Like she always did when she was restless, she started to sing along, bobbing her head. “Where can I find a woman—blah, blah—Jesse’s girl!”

God. She sucked, but she kept on, following the curve of the road as she drove past ancient oaks. That way, as she focused on not butchering the lyrics, she didn’t think about her craptastic day as she drove down the winding, tree-lined road that led to the main highway. She didn’t think about how she was going to have to face Gabe again and again.

Reaching the end of the private road, she slowed and leaned forward. No cars coming. She pulled out, hanging a right—heading back out into the real world, where people didn’t have someone waiting in the wings to refill their champagne glasses or—

Bright light suddenly poured through the back window of her Focus, startling her. Glancing in the rearview mirror, her brows pinched as headlights appeared. Strange. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel. No one had been on the road when she pulled out. There was no way someone would get behind her that quickly unless they’d . . . they’d pulled out of the de Vincent road.

Her stomach dipped.

That would be impossible, because who would’ve been on that road? No one else was there, and wouldn’t she have seen a car sitting along that road? Her gaze flipped back to the rearview mirror. The car was still there, not on her ass, but it was close. There was a good chance that a car could’ve been parked between any number of the trees or on one of the dirt access roads used by the landscapers.

But who’d be sitting there?

No one would dare loiter on the de Vincent property.

Unease blossomed as she continued down the highway, slowing down as traffic picked up around her. She kept looking in the mirror and each time she did, she saw the car right behind her. All she could make out in the fading sunlight was that it was a dark-colored sedan. When she turned off to take one of the streets to her parents’ house, the car—holy crap—the car made the same turn.

Nikki’s heart lurched into her throat as she hit the button on the steering wheel to turn the radio down. She needed to concentrate.

Was she being followed?

That . . . that would be ridiculous.

She glanced up. The car was still there. Her throat felt funny as she thought of her phone. It was in her purse. She started to reach for it, but then stopped. Who was she going to call? The police? And tell them what? Possibly some car was following her? Again, that sounded ridiculous.

Pressing her lips together, she focused on the busy street and houses practically stacked on top of one another. The street to her parents’ house was coming up, in two blocks. If the car turned . . .

Nikki would call the police. No matter how stupid it sounded, she would call them.

Nearly holding her breath, she turned and sped up, hastily looking in the rearview mirror. The car slowed at the intersection, causing her to suck in a sharp breath. She was wrong. The car was a two-door—a coupe of some sort, but she couldn’t make out the model.

The car sped up, clearing the intersection.

It did not turn.

Nikki let out a rough breath as she neared her parents’ house, waiting for the relief to kick in—the laughter to spill out of her, but it didn’t come and the unease didn’t go away.

Chapter 5

“How was it, being back there?” Livie Besson asked as she shuffled over to the kitchen table. Despite the warm temps outside that the old central air could barely beat back, she was bundled up in her robe. It swallowed her thin body as she sat down.

Sipping her coffee, Nikki watched her mom try to get comfortable. The treatments were pretty aggressive, taking her hair and then her strength. Even the days when her mother wasn’t spending eight hours getting chemo and fluids through an IV, she was still exhausted. She’d be more at ease in her recliner, but her mom wanted to keep to old habits. Although she’d switched out her coffee for some kind of tea that was supposed to be better for her.

“It’s weird,” Nikki answered, pushing past the concern and the seed of fear steadily growing in her stomach, the one that whispered, Would Mom get better? “Some things are the same. Like Devlin. And parts of the house, but it . . . feels different. I don’t know how to explain it.”

“How is Devlin doing?”

“Okay, I guess? He didn’t like that my jeans had a hole in them.”

A fond smile graced her lips. “Devlin likes things to be a certain way.”

She rolled her eyes. Only her mother could feel fondness for Devlin. “I haven’t seen Lucian yet, but . . . Gabe came home yesterday.”

Her mom took another drink of her tea. “Was he in Baton Rouge?”

“Yeah.” Curiosity filled her. “What’s he been doing there?”

“I believe tending to some personal business,” her mom answered in a way Nikki couldn’t be sure if she knew more than what she was saying or not.

A weird, uncomfortable burn lit up her chest nonetheless. Was the personal business a girlfriend? He had to have one. Probably several. He’d gone a little wild after he and his college girlfriend broke up. Emma. God, just thinking her name was like a throat punch. Nikki barely knew the woman and she’d been crazy jealous of her.

Not anymore.

Because Nic didn’t exist anymore.

Nikki dragged her fingers along one of the deep scratches on the kitchen table. “What happened to all the staff?”

Her mom glanced at the clock and then straightened the colorful floral scarf she was wearing over her head. “There have been some incidents at the house that have made the staff very uncomfortable.”

“Bev made it sound like it was more than what happened with their father.” Which was a big deal. Knowing that they’d found the man hanging in his office was horrible. She couldn’t imagine what the brothers felt. “That it was something else. Was it their sister reappearing?”

Nikki had never spent any amount of time with Madeline de Vincent when she was younger, considering Madeline disappeared when Nikki was twelve, vanishing into thin air the same night the de Vincents’ mother threw herself off the roof.

Things had been rough for many years after that for the brothers, and before that, Nikki was simply never around Madeline. But she was dying to know where Madeline had been for ten years, where she was now, and why everyone had kept it quiet.

A moment passed. “There are things that have happened in the last couple of months that are not my story to tell.”

“Mom—”

“You know I would, if I could.” She reached across the table, placing her cool hand over Nikki’s. She squeezed gently. “You know how their family is. Things just happen to them. Bad things.”

Bad things happening to the de Vincents was, like, the understatement of the year. After all, it was believed that the de Vincents were cursed. Like seriously. That was how bad the bad things that happened to them were.

“What I can tell you is that there was another death there recently,” her mom said. “It was in the papers, so I’m not breaking any confidence by telling you.”

She hadn’t seen anything, but then again, she’d purposely ignored all things de Vincent related. “What death?”

“Do you remember their cousin Daniel?” When Nikki nodded, her mom continued. “Well, he broke into the house one night, threatened Lucian and his dear girlfriend. Was going to kill them. Devlin . . . Devlin defended them.”

“What?” Nikki gasped. “Devlin killed Daniel?”

“In self-defense,” her mom stressed. “And there was some speculation about Mr. de Vincent’s suicide—that it wasn’t one. That someone had hung that man up there and framed it as a suicide.”

Nikki’s jaw was practically on the table.

“One of the detectives thinks it might’ve been Daniel’s doing.”

“Why?”

“He was out of money. Needed some, and you know what money does to people.”

Nikki was stunned. She hadn’t known Daniel that well either. He was always with Madeline. “What does Daniel have to do with Madeline’s reappearance?”

Her mother sat back. “Well, that goes to a place I’m not comfortable talking about, but I’m sure you remember how close he and Madeline were?”

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