“I have this sense of a book that I’m not quite ready to end, ending.”

“And so we start a new chapter to our story.”


“Yes.” But I feel heartache and loss for a woman I never met, but feel as if I did. Rebecca helped me find myself, and she will always be a part of me.

I turn back to get into the car, when Jacob suddenly pushes through the doorway. “Hold up. Ava’s out. I thought you’d want to know. Ricco paid her bond, and she has a friend acting as her supervisor. A woman who happens to be a friend of Ricco’s as well.”

My stomach knots. “The restraining order?”

“Blake confirmed with David that it’s in place.” Jacob glances at Chris. “My understanding is that David’s about to call you.”

“And she’ll have one of those leg monitors?” I ask.

“Yes,” Jacob says, “but that usually takes a day or two. A contract company will go to the residence she’s staying at and connect it to that phone line.”

Chris turns me to face him, his hands coming down on my shoulders. “Don’t freak out. We’re leaving the city. She could be back in jail before we even return.”

“That’s overly optimistic, Chris. I’d rather face reality.”

“I don’t do fluff. You know that. The police believe whatever they’re searching for will lead to re-charging her, and quickly.”

“How do you know?”

“Detective Miller told David.”

“I’m ready to get out of here.” I give Jacob a nod and slide into the backseat.

“What are you thinking?” Chris asks when we’re inside the car, the driver taking us to pick up the 911.

“Ava is free, and Rebecca is really gone.” And in my mind, I hear one of the lines from the song Mark was listening to: I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you.

Twenty-one

Chris’s plan to dodge the press works, and at nearly 7:00 p.m. we retrieve the 911 he’d parked in a garage several miles from the gallery without incident. We’re both starving but eager to get out of the city, so we choose the gourmet delight of Taco Bell on the go, and eat in the car by a parking meter. I’ve barely opened my burrito when I squirt taco sauce all over the dash and steering wheel, barely missing Chris.

He laughs and holds up his hands. “Whatever I did, I won’t do it again.”

Red-faced and giggling, I clean the dash, and when I reach for the steering wheel, he grabs me and kisses me. When I settle back into my seat, it’s with a warm glow instead of the deep chill of hearing about Ava’s release. And sitting there with him, wrapped in the cozy cocoon of the car, I have an “I’m so very blessed” moment. I’m alive. I’m with a man I love. And while that love stems from all the incredible things that define his character, and I certainly can’t complain about his hot factor, his easygoing humbleness gets to me. His ability to be this gorgeous, talented man, with money and power, and yet he loves Taco Bell in the car, the way I do. With so much loss and heartache in the air, it’s that small thing that fills my heart with emotion.

When we’re finally on the road exhaustion begins to take hold, and I snuggle on my side facing Chris, his leather jacket draped over me. “Are you tired?” I ask, feeling bad that I can rest and he can’t.

“Not yet, but I’ve done the time change from Paris many times. You haven’t. Rest.”

“I feel guilty.”

“About too many things,” he says.

“Did you hear about Amanda?” I ask, and it’s really not a change of subject. It’s about that word. Guilt.

“You are not Amanda’s keeper, Sara.”

“I know.”

“I know you know, but you’re letting worry over Ella and the connection you feel to Rebecca turn you into everybody’s mother. Save your strength.”

“My concerns for Ella and Rebecca may have led me to be gullible with Amber, but I’m not sure I care. She was crying for help.”

“You’re right, and I was enabling her instead of helping. Maybe your going to Paris was the catalyst that led to her finally getting help.”

“I hate to think that I pushed her to the final edge, but I think she was close to being there anyway. I could almost feel her struggles pulling her into hell. It’s hard to hate someone who makes you hurt for them.”

“I get that, and the connection to me. But you barely know Amanda.”

“It’s the Rebecca connection, and the way Ryan was trying to make her his next conquest. I don’t trust him. I know he has an alibi, but somehow, some way, I know he’s involved in Rebecca’s disappearance.”

“If he is, Ava will sell him out,” Chris assures me. “The good thing about people with no morals is that they gravitate to other people with no morals; then they undo each other.”

“She hasn’t so far, and he’s supposed to testify against her for attacking me.”

“She hasn’t felt any pressure yet. The murder charges were dropped, and her team is working to tear down the witnesses to get her off the charge of attacking you. But from what Detective Miller told David, the kid from the coffee shop is talking and he has a lot to say.”

I sit up straight. “Like what?”

“I don’t know, but it led to the search on the beach. I have a feeling Ava’s going to be talking real soon, and the truth is going to come out.”

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