A frustrated sound slips from my lips. “Can we call the police?”
“Blake says we’ll never prove someone else was inside the unit and we still shouldn’t involve the police when we’ve decided to hold off.”
Reluctantly, I accept the helplessness of the situation. “If there were any more journals, they’re lost forever.” And with them the potential answer to where she is, and who is responsible for her disappearance.
“Blake and the entire team at Walker Security are the best. If anyone can find Rebecca, they will.”
“If they’re as good as you say, and it hasn’t been easy to find her, Chris, I’m more concerned than ever.”
Chris’s mouth tightens. “Unfortunately, I agree.”
I try to shake off my somber mood before we enter Dylan’s room, but it’s an effort lost once we arrive. The energetic boy I’d met the day before is nowhere to be found. He’s in bed, bent over a pan, throwing up, while his mother is beside herself trying to soothe him. The only thing that keeps my feet on the ground is the absolute need for me to keep everyone else’s feet there. Brandy’s hand shakes every time she moves, and Chris’s energy ratchets up a notch. He’s like a wild animal pacing a cage he cannot escape.
Somehow, though, he reins it in and discovers Brandy hasn’t eaten or slept. He forces her to go take a break while we sit with Dylan. Chris sits on the edge of Dylan’s bed and caves to a plea for him to draw another Freddy Krueger picture. Miraculously, Dylan perks up when Chris starts to sketch on the pad he’s been carrying with him.
At four o’clock Chris has to leave for a donor meeting, and I stay behind with Dylan and Brandy with plans to meet him at the hotel at five thirty. At five forty-five, I’m still standing in front of the hospital after waiting for half an hour on a cab. I’ve texted Chris but he hasn’t replied.
Finally he calls. “I just got out of my meeting. Did you get one?”
“No,” I answer frantically. “There’s two big conventions in town and a movie premiere.”
“Tell the cab company there’s a hundred-dollar tip in it for them and I’ll meet you at the front of the hotel to pay them. If that doesn’t work I’ll send a private car.”
Fifteen minutes later, Chris greets me at the front of the hotel in jeans and a plain white T-shirt, with his hair lying in damp tendrils around his face. He yanks open my door and leans inside the front passenger window and pays the driver. In a rush to shower and dress, I step out of the cab, and Chris settles his hands on my shoulders and kisses me solidly on the lips. “I missed you.”
Though Chris is inherently private, right now he’s oblivious to the people all around us. I blink up at him and glimpse that rare vulnerability in his expression that always roots its way deep inside me and turns me inside out. I stroke a damp strand of his hair and a waterfall of emotions crashes down on me. “Chris, I—” A horn honks and Chris pulls me forward as a cabbie guns by me. I step onto the curb and silently finish my sentence . . . love you.
“Crazy cabdriver,” he grumbles, twining his fingers with mine.
We start walking toward the hotel entrance, but my spontaneous confession has been sideswiped by a yellow cab. I tell myself that’s a good thing. I was crazy to do this now. It’s the wrong time and place, but I can’t seem to rid myself of the feeling that I’ve lost a moment I will regret.
• • •
I rush through my shower and slip into the hotel-provided robe to do my makeup and hair. I’ve just finished flat-ironing my hair into a sleek straight style when Chris appears in the doorway, wearing his tuxedo. I set the brush down and turn to him, soaking in the way he defines his clothes. Perfectly fitted and pressed, the pants and jacket hug his lithe, muscular frame with delicious results. And while he’s conformed to the expected “monkey suit,” as he’s called it previously, he is unshaven, a light brown shadow dusting his jaw, and his blond hair is rumpled and a bit wild, the contrast declaring him both the man I know and love and a rebel with a cause.
“You are the sexiest man alive,” I declare.
Chris smiles, and for the first time all day it reaches his eyes. “I’ll let you prove you mean that when we get back tonight.” He pulls a black velvet box from behind his back. “This is for you.” His lips curve. “And me.”
My breath catches as I read AdamandEve.com on top of the box. It’s the sexy online store I’d told Chris about on the phone two evenings before. “I’m guessing that isn’t a pink fluffy paddle.”
“Don’t look disappointed,” he teases. “I’ll order one to be delivered when we get home.” He flips open the lid and lying on black silk are three pieces of jewelry. Two matching silver hoops, each having a long strand of dangling rubies. The third has a silver hoop and a teardrop laced with the same rubies.
“To wear under your dress,” he announces.
Unbidden, I hear one of Rebecca’s entries replay in my head, as if she is speaking to me. He turned me around, tugged my dress and bra down, and clamped my ni**les, ordering me to endure the pain. I cross my arms in front of my chest and shake my head. “No. I can’t wear those to the party.”
Chris sets the box on the vanity and advances on me. I step backward, but he’s already in front of me, framing my face with his hands. “They aren’t clamps, if that’s what you think. I wouldn’t ask you to wear clamps for an extended period of time. This is jewelry. Nothing more than delicious friction for you, and a tempting distraction for me, which, believe me, I need tonight.”