No, I think, as I push to my feet, already feeling the absence of Chris in his own apartment. Mine was too short considering Chris was gone for a few more days.

We exit the gallery, the dim glow of a streetlight illuminating the back of the building and parking lot, where our two cars are the only ones left, and that means by process of elimination, the sporty silver Jaguar is Mark’s. He glances at the 911.

“I see he made sure to stake his claim,” he states dryly.

“Or he just really hates my Ford Focus.”

His eyes narrow sharply. “Don’t get used to what he gives you or you won’t want to earn it for yourself. And that, Ms. McMillan, would be a problem for us both. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He has dismissed me but he does not walk away, and I realize he’s waiting for me to get into the car. He’s hit a sensitive spot with me and I level my stare at him. I hesitate and consider letting it go, but I don’t. “I come from money, Mark. I’ve had money, lots of it, and I could have it now if I chose to comply with the expectations. So Chris can’t get me used to anything I don’t already know and am already willing to walk away from. I want to make my own money. And . . . .” He arches a brow at my hesitation and I realize I don’t want to say more. I don’t need to say more. This is not Mark’s business. “And good night.” I climb into the car without giving him another chance to speak, and the regret I felt about driving the car is gone. I don’t want to hide my relationship with Chris or make apologies or excuses for driving his car. This is my life and I plan to live it.

I pull onto the road, and the adrenaline high is back and I love that it comes from my actions. My thoughts go to Rebecca and how she used the man in the journal for her highs, how easily another man who wasn’t Chris could have brought that out in me. My desire to find her and confirm that she has found a path to her dreams, and is safe and happy, becomes more powerful than ever.

• • •

The 911 is a smooth luxury ride I am familiar with from my father’s preference for the car, but it’s been years since I’ve ridden in one, and certainly I never drove one. That Chris has easily handed me the keys is far more meaningful than he understands. Not that I didn’t have a nice car. My father wouldn’t allow his daughter to embarrass him in a Ford Focus like I have now. I’d driven a conservative little Audi during both high school and college, traded in every two years, of course. I’d loved the first car, and hated the two that had followed, as I’d begun to see beneath the veil of the life my mother and I led. No veil now, though. I’m on my own and I’m in a 911.

My lips curve and I hit the gas and indulge myself for a blast a short half block long. The instant I ease up my foot, the car goes into an easy glide. The smooth ride after the wicked acceleration reminds me of the extreme shifts I’ve experienced in Chris’s moods and I decide the car fits him well. I also wonder if I’ve truly seen what lies beneath the surface to cause those ups and downs. I wonder what he would think if he knew what lies beneath my surface.

I shake off the place my thoughts are going as I pull up to Chris’s fancy high-rise only a few blocks from the gallery and the doorman opens my door and greets me. “Good evening, Ms. McMillan.”

Handing over the keys, I am reminded of Chris teasing this doorman as he had another at a hotel not to joyride in the car. “I didn’t joyride.” I grin. “Much.”

He grins back at me. “I won’t tell.”

“Thank you,” I say, giving him a small nod before I slide the strap of my briefcase over my shoulder and head inside the building, where I find Jacob standing by the front counter.

“Ms. McMillan,” he says with a nod when I stop beside him. “I trust the day was uneventful in a good way since I didn’t hear from you after our phone call this morning.”

“It was,” I confirm. “You know, I just didn’t want to risk bothering you if you were off duty this morning.”

“I’m always on duty,” he informs me. “I live on property and I made a special promise to Chris to look out for you. He doesn’t ask for favors, Ms. McMillan. He did for you. I don’t intend to let him down. You’re on my radar but I need you to communicate with me. If you’re going out, let me know.”

I have a flashback to the many years of my life my mother and I went nowhere without a security guard we didn’t need. I didn’t understand that in my youth, of course. Not until college, when I’d torn away my rose-colored glasses, did I realize we were like kept animals, pets to my father, controlled, not protected. Sheltered from the many lives he had led and the many women my mother had pretended she didn’t share him with.

“Ms. McMillan?” Jacob asks, and I snap my gaze up from the floor to his.

“Yes,” I murmur. “Thank you, Jacob.” And despite my walk down memory lane, I mean the words. Contrary to my actions the night before, I don’t make a habit of being stupid, no matter what my father might say otherwise. Someone was in that storage unit with me last night. Maybe it was teenagers, or maybe it wasn’t, but with my worries about Rebecca, I’m not sure I’m over the fear I felt inside the darkness.

His eyes narrow and glint with understanding. “I don’t care what time of the day or night, you call me if you need to. There is no reason too small. Better safe—”

“Than sorry,” I finish for him. “Yes, I know.” I incline my head. “I’ll call if I need you.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance