“I don’t want you to have to hold me up.”
“That’s what we do, baby. We support each other. We made that decision when we decided to get married. For better or worse. End of subject. Okay?”
I nod, and damn it, my eyes are burning. “Okay.”
“Good. And yes, Michael is in town, and in a few hours we won’t be. The sooner we leave for Sonoma, the happier I’ll be.”
“He’s going to go into that courtroom and lie about me. God. He’s such an asshole. I have to be at the hearing.”
“Forget it. They don’t want you there and I don’t want you there.”
“I need to defend myself.”
“Your father assures me Michael won’t be there. And even if he was, the DA would defend you as their primary witness.”
“So far I’ve been attacked on all fronts. Did my father say anything about me nearly being killed? No. Don’t answer that. I know I won’t like the answer.”
He rests his forehead on mine and says nothing, his silence the bitter confirmation I expect. My father didn’t care about my safety. He cared about his reputation.
I can’t think about this now, and I look at Chris. “I assume Blake has men watching Michael?”
“Yes. If he heads to the courthouse, we’ll know. Any word on Amanda?”
“Nothing. I’ve tried to reach her and so has Ralph. I have a bad feeling about her, Chris.”
“It’s easy to have a bad feeling when you’re in the middle of a murder investigation. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll have one of the security guys run by her house.”
“I think I should go. She knows me, and she’ll be freaked out by a stranger showing up at her door.”
“No, baby. I know doing something, anything, makes you feel more in control right now, but we have to think about Ricco and the press.”
“Ricco’s angry at Mark, not me.”
“Jealousy and vengeance make people do crazy things. We talked about this. So we aren’t underestimating Ricco. I’ll go check on Amanda. She knows me, and I can call you and put her on the line with you while I’m there.”
“I’ll just go with you.”
Chris shakes his head. “You stay and help Ralph get out of here. I want to pay Ryan a little visit after I check on Amanda, and I’m not taking you along for that ride.”
“Good. Just call me as soon as you get to her apartment.”
“Of course.” He runs his hand down my hair. “I don’t think you’ll see Mark today. My understanding is they called him in for last minute questioning this morning, but text me if he shows up.” His voice lowers, roughens, and he tugs me to my feet. “Just remember. You’re mine, baby, and I protect what’s mine. I won’t let anyone hurt you in any way.” He kisses my forehead and leaves.
• • •
Thirty minutes later I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear from Chris, but I’ve managed to be productive, sorting files and righting papers that are an absolute mess. How can the police justify leaving the gallery’s records like this? I’m about to head to Ralph’s office again when I hear the exterior door open.
Hoping for news, I reach my doorway just as Mark stops in front of me. We are toe-to-toe, a lean away from touching, and I am captured by those icy gray eyes. For several moments I can’t breathe, and he knows it. I see it in the narrowing of his eyes, the hint of satisfaction that tells me he misreads my reaction as something it is not—and never will be.
Jolted back to sanity, I step backward.
“My office, Ms. McMillan,” he snaps, and leaves me staring after him.
My shoulders slump. So much for not seeing him today. My fist balls at my chest, where my stupid heart is racing. I hate that he can still do this to me; that any man can do this to me.
Mark hits the same hot spots that Michael and my father do, both of whom are very much on my mind today. I respond to him more out of conditioning than by free will, like I do with Chris.
I walk down the hallway toward Mark’s office with trepidation, replaying his words from yesterday. You remind me of her. It’s rather ironic, how I remind him of his past, and he of mine.
Entering his office, I find him leaning against the front of his desk, his arms crossed over his chest, looking every bit the powerful, unapproachable “King.”
“Shut the door,” he orders.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“The door, Ms. McMillan.”
I hesitate, but my worry for Ralph’s uncanny ability to overhear things wins. I shut the door, and hope it’s not a mistake.
Mark’s spacious office shrinks the instant I’m sealed inside with him. His energy and power radiate through the room, a sharp, familiar sensation that I now realize always stirs a bit of my past, and my defenses with it.
“Why are you and Ralph still here?” he demands.
I force myself to stand my ground. “Ralph can’t do the reports you want from home. I’m helping him since Amanda was a no-show today.”
“Jacob told me about that.”
I wait for him to express concern or offer a game plan or explanation, but he just gives me silence. “It’s not like her to not show up. Chris went to check on her.”
“I made sure she won’t be given entry into the club, should Ryan choose to take her there.”