“Believe me, I get it.”
“I think . . . I have to tell him. He won’t trust me if I don’t. I’m also going to tell him that you know about it.”
“Can you wait until Blake gets here? We need to get it fingerprinted.”
“No. He’ll see it as distrust.” I consider a moment. “Send Jacob in to pick it up. Mark seems to trust him the most.”
“Thanks. For everything.”
“I’m here if you need me.”
“I appreciate that. I don’t really have anyone else I can talk to.” My best friend from college moved to Hawaii for a job. My next best friend is dating my ex’s roommate.
“You have me,” she says. “Hang in there.” She ends the call.
I dial Mark’s cell and he picks up. “Crystal,” he says softly, the torment in his voice rippling through the line, and I pray I’m making the right choice.
“I have a situation.”
His voice firms, turns businesslike. “What situation?”
“First, I’m okay. But I got spooked and I called security. Jacob’s coming to my office, and I really . . . I need you here, too.”
“I’m on my way.”
I set my phone on the desk, staring down at the note again. You don’t know the real Mark Compton. Get out before you end up like Rebecca. Whoever wrote it is at least partially right. I’m not going to end up dead, I hope, but falling in love with a man who may not be capable of loving me back.
I almost laugh at myself. Who am I fooling? I’m already in love with him.
Mark . . .
I stuff the pictures of Ava and Luis Jimenez inside my desk drawer and head to the door. What has shaken Crystal enough to have her request assistance from security? My mind conjures up the many possibilities Jimenez could create, and fear quickens my pace down the hallway.
At the receptionist’s desk, an unwelcome and familiar visitor argues with Beverly. Upon my approach, Robert Murphy, a distinguished-looking fifty-five-year-old man who’s both a customer and the CEO of a national television network, turns to greet me.
“Finally,” he says.
“Finally?” I arch a brow.
“Are you pretending you don’t know I’ve left three messages for you?” he asks sharply.
“Ms. Smith has taken all of his calls and messages,” Beverly informs Murphy quickly.
“I have a hundred thousand dollars in auction items on the line here next weekend. I deserve to hear from you personally, Mr. Compton.”
“As a member of the media, you’re doubtless aware that I’ve only just arrived in town. And while I’ll be taking meetings, they’re by appointment only, beginning next week.” I pause for effect. “And for auction house business only.”
“Of course it’s about Riptide business.” But he looks away, a sure sign he’s lying.
“Then certainly, if there is something Ms. Smith has failed to address prior, I’m available to help. But right now, I have an emergency to attend to.” I glance at Beverly. “Put Mr. Murphy on my schedule for any afternoon next week that he pleases.”
“Mr. Compton—” he begins.
But I’ve already dismissed him, my long strides leading me toward Crystal’s office. At her closed door, I don’t bother to knock. I open it to find Crystal and Kara behind her desk, eyes locked on something in front of them. They both look up and my gaze collides with Crystal’s, the impact like a hard punch in the chest.
She feels it, too. I see it in the way her eyes widen, the way her chest lifts with a breath beneath her red dress. She crosses her arms defensively in front of her, the distance between us suddenly miles, not feet, and too damn far to please me.
My gaze flicks to Kara, who holds up her hands. “I know I’m not your favorite person today, and I was going to send Jacob, but I’m ex-FBI and he’s ex-military. My expertise is what’s needed right now.” She motions to the desk. “We have something we need you to see before I package it up.”
Tension rockets through me at the certainty that whatever I’m about to discover could be related to Jimenez. I round the desk to stand next to Crystal and see a white piece of paper with two typed sentences in the center. My fingers curl by my sides as I read: Get out before you end up like Rebecca.
My reaction is instant, my emotions a tornado of dangerous debris I’ve long suppressed. Anger, fear, and guilt grind through me like glass.
I reach for Crystal, pulling her to face me. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”
Her fingers curl into the sleeves of my jacket. “I’m okay. I’m not scared. I think someone just wants to scare me into quitting.”
“Which is exactly what you’re going to do,” I say firmly. “You’ve worked with Sara some. She’s doing private hire work in Paris, finding art for customers and making the purchase for them. I’ll send you to work with her.”
“What? No. Are you crazy? I’m not going anywhere. Dana needs me, and so do you, even if you don’t want to admit it.”
“I happily admit it. I need you, Crystal, and I need you alive. You’re going to Paris.”
“No. I’m not.”
“You’re not working here.”
“I’m not quitting, and I’m not letting you fire me. Whoever sent this threat must know I’m close to you and your family. So if they mean to hurt me, who says I’m not a target if I quit? Or even if I leave? Who’s going to protect me in Paris?”