Josie took the time to talk to the doctor again, but the harried ER physician had little to add. So, she sat down and waited for a nurse to come and tell her she could go to her father’s room. After thirty minutes, she was pretty certain she’d been forgotten, and she went to the nurses’ station to inquire.

“He’s in room 312. It’s just around that corner,” the young blond aid said as she waved her hand toward a corridor to her left.

Josie found her father’s room, but the door was shut. Was he still indisposed? She knocked, but when no answer came a chill ran down her spine. She pushed the door open without knocking again and found an empty room. The bathroom door was closed. Her instincts were screaming at her that her father was not in there either. She pushed the door open to a dark cubicle and knew she was right.

Going over the room in minute detail, her instincts on high alert, Josie looked for sign of a struggle, but there wasn’t one.

The I.V. shunt he’d been wearing was in the waste basket, and his clothes were missing from the plastic bag that still sat on the floor of the tiny closet. The blanket was folded neatly at the bottom of the bed, and a piece of paper was sticking out from under one corner.

She grabbed it, immediately recognizing her dad’s handwriting. The note read, Josie-girl. Read the journal in my private footlocker. Watch your back and don’t worry about me. The Viet-Kong couldn’t kill me and neither can these bastards. He’d signed it, Love Dad.

She rushed out of the room, but knew before she talked to the nurse at the desk that no one had seen anything. Her dad was the best. He’d been a long range reconnaisance patrol in Vietnam and knew how to disappear too well. If she’d been expecting him to run, she might have been able to catch him, but she hadn’t and therefore held out little chance of finding the smallest clue to his whereabouts.

It gave her no satisfaction to discover she was right.

Daniel overestimated the time it would take to get to the hospital by fifteen minutes. His cell phone rang as he pulled into a parking spot.

He flipped it open. “This is Daniel.”

“Nitro, it’s Josie. Dad’s gone.” She made a sound of annoyance. “I mean he’s disappeared, not dead. How far away are you?”

“I’m in the parking lot by the main entrance.”

“Oh.” She paused. “Hold on and I’ll be right there.”

“Okay.” He flipped the phone shut and got out of the car to wait for her.

She came jogging around the other side of the building looking as though she’d been fighting fires instead of escaping them.

She stopped in front of him, her moss green eyes red from lack of sleep. “It would probably be better if we got in the car to talk.”

He nodded, expecting her to get in the car immediately, but she didn’t. Instead, she stopped to stretch her arms above her head, small pops from her spine audible in the still morning air. “It’s been a long night.”

She wasn’t wearing a bra.

“I can’t believe I didn’t guess Dad would run.” She stretched again, this time bending over to touch the ground between her feet with her clasped hands.

She wasn’t wearing panties either…unless she wore a thong. That possibility had sweat breaking out on his brow.

She straightened and put her arms behind her back, clasping her hands again. “You’re awfully quiet this morning.”

No. Definitely no bra. The tank top wasn’t all that opaque either. That, or she had very dark nipples. He wouldn’t mind finding out.

Her hands dropped to her sides, and small points formed behind the thin fabric. The longer he looked, the more prominent they became.

“Nitro?” Her voice sounded high and uncertain.

He lifted his gaze to her face again.

Her eyes had darkened, and her pink bow lips were parted on a breath that seemed to be suspended somewhere inside her.

Was she ready to admit to the attraction between them? If she was, she’d chosen damn awkward timing.

She crossed her arms over her small, pert breasts, pink tingeing her cheeks. “I…um…Dad…”

She wasn’t going to admit it, and he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed. They had to focus on the events of the night, but one day soon he was going to find out not only what color her still erect nipples were, but how sweet they tasted.

He stepped up to the SUV, watching with both amusement and irritation as she hurriedly moved back. She gave more confusing signals than a bug scrambler.

Opening the passenger door, he said, “Get in.”

She climbed inside without a word, careful not to let their bodies make contact at any point, but that didn’t stop her female scent from reaching out to touch him. Both sweet and spicy from her earlier exertions and fear, it overrode the lingering smell of smoke on her clothes.

He wanted to pull her to him and add another fragrance to the ones she was emitting…arousal.

Knowing it would make her uncomfortable, but not really caring, he slipped her seat belt across her body and clipped it into place. He didn’t pull back immediately, but took a second to enjoy her proximity while her eyes rounded in confusion.

“What are you doing?”

He tilted his head, so their lips were mere centimeters apart. “Buckling you in.”

“Oh.” It came out a breath of sound.

He smiled. “Do you need anything else.”

“Uh…no.” But she didn’t turn her head away.

She just waited.

His arms were as good as around her in this position, and it would be so easy to take her lips, to taste them.

He did, briefly. Softly. And she let him, hanging there, her lips attached to his, but not moving against his.

He pulled back, stepping away from the car. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

She nodded, mute, but her eyes were asking questions he didn’t want to answer right then.

Soon he would, but not right now.

“Okay, what’s going on?” he asked after sliding into the driver’s seat.

She stared at him.

“Your dad, Josie.”

She gasped, her cheeks turning cherry red, and then she burst into speech. “They moved Dad a little over an hour ago. He asked for some privacy to get cleaned up, and I gave it to him. He’s wounded, confused, I thought weak. It never occurred to me he’d just disappear.”

“Tyler has his own reasons for doing the things he does, and they aren’t always comprehensible to others, but it’s a safe bet he wasn’t nearly as weak as he let on.”

“You’re right.” She rubbed her eyes. “When no one came to get me after half an hour, I went looking on my own. His room was empty.”

“Did anyone see anything?”


“Did he leave of his own volition?”


“You’re sure?”

“Yes. He took the jeep and he left this.” She handed him a note.

He read it. “Do you know where this footlocker is?”

“Dad keeps it in an underground storage unit that only he and I know about.”

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