Grace’s heart was pounding in her ears and an enormous lump had formed in her throat as she sat and listened intently to Jesse’s heartfelt proposal. Oddly, the face that had formed in her mind at that precise moment was not the wonderful man who now knelt before her with a ring in his hand, but that of Matt Scheffield; the man she had almost kissed earlier. She quickly pushed that picture as far back in her mind as she could; unable to forget it entirely. She had to give her new love a chance; see if it truly was meant to be that she marry her lifelong best friend. Stop thinking, she scolded herself silently. Something inside her wanted to believe that she had already made a decision – a definitive one – yet there still existed the miniscule part that wasn’t truly sure. Majority rules, she thought to herself.
She looked directly into his hazel eyes and answered, “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
He slipped the beautiful diamond ring onto her delicate finger and leaned in to give her the sweetest kiss she had ever had; tears of happiness welling up in his eyes. For several minutes nobody spoke at all. They sat speechless; the three of them looking at each other in happy disbelief. Adrienne sat on the sofa wiping away the tears that had slid down her cheeks as she listened to the proposal and the answer – and Grace and Jesse just stared into each other’s eyes; seeing something that neither had ever seen before; an expression of hope for an attainable future. He could trust in the fact that he would not be losing her again as he had so many times in the past. Now the two would be bonded for life and that was all he had ever wanted to become a reality for him. Nothing else mattered now; not the murders, the upcoming trials, not Chris Devereaux and certainly not Caroline, not Matt Scheffield, and definitely not anything that stood in the way of their future…together.
The very newly engaged couple eventually – happily – retired for the evening; leaving Adrienne tucked in downstairs in the living room. Even she had forgotten about all the bad things momentarily; gave not a thought to who had really shot her or when she would be able to sleep in her own room again; her bedroom being a constant reminder of what had happened to her there despite the makeover her cousin had tried to give the room while she was still in the hospital. In reality, it wasn’t only her room with which she was having trouble – it was the entire house. Granted, she had absolutely no memory of being shot or seeing her grandmother shot and killed, but she didn’t need those memories to feel the emptiness she felt with her grandmother gone; gone from the house and gone from her life.
Genevieve’s spirit was far from being at rest, however. It had taken all the energy she could accroach to reveal herself to Grace in her dreams; showing herself in an attempt to warn her granddaughter that all was not well and she should be prudent. Grace had not deciphered the message in time to avoid being kidnapped by her old fiancé, though, so her Gram’s spirit felt like the revelation came too late and she had not done her job in protecting her granddaughter. Though neither of the women felt her at the time, Genevieve had still not departed. Her spirit was very much a part of everything happening in her old house and she had one more message to deliver before she felt she could move on; go to the other side and finally be at rest. This was not the time for her last message, though. Not yet. Her granddaughter would not be receptive to it right now and Genevieve’s spirit could feel that. She would just have to wait; floating around on the property that had in life belonged to her; waiting for the right time.
Detective Scheffield was waking up to another day of unrest as well. The part he played in the case against Chris Devereaux was far from over, as he still had one more scene to coordinate; making sure that it was executed correctly this time so there was no question about the outcome; for the police or in court. The prosecution was having a hard enough time putting together a foolproof case. Too many questions lingered for them to feel comfortable they could get a conviction against the man presently residing in the county jail under lock and key. They needed something to show the jury that said beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of the shootings and the murder that was the result of his actions, but they still didn’t have it. He could actually walk out of jail a free man if someone didn’t find something in time. His peers for the most part disliked him from the start, but each of them knew this bias had to be put to the side for the duration of the trial. Being rude and anti-social doesn’t make someone a murderer. The facts were what had to decide his innocence or guilt and presently the prosecution didn’t have too many facts to throw out there. It was going to take more than fingerprints on a murder weapon to make this conviction happen.
