Lost and found sisters, p.17
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.17

           Jill Shalvis

  Chapter 17

  Mom used to tell me not to worry when people didn’t get me—people throw rocks at things that shine.

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  On Saturday night, Quinn walked in on her own surprise party. She blamed herself really. For one thing she’d been trying not to remember today was the day she turned thirty. And for another, she’d forgotten what her mom was up to and she’d been tricky enough to call Quinn at the last minute and ask to borrow her blender.

  Quinn tried to be gracious as she made the rounds, tried not to look into the faces of her parents’ friends and wonder how many of them knew she’d been adopted. It wasn’t healthy, but that didn’t stop her. She finally managed to escape to the kitchen, where she went straight to the fridge but . . . no cookie dough.


  Skye—who moonlighted as a most excellent caterer—came into the room carrying trays. “Hey, birthday girl. How’s it going?” She slapped Quinn’s hand from rearranging the serving platters of hors d’oeuvres. “And stop that. You’re not working tonight. Where’s Brock?”


  “And Mick?” Skye asked. “Anything more from sexy Mick?”

  When Quinn didn’t answer, Skye bumped her hip to hers. “Oh, come on. I’ve got zero men and zero prospects. I’ve gotta live vicariously through your thrilling life with two hot men.”

  Quinn let out a long breath. “You’d be vastly disappointed to know I’ve messed everything up.”

  “Okay, I get that, but you know what? You can also un-mess it up.”

  Quinn nodded and then shook her head.

  Skye nodded. “You can, Q.”

  “It’s not that easy.”

  “Well of course not,” Skye said. “Or I’d have two hot men too.”

  Quinn sighed. “I need outta here.”

  “Not going to happen. Your mom’s got eyes on the exits.”

  “Please let me help you,” Quinn begged. “I desperately need something to do other than think.”

  Skye looked around them dramatically, like she was about to reveal a state secret. “Okay, listen. I’m going back out there, but I didn’t plate the smoked-paprika deviled eggs yet. So if they were to be magically done by the egg fairy while I was gone, I’d be ever so grateful.”

  Quinn was the grateful one and she jumped on the chance to work alone in the kitchen. She messed around with her plating technique, popped a deviled egg into her mouth, and let Skye’s words of wisdom replay in her head.

  You can un-mess it up . . .

  Skye was right, so she ate another egg, pulled out her phone, and texted Mick.


  So what do you do when you’re not rescuing crazy women in a B & B?


  Right now I’m doing some research on purchasing a B & B before it goes under.


  Because . . .?


  Because it’s a cool old building, and also it’s rumored there’s a really great ghost living there.


  You’re buying the Wild West B & B?


  Thinking about it. Now you.


  Aren’t you supposed to ask what I’m wearing, not what I’m doing?


  I stand corrected. What are you wearing? In detail, please.


  Subject change. Tell me something else about you.


  I’m wearing a T-shirt and jeans, that’s it.




  It’s laundry day.

  She was laughing when her phone buzzed again, a call this time, just as her mom came into the kitchen.

  “Quinn, honey, get off your phone. Come enjoy the party, people are expecting to see you.”

  But Quinn was looking at her screen. Cliff. Why was Cliff calling?

  “Sorry to bother you,” he said when she answered, “but we’ve got a problem. Tilly’s run away.”

  Chapter 18

  There are people my age competing at the Olympics and I still try to enter Walmart through the exit-only door.

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  Quinn’s first reaction at Cliff’s phone call was guilt. Leaving Wildstone was one thing. But leaving Tilly in a situation she hadn’t felt good about was another.

  And she’d left anyway.

  Try as she might, Quinn couldn’t shake the image of the defiant look Tilly had flashed her the last time she’d seen her.

  She’d been letting her emotions rule. That’s what fifteen-year-olds did.

  Quinn should’ve ignored the bad attitude and stood her ground. Instead she’d thought only of her comfortable, easy life here, where she had people who loved and cared about her and no real difficult decisions to face.

