“This is all stuff I expected,” I say, and I cannot help but notice the subtle tension tightening around Chris. There’s something he’s dreading telling me. “What else, Chris?”
“Ava’s counsel claimed you hated Rebecca because she was my lover.”
“I never touched Rebecca, Sara,” Chris says, his legs capturing mine as if he’s afraid I’ll try to escape.
“I know you, and I know the defense is doing their job—no matter how sleazy their tactics. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard to hear the things they’re saying.”
“Believe me, baby, I know. And it’s all the more reason for us to get out of town.”
I sigh. “I suddenly wish I were back at the chateau in France.”
“If I could charter a plane and make that wish come true tonight, I would.”
“I know. But we’re trapped in the middle of this mess. Can’t the police just clear us publicly, to take some of the pressure off of us?”
“Don’t get your hopes up. David cautioned me that they often give people room to hang themselves. We have to remember that they’re playing dirty ball with people who play dirty ball. They don’t know whom to trust until they discover the facts; facts we want them to find. And remember, too, that even if we’re cleared, the press nightmare won’t end. We’re targets to these fame whores Ava has representing her, and if they can make this their O.J. Simpson case, they will.”
“That’s exactly what they seem to be doing.”
“It’s going to be a hundred times worse after that news special tonight, and I want us out of town before it airs. We’ll have Blake send us a recorded copy to watch after we’re away from the city.”
“Won’t the press find us at Katie and Mike’s?”
“We’re staying at a private house I rented. We’ll be fine.”
Any relief I feel is washed away by an upsetting realization. “We can’t go to see Katie and Mike. I can’t even imagine what they’ll think about what’s being said in the press. How am I ever going to face them again, Chris?”
“I called and warned them—fully. I told them how dirty this was getting. The first thing Katie did was ask how you were holding up.”
“Because she’s proper about everything. That doesn’t change what she might be thinking about me, or us. I’m too embarrassed to face her and Mike.”
“Don’t be. They know how the press operates. They had an issue with the press over a competitor-created scandal years back. They know how things are twisted for other people’s benefit.”
He cups my face and kisses me soundly on the lips. “I promise, baby. If I thought it was a problem, we wouldn’t go there.” He steps back and glances at his watch. “I need to get moving so I can get back here at a reasonable time. I’ll ask Mark to walk out with me so I can pick his brain about anything he knows that we don’t. I’ll call or text you if I’m going to be more than an hour.” He disappears into the hallway.
It’s going to be hard to hear the accusations about Chris and Rebecca; my heart aches just thinking about it. I want all of this to go away and I can’t make it happen. Nothing I do changes anything, and I’m left with a clawing sensation inside me—like I’m supposed to do something before it’s too late, but I don’t know what it is, or why.
• • •
Three hours after his departure, Chris still isn’t back from the police station. Judging from his numerous text messages, he’s doing a lot of waiting in between a lot of talking, and I have no idea when he’ll return.
Thankfully, inside the gallery things have been calm, though Jacob has warned Ralph and me that there’s a circus outside.
I’m just about to deliver the last of the data I’ve collected for Ralph, when Jacob walks into my office. “Amanda’s safe and at her parents’ place in L.A.” He sets a piece of paper with a number on it down on the desk. “Thought you might want that.”
Relief washes over me. “Oh, thank goodness. But why in the world is she in L.A.?”
“No idea. We tracked her travel data. We have no other details, but I’m guessing someone or something spooked her. We need to know who or what, and people talk more openly to those they trust.”
Understanding, I nod. “I’ll call her and let you know what I find out.”
“Remember you’re all over the news. She’s going to know what’s being said.”
My belly clenches. “I figured as much.”
“I’ll be in the break room in case you need me. I never ate my lunch. You might want to consider joining me and eating yours.”
“Yum,” I say. “Cold pizza.”
“A microwave works miracles.”
“A microwave makes soggy crust.”
“Which is better than nothing.” He disappears into the hallway. My attention shifts to the phone number he’s given me, and I do what I’ve avoided all day: I google the local news. I know from the first sentence I’m going to wish I’d skipped the story, but it’s like I’m transfixed by a bad horror movie, and I keep on reading.
Guilty, or a victim of a sexcapade gone wrong? That’s the question about Ava Perez. Accused of murdering Rebecca Mason, who has been missing for months, she now claims her confession was brought on by blackmail. Those charges were dropped today, but she’s still accused of attacking Sara McMillan and trying to kill her. So who is this Sara McMillan? She works for Mark Compton, said to be the kingpin of a high-end sex club. Ms. McMillan is also dating acclaimed billionaire artist Chris Merit, who is rumored to be a member of said sex club. Both men were allegedly intimately involved with Rebecca Mason, the missing woman who once held Sara McMillan’s job.