Answers, Sara. You want answers. “Staying. I’m staying.” My feet move. That’s progress. One step into the den is closer to one step out.
The massive living room I bring into focus a few feet down the hallway is exactly what I expect of Mark. Rich, rich, and rich in every way. An obviously expensive chocolate brown leather couch is framed by two oversized matching chairs. A fireplace is to the left, and above it a painting I recognize as a Motif. Two sculptures are to either side of the fireplace, and I have no doubt they were done by famous artists, though I am not knowledgeable enough to be certain.
Mark steps to my side, intimidatingly tall and close. “Let’s sit.”
I walk forward and choose the solitariness the overstuffed chairs allows me and perch on the edge of one, setting my purse beside me. Mark sits on the arm of the couch facing me, automatically assuming the position of dominance.
My throat is ridiculously parched and my pulse starts thrumming wildly, afraid of what may be another Pandora’s box.
“Yes, Ms. McMillan?” he asks when I’ve apparently let too much time pass.
A heavy breath escapes my lungs. “I need to know what caused you and Chris to come to bad terms.”
He considers me a moment. “What did he tell you?”
“I’d rather hear it from you.”
“Why is this important?” His voice is crisp.
“It just is.”
“That’s not a good enough answer.”
Of course not. That would be too simple. “Was it over Rebecca?”
“Is this about the police investigation?”
“No, it’s not that. I . . .” I almost tell him about the storage unit but think better of it. “She’s just become very personal to me and I came across some of Rebecca’s items, and there were keepsakes from a charity event that she and Chris—”
“They weren’t involved. Not even close. In fact, she came to dislike him quite a lot.”
“I didn’t think they were involved, but what made her dislike him?”
“He saw her as a young kid who needed a daddy more than a Master.”
This explains why Rebecca had scribbled out Chris’s name in her work journal. “And you didn’t agree with him?”
“No. I didn’t agree with him. I saw a young, intelligent, beautiful woman with the world in her hands.”
There is a softness to his voice I’ve never heard, and not for the first time I believe he had feelings for Rebecca. Maybe not love, but he had an attachment I once thought him incapable of feeling for anyone. “Where is she, Mark?”
“Contrary to Ricco’s insistence that I know that, I don’t.”
“What the f**k is she doing here?”
I jump at the sound of Ava’s voice and stand up, turning toward a hallway to my right. Ava is standing there, eyes ablaze and wearing nothing but an oversized T-shirt. Ryan is behind her, bare-chested, in a pair of dress pants.
“I tried to stop her, Mark.” He reaches for Ava and she turns and throws punches at him, tearing her nails down his cheek. “Holy f**k, Ava!”
“What the f**k is she doing here, Mark?” Ava screams, and she looks wild, insane.
“Ava, I told you to wait in the bedroom,” Mark warns sharply. “Go back to the bedroom.”
“So you can f**k her and then come back and f**k me like you did that bitch Rebecca?” She bolts forward and Ryan tries to grab her, but he misses. My heart jackhammers as she closes in on us and I’m not sure where to go, what to do. She’s running toward us, no—me, and I start backing up.
Mark grabs me and shoves me behind him just as Ava crashes into him. She starts thrashing around, trying to reach me. Before I escape, she grabs a chunk of my hair and twists it in her hands. Pain splinters through my scalp and I scream with the force of her grip.
“Enough, Ava!” Mark barks, and I feel a painful jerk before I am suddenly free. I stumble backward, hit the table again, and this time I end up on top of it with a hard thud that rattles me to the bones.
“Fuck you, Mark!” Ava screams in pain, and I can see Ryan’s hand wrapped around her hair, yanking her backward. “You did this to me with that bitch Rebecca!” Ava screeches. “You’re not doing it to me again.”
I roll to the floor and land on my hands and knees.
“I’ll kill that bitch,” Ava hisses. “I’ll kill her.”
“Get out of here, Sara,” Mark orders. Kill me? Was she serious? Mark grabs me and pulls me to my feet. “Sara! Get the f**k out!”
I don’t need to be told again. I run out of the room and for the door, and I don’t even shut it behind me. Ava is screaming from inside, wild, insane. I’m running so fast I smash into the side of my car, heaving in air. I reach for my purse. Oh, God. Oh, God. No! My purse and keys are inside. Pressing my hand to my forehead, I try to think what to do, but there is too much adrenaline rushing through me to think straight. I start to pace, willing myself to calm down. Neighbor. I have to walk to a neighbor and call Chris for a ride. There isn’t another option. I start to run down the drive.
Behind me I hear the garage door creak open and I turn to be blinded by headlights that start moving toward me. I edge to the side of the driveway, but the lights follow me. I cut across the lawn, and I don’t have to look back to know the car is still behind me and it’s close—too close. Desperately, I dart behind a massive tree and stumble to my hands and knees as the car blasts into the trunk with a loud crash that echoes through my bones.