There was a pause. “Um . . . no. Sweetie, the name I have here is . . . Well, the buyer was Brad Newman. Isn’t that your uncle?”
Frankie’s stomach plummeted, and her smile faded. “Yes. Yes, it is. I have to go, Abigail.”
“You call me later.”
“I will.” Ending the call, she asked, “Did you hear that?”
Trick nodded. “Brad bought the sculpture that you found at Iris’s cabin.” His brow furrowed. “That makes no fucking sense, baby. Iris wouldn’t have accepted anything from him.”
“No, she wouldn’t have. Yet, it somehow ended up in her hands. I suppose she could have received it from an anonymous sender, but that’s the kind of thing you tell people, isn’t it? Clara said nobody seems to know where Iris got it.”
“She wouldn’t have taken anything from Brad.” Trick was sure of that much. “Maybe he asked someone to give it to her as a gift from them, but I can’t think who—” He frowned at the odd look on her face. “What?”
“I need to speak to Lydia. I have to ask her something.”
“So call her.”
Frankie did so, drumming her fingers on Trick’s back. Her stomach fluttered and her heart pounded, because she was quite sure that she already knew what Lydia’s answer would be.
“Hello,” Lydia softly greeted her.
“Lydia, hi. How are you feeling?”
A long sigh. “Better, thanks. But I’m not the one who was shot. How are you?”
“I’m okay. Listen, remember I went exploring in your mom’s attic? Well, there was a box of my mother’s things there, but it was empty. Someone had ripped open the tape and took whatever was in it.”
“Really?” Lydia puffed out a breath. “Well, I remember your grandparents demanded all your mother’s belongings. Like they were trying to erase her from our lives. Mom was mad about it, but she cooperated because she was hoping they’d let us see you if we kept everything civil.”
“Do you know if there was anything that Iris held back?”
“She only kept two things, and that was because she was positive that your grandparents would destroy them. She kept the dress your mother wore for her mating ceremony, and a ring that Christopher gave her.”
Heart pounding even harder, Frankie asked, “Can you describe the ring?” But she already knew, because she could see it in her head; she remembered it from the photos she’d seen of her mother in Iris’s albums.
“It was white gold studded with diamonds, and it had a gorgeous gray pearl in the center.”
Frankie closed her eyes. “Thanks, Lydia. That was a great help.” When Trick put her phone back on the nightstand, she said, “I know what it was now.”
He frowned. “What?”
“I know what I overlooked. I saw pictures of my mother, but only my subconscious seemed to notice the ring. I get it now.” She bit her lip. “There’s someone I need to talk to.”
His eyes narrowed. “Who?”
A little while later, Frankie was sitting on the curb in a busy parking lot, near a very familiar car. A car she’d ridden in many times, completely unaware that its owner had betrayed her family in too many ways to count.
It wasn’t long before said owner came along. Even with the sounds of traffic, she’d heard his shoes ticking on the asphalt before she saw him. She knew what hours he worked, had known what time he’d leave his office.
Rising, she waited for him to stop fumbling with his car keys and look up. Finally he did. Her wolf snarled, flexing her unsheathed claws.
Brad stilled and blinked. “Frankie, hey.” His face split into a grin that quickly faded. “Is everything okay? You don’t look so good. You have shadows under your eyes.”
“I’m fine,” she lied. She inhaled deeply, searching for calm, and instead ended up with a lungful of the annoying scents of exhaust, motor oil, and hot pavement. “I wouldn’t be fine if it weren’t for Trick. He got to me in time.”
“In time?” Brad crossed to her, the picture of concern. “What does that mean? Honey, what happened?”
She kept her tone even. “I was held at gunpoint in the basement of my old home.”
His mouth fell open. “What? By who? And please tell me they’ve been arrested.”
“It was the person who killed my parents.”
He sighed, pinching his nose. “Frankie . . . it was Christopher who—”
“Who Cruz framed, I know,” she finished. “He made a full confession when he pointed that gun at my face. A full confession.”
Brad’s eyes flickered nervously.
“I remember when I was a kid, I was helping you pick cuff links to wear out of that big box you have. I found a ring. A ring with a gray pearl. I picked it up and asked if I could have it. You freaked out. Snatched it out of my hands, shoved it in a drawer, and told me to never ask about it again. Cruz got the ring and her dress for you, didn’t he?”
Brad glanced around. There was one other person in the lot, but he was chatting away on his cell phone, not paying them a lick of attention. “Okay, yes, he agreed to get me Caroline’s things,” Brad admitted in a low voice. “They didn’t deserve to have anything of hers, Frankie.”
“And he agreed to give Iris the sculpture too.”
That comment surprised him. “I liked the idea of her having one of your pieces without even knowing it.”
Frankie narrowed her eyes. “You sensed that Cruz was jealous of my parents’ mating. You saw an ally. You used him.”
“I encouraged him to push her to leave the pack, sure, but that’s all.”
Frankie shook her head. “You gave him the gun.”
“You gave it to him,” she insisted. “You’ve fed me enough lies over the years. No more.”
Brad closed his eyes for a moment. “He was only supposed to drive Caroline out of the pack. If anything, she became more determined to stay. I told Cruz to be patient, but he wouldn’t. He asked for a gun. Said if he couldn’t have Christopher, then no one would have him.”
Her wolf swiped out her claws. “And the idea of him shooting my father suited you just fine.”
“No, it didn’t.”
“Really?” Frankie shrugged one shoulder as she asked, “Why not? You hated him. He was a shifter. An animal. What would be so bad about putting him down?”
Brad let out a ragged sigh. “There are things you don’t know.”
“Explain them to me, then.”
“Christopher planned to take you and your mother to Canada!” he burst out.
She lifted a brow. “Canada?”
“Yes. He didn’t like that we were in her life. He wanted to switch packs, to take her and you far away.”
“Far away from you and your ‘You need to leave the pack’ bullshit, you mean? He was tired of you trying to make her leave him. Tired of seeing her so unhappy about the way you were acting.” Like Trick had been unhappy with how the Newmans treated Frankie. “He wanted to put distance between you.”
“I’d have rarely seen her, Frankie. I wouldn’t have been able to watch you grow up. I’d have been a damn stranger to you. I wasn’t going to allow that. I wasn’t going to allow him to take her away from me.”