As Hannah Lewis ascended through the haze of sleep, she became aware of Jordan behind her. She was conscious of her own nakedness beneath her nightshirt and released a soft moan of morning desire. “Spoon me,” she murmured.
Jordan moved in closer, her body molding to Hannah’s.
Hannah reached back and grazed the seam of the cotton pants covering Jordan’s thigh. She curled her toes, and the soles of her feet found the hardness of shoes through the thin jersey sheet. Another moan, this one of disappointment, vibrated in her throat. “You’re dressed.”
Jordan combed Hannah’s hair off her cheek. “I am.” Her moist breath caressed Hannah’s ear. “I have a racquetball game, then I’m putting in some time at work. I’ll be home by three-ish.” Her soft voice held the stillness of wanting Hannah to go back to sleep. Hannah had taught Jordan early in their three years together never to leave without saying good-bye—and no, a note doesn’t count—but she knew Jordan still hated waking her.
Hannah eased backward. The warmth of Jordan’s legs pressed against the backs of her own, her pelvis against Hannah’s ass, her breasts against her back, did nothing to encourage sleep. “Don’t go.”
Jordan’s sigh feathered across the curve of Hannah’s neck, and she slipped her arm around Hannah’s waist and pulled her close. Her hand moved beneath the shirt to cup Hannah’s breast, her thumb teasing the nipple into stiff arousal. She suckled Hannah’s earlobe between her full lips.
Hannah’s breath caught. Eyes still closed, she squeezed her thighs together. She was already wet, wanting release. She could climax right now under Jordan’s practiced touch, the proverbial morning quickie, but she knew Jordan would give her all. She didn’t scrimp where Hannah was concerned, whether with gifts or words, and certainly not in lovemaking. It was only Jordan’s emotional economy that sometimes left Hannah wondering.
On the surface, evidenced by Christmas card photos, barbecues with friends, and even the private moments they shared, Jordan was the perfect girlfriend. There were the obvious physical benefits—ash-colored eyes that reached into Hannah’s depths and caressed her very core; sleek, long, dark hair; the toned body of the athlete; even the nontraditional allure of her slightly crooked smile. Not a conventional beauty, but she drew stares that stroked Hannah’s ego for having a lover everyone else desired.
Her attentiveness and consideration affected Hannah even more, though. She would stop at the deli on her way home from work for Hannah’s favorite hummus and pita chips, if she knew the day had been long or hectic. She would pick up lox and bagels after her early—very early—morning run for them to share in bed when Hannah finally stirred. She made herself available, for listening, snuggling, or sex, even at times like this when she had other commitments. Hannah couldn’t really say the same.
On another level, however, Jordan sometimes felt as far away and unreachable as if she were in Bali, and she had a knack for feeling removed even when wrapped completely around Hannah—like now.
Jordan flicked her tongue behind Hannah’s ear, then kissed her neck. Her hand moved over Hannah’s breasts, toying with both nipples simultaneously.
Hannah gasped. “Oh, Jory.” She turned in Jordan’s arms, easing onto her back.
Jordan shifted over her and gently claimed her mouth with soft lips.
Hannah opened to receive her tongue just as Jordan’s skilled fingers closed around her hard nipple, squeezing and rolling it until Hannah’s hips came up off the bed.
They kissed long and deep, moving with the orchestration of familiarity to extricate Hannah from her nightshirt.
Hannah sank back into the pillow, finally opening her eyes. She threaded her arms around Jordan’s neck and gazed into veiled features. Yes, this was one of those times when Jordan was somewhere far away, but at the moment, Hannah didn’t care.
As Jordan settled her length on top of her, the sateen finish of her button-up shirt caressed Hannah’s bare and aching nipples, while the bulk of her pants and shoes through the sheet gave Hannah the tantalizing feeling of the bad-girl-being-ravished fantasy. She arched into Jordan.
Jordan dipped her head and bit Hannah’s lower lip, then soothed the nip with her hot tongue.
Hannah released a deep groan. She pulled Jordan’s mouth hard against her own.
They kissed for long seconds that turned into long minutes. Their bodies moved against one another. Jordan slipped her thigh between Hannah’s, while Hannah ran her hands up Jordan’s back, reveling in the play of taut muscles beneath the fabric.
Hannah thrust her hips, her breathing fast and shallow.
Jordan caught Hannah’s lip between her teeth one last time before leaving her gasping for more. She moved down Hannah’s body, grazing her teeth against stretched neck muscles, trailing kisses along Hannah’s collarbone, sucking oh-so-deeply on her sensitized, engorged nipples, finally making her way over Hannah’s shivering stomach toward the ultimate destination. When she reached it, Jordan looped her arms around Hannah’s hips, opened her wide, and feasted.
Hannah cried out over and over with each slow, deliberate stroke of Jordan’s tongue and with every purposeful pause just short of fulfillment.
At the very instant Hannah knew she couldn’t take anymore, Jordan closed her lips around Hannah’s throbbing need and sucked scream after scream of pleasure from her.
Finally, Hannah lay limp and drained.
Jordan crawled up beside her and tenderly nestled her into a snug embrace.
Eyes still closed, Hannah burrowed into her. “I want to do you,” she whispered. At least, she thought she actually said it.
Jordan didn’t respond. She pressed her lips to Hannah’s hair.
Her body sated, her mind quieter than even at its first conscious thought of the day, Hannah felt the weight of sleep settling over her once again. She knew if she drifted off, Jordan would be gone when she woke again. Jordan did that, but after everything she had just done to her, how could Hannah be mad? She struggled to ward off her dimming awareness, but the final week of school and the anticipation of her summer away from the high school that served as her second home ten months out of each year combined to pull her into darkness on this first morning of luxury and, with her debilitating orgasm, even decadence. She surrendered once again to sleep.
Jordan Webber tossed her gym bag onto the backseat of her Chevy Equinox and climbed in behind the wheel. She read the text message that’d just come in.
Want 2 keep r game. Had car trouble. Can u pick me up at mechanics?
An address followed.
Jordan sent a quick yep, then dropped her phone onto the passenger’s seat. She took a moment to program the location into Geraldine—she’d named her GPS Geraldine Penelope Sanders—and was glad she’d spent a little extra time with Hannah, more than she’d even intended. Otherwise, she’d already be heading in the opposite direction.
She’d learned early in their relationship to begin her exits sooner than was actually necessary for punctuality, but even then she sometimes found herself running a few minutes late. Hannah had a habit of wanting attention, usually sex, right when Jordan needed to be somewhere else. Maybe it was tied in with her issues around being given up for adoption, her fear of not being wanted. Maybe it was a way of establishing her importance in their relationship. Jordan wasn’t sure. She just knew it was easier if she went ahead and took care of Hannah’s needs than if she tried to explain she didn’t have time or wasn’t in the mood. Not that she minded making love to her. After all, if you truly minded making love to your girlfriend, chances were, she shouldn’t be your girlfriend.
She actually loved sex with Hannah. It was easy, relatively uncomplicated, fun—all of which described their overall relationship as well. Hannah had a tendency toward self-absorption, but even that worked for Jordan. It allowed her to keep those parts of herself she didn’t want to deal with tucked away in the nooks and crannies of her consciousness. There was the confused and frightened teenaged Jordan who’d learned to lie about her sexual feelings for—and sometimes explorations with—girls, as well as one particular older woman, after listening to Reverend Palmer’s condemnations of homosexuality and warnings of a fiery afterlife. And there was the manipulative Jordan, who’d gone to law school on her father’s checkbook, knowing all along she’d turn her back on his plans for her to join his corporate firm in exchange for a career as a civil rights attorney. And there was the restless, maverick Jordan who’d never been able to commit to one woman. Hannah’s oblivious nature worked well, because Jordan simply didn’t want to share those aspects of herself. Ever.
Jordan checked her watch. She and Liz would still be able to make their court time, even with the detour to the mechanic’s shop. She stepped on the gas and eased the SUV into the flow of traffic.
She’d only known Liz for a month or so. She always played racquetball with her best friend, Nikki, but Nikki had broken her foot—jumping over a goat, of all things—and had been out of commission on the courts for over a month. Jordan had spent the first couple of weeks getting a game with anyone who happened to be available at the time, but then she’d met Liz, a newbie to the gym but not to the game. She gave Jordan a good workout.
Liz was in Los Angeles for a lengthy yet temporary job assignment, something to do with lighting for a new business complex going up somewhere in the Valley. Her company put her up at the Sheraton, she ate a lot of takeout, and she worked out at the gym. She didn’t know very many people, didn’t socialize with colleagues, and seemed to like it that way. She played racquetball with Jordan three times a week. That was pretty much all Jordan knew about her, and she felt no need to know anything more. Jordan liked her privacy and gave everyone else theirs.
“Turn left in six hundred feet,” Geraldine said in her helpful yet mildly sexy tone.
Jordan obeyed. Geraldine was the one woman she always obeyed. The street was narrow, lined with small businesses still closed at this early hour on a Saturday. She wasn’t entirely sure where she was.
“Continue for two hundred feet. Your destination will be on the right.”
Jordan saw Liz get out of a car parked at the curb a short way down the street, her white shorts and T-shirt brilliant in the morning sunshine. Sunglasses hid her eyes. She waved to the spot behind hers.
Jordan killed the engine and opened her door. “Hey. What happened?” She closed the distance between them.
Liz smiled. “Thank you so much for this. My car was making a horrible noise. I called a guy I work with, and he sent me straight here.” She motioned to a building boasting Fast ’n Fair Car Repair. “The shop’s his brother’s. They’ll be here in a few minutes.” She opened her back door and leaned inside. “Can you take these for me? I don’t want to leave them.” She handed Jordan a briefcase and a laptop.
“Sure.” Jordan looped the strap to the canvas bag over a shoulder and gripped the handle of the attaché.
A white van made its way up the street toward her.
She moved closer to Liz’s car to give the driver room. She heard the whoosh of the side panel sliding open. Curious, she started to turn.
A damp cloth covered her nose and mouth. A strong hand held it firmly in place. An arm snaked around her waist and yanked her backward.
Confusion gave way to fear—then panic. She dropped the briefcase. She tried to fight, but a pungent odor gagged her. Her last sight was Liz walking toward the Equinox as the tentacles of unconsciousness pulled her into darkness.
Hannah stared at the cordless phone lying on the kitchen table. She had lost count of how many times she’d called Jordan’s cell over the past three hours. It had gone straight to voice mail every time. For the first hour, she just assumed Jordan was in a meeting. Odd for a Saturday, but certainly possible. Then she decided Jordan had forgotten to turn her phone back on following the assumed meeting, and after that, she imagined the meeting must have to do with some big case, important enough to call everyone in on a weekend and even more complicated than anyone originally knew. Once she started calling the main office, though, and got no answer, she had to admit she’d made up every possibility and something truly could be wrong.
What though? What would be considered wrong in a life as normal as theirs? Her thoughts drifted to all those TV shows that aired stories about somebody’s loved one turning out to be the serial killer for which every law enforcement agency in three states has been searching for a decade, or someone waking up to find the person she lives with vanished into the night in a UFO or—equally as alien—the witness protection program.
Their lives weren’t like that. Theirs was just an average one in Santa Monica, California, in which she, as a high school counselor, sometimes had the unfortunate task of breaking it to an otherwise intelligent teenaged girl that yes, you really can get pregnant the first time, and Jordan, as a civil liberties attorney, spent her days helping people realize their rights. It was a life in which two women spent Sunday mornings at the farmer’s market, occasionally made love on the living room floor, and shared an appreciation for quirky movies like Lars and the Real Girl.
Hannah remembered a show she had watched once where a woman was abducted by a couple on her way home from a book club meeting and kept in the hollow pedestal of a waterbed for the next four years, let out only to be used as a sex slave by the husband and to help the wife clean the house. At the time, Hannah thought the woman kidnapped must have been into some weird stuff for that to have happened, but now she wondered. Could she have been a typical, middle class, thirty-something Flo Schmo who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
The doorbell rang.
