My cell phone beeps with a text, and I grab it to read the message from Chris. She’s not home. I’m on my way to Ryan’s.
It’s not the news I’d hoped for, but expected. Knowing what I have to do, and dreading his reaction, I type, Mark’s here.
It takes about three seconds for my phone to ring. “I knew I chose that dress for a reason,” Chris says, and while it’s spoken playfully, there’s an undercurrent of tension.
“He’s more overbearingly impossible than usual,” I tell him, “and as eager to get me and Ralph out of here as we are. I dared to ask him about Ryan and he shut me down, of course.”
“Well, I’m no fan of his silence, or Ryan’s timing with Amanda. If we can get her out of the center of this, I think that’s smart. I’ll be at Ryan’s office in about fifteen minutes.”
“What about his apartment?”
“I bribed the doorman into telling me Ryan left hours ago, and he was alone.”
“That’s not good. Where’s Amanda?”
“I’m hoping he can tell us. I’ll call you as soon as I know something. In the meantime, stay away from Mark.” While I don’t regret returning to the gallery, since it still feels like the window to finding Rebecca, I’m ready to leave.
I make a coffee run to the break room and catch a glimpse of Ralph disappearing into the gallery with Jacob on his heels. Frowning, I set my coffee on my desk, grab my cell phone, and head to the showroom to find it empty. The sound of voices draws me toward the front door and I see Ralph and Jacob standing outside, their backs to me. Crossing the display floor, I push open the door to find two of Blake’s men flanking the entry. I start toward Ralph and Jacob’s direction, only to stop dead in my tracks when I realize who’s with them.
“There she is,” Detective Grant says, looking far from courtroom ready with a two-day beard and a navy blazer he’s paired with jeans and a loosened tie. “Just the woman I was hoping to talk to. Your bodyguard here said you weren’t available.”
“She’s not,” Jacob snaps tightly, his spine ramrod straight, his jaw set hard. “Go back inside, Ms. McMillan.”
“Yes,” the detective agrees. “Go back inside, Ms. McMillan. I’ll chat with Ralph.”
The look of utter terror on Ralph’s face tells me how direly he needs saving, and I squeeze his arm. “Go finish your reports.”
“He’s already agreed to talk to me,” Detective Grant insists.
Irritated at the way this man throws around his power, my gaze snaps to his. “Schedule a meeting so he can have an attorney present.”
“I need an attorney?” Ralph exclaims. “Since when do I need an attorney? I barely knew Rebecca. I liked her, though. I really liked her.”
Oh, crap. “Relax, Ralph,” I say quickly, stepping in front of him, my hands coming down on his upper arms. “Don’t overreact. It’s just a precaution. You’re fine.”
“You’re not a suspect,” Detective Grant assures him from behind me. “I just want to talk to you about this.”
Certain that I don’t want to know what “this” is, I turn to find him holding a book. My stomach plummets as I recognize it as my journal.
“What is it?” Ralph asks.
“Sara’s journal,” Detective Grant answers, his hard stare boring into mine. “Interesting that you started one at the same time you were reading Rebecca’s. It’s really quite interesting reading. Deep thoughts, Ms. McMillan. For instance,” he pauses, and flips it open to a flagged page, “right here where you say that Mark—”
“I’ll talk to you,” I interrupt, all too aware that I’ve referenced intimate details about his relationship with Rebecca. “But I need to call my attorney first.”
“No time for that,” the detective counters. “He’s at the courthouse where I need to be in,” he glances at his watch, “an hour. In fact, let’s save time and the three of us can talk right here.” He glances at Ralph. “Sara wrote a note I’d like to get your opinion on.” He glances down at the page. “It says, and I quote, ‘If there is a fine line between love and hate, where did Mark walk then and now?’ ” His gaze lifts from the journal. “My question to you, Ralph, is in your observations—”
“Enough,” I snap, in disbelief he’s gone as far as he has with my private property, and wishing I knew my rights. “I’ll talk to you.”
“Ms. McMillan—” Jacob begins.
“I’m fine,” I assure him, knowing he will call either David or Chris, or maybe both. I just need to get the detective and that journal away from Ralph and then buy time until the cavalry arrive. I cut Ralph a look, and instruct, “Go back inside, please.”
“We’re through, Ralph,” the detective adds.
“I don’t have to be told twice,” Ralph mutters, already backing up and moving away.
“So here we are,” Detective Grant says, rocking on his heels, and giving Jacob a judicious once-over that thins his lips. “Let’s walk next door to the coffee shop, Ms. McMillan. We need privacy.”
“The coffee shop?” I say in disbelief. “You want to go to the coffee shop?”
“Yes, I do. What better place to jog your memories of the past?” He motions me forward and I take a step, only to have Jacob grab my arm and warn, “Don’t do this.”