I give in to desire and pull her off her chair and between my legs. “I assume since you’re fucking me, you aren’t seeing anyone else.”

She glowers. “Now who doesn’t know how to filter?” she asks, reminding me of what I’d said to her the first day we’d met.


My fingers flex on her back. “I need to know.”

“There’s no one else.” She hesitates, opening her mouth, then closing her lips.

“You want to ask me, too,” I say.

“I don’t want to pressure you.”

“Why not? I’m pressuring you. So you deserve to know: When I needed an escape last week, I didn’t go to the club or call someone I knew from the club. I flew you to San Francisco. I don’t want anyone else.”

“If that changes, just please tell me.”

“I don’t and it won’t,” I say, pushing to my feet. “And if you don’t know that, then I haven’t done a good enough job of showing you.” I scoop her up and start walking toward the bedroom. I might not have a condom, but I have a tongue, and I plan to use it well. I need her to know that I’m a changed man before she’s faced with the full impact of my many sins against Rebecca—sins I fear she’ll never forgive me for. I know I won’t.

* * *

I wake to the soft glow of morning light through the bedroom curtains and the vibration of my phone on the nightstand, but with Crystal curled against my side I’m not quick to respond. For several moments I’m unable to move, unwilling to move, certain that the few hours of peace we’ve created together are about to end. I grab the phone and glance at the time, 7:00 a.m., then the caller ID, noting Jacob’s number.

Crystal shifts beside me, leaning up on one arm, her long blond hair a tousled, sexy mess. “What is it?”

I hit the Decline button and set the phone down. “Jacob. Probably wanting to know our travel plans this morning. I’ll have to go by my hotel and change on the way to the hospital. And I know my mother will insist I go to Riptide today to help secure the business—so we can plan on riding in together.”

“I should have gone in early today,” Crystal says. “There’s a huge auction next Saturday I’m in the middle of planning.”

“Now there are two of us to bring it all together, so you can ease up on the hours a bit.”

She nods. “I think it would go a long way for you to talk to the staff and assure them everything is okay, too.”

“You’re barely awake and already talking business.”

“It’s inbred. In my house, we talked stock market reports before we brushed our teeth.”

“Mine was sports in one ear and fine art in the other—but at least I learned to multitask.” My cell starts ringing again and I sigh. “He’s not giving up.” I answer the call without looking and say, “I didn’t know you had a wake-up service.”

“At your fucking service.” I sit up at the sound of Blake Walker’s voice as he adds, “Time to get up, because I have news. Corey, the kid who ran off with Ava, was dropped off at a hospital a few hours ago—beaten badly enough to be in the ICU.”

“And? What did he say?”

“They aren’t telling us anything yet.”

“They? Why aren’t you talking to him?”

“Because I’m in San Francisco—and he was left at a Long Island hospital.”

My blood runs cold. “That’s just a forty-minute train ride from here.”

“Which means whoever beat him is there, too,” he adds.

My grip tightens on the phone and I stand up, certain that whoever did this wants me to know.

“I’m on my way to Long Island,” Blake adds, “but I’m not coming alone. Detective Grant is coming with me, because it’s a conflict of interest for me to question you about Corey, since I’m on your payroll.”

“Then you shouldn’t have gotten greedy and taken both jobs.”

“Ease up, man. I’m on your side. I didn’t know Rebecca, but I read her journals and feel like I did. And I trust myself to do her justice more than I trust the police, who have a district attorney motivated by the election year pulling their strings.”

I inhale and exhale. “If you think that hearing you and half of San Francisco read her journals is going to console me, you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”

“I’m a lot smarter than you think I am. I know you, man. I was you. I held my fiancée in my arms while she bled to death with a sliced throat, because I was minutes too late to save her. And it happened because I let her stay in harm’s way for reasons I can never forgive myself for. I know where your head is—and you need to step back, before you don’t have that option anymore. Let me handle this.”

His words chill me to the bone, and I press my fingers to my temples, fighting the fucking burning in my chest and eyes. What the hell is happening to me? Where is the man who could shut everything out? “What does Grant want?”

“You aren’t going to comment on anything I just said?”

“Not now.”

He’s silent a moment. “Fine. We’ll talk when I get there. On Grant, let me be clear before I go on: I’ve said nothing to him about your motivations toward anyone or anything. But the kid was dropped in New York, and you were close to Rebecca—which gives you motivation to act on her behalf, since she can’t.”

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