Hannah jumped. Jordan. She leapt up, almost toppling her chair, and ran to answer it. She pulled open the door, relief washing away a fear she hadn’t fully realized gripped her. Then she recognized her sister. Her heart tightened again. “Kate,” she said, unable to hide her disappointment. “I thought you were Jory.”
“Why would Jordan ring the bell?” Kate swept past her. “I take it she hasn’t shown up yet.”
Hannah eased the door closed. “No, not yet.” She had forgotten she called Kate.
“Well, maybe if she’s run off, you can get back to men. I still say you’re not gay.” Kate dropped onto the sofa. Her dark blue capris and sleeveless, pink cotton blouse bore the usual resemblance to what Hannah wore. It had always been that way. Without even talking, they would show up places wearing amazingly similar outfits. “We’re identical twins,” Kate said, as she often did. “And I’m not gay, so you can’t be either.” It was a position she had held since Hannah had come out ten years earlier.
Jordan always said there was nothing identical about them. She called Kate the crystallized version of Hannah—hard, sharp-edged, cold as the undead and just as creepy. Though Hannah and Kate were truly identical physically, Jordan could always tell them apart from any angle. Hannah believed that was the reason Kate had never liked her. Once, she had tried to fool Jordan, the way they had done with everyone when they were children, but Jordan had known instantly and rejected the kiss Kate was attempting to plant on her.
Hannah released an irritated sigh. “The last man I was with was Jimmy Robertson when we were eleven.” She sat on the edge of the recliner across from Kate. “I’d get arrested if I went after eleven-year-olds now.”
“I’m sure Jimmy Robertson isn’t eleven anymore,” Kate said. “And I remember him being pretty cute.”
Hannah looked into her own clear green eyes, her own patrician features, recognizing her own relentless, dog-with-a-bone tendencies. “Why are you here?”
Kate flashed Hannah’s bright smile and leaned back into the plush sofa cushion. She crossed her long legs. “To support you. To be with you while you’re worried.” She ran her fingers through her shoulder-length blond hair. “You’re worried, aren’t you? You sounded worried on the phone.”
Hannah’s thoughts returned to Jordan. “I think I’m starting to be,” she said. “She was supposed to be home hours ago, and she’s not answering her phone.”
Kate shrugged. “So, she’s late. It can’t be the first time.”
Late. Hannah allowed the word to wander the twists and turns of her neural pathways. First, Jordan had simply been out. Then, she hadn’t been home yet. After another half hour or so, maybe she had been officially late. What was she now as the time was going on seven o’clock? At what point did someone become missing? “No,” she said to Kate. “It’s not the first time she’s been late, but it’s the first time she’s been this late without calling.” Jordan couldn’t be missing, though. Not yet. Not, at least, until Hannah had contacted a few people she might be with.
“Have you tried that friend of hers?” Kate asked, reading Hannah’s mind as she frequently did. “What’s her name? Vickie? Mickey?”
“Nikki,” Hannah said, tossing her an annoyed glance. Kate never remembered the names of people she considered superfluous. “And no, I haven’t.”
“Why not? I’d think she’d be the first person you’d try.”
She should have been. Nikki had been Jordan’s best friend since before Hannah had come into the picture, and for the first six months Hannah and Jordan were dating, Nikki had been around a lot. She and Hannah had started to become close, too. When Hannah had moved in with Jordan, though, something changed. Nikki had all but vanished. She still saw Jordan, still played racquetball and basketball with her and grabbed a beer or caught a movie several times a month, but she didn’t do anything with them anymore.
Hannah had tried to fix whatever had happened; she’d extended invitations to Nikki, had asked if something was wrong, but that just seemed to make things awkward between them. Hannah had even asked Jordan about it, but Jordan had assured her everything was fine, that Nikki just got funny sometimes, and not to worry about it. It was that awkwardness that still lingered between them that had kept Hannah from calling Nikki earlier, but now, her reluctance stemmed from the question, if Jordan wasn’t with Nikki, where the hell was she? “I haven’t called anyone. I was still waiting.”
“How long are you going to wait?” Kate’s steady gaze held Hannah’s.
Hannah sighed and went to get the phone. As she listened to the third ring on the other end of the line, she pictured Jordan and Nikki, kicked back on Nikki’s ratty old couch, knocking back a few beers and watching whatever sized and shaped ball now in season bounce around the television screen. Irritation tightened her jaw.
“Hey, where you been?” Nikki asked when she picked up, her tone casual. “I’ve been calling you all afternoon.”
Hannah’s hope fell. Clearly, Nikki knew as little as she did about Jordan’s whereabouts. “Nikki, it’s Hannah. I was hoping Jordan was with you, but I guess not, huh?”
“Hannah? No, she’s not with me.” Nikki paused. “Is everything okay?”
Fear had been prowling the outskirts of Hannah’s heart like a wild animal stalking its prey, but now, at the confirmation that the one other person who almost always knew where Jordan was had no idea either, Hannah felt its circle begin to tighten in her chest. “Oh, I’m sure everything’s fine.” She attempted a light air. “Jory’s just late, and I haven’t been able to reach her. I just thought she might be with you.”
“How late is she?”
“She said she’d be home around three.” A silence followed. Hannah envisioned Nikki checking her watch. Then she heard a muffled no, thank you. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you out somewhere?”
“It’s okay. I’m just—”
“I didn’t mean to interrupt anything. I’m sure she’ll be home soon.”
“Well, I…” Nikki hesitated. “It’s weird she’s so late and hasn’t called you. Will you let me know when she turns up?”
“Yes,” Hannah said. There was no point in keeping Nikki on the phone since she didn’t know anything either, but Hannah felt reluctant to let her go. This call was different from the one she made to Kate earlier, in which she voiced her irritation at Jordan’s lack of consideration. This one had opened the door to the possibility that something might have happened to Jordan, and Nikki was a connection to her. “I’m sure she’ll be home soon. Enjoy your evening.”
Hannah ended the call and pursed her lips. She felt Kate’s eyes on her. “Nikki doesn’t know where she is.” She heard the anxiety in her voice before she actually recognized its clench in her stomach.
“Well…hey…” Kate touched Hannah’s shoulder. “Nikki’s not her only friend, is she? Who else could she be with?”