  Having no idea how she could possibly help, only knowing that she had to try, she grabbed her purse to head out.

  “Where are you going?” her mom asked.

  “Tilly’s run away. I have to go see if I can help.”

  “Oh no,” her mom breathed. “Have you tried calling her?”

  “For days. She’s not really on the Quinn train right now.”

  Her mom nodded. “Teenagers aren’t ever on the adulting train.”

  Quinn met her gaze, remembering all the times she’d freaked out and worried her parents when she’d been fifteen. “I have the sudden urge to say I’m sorry to you. For everything.”

  Her mom smiled and patted her on the cheek. “And someday Tilly will do the same. But you won’t need to hear it because you’ll already know she’s sorry.”

  Quinn felt her heart squeeze with love, regret . . . “Mom.”

  She smiled. “Go. Drive safe, it’s late and you’ve got three hours on the road ahead of you.”

  “I’ll be okay.” She wasn’t happy with some of the decisions she’d made. She couldn’t change that, but she sure as hell could change how she did things going forward. Staying here and letting other people worry about Tilly would add a layer of shame she didn’t want to face. It was time to grow up, without the safety net.

  Chef Wade came into the kitchen behind her mom, who’d invited him. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

  “I’m sorry,” Quinn said. “I know I just asked for time off but I have to go back to Wildstone.”

  Wade looked torn. He exchanged a look with her mom before saying, “It’s okay, Quinn. It’s not a problem.”

  Quinn hesitated, dividing a glance between them. “Okay, what am I missing?”

  “Nothing,” her mom said.

  Quinn looked at Wade.

  Who sighed. “Your mother and I disagree on employee management.”

  Quinn blinked. “No disrespect intended, but what does it matter what my mom thinks on this subject?”

  “Because she and your dad are my silent partners. They own half the restaurant.” He looked at Quinn, whose mouth had fallen open in shock. “You didn’t know?” He watched as she turned to her mom in shock. “You didn’t know,” he murmured. “Christ. I’m sorry.”

  “No,” Quinn said with what she hoped was admirable patience. “Don’t be sorry. This is something I should’ve known, say back when I clearly got the job because of it.” Mortified, and too emotional to even ask if she had any real cooking talent at all, she turned to go.

  “Quinn,” her mom said.

  Quinn whipped back around. Wade had slipped out to give them privacy and her mom stood there wringing her hands. “Are you kidding me?” Quinn asked.

  “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

  Quinn tossed up her hands and headed to the door.

  “Please don’t go like this. We need to talk about it.”

  “This problem is going to have to get in line,” Quinn said grimly and walked out. She went straight to her condo, quickly packed a bag, and then hit the highway.

ON A WHIM, Tilly went to Dylan’s mom’s house first. When she answered the door, she told Tilly that Dylan had just left.

  Tilly’s gaze strayed to the woman’s fat lip.

  “Not Dylan’s doing,” she said softly, tears in her voice.

  Which meant that Dylan’s dad had been here and there’d been another fight. Tilly froze, remembering what Dylan had promised the last time—that he’d kill the guy if he laid another finger on his mom.

  Panic nearly choked her.

  Ten minutes later she was on a bus heading toward Dylan’s dad’s house, the address written on a piece of paper clutched in her hand. Half an hour later, she stood in front of a small ranch house. It was run-down, but there was a lot of acreage. She could smell cattle and heard mooing off in the distance.

  The house wasn’t close to any others, which didn’t feel like a good thing. She could hear yelling from inside, and then the sounds of something crashing and breaking, and she ran to the front door.

  It was locked.

  Heart racing, she pounded on it. “Dylan!”

  No answer. But she could still hear shouting inside, so she hurried around the side of the house to the back. There was a patio and a slider, which slid right open under her hand. She stepped into a living room, lit only by the spill of lights from a bedroom down the hall, from which the sounds of a fight drew her.

  Heart lodged in her throat, she looked around for something to protect herself with. Nothing. She glanced down at her hands and realized she was still clutching the soda bottle she’d bought while waiting for her bus.

