“Regardless, it’s a decision she has a right to come to on her own.”
I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see it. “Her safety is nonnegotiable. She worries about everyone else. It’s my job to worry about her.”
“You could tell her your concerns,” Dr. Petersen said, his voice low and soothing. “Explain them to her.”
“She wouldn’t put her safety first. She’d want to be with Stanton.”
“Being with others who share her grief can—”
“He’s standing over her mother’s corpse on a city sidewalk right now!”
The words and the image they evoked were vile. My stomach churned, revolting against the liquor I’d poured into it. But I needed someone to grasp the full extent of the horror and understand why I’d made my decision. To give me some hope that Eva would understand.
“Don’t tell me what would be best for her right now,” I said coldly. “I won’t let her go there. She would be haunted for the rest of her life if she saw … that.”
He was quiet. Then, “The longer you wait, the more difficult this will be for both of you.”
“I’m going to tell her as soon as she wakes up. You’re going to come over here and help me do that.”
“I’ve talked to her father in California. He’ll be on his way soon. And Cary’s here.” I paced. “They’ve got some time to deal with it, so when Eva sees them, they’ll be able to give her the support she needs. You’ll be able to help her, too.”
“You’re not seeing that Eva’s biggest source of strength and comfort is you, Gideon. And by failing to disclose something of this magnitude and being dishonest about it initially, you’ve put her most depended-upon foundation on shaky ground.”
“You think I don’t know that?!” I stopped in my tracks, directly in front of the photo collage of my wife. “I’m … Jesus. I’m terrified she won’t forgive me.”
Dr. Petersen’s silence allowed those words to hang in the air, mocking my helplessness.
I looked away from the images of my wife. “But I would do it again. This situation, these stakes …”
“All right. You’ll need to talk to her about all of this as soon as she wakes up. Be frank about what you’re feeling, and focus on that rather than logic or your rationale. She may not agree with you or see your point, but understanding the emotional impetus behind your actions will help.”
“Do you?” I challenged.
“I do, yes. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t have recommended a different course of action, but I understand. I’m going to give you another number where you can reach me directly.”
Grabbing a pen off my desk, I wrote it down.
“Talk to Eva. Afterward, if you still want me there, I’ll come by. I can’t promise to respond immediately,” he went on, “but I’ll come as soon as I can.”
“Thank you.” I ended the call and took a seat at my desk. There was nothing more for me to do but wait. Wait for Eva to wake up. Wait for the police. Wait for the visitors who would come and call, friends and family who would be as ineffectual as I was.
I woke my computer and sent an e-mail to Scott, telling him to clear my calendar for the rest of the week and to get in touch with the wedding planner. Informing her and others was most likely moot, considering the paparazzi were already there at the time of the shooting. There was no way to have even a single day of private grieving.
The thought of what had to have been posted online already filled me with helpless fury. Graphic crime-scene photos. Conspiracy theories and wild speculation. The world would be looking in our windows for months to come.
I pushed the thoughts aside.
I forced myself to think of the things that would alleviate Eva’s stress. I already had plans to talk to Victor, and we would discuss his family then, since they were scheduled to arrive on Friday.
My phone was in my hand before I realized it. I checked my missed calls and scrolled through my texts. There was nothing from my mother, although I had to think Chris or Ireland would have said something to her by this point. Her silence didn’t surprise me as much as the text from Christopher.
Please give my condolences to Eva.
I stared at the text for a long while, tapping the screen when it dimmed to keep it lit up and in front of me. It was the word please that struck me. Such an everyday courtesy, but not one Christopher used with me.
I thought of the people I’d called on Eva’s behalf. Cary, who was like a brother to her. Victor, her father. Who would Eva call if our situations were reversed? Chris? Certainly not my brother.
Why? All these years I’d wondered about that. Christopher could have meant much more to me, a link to the new family my mother had created.
Opening the drawer, I stared at the tiny flash drive that Angus had retrieved from the Lucases’ home. Did it hold the answer?
Would it matter now if it did?
The moment I dreaded came much too quickly. I lay on the bed with my eyes closed, feeling the bed shift as Eva turned over, hearing her soft sigh as she settled into the new position. She would drift back into sleep if I let her. I could give her a few more hours of peace.
But Victor’s flight was on the ground in New York. The police could arrive here at any moment. Reality was going to intrude no matter how badly I wanted to hold it at bay, which meant the time I had left to break the news to my wife was winding down.
I sat up and scrubbed a hand over my face, feeling the burn of the stubble that shadowed my jaw. Then I touched her shoulder, rousing her as gently as I could.
“Hey.” She rolled toward me, her eyes slumberous. “You’re still dressed. Did you work all night?”
I stood and turned the bedside light on, unable to discuss the situation without being on my feet. “Eva. We need to talk.”
Blinking at me, she pushed up onto her elbow. “What’s wrong?”
“Splash some water on your face while I fix you a cup of coffee, okay? And wait here in the bedroom until I bring it to you.”
She frowned. “You sound serious.”
“I am. And you need to be awake.”
“Okay.” Tossing back the comforter, Eva got out of bed.
I grabbed Lucky and shut the bedroom door behind me, dropping him off in the bathroom before I fixed coffee for both me and Eva. New day, same routine. A few more minutes of pretending nothing had changed amounted to a different kind of lie.
When I returned to the bedroom, I found Eva pulling on a pair of pajama pants. She’d pulled her hair back in a short ponytail and there was a spot of toothpaste on her T-shirt. Normal. For the moment, she was the wife I loved beyond all reason.
She took the mug from me and breathed in the aroma, her eyes closing in pure pleasure. It was so like her, so very Eva, that my chest hurt.
I set my coffee aside, my stomach suddenly too knotted to contemplate putting anything into it. “Sit in that chair over there, angel.”
“You’re starting to freak me out.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” I touched her cheek. “I don’t mean to drag this out. If you sit down, I’ll explain.”
Eva settled into the reading chair beneath the arched windows. The sky was turning from night to bluish gray. I turned on the light beside her, then grabbed the other chair and placed it in front of her. Holding out my hand for hers, I sat, squeezing her fingers gently.
I took a deep breath. “I lied to you. I’m going to defend that decision when I’m done, but for now …”
Her gaze narrowed. “Spit it out, ace.”
“You were right about the gunshots you heard. One of the photographers opened fire on us last night. Your mother was hit.” I paused, struggled to say the words. “She didn’t make it.”
Eva stared at me, her eyes big and dark in her suddenly pale face. Her hand was trembling violently when she put her coffee on the end table. “What are you saying?”
“She was shot, Eva.” I tightened my grip on her abruptly cold hands, sensing her panic. “It was fatal. I’m sorry.”
Her breathing picked up.
“I don’t have any answers to give you right now. They have the shooter in custody and Raúl has told me that Detectives Graves and Michna were assigned to the case.”
“They’re homicide cops,” she said, her voice flat.
“Yes.” They’d been the ones to investigate Nathan Barker’s death. I knew them better than I wished.
“Why would someone want to kill my mother?”
“I don’t know, Eva. It might have been random. Could be he missed his target. We could call Graves or Michna—you still have their cards, right? They might not tell us anything, but I’m expecting them to come by and take our statements.”
“Why? I don’t know anything.”
The fear I’d been fighting all night swamped me. I’d expected anger and tears. A violent explosion of emotion. Instead, she seemed disoriented. Almost lifeless.