Read Missing Online

Authors: Noelle Adams

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

Missing (9 page)

Thirteen

 

“All right. It’s time to spill.”

Lynn glanced up from her computer at the sound of Matt’s
voice in the doorway of her office. She’d been trying to go through the email
that had come in last night as quickly as she could, and she was only on her
second cup of coffee. “Huh?” she asked, blinking in initial confusion.

When she figured out he wanted her to tell him something, she
quipped, “The coffee is hot. I’d rather not spill it.”

Matt came in and slouched into a chair in front of her desk,
holding his own coffee and grinning in a way that used to make her knees weak.

When he didn’t follow up on his initial comment, she prompted,
“Spill what?”

“Who’s the guy?”

Caught completely off guard by the question, Lynn felt her
cheeks warming. She managed to keep her expression neutral and arch her
eyebrows coolly. “What guy?”

“Don’t be coy. For the last month, you’ve been taking
private phone calls, running off without explanation a few evenings every week,
and nearly humming with that I’ve-got-a-secret excitement.” Lynn started to
object, but Matt pressed on. “Don’t lie to me. I know you. Remember? Either
you’ve been dating someone very discreetly or you’ve been plotting a
coup
d'état
.”

Lynn couldn’t help but chuckle, although her heart was now
hammering. To stall so she could think of a response, she said, “I give up. You
caught me. I’ve been trying to rally support to overthrow the President and set
myself up as the new political power in the country.”

Matt smiled, but he wasn’t distracted. “So who is he?”

With a sigh, she admitted, “I
am
seeing someone, but
we’ve been keeping it discreet for a reason. I can’t tell you, Matt.”

“You can—”

“I
can’t
. I don’t even know what’s happening with
this…this thing. But I promise I will tell you if it ever gets to the point of
being appropriate.”

Matt looks frustrated and impatient, but to her relief he
didn’t argue. After a moment, he met her eyes. “I’d keep your secrets like my
own.”

“I know you would.” She was oddly touched by the
declaration, so unlike the ever-laidback Matt. “Thank you.”

The ringing of her phone startled her, and she picked it up
to see Nathan’s private number flashing on the screen. “I’ve got to take this.”

He got up and turned to leave with a friendly wave.

Watching his lean back and already wrinkled shirt as he
walked out of her office, Lynn connected the call and said, “Hey.”

“Good morning,” Nathan said. His voice was very warm, and it
made her smile.

 “Ah,” Matt said, turning around with a grin in the doorway.
“Your co-conspirator in the
coup d'état
?”

Lynn was surprised into a laugh. “Get out of here, Matt! And
can you shut the door behind you?”

Matt made a playful shushing motion and said in a stage
whisper, as if he might be overheard, “I’ll come back later to check for bugs.”

Lynn laughed again, feeling generally pleased with life, and
waited until her office door was closed before she said to Nathan, “Sorry about
that. Good morning to you too.”

“Isn’t it kind of early to be hanging out with him?” There
was a new note in his voice, although his tone was ostensibly casual.

She sucked in her breath. “I work with him, Nathan.”

“I know you do.”

“He’s my friend. One of my best friends.”

“I know he is.” After a moment, Nathan continued, his voice
natural and warm again, “I’ve mentioned how disturbingly healthy such a
scenario is, haven’t I?”

She relaxed and smiled into the phone. “You have. But you
know me—the embodiment of psychological health. What time did you get back last
night? How was the flight?”

“It was fine. I got back around one.”

Nathan had been on a business trip to the west coast for the
last three days. She’d talked to him several times on the phone, and it wasn’t
like they got together every day anyway, but she’d still missed him. It had
just been a month since they’d changed their relationship, but it felt to her
like a lot longer.

“What about you? Do anything interesting last night?” he
asked.

“No, not really. I worked late, then went over to the coffee
shop down the block. Oh, I rescued my intern from a drunken, pushy admirer.
That was fun.”

“What happened?”