Kate’s atypical tenderness did more to heighten Hannah’s apprehension than ease it. Hannah needed Kate to be flippant, dismissive, her usual annoying self, diminishing the situation and turning the topic back to her own latest drama. She needed her somehow to make this moment all about her, the way she always did. That would make it normal. It would mean everything was okay, that Jordan would walk through the front door any minute and Kate would give her the stink-eye.
Hannah tried to focus on the question. Other friends? Of course, Jordan had other friends, but who were they? They had friends together, couples they did things with, but those were Hannah’s friends. Jordan wouldn’t be with any of them without her. Jordan did do other things, though. She went to lunch with… What’s that guy’s name? And there’s Lexie…or Leslie…or Lucy…who cuts her hair. Hadn’t they gone to a WNBA game a few weeks ago? Hannah wished she had paid more attention. “I don’t know.” She shook her head. “I don’t know her other friends.” She blinked in surprised realization, the gap in her knowledge causing a sinking feeling in her stomach.
Nikki Medina yanked the handle of the emergency brake into place and opened the car door. She swung her feet out in the way that was now habit after six weeks with her left foot in a cast and gripped the top of the door, then hoisted herself out. She’d be glad when the cast came off and her life could get back to normal. She grabbed her crutches from behind the driver’s seat and slammed the car door.
After Hannah’s call, Nikki had tried to go back to her dinner conversation with Cyndi, the cute blonde who’d been the maid of honor at her cousin’s wedding two weeks earlier, but she hadn’t been able to concentrate. All she’d been able to think about was Hannah sitting at home worrying and Jordan out God knows where, doing Christ knew what. Nikki did have to admit, though, it wasn’t like her to just disappear for hours in such an obvious way. Cyndi had been understanding when Nikki cut their date inexcusably short—they hadn’t even been served their appetizers yet—to go check the boat, the one place she knew to look for Jordan. When that’d proven unproductive, she’d headed over to their condo.
She hesitated, her fingertip lightly touching the button for the doorbell, and tried to quell her irritation. Jordan was her best friend and had been since they’d been assigned as doubles partners in a charity tennis tournament nine years earlier, but she could be an ass. She had someone like Hannah—no, not someone like Hannah. Hell, she had Hannah and took her for granted. Hannah was beautiful, smart, interesting, and wanted a full life with Jordan, and Jordan… Jordan’s an idiot. When it came to women, Jordan was a phony, a liar, and Nikki resented the position Jordan had put her in. Normally, Nikki kept her distance from Hannah because she knew so much about Jordan, because she knew eventually she’d have to lie to Hannah, too—and because she hated how envious she felt watching the two of them together. Now, here she was, about to ring the doorbell, about to step into the role of comforting Hannah, and how could she do that without lying to her, or worse, without telling her the truth?
Nikki dropped her hand to the grip of her crutch. I can’t do this. She hopped to turn and make her way back down the walk but lost her balance and fell against the jamb, one crutch clattering to the ground. She caught herself and straightened just as the door opened behind her. So much for a stealthy getaway. She glanced over her shoulder and saw the disappointment in Hannah’s expression. “Sorry,” she said as she leaned down to retrieve the crutch. “I’m still not very good with these things.”
“Hi, Nikki.” Hannah looked past her to the street.
“Still no Jordan?” Nikki asked, already knowing the answer.
Hannah opened the door wider, shaking her head. She gestured Nikki inside. “I’m glad you’re here. You know Jory’s other friends, don’t you?”
Nikki ignored the pet name. Jordan disliked all nicknames, but despised that one in particular. Nikki knew the only reason she let Hannah use it was to avoid having to explain why she hated it so much. “I know some.” She nodded to Kate on the couch.
“Did she mention having plans with any of them when you saw her this morning?” Hannah asked.
Nikki shifted her weight for a more solid stance. “I didn’t see her this morning.”
“She said she had a racquetball game.” Hannah focused on Nikki for the first time.
Nikki warmed as she always did under Hannah’s direct gaze. It didn’t happen very often anymore, and she was surprised at the strength of her reaction. “It wasn’t with me.” She lifted her foot a few inches, indicating her cast. “I haven’t been able to play since I broke my ankle.”
Hannah glanced at it. “When was that?”
“About six weeks ago. Don’t you remember? Jordan took me to the doctor to get it set.” She studied Hannah for some flicker of recollection. “You were upset because she didn’t get back in time for dinner with your friends?”
Hannah’s eyes shifted. “Oh. Yes, I remember, now.” She returned her attention to Nikki. “Who has she been playing with then?”
Nikki shrugged. “There are always people around the gym looking to pick up a game.” How could Hannah not know Jordan hadn’t been playing with Nikki? She’d been so mad that Jordan missed that dinner, how could she have forgotten? “The past three weeks or so she’s been playing with a woman named Liz.” Nikki moved to the recliner and eased into it.
“I don’t know. Just someone who plays there. I only met her once, when I had lunch with Jordan after a game.”
“She doesn’t have a last name?” Hannah’s tone sharpened.
Nikki felt a twinge of defensiveness. “I’m sure she does. I just don’t know it. She was introduced to me as Liz.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Hannah sighed. “I just don’t know what to think right now.” She sat on the sofa beside Kate.
“That’s okay. I think we’re both…all…” Nikki looked at Kate, who was examining her manicure. “I think we’re all kind of anxious,” she said, though Kate seemed a little bored. Nikki turned back to Hannah. “What do you know?”
Hannah shrugged. “She left this morning to go play racquetball, then go to her office to do some work. She said she’d be home around three.”
“Have you talked to anyone from her office? Was it just her going in, or was there some kind of work thing going on?”
“I don’t know,” Hannah said, her voice quiet. “I called the main number a few times, and no one answered. I don’t have the private numbers of anyone she works with.”
Nikki was intrigued. How could someone’s girlfriend know so little about her life? No wonder it was so easy for Jordan to do the things she did. “I have Dana’s,” she said, retrieving her cell phone from the back pocket of her jeans. “She might know.”
Surprise flashed in Hannah’s eyes. “Why do you have Dana’s number?”
