Ava waited until it quieted. “I did want to kill someone. My twin.” She gave Cheryl a rundown of her phone call from the winery and Brady’s report on Jayne.
Cheryl’s jaw hung open as she mixed her own iced latte. “Holy cow, girl. Are you sure you’re related to her?”
“Positive,” Ava said dryly.
“Good thing Erin thought to give you a call.”
“That’s just it. What if other vendors haven’t called to confirm something was canceled?”
Cheryl’s eyes widened. “Shit.”
“But how would she know the details? I assume you mentioned the venue to her at one point, but would you have told her who is doing the flowers or photos?”
“No, but it doesn’t matter. She’s very resourceful. If she put half the energy into bettering herself that she put into causing trouble, she’d be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company by now.”
Setting down her latte, Cheryl grabbed the iPad on the counter and started typing. “I’ll call and confirm everyone, no matter how small their involvement is. Thank God you already picked up your dress. It took months for that order.” Cheryl shuddered. “You’d have to pick something off the rack.”
Ava was positive that wouldn’t have been the end of the world. “Everything is replaceable except that winery view. I know there are other locations, but anything as fabulous will have been reserved months ago.”
“Tell me about it.” Cheryl glanced up. “Did I tell you about the young bride who wanted me to arrange a reception at the Portland Art Museum in three weeks?” She snorted. “I’m not a miracle worker.”
“I’ve found you to be a miracle worker a few times. My dress, for example.”
“You’re my first bride who custom-dyed a wedding dress in teal. If the designer found out what you did, she would have a heart attack.”
“It’s not teal.”
“Whatever you call it, it’s definitely a unique color.” She gave Ava a side-eye. “And your choice of dress completely surprised me. It wasn’t what I expected.”
“I loved it.” She’d stored the dress at Cheryl’s house, not wanting Mason to accidentally find it.
“I did too.” Cheryl sighed. “Okay. I have a dozen calls to make. I’ll request they contact us about any cancellations made over the phone.”
Ava grimaced. “They should call you to confirm even if I show up in person to make a change.”
“Noooo! She wouldn’t impersonate you!”
Cheryl swore. “I’m sorry you have to put up with that.”
“It’s my reality. Nothing new. I’m relieved her long silence is over. I’ve been walking on eggshells waiting to see what would happen next and constantly looking over my shoulder.”
“You can’t win. Either she’s acting out or you’re waiting for her to act out.”
The perfect description of Ava’s life.
“Did you talk to Jill about being your attendant?” Cheryl asked, still tapping on her tablet.
“Not yet.” Will Ray make it to be Mason’s best man? “I don’t think I should ask her after what happened to Ray.”
Ava’s stomach churned, and her wedding plans suddenly seemed petty and frivolous.
“Who were your other choices? That FBI agent in Bend, right? Or the hunky reporter’s wife? You need to line up someone quickly. They should know since it’s only a few weeks away.”
Cheryl set down her iPad, her gaze scrutinizing Ava.
She sees too much. Ava took a drink of her latte, pretending she hadn’t noticed.
“It’s your twin, isn’t it?” Cheryl said softly, placing a hand on Ava’s arm. “Some part of you is hoping she’ll be in your wedding.”
Ava’s eyes burned. “It’s ridiculous. She’s made my entire life hell.”
“She’s still your sister.”
“It’s the worst idea ever. She’d do her best to destroy the day . . . She’d try to seduce Mason in a coat closet or offer the minister a blow job or accidentally knock over the cake.” Ava coughed out a rough laugh. It wasn’t funny; it was true.
“I’m sorry. I’ll watch out for you,” Cheryl said in a fierce voice. “I won’t let anyone sabotage your special day.”
“It’s just another day. Nothing changes after we get married except legal stuff.” All the wedding details she’d chosen felt insignificant. Thinking of Jayne had enveloped Ava in a dark mist.
What is the point of all the planning and decisions?
“Don’t you dare try to downplay your wedding day. It’s important. You’re announcing your commitment to the world, and I know your relationship will feel different afterward.”
“Impossible. We can’t love each other more than we already do.” Ava knew their love went deep, to a fathomless depth that she’d never dreamed existed.
“Oh, honey.” Cheryl squeezed her arm. “I should make you put money behind those words, because you are in for a dreamy surprise. Now don’t give me that exasperated look. I’m the expert here. Love is my business.” She checked the time. “Shouldn’t you be on your way to work? Get going and let me handle these details.”
Cheryl was right; Ava was going to be late. She appreciated Cheryl’s little pep talk, but Ava was practical. Love was love, and she and Mason were already deep in it.
It can’t get better.
An hour later Ava looked up as Zander stopped outside her office.
“I’ve been assigned to the courthouse-shooting task force,” he told her. “It’s made up of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, OSP, Oregon City police, ATF, and us. I told Ben you should be on it too, but he argued that since one of the victims is a close friend, you shouldn’t be involved. I told him it didn’t matter. You’re the best for this job.”
Ava was touched. “I appreciate that, but I understand Ben’s reasons. You’ll be an asset to the group.” I’d give big money to be on that task force.
Ray’s prognosis was still guarded. Ava had texted briefly with Jill after leaving Cheryl’s house. Even through Jill’s texts, Ray’s wife sounded tired.
Zander grinned at her. “I convinced Ben to send you.”
Surprise froze her. “You did? Are you serious? He gave in?”
Ben appeared behind Zander. “I don’t give in.” He poked Zander’s upper arm. “I made my own decision based on the information, not someone’s personal argument.” He turned a serious gaze on Ava. “You are to respect the boundaries of the investigation.”
In other words, Mason is not to be my shadow.
“Of course. But I do have a full caseload at the moment.”
“This is the priority. The shooting was all over the national news and internet last night, and the public is angry.”
“Some of the public,” added Zander. “The usual anticop commenters are out in full force on the internet. They seem to think it’s some sort of holiday.”
“That’s horrible,” said Ava. “But I’m not surprised one bit.”
“Me neither,” said Ben. “The sheriff’s department is holding a task force briefing at noon in Oregon City. I told them you’d both be there.” He nodded at them and strode down the hall.
Ava exhaled. “This is big.” The enormity of the crime swirled around her. Being forced to sit on the sidelines of an active investigation was tense, but having the case abruptly land in her lap carried heavy stress and intense pressure to solve it. Her stress level had risen immediately at Ben’s words, but she embraced it. The pressure would push her and help focus her mind.
Her stakes were personal and professional. Someone had ambushed a close friend, her fiancé, and fellow law enforcement members, making her angry and upset.
“You’re right. It is big,” said Zander. “And you already have a lot on your plate.”
His tone caught her attention. “You found something on Jayne?”
“You won’t believe what she did.” She told Zander about the winery cancellation.
“You can’t be positive it was her,” he pointed out.
“Who else would do that to me? It’s a personal attack.”
“It doesn’t involve just you,” Zander said. “Losing the venue would affect Mason too.”
She stared at him. He’s right. “I hate it when you act all logical.”
“For that matter, it could be aimed at your wedding planner. Maybe someone is trying to affect her business by making her look bad. It would be a major screwup on her part.”
Ava thought it through. “I don’t think that’s it . . . but you’re right that it could be aimed at Mason too.” She slumped back in her chair. “Now I’m doubting that it’s Jayne.”
“Just expanding the possibilities. I find it telling that I can’t find a credit transaction or car rental in her name—or yours. She must be using someone else’s identity.”