“What about cash?” Ava asked as she searched her email. “Did she have access to a good amount of cash?”
She jerked her gaze up from her phone. A deep line had formed between Brady’s brows, as if her question confused him.
How do people fall for her scams over and over again?
Shaking her head, she went back to her email and found what she was looking for. “My last email from her was four months ago.”
“I thought the two of you emailed every week. She always kept me up to date with what was going on with you.” He frowned at her stomach. “You don’t look pregnant—oh! I’m sorry!” He sat up straighter on his stool, looking stricken. “Did something happen—”
“I’m not pregnant and never have been,” Ava said dryly, wondering what other stories Jayne had made up about her to entertain Brady. “Give me a minute, please,” she said as she hit Zander’s number on her screen.
Special Agent Zander Wells was her closest friend at the Portland FBI office. If anyone could dig up information on Jayne, it would be Zander.
“Ben just asked me where you are,” Zander answered as a greeting to her call.
“Something’s come up.”
“What happened?” His tone sharpened. “You sound like shit.”
“Thanks a lot.” She paused. “Jayne has happened.” Her words sounded flat.
“She okay? Are you okay? It’s been quite a while . . . What did she do this time? Is she back from Costa Rica?”
Zander knew everything about her sister’s history.
Ava took a breath. “She’s missing. Brady Shurr is here and just told me she vanished about two weeks ago.”
Zander’s computer keys started to rapidly click. “When did you last hear from her?”
“Four months ago.”
The clicking stopped. “I’m sorry, Ava. I know how hard it is on you always waiting and wondering what will happen next.”
“Well, it’s finally happened, and now I can relax,” she joked, feeling tears start to burn in her eyes.
They weren’t tears for her sister; they were tears of release. The dark cloud of uncertainty hovering over her head since last fall had finally broken apart.
“There is no relaxing when it comes to your twin. We all know that. Let me see what I can find on her,” Zander said. “Do you have an address for her in Costa Rica? Or a cell phone number?”
Ava asked Brady for the information and relayed it to Zander.
“I’ll call you back in a few minutes,” Zander said, and ended the call.
Ava’s finger wavered over Mason’s number on her cell phone. Not yet.
She didn’t want to disturb him at work when she had essentially no information to share. He’d drop whatever he was working on. He understood better than anyone how Jayne could rip her up inside.
Ava glanced up to find Brady studying her. “I’ve got a coworker looking for her,” she told him.
“I should have come to you sooner,” he admitted. “But I honestly thought she’d be back any day.”
Ava sat back on her stool and took a long sip of tea. Now what? “What did Jayne do in her spare time down there?”
“Paint,” he answered promptly. He pointed toward Ava’s formal dining room, where a painting could be seen through the wide archway. “That’s hers,” he stated confidently.
Ava gazed at the painting she’d bought last fall. When she’d first hung it, Mason had gently questioned whether she wanted the prominent reminder of her sister. “I’m reminded of her every time I look in the mirror,” Ava had answered. He’d not brought it up again.
“I liked it right away,” Ava told Brady.
“More than a dozen were sold while we were in Costa Rica,” he said, looking wistfully at the picture. “She painted nearly every day. It was good therapy for her. I think it kept her brain quiet. She was always in motion, you know? Always going from one thing to the next as she tried to distract herself from the constant activity in her head. Painting helped with that.”
“That’s great.” Ava meant it. “I met David for the first time when I bought it. He was in the shop and wanted to buy it too.”
She hadn’t known at the time that David Dressler was her father, but he had known Ava was his daughter. Her mother had cut off all contact with the married man after she’d become pregnant and had never told her twins their father’s name. Last fall, more than thirty years later, David had tracked them down, and Ava had learned she had two half siblings. She’d met them all socially a few times but still held the group at arm’s length, not quite comfortable with her instant extended family. She’d been on her own for too long.
Do I ask him to give me away?
Ava shoved the question out of her head. It’d popped up a thousand times since she’d learned she had a father, and the concept of asking him to be part of her wedding was ridiculous; he’d been in her life for eight months.
But deep inside her was a little girl who’d dreamed of having a father, and that young girl arose at odd moments.
“Jayne was thrilled when she met David. She adored him instantly. He’s a good guy,” Brady said.
Ava simply nodded. Jayne had written an enthusiastic email about David’s visit to Costa Rica, raving about finally having the father she’d always wanted. She’d jumped into the relationship with all the Dresslers with both feet. Ava had slowly waded into the shallow end and stopped, looking around with suspicion.
David, his adult kids, and their families were good people. Ava’s brain knew that. But it didn’t mean they all had to be best friends. Yet.
Her phone buzzed on the counter, and she snatched it up. “Zander?”
“It appears she flew from Costa Rica to San Diego two weeks ago,” he answered.
Ava froze. Zander’s tone wasn’t normal.
Her vision tunneled on Jayne’s painting.
“Is she okay?” Ava whispered, blood roaring in her ears.
“I don’t know. I can’t find any movements after that . . . but Ava.” Zander paused. “I didn’t find a record of Jayne on this flight.”
“I found you. Someone has a passport in your name. I assume it’s her.”
She leaned forward and rested her elbows on the island, pressing the phone hard against her ear.
Jayne is fine. This is standard operating procedure for her.
Ava closed her eyes for a long moment. “You searched with my name?”
“When I couldn’t find any results for Jayne, it seemed like a logical next step.”
“I should have known . . .” She locked eyes with Brady. “Jayne used a passport with my information,” she told him.
Confusion crossed his face. “She has her own passport. Why use yours?”
“That’s the question I’ve been asking all my life.”
Zander cleared his throat. “Any idea why she picked San Diego?” he asked.
“David—our father—lives there. That’s the only reason I can think of.” She repeated the question to Brady, who lifted one shoulder and shook his head.
“Okay. I’ll look into that.”
“Dammit. Sounds like I should also check my credit report.”
“I thought you got alerts for new activity,” said Zander.
“I do. But I’m going to check anyway. Have I traveled anywhere else in the last few months?” she asked dryly.
“Only to Denver.”
“That was actually me on the plane.”
“I know.” A note of amusement in his voice. “Business as usual for Jayne, right?”
“It is. I’m almost relieved. But where has she been hiding for the last two weeks?”
“I’d like to know why she left me,” Brady said quietly, his finger tracing a pattern on the counter.
Sympathy flowed for the young man who’d been caught up in the Jayne McLane cyclone.
“I suggest you go back to your family and forget my sister,” Ava said kindly.
Stricken eyes met hers. “I can’t. We’re soul mates.”
On the phone, Zander swore under his breath. He’d heard.
“Her only soul mate is herself,” Ava said, knowing blunt speech was needed to open Brady’s eyes. “We’ll find her, but you need to prepare yourself for the worst.”
“That she’s dead?” He blanched.
“No. That she no longer cares about you.”
Mason and Ray stepped into the garage of Reuben’s home and went silent.
It wasn’t shocked silence; it was the silence of awe.
Is this what happens when you work at Home Depot for eight years?
And aren’t married?
Custom workbenches and cabinets lined the garage along with enough metal tool chests to run a large automotive repair shop. Perfectly lined-up tools hung on the wall. The floor was spotless, painted with that shiny texturized finish that almost transforms a garage into a normal room. Mason wondered if a vehicle had ever been parked inside. Ray nudged him and pointed at the gigantic TV on one wall. “Nice,” he said under his breath.