"It's like Christian always said. The police are incompetent. You have to do this, Taylor," I choke out. "You have to find out who killed my husband."
He nods, stoic. His eyes are bloodshot. He hasn't been getting much sleep since it happened and the chrysanthemums in the flower wreaths aren't helping his allergies.
I unlace my gloved fingers and give his arm a squeeze. "Go now. You have everything you need?"
Between the arrangements and the botched police investigation, my life has accelerated. It feels like only yesterday I was picking up the phone to break the news to Grace and Carrick. My throat closes up with the memory. I press on. I keep busy.
If he were still with us, Christian would be proud to see how well I've handled everything. He would tell me so.
And then sweep in and do everything over. Better.
"Mrs. Grey." Taylor clears his throat. "I must ask you to reconsider. I'd feel more comfortable staying with you and the children, knowing you're protected-"
"Ryan and Reynolds can handle my personal security." No one else is suited to the task I've entrusted him with. "But your objection has been noted." Again.
The corner of his mouth twitches. "You sound more like him everyday."
We share a bittersweet smile as we remember the man we both knew and loved, perhaps better than anyone. Then Taylor does something that he's never done before in the two years Christian and I were together: he opens his arms and gives me a short, awkward hug. It's over before I can think to return the gesture. My composure teeters but doesn't crumble and I'm relieved to see him stalk down the aisle.
In his haste, he almost collides with Mia in the church doorway. I take advantage of their brief awkwardness to shrug off a brief flicker of unease.
"Oh, Ana!" There is none of Taylor's hesitation in Mia. She all but bolts into my arms, as clingy as a housecat. "I can't believe this is happening. It's like a terrible dream and I can't wake up!"
I pat her back. "I know, sweetheart. I know." We're nearly of an age, Mia and I, but I feel ancient. I'm a mother, a business owner. I've loved and lost while Mia is still stringing Kate's brother along and finding herself in Europe.
But this is not the time for exasperation. I disentangle myself and lead Mia to a pew. Her mascara is smeared. I offer a hankie so she can clean herself up but she ignores the gesture, eyes glued to the long pine box that dominates the chancel. Top grade mahogany wood, silver bar handles, Milanese grey silk interior... it's a beautiful piece.
I know because I chose it.
"He's really gone," Mia whispers. The church is vast and empty, and echoes with the sound of her tiny, tiny voice.
My own side of the family will be here soon. Well, Ray will. My mother called last night to cry with me over the phone. She so wanted to come to the funeral, but Bob hurt his foot again. She can't possibly leave him.
We've made plans that I'll visit them soon in Georgia. It will be good for the children. They need their grandmother.
Mia sucks in a wet breath and remembers I've lost someone, too. "You holding up okay?"
"It's been hard. And hectic."
"Mom said you've taken over Grey Enterprises..."
"Temporarily," I answer, rubbing my temple. Without a prenup, I have inherited all the privileges of my husband's wealth and control of his massive empire until Theodore's eighteen birthday. "Christian was such a powerhouse that there's really no one in-house who can take over. We'll have to sell the company piecemeal if I can't find a suitable replacement..."