  The hallway ended all too fast and then she stood in the doorway of a bedroom. Dylan was in the corner, down like he’d just fallen, blood coming from his nose and mouth, one eye swollen nearly shut, shirt ripped, watching a man twice his size come at him.

  Chapter 19

  Having plans sounds like a good idea—until you have to put on clothes and leave your house.

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  It was midnight by the time Quinn arrived in Wildstone. The café was closed, but by some miracle, Greta and Trinee were inside, planning menus for the following week. They were relieved to see her. Cliff had called them looking for Tilly, and unable to sleep, they’d come here.

  “Neither of us has seen her for several days,” Greta said worriedly.

  Not good.

  Quinn tried Chuck’s house next. He took a while to answer the door and when he did, he looked sheepish and upset.

  “I have no idea where she went,” he said. “She told me she wanted to go to the movies and I said no way. I feel asleep on the couch and when I woke up, she was gone.”

  “And she wasn’t at the movies?”

  “No,” he said. “When I woke up and found her gone, I went to the movie theater. She wasn’t there.”

  “Where else would she go?” she asked.

  He shrugged. “She’s a good kid. She’s never done anything like this.”

  “She was staying with you by choice,” Quinn said. “Why would she leave?”

  His gaze skittered away. “I don’t know.”

  Quinn didn’t believe him, but there was nothing she could do about that. She left and went to Cliff’s office, somehow not surprised to see him through the window, at his desk, head bent to his laptop, thick-rimmed glasses slipping down his nose as he pecked at the keyboard. When she knocked at the locked door, he pushed his glasses back high on his nose and came to the door.

  “Quinn,” he said in his usual unflappable manner. “You drove up. And quickly.” He gestured her in. “Can I get you anything?”

  “An arrest warrant for Chuck.”

  Okay, that flapped him. “For what?”

  “For being a dumbass who didn’t keep track of my sister.”

  They stared at each other, Cliff thinking God knew what, Quinn a little shocked at the emotions barreling through her. “What are my rights when it comes to Tilly?” she asked.

  “None,” Cliff said. “Unless you were to take guardianship. Which, honestly, I think Chuck would be fine with.”

  Was she ready for that step? Hell no, but that wasn’t what stopped her. What did was Tilly and her wishes.

  The kid had lived fifteen years without knowing of Quinn’s existence. Her dad had long ago walked, she’d lost her mom, she’d had to move in with a neighbor and in the process had lost a good part of her childhood to circumstances. Quinn refused to force her into a guardianship she wouldn’t want. “I can’t,” she said quietly.

  Cliff looked at her for a long beat and then turned to his drawer, pulling out a sealed envelope. “It’s a letter from Carolyn.”

  “To me?”


  “Why now?” Quinn asked, taking the envelope but not opening it.

  “It was your mom’s instructions to give this to you if you showed no interest in staying here in Wildstone to form a relationship with Tilly.”

  Quinn stared down at the envelope, irritation overcoming her. This felt an awful lot like manipulation, and she’d had just about enough of that for a lifetime, thank you very much. She shoved the envelope in her purse for later. “We need to call the police.”

  “Already done,” Cliff said. “Our local sheriff knows the situation and he’s got an eye out. But at the moment, it appears that she told her caretaker she was going to the movies, and being that she’s fifteen, probably ended up at a party she wasn’t supposed to attend. Teens are prone to meltdowns, Tilly included, so as hard as it is to hear this, no one is especially alarmed. Especially since she’s only been missing a matter of hours.”

  Quinn drove to the B & B and checked in. She could’ve stayed at Carolyn’s house, but she didn’t feel right about doing that without Tilly’s permission, as it was far more her house than Quinn’s.

  By this time it was one in the morning and, stick a fork in her, she was done. A few hours of sleep, she told herself, and then she’d get back out there and retrace Tilly’s steps.

  But instead of undressing and climbing in bed, she stood in the
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