The detective couldn’t help but think that doing any more work on the present case was a waste of time, however. As soon as the word came down from Brady Peterson, he would be charging Chris Devereaux with another murder; the murder of his sister. For this case they had a very powerful card to play and that was the eye-witness – the defendant’s own daughter – who intended to testify; relaying to that jury the whole, awful scene that she had watched unfold before her very eyes. It was difficult to ignore that or to misconstrue it. An eye-witness made it real for people; made it a fact instead of merely an assumption like the assumption that if a person’s fingerprints were found on a murder weapon then that person must be the killer. Nothing could make that a fact and facts were what was needed to put Chris Devereaux away for a very long time.
The only fact that could possibly be of use in the current case against him was the fact that the killer left behind a small part of himself – or herself – in the form of a human hair found on Genevieve. That was not an easy undertaking and the detective was going to have to call for reinforcements this time. This would come in the form of the best forensic technician he knew, Paul Federici. He was the one who had processed Grace’s car and done a thorough job, though no evidence of any use to the case was found. Though it was an incredibly large favor for him to ask, he got on the phone and laid out the whole story for Paul, who agreed to help without thinking twice about it. Paul would collect each and every DNA sample himself – of course with Detective Scheffield looking on to serve as a witness that the samples were collected properly. Then Paul was driving the samples to the lab in Raleigh himself; rather than send them by courier. They simply didn’t have the time to do that; the trial was nipping at their heels and everything needed to be done yesterday, so the detective and the tech were working together to make sure things happened fast; as fast as they could anyway. There was still going to be a wait for the DNA results, though the lab did agree to push it to the top of the ever-growing pile of samples that needed to be tested just as bad as the detective’s samples.
Paul Federici had agreed to help so readily because anyone could pull a few strands from a hairbrush and turn that in as a sample if one were left to his or her own devices. Detective Scheffiled had spoken with the officers he had doled the last collection job out to and more than one of them had to admit that they accepted the samples that were given to them without question. Not every officer had watched as hair was pulled from a brush or yanked directly from a head; rendering this evidence totally useless due to the possibility of contamination. Not this time, he thought to himself. This time he would watch Paul swab the inside of each suspect’s cheek so there was no chance of contaminating the evidence. Time was running out before the trial and this evidence was absolutely necessary if they had any hopes of obtaining a conviction.
Now all Detective Scheffield had to figure out was who he had missed as a suspect the first time around. It was possible the results would come back the same and no samples collected would match the hair pulled from the deceased, Genevieve’s, robe. They were lucky that there was enough genetic material in one hair to get a complete DNA profile in the first place; he wasn’t sure if they would be so lucky the second time. If not – if the results came back unchanged - that would send them right back to square one for a second time; only this time it would be too late. They would have to go to trial with what little they had; the defendant’s own registered gun that was covered in his prints. That was it and it was not enough. For the life of him, the detective couldn’t think of anything else that would help at all; this only making him more anxious about charging Chris with the murder of his sister, Vivienne. He wasn’t just anxious about doing it to help the state put him in prison; he felt an obligation to Grace to put an end to her torment so she could finally live her life not wondering; so she could have the future he knew she deserved – whether he was a part of it or not.
The detective continued to rack his brain about the suspect he thought for sure he had missed the first time. Who could it possibly be, he asked himself over and over. Perhaps it was time to sit down and review the entire case file and every little clue it contained to determine who else had either motive, means, or opportunity to commit the shootings. If he did all this and still came up empty, maybe it was time to consider the fact that this was merely a random shooting perpetrated by a random stranger and wasn’t personal at all. Any decent detective had to consider all the options; not take the most reasonable option and run with it because it made more sense than Genevieve’s death and Adrienne’s injuries being all for nothing more than fulfilling a delusional or psychotic fantasy about murder; judging from the fact that nothing was stolen from the house at all; much less anything of value.
