Grace pushed the door open and stepped though. She didn’t move further inside, but kept her back pressed against the cold brick wall. The beat of her heart in the cage of her chest was so loud she could scarcely hear the man at the podium. She closed her eyes against the onslaught of nausea and struggled to gain control by taking slow deep breaths.
Judah’s scent filled her senses. She didn’t have to open her eyes to know he was right there, leaned up against the back wall within arm’s reach. He’d probably been standing there all along, waiting for her, just in case she changed her mind and decided to show up. He didn’t move closer, reach out to comfort her or speak to her. He just stood there beside her, still and quiet.
The service dragged on. The eulogy was given. Music was played. People spoke. A slide show splashed across the media screen. Representatives of the APD paid tribute. The press of the crowd, the coughing of children, the off-key vocals, all of it weighed on her, closed in, held her down, forced her to face that this was real, that Father Kelly was truly dead, and suddenly, she was bolting for the door.
Judah’s arm wrapped around her waist, led her out of the foyer and down the steps to her bike. He took the key from her hand, the spare helmet from the saddlebag and straddled the seat. She looked at him a long moment before strapping on her own helmet and settling behind him. He pulled away from the church and headed down the street, towards the city.
Leaves scattered beneath the wheels. Twilight rushed to meet them at the bridge. The cool of the water, the familiar purr of the engine and the first winks of stars were soothing like no words ever could be. She relaxed against Judah and for a few moments, let go of all the pain and weariness.
Unbidden, Father’s words came back to her:
You must watch over Judah. His transfer was no mistake. I brought him here, to Arcadia, to our department. He needs us as much as we need him.
Who was this man? The officer Father sent for, the partner she didn’t want, the man she refused to acknowledge.