Lost and found sisters, p.2
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.2

          

  “Wait, honey. There’s no need to make a hasty decision,” one of her new friends said. “What if he’s suitably employed, with no baggage?”

  “Impossible,” Dry Vagina said. “That’d be like finding a unicorn.”

  “Are you a unicorn?” the first woman asked him.

  Harry Potter looked at Quinn with more than a little desperation. “Can I please talk to you . . . alone?”

  “Not alone,” the first woman said. “That sounds like stranger danger. You can do your pickup-line magic right here, or better yet, do it online like the rest of the world.”

  The guy never took his gaze off Quinn. “You’re Quinn Weller, right?”

  Wait a minute. How did he know her name? “Okay,” she said. “You’re going to need to go first.”

  “I’m Cliff Porter,” he said. “I’m an attorney and I really need a word with you. Privately.”

  She stared at him, trying to come up with a reason why an attorney would be looking for her.

  “Porter or Potter?” Dry Vagina asked. “Because Potter would make more sense.”

  He looked pained. “I get that a lot, but it’s Porter.”

  “How do you know my name?” Quinn asked.

  “Look, can we just . . .” He gestured to a small table off to the side of the line.

  Torn between curiosity and a healthy sense of survival, Quinn hesitated. “I’ll be late for work.”

  “This will only take a minute.”

  Reluctantly, she stepped out of line and moved to the table. “You’ve got one minute.”

  He took a deep breath. “As I said, I’m an attorney. I located you through a mutual acquaintance.”

  “Who’s that?”

  “I’ll get to her in a minute. She let me know I could find you here in the mornings rather than scare you by tracking you down at your place of residence. I’m from Wildstone, a small town about two hundred miles north. I’m here to give you news of an inheritance. It’s important we talk about it because—”

  “I’ve never even heard of Wildstone,” Quinn said. “I certainly don’t know anyone from there.”

  He nodded like he knew this. “We’re a small coastal ranching town that sits in a bowl between the Pacific Coast and wine country. Maybe you should sit,” he said quietly, and also very kindly she had to admit. “Because the rest of this is going to be a surprise.”

  “I don’t like surprises,” she said, “and you have thirty seconds left.”

  It was clear from his expression that he wasn’t happy about having to go into the details in public, but as he was a stranger and maybe also a crackpot, too damn bad. He drew in a deep breath. “The person who left you this inheritance was your birth mother.”

  She stared at him and then slowly sank into the before-offered chair without looking, grateful it was right behind her. “You’re mistaken,” she finally managed, shaking her head. “I wasn’t adopted.”

  He gave her a wan smile. “I’m really sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but you were.”

  “I have parents,” she said. “Lucinda and James Weller.”

  “They adopted you when you were two days old.”

  The shock of that reverberated through her body. “No,” she whispered. Heart suddenly racing, palms clammy, she shook her head. “They would’ve told me. There’s absolutely no way . . .”

  “Again, I’m very sorry,” Cliff said quietly. “But it’s true. They adopted you from Carolyn Adams.” He pulled a picture from his briefcase and pushed it across the table toward her.

  And Quinn’s heart stopped. Because Carolyn was the woman she’d met here in this very coffee shop.

  Chapter 2

  My mom always said that right before she died she wanted to swallow a bunch of popcorn kernels to make her cremation more interesting. She totally would’ve done it too, if she’d gotten the heads-up that her number had been picked.

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

  Quinn found herself sitting on the curb outside the coffee shop, staring blindly at her Lexus, the car her parents had given her last year even though she’d wanted something less expensive.

  Her parents. Who might not really be her parents . . .

  “Here,” Cliff said, pushing a cup of cold water into her hands as he sat next to her. “Drink this.”

  She took the cup in two shaking hands and gulped down the water, wishing a little bit that it was vodka. “You’re mistaken,” she said again. “Carolyn was just a woman I met here. We spoke only a few times.”

  “Three.” Cliff gazed at her sympathetically. “She told me about the visits. She always came here instead of your condo or work because it was a social setting and she felt she could approach you here. She’d come to get a peek at you whenever she could, born from the desperate curiosity of a woman who had haunting regrets.”

  Quinn shook her head, unable to descramble her brain. “I don’t understand.”

  “She knew she was terminal,” he said. “She had every intention of telling you all of this herself, but she ran out of time. And what she left behind is important because—”

  “Wait.” Quinn closed her eyes, just now realizing what he was telling her.

  Carolyn was dead.

  Cliff took the cup of water from her before she could drop it. “The funeral was a few days ago,” he said quietly. “We really need to talk, Quinn. In Wildstone. There are things you don’t know that you need to.”

  Quinn let out a sound that might have been a mirthless laugh or a half sob, she wasn’t sure. She shook her head for what felt like the hundredth time in the past few minutes, but the cobwebby feeling didn’t clear.

  It couldn’t be true, any of it. Harry Potter here was just a stalker, a good one. Or maybe a scammer. She hated to think that the nice woman she’d known could be a part of some kind of con, but she simply couldn’t accept that her parents wouldn’t have told her she’d been adopted. “I don’t want any part of this.” She stood up and a wave of dizziness hit her.

  Cliff rose to his feet too and put his hand on her arm to steady her, looking at her with nothing but kindness and concern in his gaze. “Take my wand.”

  She focused in on him, expecting to see a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. “What?”

  “My card,” he said, the furrow between his brows deepening with concern. “Take my card. Think about it and give me a call tomorrow so we can talk about the inheritance. We really need to talk about the inheritance, Quinn.” He paused. “Are you going to be all right?”

  “Yeah. Sure,” she said and drove to work on autopilot, where she proceeded to spill things, plate the wrong entrées, make silly mistakes like using shallots instead of onions—

  “What the hell’s wrong with you?” Marcel demanded. “Get out of my kitchen until your head’s screwed on straight!”

  For once he was right. Her head was most definitely not screwed on straight.

  They adopted you when you were two days old . . .

  “Are you even listening to me?” Marcel yelled up at her. Up, because he was five feet two to her five feet seven, something that normally gave her great pleasure. “Du flittchen,” he muttered in disgust beneath his breath and the entire staff froze in the kitchen like deer in the headlights.

  Slut.

  Quinn set down her knife so she wasn’t tempted to run him through as she turned to him. “Schiebe ex,” she said, which meant “shove it.” It was the best she could do, at least in German. Pushing past him, she walked out of the kitchen.

  “Where are you going?” he screamed after her. “You can’t just leave!”

  But leaving was exactly what she was doing.

  Skye followed her outside. “Quinn? You okay? What’s going on?”

  “You’ve got to go back in there before he gets mad at you too,” Quinn said.

  Skye shrugged. “He was born mad. Talk to me.”

  So Quinn told her what had happened at the coffee shop, and Skye just stared at her. “Shut the front door.”

  “I’ve got to go. I need to talk to my parents,” Quinn said.

  “Uh, yeah you do.”

  From inside they could hear Marcel yelling for Skye, who squeezed Quinn’s hand. “Call me.”

  Quinn promised she would and gave her a quick hug. Then she headed toward her car, pulling out her cell phone to call her boss, Chef Wade.

  Chef Wade never wasted words. He answered with, “Talk.”

  “I need to leave early,” Quinn said. “I’m so sorry for the short notice, but there’s . . . an emergency. Marcel’s here. He’s got things under control.” By being a tyrannical asshole, but that was another story.

  “What’s wrong?” he asked, voice softening with concern, as he was a longtime friend of her parents.

  “Nothing I can’t handle,” she promised and hoped that was true. She disconnected and drove straight to her parents’ house.

  Her mom and dad were in the living room in front of their lit gas fireplace, sharing a drink. Yes, it was 3 P.M. in April in L.A., which meant the air conditioner was on full blast, but her mom liked her alcohol with ambience.

  “Darling,” her mom said, smiling as she stood in welcome. “Such a lovely surprise. Where’s Brock?”

  “I’m alone.” Quinn didn’t bother to address—for the thousandth time—that she didn’t spend nearly as much time with Brock as they seemed to hope. “I met someone today.”

  Her mom looked dismayed. “Other than Brock? But what will people think?”

  “Mom . . .” Quinn pressed her fingertips into her eye sockets to ward off an eye twitch. “I keep telling you, Brock and I aren’t together like that anymore.”

  “Right now you mean,” she said. “Right?”

  A conversation she didn’t have the strength for. “The man I met today had an interesting story to tell me.” Her breath caught. “He said that I’m adopted.”

  Twin looks of shock and guilt slid over her parents’ faces like matching masks and reality hit Quinn smack in the face. “Oh my God.” She staggered to the couch opposite them and sank to it, staring at them. “Oh my God, it’s not a story. It’s true.”

  At the awkward beat of utter silence, Quinn stood back up and headed straight to the kitchen. She needed alcohol or sugar, stat. Thank Toll House, she found some ready-made cookie dough in the fridge. Her mom didn’t bake. For that matter, neither did Quinn. She loved to cook and she was good at it, but for whatever reason, baking skills eluded her.

  She was stuffing spoonfuls of dough into her mouth when her parents—who were apparently not her parents at all—appeared in the doorway. It was the most disorienting thing she’d ever experienced, looking at them and realizing her life was forever changed, that the very foundation of her entire world had crumbled. “It’s day one of my new raw food diet,” she said inanely.

  Her parents exchanged a concerned look. “We need to talk,” her dad said solemnly.

  Little late for that . . .

  “Honey,” her mom said earnestly. Quinn turned to her hopefully.

  “If you eat that whole package, it’s the equivalent of forty-eight cookies.”

  Quinn blinked. “Are you kidding me?”

  Her dad sighed and leaned onto the island between them. He nudged the block of knives out of her reach and said, “We never expected you to find out.”

  “Okay,” she said, absorbing that with a nod. “Wow.” She scooped up the last of the dough.

  Her mom opened her mouth but nothing came out of it because Quinn jabbed a finger at her. Then she popped the last bite in, chewed, and licked her thumb before taking a deep breath. “Why?” she finally asked, suitably sugared up. “Why didn’t you just tell me? People are adopted all the time. What possible reason could you have for keeping it a secret?”

  “Because I wanted you to be mine,” her mom whispered, her eyes soft and, dammit, a little damp.

  Her dad slid an arm around her mom’s waist. “It wasn’t important to us how we got you,” he said. “We wanted a baby, and we couldn’t have our own.”

  Quinn sucked in a breath. “Beth,” she said through a throat blocked by what felt like a regulation football. “Was she adopted too?”

  Her mom shook her head. “No. We’d been trying for years before we were told we couldn’t have our own. So we set an adoption in motion. When you came along, we were so happy, just completely over the moon.” She stopped and drew a deep breath, as if reliving the joy. “But then the unbelievable happened. When you were four months old, I learned I was pregnant.” She put a hand to her chest. “I’m more grateful to Carolyn for you than you could ever know,” she said fiercely. “Because we were twice blessed. But . . .” She looked to Quinn’s dad.

  “But,” he continued on for her, “Carolyn signed a confidentiality agreement. We could sue her for discussing the adoption. She had no right.”

  “Too late,” Quinn said quietly. “She’s dead. And apparently she left me some sort of an inheritance.”

  “That doesn’t make any sense,” her mom said. “She had nothing of worth to speak of.”

  “I was so shocked I didn’t ask for details,” Quinn said. Details Cliff had tried to give her. She hugged herself, feeling a little sick from the dough.

  Or her life. “So . . . were you sorry you’d adopted me once Beth came along?” she asked.

  “Oh my God, no.” Her mom came around the island and took Quinn’s hands in her own. “No,” she said again more firmly. “It was a happy accident. The truth is, we didn’t want to take away from either of you, so we just kept it quiet. It didn’t matter to us, and I know this is asking a lot, but I wish it wouldn’t matter to you.”

  Her dad nodded his agreement on that.

  But Quinn didn’t know how to make it not matter. She didn’t know what to feel, not about the adoption, the devastating betrayal, or the fact that she and Beth had never been sisters at all. She let out a breath and took a step away from them. “I need to think.”

  “It doesn’t matter,” her mom said. “None of this matters.”

  “Mom, how can you say that?”

  “Because we love you. Maybe we were wrong to not have told you about being adopted, and I’m sorry you found out in such a shocking manner, but we’ve never thought of you as anything but a real daughter. Ever.”

  This brought a huge lump to Quinn’s throat so all she could do was nod.

  “Now,” her mom said, tears shimmering brilliantly in her own eyes as well as she patted Quinn on the arm. “Let’s just look forward, to you marrying Brock and getting on with your lovely life.”

  Quinn closed her eyes. “I’m not getting married to Brock. And even if I wanted to, how could I?” she asked. “I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

  “Okay,” her dad said. “That seems a little dramatic.”

  Quinn let out a low laugh. “You’re right. It is. And now I’m going to take my dramatic ass home. I need some time.”

  “Time?” Her mom exchanged another worried look with her dad. “But you’re still coming over next weekend for dinner, right? Say Saturday night . . . seven o’clock? On the dot? And you’ll text me once you get here, before you come in?”

  Quinn had gotten to the door. She turned around to find them standing in the same position at the island, looking shocked at her unusual temper tantrum. “Let me get this straight. You can’t keep my surprise party a secret, but you were able to keep my adoption one?”

  Her mom bit her lower lip. “I don’t know what you mean about a surprise party.”

  With another low, mirthless laugh, Quinn walked out. She drove home to the quiet little condo she was mortgaged to the eyeballs for and stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. She was in shock. And adrift. And . . . sad. Angry too . . . and so much more.

  It was shocking for more than one reason, not the least of which was that she felt more emotion right this minute than she’d felt in two years.

  She’d meant it when she’d told Cliff that she didn’t want
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