“What the fuck are you doing?” I frown at her.
“If your bedroom is bugged as well, then they won’t be able to hear us over the sound of the running water.”
“Really?” Vaughn asks.
“Yeah. I saw it once on TV.”
“I think I’ve seen that, too,” Julian chimes in.
“This is fucking ridiculous,” I snap. “I’m going.”
I reach for the door when Charly barks at me, “Don’t you dare open that door, Gabriel.”
I look back at her. “And if I do?”
“Then, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Because I know for a fact that Ava didn’t sell you out. She was set up, and I know exactly how, why, and who did it.”
My heart starts to beat erratically in my chest. But I keep my expression calm.
I remove my hand from the door and turn around to face Charly. “Is that so?” I lift a brow.
“Yep.” She folds her arms over her chest.
“Tell us then,” Julian says eagerly.
I shoot him a look.
“What?” he asks innocently. “I’m just keen to know—for your benefit, of course.”
“Of course.” I roll my eyes at him. “Okay, Charly, I’m listening.”
“Okay, so your cleaner Sadie—”
“Your cleaner. You have two of them. They come twice a week.”
“Yeah, I know that, but I don’t fucking know their names.”
Charly shakes her head at me. “Whatever. Well, aside from you, Ava, your brother, and your PA, they’re the only people who have regular access to your apartment.”
“And the conversation that you and Ava had was recorded.”
“No. Not by Ava. I believe that one of your cleaners, Sadie—well, actually, she’s not called Sadie, but I’ll come back to that—bugged your apartment.”
“This is ludicrous.” I sigh.
“Just hear me out.” Charly frowns. “So, when Ava told me that she couldn’t understand how your conversation was recorded and how her signature got on that contract, it got me thinking. So, I asked Ava if she’d signed anything recently. She said no, and then, actually, yes, she did. The other day, your cleaner, Sadie, asked Ava to sign this new form that her boss had implemented to prove that she’d done the work. And Ava, being the lovely, trusting person she is, signed it. Sadie took the form, and off she went.
“But something just didn’t sound right to me. Why would a cleaning company have people sign a form to say they did the job? It just seemed weird. So, I called up the cleaning company because I wanted to ask about the form, and I made up some bullshit story about how I was looking for a new cleaner and that Sadie had been recommended to me when the lady on the phone told me that Sadie no longer worked for them. She quit a few days ago. Alarm bells started ringing in my head. So, I asked about the form, and the lady had no clue what I was talking about.
“So, we have Sadie, who had Ava sign a form that she never needed to sign, and Ava told me that she didn’t really look at the form when she signed it. This is days before Sadie quit her job, and then your story breaks. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.”
“Me either,” Julian says.
I ignore him and look at Charly. “So, what? You think the form that Ava signed was actually the contract giving rights to the story?”
“Yep. And then I started thinking that maybe she was a journalist who bugged your apartment to get the story and then sold the tapes to the highest bidder.”
“But she would know that no news site would touch the tapes because it was obtained illegally, and if they printed anything, they’d be looking at a lawsuit,” Julian says.
“Exactly.” Charly nods. “But, if it appears that it was the girlfriend who taped the conversation and she signed over the story to Sadie, then she could sell the tapes and story, no problem.”
“And, if Gabe did sue, then it’d be Ava who got hit with the lawsuit because it was her signature on the contract.”
“You got it, baby.” She smiles at Vaughn before looking back at me. “So, I decided to Google Sadie, see what I could find out about her. The name the lady at the cleaning company gave me was Sadie Black, so I searched that but came up dry. So, we went to Digby’s website to see if we could find anything on there, but there was nothing. Then, I clicked on Gabe’s story and saw that it was written by someone called Sandy White.”
“Sadie Black and Sandy White.” Julian lifts a brow.
“So, I Google Sandy White and Digby’s Dirt, and a bunch of stories came up that she’d written about other celebs. So, I went onto Images and scrolled through the pictures. Ava stopped me, pointing at a picture, saying that it was Sadie, and in the picture with her was Bradford Digby.”
“Fucking Digby,” Vaughn growls.
Charly pulls her phone from her pocket, swipes the screen, and turns it around for me to see. “Look familiar?”
I take the phone from her and stare at the picture.
Holy fuck, she’s right.
It’s her—the chick who cleans my apartment. She looks a bit different in this picture to how I normally see her, but it’s definitely her.
“That’s her.” I grit my teeth. “That’s the chick who cleans here.”
“That’s Sandy White the journalist, who pretended to be Sadie the cleaner, so she could bug your apartment and record your conversations.”
“You think her and Digby were in on it together?” Vaughn asks.
“Yeah. I think that Sandy is a staff writer for him, and I think, when he gets wind of a story, he sends her in undercover to sniff it out. She’s written all the big exposés that he’s done over the last few years. It was her who wrote the story about Piper and Cain,” Charly says to Vaughn.
I see his eyes darken with anger.
But all I can feel is my own anger. I blamed Ava. I yelled at her. I said some awful things to her.
I close my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose, trying to control the anger I feel.
“Gabe?” That’s Charly.
I open my eyes and hand Charly her phone back. “What I don’t get is how Digby would have known there was a story to be had about me. No one knew about my past.”
“Someone always knows,” Julian says.
And he’s right; there is.
“Maybe Digby heard something on the grapevine,” Charly says. “Or maybe he was after a completely different story. If so, then I bet they thought they’d hit the mother lode of all jackpots when they listened to your conversation with Ava.”
I tip my head back and cover my face with my hands.
“Gabe, you okay?” Julian asks.
I lower my head, dragging my fingers through my hair. “Yeah.” No. “I’m just trying to get my head around it all.”
“Ava was telling you the truth,” Charly says softly.
She was. And I didn’t believe her.
God, I’m such a fucking asshole.
“I can’t believe you figured this all out,” Julian says to her. “You’re seriously badass, Charly.”
“I can’t take all the credit.” She shrugs. “It was Ava as well. We figured it out together.”
I was here, hating on her, thinking that she’d betrayed me. All that time, she’d done nothing wrong, and she was out there, trying to clear her name.
I’ve never hated myself more than I do in this moment.
“She wanted to come, Gabe…to tell you herself, but she didn’t think you would listen to her,” Charly says.
And that hurts the most because she was right. I wouldn’t have listened.
Jesus, I’ve fucked things up so very badly.
I need to see Ava now.
“Where is she?” I ask Charly.
“She’s at the hotel. I can take you to her. I came in Ava’s car, so we should be able to get you out without the paparazzi seeing you, as I don’t think they’ll expect you to be driven around in a Smart car.”