My face catches somewhere between a smile and a grimace. “Isn’t it? And yet, here I am.”
Cracking a smile, he says, “You didn’t have a lot of options, I understand.”
“I don’t think he would mind you telling me,” I assure him, since I really don’t. “I just really don’t want to ask him again. He has a tendency to be suspicious, and I don’t want him to think I’m too worried about it.”
“Right,” Adrian says, nodding his understanding. “Well, if he already told you that much, I suppose it doesn’t matter. There was this cop on Mateo’s payroll who had a little crush on Beth. It was harmless enough, Mateo knew and didn’t care. What he didn’t expect was that Beth would get tired of him—though I sort of expect that of all Morelli women sooner or later. The Morellis have a lot of flaws, and Mateo seems to collect them. Anyway, so Beth seduced the cop, tried to get him to turn on Mateo. He found out – because Mateo always finds out,” he tells me, eyeing me pointedly, like he’s giving me a warning, “and once he knew he couldn’t trust her, that was that.”
“Did he give her a chance to explain herself?”
He cocks his head to the side, thinking. “I mean, he confronted her. There wasn’t a whole lot to explain though; it was pretty clear what happened.”
“She didn’t try to deny it?”
“Of course she tried, but there was evidence against her. The cop caved under—” He stops, cutting a look in my direction. “—Given a little incentive,” he amends. “Told on her, hoping Mateo would spare him. Don’t know why he thought that might happen. You fuck Mateo Morelli’s woman and you may as well shoot yourself in the face and save him the trouble, but he tried.” He shrugs. “She eventually admitted it and begged for mercy, but it was too late.”
“You think he loved her?”
“I know he did,” he verifies.
“And he still killed her.”
Adrian watches me for a moment. “Don’t think about it too hard. You’re not Beth. Don’t ever give him a reason to turn on you and I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“I’d never do what she did,” I tell him. “Even if I didn’t feel the way I feel about him anymore, I would never do that. I can’t imagine ever wanting to hurt him—and I’d never do it, even if I did.”
“Good,” Adrian says, giving me a small nod of approval. “Anything else?”
I shake my head, offering a small smile. “No. Thanks, Adrian.”
I’ve experienced a few moments of pure tenderness in my life—not a lot, but a few.
My high school boyfriend took me out on Lake Michigan with some friends one memorable night. We drank some beers and he let me steer at one point. When the rest of the group was on a different part of the boat, he gave me this really loving smile and just grabbed my hand to give it a squeeze, and it was one of those pure, simple moments that sticks with you. Even after I married Rodney, with whom I do not have any of those memories, I always regarded it as the most tender moment of my life.
Until tonight, when I return to Mateo’s bedroom after my bath and see him in the bed, still in his dress pants and his white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up, both of our daughters curled up against him as he reads them a bedtime story.
I’ve never experienced the moment I fell in love before—not with that high school boyfriend, not with Rodney, not with anyone. But I feel it right now. I haven’t been noticed yet, and Lily points to the little girl in the last picture, then she holds her little finger up and gives her “one more time” spiel.
He smiles down at her and rolls his eyes, but he flips back to the front of the book with a, “Fine, fine. Only one more, though.” Isabella gives her a high five, apparently never having thought of that before.
I step back into the bathroom and lean against the wall, needing a moment to collect myself. My heart is still racing, and it’s very difficult not to go back in there, rip the book away from them, and shoo those cute little munchkins to bed so I can jump in bed with him myself.
I listen for him to finish the story again—and admire the enthusiasm with which he reads it for the second time in a row, because I’m always less into it the second time—then I head back in there, just in time for Lily to ask again for him to read it one more time.
“No, no, no,” I say, climbing up on the bed with a smile. “It’s time for you to go to sleep, little one.”