Really, Winter. You’re a crazy little thing, but you’re no murderer.”

I smile a little at that. “Who are you calling crazy, old man?”

“I’m no old man, you little shit.”

“You act like one, Larry.”

He headlocks me, then swiftly pushes me away. Larry has always kept distance between us, as if he’s afraid to touch me, and I’m thankful for that. Not because his touch is bad, but because I dislike being touched. That’s why I prefer invisibility.

“Anyway, you need to leave before they find you.”

“No. I did nothing wrong, and if I hide, that means I’m admitting to a crime I didn’t commit.”

“So what do you plan, woman? Are you thinking of barging into the midst of those policemen? What are you going to say? Like, ‘umm, hey there, officers, I’m the one you think killed Richard, but I actually didn’t, so let’s just shake hands’?”

“I’ll simply tell them what happened.”

“No one will believe you, Winter. Your fingerprints are all over his office and you were the last one who saw him alive before you disappeared. You’re guilty in their eyes. And if you go in there, they’ll lock you up for twenty years. You won’t get a good lawyer either, because state-appointed ones are shit.”

His words penetrate my brain, slowly making sense, but I want to dismiss them as fast as possible. I want them to be untrue. Because I can’t accept that option.

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