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“I’m sure.” She glared at him icily. He seemed amused. That was even more irritating.

* * *

Officer Duffy was quiet as he drove. Sean didn’t try to engage him in conversation.

Instead, he glanced over at his escort, Madison Darvil.

She’s either certifiable, crazy as a loon or just like you. She talks to the dead, Eddie had told him.

She wasn’t crazy; she was talented. But if she talked to the dead, she might wonder if there was something inside her that wasn’t exactly normal. Most people learned early on not to admit that they could communicate with the souls of the departed. Madison was probably unaware that there were actually many people with her talent scattered around the world.

She was silent during the drive. Sean thought that Eddie had picked the perfect person to help him—even if he hadn’t meant to draw her in this far. She did know the studio and everyone working there now; she was in on meetings and certainly trusted if she dealt with major names in the business. And aside from all that, she was slim and well-proportioned, with large, dark-lashed eyes that were exceptionally expressive and beautiful.

He suddenly wished he’d met her at a party or a bar or anywhere that would allow him to ask her out. He liked her passion when she defended Eddie and even her hostility when he suggested she was no longer necessary. Something within her—integrity, honesty—ran very deep, and it was compelling and seductive.

He turned away, surprised. He hadn’t felt like this about anyone in a very long time. Work had been his escape for years now. It wasn’t that he’d eschewed people, women in particular, but he’d never had this sense of knowing them as he already felt he knew her. He’d functioned well enough when he and Melissa had split, even though he’d really loved her, and she’d loved him, too. He hadn’t hesitated to go back when she needed him, and it hadn’t seemed like any kind of chore or sacrifice to be with her.

Her death had changed him.

He shook off the unhappy memory. Another friend needed him.

Eddie’s place wasn’t far from the studio. He lived in an elegant home in a cul-de-sac where the houses started at the seven-figure mark. There was a high wall around the property and gates protected it, but when they were dropped off and Sean pushed the call button, they were answered immediately.

Sean thought that Pierce Enderly, Eddie’s “house manager,” would be the one to greet them. He was wrong.

Mrs. Eddie Archer, Helena LaRoux, came clip-clopping to the door on high-heeled sandals as they arrived. She swiftly ushered them in, looking past them to the gates. “Were you followed?” she asked.

Sean shook his head.

“The paparazzi were out there for hours!” she said. The little lapdog she carried—some kind of designer Peke-teacup-poodle combo—let out a yap.

“Shh, little darling,” Helena said. “It’s Sean—and…Madison, right?”

Madison nodded. Helena gave her a puzzled look.

“Madison is taking me through the studio, Helena. It’s been a while since I worked there,” Sean told her.

“Of course.” Helena smiled at Madison as if she was trying to be warm and genuine, except something in her tone made it clear that she was still confused as to why the “help” would now be at her door. “I knew Eddie had called you in, just didn’t know there’d be anyone with you.”

“Eddie asked her to hang around with me,” Sean continued.

He realized that although Madison was quiet, she meant to hold her own. “I would do anything for Eddie and Alistair, Helena. That’s why I’m here.”

Sean lowered his head to hide the smile that teased his lips. Oh, yes, Madison could hold her own.

“Eddie’s still with Alistair,” Helena said. “I’ve spent time with the boy, but…well, I’m not his mother. He really does need his father now. I’m so distraught! Forgive me if I’ve forgotten my manners. Come in, come in!”

She started clip-clopping across the marble floor again. Helena might claim she hated the paparazzi, but her platinum-blond swath of hair was sleekly brushed, her makeup was perfect and she wore skintight pedal pushers with her high-heeled sandals and a low-cut T-shirt that nicely displayed her expensive cleavage.

She led them through the grand entry to a family room connected to a huge kitchen. He didn’t know if Helena liked to cook, but Eddie was a fan of culinary shows; he loved to watch and cook along with them. He must have put his foot down at some point because the family room was just that, despite Helena’s high-end presence. There was a large-screen TV on the far wall and a pricey stereo system with speakers all around the room. The sofa was old leather, worn and comfortable, and there were a number of magazines spread out on the coffee table. Helena gestured at the sofa and sat in the massive armchair next to it.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Sean. I mean, thank you for coming. You’re so important to Eddie. I was heartbroken when you couldn’t make our wedding,” she said.

“I was on a project, Helena. I’m sorry.”

