“How are you feeling, honey?” Monet looked at Brook with hopeless desperation.
Brook wore a walking cast on her leg and got along pretty well, but occasionally her face puckered with pain. “I’m fine.” Brook didn’t look up from the couch where she sat watching TV.
“Do you want something to eat?”
Brook made a noise letting Monet know she wasn’t interested.
Monet walked back to the kitchen and slumped in a chair. Bristol found her there and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m worried about Brook. She’s been so down and depressed since we got back.”
Bristol caressed her cheek. “Don’t worry. She’ll be staying with Sarah while I’m in San Francisco. She’ll be okay.”
“You don’t think it’s me, do you?”
Bristol kissed her then, and Monet almost forgot her question. “It’s not you, Monet,” Bristol whispered. “She told me last night how much she likes having you around. She’s usually such an active girl. I think she’s just frustrated that her leg hurts, and she can’t do what she wants.”
Monet nodded. “You leave tomorrow?”
“It will only be through the weekend.”
“I know.” Monet stood and went to the stove. Her heart beat quickly as she thought of his leaving her.
“Monet, it’s been a month. I don’t think Enid knows you’re here. He would have done something by now.”
As soon as their plane touched down in Oregon, last month, Monet had been on the phone confronting Macall about Enid. Macall denied talking to Enid and hung up on her. Monet tried to mend things between them the next day at work, but Macall had been cool. In fact, Macall had mostly ignored Monet the entire month.
Monet shivered. She hoped Bristol was right in his assessment. Macall may not have talked to Monet this past month, but she’d probably talked to Enid. Monet would have to be on her guard.
~ * ~
Monet handed her jacket to Zack and entered the living room. Sarah and Zack’s home felt comfortable with the overstuffed furniture and wooden craft figures that surrounded the fireplace.
Zack entered the room behind her. “Sarah said dinner will be ready shortly.”
“Thank you for having me. It was very kind of you to invite me.”
“It was no problem. I’ve been hounding Bristol to bring you over, but he always has something going on. His absence seemed like a great time to get together with you.”
Monet snorted. “You saved me from myself. I would have just worked through the night.”
“I figured as much. Come; let me introduce you to Sarah.”
He led her through the living room and into the kitchen on the far side of the house. The kitchen ceiling vaulted upwards. Windows overlooked the backyard and Monet instantly wished she had a kitchen with as many cupboards and counter space.
“Monet is here,” Zack said.
“Oh, Monet! You are just as beautiful as I imagined.” Sarah wiped her hands on her apron.
Monet looked down at her slacks and knit top. Her brow furrowed. Beautiful is not the word she would have used.
Sarah smiled. “Come sit and keep me company while I set the table.”
“Can I help?”
“Sure. The glasses are in the cupboard above the dishwasher.”
Monet went to the cupboard and opened it. Counted out the glasses and took them to the table.
Sarah crossed the room and checked the oven. “I’m surprised Bristol hasn’t brought you by to meet us yet. Usually he can’t wait to show someone off.”
Monet looked over at her in surprise but couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Oh, he’s talked about you. More than he’s ever talked of anyone. But he has refused to bring you over.” She stood, put her hands on her hips, and furrowed her brow. “I can’t think why.” Then her face brightened. “He probably wanted to keep you to himself.”
Monet blushed. “I doubt that. I’m busy at work. I’m probably the one who held him back.”
“Monet!” Brook hobbled into the kitchen wearing a pink princess dress.
Monet stooped down as Brook rushed to her for a big hug. Monet breathed a sigh of relief in seeing the girl so happy. “How are you doing, sweetie?”
Brook pulled away and looked Monet in the eye. “Real good. Aunt Sarah makes the best cookies ever. Even better than Grandma’s.”
Monet smiled. “Are you having a good time with your cousins?”
Brook nodded. “Daddy says that when he gets home they can come play at my house.”
“Have you talked to your dad today?”
“Not today. He calls me before bed.”
“Ah.” Monet gave the girl a kiss on the cheek before she skipped away. Straightening back up, she turned to Sarah. “I’m glad her spirits are high again.”
“She has her moments, but she’s been pretty good. Would you put these on the table for me?”
