unrequited feelings or the competition between the men that never had time to develop. Another reason Lilly’s return would be uncomfortable for all involved.

“So we’re in agreement?” Ty asked. “Dumont has no right to the money.” Ty bent his head from side to side, trying to work the stiff muscles in his neck but the tension remained. His life was about to change drastically.

“We’re in agreement. But you were right. We should have thought about the future,” Hunter said. “About her trust fund and what would happen years down the road. But we didn’t. And now Lilly is going to have to deal with that part of her life.”

Affecting all their lives in the process, Ty thought.

“Lilly needs to be told.” Hunter spoke with quiet certainty.

“Lacey. She’s Lacey now,” Ty said, already forcing himself to begin the mental shift necessary to meet with the woman Lilly had become.

“Lacey needs to be told that Dumont plans to have her declared legally dead and live large on her parents’ money.”

Ty’s head began to pound. Hunter’s words reminded Ty that his mother had done exactly that.

Hunter eyed Ty warily. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

Ty shrugged. “Maybe not but it’s true. We thought Lacey was just another foster kid, but she wasn’t. My mother took money from Dumont to take Lilly in. Unofficially, off the books, off the record. He paid her to take his niece until he felt she’d learned her lesson and would come home easier to control.”

“Your mother didn’t know Dumont’s reasons at the time. She thought she was helping out a man who didn’t know how to handle his out-of-control niece and she was getting money to give you a better life in the process. He offered her an opportunity and she took it.”

Ty nodded. He still dealt with what his mother had done. Still lived with a measure of guilt over the lifestyle they’d had, using money that had rightfully belonged to Lilly.

“You paid your dues, not that you owed any. Dropping out of college was self-punishment if you ask me. Who did you benefit?” Hunter asked.

“My own pride. I could look myself in the mirror each morning.” It wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation but it was the first time Ty had explained because he sensed Hunter already understood.

Hunter nodded. “Fate’s providing the chance for you to give Lilly back what she lost. Go find her and tell her to come back and claim her fortune.”

Ty ran his hand through his too-long hair. He needed a cut, he thought, wishing he could focus on something so trivial.

“She has a lot of bad memories here.” Ty took his friend’s advice, pouring himself a stiff drink of his own. He gulped a sip of fiery liquid and savored the burn on the way down.

“She’s an adult. There’s nothing here that can hurt her anymore except old ghosts,” Hunter said.

“Something we all need to deal with.” Ty swirled the liquid in his glass.

“Think she’ll be easy to find?”

“You know me when I’m determined.” Ty forced a cocky grin and raised his glass.

The kicker was that he’d had no trouble at all locating her that first time. Lilly had been living as Lacey Kinkaid, but she used her real social security number and she legally filed taxes. If her uncle had tried to search again years later, after Lilly had become a successful businesswoman, he might have found her after all. He’d just had no reason not to believe she’d perished in the deep, dark waters that fateful night. Thank goodness for Lacey their plan had been a success.

Although Ty had found an address for her five years ago, who knew how many times she’d moved since then. Still, he wasn’t too worried. He had his connections and his ways.

Hunter lifted his glass in return. “Good luck.”

“Something tells me I’ll need it,” Ty said, tipping his glass to meet Hunter’s.

The clinking noise that usually signaled a celebration sounded like a warning instead.


Lacey Kinkaid glanced at her newest employee, a young Spanish girl who spoke broken English and had no experience at doing odd jobs around New York City or anywhere else for that matter. But she needed the job badly and Lacey knew exactly what the desperation she saw in Serena’s eyes felt like, prompting Lacey to hire her anyway. When she’d first met Serena, Lacey had also let the young girl sleep on her sofa, just as Marina, the woman who’d helped Lacey out way back when, had done.

She shook her head, pushing the past away as she always did when memories threatened to surface. The present was all that mattered and in the present, her job defined her. When Lacey wasn’t doing some of the different jobs her clients required, she was smoothing over crises between employees and clients of her small company, aptly titled Odd Jobs.

“What exactly is the problem?” Lacey asked Amanda Goodwin, a client who used Lacey’s services weekly and had been a valuable source of referrals.

“She,” Amanda said, pointing her manicured fingernails toward Serena, “doesn’t understand English. Her cleaning skills are wonderful, but her English isn’t. I needed to explain something so I spoke to her in Spanish. She burst into tears and called you.”

Lacey nodded. Serena tended to cry easily, which could cause problems on the job. “What exactly did you say to her? In Spanish, if you don’t mind.” Lacey kept a comforting hand on Serena’s shoulder as she spoke.

Lacey had become close to fluent in Spanish during her early days in New York City. She’d discovered her high school Spanish had come in handy and allowed her to pick up the language easily, which helped, since she’d needed a job and the only person who’d hired her was a woman named Marina who ran a cleaning service comprised mostly of immigrant girls. What she didn’t know, Marina taught her, tutoring Lacey at night so she could not only speak Spanish, but she could get her GED high school diploma.

After arriving in New York, Lilly had taken the name of Lacey Kinkaid and used it religiously out of fear of being found out by her uncle. Later, when she’d become an adult and wanted to form a business, she knew she needed to do things legally. Although she went by the name of Lacey Kinkaid, her legal documents still read Lilly Dumont. Few people questioned, less cared, and at this point, her uncle wouldn’t think to look for her.

She glanced at her client, silently asking her to explain what was wrong.

“I wanted to tell her not to feed the dog.” The other woman pointed to the Pomeranian, a dust-mop of a dog lying at her owner’s feet. “So I said, por favor no comas al perro.” Amanda folded her arms across her chest, obviously pleased with her ability to communicate with the hired help.

Lacey burst into laughter at the same time Serena began to wail in a torrent of rapid Spanish that even Lacey couldn’t understand. She did happen to catch a few choice words which clearly indicated how upset and offended Serena was.

“You see? What’s wrong? Why is she so upset?” Amanda asked.

Lacey pinched the bridge of her nose before meeting Amanda’s stare. “Because you said, please don’t eat the dog instead of please don’t feed the dog, which in Spanish is, por favor, no les des comida al perro-which actually translates to please do not give food to the dog,” Lacey said, her Spanish grammar lessons coming back to her. “Serena’s insulted because you’d think she’d do such a thing.” Lacey swallowed another chuckle.

Amanda, meanwhile, who truly did have a decent disposition and treated hired help nicely, flushed in mortification. “I asked my daughter for help. She takes Spanish in school,” the other woman explained.

At least Amanda was too embarrassed by her mistake to complain about Serena’s overreaction, something Lacey would have to deal with later on. For now, Lacey repeated the mix-up to Serena in Spanish before turning back to her client.

“Don’t feel bad. There’s actually no real verb for feed, which probably resulted in things getting twisted around.”

“I’m sorry you came all the way over here,” Amanda said.

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