The trolley continues without a driver and we start rolling down a hill toward the Bay. I know how this nightmare goes; I’ve had different versions many times, but still I cannot control my reaction. I begin to scream and I want to jump, but the car is going too fast. I can’t stop the inevitable from happening. I can’t and I don’t. The trolley crashes into the ocean and icy water seeps through my clothes, piercing my skin like a sharp, painful blade.

I try to swim to the surface but the trolley is over me, shoving me down, down, down. . . . I cannot get to the surface. I cannot breathe. And my mother is nowhere. She is just gone. Like me.

I wake with a gasp, jolting to a sitting position, and it takes me several heaving breaths to realize I’m in bed.

“Easy, baby. It’s just the alarm clock.”

Chris’s voice breaks through the havoc in my mind; his hand on my back calms the tension tightening my spine.

“I had a nightmare,” I say, welcoming his arm around my neck, his forehead against mine. “It was . . . it was like I was Rebecca, and I was writing in one of her journals.”

He leans back, giving me a curious look, grabbing the remote off the nightstand and sending the shades into motion and a new day’s light spilling in as they lift. “I thought her entries were erotic, not scary.”

I pull my knees to my bare chest. “Not all of them. She wrote a lot about her nightmares and her death.”

“Wait. She wrote about her death? Why haven’t I heard about this before now?”

“They were just nightmares. It didn’t feel important.”

“They were a by-product of her life, so my question is what brought them on? Was she afraid of someone?”

“No. They weren’t about a person. She was always drowning in the Bay. They were more about control, I think. About her feeling like something in her life was spiraling out of control and she couldn’t stop it.”

“Was there anyone else in the nightmares?”

“Her dead mother.”

He tilts his head, giving me a keen inspection. “Let me get this straight. Rebecca had control issues, an absent father, a love for art, and was messed up over her mother.”

There is a tight knot in my chest, rapidly getting tighter. “And she loved a man she feared she could never truly have. Yes. We were alike. That’s why I connected to her writing.”

“Sara, where did that come from?”

“I’m sorry. It’s not about now. It’s about the past, when I was reading her journals, and you left me. I understood her and I didn’t even know her.”

“I see my instincts to lock those damn journals away were right.”

“At the time I locked them away, it was,” I grudgingly admit. “But her words were also what gave me the courage to seek out a dream that led us to each other. She changed my life, Chris, and she haunts me beyond those journals. I can’t explain it, but I feel like I was always supposed to find her justice.” I look upward a moment and shake my head. “I sound like a crazy person.”

“No.” He wraps his arm around my calves, just below mine. “You sound like someone who cares, and there are too few people who do.”

“Like you do,” I say. “You help people, Chris, and I love that about you. You’re helping Mark even though he doesn’t deserve it from you.”

“I’ve found that in life, the times we need help are often the times we deserve it the least.”

“Sometimes people like Rebecca deserve it and they never have it.”

His phone beeps on the nightstand and he releases me to reach for it. “That reminds me,” I say. “Did David ever call?”

“This is from him,” he says, indicating his phone, and reading: “Client emergency last night and this morning. Tied up all morning. Update you later. Just don’t say anything I wouldn’t say today, and you’ll be fine.”

I laugh. “Seriously? Don’t say anything he wouldn’t say? No one says the things that man says. Sugar.”

Chris grins. “The next time we go to dinner with him, I’m ordering a pitcher of beer.”

Smiling, I shake my head. “I so would enjoy that.” It hits me that I forgot something else last night. “You never told me what happened when you met with Mark.”

“Not much. He’s a cracked brick wall, trying to pretend he’s steel. And his normal outlet for maintaining that façade is gone. Tiger made him sign the club over.”

“To who?”

“His head of security.”

“I’m shocked. That’s a major part of who he is.”

“It might be the best thing that ever happened to him. It’s going to force him to deal with life, not hide from it.”

“I’m not sure if I agree or disagree. Mark’s hard to understand.”

“And to help.”

“Did he decline my offer to help at the gallery?”

“No, he’s not a fool. He wants to be close to his mother right now, and that means Allure isn’t a priority.”

“It shouldn’t be.”

“You’re right—and his mother deserves her son next to her when she fights this monster. We’ll help that happen.” He glances at his cell phone. “It’s eight now. Mark agreed to hire security, and Jacob is meeting us at the gallery at nine.”

“Jacob? What about his job here?”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance