Kit sat on the edge of the sofa in Quinn’s apartment. He stopped at the fridge grabbing a pair of cold water bottles before joining her in the adjacent living. Her gaze wandered the room drinking in the knickknacks sitting on shelves and various table tops. There were pictures, clearly from the not too distant past with Quinn wearing a military uniform and surrounded by smiling friends attired the same. A picture of a woman rested on the right side of the mantle above his fireplace and the ring on her finger looked like a match to the one worn by Quinn. He tossed her one of the water bottles, interrupting her visual inspection.
“You’re married,” Kit asked, nodding toward the picture above the fireplace.
Quinn sat on the sofa and flashed her a wry smile. “I was.”
Kit raised an eyebrow. “What happened?”
He cracked the top off his bottle and drank deep. “It’s a long story,” he said. “Besides, we’re here to talk about you and the trouble you’re in.”
Kit lifted her unopened water bottle in Quinn’s direction. “I could use something a little stronger.”
Quinn laughed and smiled. “I’m sure you think so, but when trouble is nipping at your heels, it’s best to keep a clear head while keeping yourself hydrated.”
She put the water bottle aside on the coffee table and stood up. It only took her four steps to round the coffee table and stand in front of the mantle. She lifted the picture for a closer look. Kit said, “She’s pretty.”
“Charm and good looks only get you so far in life,” Quinn said. “Why don’t you start by telling me who you’re running from.”
She set the picture back in its place and shrugged. “Everyone, no one.”
His gaze lowered a nod as if he was trying to see her eyes through the strands of hair hanging in front of them. “Yourself?” he asked.
“No,” she said. Her certainty arrived in the form of an abrupt tone. She turned her back to him. “I’ll face the consequences for what I’ve done if it comes to that but there are others, more guilty than I, who need to face consequences as well.”
Quinn took another swig from his bottle and leaned back into the sofa. “Maybe you should start at the beginning.”
Kit turned back to him. She shook her head. “If I knew the beginning, maybe I could,” she said.
“It had to start somewhere,” he said. “When was the first time you realized you were in trouble.”
Kit laughed. “When my father unfastened his belt.”
Quinn raised an eyebrow of his own. “Was this recently?”
She laughed harder. “No, that was a joke.”
“So your father never unfastened his belt when you were in trouble?” he asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Kit said.
Quinn shook his head. “Then what are you saying?”
Kit kicked at the carpet beneath her feet. “Do you remember that woman in the square outside the casino?”
She said, “I’m responsible for what’s happening to her.”
“In what way?” he asked. “She was tried and convicted on evidence and there was no indication they were searching for an accomplice.”
Kit looked away from his compassionate eyes. “I don’t know why they laid it all on her. I’ve never even seen her before. I just know I was the thief, and she wasn’t involved.”
Quinn asked, “Why did you do it?”
Kit looked into Quinn’s blue eyes. There was no reason to trust him and yet she did. She had already told him more than she planned to tell anyone. What would it hurt to tell him everything? Only the whisper of her sister’s voice kept her from opening up completely. Don’t be reckless.
She said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m not sorry.”
“That’s not entirely true,” he said. “You feel guilty about something.”
The guilt twisted in her gut and she nodded. “Tara,” she said. “I never meant for an innocent to be hurt.”
Quinn said, “You could turn yourself in and prove her innocence.”
Kit blinked at him wondering how he could seem so wise and naive all at once. “The courts aren’t going to admit they made an error. All turning myself in will accomplish is putting me in the same position as her.”
“So you’re going to just let her suffer for your crime?” he asked.
She lowered her head and stared at the tops of her boots. “There’s nothing I can do until they release her,” she said, raising her head to meet his gaze again, “but after, I’ll do everything I can to make things right for her.”
Quinn finished the last of his water and set the empty bottle aside. “Helping Tara isn’t going to erase your guilt.”
“Nothing will,” Kit said.
“That’s not true,” Quinn said. “An appropriate punishment can absolve you of guilt.”
Kit shook her head. “I’m not turning myself in, not yet anyway. There are things I have to do first.”
“I wasn’t suggesting anything so reckless,” he said. “I could spank you.”
She gazed deep into his eyes. There existed no reason to doubt his seriousness. A deep blush colored her cheeks at the thought of him swatting her buttocks. She wanted to laugh. The stern set of his jaw suggested it would be unwise. She picked up the bottle of water he’d given her. The cap fell to the floor and she drained the bottle in a single gulp. Her mouth still felt dry.
“Not for stealing,” she said.
He nodded agreement. “For Tara.”
“Okay,” she said.