Sometimes it amazed Lynn that Nathan Livingston would want
to hear about the trivial details of her day, but he always seemed to want to.
She explained, “At the coffee shop, there was this guy who had clearly been
drinking, and he was trying to hit on my intern. She’s a college student—very
smart, very pretty, and very quiet—her name is Beth. Anyway, this guy wouldn’t
take no for an answer, and he kind of had her backed up in a corner. She was
looking upset.”

“So you pulled out your trusty pepper spray and took him
down?”

 “Actually, I did have it ready. The guy was big, and he was
pretty drunk. But I didn’t need it. I just came over and started talking to
him, like we were old friends. He was so confused by my rambling that I was
able to get Beth away from him before he could figure out what was happening.”

He laughed, the warm sound filling her chest. “I can just imagine.
Was the girl all right?”

“Yeah. She was fine. In fact, she told me rather coolly that
she’d had it under control. She probably did. She’s really smart and resourceful,
but she’s so young, and there’s something that seems so sheltered and untouched
about her. I can’t help but feel kind of protective.”

“I’m sure she appreciated the help, even if she didn’t say
so.”

“I think so. She’s a tough nut to crack.”

“I’m familiar with the breed.”

“You should be, since you’re the toughest nut on the tree.”

He laughed out loud again. “I’ve got to get going, but what
are your plans for the weekend?”

“This weekend? Well, I have a hall closet that has been
collecting all of my various and sundry junk for the last year, so I thought
maybe I’d tackle it this weekend. And then, I don’t know if you knew, but I’ve
been seeing a certain gentleman from time to time. As he just got back into town,
I was hoping to spend an evening with him.” She wasn’t sure why she still felt
hesitant about assuming she and Nathan would get together on any given evening,
but she did. And making light of it made her feel less uncomfortable.

“As it happens, this gentlemen’s daughter is spending the
weekend in New York with her friend’s family, so he was wondering if maybe
you’d want to spend the entire weekend with him. If your closet can wait
another week, of course."

Lynn’s heart jumped in her chest. “Really? What did you have
in mind?”

“I have a house not far outside the city. It’s quiet and
very out of the way, so we’d have plenty of privacy.”

She was so ridiculously excited about the invitation that
she had to take a moment to catch her breath. “Don’t tell me. It’s one of those
rustic cabins in the woods without electricity or plumbing. I always figured
you for one of those rugged, outdoorsy guys.”

“You’ve got it. That’s me. Rugged and outdoorsy. I’ll shoot
us something impressive for dinner, if you don’t mind skinning and cooking it.”

Lynn giggled. “It’s a deal.”

***

As Lynn expected, Nathan’s estate
outside of the city was as far from a rustic cabin as possible.

He had a car pick her up on Friday evening and drive her
about an hour to a sprawling piece of wooded property and a gorgeous
Edwardian-style mansion. Lynn took in several gardens, a huge pool, tennis
courts, and a garage the size of an airplane hangar. Then, as the driver
collected her bags, Lynn was greeted by a plump woman in her sixties with
sparkling blue eyes and a maternal smile.

“I’m Polly Gentry,” the woman introduced herself. “My
husband and I take care of this property. Let me show you around and then up to
your room, Ms. Madison.”

“Please, call me Lynn.” She squeezed the woman’s hand,
immediately liking her. “And it’s very nice to meet you.”

Lynn glanced around the vast entry hall, her eyes widening
at the marble floors, curved stairway, and chandelier. She wondered where Nathan
was, but she was determined not to be disappointed if he wasn’t there to greet
her.

“Mr. Livingston is on a conference call,” Polly explained.
“He asked me to make sure you get settled in. Dinner will be in an hour.”

“That sounds great. Thank you.”

Lynn walked with Polly as the woman showed her around the
house. The door to Nathan’s office was closed, and they walked by it without
pausing. Lynn listened to Polly’s friendly chatter and tried to pay attention,
since she was genuinely intrigued by this lovely mansion and by the little kernels
of information about Nathan that Polly shared.

