I want out. This is no longer a rush anymore. No longer exciting. But he won’t let me out. He won’t let me go. And I don’t know how to escape him. He was at the showing tonight, watching me, stalking me. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. One minute I was talking to a customer, the next I was in a dark corner with him buried deep inside me. When it was over, he stroked my hair and promised to see me later. Tonight. The minute I was alone, I rushed to the camera room to take the tape, to keep him from possessing it, and me with it. But it was gone. He’d taken it before I could. And now…

That was it. Nothing more. As if she’d been interrupted by something or someone and quit writing. I stare at the blank page, my heart thundering in my chest. Were these journals before or after the one I’d been reading the night before, I wonder again? Because if they were before, I would know Rebecca was okay. I dial Ella and once again am greeted by the fast busy signal I don’t want to hear.


Frustrated, I jump to my feet and pace, wringing fingers through my already tousled hair. Rebecca Mason must have left town, that’s why her things were in that storage unit. But why hadn’t she come back for them? Or paid the storage fee? I ball my fists at my sides and then slowly force them to open, force my shoulders to relax. I will myself to calm down with logic. There is no reason to jump to conclusions. I’ll simply call the gallery and locate Rebecca, discover all is well, and return Rebecca’s things to her. End of story. Right. Perfect. Then I’ll get on with my summer tutoring.

I snatch my phone off the coffee table, intending to make that call and immediately stop myself. It’s after midnight and I’ve tried to call Ella with no idea what time it is in Paris, and now I am trying to call the art gallery. So much for calm and collected.

Something about Rebecca Mason has reached past the pages of that journal and become personal. I’d become Rebecca while I was reading those journals. I feel a connection so intimate to this stranger that it is downright eerie. Or maybe, I think wryly, my own life is just so darn boring I’m desperate for a little excitement. Like Rebecca had been, before she met him.

With that thought, I hug myself, and head for bed. But not before I grab the journals and take them with me.

Chapter Three

“Rebecca isn’t in.”

That is the same reply the man who always answers the phone at the gallery had given me the last time I’d called. And the time before that.

“She’s on vacation,” I reply. “So I’ve been told all week. It’s Friday. Will she be back Monday?”

Silence filters into the line. “I can take a message.”

I’d already left several and I see no point in leaving another. “No. Thank you.” I hang up and sip my vanilla latte from the Barnes and Noble café where I’d just finished tutoring a football player hoping to impress colleges with more than his playing skills. This entire Rebecca situation is driving me nuts.

I’ve already double-checked the time I have left to clear out the storage unit, considering Ella hadn’t exactly been a wealth of information, and it is a short window—one more week. After that, it would be two hundred dollars for another full month. A hard blow to my cash flow on an already tight budget. The manager has given me one extra week free for which I am grateful, but I have to deal with Rebecca and do it now.

With my laptop already open and powered up, I key in the Allure Gallery website, intending to search the staff listing to be sure Rebecca’s name still appears. Sure enough, Rebecca is listed as Marketing Director. Hmm. Well, that’s good. That has to be a sign she’s okay. Doesn’t it?

An event banner on the side of the page catches my eye and I click on it. There’s a showing at the gallery the following Wednesday night and not for some unknown artist either. A thrill goes through me at the realization that the highly acclaimed artist, Ricco Alvarez, is doing a showing. I adore Ricco Alvarez’s depiction of his homeland Mexico, and though it’s rather well known in an artsy city like San Fran that someone of his stature owns a home here, he rarely makes appearances. But then, this is a good cause, a black-tie charity event with both ticket prices, and a piece of Alvarez’s art, being auctioned off as donations to a local children’s hospital. Surely, with such an event, Rebecca will be at the helm.

Tapping my nails on the wooden table, I consider my options. If I can’t reach Rebecca before the show, I’ll attend the event. Silently, I laugh at myself. Who am I kidding? I’m going to see Ricco Alvarez, even if I have to eat Ramen noodles for two weeks to do so, and since the tickets are a hundred dollars a pop, I will. But I never, ever splurge. I bite my bottom lip and fret, and then before I can stop myself, click on the "buy tickets" button and claim one of the last available tickets. I won’t be able to get a refund if I reach Rebecca before then, but I’ll just have to rough it. I can’t stop the smile from sliding onto my lips. It will be torture to have to meet Ricco Alvarez. I feel better with a plan. Now, if I can just get through to Ella and hear she is okay, I might actually sleep tonight.

***

Wednesday evening arrives and Rebecca is still "not in" per the Allure staff. So, I am off to the Alvarez event, but my excitement over the showing has been doused quite effectively by the feeling something is really wrong. The entire situation makes me anxious, and while I would have preferred some moral support, as in a friend to join me at the night’s event, I had dismissed the idea. I wasn’t about to try and explain why I was hunting down Rebecca Mason, whom I didn’t know, and who I feared had met an untimely…something. I’m not going to even let my mind elaborate on that thought. And I won’t justify my worry by letting anyone else read Rebecca’s private thoughts.

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