I run a rough hand through my hair. “In other words, call my attorney.”

“I would.”


Frustration rolls through me. “Being close to Rebecca made me a murder suspect. Though I was cleared, now I’m a suspect all over again, for the same reason.”

“It’s fucked-up, but that pretty much sums it up.”

“I’ve been with Jacob around the clock for weeks.”

“That doesn’t mean you couldn’t have hired someone. And you and I both know that you did.”

“The kid was going to turn in evidence on Ava. He’s a hero, as far as I’m concerned. And the police have to know that I’m not foolish enough to drop him this close to home.” I walk into the dark bathroom, snatch up a towel, and wrap it around my waist.

“Or they think you’re smart enough to know that would be the obvious assumption.”

I grind my teeth. “In other words, Grant and I are about to go around the block a couple or ten times again. Well, just tell him to be careful. There’s a fine line between questioning and slandering, with this much press involved and the livelihood of a business at stake.”

“I’ve had that conversation with him, believe me. But the guy’s pretty ‘who gives a shit?’ He’s a problem.”

“I’ll deal with him. You just find Ava before she hurts someone else. And in case that’s not clear enough, let me be more direct: Keep my family and employees safe. Or I swear to you, Blake Walker, your brothers will be looking for vengeance on your behalf—and I’ll come stand on their doorstep and tell them to bring it on.”

“You’re living in hell, so I’ll pretend you didn’t say that. We’re adding extra men to the operation and tightening surveillance where we can.”

“But you still have no clue where Ava’s at.”

“No.” He hesitates. “Look, man, I might be on the right side of the law, but I was undercover in one of the biggest drug cartels in the world. I know how to play dirty. Connect me to whatever underground contact you have. I’ll make it count.”

“Not a chance. I’m going out to Long Island. I’ll meet you there.”

“Forget it. They won’t let you near the kid, and my brother Luke is headed down there now. If Corey talks before I get there, Luke will be there to make it count.”

“I don’t like how this is going down. Someone is sending me a message.”

“None of these people I’m dealing with are fools.”

“But?” I sense there’s more.

“But it’s an election year, and the DA in San Francisco needs this to go away. That’s why you need to consider sharing anything you know with my team—and letting us help.”

“I’m sick and fucking tired of hearing about the election year.”

“You and me both—but it’s a fact we can’t escape. So let me help. Be straight with me, and let me make sure they don’t use you as a fall guy.”

“What happened to conflict of interest?”

“Fuck conflict of interest, if they try to make you the fall guy again. I’m pulling up to the airport now. Luke will call you if he finds out anything. And just a heads-up: The detective is flying in with me, but he’s going to go straight to you. My brother Royce, who’s former FBI and still well connected, will be there if he crosses any lines. Just make sure the ones you and I know that you’re crossing stay hidden. And keep Crystal the hell away from it, so she won’t go down if you do.”

“There’s nothing to keep her away from,” I say, being careful not to have anyone admit anything.

“Denial,” Blake says. “I did it, too. It can be dangerous. Remember that.”

He’s hit a raw nerve, and I grind my teeth. “Just have Grant call my cell when he arrives. I don’t want this near Riptide or my parents.”

“My team will do our best to keep him and all of this away from both. I’ll call you when I land.”

He ends the call and I lean on the sink, my hands on the counter, head dropped forward. It seems the tables are turned. I’m going after Ava and Ryan, and someone is coming after me. Most likely Ava and Ryan, who’ve proven killing isn’t beyond their scope.

I dial Jacob. “I assume you know what’s happening?”

“Yes. That’s why I was calling you.”

“Have my things at the hotel brought to Crystal’s.”

“All of them?”

“Yes, and the sooner the better. But I’ll need to go by and clear the safe, so we need to leave here at about eight thirty. And I’ll be going to Riptide with Crystal after the hospital.”

“I’ll have them there in thirty minutes.”

“I’ll be waiting,” I say, ending the call, and I prepare to get dressed and seek out privacy to reach out to my underground contact. Turning, I find Crystal standing in the doorway, hugging her silk robe to her body.

“What’s happening?”

“The kid that left with Ava was dropped off at a hospital, badly beaten. No one knows by whom, and he’s in ICU and can’t talk yet.”

“But he’s alive, so that’s good, right?”

“Yes—but he’s also here in New York.”

Her eyes go wide. “Here? How did he get here?”

“Everything is a mystery at this point, but Blake’s on his way here to question him when he can speak. Apparently a detective from San Francisco is also headed here to talk to me.”

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