“I’m sorry to see you go,” Summer said after Lank told her that he was heading home.
He studied her and tried to find some hint that she felt something for him, that she wanted him to stay. Her expression was unreadable once again, and Lank realized how good she was at masking her feelings.
“I wish I could do more,” Lank said. “I’m sorry.”
“I understand,” she said. “It was a long shot anyway. I really appreciate you coming out here.”
“It’s strange,” Lank began.
He shook his head. “The method of stalking, the lack of communication, the random series of events. There’s no pattern, no rhyme or reason.”
“Which is exactly why there’s nothing to go on,” Summer sighed.
“None of it makes sense,” Lank said. “It’s almost as if…” He stopped and looked away, unwilling to voice his thoughts.
“As if I’m making it up,” Summer finished the thought for him.
“Yeah.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Summer. I don’t want to make accusations. I really want to believe you, but the cop in me can’t help but be suspicious.”
She raised her eyes without moving her head. “Gee, thanks for your vote of confidence.”
“Look, I’m not saying you are. I’m just saying that-” The buzzing of Lank’s phone made them both jump.
“Excuse me,” he said as he looked at the screen. Summer motioned for him to go ahead.
“Hello, Lankton here.” Their eyes met as he listened to the call. “Sorry, boss. Yeah, I’ll take the case. I’ll be back in the office tomorrow.”
Lank ended the call and looked at Summer.
“So, that’s it,” Summer said. “You ride in on your white horse, decide I’m just some crazy, attention-seeking maniac, so you just say goodbye and head home.”
“First, I never said that. And second, what else am I supposed to do, Summer? I don’t have any reason to stay. Do I?” He leveled his gaze on her, waiting for her to answer.
They stared each other down for a moment, but Summer never let her wall down. She held his gaze without taking the bait.
“I guess not,” she told him in an even tone. “You’re right. It’s time for you to leave.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Lank said as he stood, downed the rest of his beer, and headed toward the front door.
“Aren’t you going to tell me not to leave town?” Summer said coldly. He turned back to face her. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to say to a suspect?”
“I’m not accusing you of anything, Summer,” Lank said, his tone evenly measured. Why was she angry all of a sudden? He had simply told her the truth. Even she admitted that nothing added up. She had to see the absurdity of the whole thing.
She stood and looked at him, her jaw set and her eyes shooting daggers.
“But you don’t believe me, either,” she challenged.
“It’s not that I don’t want to believe you. I don’t know what to believe.”
“You son of a…” She shook her head. “I thought you came out here to help me.”
“I did, but there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve looked at every angle, analyzed every possibility. You said yourself that it’s time for me to leave.”
“Yes, but I’d rather you leave without thinking I’m crazy or a criminal.”
“Summer, I can’t pull clues out of the air or decide you’re telling the truth just because,” he stopped and looked away.
“Just because, what?” she demanded, taking a step toward him and placing her hands on her hips. When he turned back, her green eyes were filled with such intensity that he couldn’t look away.
“Let’s not go there, Summer. We just agreed that it’s time for me to go home.”
“You’re right,” she said, her voice low and challenging, and…sexy. “Just go home. I never asked you to come here to begin with.”
Lank held her gaze as he fought an inner battle between his mind and his body. Heat and desire radiated from Summer, and Lank heard himself make a low, primal noise akin to a growl. Without thinking, he grabbed Summer and pulled her to him. His mouth crushed hers, and her mouth opened to his. Her hands went to the back of his neck, and he enfolded her into his embrace, kissing her mouth, her chin, the scar on her throat until she groaned with the same primal urge that he felt himself.
Suddenly, Summer’s eyes opened, and she pushed him away. She stood, staring at him, her eyes wide and filled with passion. As if awaking from a dream, she suddenly looked panicked and wrapped her arms around her chest, her hand going to her mouth to cover it, her eyes closing.
“Oh God, I, Lank,” she shook her head and turned away. “I don’t know why I did that. I, I don’t know what to say. Please, you need to go.”
“Is that what you really want, Summer?” Lank said quietly, coming up behind her.
Without turning around, Summer shook her head. But she didn’t change her mind.
“Yes,” she said quietly. “I want you to go.”
“I’m sorry, Summer,” Lank said as he turned to leave. He glanced back once more, but Summer refused to face him. He hurried from the house and started to walk down the driveway before he realized he didn’t have a car. He stopped, closed his eyes, and shook his head, resigning himself to a long, lonely walk back to Megan’s.