“I am hoping for something positive,” he murmurs softly.

Yes—something positive would be good. And at this point, that’s going to be in the form of vengeance. I grab my phone and punch in Ryan’s number.


He answers on the second ring. “Finally, you’re returning my calls,” he says without preamble.

“Meet me at the club.” I end the call.

Crystal

Mark’s been gone a full hour when I really start to worry. I get dressed and look for my purse to do something about my tear-streaked face, then realize it’s in my room—along with my phone. With Riptide under my care, Mark’s parents counting on me to run the place, his mother ill, and Mark gone, any number of people could be trying to reach me.

I make a quick dash to my room and to my disappointment find no missed calls. After freshening up, I return to Mark’s suite to wait for him. There I turn on the TV and find the news, hoping for some hint of what he might be learning, but I hear nothing helpful.

As tempting as it is, I don’t read more of the journal, though I’m curious to know if Mark left it with the intention of me reading it. The idea that he would is confusing, and even if that was his plan, it feels wrong to read Rebecca’s words. The premise of death erasing our rights to privacy is a grim one for me. Death. My hand goes to my throat, hating that I’ve assumed Rebecca to be dead. I really don’t want it to be true.

By 1:15 a.m., I’ve resorted to pacing and studying the fancy interior of the expensive suite that I’ve barely noticed until now, and if not for the circumstances that are unique, I’d be irritated at myself. I try never to take luxury for granted, despite being blessed the past seventeen years with a family that’s more than a little comfortable. But I remember a time when they weren’t in my life, and when my world was hell. A part of me is illogically always afraid I’ll return to that place.

Shaking off the thought, I start flipping channels again when there’s a knock on the door, and my heart sinks to the ground. Mark wouldn’t knock and my stomach rolls at the thought that I’m about to get his bad news from someone else. Unless Mark lost his key—a crazy scenario for such a control freak, but he’s far from himself now. I rush down the hall and have to catch myself as I carelessly reach for the lock without question.

“Who is it?” I call.

“Blake Walker,” I hear. “I’m the—”

I open the door, finding a tall, dark-haired man in jeans and a Walker Security T-shirt, his long hair barely contained by a tie at his nape. “I know who you are. One of your employees drove me here and told me about you. Mark’s not here.”

“I know. I’m here to see you.”

My mouth goes dry with the implication of the bad news to follow. “He told you I was in his room?”

“I put two and two together. Can I come in?”

I step backward with a nod and he walks in, then turns to face me. “Has Mark called you?”

“No. Why? What’s wrong?”

Again he ignores my question. “How much influence do you have over him?”

I scowl at the nosy question that isn’t an answer to mine. “Stop answering my questions with questions. It’s upsetting and makes me nervous. Just tell me what is going on.”

He gives me a three-second deadpan stare before he says, “Obviously you have the balls to speak your mind. That could be a useful quality right now. I’m sure you know the charges related to Rebecca were dropped against Ava Perez.”

“Yes. Yes, I know.”

“There’s enough evidence to charge her again and make an arrest.”

My hand goes to my belly. “Oh. Oh, so that means . . .” I can’t get myself to say the word.

“Rebecca’s dead,” he finishes. “Yes.”

Feeling like I’ve been punched, I sink against the wall and press my fingers to my face, my mind replaying pieces of the journal entry. One day . . . “One day is never going to come,” I whisper, and I can’t seem to help it. My eyes burn. I’m fighting tears for a second time tonight, when I never cry.

“What does that mean?” Blake asks. “One day is never going to come?”

I inhale and drop my hands. “Rebecca. She’s never going to experience things she deserved to experience.”

“Right,” he says, his lips settling into a grim line. “So think about your reaction just now to the news and multiply it by one hundred, and you have Mark’s.”

“I can only imagine. Where is he now?”

“He went after Ava and Ryan, intending to make them pay.”

“Oh, no. No. That’s bad. That’s really bad.” I push off the wall. “He’s not thinking about his mother. She has cancer. She needs him. I have to find him. We have to find him.”

“I have someone following him. Last I heard, he was headed toward either his house or a private club he favors. They’re a few blocks apart.”

“His club,” I say, letting him know that I’m aware of what he’s talking about. “Is Ava or this Ryan person there?”

“No. Ava’s at an undisclosed location that I refused to give him, but he swore he could get it on his own. We aren’t sure about Ryan. We can’t get anyone at the club to talk.”

“Who is Ryan? How is he involved?”

“Someone close to Mark, Ava, and Rebecca. There was a circle.”

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