Page 24 of The District

The knock on the adjoining door made her almost drop both phone and bottle.

“Yeah, I got it.” She crossed the room and turned the dead bolt. He’d better use the one on his side, too, since she didn’t trust herself in the middle of the night sleeping alone in a cold bed.

He eased open the door. “Everyone decent?”

“Nothing you haven’t seen before.” She opened her robe and spread her arms.

The way his hazel eyes sparked to green as they traveled over her body, made it seem as if he were seeing her for the first time.

She shook the pills in the bottle, and then tossed it at him. “Here you go.”

With his quick reflexes, he swiped a hand through the air and caught the bottle with a snap. He thumbed up the lid. “I’m going to steal your water, too, since you already have a bottle open.”

“My wine, my painkillers, my water. What else are you going to steal from me?”

Someone banged on her hotel door, and this time she did drop her phone.

“Wait.” Eric stepped into her room and headed for her door just as the banging started again. He looked through the peephole. He motioned her over. “Do you know this guy?”

She huddled in next to him and looked through the peephole. She whispered, “No.”

Once more, the young man with slicked-back black hair pummeled his fists against the door. “Hello? Anyone in there? Christina Sandoval? I’m Vivi’s friend.”

Christina took a step back, turning wide eyes on Eric and lifting her shoulders.

“Vivi’s missing, and I’m afraid she might be in danger.”

Chapter Seven

Christina swayed, and she clutched on to Eric like a lifeline.

Eric reached past her and swung open the door. “Who are you?”

The man jerked back. “I—I’m Darius Cole, Vivi Sandoval’s friend.”

“How the hell did you know Christina was staying here?”

The man’s pale skin blanched even further. “She told me. Vivi told me her sister was in the city and staying at this hotel.”

Eric glanced at her, and she spread her hands. When she talked to Vivi last month, she’d mentioned coming to the city to work and had probably mentioned her hotel. What did it matter now? She brushed past Eric and grabbed Darius’s arm, dragging him into the room. “Tell me what happened. How long has Vivi been missing?”

“Two weeks.” He jerked out of her grasp. “You’re some kind of cop, right? Vivi told us.”

“FBI. Have you called the police?”

“They won’t listen.” Darius made a circle around the room, clenching his hands, his black boots clumping on the floor. “They said she’s an adult and there’s nothing they can do without evidence of foul play, or something like that.”

“Okay, calm down.”

Christina squeezed her eyes closed, feeling anything but calm herself, and then Eric was next to her rubbing a circle on her back. She dropped her shoulders and took a deep breath. “Start from the beginning. Is—was Vivi still in Big Sur?”

“Santa Cruz. We were all staying at Papa Bud’s house.”

“Papa Bud?” She raised her brows at Eric.

Darius flicked long white fingers. “He’s just a guy in Santa Cruz, has a big house and everyone’s welcome.”

“How long have you and Vivi been staying there?”

“A few months. We’d been working near the boardwalk. I’ve been bartending and Vivi’s been reading the cards, telling fortunes.”

“Did she say anything before she left? Meet up with anyone? What about this Papa Bud?”

“Papa Bud’s cool. He’s just as worried as the rest of us.”

“Was Vivi using drugs there?”

“Not much, a little weed.” He shrugged. “You know Vivi. She can reach an alternate state all on her own. She doesn’t need any help.”

“So what were the circumstances of her departure? Did she take her purse, her car?”

“We didn’t have a car at the time. We hitched a ride down the coast to see some people and then came up to the city where I had my car and were planning to go back down to Santa Cruz. That’s when she took off. She took her purse and one bag.”

A trickle of relief meandered through her body and she slumped against Eric, whose arm had found its way around her waist. “It sounds to me like she just got tired of Papa Bud’s and telling fortunes on the boardwalk. If you know Vivi, you know she’s always looking for new experiences.”

He ran his hands through his dark hair, making it stand up even more. “That’s why the cops won’t do anything. They think she just took off on her own.”