Thinking about where we are together, and where we have been since I’ve moved in with him, I think we are changing. I’ve seen glimpses of what we might be like if he ever to truly let me inside the walls of the cell I believe is his own tormented confinement. But tormented by what? I do not know. Whatever it is, or was, that torments him, I have now seen beneath the shell of the Master that hides a man who can be tender, who laughs with me at movies, who makes me breakfast, and will go out of his way to ensure everything I love and need is at my fingertips. He says this is his role as Master: to please me. Pleasure is always his focus, his replacement for love. And yet every time I tear down a piece of his wall, light shines through, and he shuts me down.

That’s when he takes me to the club; that’s when he takes me places he knows I don’t want to go. As if he’s telling me there’s a price for cracking the surface of his shell. And as I’ve written often, I know there is a price for being with him, but I’ve come to know that no matter what it might be, I’m willing to pay it. I am his and I cling to the possibility that one day he might be mine. Right now, even when we are in the same bed and he’s asleep next to me, he is never really with me. It hurts, too. Sometimes it’s a deep, clawing ache that leads right to my soul. It makes me want to withdraw, to protect myself as he protects himself. But if I hold back, where will that leave us? And what chance do I have of him ever giving me more? I have to put it all on the line. All or nothing and therefore I am always with him, even when he is not really with me, and I am going to be brave enough to speak up from now on and let him know. I’m going to tell him that I love him, and make him see that he has all of me. And maybe one day, he’ll trust me enough to know that I will never hurt him, to love me back. I want him to experience that in life. One day . . .


I shut the journal, my throat thick, tears streaming down my cheeks, understanding now why he’s selling the club. I remember his tormented expression, the guilt in his eyes. He never told her he loved her; I’m sure of it. But he did love her—and now it’s too late.

“I’m so sorry, Rebecca,” I whisper into the empty room. “I’m so sorry that this happened to you. And I wish you could come back and be here, instead of me.” I lie on the couch, holding the journal to my chest. I feel as if I’m betraying her if I stay, yet betraying her if I let him self-destruct. And I fear that’s exactly where he’s headed.

Mark

Blake opens the door to the room manned by Walker Security and two of his men quickly leave, sending an obvious message. He feels we need privacy. Blake motions me forward, and I travel an identical hallway to the one in my room and enter the combination living/dining area. It’s a blow to find my attorney, Tiger, sitting at the round dining table.

He stands to greet me, still wearing the gray suit and pale blue shirt that I’d seen him in earlier today, except his tie is gone and his shirt is unbuttoned.

“What are you doing here at this time of night?” I demand, asking a stupid question that I’d despise from someone else.

“Great attorneys spend more time fucking with people who mean to fuck with their clients than they do sleeping.” He sounds as weary as his mussed black hair and two-day beard indicate.

“And yet you’re here to fuck with me.”

He levels a stare at me. “An unfortunate reality is that sometimes good news is also bad news.”

Blake steps to my side. “You want a drink?”

“I’m already half a bottle of scotch down. I’ll pass.” I stay focused on Tiger. “Tell me what you have to tell me.”

“Why don’t we sit down,” he suggests.

I cross my arms in front of my chest, legs set in a solid V. “I’ll stand.”

“Then we stand,” Tiger concludes, matching my stance. “The good news is,” he says without further preamble, “on Monday morning, they’re going to a judge to request an arrest warrant for Ava. They’ll use Sunday to organize all the evidence to make their case.”

“I thought DNA evidence required labs and testing that take more time than that.”

“It does,” Blake confirms, moving next to Tiger across the table from me. He presses his fists onto the wooden surface. “But they have enough without it. They placed Rebecca on the boat and in Ava’s coffee shop.”

My lashes lower and that vise on my chest is back. One. Two. Three. I open my eyes. “Meaning what?”

“They found a journal that she wrote on the night she arrived back in San Francisco,” Blake explains. “You, Chris, and Sara have been fully cleared. And Walker Security has been hired by the DA to help complete the investigation. That makes me privy to information that I wouldn’t otherwise have and while that information is confidential, I’ll say this. Off the record, it placed her at the coffee shop after she attempted to find you at the gallery, while you were in New York.”

The vise tightens. “Where did they find the journal?”

“On the kid’s family boat. He still claims Ava borrowed the boat to take some potential investor out for a ride and fucked him for payment.”

“Rebecca was on the boat,” I say, my voice gravelly.

“That’s the obvious assumption,” Blake confirms. “There are a few other pieces of the puzzle falling into place and we expect DNA confirmation. We’re certain enough that the DA doesn’t feel that he has to wait on it to go to a judge.”

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