Why do you not? Nikki opened her contacts. “We go to concerts together sometimes.” She scrolled down the list.
“You’re dating Jordan’s boss?”
“We’re not dating. She’s married to a stockbroker. We’re both kind of eccentric in our music tastes.” Nikki hesitated before tapping SEND. “Do you want to talk to her, or do you want me to?”
“I think I want to,” Hannah said.
Nikki placed the call and handed her the phone.
After a moment, Hannah rose. “Hi, Dana, this is Hannah Lewis, Jordan Webber’s girlfriend? We’ve met at a couple of your work functions…no, I’m just using Nikki’s phone…” She strolled into the kitchen as she spoke.
Nikki turned to find Kate’s cool gaze fixed on her. It was almost like having Hannah’s eyes locked on her, only Kate’s were sharper. She felt heat creep into her cheeks.
“Do you know where she is?” Kate whispered.
“No.” Nikki laughed. “If I did, I’d go tell her to get her ass home.”
Kate eyed her. “You do know some places she could be, though, don’t you?”
There was no point in trying to pretend anything with this woman. If she was shrewd enough to be asking these questions, she suspected something, and if she hadn’t said anything to Hannah before now, it wasn’t likely she’d give anything away. “I already checked the one place I know. She wasn’t there.”
“You find her and get her home.” Kate’s voice held an uncompromising warning. “Nobody hurts my sister.”
Then, Nikki saw it: the concern—not for Jordan, but for Hannah—the protectiveness, the love. Beneath that air of indifference, Kate would do anything for Hannah, or at least make sure someone else did. It was the same feeling, the same fixation, that’d begun to grow in Nikki during the first six months of Jordan’s relationship with Hannah. She’d begun to want to protect her, to keep her safe from Jordan’s demons, but she couldn’t know the things she knew and still face Hannah over a dinner table, a game of pool, or TGIF pizza and beer. She couldn’t protect Jordan and Hannah at the same time. She’d had to get some distance, and she’d had to keep it over the years.
And yet, Jordan wasn’t evil. She wasn’t mean or a bad person. She just didn’t know how to quiet her soul, how to chase all the insecurities, all the doubts, all the self-recrimination from her depths. They all remained buried, eating away at her, perpetuating behaviors that either gave her a moment of respite from her emptiness or reinforced the belief that she was unlovable. Jordan needed a best friend, one who knew her and loved her just as she was. Nikki supposed everyone needed that, and even with Jordan’s pitfalls, Nikki was still happy to be that kind of friend to her. She was glad Hannah had Kate. She pressed her lips together in a gentle smile and nodded.
Kate softened, and she leaned closer conspiratorially. “Can you stay with Hannah? I have a date.”
Nikki startled at the abrupt change in subject. “What?”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Can you stay with Hannah until Jordan gets home? I have to go, and I’m afraid she’ll freak out if she’s alone. She has this abandonment thing.”
“Oh. Yeah, sure.”
“Dana’s in San Francisco,” Hannah said, returning to the living room. “She doesn’t know of anything going on at the office. She said Jordan must have been working on something on her own.” She stopped beside the couch and looked at them. “What are you two talking about?”
“I was just asking Nikki questions,” Kate said, settling back into her seat. “Like they do on TV, to see if something came up she didn’t know she knew.”
Hannah pinned Nikki with an expectant look.
Nikki fidgeted. “I didn’t come up with anything.”
Hannah sighed. “So, we just wait, then?” She perched on the edge of the cushion beside Kate. The casualness of her words belied the tension in her features.
There had to be something they could do besides wait. Nikki let her thoughts begin to roam. This was unusual. Jordan was always good at being home when she said she would be to keep Hannah from asking questions or wondering about what she did. Hannah had been the one to push for monogamy, and although Jordan said she hadn’t technically agreed to it, she’d let Hannah believe she had. Then, over the three years they’d been together, she’d become an expert juggler, continuing to sleep with other women while treating Hannah as though she’d never even look at anyone else. It was almost artful. So, why this all of a sudden? Why disappear in such a way that Hannah had no choice but to ask questions? Maybe something really had happened to Jordan. “Do you know if she actually got to her game this morning?” Nikki finally asked.
Hannah stared at her. “What do you mean?”
“You said she left for the gym and then she was going to the office. Did she make it to the gym?”
“I don’t know. I just assumed—” Hannah paled. “You mean she could be missing since this morning? Oh, my God, that’s over twelve hours.”
“Sweetie, I’m sure that’s not what she means,” Kate said, slipping an arm around Hannah. She glared at Nikki.
“No, I’m not saying that.” Nikki tried to backpedal. “I’m just thinking, maybe we should call the gym and see what time she left there.” She gave a small shrug.
“Okay. You’re probably right.” Hannah folded her hands between her knees. “Will you do it?” she asked Nikki.
“Sure,” Nikki said. She placed the call.
“LA Health and Fitness,” a voice said on the other end of the line. “This is Ray. How can I help you?”
“Hi. My name’s Nikki Medina, and I’m a member there.”
“Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you?”
“My best friend is also a member, and she had a racquetball court reserved for this morning.” Nikki kept her eyes down, avoiding Hannah’s. “I was wondering if you could tell me if she kept her reservation.”
“No, ma’am, I’m sorry. I can’t give out any information about our members.”
“I understand the whole privacy thing.” Nikki shifted her phone to her other ear. “But this is important. No one’s seen her since she left the house for the gym this morning, and we’re just trying to find out if she made it there. Her name’s Jordan Webber. If you could just check.”
Ray paused. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I still don’t think I can do that.”
Nikki glanced at Hannah, taking in the taut set of her mouth, the rapid jiggle of her right foot. She wished she hadn’t brought up the possibility that Jordan hadn’t even made it to her first stop. “Is there someone else I can talk to…your supervisor? Or the manager, maybe?”
“I can leave a message for the manager and have her call you when she gets in on Monday.” Ray was beginning to sound distracted.
“Monday?” Nikki’s frustration escalated. “Look, I need to talk to someone before Monday. Something could’ve happened to my friend, and we need to know where to start looking.” She regretted the words as soon as they passed her lips. She heard a sharp intake of breath. She looked at Hannah.
