Read Missing Online

Authors: Noelle Adams

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

Missing (6 page)

“Are you late for something?”

“Breakfast. I may not have time to go home and change now. I
always have breakfast with…” He trailed off, getting out of bed and grabbing
his pants from the floor.

Lynn was almost dressed now, but she paused to see if he’d
finish his sentence.

He didn’t.

Since he seemed distracted and was busy putting on his
clothes, she just grabbed her bag and said, “Thanks for last night. It was
great. I’ll see you a month from now.”

He paused in the middle of buttoning his shirt and smiled at
her. “Yeah. I’ll see you then. Thank
you
.”

He was working on his cufflinks as she slipped out of the
room.

Six

 

Nathan couldn’t believe he’d
overslept. He couldn’t believe he’d gone to sleep at all.

He usually woke up at dawn by habit and rarely relied on an
alarm. He’d never fallen asleep—except for a brief, very light doze between
rounds of sex—during the nights he’d spent with Lynn before, and he certainly
hadn’t intended to fall asleep last night.

So he felt rushed, flustered, and disoriented as he dressed
quickly and left the hotel, and he didn’t like to feel that way.

He wasn’t late for his breakfast with Victoria, but he
wouldn’t be able to get back to the apartment first to change and walk over to
the restaurant with her, the way he always had before. She'd never even known
he'd spent the night out.

But she would know this time, and he had no idea what to
tell her by way of explanation.

Maybe some parents could be honest with their children on
such subjects, but he simply couldn't tell his sixteen-year-old daughter that
he hadn’t slept at home because he’d had a night of sex with a woman he got together
with occasionally. Victoria wasn't stupid, though, and she wasn't naive. She
would suspect.

And he didn't know how she would react to it.

He called and told her she should head over to the
restaurant—which was across the street from their building—and he’d meet her
there. Because the conversation was so brief, he didn’t have to explain things
over the phone. From Victoria’s surprised tone, however, he knew she’d be
waiting for some sort of explanation when he saw her.

Nathan wasn’t yet sure what that would be.

He could just not give her an explanation, even when she
asked for one. He was an adult, and he didn’t necessarily have to justify his
actions to his child. He’d been trying for the last two years to never dismiss
any of her questions, though.

He could tell her he’d been working all night. It had
happened before. Or maybe that there was some sort of emergency with a client
and he’d had to go out very early in the morning, well before she was even
awake.

That was the most obvious explanation. That was the one he
should use.

As his chauffeured car drove him through the downtown
streets to the restaurant, he planned out a believable explanation.

He was angry with himself for being so foolish as to fall
asleep. It had made what was supposed to be simple and enjoyable suddenly
complicated. He was also troubled by the way he’d responded to her last
night—losing so much control.

His nights with Lynn were supposed to be without any strings
and to fit easily into his life. They weren't supposed to trouble him, and they
weren't supposed to complicate his relationship with Victoria.

The fact that both were true of the previous night made him
wonder if he should continue getting together with Lynn at all.

Sitting in the back of his car, he adjusted his cuffs and
thought about Lynn teasing him about his cufflinks. Then he thought about her
undressing him, about her ironically displeased expression as she’d untied his
shoes, about the way she looked when she straddled him and moved passionately
above him, about her arguing with him over the way a recent bestseller had
ended, about the way her mouth had felt all around him.

And he decided there
must
be a way to smooth over
things with Victoria and still get together with Lynn next month.

As the car neared the restaurant, he looked down at himself
to make sure he was presentable. While he felt like he was still covered with
sex and with Lynn—her feel, her taste, her smell—he was sure that it wasn’t
obvious to anyone else.  They’d only had sex once after they’d been in the
shower, and his clothes looked no worse for wear. His hair was a little
rumpled, but that wasn’t unusual.

He didn’t think Victoria would be able to tell he’d spent
most of the previous night fucking.

He arrived at the restaurant before she did, so he took his
place at their normal table and ordered much-needed coffee. When she arrived a
few minutes later with her bodyguard, she was wearing her school uniform and a
frown.

He stood up as she approached and leaned over to greet her
with a kiss on the cheek. He was grateful that she didn't pull away, the way
she did when she was unhappy with him, but she was still frowning when she sat
down.

“Sorry,” he murmured, taking a sip of coffee and trying to
remember the explanation about work that he’d carefully planned in the car ride
over here.

“I thought maybe you’d been called away in the middle of the
night for a work emergency,” Victoria said, her tone just a little sharp as she
looked at him. “But I can see now that wasn’t what happened.”