Helena patted the little dog. “It was a beautiful affair! Oh, you were there, Madison!”

“Yes, it was quite an affair,” Madison said dryly.

Helena frowned. “This is awful, so awful,” she moaned. “I’m afraid it’s just broken Eddie. Everyone in the media…they already have Alistair convicted, and Eddie loves that boy so much!”

“It’s natural for a father to love his son,” Madison said.

“Helena, the media craves sensationalism, and this is definitely a sensational case. But don’t worry, the media might try someone, but there’s still an investigation ahead, and I’m confident we’ll prove Alistair innocent,” Sean told her.

Helena’s perfectly plucked brows shot up. “You think Alistair may be innocent?”

Sean felt Madison shift beside him and he almost grinned again. Apparently, she liked the newest Mrs. Archer about as much as he did.

“Of course I believe he’s innocent. Now I have to prove it.”

“Oh, yes! I’ve tried to be there for him…. Eddie asked me to visit Alistair. They both say he didn’t do it. How wonderful that you think you can prove it,” Helena said. Her voice seemed thick with an air of insincerity.

“Helena, you know Alistair. You can’t possibly believe he could have done such a thing, can you?” Madison asked.

Sean couldn’t help giving her a little nudge with his elbow. He heard the grunt she tried to swallow. Luckily, Helena didn’t.

“I don’t want to believe it. But…I’ve worried so often about poor Alistair. I mean, Eddie is a genius, and most people in the business can tell the difference between reality and imagination—but I’ve warned Eddie! Sometimes, being around all that gore and all that make-believe blood…it has to have an influence.”

“You were with him earlier today, Helena. How is he doing?” Sean asked.

“Well, he’s in bad shape.”

“You didn’t let him know you don’t have complete faith in him, did you?” Sean half smiled to take the sting from his question.

“Oh, no! I do have faith in him,” Helena said.

“Mrs. Archer?”

Sean turned to see that Pierce had arrived at last. He was glad; Pierce was one person who truly loved Eddie. He made a good wage for what he did, and he was another factor in Eddie’s life on which he couldn’t be dissuaded. Pierce had handled the household since the very first Mrs. Archer, Alistair’s mother, had found him poring over classified ads at a coffee shop. She’d brought him home and they’d discovered that he could shop, clean and manage a school list without blinking an eye. He was indispensable. Pierce was gay and had been in a relationship with his high school love all of his adult life; his partner had died of bone cancer soon after Eddie’s first wife, and since that time, Pierce had given his total love and loyalty to Eddie and Alistair. In other words, Pierce was family.

But not, apparently, to Helena.

“What is it, Pierce?” she asked irritably.

“I was wondering if you would like to offer Mr. Archer’s guests some refreshment.”

Sean rose, walking over to Pierce and giving him a hug. “Pierce! Great to see you. How are you holding up?”

“Getting through, Mr. Cameron, getting through,” Pierce said. “Staying strong, because that’s what Eddie and Alistair need now.”

“It’s Agent Cameron, Pierce,” Helena drawled.

“Agent Cameron,” Pierce repeated.

“It’s Sean. You’ve known me forever, Pierce. I’m still Sean.”

Pierce wasn’t exactly the epitome of an old-fashioned butler. Or maybe he was the California equivalent. He was dressed in khakis and a short-sleeved cotton tailored shirt, and he wore sandals. He looked like an aging pool boy, still handsome with his blond hair turning silver and his year-round tan.

Sean imagined that it must be interesting to watch the dynamics between him and the newest Mrs. Archer—especially when no one else was around.

“Sean, what will you have?” Helena asked abruptly. “Madigan?”

“It’s Madison, Mrs. Archer,” Madison said politely. She had risen, too. Ignoring Helena, she walked over to Pierce and took his hand. “Eddie is in a bad way, and Alistair’s worse. I’m glad you’re here for them.”

“We all are!” Helena rose, as well, and walked over, handing Pierce the dog. “Will you take Perla for a walk?” she asked.

Sean wondered if she wanted him out of the way while they spoke or if she was just trying to prove that he was only the hired help.

“I’ll tend to drinks for our friends,” she went on. “Sean, a Jameson? That’s your poison of choice, if I remember.”

“To be honest, I’d go for some coffee right now,” Sean said. “Madison?”

“Coffee would be great,” Madison agreed.