Ten

An hour later Jacob has joined Chris in Mark’s office, and I’m reviewing the answering service report Jacob ordered for problems. But every few seconds I keep glancing at the roses in the Georgia O’Nay painting, grasping for something I can’t remember. It nags at me, and I reach into my briefcase and pull out my journal. Flipping to a blank page, I cave to the compelling need to write down my thoughts on Rebecca’s disappearance:


Did Ava act alone?

Could Ava be crazy enough to really claim credit for a murder she didn’t commit?

What if Rebecca isn’t dead at all?

I’m irritated at myself for even writing that last question, but it’s the one we all are wishfully asking. I start writing again, listing people who mattered to Rebecca:

1. Her mother: She raised Rebecca alone and she died with a secret about her father that tore Rebecca to pieces. I never figured out what that secret was, but I’m certain that Rebecca never knew her father. But what if he knew her? What if her existence was a threat to him, and maybe another family?

2. Ex-boyfriend: I don’t know his name, but she wrote about him being stalkerish. He seemed irrelevant, but was he?

3. Mary: Jealous, mean, competitive. I’m pretty sure she had the hots for Mark.

4. Ryan: One of her lovers, though not by choice. Mark brought him into the relationship. I don’t know the dynamic of their relationship enough to know what he felt for her. Rebecca didn’t express any emotions about him at all, which is odd, considering how intimate they were.

5. Mark: Per Chris, he loved her but wasn’t in love with her. I disagree. I saw his eyes the night he heard she was dead. And there’s no question she rattled his control like no other person ever had. If there is a fine line between love and hate, where did Mark walk then and now?

6. Ricco: The man who told me there’s a fine line between love and hate. He was, and still is, infatuated with Rebecca. He hates Mark for being the one she wanted. As with Mark, I find it hard to believe someone who loves that deeply would kill that person, but what about when they’re rejected? What about in a moment of passion?

“Hey, baby.”

I look up to find Chris standing in my doorway, and he’s a welcome breath of hot, wicked man in denim and leather. He wasn’t wearing the jacket a few minutes ago. “Are you leaving?”

“I need to run to the bank and take care of some stuff before tomorrow becomes a bigger zoo than today.” He motions to the door. “Walk me out?”

“Yes, of course.” I push to my feet and he watches me, tracking my every step, his eyes traveling my body in a hot inspection that I blame for the ache forming in my sex. Or maybe that’s the memory of his hand on my backside. He’s right; a spanking has a way of making the world fade away.

The instant I’m in front of him, he reaches for me, twining his fingers with mine, and bringing us toe-to-toe. “If you keep looking at me like that,” he promises, “I’m going to say ‘fuck the gallery’ and take you home and fuck you.”

“The wait always makes it better,” I remind him, as he often does me.

“Ah, my naughty little schoolteacher. You’re learning.” He leads me into the hallway.

“What was going on in Mark’s office?” I ask as we head to the door.

“We Skyped with one of Blake’s brothers and lined up the security details.”

“Where’s Blake?”

“He’s on his way here from New York. That’s why we had to deal with his brother.”

“I thought Kelvin ran San Francisco?”

“I like Kelvin, but we have too much shit going on to not have Blake here in person. He’s going to chat one-on-one with Amanda and Ralph sometime tomorrow as well. We want to make sure the press doesn’t get to them.”

That sets off my alarm bells. “Amanda is acting so odd, Chris. Maybe they already got to her. I hate that I’m saying this, but after what I’ve seen today, maybe shutting the gallery and funneling sales through Riptide is the way to go for a while.”

We near the back exit and Chris halts just beyond several security people milling around. “He may sell it,” he says, his tone low, for my ears only.

I move close, careful not to let my voice lift. “Ralph told me he was doing financials to sell, but I thought he was crazy. This is Mark’s pride and joy, and it’s part of his identity.”

“Well, we both know his identity is being shaken up, and I think he’s preparing for Riptide to need him full-time.”

“Oh, God—his mother? I thought she was better.”

“I don’t know. He’s not saying much, and maybe she’s simply going to retire. I’m just guessing.” He glances at his watch. “I might be a couple of hours. I need to attend to a few investments.” His hand settles on my waist. “I’m going to have the Louvre find a replacement for me for the charity, so we don’t have that pressure.”

“What? No.” I grab his arm. “Chris, if this is about last night—”

He cups my cheek. “I need you to know that nothing is more important than you and this and us.”

“Please don’t read into last night. I do know.”

“Not enough, baby, but I’m working on fixing that.” His hand falls away. “I need to run. My banker’s expecting me, but call me if you need anything. I’ll answer. Blake should be here by dinner time to talk through where the investigation stands.”

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