Everyone wanted to believe that a good woman’s death at the very least served a purpose; even if it was an under-handed purpose like obtaining money or land. That made sense and things that could be explained and understood bothered people less than acts that came with no explanation; except for possibly that of insanity. It was easier to accept the loss of a life if something came of it – good or bad. A death that left more questions than answers was not quite so easy to swallow for the average person. Chris Devereaux shooting his mother and daughter to cover up his murdering his sister made sense to people. A stranger merely passing through town and trying to snuff out two lives on his way didn’t make sense to anyone. It certainly didn’t make sense to Detective Scheffield and he knew in his heart that is not what happened. The only problem was that Chris Devereaux being the shooter didn’t feel right to him, either. He had been overlooking something or someone the whole time and he vowed to figure out what or who that was.
The first person he called to obtain a DNA sample was Grace. He thought he should get the most difficult task out of the way first. She was the only one whose thoughts or opinions even mattered to him in this town and he realized that was a bias that would have to be put to the side as well…at least for now, he told himself. It was possible – though not probable – that Grace herself had committed the heinous crime. There was a small span of time when she could have gotten a ride back home and then back to town from the farm. She couldn’t prove where she was during that brief period and that was a fact; though not one that the detective had any intention of throwing out there. He still felt he should go with his gut; despite the slight rejection he had received the other day from her. He wasn’t going to let that change his mind about her being totally innocent of this crime; switching gears and heading in a different direction; the opposite direction of Grace.
“Good morning, detec…Matt.” Grace said in a cheerful voice; when the detective had finally mustered up the courage to dial her number.
“Good morning, Grace.” he began somewhat awkwardly, “I’m sorry to bother you so early.”
“It’s okay. What’s up?” she asked; hoping as she did so that it had nothing to do with the moment the two almost had the day before. It would be even more awkward than it was when it happened…because she just accepted a marriage proposal from Jesse Durant.
“I apologize that I have to ask this of you, but I need to collect a DNA swab from you. I know you submitted a hair sample before, but we ran into a little snag with those samples.” explained the detective; trying to give her a reasonable explanation without divulging facts of the case that had to be suppressed from everyone but the police and the prosecution right now.
“Oh…okay. No problem.” she replied; having nothing to hide and no reason to protest the collection of a second sample, though she was quite curious why it was necessary. “Do you want to come to the house or should I come to the police station? Actually the house would be better, if that’s all right. Adrienne is here. The doctor let me bring her home yesterday and I don’t want to leave her alone very long.”
“I didn’t know she was home.” he responded; the pleasant surprise evident in his voice. “That’s great. I’m so happy for the both of you.”
“Thanks. That means a lot.” Grace said honestly.
“Um…the house would be fine actually. I can be there in about an hour, if that suits you.” he offered.
“An hour would be fine. I’ll go get in the shower now.” she answered.
The two hung up and he was on to his next call, Jesse Durant. This one, however, did not go as smoothly as the call to his new fiancée had gone. For whatever reason, he had allowed the call from the detective to go directly to his voice mail; so all he could do was leave a message and wait for a return call. If that return call didn’t come within an allotted time frame, then he would have to go in search of him. At this point, the detective had no idea that Jesse had proposed to the very woman he had tried the day before to kiss…or that she had happily accepted his proposal. Unbeknownst to him, he was about to find out in an hour. The news, however, would not be received so well by him. He was genuinely happy for Grace and her cousin, but he simply could not bring himself to be happy for her about the upcoming nuptials. He would find it difficult even to feign happiness when put to the test. Though he wasn’t certain why yet, the thought of her marrying Jesse left a bad taste in his mouth…and it was much more than simple jealousy.
Precisely an hour later, he arrived at Devereaux Downs with the forensic tech, Paul Federici, to collect the DNA sample he needed from her. Before she opened the front door, he was under the assumption that the sample was all he would be leaving with, but he would in actuality be leaving with much more than that. Detective Scheffield knocked on the crimson door; waiting impatiently for her to answer his knock; desperately wishing for the strength to keep the visit professional. A minute later, the door swung open and there she was; the beautiful woman he simply could not get off his mind. She invited the two men in; leading them into the living room where her cousin still lay on the sofa; awake and flipping through the channels on the television.
