Beneath These Lies (Page 25)

My mother added anecdotes from her docent position at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Her influence and spending so much time at the museum as a kid had begun my love of art and ultimately determined my career choice. I hadn’t wanted art to sit in a museum, though, so people could only see it when they visited. I wanted more accessible art—the kind you could take home and enjoy every day.

By the time I’d filled my belly with steak, veggies, and homemade raspberry pie, I’d also drunk several glasses of wine.

“It’s a good thing I’m walking home,” I said as I stood to clear the table. “I wouldn’t want to end up in front of one of daddy’s colleagues.”

My dad laughed. “You’re too smart to ever do anything that stupid.”

My insides squirmed a little when I thought about Rix, and the night Trinity was taken. My father would tell me I was being incredibly stupid. And I probably was. But as much as I wanted to spill all of the details and beg my dad for help, I couldn’t risk her safety. He’d tell me to leave the matter to the police, which was exactly what Rix had told me not to do.

Since when was I listening to Rix over my father? It was a sobering realization.

When I headed for the door, after giving hugs to both of them, my father stopped me.

“You better not be leaving without letting your old man walk you home.”

I paused with my hand on the doorknob. “It’s only a few blocks.”

“And you’re still my baby girl.” Turning, he called to my mother, “I’ll be back in fifteen minutes, Jo.”

“I’ll be waiting!” she yelled back.

Chaney came bounding up as if on cue, with a look in her doggy eyes that said You’re not trying to leave without me, are you? Why would you do such a thing?

My father, used to that look, grabbed a leash off the hook by the door and clipped it to her collar. “I’m taking the dog too.”

“Okay, honey.”

The exchange was so routine and so domestic, but it knocked something loose in me. I wanted that. The routine. Walking the dog. Cooking dinner. Being part of a couple instead of always being solo.

Is Rhett the guy to give me that?

I couldn’t even consider the other man who’d barged into my life. Rix was not an option. At all. The very fact that I couldn’t tell my parents about him spoke volumes. My father would be more likely to use his connections to have him arrested than invite him to a family dinner. He was like any father, wanting what was best for his little girl, and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t say Rix was that man.

As we carefully picked our way along the broken sidewalk, my father wasted no time. “So, Detective Hennessy? He’s not a guy I would’ve guessed, but I think he’s a good choice.”

Lifting my gaze from Chaney as she tugged at the leash and sniffed everything within reach, I looked at my father. “So he’s got the Harold Noble stamp of approval?”

My dad smiled. “As my daughter, whoever you pick with your superior good sense and taste will always have my stamp of approval.”

His words were pretty bold, considering he had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Of course.” He reached down and gripped my hand. “We just want you to be happy. That’s all we’ve ever wanted for you.”

“I know. I’m working on it. Gallery sales are finally holding their own and growing every month, so I’m hoping to be able to hire a full-time employee and not put in quite so many hours as I have been.”

I’d worked nonstop for years, it seemed, and without Trinity, I was spending even more time at the gallery. My other part-time employee was on vacation and due to return tomorrow. I supposed all the time at work was good for distraction purposes.

“I know when you’re young, you’re focused on attaining every goal, but you’re prone to tunnel vision, Valentina. There’s a lot of life out there to be lived, and you need to take advantage.”

“I’m working on it. I really am.”

If my dad had any clue my tunnel vision had been blown wide open and I’d stepped into a world not my own, he’d have a much different opinion. But I also didn’t want him taking it upon himself to try to set me up, so telling them about Hennessy hadn’t been a bad choice. I didn’t know if my father knew, but I was well aware that he’d strongly suggested that Lucas Titan take me out several times. Given how happy Yve was, I was thoroughly glad that he hadn’t caved to the pressure.

“Good. Your mother worries.”

And clearly, so did my father. We’d arrived at my house, and Chaney instantly tugged at her leash. Not expecting the strong pull, I dropped the leash and she ran for my house, pushing through my broken gate.

“Crap. I’ll get her,” I said, taking off after the dog. Her barks came fast and close together, all focused on the window to my dining room. “Chaney, hush. That’s enough.”

That’s when I saw the curtain flutter. I froze, my hand on Chaney’s collar.

There was someone inside.

My first thought was Rix, but what if it wasn’t?

It had to be. No one else would be breaking into my house. Right?

“I wonder what’s got her dander up?” my father said as he came toward me. “She doesn’t usually bark at nothing.”

I turned away from the window, grabbed the end of the leash, and walked Chaney back toward my father.

“No idea. I guess she thought she saw something.”

“Have you been setting your security system?”