A child is missing. The words chill Detective Mike Ryan and bring to mind memories of his own tragedy.
He'll dedicate every resource he has until the girl Sicily is found, safe...and alive. His investigation hits a snag with Sicily's aunt and guardian, Beth Greenway. Beth's cool demeanor is at odds with the situation, making him suspicious. She's definitely hiding something. But the more time he spends with her, the less he believes that something is about the missing niece. And with all that contact, Mike sees Beth's vulnerabilities. Suddenly, he wants to protect her, even while he wants to know her secrets.
As the search hits one roadblock after another, Mike's dedication intensifies. He needs to bring Sicily home for Beth...but also for the future he wants with them.
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Even as she awakened slowly, Beth Greenway felt the first pang of unease. The sun was warm on her face, which was strange since she never slept in the daytime. Whatever she was lying on wasn't very comfortable. Instead of immediately opening her eyes, she listened to distant voices--conversations, shrieks of delight, laughs.
Pebbles. That's what she seemed to be lying on. Puzzlement sharpened her brain and she opened her eyes to the sight of the sun and a glimpse of twisted gray driftwood.
She was at the beach. She and her niece, Sicily, had brought a picnic. Sicily had found some other kids to play with, and Beth read a paperback thriller until her eyes got so heavy she'd laid back and closed them.
That's why she felt uneasy--she hadn't meant to fall asleep. Sitting up, Beth quickly scanned the beach, searching for the ten-year-old. Sicily surely had the sense not to go far. The tide was on its way in, but there was still a wet, slick expanse of beach tide pools. A cluster of children crouched, gazing into one, but none of them had Sicily's bright blond hair.
The parents of the kids she'd been playing with had laid out their blanket over there...but the blanket and parents were gone.
Now she was on her feet, her head turning. Where on earth had Sicily gone? Beth snatched a glance at her watch and was reassured to see that she hadn't been asleep for more than half an hour. Inexcusable if her niece had been younger, but Sicily was, thank goodness, astonishingly self-sufficient. She'd had to be, with such an undependable mother.
Beth walked first north, then south on the beach, scanning each group, scrutinizing the beachgoers reading or strolling above the waterline. Her heart had begun to hammer. Was Sicily trying to scare her? Beth couldn't imagine. No, it was more logical to think it hadn't occurred to her niece that she needed to keep any adult in her life informed about her plans. It was new to her to have someone trying to establish rules.
She might have walked up the trail to the wooded land above. Hadn't they seen a sign for a nature trail? That made sense, Beth thought on a surge of what she wanted to be relief.
But she hesitated. If Sicily came back and found her gone...
Beth spotted a group of older teenagers listening to music and talking near where she'd been snoozing. She jogged up to them.
"Excuse me." Her breath came in choppy pants. "I can't find my ten-year-old niece. She's blonde, wearing red shorts and a white T-shirt. Have you seen her?" In unison, all five shook their heads. "Will you be here for a few minutes?" she begged. "That's my blanket right there. I'm going to check the nature trail to see if she went up there. If she comes looking for me, will you tell her I'll be back soon?"
"Sure," one of the girls said. "Do you need help looking for her?"
Surprised by the offer, she said, "As long as one of you stays here, I'd be really grateful if any of you are willing to look. Sicily is about this tall.. " She held up her hand. "Skinny, long-legged. She was playing with some other kids and I guess I fell asleep."
Two of the girls stood up. "We'll look," the first one said. "There are lots of places to hide along here."
"Thank you." Beth began running, her searching gaze moving nonstop. She'd see Sicily any minute; she'd probably gone too far down the beach, or up the trail, or...maybe she'd needed to use the restroom the state park provided.
Beth went there first, pushing open the heavy door on the women's side. "Sicily?" she...
Making Her Way Home
By: Janice Kay Johnson