Beneath These Lies (Page 28)

I fumbled for a reply. “The proprietor appreciates your interest.”

“That’s a good thing because I’m taking her out tonight. Just wanted to make sure plans hadn’t changed.”

His green eyes were sharp, taking in my every expression. It would be so easy to open my mouth and spill everything. But at what cost?

I’d lost the thread of conversation for a moment. “Nope, plans haven’t changed.”

“Good. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll be ready. Text me or call if something comes up.” I was assuming the cop life meant he had a schedule that he couldn’t always control.

Rhett nodded. “That means you have to give me your number.”

I blinked. I knew he had it already. “But you have it.”

Another slow nod and serious stare. “And I’m not going to use it to call you personally until you give it to me somewhere other than your case file.”

A shard of pain panged my heart at the reminder. There was no way to erase that part of our past. Rhett and I would always be connected by what had happened to me that night.

I forced a smile and turned to my desk to grab a pad of paper and pen. After I’d jotted down my number, I tore off the top sheet and handed it to him. We were starting a new chapter, and what had happened in the past was irrelevant.

“Here you go. Personally from me to you.”

Rhett looked down at the paper, and I wondered if he already had my number memorized before he slipped it into the breast pocket of his suit jacket.

“I’ll be sure to use it.”

I had nothing to add, so I just smiled. I wasn’t prepared for his next question.

“No employee today either? Did you fire her?”

My heart thudded against my chest. Dammit. The man was a detective, so it wasn’t surprising that he was curious, but I also was terrible at lying. This was my opportunity. My opening. I could tell him everything and ask for help.

Before I could open my mouth, the door opened again and two familiar and welcome faces strolled in. Yve and Lucas Titan.

“Detective Hennessy, you really are everywhere,” Lucas drawled. He extended his arm and the men shook hands.

“How are you, Titan? Mrs. Titan?”

Yve smiled as her eyebrow arched. “I still have a first name, Detective.”

“I recall. I’m glad to see you survived your belated bachelorette party.”

Lucas’s deep laugh filled my gallery. “I sure won’t be forgetting that night anytime soon.”

Yve shot a pointed look at her husband but the chuckle didn’t stop; Lucas’s wry smile only deepened. Rolling her eyes, Yve turned her attention back to me. “I suppose if I invite you to a girls’ night, you might have second thoughts this time.”

I considered for a beat before responding. The alternative was waiting around my empty house at night for an update on Trinity from the man who would break in.

“Not at all. I’m in. Just tell me when and where.”

Yve’s grin was quick and looked lovely on her. She’d been through so much more hell than I had, and I loved seeing her happy. “Good. I’ll text you the details. Now, I’m starving and this guy promised to feed me.”

“I promised to feed you after we picked out a piece to go above the fireplace. I’m making you spend money today, and you’re not going to get out of it by pretending to be hungry now.”

The grin morphed into a playful glare. “I’m not pretending. I’m always hungry.”

I interjected. “By all means, Lucas, please spend some money. I’m happy to take it off your hands.”

Yve’s smile came back. “I guess if I’m going to spend his money anywhere, it might as well be with friends.” She rubbed her hands together. “Okay, let’s do this.”

She strode toward the walls of artwork and began perusing them with an eye toward lightening Lucas’s wallet, which made me one happy gallery owner.

“You’ve got to have more than one fireplace, Lucas. I’m sure you need more than one piece.”

“That’s all up to her. It’s impossible to get her to buy anything for herself, so I have to resort to extreme measures.”

“I’m sure we don’t need to know what those are,” I replied.

“No, you really don’t,” Yve added from across the room, right before she gasped. “This one. This is the one. It’s beautiful.”

I walked toward where Yve was crouching by a painting leaning against the wall. My confusion mounted as her body blocked it. I didn’t lean pieces against the wall; they were all carefully displayed for maximum impact.

I racked my brain for what could have happened. Remy Burton, my other gallery employee, had returned from vacation and been working this morning, but he wasn’t careless either. I’d been so sidetracked I hadn’t even noticed.

Jeez, Valentina, get it together.

Yve stood and lifted the canvas, bringing it into view.

What. The. Hell.

I stutter-stepped in midstride.

That canvas wasn’t supposed to be here. It was supposed to be in my studio at home, behind another stack of canvases.

And there was only one explanation for how it had gotten here. I was going to kill him.

“Isn’t she gorgeous?” Yve whispered, holding the painting up for all of us to see.

A woman reclined on a divan with colorful swaths of silk covering her strategically. Her dark hair hung in long curls, mixing with the vivid colors. I’d painted it months ago and never looked at it again.