“We’re releasing Miss Edson into your custody, Agent Trexler. We assume you’ll make sure she’s not in a restricted area again?”
“She’ll be up north. Nowhere near the fire,” Trex said.
We walked down a long hallway into the front of the county jail. Tyler was sitting in one of the dozen or so chairs lining the white wall, his head in his hands. When the door closed behind us, he looked up.
“Oh, thank Christ,” he said, standing up and pulling me against his chest. He kissed my hair, breathed me in, and then held me at arm’s length.
I cringed, knowing what he would say.
“What the fuck were you thinking, Ellison? I mean … what in the actual fuck?”
Tyler grabbed my hand and pulled me through, following Trex down the sidewalk to an Audi much like my father’s. Trex opened the back door for me, and I sat, sliding over when Tyler began to climb in next to me. Once the door shut, the yelling began again.
“Do you have any idea how scared I was when I got the call?” he seethed. “Do you have any fucking clue how much trouble you could have been in—how much trouble we all could have been in—if Taylor hadn’t gotten Trex involved? Do you know what that would have done to me if something had happened to you?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I wasn’t trying to get you fired.”
Tyler grabbed my shoulders. “Fired?” He shook his head, releasing me before sitting back against the seat. “Goddamn it, Ellie, I thought you were dead.”
Guilt overwhelmed me, and the past six hours of wandering in the black, slightly intoxicated, and then getting fully booked into the system after my arrest finally hit me. “I’m really, really sorry. That was so stupid. I wasn’t thinking.”
“That tends to happen when you’re drunk,” he snapped.
“I’d only had two drinks,” I said, immediately feeling guilty for lying. It didn’t take long for me to resort to old habits.
Tyler raised an eyebrow, dubious. “You’re really going to lie me? After I just pulled a hundred strings to get you out of jail?”
“Wow. Okay, then,” he said, facing forward.
“Technically, I was the one who pulled all the strings,” Trex said.
I frowned at Tyler. “How did you get him to do it?”
Tyler looked down, frustrated. “Don’t ask how, Ellie. Just say thank you.”
“To who? The FBI? I want to know. What’s in it for you, Agent Trexler?” I feared the worst: that Taylor or Tyler had agreed to share information about their brother in return for Trex’s help.
“It’s not agent anymore,” Trex said. I wasn’t sure if he sounded deflated or relieved.
Tyler nodded. “He’s serious. He no longer works for the bureau. Apparently his boss is a real dick.”
Trex breathed out a laugh, somehow finding humor in the situation.
“Why?” I insisted. “What did you do in return, Tyler?”
“It’s what you’re not going to do,” Trex said.
I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes. “What are you talking about? What do you mean?”
“Darby?” My nose wrinkled. “She thinks you’re a hotshot,” I said, my tone accusatory.
“I’m aware. Did you tell her otherwise?” Trex asked.
“Good. We need to keep it that way,” Tyler said. “That’s the deal.”
“That we let Trex lie to Darby?” I asked. “Who is she?”
“Just a girl,” Trex said. “But you blow my cover with her, and you’re back in that cell.”
I settled back into my seat, unhappy about his conditions. “You’re not going to hurt her, are you?”
He grimaced, his thick eyebrows pulling together. “That’s the point, Ellison. Do you agree or not?”
I looked up at Tyler. “Do you trust him?”
“He got you out of jail, didn’t he?”
I pressed my lips into a hard line, shaking my head. “You’re not investigating her?” I asked.
I could see Trex smiling in the rearview mirror. “Thank you,” he said.
When we arrived at the hotel, I passed Darby. She waved at me, and I smiled, hoping Trex was telling the truth. I had talked her again during my fourth-ish drink, and from what I could remember, she was in Colorado Springs to start over, running away from someone or something. Darby didn’t need more trouble. She’d been hurt enough.
Tyler walked me to my room, pausing just outside my door. He looked pained over what he was about to say. “I know you’ve had a long day, but I need you to go in and pack your bags.”
“Because Trex might have gotten you out of jail, but Chief is beyond pissed. He wants you back in Estes Park. He’s already called Jojo.”
I covered my face. “Fuck. Fuck … Because of one mistake?”
“Sneaking into a restricted area, and then getting arrested is a big one.” He looked down the hall at nothing, having a hard time looking me in the eye.
“I don’t know. Give me some time to talk to him. I’m going to let him cool off first.”
I exhaled, wishing I could rewind the day and start over. “What about you? Are you still mad?”
Tyler’s jaw clenched, and then he folded his arms around me. I closed my eyes, pressing my cheek against his chest. There was nowhere safer for me than Tyler. “I’m just glad you’re okay,” he said.
He kissed my hair. “A car will be waiting for you outside in fifteen minutes. Chief wants you on the road heading north. I’m just here long enough to make sure you’re packed, checked out, and on the road. Then I have to get back to fire camp.”
His eyebrows pulled together. “I have a job to do, Ellie. You have to go home.”
My eyes filled with tears. “I don’t have anywhere to go.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a single key, the light glinting off the silver. “Lone Tree Village in Estes. 111 F. We’re never there, so it’s mostly storage. I’m not even sure if there are sheets on my bed. It’s not a penthouse, but it’s a place to stay. My bedroom is the last door on the left.”
“Just … take it,” he said. “I’ll be home in a couple of weeks. We can figure it out then.” He stepped back, waving to me before turning for the elevator.
“I thought you were supposed to make sure I get in the car?” I asked.
He stopped in his tracks but didn’t turn around. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can watch you leave.”
My bottom lip trembled, and I held the key to the sensor, hearing the lock click before I pressed down on the handle and pushed through. My clothes were still laid out, ready to go, but I would be lucky to ever get to go on a call again.