It was Nathan’s turn to frown. “What do you mean?”

Victoria rolled her eyes. “Dad, please. You’re wearing the
same thing you wore yesterday.”

To his deep annoyance, Nathan felt himself grow a little
warm. He didn't embarrass easily or often, but that was exactly how he suddenly
felt. He hadn't even thought about the obvious fact of his wearing the same
suit when he’d been assessing his appearance before. And, if he had, he would
have assumed that Victoria wouldn’t have noticed.

She continued, “I’m not a kid, you know.
Obviously
,
you spent the night with someone.” Her gray eyes weren't angry or accusatory.
They were bluntly matter-of-fact.

Nathan opened his mouth in an instinctive attempt to deny
the truth, since he was afraid she didn’t want to think about her father as
having any sort of sex life at all, but for some reason he couldn’t bring
himself to lie.

She rolled her eyes again. “I’m not going to throw a fit or
start screaming. It might be kind of
ick
for me to think about, but you
can have a girlfriend if you want.”

He didn’t have a girlfriend, but there was no way he was going
to explain the details of his arrangement with Lynn to his daughter. “I don’t
want to do anything that’s going to upset you.”

It was true. As much as he enjoyed the nights with Lynn, he
would give them up in an instant if he thought they would genuinely get in the
way of his relationship with Victoria.

He just couldn’t lose her too.

“I’m not upset.” She gave a little shrug, her dark hair
slipping forward over her shoulders. Then she slanted him an almost tentative
look. “Is it serious?”

He shook his head, able to tell her the truth in that at
least. He hadn’t told Elizabeth certain truths enough, and he wasn't going to
lose the opportunity to let Victoria know this for sure. “You and your sister
are the most important people in my life, the most important people in the
world. And that’s never going to change. All I want is for you to be happy.”

“I know.” She looked away, staring out the window with a
long sigh. “But I want you to be happy too, you know.”

“I am happy, Victoria,” Nathan said, his voice strangely
hoarse as the words touched him more than they should have. She was a typical
teenager, and she didn’t do very much emotional sharing with him under normal
circumstances. She’d never said anything like that to him before. “I am.”

She looked back at him, and her eyes were startlingly
mature, startlingly knowing. “I don’t really know if you are.”

***

Two weeks later, Nathan sat by the
fire in the common area of an exclusive ski lodge in Aspen.

He was trying to do get some work done on his laptop, and he
would have rather had the quiet and privacy of the sitting room in his suite.
But Victoria and her friends had wanted to hang out in the main area of the
lodge before dinner—no doubt so they could see and be seen—and so Nathan had
come with them.

He wanted to keep an eye on them, and he didn't want
Victoria to think he was being anti-social, as she'd taken to accusing him of.

They were five days into their ski vacation, and so far it
had gone quite well. By all appearances, Victoria and her friends had been
having a very good time. No one had been injured, and the girls hadn’t tried to
sneak out at night.

Nathan didn’t enjoy skiing as much as Victoria—and he
normally wouldn’t go out to the slopes every day. But her friends had evidently
decided that he was funny and interesting and much, much better than most
fathers (at least, that was what he’d overheard a few days ago) so he was
invited on more of their excursions than he'd expected.

Hanging out with teenage girls who communicated mainly by
giggling, mumbling, and rolling their eyes would not be on his list of favorite
things to do, but if Victoria asked him to come along, he went.

He’d said “no” to Elizabeth too many times.

At the moment, the girls were on the other side of the large
room, talking to each other and covertly eyeing a group of male college
students they’d been admiring all week. Nathan kept half an eye on them and
with the other tried to sort through some of the email that had been piling up.

He’d stayed up late each night trying to catch up on work,
but there was no way he could keep up with everything.

He was scanning over some recent articles that mentioned him
or his clients when he noticed a link to the
Cooler
, so he clicked on
it.

Lynn never pulled her punches, even though she was occasionally
having sex with him. If her magazine had something negative to report on him,
they would do it. But this particular article wasn’t bad, just an amusing
commentary on a fundraiser hosted by one of his clients.

The article wasn’t given a byline, so it had probably been
written by an intern or freelancer, but the writer had a crisp way with words
and surprisingly good instincts about politics.

Lynn hadn’t written it. He could recognize her writing
style, although she wrote a lot less than she used to. Idly, he clicked to the home
page and scanned the headlines. Then he clicked through to find Lynn’s weekly
column.

He looked for a minute at her face in the picture next to
the column and then he read through it, smiling at her sharp, witty tone and
no-holds-barred assessment of the House’s recent floor fight.

