“My God … Gideon.”
I turned my gaze away from the shock and simmering fury in his eyes. “Hugh told Christopher he was seeing me because you and Mom were afraid I would kill him.”
Thinking of the other people in the penthouse was the only thing that restrained me from punching a wall. God knew I’d lashed out with my fists more than once as a kid.
Remembering what I could of that time, I could see how easily Hugh’s brainwashing might have taken root in the mind of a small boy whose older brother frequently had fits of rage and destruction.
“Christopher wouldn’t believe that,” he asserted.
My shoulders lifted in a weary shrug. “Christopher told me once, recently, that I’d wanted him dead since the day he was born. I had no idea what he was talking about, but now …”
“Let me read,” he said grimly, turning back to the monitor. “Go take that shower. We’ll have some coffee when you get out. Or something stronger.”
I started to leave the room but paused before I opened the door. Looking back at Chris, I saw him focused tautly on the words in front of him. “You didn’t know Hugh like I did,” I told him. “How he could twist things around … make you believe things …”
Chris’s gaze came up and held mine. “You don’t have to convince me, Gideon. Your word is enough.”
I glanced away quickly. Did he have any clue what those four words meant to me? I couldn’t tell him; my throat was too raw.
With a nod, I left him.
It took longer than it should have to put some goddamned clothes on. I chose with Eva in mind. The gray slacks she loved. A black V-neck T-shirt. Done.
There was a knock at the door. “Come in.”
Angus filled the frame. “The detectives are on their way up.”
“All right.” I walked with him down the hall to the living room.
My wife sat on the couch, bundled in sweatpants and a baggy sweater with socks on her feet. Her head rested on Victor’s shoulder, his cheek against the crown of her head. Her fingers stroked through Cary’s hair as he sat on a pillow by her knee. Couldn’t get more connected than that. The television was on, tuned to a movie none of them were watching.
Her gaze slid slowly over to me.
I held out my hand to her. “The police are here.”
Victor straightened, jarring my wife into sitting up. A brisk rap on the foyer door had everyone on alert.
Stepping closer to the couch, I kept my arm extended. Eva slowly disentangled herself and stood, her face still far too pale. She put her hand in mine and I exhaled a sigh of relief. I pulled her close, draping my arm over her shoulders and pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“I love you,” I said softly, walking her toward the door.
Her arms came around my waist and she leaned into me. “I know.”
I turned the knob. “Detectives. Please, come in.”
Graves entered first, her sharp blue eyes going immediately to Eva. Michna followed, his height advantage over his partner allowing him to lock eyes with me.
He gave me a brisk nod. “Mr. Cross.”
Eva stepped away from me as I closed the door.
“We’re very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Cross,” Graves said, in that way cops had that told you they said those words too often.
“You may remember Eva’s father, Victor Reyes,” I said. “And the tall Scotsman over there is Angus McLeod.”
The detectives both nodded, but Graves took the lead, as usual. “Detective Shelley Graves and my partner, Detective Richard Michna.” She looked at Cary, whom she’d spoken with just hours before. “Mr. Taylor.”
I gestured toward the dining table. “Let’s have a seat.”
My wife smoothed her hair back with unsteady hands. “Can I get you both some coffee? Or water?”
“Coffee would be great,” Michna said, pulling out a chair for himself.
“I’ll get it,” Chris interjected, entering the room from the hallway. “Hello. I’m Gideon’s stepfather, Chris Vidal.”
Acknowledged by the detectives, he passed through to the kitchen.
Graves took the seat beside her partner, setting a battered leather satchel on the table at her elbow. Where she was reed thin, he was portly. Her hair was brown and curly, held back in a ponytail as severe as her foxlike face. Michna’s hair was both graying and thinning, bringing more focus to his dark eyes and rugged features.
Graves eyed me as I pulled a chair out for my wife. I met her look and held it, seeing the dark knowledge of my crime. In return, I let her see my resolve. Yes, I’d done some immoral deeds for the sake of protecting my wife. I owned those decisions, even the ones I’d take to my grave.