Monet carried the hot pads to the table and saw Zack setting the plates. She grew uneasy when she saw him staring at her, but pushed the thought away when he turned his attention back to the table.
Ten minutes later, everyone sat around the dining room table. The children jabbered about all sorts of things, while the adults attempted to hold a decent conversation. Monet laughed at the stories they told about Bristol, and her heart swelled at the thought of being with this wonderful family.
When the meal was cleared and the dishes were done, the children returned to their play, and Monet retired to the living room with Zack and Sarah. She saw Zack looking at her again. Her discomfort grew until she nearly stood to leave.
Before she moved, Zack spoke. “I’m sorry to turn the conversation this way, but can you tell me what has become of Macall Stevens?”
Monet stared at him for a moment and sunk back into her seat. She put a weary hand to her warm temple and exhaled a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know.”
Sarah looked from Zack to Monet and back again. “What do you mean what happened to her?”
Zack leaned forward and placed his fingertips together. “The day after Bristol left town, Macall disappeared.”
“What?” Fear shone in Sarah’s eyes as she looked at Monet. “Do you have any idea where she’s gone?”
Monet shrugged. “How did you know she was gone?”
Zack remained silent and looked to Sarah who looked back at Monet.
Sarah was breathless. “You didn’t call the authorities?”
Monet shrugged. “What would I tell them? My business partner didn’t come into work?”
“You tell them about your ex-husband and that his sister has disappeared and thought to be his accomplice.” Sarah stood and moved to the fireplace. She touched each knickknack in an attempt to straighten them, but she only managed to turn them at odd angles. “At least they would have it on file.”
Monet wrung her hands at Sarah’s agitation. “Nothing has happened. There’s nothing to report. Just fears.”
“It’s okay, Sarah. They know.”
Zack’s soothing tone calmed Monet’s raising anxieties, but she couldn’t help but question him.
“How do you know about any of this?”
He breathed a heavy sigh. “Bristol told me what happen on your trip, so when he left town he asked me to keep an eye on you.”
“Because you have nothing better to do?”
He ignored her sarcasm. “I made the necessary inquiries, and if either one of them try to harm you in any way, you will be protected.”
Monet sighed. “Thank you.”
He smiled and nodded.
“I should be getting home. I have a long day tomorrow. With Macall gone, I have a lot more work to do.”
Sarah suddenly became the accommodating host once more. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve chased you away with my nerves. Please don’t go.”
“I really must. Thank you so much for inviting me.”
“It was a pleasure to have you. I hope you will drag my brother over here once he gets back.”
Monet smiled. “I will.”
As Zack helped her into her coat, he said softly, “If you notice anything strange, or feel uncomfortable in any way, please don’t hesitate to call. I will come help you.”
She nodded. “Thank you.”
~ * ~
Walking up her front walk, Monet’s eye lids felt heavy. The long days had been wearing on her. Macall had been gone for almost a week and left no notice of when she’d return or how to contact her. Monet had taken up the slack but at a price. She hadn’t slept more than three hours at a time all week and could feel her stamina waning.
Placing the key in the lock, Monet turned the handle and pushed the door open. She could see a light glowing from the direction of the kitchen. Suddenly alert, she looked around her to see if she was being watched. Seeing no one, she entered the house and locked the door behind her. She slipped off her shoes and silently made her way to the kitchen. She hadn’t been in her kitchen, even to get a drink, all week. In fact, she’d been home mostly only to shower and to grab a change of clothes. The light in the kitchen shouldn’t be on.
Peering around the corner, she determined that no one was there. The light above the sink was shining through the darkened room. She walked to the back door and noticed it was unlocked. Trying to lock it, she soon discovered the bolt was broken. She reached for her cell phone and dialed Zack’s number.
“Zack? Someone’s been in my house, and the back door won’t lock.”
“I’m on my way.” She could hear noises on his end and hoped she wasn’t taking him away from something important.
“Have you checked the whole house?”
Her voice was no more than a whisper. “No. I just got home.”
“Okay. Go back to your car and wait for me. I should be there in ten minutes.”
Monet nodded numbly and rushed out of the house, not bothering to lock the doors behind her. As she slipped into her car, she saw a car drive down the street. Panicked, she locked the doors and slid down in her seat, praying Zack would get there before anything happened.