Perfectly Innocent by Tamra Lassiter
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Innocent or guilty—there’s nothing perfect about it.Phoebe Davidson is a good girl who’s been through some bad times. Her life changed forever when she learned that her husband was living a secret life. Now, six years later, she’s just going through the motions of her life, afraid to let anyone in. When a horrific crime occurs in her home, she meets Logan Matthews, a police detective working the case. When Phoebe herself is charged with the murder, can she trust Logan? Can she, and should she let him into her life?
My spine stiffens.
I thought that I’d imagined the sound, but there it is again. A muffled gurgle…maybe. Then silence.
Not a sound that belongs in my home.
I think of fleeing.
The urge to see where it’s coming from is too great. Besides, it doesn’t sound threatening. How stupid would I feel if I called someone to help me, and it was just the dishwasher overflowing or something equally frightening?
I breathe in deeply, taking my fortification from the air around me and then release it slowly. My heartbeat echoes in my ears.
I take my first steps, moving gingerly toward the back of the house. Goosebumps wash over my arms.
The sound echoes again.
Why am I being so ridiculous? Get your butt in there and see what the problem is.
It probably isn’t even that loud, anyway. It just seems that way because it doesn’t belong. I expel a breath and get on with it. My courage renewed, I ignore the bumps of warning on my arms, take the turn into the kitchen…and fall to my knees.
Hysteria bubbles to the surface of my being.
My breaths now escape as rough sobs.
A black cloud forms around my vision, but I push it away as I try to assess the sight before me.
There’s blood—so much blood—in pools and smears on my white floor.
And a man.
Just lying there.
Something protruding from his chest.
I choke back the bile that’s building in my throat. It’s too late to turn back. I crawl to him slowly on shaky limbs. I sway, dizzy from the sight before me.
His chest rises and falls, revealing the source of the sound.
Is he alive?
I open the door slowly, not sure what my reaction should be at seeing him here. It probably shouldn’t be the tsunami that forms in the pit of my stomach. It whirls and churns and then explodes, taking over everything as a wave of nausea flows through my body. The tidal wave subsides, leaving only the back-and-forth of small, choppy waves that my stomach must somehow navigate. I know that I shouldn’t be experiencing any fluttering, but yet it’s there. Maybe it is just a nervous reaction to the fact that a policeman is here to see me. That would be understandable, warranted even. When the flutters travel lower, I have to admit to myself that they’re for reasons other than his occupation.
He’s dressed in charcoal slacks and a bright white dress shirt. No tie today. He didn’t shave this morning. The dark stubble on his cheeks looks somehow sexier than a clean shave. That definitely is not the case for us girls. The only giveaway that he isn’t about to pose on some hot-guy calendar are the dark shadows under his eyes. He looks fresh-from-the-shower delicious, and I’m still dressed in the same sweatpants and t-shirt that he saw me in last night, only now they’re wrinkled from sleep. Well, they’re wrinkled from tossing and turning. It’s not like I actually slept. I realize that he’s still standing on the porch studying me, and neither of us has said a word.
“I thought that we weren’t supposed to talk without a lawyer present.” Did those words just come out of my mouth? I grimace internally, maybe externally too. Way to go Phoebe. Give him a reason to leave.
“That’s true. We aren’t allowed to talk about the case without a lawyer present.” Detective Matthews pauses and looks down at his clasped hands. “But I’m not here to talk about the case.” His beautiful brown eyes meet mine again. “I really just wanted to make sure that you are okay. You went through so much last night, and well…I’ve been worried about you.”
I feel the corners of my mouth break into a smile. He’s been worried about me. Is it normal for cops to check up on people? Maybe. Probably. I hope not. He smiles back. I place a hand on my stomach to calm the trembling tsunami that is now wreaking havoc on my insides.
There is plenty of chemistry between me and Detective Matthews, though. Why him? I feel shivers when he looks at me, not to mention when he touches me. I almost dropped the cup of water he was handing me at the police station. How embarrassing would that have been? Why can’t I fall for someone accessible and not someone who is trying to put me in prison?
That isn’t fair. Detective Swann is the one who has the attitude. Detective Matthews is helpful. I think. Maybe. He did come here this morning to make sure that I had a lawyer with me today.
But he was interrogating me in that room just like Detective Swann.
But that’s his job.
Am I now arguing with myself?
“Turn around nice and slow there buddy.”
What the hell?
I do as ordered. My eyes meet his, and I can see his determination, even in the dark. I can also see that he has a shotgun aimed directly at me, and he looks like he’s not afraid to use it. How did I not hear him coming?
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asks calmly.
He’s not very tall, under six feet for sure, but he looks even shorter due to his slouched stature and bare feet. He doesn’t have much hair and what he has is stark white. His wrinkled face scrunches just before he spits to his right in a somehow graceful motion, as if he’s been doing it his whole life—he probably has. I feel his stare pierce through me.
“I asked you a question.”
“I was just checking on Ms. Davidson, um Phoebe. I didn’t want to bother her, but I wanted to make sure that she’s okay.” Why do I suddenly feel like a pubescent teenager who’s been caught by a protective father?
He sighs. “You know her?”
“We’ll see about that?”
“Arnie, do I need to call the police?” A feminine, but gruff voice shouts from the yard of the house next door.
“Not yet, but keep the phone handy,” he yells back.
Great. I can just imagine Fuller or one of the other guys answering that call. I would never live that down. I have to come clean.
“Actually, sir,” I say as calmly as possible. “I’m the police.” His eyes rove over me again from head to toe. “I have my badge in my left pocket.”
