Kept Bride (The Secret Bride #2) - Alta Hensley Page 0,2

out with Scarecrow?”

“We’re exploring all possibilities right now. All we know is there are no signs of Richard dying in the fire like you both claim.”

Ember gasps and looks at me with renewed terror in her eyes. “He’s going to find us. He’s going to punish us. He won’t give up until he does.”

I run my hand over the side of her head, caressing her soft blonde locks. “Shh,” I try to soothe. “He’s not going to be able to find us. And if he’s alive—if—then these men right here are going to find him and lock him away for life.” I continue stroking her hair, trying to pet her anxiety away. “We’re safe now. I promise you. We’re safe.”

I glare at the men, pissed that they are only adding to Ember’s fear. “If he’s not dead, find the sick asshole. You’re both wasting time by asking us the same questions over and over.”

Detective Jackson looks down at his notes and papers. “Ember, we also looked into the report you gave about how Papa Rich found you and brought you to Hallelujah Junction. The story of being picked up in a nearby town and rescuing you from your mother. We went back and looked up if there were any reports of kidnapping around that time, which there weren’t necessarily. But there are records of a young girl who Child Protective Services visited in the area who suddenly turned up missing with no notice from the mother or forwarding address. The child’s name was Amber Jennings. Amber… not Ember.” He takes a moment for the words to sink in. “We believe Amber Jennings is you.” He pushes a file toward us. “There’s a picture in there. It looks like a younger version of you.”

Ember opens the file and stares down at a picture that no doubt is of her as a five-year-old. You can see the familiarity in the eyes. Such big, blue, and haunted eyes.

“Amber?” she questions more to herself than anyone else. “No, my name is Ember.”

“Is that picture you?”

She nods. “But my name is Ember. Not Amber.”

“Maybe now… but you were once Amber Jennings.”

Tears fill her eyes, and she asks, “What about my mother? Will she know where I am now? Papa Rich told me that she’d kill me if she ever found where I was.”

I reach over and close the file, feeling as if this is all too much for her. “It doesn’t matter. You’re Ember now. And you’re safe. The past is the past. Your mother can’t hurt you. No one can hurt you.”

“We pulled up information on your mother, and I’m sorry to say—or maybe in your case, happy to inform you—she died thirteen years ago.”

“Thirteen?” Ember parrots, and without even having to hear the words, I know what she’s thinking. She’s been safe for thirteen years from all the horror stories Papa Rich told her about her mother coming to hurt her if she ever discovered her location. She could have left the walls of the schoolhouse living as the ghost of Hallelujah Junction had she known the woman didn’t exist anymore.

“We’ve also pulled up every report of missing people who have visited Hallelujah Junction with the belief that their cause of death is due to the acid pit and the old mill,” Agent Martinez says. “We have found a report for a couple who matches your description of the victims you witnessed pushed into the pit.” He slides over the paper with their photos on it. “Are these the people you encountered?”

I glance down and nod as I rub Ember’s back. On the surface, Ember is holding it together. And maybe she is. But I can’t help but feel we are walking a very dangerous tightrope, and she’s about to come crashing down any second.

“We weren’t aware they went to Hallelujah Junction,” Detective Jackson says.

“They were trying to help us,” Ember murmurs.

“As for the others,” Martinez continues, “Ember, did you help your father kill those people?”

I stand up and hit my hand on the table. “That’s enough! Unless you both plan to charge Ember or me with anything, we are leaving. We’ve been here voluntarily for long enough. My wife and I have nothing left to say unless a lawyer is present.”

Ember reaches for my arm and gently pulls me down. “It’s okay, Christopher. I don’t mind answering.” She looks at the detective and agent. “All I know is I didn’t stop it.”

“You couldn’t stop it,” I boom.

“And I will have to live