Rachel Desoumas’s father disappeared thirty-four years ago and never returned. A linguistics professor, Rachel excels at solving puzzles, but her father’s case is one she can’t solve alone. Enter Ethan Blackwell, former FBI agent, author and consultant. Partnering with Ethan is a smart move but falling for him is a risk Rachel isn’t sure she’s prepared for…
Ethan’s moved on from his FBI past. Or so he thought. When he gets a request from Rachel, he can’t resist. Not the mystery, and not Rachel…
From San Francisco to New York City, they’re hot on the trail of a very cold case and it’s not just the investigation that’s heating up. But Ethan’s plagued by an angry ex and Rachel’s desire for answers may prove costly.
As Ethan and Rachel journey closer to the truth, only one thing is clear: they’d be lost without each other.
She turned toward the voice in question, and the first thing she noticed was the man’s smile. Big and beautiful, it made the crinkles at the corners of his dark brown eyes deepen. He had thick salt and pepper hair, matching scruff, and a nose that was slightly crooked, maybe broken at one point. This was a man you would notice once and never forget.
“It’s nice to finally meet you in person, Ethan.”
“You as well,” Ethan said as he sat in the seat across from her. “I hope you don’t mind meeting here. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the area. I like to take a long walk on the beach when I’m done stuffing in the greasy goodness.”
“It’s perfect. I hope you don’t mind that I ordered already. I chugged down some coffee this morning, but I’m in dire need of real food. And if I don’t eat every couple of hours, look out.”
“I understand,” Ethan chuckled as he motioned for the waitress. “Can I have a bacon cheeseburger and iced tea please?” he asked.
“Same as your wife, coming right up,” The waitress replied and sauntered off before either of them could correct her.
Ethan was too busy to notice, placing his phone on the table in front of him and removing his black windbreaker. He wore a plain grey t-shirt that stretched tight over his broad chest and biceps. Rachel quickly glanced up again.
“I wanted to start this meeting off by reiterating what I stated in our email exchange,” Ethan said. “I’m still a consultant with the FBI and I have contacts with local and state police so that may prove helpful as we conduct our search. But I can’t guarantee results. Unfortunately, your father’s disappearance is a very cold case.”
“Anything is better than the lack of information I have now,” she replied. “The investigator my mom hired decades ago came up with nothing.”
Ethan nodded. “To be fair, he didn’t have much to start from. According to the letter your dad left thirty-four years ago, he walked out of his own free will. There’s no missing person’s report or any police investigation on Walter F. Hoffman. Your father’s investigation is going to prove difficult given all that. The only thing I can tell is you is to be patient and realistic. The chances of us uncovering evidence of his whereabouts are not in our favor. Are you still sure you want to go through with this?” he asked as he raked a hand through his hair.
“Of course. That’s why I submitted my DNA to the genealogy site months ago. Meeting my cousin on my dad’s side was interesting, of course, but it didn’t give me any more clues as to his whereabouts. I’m hoping your help will dig up something. And searching for answers is better than doing nothing.”
“I’ll remind you of that as we move ahead,” Ethan said with a serious expression and Rachel nodded in reply.
Their food arrived and they paused to enjoy their lunch.
“I looked over the documentation you sent me,” Ethan murmured in between bites of his burger. “I think the best way to start is with your father’s work history. I searched his last known employer and they’re still a major accounting firm in New York.”
Rachel shook her head. “But he left in 1989. Chances are anyone who worked there at that time is retired, or left the company, or deceased.”
Ethan took a long sip of his iced tea and nodded. “That’s true, but we have to start somewhere. I’m going to do some digging and see what types of clients they dealt with around that time. Then we need to search for colleagues who might have worked with your father. Because this isn’t an official investigation, we can’t ask for employee records, so the best we can do is research and talk to people who knew him. I received the P.I.’s case notes but I still need to review them in greater detail and devise my list of questions for him. I suggest we take the next available flight.”
“We’re going to New York?”
“Yes. I need to interview your mother, and anyone else that knew your father. I’ll also speak to the investigator your mom hired—he’s on Staten Island. Some of this could be done virtually, but I like to see the faces of the people I’m questioning in person.”
“Are you a human lie detector?” Rachel asked.
“Not quite,” Ethan smiled and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “But people have tells, and the best way to read them is face to face. You’re in communications, right? You understand.”
Rachel nodded in return. “I guess we both study human behavior, one way or the other.”
Ethan glanced at his phone. “I’ve had a look at your DNA profile and the genealogy search you completed, and I interviewed your cousin. She had information about your father’s side of the family, but I’m not sure how useful that is. However, your DNA may prove critical if we uncover a lead. But again…”
Rachel finished her burger and nodded her head. “I know. I told you at the beginning of all this that what I needed was answers, closure. Even if I don’t get that, at least I know that I tried.”
“You also have to face several possibilities. He could be missing. He could be deceased. He could also be…” Ethan paused and grimaced.
“He could be alive all this time, but living another life with another family?”
Ethan nodded. “I’m not trying to be cruel, but that could be the reality you’re faced with.”
A flash of irritation jolted her, and she met Ethan’s intense gaze with her own.
“I’m aware of that, Ethan. I’ve had years to think this over and I still want the truth. One thing you need to know about me is I’m stubborn as hell. Once I’ve made my mind up, that’s it. Now, are you going to help me with this investigation or not?” Rachel’s tone hardened and she braced herself for his reaction.
One way or the other, she was going to continue her search.
Ethan calmly sat back and smiled, his face transforming. Then, just as quick as it came, it was gone. What a shame. She’d confess to just about anything to see that grin again.
“I’m ready when you are.”