Hannah’s eyes were wide.
Nikki forced a calmer tone. “Is there any way I could speak with your manager this evening to see if she can help?”
Another pause. “I could send her a text and see if she’ll call you back. Would that help?”
Nikki sighed. “Yes. That would be great. Thank you.” After leaving her number with Ray, she ended the call. “He’s going to…well, you heard.”
Kate made eye contact with Nikki, then reached for her purse. “I’m going to cancel my date.” She made a production of rummaging through its contents. “I don’t want to leave you alone tonight.”
“You don’t need to do that. I’ll be fine,” Hannah said, a bit unconvincingly. “I’m sure Jory will be home soon.” Her voice held a mild tremor.
“Actually,” Nikki said, “I’d like to stay, if it’s okay. I’d like to know when she gets home.” That was the truth. If she did come home perfectly fine and nonchalant, Nikki wanted a word or two with her. If she didn’t show up at all… Well, they’d count that dinosaur when it hatched.
Hannah looked at her, a hint of gratitude in her eyes. She nodded.
After Kate made a suitably concerned exit—checking and rechecking that Hannah would be all right, making her promise to call as soon as she heard anything, and assuring her everything would be fine—Nikki and Hannah were alone.
It was the first time in over two years. They’d been at social gatherings or games occasionally during that span, but always in groups. Nikki felt everything she’d left unsaid, everything she didn’t want to say tonight, stretch between them like a deep chasm, the closeness that’d once begun to grow between them lost somewhere at the very bottom. Her stomach knotted at the awkwardness.
Hannah smoothed her palms over her thighs, glanced at Nikki, then away. “Can I get you something to drink?” She walked toward the kitchen. “Or, are you hungry?”
“Ice water would be good,” Nikki said. She wanted something to do with her hands.
When Hannah returned with two glasses, she gave one to Nikki, then sat across from her. She took a long swallow of her drink, then smiled. “It’s been a long time. How have you been?”
“Good.” Nikki rested her elbows on her knees and turned her glass restlessly between her fingers. “Busy. You know, with the business and all.”
“Yes, Jory’s mentioned you’ve become quite the in-demand photographer,” Hannah said, a hint of praise in her voice. “That has to feel good.”
Satisfaction welled in Nikki as it always did when she thought about how much her studio had grown since that first wedding she’d shot for friends twelve years earlier at the starry-eyed age of twenty-two. She couldn’t hold back a grin. “It does. I couldn’t do it without Aleyda, though.” She softened at the thought of her sister-in-law. “She’s turned into more of a business partner than an assistant.”
“How is Aleyda? And the kids?” Hannah shifted sideways on the couch and drew up her knees.
Nikki released an inner sigh of relief at the direction of the conversation. She leaned back and relaxed into the recliner. “They’re all doing great.”
“Is Tony still at UCLA?”
“Just finishing his sophomore year.” Nikki was pleased Hannah remembered him by name, but then, that was the Hannah Nikki had been drawn to. When other things were going on, Hannah could be distracted and not even notice you, but when her attention was on you, it felt like no one else existed. “And Rob just graduated from high school. He’s starting at UC Davis in the fall.”
Hannah’s eyes widened. “Seriously? That can’t be.”
Nikki chuckled. “Yup, he’s grown up a lot in the past couple of years.”
“What about your niece?” Hannah toyed absently with her painted toenails.
Nikki warmed at Hannah’s interest in the people most important to her. She remembered the feeling from the times they’d spent together in the early months of Hannah and Jordan’s relationship. “Cecelia’s Cecelia.” She laughed. “Directionless, but doing good.” Part of their last real conversation flashed in the forefront of Nikki’s mind. “What about you? The last time we talked, you said now that both of your adoptive parents had passed, you wanted to try to find your birth mom. Did you do that?” Nikki thought that if something that significant had happened, Jordan would have mentioned it, but she never knew with Jordan.
Hannah tilted her head. “No.” Disappointment tempered her tone. “I tried to talk to Kate about it, but she’s still adamant that she doesn’t want anything to do with our birth mother. I thought after Dad’s death, she might change her mind, but she didn’t. And it doesn’t seem right to do it without her.”
Nikki listened, feeling more of the awkwardness fall away.
“I can’t say I don’t understand.” Hannah stroked her thumb along the cuff of her capris. “Mom and Dad gave us a wonderful childhood and opportunities for amazing lives. They gave us so much love, and I don’t ever mean to diminish that. I just want to know why our birth mother gave us up. I broached the subject with Dad once, and he said he thought that was normal.” She paused. “You know, I don’t think I ever thanked you for being there for me when my father died. You probably don’t think it was a big deal, but it was to me. You were so thoughtful.”
It was to me, too. It’d been a tantalizing taste of what being the person Hannah counted on would be like. Nikki remembered the day well.
Her phone had rung mid-afternoon, and she’d answered to Hannah’s tearful plea for her to come to the hospital where Hannah’s father had been taken following a heart attack. Jordan had been out of town on business, and Kate had been away at camp with her fifth grade class. Nikki had sat with Hannah in the surgery waiting room, and Hannah had collapsed into her arms when the doctors informed her that her father had died on the operating table. Nikki had stayed with her every minute until Jordan had gotten home the following day, helping Hannah with the paperwork, making sure she ate, putting her to bed, and sitting with her until she finally fell into a fitful sleep.
But the day of the funeral, it’d been Jordan who had stood beside Hannah and held her hand, and Jordan who had greeted friends and family with her at the reception. That night, however, when Jordan was on the phone into the late hours with her associates on the big case she was working, and Kate had fallen into an exhausted sleep on the sofa, it’d been Nikki who’d listened to Hannah’s memories and childhood stories of her father, Nikki who’d explored with her the possibility of finding her birth mother, Nikki who’d held her while she grieved her loss. That was the night Nikki realized she was in too deep, that she needed some distance.
“I’m glad I could help,” Nikki said. “That’s what friends are for. Right?”
Hannah smiled. “You’re a good friend,” she said softly. “And I should have thanked you way before now. I’m sorry.”