Two more weeks before another night with her.

His excitement over seeing Lynn again so soon made him a bit
nervous. It was probably just a physical response. His body tightened every
time he thought about her hands on him, her mouth on him, being buried in her
completely. And the way his thoughts kept drifting to her in other ways was
simply a consequence of his physical desire.

He’d gone a really long time without regular sex, and the
idea of having sex more frequently—particularly such intense and enjoyable sex
as he had with Lynn—was naturally gratifying and would probably distract him
until he got used to it.

The change would probably be a good one, however. Not just
because he enjoyed the sex but because the outlet Lynn provided, the release of
tension, would relax him and allow him to better focus on the things that were
most important to him.

Satisfied in this conclusion, he clicked off Lynn’s column.

Nathan looked back over at Victoria, who was smiling widely,
uninhibitedly, as she talked to her friends.

She was beautiful, and she looked happy.

He hoped more than anything that she was.

He’d lost Elizabeth, maybe forever. Victoria was all he had
left.

He couldn't lose her too.

He glanced down as a new email came in. He pulled it up when
he saw it was from Martin, who headed the investigation of Elizabeth’s
disappearance.

Martin never emailed unless there was news.

The email was short. It simply said, “We have a new lead on
Elizabeth. Call me at your earliest convenience.”

Seven

 

Lynn called goodnight to Matt as she
left her office for the evening. When she headed for the exit, she noticed that
Beth Broadview was still at the intern’s desk.

The girl never seemed to go home.

“You should take off,” Lynn said, pausing at the desk. “It’s
too late for you to still be here.”

“Oh no,” Beth said, looking up through her glasses with gray
eyes. “I’m fine. There’s plenty to do.”

“There’s always plenty to do, but that doesn't mean you have
to do it right now.” Lynn couldn’t help but smile, since Beth was doing exactly
what she’d done during her summer internships during college and then in the
year-long one she’d done in Nathan’s office—work herself to the bone in an
attempt to make herself indispensable. “You should go relax a little. Hang out
with friends or something.”

“I’ll just finish this up,” Beth said, looking back at her
screen, her slim shoulders a little stiff.

Lynn wondered then if Beth even
had
many friends. The
girl was very pleasant and polite, but she was also extremely reserved and
quiet. There was an air about her that was lofty—not arrogant exactly but more
dignified than college students usually presented themselves. Lynn found it a
nice change, but she imagined that young people of Beth’s age might find her
demeanor intimidating.

Maybe Beth stayed here so much because she didn’t have
anywhere else to be.

Feeling a pull of sympathy, Lynn said spontaneously, “You
don’t need to finish that up right now. If you’re not going to go home, you can
at least come and get some coffee with me.”

Beth looked surprised but also pleased, exactly as Lynn
would have been in her situation. “Really?”

Lynn liked the girl, although her main reason for the
invitation was that she was feeling restless and frustrated. She couldn’t
concentrate on work, but she didn’t want to go home yet, since all she’d do was
think about Nathan. “Sure. Why not? I like coffee.”

“Okay.” Beth gathered her things together, and Lynn was
almost touched by the way the girl seemed to vibrate with leashed excitement.

As they walked down together, Lynn asked her casually about
her classes. Evidently, Beth had loaded up on coursework during her first two
years of college, and she would have been able to graduate at the end of this
year had she not taken the internship.

“It will be worth it,” Lynn said. “The experience is
invaluable, and you’ve been doing a great job.”

“Thank you. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I wouldn’t
have been able to do one at all unless it was a paid internship like this. I
have to work to get through college. I mean, I’m on scholarship, but it doesn’t
cover everything, and I don’t want to take out loans if I can help it.”

“Student loans aren’t the end of the world, but if you can
avoid them, then all the better.”

They were heading for the coffee shop that was down the
block and across the street, and she and Beth navigated quickly through the
crowd of other pedestrians waiting to cross at the light.

“Are you from the city?” Lynn asked, when they’d gotten into
the coffee shop and they could hear each other again.

“No.” Beth stared up at the chalked list of coffee drinks on
the back wall above the counter. “We…I’m from a small town in the middle of
nowhere.”

“Really?” Lynn was genuinely surprised. “I lived in a small
town for several years growing up, and you definitely don’t seem like a small
town girl. You get around like you were born here.”

Beth gave a little shrug, still not meeting Lynn’s eyes.
“I’m adaptable, I guess.”

Lynn let Beth order, then ordered herself, and then paid for
both. When they’d found a seat in the corner, she said, “Does your family still
live there?”

