First things first, though… I’ll need to do some snooping.
With that, I step outside and lock the garage behind me, before I hop behind the wheel of the Bentley I keep as my backup car, whenever Betty’s out of commission. Then I reach for my phone and pull up my contacts.
* * *
It’s surprisingly easy to talk Selena’s father into giving me her home address. All I do is tell him what Selena told me—that she’s taking off today because she’s sick, and that I’m concerned about her and want to check and see if I can bring her anything to help her recover.
When this is all said and done, I should really talk to Mark about protecting his daughter’s privacy a little bit better. But for the moment, it’s working in my favor.
As I drive toward the address he gave me, I can’t help it. My eyebrows start to climb my forehead, higher and higher. It’s not that I expected Selena’s place to be as elaborate as her parents’ borderline mansion. But given where she comes from, I guess I expected her to be in a penthouse somewhere trendy. Not just in a tiny little box apartment in a building that looks like it was last renovated in 1970, in a neighborhood that’s on the still-coming side of up-and-coming.
I knock on the door marked 3C, in peeling black paint that could use a touchup. There’s no doorbell to speak of. And music plays from inside, something loud and rock sounding. After a minute, I knock again, a little louder.
Just as I’m raising my fist to try a third time, the door swings inward, and there she is.
Selena squints up at me, confusion melting into surprise shifting into pleasure, before she forces that expression away, smooths her face into a calm, expressionless mask. “What are you doing here?” she asks.
“You said you were sick.” My gaze drops to her outfit. She’s dressed in a sundress, strappy sandals, a big hat. And she has a beach towel slung over one shoulder. “Are you just skipping work to go to the beach?” I lift an eyebrow, crossing my arms over my chest.
Somehow, whatever I expected in coming over here today, it wasn’t this. It wasn’t just that she’s been lying to me this whole time about whatever’s going on with her.
No way. I saw her yesterday. There’s no way she could have faked that kind of freak out. I know there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
“What?” Selena replies, looking down at herself first, and then the towel. “Oh. No. Well, I… Sometimes the beach makes me feel better. When I’m under the weather.”
I take a step closer, and she mirrors me, backing away. Which gives me enough space to slip past her into the apartment, at least. “You know, I had a feeling you weren’t sick, but I didn’t think you were just playing plain old hooky,” I say, casting my eye around the room.
What can I say? I’m curious. I want to know more about her life, about where she lives and how she keeps the place.
Hell, I want to know everything about this woman. All her ins and outs. But most of all, why she’s so desperate to hide whatever happened yesterday.
My gaze lands on a framed photo on the wall near her TV screen. It’s Selena with her arms around a handsome man, around her age. They’re both beaming at the camera, wide smiles. From the way their cheeks are pressed right up against one another’s, it’s clear they’re close.
“I’m not playing hooky,” she snaps, before she clears her throat, and smooths out her own tone. “I’m sorry, Antonio, really. I shouldn’t have run out yesterday the way I did. Today isn’t so much a sick-sick day as it is a… mental health day, I guess.”
I turn back to her, my eyebrows rising. “Why didn’t you just say that, then?”
Her cheeks flush red. “Well… some people don’t see mental health as a real problem. Most of the places I’ve worked only care if you’ve got a cold or flu, something you could transmit to other people in the office. That’s the only time they’ll allow you to call in sick.”
I raise an eyebrow, frowning. “Where the hell have you been working?”
“Schools,” she admits with a grimace. “And only part-time. I can’t blame them really, they’re overworked, understaffed…” She shakes her head and waves a hand in the air. “Not the point. You’re right, I should have just been more straightforward with you.”
I fold my arms. Now that I’m seeing her closer up, she doesn’t look like her usual chipper self either, even if she was clearly planning on a beach day today. Her eyes are red-rimmed, a little puffy. Like she’s been crying. “Does this mental health issue have anything to do with what happened yesterday?” I ask, more gently than ever.