Nikki gave a single nod. “No problem.” Her phone vibrated with an incoming text, and she checked the screen.
Hannah looked on with a hopeful expression.
“It’s Dana, asking if we’ve heard from Jordan.” Nikki sent a quick reply. She returned her attention to Hannah in time to see the unease pass through her eyes. Here she was again in the role of the one who was supposed to be offering Hannah comfort, but this time was different. She knew too much, and yet didn’t know enough. She didn’t know where Jordan was, but she knew what she could be doing. She didn’t know if Jordan was okay, or if there was truly a reason to be worried. She didn’t know what to say to fill the minutes, or maybe hours, of waiting. She just knew she had to come up with something.
Jordan felt the gentle motion of the boat beneath her and the soft curves of a woman pressed against her. Tina. She didn’t always know their names, but she remembered Tina. How odd, though. She remembered taking Tina back to her car when they had finished, and she thought it’d been several days ago. And yet, here they still were.
Tina’s hand moved up Jordan’s torso to her throat. She cupped Jordan’s face and coaxed her lips to meet hers.
Jordan felt another stirring of awakening. “Mmm.” She tried to open her eyes but couldn’t.
The thrum of an engine vibrated through her with the kiss.
Another brain cell or two woke.
How can the engine be running when I’m below deck in the berth? She pulled back from Tina and tried to focus. She made another attempt to open her eyes. Her lids felt sewn shut. She shifted in the bed, but her limbs wouldn’t move either.
“Shh,” Tina soothed her, but she was no longer close. Her skin no longer warmed Jordan’s.
With a final effort, Jordan felt her lids give. The dream fell away, and light stabbed her eyes. She squinted against the pain. A blurred figure moved over her.
“There you are. How do you feel?” The voice was familiar, feminine, comforting—but it wasn’t Tina.
“Where am I?” The words rang clearly in her mind, but all she heard leave her throat was a garbled mutter. She coughed.
“Shh. Here, try some water.” A hand slipped beneath her head and lifted her lips to a straw.
Jordan sucked cool liquid into her dry mouth. She moaned and swallowed deeply.
“Not so much at once,” Not Tina said. “Take it slowly, or it’ll come back up.”
Jordan took a sip this time, then let Not Tina settle her head back onto the pillow. The bed shuddered beneath her. The engine continued a low hum.
This isn’t right. Where am I? Confusion muddled her brain. Fear swelled in her gut, but before it could crest, her eyes fell closed again.
Hannah woke to the smell of coffee and the soft murmur of Nikki’s voice, both from the kitchen. Nikki had been wonderful the night before. She had kept the conversation flowing with questions about what books Hannah had been reading or movies she had seen, and humorous stories of the most unusual weddings she had shot in the past months, keeping Hannah’s mind from spiraling into the worst-case scenarios she could imagine about Jordan. It had worked for a while, but Hannah had finally broken down late in the night and cried herself to sleep. She remembered that taking place in Nikki’s embrace, though. Now, she lay on the couch beneath the duvet from her and Jordan’s bed.
Jordan! Was she home? Hannah sat up straight. Her eyes burned as she blinked against the morning sunlight streaming through the living room windows. Is that who Nikki’s talking to? She strained to listen.
“Yes, I understand,” Nikki said quietly. “We’ll do that.”
No one answered.
Hannah’s hope crumbled like dry leaves. Jordan hadn’t come home.
Hannah stepped into the kitchen as Nikki slipped her phone into her back pocket. “Who was that?” She walked to the coffeemaker and filled a mug already sitting beside it.
“The manager of the gym,” Nikki said, opening the refrigerator and retrieving a pint of cream. She placed it in front of Hannah. “She wouldn’t tell me if Jordan was there yesterday, but she said if we file a police report, she can release the information to them.”
“The police?” Hannah’s stomach churned. That would mean Jordan’s really gone. She felt that old, familiar emptiness—something she had thought she unloaded in therapy years ago—try to take hold. “God, that’s so…” She looked down into her cup.
“I know.” Nikki leaned against the counter. “We should do something today, though. I could call Dana back and get the numbers of the rest of the people Jordan works with. And you should call your friends. But, you know, we can’t really find out for sure how long she’s been…actually…you know…until we know if she kept the reservation for the court.”
Hannah sighed. She opened the carton of cream and poured some into her coffee. She watched the tendrils of white swirl into the black. It looked as though the world had slowed down. She could see each spiral movement as the two liquids blended. Her thoughts slowed to match it. She couldn’t make a decision—what to do, who to call, whether to be mad at Jordan or afraid for her.
“Hannah?” Nikki’s voice was gentle.
Hannah cleared her throat. “Yes. We should do something.” She looked up into Nikki’s dark brown eyes, so dark they were almost black, their texture seemingly that of luxuriant velvet. She remembered those eyes the night before, the years before, filled with laughter and affection. She realized she missed having Nikki around. What had happened?
“Okay,” Nikki said. “I’ll try Dana.” She picked up her own mug, hobbled to the table, and sat down. “Do you have some paper and a pen?”
Once settled, each of them got to their calls.
Hannah’s went as she would have predicted. “Hi, Marti…Janice…Stephanie… Have you seen or heard from Jordan, by any chance?”
“Jordan? No, why? Is something wrong?” all of them asked. The underlying question, however, was Why would we have seen Jordan without you? There was no reason Jordan would be with any of them. Hannah doubted she even knew how to reach them on her own—just like Hannah with Jordan’s colleagues. Each conversation ended similarly, with questions asked and evaded to the best of Hannah’s ability. She wasn’t ready to go into any details, even if she’d had any. When all the calls were done, they only knew more places Jordan wasn’t.
Hannah and Nikki sat in silence for a long moment, the air heavy between them. Hannah resisted looking up to meet Nikki’s eyes, those patient, comforting eyes, because she knew once she did, it would be time to make that one call that would change everything.
Nikki just sat, waiting.
Finally, Hannah faced her and nodded.
“Santa Monica Police Department,” a woman’s voice rang clearly through the phone’s speaker. “This is Kristy.”
