Chris sets down his brush and grabs his boots, putting them on. “Maybe this means they caught Ava.” He grabs a black T-shirt from the stool next to him and pulls it over his head. “Blake’s been completely absorbed in hunting her down. And I’m sure her capture will be a firestorm for everyone connected, including us.”

Dread fills me. Her lies are many, and we always end up having to defend ourselves, as she seems to have a way of dragging everyone into her hell. Chris tugs his phone from his pocket as we hurry up the stairs, eager to find out what we’re facing. Will we have to suddenly rush back to the States? I’d love to cling to my solitude with Chris, free from interrogation rooms and the media frenzy we’ve finally escaped, but I am also eager to ensure Ava is put away where she can’t hurt anyone else.

“What’s up, Blake?” Chris says as we enter a long, wide hallway with a towering oval ceiling, and then turn right into a kitchen of various shades of gray stone and stainless steel. “What? When?” He inhales, then lets it out. “How bad?”

At those words, my heart starts racing. “What happened?” When Chris doesn’t look at me, I grab his arm. “Chris, please. What happened?”

He moves the phone from his mouth and says, “Crystal was attacked and beaten up. She’s in the hospital, but she’s recovering.”

“Oh God. Was it Ava?”

He nods. “That was last night. They got Ava, but not her accomplice.”

Relief washes over me.

He turns his attention back to Blake and I hang on every word of his conversation. There are a lot of partial sentences and random questions, and it’s driving me crazy.

“I’m sure they will,” Chris agrees at one point, running a hand through his hair and giving me his back, leaning against the countertop running the length of the kitchen. “I don’t like the unknown. No. I know no one does.”

Where is this headed? “What unknown?” I ask, unable to take this one-sided conversation any longer.

“Give me a minute, baby,” Chris tells me, then returns his attention to the call. “I’ll handle it, but I need to know what’s happening when it happens—not after the fact.” He ends the call.

“What’s happening that we need to know about?” I ask.

He sets his phone down on the counter and pulls me to him. “Ava and a man known to be a hired killer attacked Crystal. She’s lucky to have survived. Since she’s involved with Mark and his family, the thought is that it was meant to punish Mark.”

I’m stunned, and don’t even know which question to ask first. “How could Ava even know a mercenary? These people don’t walk around the streets handing out business cards.”

“Ava says Ricco hired the guy to help her escape, and wanted him to use her to torture Mark. Apparently when he was done with Ava, the mercenary was to kill her.” He laughs. “She went to Mark for help.”

“To Mark? Was she crazy? Oh God. He didn’t hurt her, did he?”

“No. Apparently he locked her in his trunk and handed her over to Walker Security.”

I let out a breath. “Can this story get any crazier?”

“Yes, actually. Apparently Ryan has been laundering money for some criminal organization. Mark uncovered it and got him arrested.”

I shiver. “I knew he was trouble. I felt it in my bones. I’m glad Mark caught him.”

“As it stands, Ryan is promising to turn state’s evidence on Ava for a deal.”

“What kind of evidence does he have?”

“That’s being kept under wraps, but I expect it will come out soon. Mark believed Ryan was involved in Rebecca’s murder in some way. If he gets out, he’d better run, or Mark will go after him. In the meantime, we need to talk about us.”

“Us?”

“The press is all over us in the States. They want to know where we are. Are we running from something, and on and on. It’s only a matter of time until they track us down here.”

“What are you saying?”

“Let’s go travel for the next month, in places they won’t expect to find us. We can come up with a plan tonight, and I’ll clear it with the police tomorrow. Germany, Australia, Belize—wherever you want to go.”

“I don’t want to leave. I like it here.”

He strokes a lock of my hair behind my ear. “I know, baby, but the reporters are coming.”

“What about the Louvre event for Christmas?”

“We’ll fly into Paris right beforehand. The press flurry should be over by then—at least until the trials start sometime next year for anyone who doesn’t strike a deal with the DA.”

“I don’t even want to think about any trials we might have to testify at.”

“All the more reason to escape now, and have what peace we can where we can get it.”

“What about Ella?”

“If they find her, we’ll fly to her immediately. Waiting here for news is only going to make the time feel longer.”

“You’re right. So we’ll plan our trips and we’ll leave.” I take his hand. “This seems a good time to show you something outside.”

His brow furrows. “Outside?”

“Outside,” I confirm.

“Now you have me curious.”

“Not for long,” I promise, leading him out of the kitchen and into the hallway, not stopping until we’re by the door.


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