Troubled Waters

By: Susan May Warren

Prologue


Oh, this was a bad idea.

Epically, abysmally, horrendously bad. The kind of betrayal that just might end any hope of resurrecting Sierra’s already tattered relationship with her former boss/friend/the man she couldn’t seem to stop loving.

Billionaire heartbreaker Ian Shaw.

Not that she and Ian had much in the way of friendship over the past year, but . . . well, the hope of reigniting that ember between herself and Ian still flickered . . .

Oh, who was she kidding? Sierra never had even the remotest chance of Ian seeing her as anything more than his former secretary, and her current decision had everything to do with regret, redemption, and the hope of putting things right. So maybe it didn’t matter that this could backfire on her.

Besides, it was high time Esme Shaw came home. And if anyone could engineer a homecoming, it was Sierra Rose, former executive secretary and current administrative assistant of the PEAK rescue team.

Sierra stood on the broken pavement in front of a three-story foursquare house that had lived a former, grand life as a stately, prairie-style home, with its boxy frame, overhanging eaves, and deep front porch. Situated in the historic neighborhoods of uptown Minneapolis, it seemed the perfect place for a fugitive to hide.

Light from the third-story dormer windows suggested someone—hopefully Esme—was home.

Except, the name on the postal records said Shae Johnson, a nice Swedish name that Esme, with her wheat blonde hair and blue eyes, could certainly pull off.

Sierra stepped up to the porch, past the early autumn clutter of decaying gold and red leaves. She pressed her hand against her stomach, blew out a breath, and pushed the doorbell.

The sound bellowed through the house.

Sierra listened for footsteps, her heartbeat pounding against the dying echo of the gong.

Maybe she hadn’t recognized the tentative, halting voice on the recording. After all, she’d listened to nearly two hundred leads.

What were the chances that she would be the one to land Esme’s call—and not Ian, or even Ty, who had helped Ian sort through the nearly seven hundred calls that came in after the America’s Missing episode.

Ian had engineered the episode, detailing the case of the remains of a Jane Doe the team had found in Glacier National Park last summer. He clung to the wild hope that finding Jane’s true identity would somehow lead to clues about Esme. Especially since the sheriff had supposedly found a gold necklace like the one Esme owned on the body. Only problem was, the body turned out not to be Esme’s, and the whys of how the necklace came to be on the victim were still unknown.

It had Ian plotting scenarios that kept him awake, pacing and generally obsessing over finding his missing niece. Sierra couldn’t live in his world any longer.

Not when she believed in her heart that Esme didn’t want to be found.

At least not by her uncle Ian.

Footsteps echoed from inside the house, and Sierra braced herself as an image formed in the cut glass of the front door.

Maybe she shouldn’t have gotten involved, shouldn’t have succumbed to the need to fix the past.

Esme going missing had sort of, just a little, been Sierra’s fault. And she’d invested four long, dedicated years running down every lead Ian stirred up. Most of all, helping vet callers gave her, pitifully, the smidgen of a reason to stay on Ian’s radar. Or at least keep him on hers.

Despite the better sense that she should completely walk away from a man who had surely walked away from her.

Or at least let her go without a backward glance to her years of dedication.

The door opened.

A short brunette stood in the frame. She wore a maroon University of Minnesota sweatshirt and yoga pants and stood barefoot despite the nip of the late-August evening.

“Can I help you?”

Not Esme. She remembered Esme’s voice crackling through the recorded line, just a little breathless and tentative enough to interject truth into her words.

“Jane Doe was murdered. I saw it all. She was pushed to her death off . . . off Avalanche Creek.”

Which exactly matched the cause of Jane’s death—blunt force trauma. And the location of the remains.

And why, perhaps, Esme had run. Was still running.

“I’m looking for . . . Shae. Shae Johnson—”

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