Beth’s expression didn't really change, but something chilled
in her eyes.

Lynn suddenly wondered if she’d accidentally tread on
dangerous territory. Not everyone wanted to talk about their families.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m too nosy. You don’t have to tell
me about your family.”

“No,” Beth replied earnestly, sipping her mocha. “It’s okay.
It’s just my dad and my sister. My mom walked out on us when I was little.”

“I bet your dad is so proud of you,” Lynn said
companionably, wondering if the reason Beth seemed so far above other girls her
age was because she’d taken on responsibilities young that a lot of girls
wouldn’t have had.

Beth looked away quickly, and Lynn realized she’d made
another
faux pas
. This girl had more emotional landmines than she would
have expected.

Before Lynn could take the question back, Beth answered
softly, “I guess so. He wasn’t a big fan of publications like the
Cooler
.
He’d probably expect me to… Anyway, we don’t really talk anymore.”

She really should let the subject go, since it was obviously
a sensitive subject, but Lynn was both interested and sympathetic, and she
wanted to know more. “Why not?”

“I couldn’t…I couldn’t be who he wanted me to be.”

“That’s tough,” Lynn breathed, not really knowing how to
respond. “But I’m sure he loves you anyway.”

“I don’t know.” Beth was staring down at her coffee cup. She
gave a little shrug then, as if her father was a burden she had no choice but
to shrug away in order to keep on living.

“My parents weren’t perfect,” Lynn said after a long,
awkward pause. “There was a time when I’d barely talk to them at all. Parents
fuck up. Sometimes a lot. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.”

Beth gave another little shrug. “I hope so.”



I know it’s not my business, but you
should try to talk to him. I’m sure he misses you like crazy. What about your
sister?”

“I had to…to leave her too.”

Lynn had no idea about the details of the Broadview family
situation, but she could imagine. A narrow-minded, small-town man who wanted
his smart, pretty daughter to fall into the life he thought she should lead,
very likely involving getting married young and remaining in the same small
town for the rest of her life.

If Beth felt the need to get away from that, Lynn couldn't
blame her. Beth was an adult—although she looked about sixteen years old—and
she was capable of making her own decisions.

Lynn changed the subject to something innocuous, and Beth
was obviously relieved.

***

Much later than evening, Lynn turned
on the television as she got into bed.

She was tired, and she thought she might actually be able to
go to sleep tonight without getting wrapped up in thoughts about Nathan.

She would see him tomorrow. It would finally be the 24th.
The month was almost over.

She flipped to the local news, although it rarely told her
anything she didn’t already know. She liked to watch the late night news,
though—mostly to see how they were spinning the stories.

The first story was on another press conference that Nathan Livingston
had given earlier in the day. It wasn’t on anything important—something
connected to the Livingston Foundation, the charitable foundation his
grandfather had founded.

Lynn didn't listen to the words, since she’d heard most of
the sound-bites earlier in the day, but she stared at Nathan’s handsome face
and the lean power with which he held himself, and she wanted him viscerally.

She remembered giving him a blow job in the hotel shower
last month, how much he’d gotten into it. She thought about how he’d lost
control, how his face had looked when he came.

Then Lynn imagined coming to see him in his fancy office. Kneeling
down and undoing his pants, taking him in her mouth.

She imagined him losing control in his office. She imagined
the feel of his flesh in her mouth, the way his responses to her would turn her
on too. She imagined him coming hard, so hard he couldn’t keep quiet.

And then she imagined the softening of all the tension in
his body, the way he would relax, gasp in satisfaction, and let go of the
brutal hold he kept on the world. He would look down on her afterwards with the
same expression of shocked awe that he had in the shower last month, as if he
couldn’t believe she’d made him feel that way.

As if no one else could make him feel the way she could.

Lynn’s imaginings quickly spiraled out of control. With a
frustrated groan, she reached into the drawer of her nightstand to retrieve her
little vibrator—which she’d returned there after using and then cleaning it
last night.

It didn’t take her long to come. She collapsed limply on her
bed, feeling relaxed, but not satisfied.

Her craving for Nathan was simply physical, though, and the
orgasms should tide her over until tomorrow night.

She was perfectly happy with her life, and Nathan was the
epitome of an emotionally unavailable man.

She wasn't about to start thinking about this thing with him
as anything more than a physical release.

After a minute, she heaved herself up to clean the vibrator
and return it to the nightstand drawer.

When she’d gone to the bathroom, washed her face and hands,
and then returned to bed, she was still in time to watch the second fifteen
minutes of the local news.

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