“She’s still in Los Angeles at her family home, as is he. She told the police she invited him and he’s her guest.”

My brow furrows and I shake my head. “That makes no sense. She told me he scared her.”

“Her family confirmed her story, which gives him an alibi for the time period during Ava’s disappearance. He’s claiming he wasn’t anywhere near Ava to help her escape, and his travel times support that conclusion.”

“So he’s not involved?” I ask, leaning on the kitchen counter next to Chris. “That can’t be right. Surely that kid from the coffee shop doesn’t have the resources to help Ava escape.”

“I didn’t say Ryan wasn’t involved,” Blake corrects. “I said he’s got an alibi. I have concerns about this kid Corey. He was going to testify against Ava. So he could be in danger from her, or anyone helping her.”

Chris drapes his arm around my shoulder. “Are you suggesting that’s Ryan?”

“I’m not ruling out anyone,” Blake says. “And I’ve learned something interesting from working with the police. There’s a woman named Georgia O’Nay who—”

“She’s a local artist,” I say. “She created the rose painting in Rebecca’s office. That painting’s been on my mind. What about her?”

“She was involved with the club and came forward,” Blake explains. “She said she had problems with Ryan and dropped out of the entire club scene because of him. He turned obsessive on her. She threatened to go to Mark, and he backed off.”

I shake my head, frustrated. “I must have read something in one of Rebecca’s journals about this. That has to be why I kept thinking about the painting.”

“You said the kid was going to testify against Ava,” Chris says. “What did he have against her?”

“He loaned her his parents’ boat. He claimed she said it was to impress a potential investor in the coffee shop, and she banged the kid as a thank-you. Now that he’s taken off with her, we’re assuming he was more involved. Either way, the extra journal was in the boat under a seat. And there’s plenty of DNA evidence that Rebecca was in the boat.”

The news blasts through me, overwhelming me, and I bury my face in Chris’s chest, tears welling in my eyes. “I knew, but I didn’t want it to be real.”

His hand closes on my head. “I know, baby. None of us did.”

Anger starts to burn in my chest and I turn to Blake, tears streaming down my cheeks. “Ryan has money. Couldn’t they have hired someone to help Ava escape? Could they have kidnapped the kid?”

“Certainly an option we’re looking at,” he confirms. “But Ryan’s smart. If he’s involved, he’s covered his tracks, including any money trail.”

“What about Ricco?” Chris asks. “He got her out of jail and he has deep pockets.”

“Yes,” I agree. “And he believes she’s innocent.”

“We’re looking into that, too,” Blake confirms.

“Maybe I can make him confess,” I argue. “Can we record a call?”

“He’s smart, Sara,” Chris warns. “He’s not going to admit anything.”

“I have to try,” I insist. “He’s a more logical choice than Ryan to help her escape. He really believes she’s innocent. He believes Mark isn’t. He’s angry and jealous and bitter.”

“It’s not a bad idea,” Blake agrees. “If we want to try, there’s an app you can download to your phone to record the call. It’s legal since you’re part of the conversation. Where’s your phone?”

I turn to grab my purse from the counter, but Chris’s hand comes down on it. “No,” he says. “No matter what his role is in this, Ricco’s not behaving sanely. You don’t want more of his attention.”

“I know you’re worried, but Ava running around free isn’t the answer, either.”

“If Ricco helped her, he has a plan, and you can bet it involves Mark.”

“Then he could be in danger.” I turn to Blake again. “Can I tell Ricco Mark was cleared of all suspicion?”

“You may,” he says, his eyes meeting Chris’s over my head. “This is your call, Chris. I think she’s okay, though. I don’t think Ricco’s targeting Sara.”

My gaze meets Chris’s. “This isn’t your decision. It’s mine.”

He shakes his head. “Not yours. Not mine. Ours. We make decisions together now.”

“Yes. I know.” I flatten my hand on his chest. “But Ava on the loose is far more dangerous to us than Ricco, who really wants Mark.”

A tic starts in his jaw.

“Chris,” I plead. “I’m safe. You have a small army protecting me.”

“Okay. Make the damn call. But we’re talking about what you can say in advance.”

“Of course.” He releases my purse and I dig out my phone, giving it to Blake, who starts searching for the app to download.

“Let’s sit at the table,” Blake suggests, glancing up to find Jacob in the doorway.

“What’s our exit timeline?” Jacob asks.

“Are we still feeling secure?”

“We’re clear,” Jacob confirms.

“Give us fifteen minutes.” Blake sits at the table next to me and across from Chris, and shows me how to use the recording app. “Just activate it before you dial Ricco.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance
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