Despite her best efforts, however, Lynn
was
a little
disappointed that he didn’t emerge to greet her.

But he was Nathan Livingston. While their relationship had
definitely changed, it still wasn’t serious or romantic. She wouldn't be his
top priority. His conference call was probably important. He didn’t have to
drop everything to say “hi” to her.

They would have the whole weekend together.

When they reached the second floor, Polly gestured to the
rooms on the right. “These are the girls’ rooms.”

Intrigued, Lynn peeked into the first one, which was
decorated in shades of rose and beige and had built-in cabinets covering one
wall that were filled with an enormous doll collection. “Wow,” Lynn breathed,
going in to look at the dolls more closely.

“They’re Victoria’s,” Polly explained, following her into
the room. “When she was two, Mr. Livingston got her a doll from Paris—this one
here—and she loved it so much that he kept getting them for her.”

Lynn fingered the beautifully crafted dress, trimmed with
what must be very expensive lace, on one of the dolls nearest to her. “They’re
gorgeous. There must be over two hundred of them.”

“Two-hundred and fifty-three.”

“Did the girls spend a lot of time here growing up?” Lynn
asked, fascinated by this glimpse into Nathan’s family and past.

“Oh, yes. Especially after their mother left. Mr. Livingston
tried his best, but he was so busy. And an apartment downtown is not the best
place to raise two little girls. He brought them here a lot.”

Lynn realized, as Polly spoke, that the woman loved Nathan
and the girls. She was glad they’d had someone like her in their lives.

 “So this room is Elizabeth’s?” Lynn asked as they went into
the next room. It was decorated in lavenders and grays, with lovely walnut
furniture. Instead of dolls covering one wall, there were books.

“Yes. She was always a reader, dear girl.”

The hint of poignancy in Polly’s tone made Lynn glance over,
but she couldn’t read anything in the other woman’s expression.

Lynn gazed around and idly picked up a hardback book that
had been placed on a side table next to the chaise by the window. It was a
beautifully illustrated edition of
Little Women
.

She smiled as she flipped through some of the pictures.

“That was always Elizabeth’s favorite book,” Polly said.
“When she was eleven, she read it and announced that she would no longer be
called Elizabeth. She would be called Beth instead, because Beth was her
favorite character in the book.”

Lynn smiled. “I hope she planned to have a happier future
than poor Beth.”

“Oh yes. She would spend hours writing out stories and
changing the ending of the book so Beth would marry Laurie.”

“Oh, that’s great! She must have been really creative.”

“She was. She was always such a bright girl. Shy like Beth
in the book. But she had the Livingston will of iron—just as stubborn as her
father. She convinced everyone to call her Beth for almost a year, everyone
except Mr. Livingston. He would never call her anything but Elizabeth.”

Lynn felt a sudden urge to meet Nathan’s daughters. For obvious
reasons, she never had, and she probably never would. But she would love to
meet them—see what they were like and how Nathan interacted with them. “Do the
girls spend much time here anymore?”

“No, not anymore. Mr. Livingston will occasionally bring
Victoria, but her friends are all in the city so that’s where she wants to
spend most of her time. And since Elizabeth went away…”

Lynn jerked her head over in surprise by the inexplicable
sorrow in Polly’s tone.

“Went away to school,” Polly added, noticing Lynn's
questioning expression and looking strangely rattled.

“Doesn’t she come home for vacations?”

“Sure,” Polly said, glancing away and gesturing Lynn toward
the door of the room. “But I don’t see her much anymore.”

Fourteen

 

“Fuck,” Nathan gritted out between
clenched teeth. “Fuck, Lynn!”

Lynn hummed out a throaty sound but, since her mouth was
otherwise occupied, she didn’t respond with words. Her lips slid up and down his
erection, and her tongue played along its length in unbelievable ways. She was
still wearing the stretchy little nightgown she’d worn to bed the night before,
but he couldn’t see it at the moment because she was almost entirely hidden by
the covers.