“Okay, let’s see it. Use one hand. Nice and easy.” He motions toward my left side with the shotgun.
I fish in my pocket with my left hand and retrieve my badge. Arnie takes it from me and holds it up to catch the cast of his own porch light. He studies it closely and then lowers his gun. Relief courses through my veins, although I know that this is far from over.
Phoebe turns without another word or glance in my direction and walks around to the front of the house. I follow her into her home, closing the door behind me. I really shouldn’t be here. So why can’t I leave?
She turns to me as we enter her house.
“Does Arnie know that it’s illegal to hold someone at gunpoint? He found out I was a policeman, and he didn’t even flinch.”
“You aren’t going to arrest him for that, are you?” she asks nervously. “He and Millie are very protective of me on a normal day, but with everything that happened…”
“I guess we can let this pass.” Phoebe smiles, the relief evident on her face. She stands nearby, watching me. Some kind of current moves back and forth between us causing a disturbance in the air that I can feel.
I step closer—only about a foot away now. He doesn’t move. I take another step until I’m inches from him, so close that I can smell his musky scent. I wish that I was dressed in something a little more alluring than my pajamas.
“Stay,” I say. The word is barely a whisper.
His lips take mine. Take is the word that comes to mind because he claims them so completely. My mouth surrenders to him, and I’m on fire. There’s nothing tentative about his tongue as it explores my mouth. His hands move to my shoulders and then my back as he pulls me tightly to him.
A moan echoes from deep inside me. I rake my hands through his dark hair. He pulls me even closer. The feel of his tight body brings sensations to places that have been dormant for way too long. One kiss, especially a first kiss, has never had this effect on me—from zero to sixty in five seconds flat.
He pulls back enough to break our kiss, but one hand still rests on my lower back, holding me close. His other hand caresses my cheek. His eyes hold an unmistakable fire that I’m sure are reflected in my own.
“I should apologize for that, but it wouldn’t be sincere.” The corners of my lips turn up to a smile that he returns. The hard lines of his face soften, the corners of his eyes wrinkle, and his eyes brighten. For a moment, all is right with the world. Until a hard punch of reality hits him, and his smile recedes. “Still, I shouldn’t have kissed you. I can’t believe that I came here.”
He begins to pull away, but I refuse to let go. “I’m glad that you’re here. Does that count for anything?”
They didn’t handcuff me. I realize that now as I sort of wake up from the experience. I’m in a jail cell, an actual jail cell with bars and everything. Fortunately, I’m alone in my little room. There is an older gentleman in the cell next to me. He came in a while ago, belting out a tune from The Phantom of the Opera, but he apparently only knows a few words because he just kept singing The Phantom of the Opera is there, inside your mind, over and over again until the words began to fade and were finally replaced with rhythmic snoring.
Other than the complete humiliation surrounding the occasion, spending the night in jail wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I didn’t have to look tougher than I am, or get a burly girlfriend for protection, or even take up smoking cigarettes. I really do watch too much television. I guess I should count my blessings that there weren’t more criminals arrested last night in Hickory Grove because when morning comes, it’s still just me and the tenor in the cell next door.
I spend a moment in my car with a hairbrush and compact. I brush my hands along my skirt to help smooth out some of the wrinkles. Hopefully people will think that the wrinkles are from normal wear and not from a night in the slammer. As much as it feels like it, I am not wearing a sash that says I was in jail last night.
Jeffrey, probably not even his real name, was in on it. In hindsight, it makes sense. He was all charm throughout dinner. He appeared interested in what I had to say. He was polite. He laughed at my jokes. Then, during dessert, he put his hand on my knee. It seemed inappropriate at the time, but I removed it, and we laughed about it. It wasn’t until he walked me to my car that he made his big pass. He kissed me goodnight, really pretty chaste as kisses go and then grabbed my breast. It was a grab for sure, not a caress or even a brush. It was more like a honk, and it was disgusting. I told him that I didn’t appreciate it, and then I left and drove straight home.
Looking at the whole picture, I can see that it was his job to keep me out of my house for a certain amount of time and then make sure that I went home alone. That’s exactly what he did.
“I’m going to need lots of details when we get home,” she announces cheerfully. Turns out that we will not be able to discuss details after all. Hillary and Madison are in full auntie-attack-mode as soon as I walk in the door. I don’t mind. There’s nothing like having cheers erupt when you walk into a room. That happens to professional athletes and a few other celebrities, but it doesn’t happen to normal people. Plus, it gives me a chance to avoid my sister and not analyze my relationship with Logan. I don’t want to do that right now. I just want to enjoy my floating on clouds moment and not wonder if my clouds are headed for a storm.
About Tamra Lassiter
I live outside Washington, D.C. with my wonderfully supportive husband and two daughters, one of which is approaching her teenage years. Help us all! If that isn’t enough, we have a Great Dane and an English Bulldog to keep us on our toes. It’s crazy around here and I love every minute of it!
Writing is my third career. I didn't set out to be a writer, it was just meant to be. My Mechanical Engineering degree from Virginia Tech prepared me well for my first career as an Engineer/Program Manager. My second career was in Human Resources. Long story, but I figured it out. I believe the best start for a writing career is to be a reader first and I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. I've loved to read ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew mystery in the fourth grade. Now I love reading just about everything, but I don’t read sad books and I don’t watch sad movies either for that matter, no matter how many awards they’ve won. Life’s too short and who needs all that strife to bring us down?
Many of my words have been penned late into the evening, which explains why I’ve never viewed whatever television show you recommend to me. I would, however, love to hear your recommendations for a great read!