“It’s not about Rebecca this time,” I say, thinking of Ella’s silence, insanely worried about what it means. “I went to City Hall today to check on Ella’s marriage certiicate.”
“What?” Chris asks. “When?”
“This morning. Chantal took me.”
He opens his mouth, then licks a look at the phone and clamps his lips shut, obviously deciding what he has to say is better said alone.
I continue: “When Ella came here, she told me she was eloping and would be back in two weeks. But you can’t get married here unless you’ve established residency for sixty days.”
“Maybe her doctor was caught up in romance and forgot to check the laws,” Blake suggests.
Chris adds, “I’m a resident and I didn’t know about the sixty-day rule. Maybe she just decided to stay longer.”
“Maybe,” I concede, my voice tight. “But most people ile a required public notice of their intended marriage—and there’s no record. She’s just disappeared without a trace.”
Both men are quiet, the heavy silence telling me they both know it sounds bad.
“I’ll ind someone there to help,” Blake says. “In the meantime, my staf will do what we can do from a distance.”
“Good,” Chris says. “I’m going to talk to Rey, my security person, and see if he has any suggestions, too. I’ll check in tomorrow.”
“Wait,” I quickly say. “Before you hang up, Blake. The lady at City Hall who helped us today said someone else had been by to check on Ella’s marriage license yesterday.”
Chris’s brows dip. “Did she give you any details on this person?”
I shake my head. “We were gone by the time Chantal told me. I didn’t have the opportunity to ask questions.”
Chris doesn’t look happy. “I’ll go back to City Hall, Blake.
You just get on this and let me know what you ind out. So you have nothing new on Rebecca?” he inishes.
“Nothing new.” Blake hesitates. “Ava’s sticking by her claim of innocence.”
“You mean her claim of my guilt.” My tone is lat and I drop my chin to my knees.
Chris spares Blake an answer. “Call me tomorrow with an update.”
“Will do.” Blake adds, “It will work out, Sara.” Then the line goes dead.
I can’t seem to make myself move. I let my lashes lower, and my chin sink a little heavier onto my knees.
Chris doesn’t ofer me words of comfort, and I’m glad.
Somehow, he knows I’ve reached my limit with words. I just need a moment of silence to calm a dark something brewing inside me before it has a name. I just need . . . a minute.
Then his hands come down on the edge of the tub in front of me. “Look at me, Sara.” His tone is pure dominance and authority, and it hits a button in me that snaps my gaze to his.
“Stop. No more.”
I blink. “What?”
“Fear is controlling you and it’s tearing you up inside. If you think I’m going to sit by and watch you do that to yourself, you don’t know me as well as you need to.”
My rebuttal is instant. “I’m not. It’s not.”
“You are, and it is. Focus on what you can control. That’s what I meant about limits, on the airplane. Know what you can bend to your will, and don’t waste energy on what you can’t.
It’ll suck you dry, like it is right now.”
“We’re talking about pending murder charges, and—”
“There are no pending murder charges. The police are simply making a case against Ava that rules out her using you as a defense later. And you’re here, where you don’t have to endure that process like you would in San Francisco.”
My defensiveness bristles into high gear. “It’s not just the murder charge. Most important, Ella is in trouble. I know she is—just like I knew Rebecca was dead.” I choke on the last word.
“And worry helps her how?”
I gape. He sounds so damn cold. “I can’t even believe you’re saying this! I’m not going to stop worrying about Ella.”
He squats down in front of me, and I’m captured by his commanding stare. “I’m not telling you not to worry. I’m telling you to face that worry, and then put it in the same box you put your father and Michael. Because it’s no more worthy of your heartache than they are.”
Those words punch me in the chest. Fear and denial have always been my poison. When I fear, I deny. But I can’t deny anything that’s going on now, and I don’t know what to do with that. Yes, my father and Michael are tucked inside a box, but the lid is so freshly sealed that I’m not sure how I managed to do that.
“We’ll hire the best of the best to ind Ella,” Chris promises, his tone gentler, “and I’ll do everything I can, too. But you have to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.” He strokes a thumb from my cheek to my ear, and goose bumps rise as if he’d touched me all over. “We attack the problems.
They don’t attack us. And we do it together.”
I look deep into his eyes and ind myself wrapped in the familiar connection we share. It streams through me like moonlight on a bay, glistening through my soul. I sigh deep inside, tingling and warm, and I dare to admit what I’ve feared has left me too vulnerable, too easily hurt. Chris is how I opened, and then shut, my proverbial box to seal away the past. He made it possible. “I love you, Chris.” And I love how easy it is to say the words, how safe I feel to say them.