Thirty-Six and a Half Motives Page 91

We drove the rest of the way in silence. I was fretting over the unknown threats looming over us. I was sure Neely Kate was worrying about the same, not to mention dwelling on her new family tree. Jed . . . well, he was his usual stoic self.

He parked in his spot, and as soon as he stopped, I opened the car door and bolted out, needing the cold night air to help me calm down. Leaving the car running, Jed followed me.

“It’s all gonna work out,” he said.

I spun around to face him. He was resting his butt against the side of the car, watching me. “You don’t know that. My vision told us nothing.”

“Maybe we’re not supposed to know. Maybe we’re just supposed to prepare the best we can and let the chips fall where they may.”

“And that might mean one or all of us die.”

“Rose,” he said softly, “sometimes you just have to accept your fate.”

I shook my head. “No. I refuse to believe that. My momma used to want me to accept my fate. Do you know what that was? Working at the DMV all day, then coming home to wait on her hand and foot while everyone in town thought of me as the weird Gardner sister. I was purposeless and alone . . . and then I had the vision of myself dead. I decided I didn’t want to die without livin’ first. So I made my list, thinkin’ I was on borrowed time.”

A wry grin lifted his lips. “And you completed that list and a hell of a lot more things after that.”

“But I’m not ready to die yet, and I’m not ready to lose anyone I care about.”

“Sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“Not tonight.” I marched over to him and grabbed his hand, squeezing tight as I closed my eyes, focusing on what would happen during the meeting. I could see we were inside the Atchison factory, but the rest was shrouded in a thick fog.

I dropped Jed’s hand. “You were in a haze.”

“Still murky?”

I nodded. “But I’m pretty sure it was Atchison.”

“It’s a lot more than Skeeter and I would normally know. We have to be happy with it.” But he couldn’t look me in the eyes. His gaze darted into the trees.

“You weren’t so accepting last week.” In fact, they had both asked me to use my ability again and again. I put a hand on my hip and scowled. “What are you up to?”

“Why in the hell would you ask that?” he asked.

But I knew him well enough to know he wasn’t telling me the entire truth. Before he realized what I was doing, I grabbed his hand and focused on his plan with Skeeter. This time the vision burst into view with surprising clarity. Skeeter stood beside me, but he pushed Vision Rose to the floor and covered her with his body as gunshots rang out. I ducked behind a metal desk, firing into a dark area full of rusted equipment. I looked down at my chest, surprised to see blood seeping through my shirt. I was shoved just as violently back to the present.

“You’re gonna get shot in the chest,” I said, staring into Jed’s confused face.

Sadness filled his eyes. “Rose . . .”

I dropped my hold on his hand and took a step back. I had absolutely no idea how to change the outcome. There was nothing in the vision to help me steer things in a different direction. “No.”

“I’m prepared to face what comes,” he said.

But I wasn’t. How many times had this man protected me? He was going into a situation that had nothing to do with him other than his connection to me.

I grabbed his hand again and focused on what would happen to my friends at the meeting. I was plunged into a vision and found myself lying on the floor, my chest on fire with pain. I heard a gurgling sound when I tried to breathe. Although I was behind a desk, I could see around the edge, and anger and frustration brewed at the sight in front of me.

J.R. Simmons was standing in an open space in the Atchison plant. Candles lined the room, and I saw two men lying on the floor to my left, blood pooled around them. Skeeter knelt at his feet with his hands zip-tied behind him, while Vision Rose stood in front of him with a defiant look in her eyes.

“It didn’t have to be this way, Rose,” J.R. purred, brandishing a gun. “If you’d only left my son alone.” Then he placed the gun to Skeeter’s temple as an evil grin spread across his face. “I was going to let you watch me punish Rose, but I think it will hurt her more to see this.”

The gun fired, and Skeeter slumped to the ground as Vision Rose screamed.

J.R. turned his attention to Rose. “Now it’s just you and me. The way it was always supposed to be.”

The vision faded, and I was jerked back into the cold night air. “He wants it to be just him and me.”

“What?” Jed asked in confusion.

“Nothing.” I shook my head, trying not to panic. “Neely Kate wasn’t there. Where was she?”

A soft smile lifted his lips, and then he said softly. “She won’t be anywhere near there.”

I nodded. It was better that way. Especially since she’d just found out J.R. Simmons was her father. I couldn’t stomach the thought of him hurting her any more than he already had. Jenny Lynn had gone on the run to escape him, so in a roundabout way, he’d stolen Neely Kate’s childhood.

“Do you have a plan for where to leave her?” I asked.

“No. We were going to play it by ear. We always suspected the location would be changed.”

Looking around, I sighed. I was scared to face that man alone, but I had to try to save my friends. “This is as good a place as any.”

He considered it for a moment before nodding. “Agreed.”

“We’re gonna have to trick her. I have an idea. Will you help me?”

“Yeah.”

I opened the back door and found Neely Kate on her phone.

She glanced up. “I called Granny to make sure she’s okay.”

I’d wondered what she was still doing in the car. “Is she? I hate that we traumatized her.”

“Witt took her back to his place, not that she’s happy about that.” Fear flickered in her eyes. “I’ve never seen her that scared before, Rose.”

“I know. We’re gonna put a stop to that tonight.”

Tears filled her eyes. “That monster is my father.”

“No. He’s not. He’s the pervert who took advantage of a teenage girl and happened to get her pregnant. He is not your father. But something good may have come from it.”

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