Nathan was stretched out on his bed, his hands fisting the
sheet beneath him and the muscles of his thighs and belly so tight they were
almost shaking, but he managed to reach over and push the covers back from Lynn’s
head so he could see her mouth pumping over him.

“Fuck,” he gasped again, as the pressure of pleasure and
need intensified at the sight of her bent over him so intimately. Her blond
hair was rumpled messily from the covers, and he reached over again to smooth
it back from her face.

She was entirely focused on the task at hand, her cheeks
hollowing out rhythmically and one hand gently massaging his balls, but her
eyes slid up to his face, both hot and tender.

Then another expression flickered across her face, and she
seemed to smile around his flesh.

Despite the overwhelming arousal and increasing urgency, his
sense of irony responded to hers.  He instinctively knew she was amused by his
uninhibited response to her spontaneous morning blow job and maybe a little
proud of herself for making him lose control the way she had.

The teasing humor in her eyes struck a chord, and he
couldn’t repress a huff of self-deprecating amusement.

The laughter was a mistake. The thin reins that held his
pleasure in check snapped from the break in his concentration. He came hard,
making a loud, rough sound of release and arching up involuntarily as intense
pleasure rushed through him.

Lynn sucked him through the spasms until he fell back
against the bed, relaxed and fully sated.

At last, Lynn slid her lips gently from his flesh and lifted
herself from her position to collapse beside him. He pulled her toward him, and
she willingly curled against his side.

Her body was soft and so was the hand that stroked his bare
chest, but her voice was dry and natural when she said, “Never a good idea to
laugh when you’re that far along.”

 “I believe
you’re
to blame for that.”

“What? I didn’t say a thing.” Her eyes were wide with
ostensible innocence as she gazed up at him.

“Nice try. I’ll have you know I was never mocked mid-blow-job
before.”

“I would never advise a woman to mock a man mid-blow-job.
I’ve found that the male of the species tends to be surprisingly sensitive
about such things.”

“Then I would suggest you make more of an effort to follow
your own advice, because I definitely detected a hint of mockery there.” He
absently stroked her hair as he closed his eyes and let his body loosen. The
verbal play was instinctive, second-nature, and it was as relaxing as his
slower breathing.

She gave a ripple of laughter, and they lay tangled together
for a few minutes. Then he felt something shift in Lynn’s warm body and opened
his eyes to see her looking at him.

“What?” he asked.

“You didn’t really think I was mocking you, did you?” she
asked, her tone still light but her eyes serious.

“Of course not. Although, to tell you the truth, I might
consider putting up with a little mockery if it meant I got more of
that
kind of treatment.” He reached over and kissed her lightly on her cheekbone and
then just to the side of her mouth. “Thank you, by the way.”

Her vibrant smile broke out, making his chest clench
strangely.

To distract himself from the odd feeling, he murmured, “I
guess it’s time for me to return the favor.”

Still smiling, Lynn stopped him from turning her over onto
her back. “I’m good. I’m actually not in the mood.”

Nathan paused, his brows drawing together, thinking quickly
through possibilities.

“I don’t mean I wasn’t in the mood to do
that
. I
totally was. But that was all I wanted to do. Honestly, I’m not always in the
mood for sex first thing in the morning, and I had more orgasms than was good
for me last night.”

He returned her smile and stretched back out on the bed,
enjoying the rare pleasure of lingering in bed after he’d woken up. It was
Saturday morning, and they weren’t due back in town until Sunday afternoon.

They had plenty of time.

In a way, it was strange. For so long, they’d gotten
together so rarely that every moment counted. He’d had to suppress all of his
needs for three months and channel them all into one intense evening. For the
last month, as they’d been seeing each other a few times a week, the urgency
had evened out some. But even then they’d just had an evening at a time.

Nathan had never spent a whole day, a whole weekend, with Lynn
before.