I sat next to Eva, pulling my chair close and taking her hand in my own. Victor settled on the other side, with Cary beside him. Angus stood behind me.
“Can you both run through your evening, starting with when you arrived at the event?” Michna asked.
I went first, painfully aware of Eva’s attention to every word I said. Only the last few moments were lost to her, but I knew those minutes were vital.
“You didn’t see the shooter?” Grave pressed.
“No. I heard Raúl shout and I got Eva on the ground. It’s protocol for the security team to evacuate at the first sign of trouble. They escorted us away in the opposite direction and I didn’t look back. My focus was on my wife, who was unconscious at the time.”
“You didn’t see Monica Stanton go down?”
Eva’s hand tightened on mine. I shook my head. “No. I had no idea anyone had been injured until several minutes after we left the scene.”
Michna looked at Eva. “At what point did you lose consciousness, Mrs. Cross?”
She licked lips that were starting to crack. “I hit the sidewalk pretty hard. Gideon rolled over me, holding me down. I couldn’t breathe, and then someone covered Gideon. They were both so heavy … I thought I heard two, maybe three shots. I’m not sure. When I came to, I was in the limo.”
“Okay.” Michna nodded. “Thank you.”
Graves unzipped the satchel and pulled out a file folder. Opening it, she pulled out a mug shot and set it on the table facing us. “Do either of you recognize this man?”
I bent closer. Blond with green eyes. A trimmed beard. Average looking.
“Aye,” Angus said, drawing my head around to look at him. “He’s the chap we ran off in Westport, the one who was taking pictures.”
“We’re going to need a statement from you, Mr. McLeod,” Michna advised.
“Of course.” He straightened, his arms crossing. “He’s the one who shot Mrs. Stanton?”
“Yes. His name is Roland Tyler Hall. Have you ever had contact with this man, Mr. Cross? Ever recall speaking with him?”
“No,” I replied, searching my memory and coming up blank.
Eva leaned forward. “Was he stalking her? Some kind of obsession?”
Her questions were softly voiced, her muted grief edged with an icy fury. It was the first spark I’d seen in her since I broke the news. And it came at the moment that I remembered what else I was keeping from her: her mother’s shadowy past. A tangled history that could be the reason Monica was dead now.
Graves began sliding out images, starting with the Westport photos. “It’s not your mother Hall was fixated on.”
What? The dread I felt reversed back into the fear that had plagued me all night.
There were so many images, it was hard to focus on any single one. Numerous pictures taken of us outside the Crossfire. Some from events, which looked like standard paparazzi shots. Others caught us out on the town.
Eva reached for the corner of one and slid it out, gasping at the image of me dipping her into a passionate kiss on a crowded city sidewalk outside a CrossTrainer gym.
The photo had been the first of us to go viral. I had responded to press inquiries with the confirmation that she was the significant woman in my life, and she’d opened up to me about Nathan and her past.
There was another widely seen image of us, capturing us arguing in Bryant Park. Another picture of us in the park on a different day showed us embracing. I hadn’t seen that one before.
“He didn’t sell all of these,” I said.
Graves shook her head. “Most of the photos Hall took for himself. When money ran low, he’d sell a few. He hasn’t worked in months and lives out of his car.”
Sliding the top layer of pictures around to expose the ones underneath, I realized that many of the times Eva and I had spotted a photographer, it had been Hall holding the camera.
I sat back, releasing Eva’s hand to put my arm around her and pull her close. Hall had been so near to my wife, and we hadn’t even known it.
“Let me see those,” Victor said.
I pushed them down the table, the top layer sliding over first. The images left behind had me straightening in my chair. I pulled out the highly publicized picture of Magdalene and me that helped trigger the infamous fight with Eva in Bryant Park. And another of me and Corinne at the Kingsman Vodka party.