As Julia walked around, she saw that there wasn’t a speck of dust on any of the furniture. If she hadn’t known better, she would’ve thought someone did live in this room.
But the bedroom was a snapshot in time, frozen.
No wonder Lucian had a hard time coming in here. It was like his mother was still alive. There was even a silky blue robe laying on the bed, as if placed there by his mother to be used when she returned. . . .
Julia frowned as she eyed the robe.
Why would someone lay out a robe on a bed if they had no intentions of returning to use it? That seemed really odd.
Then again, she didn’t know if their mother had laid that robe out. Perhaps Livie did. She didn’t know, but something about seeing that robe lingered in the back of her mind as she tossed the keys on the bed and got down to business.
Julia felt weird going through the woman’s stuff, because it seriously felt like at any second someone was going to appear and yell at her. She ignored the tingly feeling along the nape of her neck and carefully rooted through the drawers, searching for signs of the photo albums or journals Daniel mentioned. The pearls had been easy to find. They were nestled in a velvet box on one of the dressers and she found a stash of super long pearls on display inside the closet. She gathered them up, placing them in a large straw basket she’d found next to the dresser.
There were no sign of journals or photo albums, at least no place obvious. That left the stack of boxes in the back of the closet. There were large square ones, like the kind designer purses or hats were shipped in. Several brown Gucci boxes sat one on top another, next to a pile of white ones. Julia went through them, experiencing every level of envy as she uncovered several purses she’d give her left arm for.
Moving the Gucci boxes aside, she almost didn’t see it at first. Julia leaned forward as her gaze landed on the floor of the closet. There was a section of the floor, at least three boards each about a foot long, that seemed oddly pieced together. She ran her fingers over the boards, finding that they were raised about an inch higher than the rest. They didn’t budge when she pried at them with her hands. Was something hidden under the boards or had they just been replaced for some reason? Looking around for something that could be used to pull the boards up, she didn’t see anything she could use except for coat hangers, and she doubted that would work.
Filing that little discovery away, she reached for the next box, a white one. Peeking inside, she found what she was looking for.
“Bingo,” she whispered. Picking up the box, she brought it over to the bed and sat down. She peeled open the lid to get a better look at what was inside.
She had hit the jackpot.
There were three large, black photo albums inside. Why would the photo albums be packed up in a box, though? Julia had no idea. The family was just really weird. Julia placed them in the basket and then reached back into the box, picking up a worn, red leather-bound journal with a leather strap binding the journal closed. She ran her finger down the strap, lifting the small key that dangled from the end. It didn’t go to the journal, so she supposed that it was just some charm.
Julia tugged on the leather binding, but stopped, her finger frozen under the strap. A trail of icy fingers glided over the nape of her neck, spreading a wave of tiny bumps along her skin. Her breath caught as the hairs all over her body rose. Whipping around, she saw nothing but empty space behind her. She scanned the room, half expecting to see the apparition of Lucian’s mother, but of course nothing was there.
Her imagination was really getting out of control. The icy air was probably just that—air kicking on from behind one of the numerous vents.
She glanced down at the thick journal, then tightened the strap. Rising, she placed the journal in the basket and then picked up the box. Eager to get out of the room that felt like a living memorial, she quickly put the box back where she found it. Snatching up the basket, she locked up the room and then hurried down the hall.
Julia never went down three flights of stairs as fast she did in the moment. Unfortunately it took a god-awful amount of time to find her way to the kitchen, taking the wrong hall and ending up in the same damn room more than once. But she knew she was getting close, because her stomach grumbled as she caught the scent of melted cheese and fried bread.
God, she was brilliant.
Got Lucian out of a painful experience and managed to get a grilled cheese sandwich. She deserved that candy, too.
Her steps slowed down when she heard Devlin’s voice coming from the kitchen. Her stomach dipped as she glanced down into the basket she was holding. She had a sinking suspicion he would not be happy knowing Julia had been left alone in his mother’s bedroom.
“What in the hell are you doing?” Devlin asked.
“What does it look like?” came Lucian’s response.
“It actually looks like you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich.”
“Congrats,” Lucian replied dryly. “You’re able to make simple observations and report on them.”
“Since when did you start eating like a six-year-old with a cold?”
Her grin started to fade. What the hell? Grown adults ate cheese sandwiches all the time. At least in her world they did.
Lucian’s sigh practically shook the walls. “Is there something you want, Dev?”
“Sort of. Since I didn’t get a chance to ask yesterday, how did the lunch go with our cousin?”
“It was amazing. You know, I thought, wow, we’ve really misjudged cousin Danny-boy this entire time. And then I was like, maybe we should have him over for dinner every—”
“Forget I even asked,” Devlin cut in.
There was a pause and Lucian said, “Do you even care if Maddie showed any improvement? Because the question you should’ve asked was how did our sister respond?”
Julia looked around the hall. Plastered against the wall as she was, she really was afraid to move at this point. She really didn’t want them to know that she was overhearing this.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve had other things on my mind other than the extended vacation our sister has been taking.”
“Extended vacation?” Lucian’s laugh was harsh. “You’re an asshole.”
Julia had to agree.
“So, these other things on your mind? Have anything to do with the police investigating the death of our father?”
Julia’s grip on the basket tightened.
“Like I said, Chief Lyon isn’t going to pose a problem much longer.” Devlin sounded bored with the entire conversation.
“You have a surprising amount of faith in our lawyers,” Lucian replied.
If Devlin responded, Julia didn’t hear what he said as she stared into her basket. Why were the police investigating their father’s death? It was a suicide, wasn’t it?
Would the police seriously investigate a suicide unless they suspected it was something else entirely? Like, for example, a homicide? Why would—
Devlin walked out of the kitchen, and Julia’s heart about came out of her chest. Those eyes, the same color as Lucian’s but as cool as a winter’s morning, latched on to hers.
“Good afternoon, Julia.”
She swallowed and fixed a bright smile on her face. “Hello, Devlin. How . . . how are you?”
“Good.” His gaze dropped to the basket, but he didn’t look inside. “And you?”
Devlin nodded and then walked past her. She twisted at the waist, watching him disappear around the corner. He had to have known she’d overheard them talking. Turning back to the kitchen doors, she got walking.
Lucian was standing at the stove top, a muscle working along his jaw as he turned the gas off. Picking up a slotted turner, he moved the sandwich from a pan to a plate.
“Hey,” she said, walking over to the island. “I . . . I found the stuff we were looking for.”
“That’s great.” He picked up the plate and walked it over to where she stood, still holding the basket. His gaze flicked up to hers. Those eyes weren’t nearly as cold as his brother’s, but they were still closed off. “Thank you for doing that for me.”