They dozed for a while, and then she finally started to
stir. “I think I need a shower.”

“Okay,” he said, glancing over at the bedside clock. To his
surprise, it was still early—just after eight. “I should get up too and go
through some email.”

Lynn had hauled herself out of bed, but at his words she
stopped and frowned down at him. “Why?”

He blinked. “Why what?”

“Why do you have to check email? It’s barely eight on a
Saturday morning.”

“I don’t know,” he admitted with a shrug. “That’s just what
I do when I wake up.” The thought of all those emails waiting for him every
morning—issues, problems, crises waiting for him to fix—always propelled him
into checking first thing.

“Well, maybe you can do something different this morning. 
You work too hard.” Her hair was a tousled mess, the thin straps of her gown
were falling down over her shoulders, and her lips looked a little swollen. She
was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen, but she was frowning at him with absolute
seriousness. “If you need to do something now, then maybe you can see about
breakfast. I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to something to eat.”

He smiled. “I’ll call down to Polly. Don’t be too long in
the shower.”

Spurred by the promise of food, Lynn said she’d hurry. When Polly
picked up the phone, she said that breakfast was already started.

“I thought maybe you’d want breakfast in bed,” she added.
“I’ll have it ready to bring up for you and Ms. Madison in less than ten
minutes.”

“Perfect. Thanks.”

When he’d hung up, Nathan didn’t have anything to do, so he
stretched back out and closed his eyes. He wasn’t really sleepy, but it felt nice
anyway.

Polly seemed very excited about having Lynn here for the
weekend. It wasn’t hard to read her mind. Nathan had never brought a woman out
to the house. It had been years since he’d even dated anyone openly. Polly
would assume he was serious about Lynn. After all, why else would he spend the
weekend with her and bring her to his family home?

The idea made him feel a little uncomfortable—that Polly was
nursing hopes that he and Lynn would establish a long-term relationship, maybe
get married. It wasn’t going to happen. With everything else he was dealing
with, he just didn’t have room in his heart or life for anything more.

But there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He and Lynn
both understood and agreed to the nature of their relationship, and he couldn’t
help anyone else’s assumptions.

***

“So what did you do last night?” Nathan
asked into his phone, easing down into a big leather chair in his study and
looking out the window at the garden, where Lynn was wandering around and
chatting with Polly’s husband, Frank.

“We went to this funny little burger place for dinner. And
then we went to see
Spider-Man
on Broadway,” Victoria said.

“How was it?”

“It was good. Not as good as when you and I went, but it was
fun. Rachel and her parents hadn’t seen it before.” Victoria’s voice was light,
and it didn’t express any discontent or boredom, so Nathan assumed she was
genuinely having a good time this weekend.

“Are you going to another show tonight?”

Nathan, of course, knew exactly what Victoria’s schedule was
for the entire weekend. Rachel’s parents had told him in advance, and the
bodyguards he’d sent with her reported to him every few hours.

But he liked to hear it from her.

Victoria told him more about her weekend—which seemed to
consist primarily of shopping and eating. He thought the conversation was
nearing its end when she surprised him by asking, “Are you having a good
weekend too?”

“Yes. I am.”

“Are you doing anything fun?”

Nathan swallowed. Obviously, he wasn’t about to tell his
sixteen-year-old daughter that he was enjoying a leisurely weekend of sex with Lynn.
He improvised. “Sure. I’m trying to get some rest. I went to the house for the
weekend.”

“Oh. That’s good.” She paused. “Are you spending the weekend
with her?”

Nathan grew very still. “Victoria.”

“What? I was just wondering. I know you’re dating someone.
It’s fine if you want to spend the weekend with her. Why won’t you tell me?
I’ll be happy to meet her—I wouldn’t be a bitch to her or anything.”

“Victoria,” he repeated, automatically responding to her
language. Then he closed his eyes, his gut twisting with reluctance and
indecision. Victoria hadn’t asked about who he was seeing lately, so he’d been hoping
it wasn’t going to come up.  “I’m really not trying to keep secrets from you. I
have to keep things rather private right now. But I promise, if I get to the
point of having a serious relationship with someone, I’ll tell you.”

