And she loved all those feelings, every single nerve-racking one.

The future was an uncharted path filled with danger and censure. Julie felt utterly at peace and in perfect harmony with the entire universe.

Laying her hand against his race, she cradled him protectively close to her heart and touched her lips to his dark hair. "I love you," she whispered.

Chapter 40

Seated on the floor beside the coffee table with her legs curled beneath her, a pencil in her hand, and a small stack of index cards she'd found in a desk at her elbow, Julie studied the list Zack had made out of everyone who'd been on the set of Destiny the day his wife was murdered. Beside each person's name, he'd put their job on the film crew, and she was copying each name and the person's job title onto a separate index card so she'd be able to jot notes about the individual when Zack began talking.

Zack sat on the sofa beside her, watching her and carefully suppressing his smile at the absurd notion of Julie being able to succeed where his team of expensive criminal attorneys and professional investigators had failed. Clad in cherry wool slacks and a matching bulky knit sweater, with her long hair gathered at the nape and bound with a jaunty red and yellow scarf, she looked more like an enchanting high school girl than a teacher, and she bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to any detective, real or imaginary. Sunlight streamed in from the windows behind her, gilding her shiny hair with russet and gold, highlighting her glowing skin and vivid coloring. She interrupted his pleasurable contemplation of her profile by turning her sapphire eyes up to his and saying in a puzzled voice, "I saw Destiny, although they had re-shot the ending with stand-ins. Somehow, I thought there would have been lots more people involved in making a movie like that."

"There were dozens more, but they weren't in Dallas," Zack said, reluctantly turning his attention to the business at hand. "When a big picture is going to be shot on several different locations, it's more efficient to divide a large film crew into several units and assign each to a particular location. That way, they've already made whatever preparations are necessary before the cast and primary crew arrives. The people listed on that sheet were part of the Dallas unit. There were others who'd been in Dallas for an earlier segment of the filming. They aren't on that list because I'd already sent them home."

"Why did you do that?"

"Because the picture was millions of dollars over budget, and I was trying to cut corners. We were nearly finished shooting, I wasn't anticipating any need for extra hands, so I kept only the primary crew with me."

She was listening to him with an expression of such rapt fascination that a smile tugged at his lips. "Any other general questions before I tell you what happened that day?"

"Several questions," Julie said with great feeling, glancing at the titles beside the names on his list. "What is a best boy anyway? I've wondered about that every time I watch movie credits."

"A best boy is a gaffer's first assistant."

She rolled her eyes at him, trying to tease him and ease him into the discussion about the murder, which she knew he was dreading. She also thought it wise to learn all the details she could even if they seemed unimportant at the moment. "That's very informative, Mr. Benedict. Now, what's a gaffer?"

Her ploy worked, because he chuckled at her expression. "The head gaffer is both the creative and physical right-hand man of the director of photography. He's in charge of all the electricians on the set and their placement of lights for color intensity, overall values—all that."

"What's a grip?"

"Grips handle props and anything else that needs moving. A key grip also has a best boy."

"Don't, please, tell me a key grip is in charge of moving keys?" she joked.

Zack smiled at the way her romantic mouth tilted up at the corners and at the successful effort she was making to keep the discussion on a lighthearted level. "A key grip is in charge of the other grips."

"What's a production assistant?"

"A gofer, basically, who runs errands and reports to the assistant directors."

Julie nodded. "What's a producer?"

"A pain in the ass."

Her laughter sounded like bells to him, and he found himself grinning at her as she said, "Is the director of photography also a cameraman, or is he a supervisor?"

"He can be both. A good one is involved in all the elements of set design. He and the set dressers translate a director's ideas for a scene into reality and frequently improve on the original ideas."

Julie glanced at her list, found the man he'd named as the director of photography on Destiny and reluctantly embarked on specifics: "Was Sam Hudgins a good one?"

"One of the best. We'd worked together on several films, and I specifically asked for him on Destiny. In fact, I'd specified all the key crew members because we'd worked well together as a team before, and I knew I could count on them." Her smooth forehead furrowed into a frown, and he said, "What's wrong?"

"I was just wondering why anyone you'd worked with in the past would suddenly decide to frame you for murder."

"It doesn't sound very likely," Zack agreed, a little astonished—and impressed—that she'd arrived at the same conclusion his attorneys and professional investigators had and with such quick ease.

"Could you have done or said anything just before the murder to make one of them hate you so much they wanted revenge?"

"What exactly does someone do to warrant a revenge like that?" Zack countered dryly.

"You're right," she said with a quick nod of her head.

"Also keep in mind that the target wasn't really me, it was either Austin or Rachel. I was simply the patsy who went to prison for it."

Julie drew a long breath and said quietly, "Tell me exactly what happened that day. No, start with the day you found…" She hesitated and rephrased the question, trying to be delicate: "As I said, I was in Europe when the murder happened, but I remember seeing magazine headlines at a newsstand that said…"

When she trailed off into awkward silence, Zack bluntly finished the sentence for her: "Headlines that said my wife was screwing our costar and I walked in on them in the middle of it."

Julie winced at the thought of that, but she didn't look away. "Tell me everything you can remember, and go slowly so I can make notes."

Based on former experience, Zack expected the discussion that followed to be difficult and demeaning at best and infuriating at worst, but in the past he'd always been questioned by people who interrogated him either out of doubt or curiosity. Recounting the details of Rachel's murder to Julie, who believed utterly in him and in what he said, was a new and even cathartic experience, and by the time he was finished, he felt strangely unburdened.

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance