Read Missing Online

Authors: Noelle Adams

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction

Missing

Missing

 

Noelle Adams

 

This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Noelle Adams. All rights reserved, including the
right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

 

One

 

“Nathan Livingston is sex on a bun.”

Lynn Madison dutifully scrawled the words “sex on a bun”
into her little reporter’s notebook and tried not to laugh.

The middle-aged woman selling coffee from a sidewalk cart stared
across the street to the square, toward the press conference Lynn was covering.
“But you can tell he’s a family man at heart.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Well, he could have been the President by now, like his
dad, but instead he pulled out of politics so he could take care of his girls after
his wife left him.”

Lynn jotted down a couple of notes. “I wouldn’t say he
pulled out of politics. He makes a fortune as a political consultant. People
pay exorbitant amounts for even just an hour of his time and advice.”

“Yeah, but that’s different,” the woman said. “He has to work
behind the scenes now. He was born into American royalty, but he stepped down
for his daughters.”

Glancing over her shoulder, Lynn focused in on Nathan
Livingston, standing in front of a bank of microphones and looking as handsome
and confident as a movie star.

He was born to be a politician. His grandfather had served
in the Senate for forty years. His father had been a two-term president. His
uncle was currently the governor of Virginia.

Lynn had actually been an intern in Nathan’s office the year
after she graduated from college. Ten years ago now, when he’d had his
short-lived career in Congress.

She had to agree with the woman’s earlier assessment. He
might not be sex on a bun, but he was definitely sex in a three-thousand-dollar
suit.

She had good reason to know. For the last two years, Lynn
had been spending one hot night with him every three months.

“What do you think of his project?” she asked, turning back
to the woman, trying not to think about the next time she’d get together with
Nathan.

“What project?”

 “The urban redevelopment project. The one he’s talking
about at the press conference.”

“Oh. I didn’t pay any attention to that.”

Lynn smothered another laugh and jotted a final note.

“I love your top,” the woman said. “Where did you get it?”

Lynn glanced down at the pale blue silk blouse she wore. “At
a flea market. I think it belonged to someone’s grandmother.”

“Oh, no. It doesn’t look old-fashioned at all. I wish I
could make clothes like that work.”

Lynn was ridiculously pleased by the compliment. She had a
weakness for vintage blouses and accessories, so she scoured thrift stores and
flea markets religiously. She thought she pulled them together pretty well so
they looked stylish rather than outdated, but it was nice to have affirmation
from a stranger.

She thanked the woman for talking to her and then scouted her
surroundings for someone else she could interview.

As the editor of the successful web magazine she and her
ex-husband had founded eight years ago, she didn’t usually write stories as
minor as this one herself. The press conference had been last-minute, however,
and no one else was available to cover it.

She noticed a guy selling knock-off designer purses down the
block who didn’t look busy, so she went to talk to him.

She managed to get a good quote from him too. “Livingston
fakes it better than any other son of a bitch I know.”

Then she figured she had enough for a short article, so she
just stood at the edge of the square and watched Nathan Livingston control the
crowd, control the story, control the world.

Even from a distance, he exuded strength and authority. His
charisma was solid rather than slick.

She couldn’t help but feel a surge of pleased entitlement at
the secret knowledge that she got to have sex with this man. Not very often,
but still…

Lynn didn’t always agree with his politics, but she had no
doubt that the coffee-woman was right. He could have been President. He could
have been anything he wanted.

***

Back in her office, Lynn took
fifteen minutes to draft the article.

She made sure to play up the humor and irony while still
being fair to Nathan and his project. Their web magazine had established a
niche for itself in the very crowded D.C. market by taking a different slant on
politics.

They reported all the big news, but their focus was on the
“little guys”—how the people on the periphery felt about major happenings and
how it affected them.

 Lynn was well aware that the
Cooler
was read more
for entertainment than for “hard” news, but she didn’t care. They were successful,
they did good work, and they’d managed to avoid the stigma of tabloid for the
most part.

She was finishing the story when Matt stuck his head in her
office. “You got a minute?”

“Uh oh,” she said, when she saw his expression. “If you’re
going to tell me we lost another advertiser, I’m going to hit something.”

She and Matt had started the
Cooler
together, back
when they’d been married. He handled the business side, and she handled the
news side. They’d gotten divorced four years ago, but Lynn still counted him as
one of her best friends.

“Nothing that bad,” he replied, casually dumping a pile of
papers out of a chair and onto the floor so he could sit down.  “Monica
Chastain turned us down for the internship position, so we’ll have to go with
our second choice.”

“Damn,” Lynn muttered. “She thought weren’t respectable
enough, didn’t she?”

Matt just gave her a half-grin.

Lynn scowled at her ex-husband. His dark hair was too long,
as usual, and starting to hang over his eyes. His brown eyes were always
laughing. While she was still very fond of him, his constantly laidback
attitude about everything was one of the things that had driven her crazy
during their marriage.

She understood that avoiding stress was good, but some
things—like her feelings, like their relationship—had been genuinely important,
and they should have been taken seriously.

She’d never really felt like Matt had.

Moving a pile of files toward the middle of her desk, Lynn
made room for herself to lean against the edge. “So who’s next on the list?”

Matt looked down at the piece of paper he’d brought with
him, which Lynn could now see was a résumé. “Beth Broadview was our second
choice. Junior at George Washington. Good experience. Fluent in three
languages.”

“Oh yeah. I remember her. She was a great writer, but she
seemed so young to me that I thought Monica would be a better fit.” She thought
back to the reserved, dark-haired girl she’d interviewed three weeks ago who
had looked about sixteen years old. “She’ll be good. Let’s offer it to her. She
better not turn us down.”

“Let’s hope she doesn’t. I’d hate to see you unleash your
wrath on the poor, innocent thing.” He stood up, taking a step until he was a
little too close to her. “You’re looking very good today, by the way.”

She smiled at the familiar huskiness in his tone. “It’s a
new top.”

Matt’s brown eyes lingered on the way the silk of her blouse
clung to the curve of her breasts. “It’s a
very
nice top.”

She laughed and put a hand on his chest, pushing him back a
bit. “Don’t get any ideas. You always get horny in the spring, but we’ve
managed to go two years now without any slip-ups, and I’d like to keep it that
way.”

One of the consequences of working closely with an
attractive man you were amicably divorced from was—when neither was seeing anyone
else—it was easy to have “slip-ups.” They’d enjoyed having sex with each other
for many years, and it was tempting to let that continue, even after the
marriage had ended.

Three years ago, they’d even tried a covert reconciliation
for a couple of months, but it hadn't worked. Lynn had come to realize that
things worked more smoothly between her and Matt when they didn’t let sex muddy
the waters.

“Are you sure?” he asked, giving her his most appealing
smile. “It’s been a while since you’ve gone out with anyone. The timing might
be good for both of us.”

“Uh huh.” She was unable to resist smiling back, although
she kept her hand on his chest to hold him away. “I’m doing just fine without
dating.”

Matt left her office, good-natured and resigned, as Lynn
sank into her desk chair and stared at her reflection in her computer screen,
which had gone dark from inactivity.

There wasn't much she wanted to change about her life, but
it would be nice to have more sex. She went out on first and second dates
fairly regularly, but it had been more than a year since she’d dated anyone longer
than that.

It had been eighty-three days since she’d last had sex. At
the moment, she was just as horny as her ex-husband.

But Matt wasn't who she fantasized about when she closed her
eyes at night.

Lynn pulled up her calendar and stared at today's date. Six
more days until the 24th. Six more days until she would have sex again.

Sex with Nathan Livingston was better than any sex she’d had
in her life.

And it wasn’t long until she would see him again.

Two

 

Nathan Livingston took a sip of rich
French roast and stared across the table at the sulky face of his
sixteen-year-old daughter.

“Everyone else will be going,” Victoria said, letting her
long, dark hair hang over her eyes in a way that drove him crazy because it hid
her expression from him.

“I know everyone else will be going, but you’re not everyone
else.”

Victoria’s stuck her chin out and stared down at her barely
touched Belgian waffle. “I hate being a Livingston.”

Nathan took a deep breath and released it, ignoring the
tightening in his chest. He wasn’t cut out to be a good father, certainly not a
single father to daughters. Teenage girls were like alien creatures to him—they
didn’t seem to function in rational ways.

But he’d failed utterly with Elizabeth, his oldest daughter.
He wasn’t going to fail with Victoria too. It was one of the reasons he’d
started having breakfast with her at this restaurant every weekday.

“There are a lot of things about being a Livingston that I
don’t like either,” he murmured, making sure not to convey either frustration
or reproach in his tone. “But I’d rather have my freedom limited a little than
be kidnapped. Or dead.”

Victoria gave a shaky sigh and sipped her coffee, still not
meeting his eyes. She’d started drinking coffee with breakfast when she was
twelve, which Nathan thought was absurdly young. Once Elizabeth had decided she
was a coffee connoisseur, however, Victoria hadn't been far behind.

He studied his daughter, thinking she was beautiful with her
delicate features, clear skin, and gray eyes. Yes, her expression was set in a
perpetual frown, and she always drooped her shoulders and hung her head, but he
assumed she’d grow out of the teenage angst eventually.

When her phone chirped with a ridiculously perky ringtone,
she grabbed it from her bag and texted back whomever had sent her a message.

He wondered if it was a boy.

He knew there were boys she hung out with, although she’d
never admitted it to him. Since his security followed her everywhere, he would
know if she went out on real dates with someone. She didn’t.

Teenagers seemed to hang out in herds most of the time, though,
and he couldn’t know what kinds of relationships she cultivated in such groups.

She might have already started having sex. She certainly
wouldn't have told him.

When his fist tightened around his coffee cup, he took
another long breath and made himself relax. He couldn’t control her—even just
to protect her. He’d learned that lesson too well.

“Did you want to go somewhere for your Spring Break?” he
asked, when the texted conversation with the unseen other seemed to have waned.
“I can take some time off. We can go skiing if you want.”

Victoria had always loved to ski.

Her eyes darted up, giving him hope that she might be amenable
to the suggestion. Then her eyes dropped to her waffle again. “I don’t know.”

“You can bring a friend if you want.”

Her eyes darted up once more. “Can I bring two?”

“Of course.”

“Okay,” she mumbled. “I’ll ask them.”

“We could go to Aspen. Or maybe somewhere in Canada?”

“Aspen is good,” she said, almost smiling. “Can we stay the
whole week?”

Nathan was so grateful his daughter sounded interested in
the possibility of doing something with him that he would cancel every meeting
he had scheduled for the week of her school break. “Yes. Let me know what your
friends say, and I’ll make the arrangements.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

He barely heard the last word, but he was almost positive it
had been thanks.

“Aren’t you going to finish your breakfast?” he asked.

“I’m not hungry.”

She was naturally thin, but Nathan was pretty sure she was
healthy, so he managed not to demand she eat more breakfast.

After another minute, he glanced at his watch. “I guess you
better get to school.”

“Yeah,” she said, taking one last sip of coffee and slinging
her bag over her shoulder as she stood up. She wore the khaki knee-length skirt
and emblazoned navy blazer of her school uniform. “I’ll see you tonight.”

Nathan stood up too and leaned over to kiss her on the
cheek. “Have a good day. I love you.” He was naturally a reserved person, and
his own family had never openly spoken or displayed affection. It wasn’t easy
for him to say the words—even after all these years, even to his daughter—but
he made himself tell her every day.

He hadn't told Elizabeth enough.

She mumbled out something that might have been, “I love you
too,” and then hurried outside, followed by two bodyguards, to where the
chauffeured car waited on the curb to take her to school.

The Secret Service still protected his father, but Nathan
had never been particularly worried about his own safety. Then, when Elizabeth
had been two, some crazed woman had tried to kidnap her.

After that, Nathan refused to take any risks with his family’s
safety.

He watched until the car was out of sight from his seat next
to the window of the upscale restaurant. Then he gestured a server over to
clear Victoria’s place and to pour him more coffee.

He pulled out his tablet and culled through email for
fifteen minutes until a middle-aged man in a corduroy sports coat came over and
sat down in the seat Victoria had vacated.

“Good morning, Mr. Livingston,” the man said.

“Martin.” Nathan put his phone away and leaned back in his
chair. “How are you?”

“Just fine.”

Nathan studied the man’s grizzled face and let out a
resigned breath. “No news?”

“No, sir,” Martin said, looking professional and
matter-of-fact. “Still no sign of her.”

“You couldn’t trace the last card? It was postmarked from
L.A. two weeks ago.”

“We traced it to the post office where it was sent, but it’s
just a regular drugstore birthday card. That’s as far as we could get. I
promise you, sir, if she was using her own name anywhere in the United States,
we would have found her for you.”

Nathan closed his eyes momentarily. Then he turned his head
and stared out the window onto the crowded city street.

Two years ago, when Elizabeth was seventeen, she had run
away, disappeared completely.

Two years later, Nathan had still not been able to find her.

The deepest wound of his life.

He would have been afraid she was dead, but they’d received
four cards from her over the two years—two on his birthday and two on
Victoria’s. They were each sent from different places in the country, and they
all said she was sorry.

How a teenager had managed to hide so completely was still a
mystery to Nathan.

Why she’d run away from him wasn’t.

When Ariana, his ex-wife, had left him for an Italian
millionaire, Nathan had rearranged his entire life to take care of the girls,
giving up the political career he’d just begun. The world thought this was
proof that he was a perfect father.

He wasn’t.

For so long, he’d been the kind of parent his father had
been to him. While he was still married, he and the girls would have fun when
they spent time together, which wasn’t very often, and most of the hands-on
work was left to nannies and exclusive private schools.

When he’d become a single father, he’d suddenly been hit
with the weight of responsibility, so the time he spent with them—which still
wasn’t very much—was no longer fun. He relied even more on the girls’ nannies
and schools to do everything he didn’t know how to do.

The times he did get involved in their lives, he’d done
everything wrong.

Victoria, three years younger, hadn’t been so challenging
for him, but Elizabeth had borne the brunt of his failure in fatherhood.

Her running away was his fault. He knew it with every cell
of his body. But he desperately wanted her back.

He talked to Martin for a few more minutes, discussing some
other possible avenues of investigation. He met with the private investigator
every week to get a progress report, but it was mostly to ensure that his
daughter remained at the top of the agency’s priority list.

For the entire first month after she’d run away, Nathan had
been obsessed with finding her, putting aside everything else in his world in
his desperation to locate his daughter, but that couldn’t last.

He had another daughter, and he had to live his life.

He was doing everything he could do now, but Elizabeth
obviously didn’t want to be found.

When Martin left, Nathan sat at his table for a few more
minutes, finishing his coffee and thinking about Elizabeth.

Being a better father now took up all of the time and
emotional energy he didn't put into work, so he’d given up on romance. Even sex
had gotten rather boring and artificial to him—so most of the time he hadn’t
found it worth the trouble.

But that had changed two years ago on the 24th of the month.

He glanced at the date on his watch. Five more days until
the 24th of
this
month.

His body tightened automatically—in anticipation. He was just
past forty, and he hadn’t had sex in eighty-four days.

He needed the release, a temporary escape, a night of
intense pleasure, completely cut off from the rest of his world.

He tried to remind himself that Lynn might not be there.
They never made promises. They always left themselves an out.

She might be dating someone else by now. She might have
fallen in love in the last three months.

She might not show up in their hotel room five days from
now, in which case he would simply have to deal with it.

But he
hoped
she would be there. Sex with Lynn was
better than any sex Nathan had ever had in his life.

And he’d been missing it.

Other books

Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem
The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken
Fast Connection (Cyberlove #2) by Megan Erickson, Santino Hassell
When Love Awaits by Johanna Lindsey
Sunflower by Gyula Krudy
Fire and Ice by Christer, J. E.
All the Rage by A. L Kennedy
The Ashes of Longbourn by Schertz, Melanie