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One thing for certain, Hunter had picked up on the discrepancy just like Molly had when she’d listened to the answering machine last night. He turned away from his hiding place in the fridge and glanced at the general.

Confusion and curiosity were in his gaze. “I thought Sonya brought pizza home for Seth last night. How could he be out?”

“Well…” Frank shifted in his seat, Ollie’s comment obviously forgotten.

Molly closed her eyes and silently asked for forgiveness for what she was about to do. “Sonya knows that kids don’t usually eat at these parties. I’m sure she got the pizza for when he came home.” She cut off her father’s explanation.

She lied for Sonya and her dad.

She lied to the man she’d begged to help him.

Lied to the man she loved.

Because Molly was afraid if she didn’t cover for him now, Hunter would think Frank was lying about a lot more and decide the whole case wasn’t worth his time.

And if she balanced the case versus lying to Hunter, Molly knew she had no choice. Her father’s freedom won because without it, Molly’s life as she knew it didn’t exist.

She had picked her father over Hunter. Now Molly hoped she didn’t live to regret her choice.

CHAPTER TEN

HUNTER AND MOLLY followed Sonya into the family room. He’d brought along a yellow legal pad to take notes and figured he and Molly could compare what they learned later. He wasn’t surprised he was coming to rely on her thoughts and opinions, because she was so closely tied to the outcome of the case. The fact that they worked well together, bouncing ideas off one another, was a bonus. It reminded him of the few times in law school when they’d met up at the library and studied together; he smiled at the recollection. Of course, after last night he had other memories of Molly now.

He’d jolted awake this morning, her scent all over his pillows, the memories of making love to her vivid. Warm and painful all at the same time. Not painful because she’d left him in the middle of the night—that much he’d expected in order to avoid discovery by her family—but because he knew where things stood between them.

They’d had sex. He wanted to believe he’d scratched an itch he’d had for a long time and she was out of his system now, but things with Molly had always been complicated. Though she made him feel more than any woman he’d ever known, he wouldn’t repeat past mistakes. He knew better than to read more into their physical relationship than just sex. They were in close proximity because of her father’s case and they’d both needed a release of sexual tension. That’s all it had been. All it could be.

Even if a part of him wished otherwise.

They seated themselves on the couch. Molly edged her body right beside Hunter’s, her thigh in direct contact with his. Since he’d chosen the spot right beside the armrest, he had nowhere to escape to. She was so close, he broke into a heated sweat, reminders of last night and being buried inside her body overwhelming him.

“How are you holding up?” Molly asked the older woman.

Sonya shrugged. “I don’t sleep much, but I suppose I’m okay.” She adjusted her headband, which would have given her an uptight preppy look if not for the casual sweat clothes she wore.

“I’ll try to make this as brief and painless as possible,” Hunter promised.

She folded her hands in her lap. “I’ll tell you whatever I can.”

“First, walk me through the day and night of the murder, okay?”

“It was a normal day. I had a hair appointment in the morning.” She brushed her fingers through the short strands. “I color my gray,” she said, blushing. “I ran some errands afterward and was home when Seth returned from school. Jessie came with him. They spend a lot of time together as I’m sure Molly told you.” Sonya smiled warmly in Molly’s direction.

Hunter realized the two women shared a genuine affection. Then again, most people Molly met seemed to be drawn to her. “Yes, Molly told me how close Seth and Jessie are,” he said, keeping up with the conversation. “I’m looking forward to meeting him.”

“He’s a good boy. He’s had a hard time. Even before…his father wasn’t the easiest man to live with, but Seth is my pride and joy.” She twisted her hands in her lap, her nerves showing.

Hunter nodded. “I understand,” he said, speaking gently. “Now, back to that day…”

“Right. Seth and Jessie spent the afternoon here. They were doing homework and listening to music. I remember yelling for them to turn it down. I’d volunteered to help do the school directory for the PTA, so that day I was typing lists into the computer.” She gestured toward another room, which Hunter assumed held the family computer. “It was a normal day. Jessie left around five-thirty and Seth and I had dinner alone because Paul was working.”

“And then?”

Her expression turned dark, her eyes dimmed. “Paul came home. He closed himself in his office and I knew better than to bother him. He’d been moody lately.”

Beside him, Molly remained silent but she reached for Hunter’s hand and held on tight. Sensing her nerves, he covered her hand with his free one and waited for Sonya to continue.

“But I started hearing noises from inside the office, like Paul was trashing the place. So I opened the door.” Her eyes glazed over at the memory.

Molly’s hand clenched tighter inside his. “What happened next?” she asked.

“I asked Paul what was wrong and he told me he’d lost everything. I barely understood what he was trying to tell me until he started talking about embezzling money from the business and Frank finding out. Paul just kept yelling that everything was gone.”

Her shoulders shook, but Hunter admired the fact that she remained strong and composed.

Sonya shook her head, her disbelief still obvious. “I lost it. I started yelling back. I told him he’d destroyed our family and our reputation and Seth’s future. I said I’d never forgive him.” Her voice cracked.

“Then what?” Molly leaned forward in her seat, riveted by the story.

But Hunter was focused not so much on Sonya’s words but on her. Had the general told her to reveal her husband’s abuse or counseled her to remain silent?

Her expression had been filled with grief and pain, but suddenly she shifted her gaze as if unable to face Hunter or Molly. “Then Paul hit me,” she whispered. Her hand came up to her cheek, as if the blow were fresh.

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