“Adrienne. You look quite well.” the detective said truthfully. “How do you feel? Happy to be home?”
“I feel… good – surprisingly enough.” she answered with a smile. “Did Grace tell you her good news?” Adrienne inquired; unaware of the kiss the two had come very close to sharing the day before.
“No.” he replied; shaking his head and focusing his attention back on Grace. He was momentarily happy for her that she actually had good news to share instead of only bad. His happiness dissipated quickly, though, when he heard the news.
Grace extended her left arm toward the detective; showing him her hand which wore on its ring finger a stunning diamond ring; two carats if one had to guess would be fairly accurate. It was a bauble that was difficult to miss on her small, delicate hand. He couldn’t help but think that a ring like that didn’t suit her; something a bit less showy belonged on her tiny finger. She didn’t seem the type to care about status symbols and money, though now she looked a tad more like a woman who did care about such unimportant things. No explanation was really necessary at this point. She had mumbled something about Jesse Durant the day before when he had tried to kiss her, so it wasn’t hard for him to figure out the situation when she silently showed off her new ring, though she didn’t seem to him to be as happy as she should be about it, either; a feeling he could tell she was trying desperately to keep to herself.
“Congratulations.” he offered without complete sincerity; swallowing the lump in his throat that threatened to choke him. His heart sank when he saw that ring on her finger and he could only hope that it didn’t show on his face.
“Thank you, Matt.” Grace responded; finding it difficult not to notice the expression on his face change so drastically from one of duty to something a bit more personal. She was well aware that he had feelings for her and she found it hard not to second guess her decision to marry her best friend, though she pushed these thoughts as far down as she could…unable to rid herself of the thoughts altogether.
After this very awkward exchange, the two were both ready to do what the detective came there to do and move on with their respective days. Grace didn’t want to question this decision like she did with every decision she had ever made in her life; she wanted simply to feel; go with her heart for a change and leave her head out of it for the time being. Of course she loved Jesse, she thought. How could anyone not love someone who had been such a dedicated friend for so many years, she ruminated. In a strange way, she almost felt like she owed it to him to marry him after his catering to her needs even before his own for as long as she could remember. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in a loveless marriage out of obligation and she was now trying everything she could to convince herself that her marrying Jesse wouldn’t be like that, though she was finding this more and more difficult with each question that popped into her mind.
Adrienne noticed the difference in her cousin’s mood since the detective’s visit and sat her down when the two men left to find out what she was thinking and how she was feeling, though she was fairly certain she already knew the answers to her own questions. Her cousin’s opinion was very important to Grace and presently she was telling her to stop questioning everything she was thinking and do what her heart told her to do…what she felt was right at the moment Jesse had proposed; which was a very deep love that she did feel for her very best friend – the only person in her life who had never let her down – that told her at that moment to say yes to him. Adrienne told her cousin to marry Jesse and not look back. It didn’t take a genius to see that there was clearly something – some sort of feelings – between Grace and Detective Scheffield. She didn’t want her poor cousin to make another mistake where a man was concerned and she believed throwing her lifelong friend over for a man she barely knew would be a huge mistake. Grace agreed with every point her cousin brought up, but still secretly she wondered if she were doing the right thing by marrying Jesse Durant. Adrienne wondered exactly what had taken place while she was in the coma; thinking she had missed some interesting occurrences as she had slumbered.
Paul Federici had noticed the tension between Grace and the detective and he was not shy about bringing it up when the two men were in the car on the way to their next victim. He couldn’t chastise him for long, though, because the next person they were collecting a sample from was Herbert Mullins. Detective Scheffield was happy to park the car and get out to knock on the old man’s door. Though he was Grace’s grandfather, he had held back a little; especially when the kidnapping incident was in full swing. He was devastated when he heard the news, but felt he wasn’t a close enough family member yet to meddle in his granddaughter’s business. He wanted more than anything for this to change, however. He wanted to know Grace…and Adrienne because he knew if he wanted one in his life, he would have to take both; they came as a package deal right now. The old man wasn’t aware yet that there was to be a third person thrown into the equation soon, though that wouldn’t matter to him any more than having to deal with Adrienne mattered.
