Today's Reading

Rosa was clearly reluctant to leave. She hovered on the porch, sending him mistrustful looks. He wanted to tell her not to waste her energy. He'd spent years developing a thick skin when it came to people suspecting him of being a monster.

"I'm here," she said firmly. "I'll wait inside. You only have to call out. And Melissa is in her apartment as well. We won't let anything happen to you."

"Nothing is going to happen to me," Elizabeth assured her. "Luke won't hurt me."

"Don't be so sure of that," he muttered, though it was a lie. Some might think him a monster but he suspected Elizabeth knew he could never lay a hand on her.

First of all, it wasn't in his nature. Second, he had spent his entire life working toward self-mastery and iron control—doing whatever necessary to avoid becoming his father.

After another moment, Rosa turned around and slipped through the carved front door, reluctance apparent in every line of her body. On some level, Luke supposed he should be grateful Elizabeth had people willing to stand up and protect her.

"How did you...? How did you find me?"

He still didn't know everything Elliot had gone through to locate her. He knew the FBI agent had spent long hours tracking down leads after a truck driver came forward years later to say that on the night Elizabeth disappeared, the trucker thought she gave a woman resembling Elizabeth's description a ride to a truck stop in central Oregon.

Somehow from that slim piece of information, Elliot had undergone an impressive investigation on his own time and managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together. If not for Elliot, Luke wouldn't be here in front of this big oceanfront Victorian in Cannon Beach and this familiar but not familiar woman.

Thinking about Elliot Bailey always left him conflicted, too. He was grateful to the man but still found it weird to think of his former best friend with Megan, Luke's younger sister. After several months, he was almost used to the idea of them being together.

"I didn't." He jerked his attention back to the moment. "Elliot Bailey did. That's not really important, is it? The point is, now I know where you are. But then, I guess you were never really lost, were you? We only thought you were. You've certainly been back to Haven Point in your little disguise plenty of times over the years."

It burned him, knowing he hadn't recognized his own wife. When he looked closer now, knowing what he did, he could see more hints of the woman he had loved. The brows were the same, arched and delicate, and her lips were still full and lush. But her face was more narrow, her nose completely different and her cheekbones higher and more defined.

Why had she undergone so much plastic surgery? It was one more mystery amid dozens.

"What do you want, Luke?"

"I told you. I need you to come home. At this moment, the Lake Haven County district attorney's office is preparing to file charges against me related to your disappearance and apparent murder."

"My what?"

"Elliot has tried to convince the woman you're still very much alive. He hasn't had much luck, especially considering he's all but a member of the family and will be marrying my sister in a few months. The DA plans to move forward and arrest me in hopes of forcing me to tell them where I hid your body."

"Wait—what? Elliot and Megan are together? When did that happen?"

He barely refrained from grinding his teeth. "Not really the point, is it? This has gone on long enough. I'm going to be arrested, Elizabeth. Before the holidays, if my sources are right. The district attorney is determined to send a message that men in her jurisdiction can't get away with making their wives disappear. I'm going to go to jail, at least for a while. Our children have already spent enough Christmases without one parent. Do you want them to lose the other one?"

"Of course not."

He didn't know whether to believe her or not. How could he? He didn't even know this woman, despite the fact that she had once been closer to him than anyone else on earth.

"Then grab your things and let's go."
...

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