Victoria didn’t answer immediately. When she did, her tone
was confused and anxious. “You’re not serious about her? I thought you were
serious.”

Nathan had absolutely no idea how to respond to her. He sat
and stared blindly, his mind a complete blank.

“But you’ve been seeing her a lot, haven’t you?” Victoria
continued. “Like three or four times a week now.”

“How did you—”

“I’m not an idiot, Dad. But it’s not just casual or
something, is it? You see her so often and…and you just seemed to be—I don’t
know—happier or something. I was happy for you. You mean it
isn’t
serious?” The last question was stretched, almost wispy.

She sounded so young, so innocent, so needy. Nathan almost
strangled on the guilt and confusion.

There was absolutely no way to explain to his daughter his
arrangement with Lynn, and he’d been a perfect fool to not predict this
conversation and think of an appropriate way to address it.

He had to say something. Victoria was waiting. So he was
left with nothing to say but the truth. “Baby, I don’t know. I just don’t know.
This is new for me, and I don’t know how to talk about it with you. I guess I
just don’t really know what all of it means.”

“Okay,” she said, sounding relieved. “That’s okay. I wasn’t
expecting you to have your whole future planned out or anything. I just wanted
to know what was going on. I hope—I mean, I’m sure I’d like her. And I’d be
nice to her even I didn’t. I promise.”

Nathan might not know a lot about teenage girls, but even he
knew this was a deep gesture of love.

He’d never had any intentions of Lynn’s meeting Victoria.
He’d never even considered it.

“Thank you,” he managed to say. “I really appreciate that.
Let me think things through. We’ll talk about this again. Okay?”

“Okay. Oh, I’ve got to go.” Victoria’s tone changed in that
quick-silver way she had. “Rachel and I are going to look for shoes!”

When Nathan disconnected the call, he lowered his arm, but
his fingers still gripped the phone. He stared at the floor blankly, trying
desperately to figure out what he should do.

Part of his mind registered a light knocking on the door to
the study, but he couldn’t process it. Not until he heard a soft voice saying,
“Hey. You okay?”

He jerked his eyes over to see Lynn poking her head through
the slightly opened door. She wore jeans and a pink top, and her cheeks were rosy
from being outside.

“I knocked,” she explained. “I was worried. You all right?”

“Sure,” he said, managing a smile. “Come on in. I was just
talking to Victoria.”

“How is she?” Lynn walked over and eased down into the big chair
beside him. He automatically moved over to make room for her, draping his arm
around her.

“She’s fine.” Despite his efforts, his voice still sounded
slightly off.

Lynn gently unwrapped his fingers from the phone and then
put it on the table beside the chair. “I don’t think she is. What’s wrong, Nathan?”

He shook himself out of his reverie. “Sorry. She really is
fine.  She was just asking about…about you.”

“Oh.”

She was leaning casually against him, and her body hadn’t
stiffened, which Nathan hoped meant she wasn’t immediately getting nervous.

“She knows I’ve been seeing someone,” he explained. “I
didn’t tell her, of course, and I tried to be discreet. But…”

“If you live in the same house, it’s kind of hard to hide
the fact that you go out several nights a week.”

“Yes. Anyway, I was just caught off-guard and wasn’t sure
what to say.” He released a breath of ironic amusement. “She said she wants to
meet you, if you can believe it.”

He paid attention, but he still didn’t feel Lynn stiffen or
withdraw beside him. He wouldn’t have blamed her. She’d agreed to a sexual
relationship with him—one without any strings, which was what both of them
wanted.

Being expected to meet a teenage daughter because he wasn’t
sure how to handle the situation was definitely a string.

“I wouldn’t mind meeting her,” Lynn said, after a moment’s
reflection.

Nathan tensed and peered at her closely.

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