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It takes three minutes for the phone to ring and them to tell me that they are sending a guest up. Chloe jumps at the noise and I shush her again before sitting her on the couch next to me so I can meet Bernard at the entryway.
“I’ll be right around the corner. Sit here until I come back,” I tell her, kissing her forehead. “Look at me, Beautiful.” I place two fingers under her chin, raising her eyes to mine. “It will all be okay.”
“I know,” she whispers and then looks over my shoulder when the bell goes off again.
“I’ll be right back.”
She nods, and I kiss her lips before heading towards the door.
“What’s going on?” Bernard asks as soon as I open the front door.
I lead him back down the hall towards the living room, not wanting Chloe to be out of sight for more than a moment.
“All of Chloe’s belongings are gone,” I tell him over my shoulder.
“How is that possible?”
“I would like to know the same thing.” I run a hand through my hair and walk to the living room, finding Chloe where I left her, but now, her eyes are on her phone in her hand, her face white as a ghost.
“I just got an e-mail,” she whispers and then lifts her eyes to meet mine. “What happened when you were in Japan?” Her bottom lip trembles and tears fill her eyes.
My stomach twists as I wonder what she could possibly be talking about. “What’s in the e-mail?” I coax.
She lifts her phone up towards me. The image on the screen is of me from the night I flew home when I found out she was in the hospital. I’m sitting in one of the chairs, and the angle the picture was taken makes it appear like the waitress and I are kissing.
I remember that moment. I had been taking a drink from the waitress, and she had bent down towards me to ask a question, so I had leaned forward to hear her more clearly.
“That isn’t what it looks like,” I state, taking a step towards her. “Do not ever question the depth of emotions I feel for you. I would never disrespect you or us like that.”
Her eyes search my face, and she swallows before lowering her face towards her phone again. For a moment, I wonder if whoever is doing this has won, if they have succeeded in taking away the most important thing in my life. Then her phone clicks off, her eyes meet mine, and I see that she’s still with me, and the knot in my stomach unravels.
“I will find out who’s doing this and bury them,” I vow, turning towards Bernard. “I want to know who was here and how the fuck they got in. In the meantime, I’m taking Chloe to my house upstate. I want three men with us. I expect that, by the time I talk to you next, you have some kind of lead,” I tell him before turning back to Chloe and holding out my hand for her.
She takes it and I pull her up off the couch.
“Is Ricket driving you?” Bernard asks.
My first instinct is to say yes, but I think driving may help ease what I’m currently feeling. “I’m driving,” I reply, picking up my briefcase and car keys from the table beside the door.
As soon as we’re inside, I press the button for the garage then pull Chloe closer, rubbing her back. Her body melts into mine and I press a kiss to the top of her head while taking a deep breath of her scent. As soon as the elevator doors open, I turn left and head straight to my favorite car: my Aston Martin Vanquish.
“I had no idea you even owned a car,” Chloe says quietly while putting on her safety belt.
“Seven,” I inform her, starting up the engine, the loud roar bouncing off the concrete walls.
“Seven?” She looks at me questionably.
“Seven cars, Beautiful.”
“You never drive,” she states, looking at me like I’m crazy.
“In the city, no, but when I go to my house upstate, I drive.”
“I didn’t even know you owned a house upstate,” she mumbles.
“There was no reason to bring it up. I haven’t been to my old house in months. I have always stayed in the city. But my parents live near there and insisted I buy it when the market bottomed out. They wanted somewhere for me to raise a family that was close to them. I’m sure we would have gone sometime soon. My mother can only be put off for so long. You know she has been chomping at the bit to meet you since you answered my phone when you saw her name appear on the caller ID.” I smile at the memory.
“Who keeps their parents saved in their phone under their real names?” she mutters, and despite the situation, I can’t help but laugh.
“She got a good laugh out of it.” I squeeze her hand.
“In all fairness, there were a lot of girls calling before that.” She sighs.
“Then you came along and I couldn’t see past you. I still can’t see past you.”
“I love you.” She places her hand on mine. The words “I love you” always feel so inadequate for what I feel for her.
“Love you too, Beautiful.” I bring her hand to my mouth and press a kiss there. “I don’t want you worrying. I want you to trust me to take care of you and to keep you safe.”
“I just wish I knew why all of this is happening.”
“You were right earlier. This has nothing to do with you. This is all because of me.”
“What did you do?”
“I’m not sure, Angel, but in life, sometimes all you have to do is be breathing in order to piss people off.”
“That makes no sense,” she replies softly, leaning her head over onto my shoulder.
The rest of the drive is silent, with Chloe asleep while I go over potential suspects in my head. I know I have made enemies doing the work I do, but none of them would ever be so personal in their revenge. Women of my past flash through my head, but I can’t see any of them doing this.
My mind keeps venturing towards Maxine, the way she has acted and the things she’s said to me regarding Chloe, but I believe my relationship with her father would deter her from doing anything like this. I have no main suspect, no real reason for this turn of events. Nothing like this ever occurred when I dated in the past.