Then there’s the unloading of bags and suitcases, followed by the stocking of the refrigerator in the gorgeous country-style kitchen with a dramatic stainless steel range hood above the stove.

“Coffee’s almost done,” Katie announces once we are almost settled. “We should go round up the boys and talk about the wedding. We can go shopping tomorrow.”

“We want small and intimate,” I say. “Just a handful of special people.”

“We can do that. At the chateau, right?”

“That’s what Chris and I talked about.”

Her eyes light with pleasure. “Excellent. Tomorrow we can pick the spot on the property. I’m so happy, Sara. You’ve been so good for Chris.”

“He’s been good for me.”

“That’s when you marry someone—when you make each other better.”

“We do,” I say, unable to keep the gravelly quality from my voice. “In every way.”

I hear Chris and Mike’s voices a moment before they appear, and Chris comes up behind me, wrapping his arm around me, as Mike does with Katie. A sense of being a part of a family washes over me, a warm blanket I’ve never had before. I’m in this safe place for the first time in my life.

“Do I smell coffee?” Chris asks.

Katie beams with satisfaction, and in a few minutes we’re all sitting around the table with steaming cups, chatting. “I’m so excited that you’re getting married,” she says. “Sara says you both want small and intimate.”

“Yes,” he says firmly. “Small, Katie. I know how you are. Don’t keep adding names once the list is together.”

“I won’t, but we need to work quickly if we’re going to set a date before you return to Paris.”

“Look out,” Mike says, holding up his hands. “She’s about to start talking a hundred miles an hour. I might need wine, not coffee.”

“I’m just excited,” Katie says. “I’ve waited Chris’s whole life for this. And frankly, at thirty-five, I was starting to think it wasn’t going to come.”

“Well, you can take a deep breath,” Chris teases. “With everything going on here we canceled the Paris event, so we aren’t in a rush. We have plenty of time, and Sara wants the trial behind us before the wedding.”

“Good decision,” Mike agrees. “You can’t deal with legal issues split between countries.”

“So, for a date,” Katie says, “how about Valentine’s Day?”

“I’m not sure the trial will be over by then,” Chris answers, sipping his coffee.

“Why don’t we plan for Valentine’s Day,” Katie suggests, “and then we can move it if we have to. We can work through the rest of the details in the meantime.”

I lose track of time as we chat about anything and everything, until Chris’s cell phone rings.

He glances at it, and I see the subtle tension in his face even before he looks at me and says, “David.”

“Our attorney,” I explain to Katie and Mike.

Chris answers the call with, “Tell me something good.” He listens for a few seconds, then says, “Give me a second.” He stands up and walks to the counter for the remote to a small TV hanging under a cabinet. I push to my feet and join him as he turns it on and finds the news, then says, “Got it, David. I’ll call you back.”

He turns up the sound and Katie and Mike join us to watch a male newscaster standing on a beach, wind gusting around him, the sea behind him.

“All we know at this point is that boxes have been carried out of the residence of Tom and Dorothy Merdock, whose son is Corey Merdock—an employee of Ava Perez, the woman who had confessed to killing the missing woman Rebecca Mason. Those charges were dropped after she said that her confession was coerced and there evidently wasn’t enough evidence to hold her. Ms. Perez is still being charged with attempted murder against Sara McMillan, who worked at the same gallery as Rebecca Mason. Police are mum on what they know about the whereabouts of Rebecca Mason, or what Corey Merdock has to do with this case. There was some talk of a seedy sex scandal wrapped around the case, but at present we haven’t been able to confirm or deny those details. The police are telling us they’ll address all issues in a news conference that may come as early as Monday morning. We’ll keep you posted as developments hit our news desk.”

Chris turns off the TV and silence surrounds us. Then his phone rings again and he answers it, doing more listening than speaking. When he ends the call, he runs a rough hand through his already tousled blond hair.

“Well?” I urge.

“David doesn’t know much. Detective Miller is staying close-lipped for the most part, but she let one big thing slip. They found another journal, and it’s believed that Rebecca wrote in it the night she returned to San Francisco.”

My hand goes to my neck. “They found it on the beach?”

“She wouldn’t say where they found it. David says she’d get her teeth kicked in if they knew she even told him what she did.”

“And Rebecca? Did they find her?”

He shakes his head. “David doesn’t think they’ll find Rebecca.”

My knees are weak, and my stomach isn’t much better. “Because she’s in the water.”

“Apparently there is reason to believe that is the case.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance