Page 55 of The District

“I think—” she dabbed her mouth with her napkin as she spoke “—you’ve been careening from one shock to another.”

“It seems like we’re both a little too involved in this one.”

“My involvement is giving me some insight and access that we might not have gotten.”

“Your involvement is putting you in danger.” And even though she’d been deceiving him about their daughter for the past two years, he wouldn’t stand by while the threats piled up against her. Kendall needed her mother.

“It comes with the territory. Are you ready to get out of here?”

“Have you forgotten something?” He grabbed one of the fortune cookies from the tray and cracked it open. He read aloud from the slip of paper. “You are headed in the right direction. Trust your instincts.”

Christina clapped her hands. “Perfect. It means we’re going to solve this case.”

“As long as I trust my instincts.” He tossed a cookie to her. “What’s yours?”

She bit into half of the cookie and pulled the fortune out of the other half. “Something special is coming your way.”

“There you go. That means we’re going to solve the case.”

“That would be great, but if that’s your fortune, I’m hoping my something special is something more personal.” She dropped the slip of paper into her purse and stood up from the table without meeting his eyes.

If she was hoping they’d work things out, she was being premature. Could he ever forgive her? Her deception raised all his issues of distrust with her. Right now he just wanted to take it step-by-step. Get through this working relationship with her and then meet his daughter.

He pushed the door open for her, and they both stepped onto the crowded sidewalk. He turned right to go back to the hotel, but she plucked at his sleeve.

“I’m not going back to the hotel just yet. I’m going to take the afternoon off and browse through Chinatown a little, and then maybe head to North Beach and get a gelato.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“Because someone attacked me at a meeting of the Bay Area covens? It’s broad daylight.”

“You’re forgetting the mishap in the crosswalk.”

“I’ll look before I cross. Besides,” she patted her handbag and whispered, “I’m armed.”

He didn’t like it, but she was a professional. He couldn’t expect her to lock herself in her hotel room.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, he turned and called over his shoulder, “Be careful.”

She stood rooted to the sidewalk, watching Eric’s stiff back retreat. She could’ve invited him to come along, but she wanted him to make that suggestion.

Since she showed him the pictures of Kendall, it seemed as if he was always on the verge of saying something. She knew he wanted to ask her a million questions about their daughter. She’d hoped they could discuss Kendall over a couple of gelatos or cappuccinos.

Hunching her shoulders, she pivoted on the sidewalk and dodged the press of people who all seemed to be walking against her.

What forces had brought her and Eric together on this case? What forces had brought her to Eric in the first place? Her father’s coven had been involved in Eric’s kidnapping twenty years ago. Crazy and yet so perfect.

The baskets of trinkets lining the sidewalk drew her like a magnet, and she sifted through them. They were too small for Kendall, but she discovered a bin of small silk purses in jewel tones that Kendall would love. She could put her treasures in them or carry them as a purse.

She bought three in different colors and dropped them into her bag. She zigzagged down one of the alleys and inhaled the fresh-baked scent from the small fortune cookie factory. Maybe she should buy a fresh batch and hope for a better fortune.

Her steps took her through Little Italy, but she couldn’t find the gelato shop she remembered. The gelato idea had lost its luster anyway as a solo endeavor. She continued to the edges of Little Italy where the restaurants and coffeehouses turned into bars and a few strip joints, and the tourists had thinned out.

She glanced over her shoulder. Why had someone attacked her last night? Did they really believe she was some wicked witch of the west, or was she getting too close to the truth?

Huffing out a breath, she shortened her steps as the sidewalk started climbing. She didn’t feel as if they were getting close to the truth. She paused at the top of the hill to take in the view of the bay. She hadn’t meant to walk this far. The streets before her crisscrossed up to Coit Tower. She definitely wasn’t up for a walk uphill.

She turned to walk back the way she came—and there he was.