He offered a DNA sample to the detective and the tech; not protesting at all and allowing Paul to swab the inside of his cheek while he sat still. After collecting the specimen the two men were off to the next neighbor, and then the next. Detective Scheffield knew he was pushing the limits and that, technically, the people he intended to ask for a sample did not have to provide one if they didn’t want to do so. He actually had more luck in this arena than he thought he would have; all but three people readily allowing the tech to take a swab of their cheek cells; all of them knowing that they had nothing to hide. The detective never got the feeling that any of them had something relevant to hide, anyway, and he was pretty good at reading people…just like Grace; though neither one was aware the other possessed such a talent and they had something in common.
Grace was also unaware that the detective had tried to reach Jesse and had been unable to get him on the phone – and in several hours had not received a return call. This was unlike her new fiancé; all she knew of him to be a kind and decent person; one that did not tend to shirk responsibilities. He had readily agreed to give a hair sample for comparison with the hair found on Genevieve’s robe; so her thoughts would be that he was simply too busy at the moment to answer the detective’s call. She believed that if he had anything to hide, he wouldn’t be beginning a new life with her; making himself a permanent fixture in her life. But she didn’t know he had been unavailable; so she wasn’t thinking about anything pertaining to the trial of her uncle at this time. For once, she was trying very hard to pay more attention to what needed to change in her life; do what she believed would lead to the best future for her and everyone close to her.
Marrying Jesse would not interfere with her relationship with her cousin; she would still be attending to her as much as was necessary; regardless of the serious new relationship she was taking on. Three was never a crowd in her book anyway. The three had all played together as children; it just so happened that he gravitated more toward Grace when they all hit puberty. Actually, he had taken to her long before that; having secretly loved her his entire life; even when they were still too young to be considering such things. It had always been an unbreakable bond and Grace hoped that was just the beginning for Jesse and her; moving on to the next phase – opening doors that could never again be closed. Right now she wished to go through with marrying him – and she wanted to make it legal as soon as possible; partly so she had no chance to think about the possibility that she could be making the biggest mistake of her troubled life. She really didn’t want to think at all for a while; she only wanted to enjoy having her cousin recover completely and settle into her new life as soon as it could be arranged. With the two most important people well and in her life she felt complete and believed she had no need of asking for any more than that.
The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful for Grace and her recuperating cousin. The two pretended to watch a movie together to pass some time; as Adrienne was currently under house arrest; at least as far as her doctor was concerned. Of course, she wasn’t adhering to the imposed rules quite as strictly as the doctor would have hoped, but her cousin had been successful in keeping her in the house and on the sofa – for the most part. Grace had already started dinner for the three of them; her assumption being that her fiancé would be there for the meal…and all of the naughty things that would probably take place after that; after the three turned in for the night. Adrienne still couldn’t fathom being able to sleep in her bedroom; actually considering taking up permanent residence in the guest bedroom when she finally moved back upstairs to sleep – or possibly her grandmother’s room; as long as Grace didn’t wish to claim it for herself, which she doubted. There was plenty of time to sort all of that out, though. At the moment, she really only wished to get better…and watch her hair grow back where the surgeon who saved her life had shaved it off out of necessity; even though she had such thick, luxurious hair that nobody could even see the tiny bald patch without her purposely drawing attention to it.
