“What are we going to do today?” he asked, returning to the table.

“I thought we’d take a walk through town,” she offered, studying his familiar features and wondering if anyone who saw him would guess the truth. To her he looked exactly like Ethan, but that could just be because she was looking for certain features. “Then you can play Xbox while I work.”

His dark eyes crinkled. “I love summer vacation.”

“I’m sure you do. But you aren’t going to spend three months getting great at your favorite game.” Once they were back in San Francisco, there would be classes and a couple of weeks at camp. Maybe there was a day program here she could get him in. And the girls, too, she thought. Although Melissa might be too old.

“How about two months?” Tyler suggested, wiggling his eyebrows. “And twenty-nine days.”

“Unlikely.” She drew in a breath and wished he was next to her so she could hold him tight. Because as soon as she said the words, everything was going to change. She knew that. The truth would change everything and they would never go back.

“I have to talk to you about something,” she said, then added, “It’s not bad.”


He waited patiently, trusting her. Because she’d never lied to him, had never let him down. She annoyed him because she was the mom and there were rules, but that was different. Expected.

“You’ve asked me about your dad a lot,” she began. “And I would never talk about him.”

He wrinkled his nose. “I know.”

“I’m ready to talk about him now.”

Tyler had been leaning back in the kitchen chair. But then he sat up and stretched his arms toward her, his expression expectant. “My dad?”

She nodded. “He’s, um, he’s a good guy. A contractor. That’s someone who builds things, like houses and-”

Tyler sighed heavily. “I know what a contractor is, Mom.”

“Oh. Of course you do. Well, he’s a contractor and he also builds windmills. The kind that generate electricity.”

“Wind turbines.”


Tyler looked a little smug. “They’re called wind turbines.”

“Thank you.” She shifted in her seat, wishing she didn’t have to tell him and that everything could stay the same. Only that was selfish. Tyler deserved to know his dad and Ethan…well, he deserved to know his son, too.

“He lives here. In Fool’s Gold. You’re going to be meeting him tonight.”

Tyler was out of the chair faster than light. He raced toward her, then threw himself at her and held on tight. “I’m meeting my dad? For real?”

“Yes. I saw him last night and he wants to meet you.”

Tyler stared into her eyes. “Tonight?”

“At six.”

An awkward time, she thought. They either had to eat really early or really late. Not that she would be in the mood for food and Tyler would probably be too excited, but the girls needed dinner.

She would make them something at five, she thought absently, pulling the shopping list toward her.

“My dad’s coming here?”


“You really saw him and everything?”

She hugged him, wishing she could hold on tight forever. “I did.” She smoothed back his hair, then stared into his dark eyes. “Stuff with grown-ups gets complicated sometimes. I came back to talk to him about you when you were six. He wasn’t here. He was away on business. So I told someone else about you and she promised to tell him, only she didn’t.”

That much was clear. Ethan had been beyond stunned by the news.

“She lied?” Tyler sounded shocked. He was still young enough that he believed most adults told the truth.

“She kept the truth to herself, which is pretty much the same thing. I thought he didn’t want anything to do with us, but I was wrong. He’s very excited to see you.”

Tyler’s eyes widened with hope. “You think he’ll like me?”

“I think he’ll adore you.” She touched his cheek. “You look a lot like him. The dark hair and eyes.”

“But I have your smile.”

“Yes, you do and I want it back.” She leaned in and tickled him.

He laughed at that as much as at the familiar and silly joke.

He leaned against her. “I wish I was still in school so I could tell everyone I have a dad, too.”

“You’ll tell them in September.”

“Do you think Dad will come live with us in San Francisco?”

If she’d been standing she would have fallen on the spot. “Gee, ah, probably not. Your dad’s life is here, in Fool’s Gold. He has a big family. I don’t know who still lives here. Probably his mom and I would guess a few of his sisters.”

Tyler stared up at her. “There’s more?”

There was an entire herd, she thought grimly. Because Ethan’s relatives were also Tyler’s. The thought made her a little nervous. How could she compete with an entire family? Not that it was a competition, she reminded herself. But still…

“You have two uncles, three aunts, who are triplets by the way, and a grandmother.”


“I know,” she said with false excitement. “You’ll have so much family, you won’t know what to do with everyone.”

“Anyone my age?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t know for sure. You can ask your dad.”

There could be dozens, she reminded herself. Any of his siblings could have married. Ethan might have children from his marriage to Rayanne, although they would be younger.

She shook her head to force out the thought of her encounter with his late wife. There was enough going on without that messing with her mind.

Tyler spun away and pumped his arms. “This is the best, Mom. I have a dad. We’re a family.”

They were a lot of things, but Liz didn’t think family qualified. Not with how much Ethan hated her.

“It’s going to be interesting,” she admitted. Perhaps not in a happy way, but that wasn’t Tyler’s problem.

“May I use the computer so I can send an e-mail to Jason?”

She nodded.

He ran out of the room. Seconds later, she heard the loud thundering of his steps on the old and creaking stairs.

At eleven, life was simple. A new dad was a great thing. There weren’t any complications, no ambivalence, no worries about the future. While she couldn’t seem to stop thinking about everything that could go wrong.

“Probably the reason I write what I do,” she murmured as she rose and walked to the sink to tackle the morning dishes. Some days murder and mayhem suited her mood. She would work out her frustrations on a deserving victim, then have her character find justice in the end.

But this wasn’t fiction-this was real life. And she had a feeling things weren’t going to be tidied up quite so easily for her.


ETHAN DID HIS BEST TO WORK BUT by ten in the morning he’d given up on the pretense. He wasn’t fooling anyone, especially not himself. His sister Nevada had asked him twice if

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