My lashes lower, and I try to hear Rebecca’s voice and see her face, but she’s just out of reach. It’s pure torture. The harder I try to bring her to life, the more it feels like a blade is slowly slicing my throat from one side to the other, and I can’t breathe.

My cell phone rings, jerking me from the spell of Rebecca’s words, and I see it’s Crystal’s number. Avoiding her isn’t the answer, nor is it the action of a Master. I take the call. “Ms. Smith. What can I do for you?”


“I have a problem.”

“There’s always a problem.”

“This one is named Mac Reynolds. He left a message on your mother’s voice mail, which I’m clearing for her right now.”

At the mention of Riptide’s largest and most difficult customer, I drain my glass. “And what exactly did his message say?”

“More than you want your mother to know right now. I deleted it to be sure she doesn’t hear it. But the jist was that you had one dead employee and another involved in counterfeit art, and he’s threatening to take it to the New York papers.”

“Of course he did. Have you met him?”

“Yes. Several times.”

“Then you know he enjoys being sucked up to. He just needs to know you’re the new resident ass-kisser and that you have the power to negotiate whatever he’s after.”

“He’s a power-play guy, Mark. That’s why he went to your mother. He’s going to want to talk to you.”

My cell phone beeps and I say, “I have to take this call.”

“But Mark—”

“I’m a power-play guy, and you do just fine with me. Handle him, Ms. Smith.”

I end the call and confirm my attorney is on the line, clicking over to the other line. “Talk to me, Dean.”

“What it boils down to is they have no body and no evidence, and it’s an election year,” he announces without preamble. “They need a fall guy.”

“Are you suggesting that’s me?”

“I’m suggesting it’s whoever they can get their hands on. He mentioned the club.”

I curse and he adds, “Yeah, right there with you on that one. I don’t need my membership made public.”

“How does he even know about the club?”

“Ava for one, and Rebecca’s journals for another. How damning are they?”

I glance at the one on the bed. “I’ve only read one of them and there was nothing about the club, but a lot about the lifestyle.”

“Which an attorney would demonize. I’m going to have a conflict of interest if this gets too much further along.”

“You think it will?”

“It depends on what those journals say, and how convincing they are that you and the club are problems. They could get a warrant to see the club records, in which case we need another attorney on standby, to motion to have the records kept closed. I have a guy I trust. I’ll talk to him.”

“I need to go see Ava and get her to hand over the body.”

“No f**king way. They have no case against you now, and everything will be filmed. Ava’s defense team is already using you as her reasonable doubt. If she twists things on tape it could end up in court.”

“I’m not going to let her twist things.”

“They’ll find a way if they want to—not to mention how it could drag Sara further into this.”

“Sara didn’t even know Rebecca.”

“That won’t stop them from saying she did. It’s about reasonable doubt.”

“It’s only a matter of time before the press gets hold of this. They already ran an article about my gallery being wrapped up in counterfeit, scandal, and murder. It won’t be long before they pull the club into it. If I can talk to her—”

“It’s insanity, and you aren’t crazy. Just wait. I’m meeting with the detective tomorrow. Let me feel him out in person. Maybe we can get them to sign a waiver that nothing in the conversation with Ava is admissible in court. But that works two ways. If she confesses again, it’ll be off the record.”

“Put me on the hot seat, and get everyone else but Ava out of it. I don’t care how you do it, but do it. This isn’t about me. It’s about Rebecca, and it’s about no one else getting hurt.”

There’s a moment of silence. “I’ll call you after the meeting with the detective.”

“Whatever we’re doing, I need to get back to New York for my family.”

“Understood.”

We end the call and I push to my feet. I need to clear my head and take control, and I’m not going to get it in this room. My cell phone starts ringing again and I cross to the nightstand and grab it, leaving the scotch I want no more of. When I see the caller ID that reads “Ms. Smith,” I hit the Ignore button.

And that’s a compliment she’ll never understand. I’m offering her the reins and with them, the control I never give away—except to her, it seems.

Part Three

Accused

I wake to the sound of my cell phone ringing and glance at the clock. Nine in the morning. After a night of reading Rebecca’s journal and climbing the walls, I’ve slept two hours. My caller ID says it’s my father and I sit up, my legs draped over the side of the bed. “Morning, Dad.”

“You sound like shit.”

“Better than looking like shit,” I answer, but I’m pretty sure I do that, too. “How’s Mom?”

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