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Luca Wolff and Joy Sullivan are competing for guardianship of their estranged, teenage nephew, Eric, after his parents are killed in a plane crash. Evidence shows the crash wasn't an accident. Neither was a recent explosion that destroyed Luca's house. When a fire is intentionally set in Joy's home, suspicion points to Eric--and that's not the end of their trouble.
Eric has been in his share of mischief, but now he has a chance to clean up his reputation. That's hard to do when the only people who believe in you are the ones you're accused of targeting.
Just as Luca and Joy give in to romance, new information comes to light that could tear them apart along with Eric's dream for a happy family.
The three have to set aside their grief, personal issues, and disagreements to figure out who is out to kill them…and why.
Page Count: 276
Word Count: 66872
Wednesday, August 1—The Crash
“Are you sure your father knows what he’s talking about?” Melissa Wolff asked. “I’ve never heard of anyone getting a quickie divorce in Mexico.”
“If anyone would know about quickie divorces, it would be my dad. He’s been married five times.” David Wolff was glad for a break from the stupid argument they’d had earlier, but he knew another one would start at any moment.
He tapped a gauge on the control panel of the small private plane. The fuel tank had been filled prior to takeoff. Now, the needle dropped before his disbelieving eyes. What the hell was happening?
Concern snaked through his gut. He couldn’t let Melissa know he was worried. She’d go crazy.
“It always comes down to the almighty dollar, doesn’t it?” she remarked.
“I’ve promised you a generous settlement. You can stop complaining any time. Why don’t you have another drink?” Alcohol was always her go-to whenever an argument wasn’t going her way.
“At least it’s cheaper than high-priced hookers, so you can stop complaining as well.”
What had happened to their perfect fairytale story? When had their lives come to this? “It’s getting late. How long does it take to get there?”
“I think we may be in trouble. Be quiet.”
It wasn’t a malfunctioning gauge. The engines were starting to sputter. They were losing power. Outside the window, he saw fluid spray from beneath the wing. Fuel was pouring out over the Gulf of Mexico. There was no time to turn back.
David turned the radio dial to the emergency frequency, 121.5, and spoke into his headset. “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Can anyone hear me? This is Alpha-239-November, Cessna150. I’m losing fuel. My attitude has dropped to 1200 feet. Last known position thirty miles west of Tampa. Two persons on board. Please respond. Altitude is now 900. Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”
A few garbled words could be heard through the static, but he couldn’t decipher what they were saying.
“What’s going on, David? You’re scaring me. Is this supposed to be a joke?”
“I’m sorry, Melissa.” Their situation was hopeless. David released his right hand from the yoke, and for the first time in years, took her hand. “There’s no more time. We’re going down.”
Rather than watch the surface of the water rush toward them, they stared into each other’s eyes with fear and regret. They each whispered the same last word.
Thursday, August 2—The Notifications
Luca Wolff rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he walked through the entrance hall to the front door. Someone had rung the bell twice now. As it was eight o’clock in the morning, his father and brother were probably having coffee in the breakfast room. Neither would get off their butts. They didn’t accept visitors before nine, and the staff knew better than admit anyone before that time.
He hated this house. It was as large as a palace, as garish as a Las Vegas casino. The wallpaper was too busy, the furniture too spindly, the artwork too large, and the floors too cold and hard. There were at least a dozen statuettes or busts in every room. They broke easily but still seemed to multiply on their own. Break one—three more took its place. It had been hell growing up here as a healthy, active kid.
Whoever was at the door rang for the third time. They’d better have a good reason. Luca had been up working until three. It didn’t matter to him that he only wore sleep pants and beard scruff. They’d better not want to sell anything.
Two men stood at the door, one wearing a worn gray suit and the other in an elaborate blue uniform. According to a recent article in the local newspaper, the second man was the chief of police for Jacksonville, Florida, George Stanford. Each held out badges when he opened the door. The first identified himself as a detective named Mark Anderson. This couldn’t be good.
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