Home > Beautifully Broken Redemption (Sutter Lake # 5)

Beautifully Broken Redemption (Sutter Lake # 5)
Author: Catherine Cowles









Derek’s voice cut through the car at a decibel that endangered our eardrums.

“D, noooooo,” I begged.

He only cast his gaze in my direction, belting out lyrics I could barely make out about wanting to know what love was.

I couldn’t help the laughter that escaped. Even on the worst days, the ones where I thought I might drown with the weight balanced on my shoulders, he could always make me laugh.

I reached over and took the hand currently drumming a beat on his thigh. A hand I knew better than any other. Each callus and scar. Every bump and ridge. The familiarity brought a sense of comfort I couldn’t find anywhere else. I linked my fingers with his.

“Love you, D.”

His singing trailed off, and he gripped my hand tighter. “I’d do anything for you, Angel.”

“I know.” That kind of gift for someone like me…it was everything.

Lights flashed behind us, and Derek’s gaze snapped to the rearview mirror.

I swiveled to look. The cop car definitely had us in its sights. I glanced at the odometer. He was only five over the limit. “They probably just want to give you a warning.”

Derek didn’t say a word, and he didn’t pull over.


“Can’t get pulled over.”

My heart picked up its pace. “Why not?”

He didn’t look away from the road in front of us as he pressed his foot down on the gas pedal. “I’m sorry, Anna.”



Cascading red and blue. I concentrated on the way the colors blended from one into the next. As my vision went unfocused, the two almost melded into purple. I wanted to fall into that new color, hoping it would take me somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

I found myself leaning towards it, but the bite of the handcuffs around my wrists brought me out of the haze. The little bit of numbness that meant blessed relief from the panic fled with it. The thrum of my pulse picked up again.

“Anna,” Derek hissed.

I didn’t turn to look at him. Couldn’t. Not when I watched as three police officers unloaded an array of what I knew had to be drugs from the trunk of his car. A car that had been the scene of so many firsts for me: Date. Kiss. Whispered “I love you.” A car that had been my refuge from a home I would’ve given anything to escape.

How did the same ton of metal I’d once seen as a lifeline now seem like the weight that would drag me under? I swallowed against the burn rising in my throat as one of the cops lifted another bag and pointed at me. It was the rocker Hello Kitty makeup bag I’d left at Derek’s a few months ago. I’d brought over some toiletries to have on hand after he finally got an apartment.

My parents didn’t know that he had his own place now. But they knew almost nothing about me and hated what they could see. Perhaps they had been right to feel that way. Maybe I was reckless. And now, I was going to add moron on top of it. Because inside that makeup bag with the skulls I had thought were so cute were little baggies filled with pills.

“What did you do?” The words ripped out of me without my permission.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I needed money to get the apartment. We needed it, Angel.”

“Quiet,” one of the cops barked, moving closer to cut off any conversation.

That was for the best. Because no excuse I heard from the boy I loved would cut it. The boy who had always been my safe place. Who now was anything but.

“Get them loaded up. Separate cars. I don’t want them talking,” an older cop told the one standing between us.

The younger one bent, grabbed hold of my arm, and tugged me to my feet. “Come on.”

I went without argument or complaint. I didn’t say a word as he forced my head down and shoved me into the back of the squad car. I didn’t cry out when the metal of the cuffs bit into my skin, tearing at it. I stared straight ahead as we pulled away, and I didn’t once look back at the boy I loved with everything I had.



“Do you really think the cuffs need to stay on?” A man dressed in khakis and a button-down scowled at the officer standing next to my chair.

“Do you want to see photos of the stash we pulled from her and her boyfriend’s car? They could’ve kept the whole county high for weeks.”

“Uncuff her, McAdams,” the older man ordered.

The cop grumbled something under his breath but did as he was told. I felt blessed relief as the metal dropped away from my wrists. I brought my arms around, rubbing at the red marks.

The older man scowled as he took in the abraded skin. “You’re done here, McAdams.”

“Happy to be,” the officer spat as he left the interrogation room.

The man eased himself into a chair opposite me. He folded his hands, letting them rest on the table. The gold of his wedding band glinted against the dark brown of his skin. “Would you like some water?”

“No, thank you.”

“You let me know if that changes. I’m Detective Markum. You’re in some pretty serious trouble. But I’d like to help you as much as I can.”

The burn was back in my throat. And no amount of swallowing alleviated the pain. “Did you call my parents?”

“I did. They weren’t home, but I left a message with your sister for them to call me as soon as they return.”

Date night. Their ritual where they left their cell phones at home and went out together. I glanced at the clock on the wall. I had at least another thirty minutes of respite before they returned. Thirty minutes before the hammer came down.

I could already feel the sting of the slap. The burn of the punch that would land somewhere on my torso—anywhere clothing would cover. Never on the face. The one time he’d been overzealous and had broken several ribs, my mother had invented a story about me jumping on my bed and taking a tumble. The hospital had believed it hook, line, and sinker.

“Anna, did you hear me?”

Detective Markum’s voice brought me out of the memory. “Sorry, what?”

“You can wait until you’ve spoken with them to talk to me.”

I shook my head. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to hurry up and get this over with. The conversation. The punishment that would come after my parents picked me up. Everything. “I’ll tell you anything you want. But I don’t think I know much.”

Markum nodded slowly. “That’s not what Derek is saying.”

I stiffened at the way the detective said my boyfriend’s name. As if it were a bomb just waiting to go off. “What did he say?”

“He said the drugs were yours. Said he was just holding them for you.”

“What?!” The word came out on a panicked shriek. “I’ve never even done drugs.” Sure, I drank at parties, but every time Derek smoked pot or took a pill, I always declined.

“Evidence is pointing to you both being involved.”

My breaths started coming faster, one after the other. Each one seemed to tumble over the last with the urge to get out and be free. “I-I’m not. I didn’t.” My fingers began to tingle as I struggled to suck in air.

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