I sit on my legs, ankles at my backside, holding my breath, listening.

“You bet he’s handled,” Chris replies tightly. “I didn’t leave it to you this time. I handled it—which means it’s handled.” There is a beat of silence. “She’s with me. That should answer that question.”

She who? Me?

“She’s not a target, and since when do you give a fuck?”

I suddenly know he’s talking to my father, and it’s as if a knife has been shoved into my chest. I turn and scoot over to the opposite edge of the bed from Chris and grab the pink silk robe I’d dropped there last night, slipping it on as I walk to the huge windows to my right. Pulling back the heavy drapes, I attempt to look out of the fogged window where rain pounds on the glass.

“She’s not,” Chris says. “No. That’s not an issue.”

I drop the curtain and turn to find Chris still facing the other way, which tells me he isn’t comfortable having this conversation in front of me. I don’t like it. I never like anything to do with my father, and I sure don’t want Chris involved with him. I rush across the room and down the stairs to the open living area, and detour to the cute spare bathroom with mahogany cabinets and a big white teardrop sink, intent on staying busy and not letting myself think.

Leaving the door open in case Chris comes looking for me, I open the medicine chest and silently thank the once-weekly maid for the supplies inside, washing my face and then brushing my teeth and my hair. I don’t know why Chris talking to my father bothers me so much, but it does. I know Chris is protecting me; that’s what he does. But my father despises the life I’ve created, one that doesn’t require his dictation.

I’m about to head to the kitchen to make coffee when I turn to find Chris standing in the doorway, his elbows resting on the door frame, his torso bare, faded jeans slung low on his lean hips. “Why are you down here?” he asks, his eyes a little too keen.

My lashes lower and lift as I turn to face him. “I know that was my father.”

“Yes. He was reassuring me that Michael was fired. Michael’s stock in your father’s company came with stipulations your father fully enforced to keep him away from you in the future. He heard about Ava. He wanted to make sure you were okay.”

I laugh bitterly. “He doesn’t care if I’m okay. He’s just afraid this might cause a scandal for him in some way.”

He pulls me to him, stroking my hair as my hands settle on his chest. “Don’t let him upset you. And for what it’s worth, his concern came out awkwardly sincere.”

I press on his chest, leaning back to study him. “Tell me you aren’t defending him! He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Either he wants something or he’s protecting himself.”

“I’m not defending him. But you deserve to know everything and to make your own decisions.”

I can’t seem to contain the accusation in my voice as I say, “You talked to him forever.”

“I hung up right after you left the room. I was on my way down here when Blake called to check on us.”

“Is there news on Ava?”

“None—which is why he wanted to make sure we were here, not in California. And apparently Mark’s not pleased, and not waiting for Walker Security or the police to deliver results. Blake thinks he’s looking for revenge against anyone he perceives as having hurt Rebecca. He seems to think Ryan’s a main target. Mark believes Ryan was involved in Rebecca’s death, but there’s no evidence.”

“I think he was, too,” I agree, thinking of the way Rebecca wrote about Ryan in her journals, and about some of my interactions with him. “But I don’t want Mark to do something he’ll regret.”

“Blake wants me to talk to him before Mark does something he can’t undo.”

“Are you going to?”

“I can’t talk him out of what I’d do myself in his place. I promise you, baby, if someone hurt you, the only thing that would keep me sane was trying to see justice served. Let him have his sanity.” I open my mouth to object and he adds, “He’s smart, Sara. He’ll be careful.”

The doorbell rings.

“That’s probably the grocery order I put in yesterday.” He kisses my forehead and gently moves me away from him, departing for the door. “I don’t envy the delivery person in this rain.”

I tighten the belt of my robe and go in pursuit, following Chris through the living area to the stairs in case he needs me to carry some of the bags. Chris is just opening the door when I arrive, and I frown as he bends down and picks up a large yellow envelope that’s dripping with rain. He shuts the door, reading something on the outside of the envelope before he looks inside and scrubs his jaw.

“What is it?” I ask.

“The contract and check I left Tristan last night. And”—he turns the envelope upside down and lets a set of keys fall into his hand—“the keys to Amber’s apartment that I was paying for.”

My stomach rolls. “I forgot you bought her an apartment. Wasn’t he living with her?”

“Yes, a detail I forgot and should have remembered. I assume, from the keys, that he’s moved out.”

“Seems that way. Is there a note?”

He turns the envelope so I can read the words baise-toi written in huge letters on the outside. “It’s French for ‘fuck you,’” Chris explains. “Only he’s fucking himself instead, in some demented attempt to drive home my guilt over Amber.”

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