Claiming His Secret Heir(9)

By: Joanne Rock

“I think you liked the diversion of something whimsical after the stress of long days at the office.” He took a bite of his sandwich and seemed to reconsider the answer. “Then again, maybe you were just trying to give me a diversion after the long days at the office. We never did see any ghosts.”

And his sense of whimsy had faded, she recalled, toward the end of their honeymoon when her father had urged her to come to London to help him with a takeover of a UK company. She’d been excited for the chance to end the standoff with him. Damon had been stunned she would even consider it. In the end, she’d told him she would head to London anyhow to see a friend and at least meet with her father. It had been an unhappy way to wind up their romantic Italy trip.

But could it have really been the end of their marriage?

“Then let’s try again.” She still hoped their son could one day see the more lighthearted, loving side of Damon. Provided it ever existed outside her hopeful imagination. “Let’s go back to a place with happy memories.”

* * *

The next day, with Caroline in the passenger seat of his white Land Rover, Damon pulled into the Los Trancos Preserve in the mountains above Palo Alto. The woods were close to the house, easy to access from the home they’d built together.

It seemed like a million years ago now. Their dating. Their marriage. Even her disappearance. Last night, after she went to bed, he had reopened his old investigation notes from those frantic first few months she’d been gone. He’d taken his time reading over everything again, looking for new clues now that he knew she’d been in Mexico. All of the evidence he’d found on her whereabouts had led him to believe she was in Europe. She’d deposited money in her account in London and used an ATM card in Prague, Paris and Venice. Her credit card had been used for a room in a Barcelona hotel, but when his PI had shown her picture around the place, no one on staff recognized her.

Had someone been impersonating her? At the time, he’d guessed she wanted to disappear and had paid someone well to cover her tracks. Whatever the case, it was as much a mystery as ever. While he was inside the house retrieving food for Caroline, he’d also messaged the PI his half brothers had used to find him when he’d been traveling Europe looking for her on his own. At the time, he had ditched his cell phone so as not to be distracted with work calls or requests from his family to return home. He’d bought a burner and focused on following Caroline’s trail, but he’d come up empty handed.

Bentley, the investigator who had located Damon when Jager and Gabe got fed up with his disappearing act, was excellent. But unfortunately, he’d been hired by a branch of Damon’s family he would rather forget. Damon’s father, Liam, had left their mother when they were kids and Damon, Jager, and Gabe had no use for the guy. But recently, their grandfather, Malcolm McNeill, had made it his mission to reunite all of his grandchildren, even the illegitimate branch. Damon might not have much use for all the new blood relatives in his life, and most especially not his father, but he could appreciate the value of a good PI. Maybe Bentley would figure out what a whole team of investigators had failed to the first time around.

Just what the hell had happened to his wife?

Talking about the good times with her last night had felt surreal, like the experiences had happened to someone else. He’d been trying so damn hard to forget her, and now? She’d forgotten all about him instead.

If that meant she forgot all about her bastard of a father, Damon didn’t mind the sacrifice one bit. He hoped the subject of Stephan Degraff wouldn’t surface between them today since Damon knew he wouldn’t be able to scrounge a single positive thing to say about the guy who was still fighting to take control of Transparent. Her father was on a mission to turn the rest of the investors against Damon so they could pull in a more experienced CEO to run the company.

Over his dead body.

“Are you sure you feel up to this?” Damon asked Caroline as he switched off the Land Rover. “We could always go for a Sunday drive instead.”

She was as beautiful as ever, but her pale skin and thinner frame made her seem frailer somehow. Or maybe it was simply because he knew she’d suffered a trauma that had given her amnesia. He didn’t want her to exhaust herself. He’d suggested she call a doctor first thing this morning, wanting to know what a professional had to say about her condition, but she’d been adamant she was well enough. When he hadn’t backed down, she’d conceded to a visit tomorrow if they could have one day together first.

He’d been hard pressed to argue. He was having a tough time just letting her out of his sight. Tomorrow would be soon enough.

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