Jesse arrived home as expected, but seemed to clam up a bit when Grace asked him how his day had gone. She simply shrugged it off; thinking more about not burning dinner; something she had a slight reputation of doing in the past. Apparently her cooking skills had improved, because her fiancé couldn’t seem to stop eating long enough to begin a conversation with her or with her cousin; who had happily joined them in the dining room; simply wishing to look at four different walls for a little while. Besides, that was where their Gram had kept the wine and all three of them thought that catching a little buzz was in order; to celebrate the engagement and marriage to follow quickly; if Grace had anything to say about it. So that is exactly what they did; passing jokes around the table along with the delicious food and perfectly aged and dry red wine.
Grace mentioned casually to Jesse that the detective had come and collected another DNA sample from her, but he failed to mention that he had not yet responded to the message he had been left by Detective Scheffield. He seemed to her to be very tense this evening and a bit unlike his usual optimistic self, but she didn’t make much of it. She simply thought that he was nervous and a little uncomfortable around her because they had just taken their relationship to the next level. She had no knowledge yet of the fact that her fiancé had avoided the detective today, though even if she knew she would probably rationalize that situation as well; just like she had a few others recently; brushing off some thoughts; storing them somewhere deeper in her mind so she could focus on beginning her well-deserved future. After all, love is never right or wrong…is it, she mused; thinking that love was truly blind at times. A small part of her couldn’t help but continue to wonder if her decisions were the best ones for her; her and her cousin; for she no longer only had herself and her dog to consider when making life-changing decisions.
At least the two cousins didn’t have to worry about finding permanent living arrangements; neither of them having any intention of leaving any time soon the farm they had both called home at times when they were children and when they were adults. Actually, both of them had plans to begin repairing the inviting old house; making it their own. Adrienne secretly had plans of one day turning the big house into a modest bed and breakfast; a dream she had kept to herself because she thought there would never be anyone to tell. She was happily surprised to discover upon her arrival home from the hospital that her dream could possibly someday become a reality after all. Honestly, Adrienne had never really had very extravagant dreams; like wanting to travel the world and discover new places and new experiences. She wished more for a simple life; one that was completely her own.
She was still having some difficulty where her father was concerned. The poor girl wasn’t sure how to feel. She couldn’t be certain that her own father actually shot her – with the intention of ending her life – and a small part of her still felt an odd sort of love for him. He hadn’t been the best father or role model for her and she had always been aware of that, but there was that nagging part that said he was still her father. He had raised her and provided a home for her complete with everything she had ever needed, but had not ever paid much attention to anything she wanted or anyone or anything about which she cared. When she was young there were times when she only heard from her father if she had done something wrong and had gotten caught. He was certainly never there to pat her on the back when she did well, though. She had never gotten any attention from him in the form of praise; like the man simply didn’t believe that was part of being a good parent.
Like Grace, Adrienne was ready to leave the past where it belonged…in the past. It was time for the pair to settle down into some sort of stable and – if they were lucky – happy life. Though she had not run the idea of turning the old house into a bed and breakfast by her cousin yet, Adrienne would find that when she did her cousin truly believed it was a good idea; considering the proximity to the beach and the fact that the whole town relied on the added income during the warm months; when the streets were crowded with vacationers and the town much more exciting as well. The cousins had always seemed to be able to find more trouble to get into during these months; though they also found their fair share in the winter when things slowed down maybe a bit too much; boredom not taking long to set in for either of them; something that hadn’t actually changed so much over the years.
Poor Casey was the only member of the family who was feeling quite displaced at the moment; the new sleeping arrangements that included a man in her mistress’ bed every night instead of only her bothering her very much. Enough confusing stuff had been going on around her and this just added more uncertainty for her; for what the relationship between Grace and her would become. The sad dog had curled up in a ball at Adrienne’s feet downstairs on the living room sofa to sleep for the night; the bed she normally shared with her mistress seeming a bit crowded to her right now. Adrienne had allowed her to get comfortable with her instead; actually happy for the companionship and the fact that she felt safe with the big dog so near; still disturbed a little by the bumps in the night. Everyone – including Casey – drifted off to sleep; dreaming of the new day to come.