Not surprisingly, Detective Grant turns his reprimand from David to Chris with a scathing “As for you, Mr. Merit, I was aware you were an artist—”

“An incredibly rich, brilliant artist,” David inserts, and I almost laugh.


Grant continues, “But no one warned me you were a comedian.”

Chris leans back easily. “I was going for smart-ass.”

“So you intended to be a smart-ass to a police officer,” Detective Miller says tartly.

“Exactly,” Chris agrees. “Just like Detective Grant intended to be a smart-ass to the victim he’s supposed to be protecting. Not exactly the image of public service the campaign stickers I’ve seen all over the city are preaching, now, is it?” There’s a subtle threat beneath the words, a promise that he’ll be outspoken about our treatment if it continues, which is made more powerful by David’s reminder of just how deep Chris’s pockets reach.

“You know,” David chimes in. “I guess we do have to sympathize with law enforcement in election years. The public wants to feel they are being well served and all. The pressure to get a conviction any way you can has to be intense.”

Detective Grant leans closer to David and all but growls, “Don’t throw that election crap at me. We aren’t elected officials in this room. We do our job no matter what year it is.”

“Then do it,” David says. “Get to the questions and save the head games for someone else.”

A muscle ticks in Grant’s jaw but he grabs a folder and opens it. “Ms. McMillan, referencing the police report on the night of the incident, you stated you went to Mr. Compton’s home because you and Mr. Merit had a fight. You felt Mr. Compton could give you advice. You were talking to him in his living room when the trouble broke out. Ryan Kilmer, whom you knew from a work project with Mr. Compton, and the defendant, Ava Perez, whom you knew from the coffee shop she owns, exited the back room, both in half-dressed disarray. Ava saw you and went nuts, attacking you. Mark grabbed her to protect you and told you to leave. You exited the house and Ava followed you, first trying to run you down with a car, and then holding a gun on you.”

“Yes,” I manage weakly, cotton gathering in my throat at the grimness of those memories. “That’s all accurate.”

“Did she ever say she’d kill you?” he asks.

“Inside the house when she launched herself at me, she shouted that she’d kill me like she did Rebecca.”

“And why do you think she wanted to kill you, or even Rebecca for that matter?”

“Considering she went nuts over me simply talking to Mark, I can only assume jealousy.”

This earns me a quick and uncomfortable question. “Were you having sex with Mr. Compton?”

“No,” I say firmly, hyperaware of Chris by my side. “I was with Chris then, as I am now.”

Detective Grant’s look is as cynical as they come. “Did you want to?”

My defenses prickle. “No. Not that night, and not ever.”

“Did he want to have sex with you?”

“I . . . I don’t know.”

Detective Miller scoffs. “Please, Ms. McMillan. A woman knows if a man wants to have sex with her.”

“Yes,” Chris supplies. “Mark wanted to have sex with Sara.” Cringing, I squeeze my eyes shut as he adds, “I knew he did. I’m sure Ava knew as well.”

“But you, Ms. McMillan,” Detective Grant says, “didn’t want to have sex with him.”

“Move on,” David orders.

Detective Grant changes the subject. “Do you believe it was her intent to hit and kill you with the car?”

I inhale, those horrible few seconds returning with vicious force. I can almost feel the night air, hear the car engine and my own breathing. “Yes. She wanted to kill me. That tree saved my life. I darted behind it or I wouldn’t be here now.”

“When she failed, she held you at gunpoint?” he presses.

I nod. “That’s right.”

“And she ordered you into the car?”

“Yes.”

“So she had the chance to shoot you, but she didn’t.”

It’s not a question and my anger is sharp and instant. “She intended to kill me.” I lean in closer. “She tried to kill me with the car. And if not for Chris risking his own life to disarm her, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Chris’s fingers slide under my hair to my neck, an act he normally reserves for those intimate moments when he is in control. The effect is jolting, and I realize instantly that’s his intent. As I focus on him my anger levels off, and I inhale a calming breath. Chris’s hand slowly slides from my neck, settling back on my leg.

After a short count of ten, I open my eyes. The two detectives have turned away, heads lowered as they whisper between themselves. They straighten and Detective Miller takes over the conversation.

“I’m sure everyone here is aware that Ms. Perez retracted her confession to the murder of Rebecca Mason. It’s difficult to secure an indictment in a murder charge without a body, and we are going to temporarily drop those charges to build a case. We have until Friday morning to decide if we’re going to proceed with the attempted murder charges.”

Abruptly, David scoots his chair to the head of the table, firmly grabbing both sides and smiling. “Damn, I’m good.” He motions to Chris and me. “Aren’t I good? Go ahead. Say it.”

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