Sawyer talks into his sleeve again.
“Taylor, Mr. Grey has entered the apartment.” He flinches and grabs the earpiece, pulling it out of his ear, presumably receiving some powerful invective from Taylor.
Oh no—if Taylor is worried . . .
“Please let me go in,” I plead.
“Sorry, Miss Steele. This won’t take long.” Sawyer holds both hands up in a defensive gesture. “Taylor and the guys are just coming into the apartment now.” Oh. I feel so impotent. Standing stock-still, I listen avidly for the slightest sound, but all I hear is my aggravated breathing. It’s loud and shallow, my scalp prickles, my mouth is dry, and I feel faint. Please, let Christian be okay, I pray silently.
I have no idea how much time passes, and still we hear nothing. Surely no sound is good—there are no gunshots. I begin pacing around the table in the foyer and examine the paintings on the walls to distract myself.
I’ve never really looked at them before: all figurative paintings, all religious—the Madonna and child, all sixteen of them. How odd?
Christian isn’t religious, is he? All of the paintings in the great room are abstracts—these are so different. They don’t distract me for long— Where is Christian?
I stare at Sawyer and he watches me impassively.
“No news, Miss Steele.”
Abruptly, the doorknob moves. Sawyer spins like a top and draws a gun from his shoulder holster.
I freeze. Christian appears at the door.
“All clear,” he says, frowning at Sawyer, who puts his gun away immediately and steps back to let me in.
“Taylor is overreacting,” Christian grumbles as he holds out his hand to me. I stand gaping at him, unable to move, drinking in every little detail: his unruly hair, the tightness round his eyes, the tense jaw, the top two buttons of his shirt undone. I think I must have aged ten years. Christian frowns at me in concern, his eyes dark.
“It’s alright, baby.” He moves toward me, enveloping me in his arms, and kisses my hair. “Come on, you’re tired. Bed.”
“I was so worried,” I murmur, rejoicing in his embrace and inhaling his sweet, sweet scent with my head against his chest.
“I know. We’re all jumpy.”
Sawyer has disappeared, presumably into the apartment.
“Honestly, your exes are proving to be very challenging, Mr. Grey,” I mutter wryly.
“Yes. They are.”
He releases me and taking my hand, leads me across the hallway and into the great room.
“Taylor and his crew are checking all the closets and cupboards. I don’t think she’s here.”
“Why would she be here?” It makes no sense.
“Could she get in?”
“I don’t see how. But Taylor is overcautious sometimes.”
“Have you searched your playroom?” I whisper.
Christian glances quickly at me, his brow creasing. “Yes, it’s locked—but Taylor and I checked.”
I take a deep, cleansing breath.
“Do you want a drink or anything?” Christian asks.
“No.” Fatigue sweeps through me—I just want to go to bed.
“Come. Let me put you to bed. You look exhausted.” Christian’s expression softens.
I frown. Isn’t he coming, too? Does he want to sleep alone?
I’m relieved when he leads me into his bedroom. I place my clutch bag on the chest of drawers and open it to empty the contents. I spy Mrs. Robinson’s note.
“Here.” I pass it to Christian. “I don’t know if you want to read this. I want to ignore it.” Christian scans it briefly and his jaw tenses.
“I’m not sure what blanks she can fill in,” he says dismissively. “I need to talk to Taylor.” He gazes down at me. “Let me unzip your dress.”
“Are you going to call the police about the car?” I ask as I turn around.
He sweeps my hair out of the way, his fingers softly grazing my naked back, and tugs down my zipper.
“No. I don’t want the police involved. Leila needs help, not police intervention, and I don’t want them here. We just have to double our efforts to find her.” He leans down and plants a gentle kiss on my shoulder.
“Go to bed,” he orders and then he’s gone.
I lie, staring at the ceiling, waiting for him to return. So much has happened today, so much to process. Where to start?
I wake with a jolt—disorientated. Have I been asleep? Blinking in the dim glow the hallway casts through the slightly open bedroom door, I notice that Christian is not with me. Where is he? I glance up. Standing at the end of the bed is a shadow. A woman, maybe?
Dressed in black? It’s difficult to tell.
In my befuddled state, I reach across and switch on the bedside light, then turn back to look but there’s no one there. I shake my head. Did I imagine it? Dream it?
I sit up and look around the room, a vague, insidious unease gripping me—but I am quite alone.
I rub my face. What time is it? Where’s Christian? The alarm says it’s two fifteen in the morning.
Climbing groggily out of bed, I set off to hunt him down, disconcerted by my overactive imagination. I am seeing things now. It must be a reaction to the dramatic events of the evening.
The main room is empty, the only light emanating from the three pendulum lamps above the breakfast bar. But his study door is ajar, and I hear him on the phone.
“I don’t know why you’re calling at this hour. I have nothing to say to you . . . well, you can tell me now. You don’t have to leave a message.” I stand motionless by the door, eavesdropping guiltily. Who is he talking to?
“No, you listen. I asked you, and now I am telling you. Leave her alone. She’s nothing to do with you. Do you understand?”
He sounds belligerent and angry. I hesitate to knock.
“I know you do. But I mean it, Elena. Leave her the fuck alone. Do I need to put it in triplicate for you? Are you hearing me? . . . Good. Good night.” He slams the phone down on the desk.