“Hello,” Hannah said. She hesitated, reluctant to say what had to follow. “I need to report someone missing.” The words slid out. She had expected them to catch, in her throat, on her teeth, but they hadn’t. They had just slipped right out.
“Yes, ma’am. Who is it that’s missing?”
Hannah was grateful for the question, any question. Something she could simply answer. “My girlfriend.”
“When was the last time anyone saw or spoke with her?” Kristy asked.
“Have you checked the hospitals?” Kristy’s tone was matter-of-fact.
“The hospitals?” Hannah looked at Nikki. Images of car accidents, muggings, shootings flooded her mind. “Wouldn’t someone have called me if she’d been admitted to a hospital?”
“If she didn’t have any ID on her and couldn’t tell them who to contact, they wouldn’t know.”
More pictures flashed—Jordan wheeled into an emergency room, unconscious on a gurney. She pondered the number of hospitals in the Los Angeles area and became overwhelmed. “I haven’t,” she said. “I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“What about the jail?” Kristy asked as though going down a checklist. “Could she have been arrested?”
Hannah huffed out a laugh. “Of course not.” It was the first thing she had found funny in hours. “She’s an attorney.”
“What’s her name? I’ll go ahead and check real quick.”
“Her name’s Jordan Webber, but you don’t need to—” Hannah cut herself off as she heard the tapping of computer keys. She listened to background voices and radio beeps.
“Okay, she hasn’t been booked, so I’ll enter a call to have an officer come out and take a report. In the meantime, go ahead and check the hospitals closest to her last known whereabouts and where she was supposed to be. You can get a list off the Internet. If you find her, please call back and let us know.”
Kristy’s efficiency rankled Hannah. It was as though all of this was nothing out of the ordinary, in fact, it was so ordinary it had a standard operating procedure. There was nothing ordinary about this. Jordan didn’t simply not come home. She didn’t get arrested in the middle of a Saturday or end up uncommunicative in a hospital somewhere. Hannah gave her address and contact information to Kristy in clipped answers and hung up with a very unsatisfying hard press of the End Call button. She remembered hanging up on Kate once on their grandmother’s old kitchen wall phone, slamming the receiver down onto the hook. Now that had been satisfying.
Nikki gave her a mildly reproachful look. “It isn’t her fault. She’s just doing her job.”
“I told her Jordan wouldn’t have been arrested, and she still acted like she’s some kind of criminal.”
Nikki bit her lip. “People don’t always know what their loved ones will do. My brother Jesse got arrested once for looking in some girl’s window while he was jogging and was so embarrassed and afraid of his wife, he sat in jail for thirty-seven hours before he called anybody.”
Hannah thought of Jordan’s morning runs. What was Nikki saying? Did she know something Hannah didn’t? Jordan was her girlfriend, not Nikki’s. Surely, she knew her better. “Jordan isn’t your brother.”
“I’m just saying.” Nikki shrugged.
“Well, she wasn’t in jail.” Hannah tried to hold onto the anger—it felt marginally better than fear—but her thoughts lingered on Nikki’s brother. She had met him once, a shy, soft-spoken veterinarian’s assistant who drove a VW bug. She couldn’t imagine. “Jesse?” she asked. “Really?”
Nikki smiled and shrugged again. “He just happened to glance over while he was running past her house at the same minute she looked outside, but that was all it took.” She bent and picked up her crutches. “It’ll probably be a while before the police get here. If you want to grab a shower, I’ll be here to get the door. And I can make the hospital calls while we wait.”
More waiting. Any time she wasn’t actively doing something like making phone calls, preparing her coffee, or putting away the dishes from the dishwasher, the reality of the situation crept in all around her. If she stopped at all, her anxiety felt like bony fingers tightening around her throat and beginning to squeeze. At the same time, she didn’t want to be the one to check the hospitals. What if she found Jordan there? She couldn’t bear even the thought of hearing, yes, she was brought in this morning and knowing what that could mean. “Thank you,” she said, rubbing her hands over her face. “A shower will feel good.”
After drying her hair and dressing in fresh clothes, Hannah stepped from the bedroom into the aroma of eggs and toast. Her stomach grumbled. She had forgotten she hadn’t eaten the night before.
“Perfect timing,” Nikki called from the kitchen. “Do you want more coffee or juice or both?”
The doorbell rang.
“I guess it doesn’t matter.” In that instant, Hannah realized she no longer thought it was Jordan at the door. What did that mean? Kate had been right—it hadn’t made sense to think Jordan would do anything but let herself in.
Nikki came into the living room. “Want me to get it?”
“No,” Hannah said, hearing her voice quaver ever so slightly.
The uniformed cop on the front stoop stood about six foot, and his ebony skin set off perfect white teeth when he smiled. “Good morning, I’m Officer Mullins. I’m looking for Hannah Lewis?”
“Yes, I’m Hannah. Please, come in.” And so it began—the first moment Jordan would actually be considered missing.
As they all sat, Hannah and Nikki on the couch and Officer Mullins in the recliner, Hannah inhaled deeply.
Officer Mullins opened a small laptop on the coffee table in front of him. “Okay,” he murmured as he began tapping the keys. “RP, Hannah Lewis. Address…” When he finished typing, he looked up. “What’s the name of the person you want to report missing?”
Hannah’s mouth went dry. “Jordan Webber,” she said, her voice barely audible. She felt her world tilt with the absolute foreignness of the moment. She had never in her life done anything remotely like this.
“Does she have a middle name?” Mullins asked.
“Date of birth?”
As the questions continued, Hannah relaxed a little. Height, weight, eye and hair color, kind of car, all came easily and seemed innocuous enough.
“And what’s your relationship to her?” Mullins paused.
“She’s my girlfriend,” Hannah said automatically. Even though they lived together, they had never talked about being partners and they’d certainly never discussed marriage. Hannah had considered it from time to time, but for some reason hadn’t felt comfortable bringing it up to Jordan.
“Okay. So, when was the last time you saw her?”
“Yesterday morning,” Hannah said.
“About what time?”
Hannah hesitated. She thought back to waking to the feel of Jordan behind her, the morning sunlight in the room. “I don’t know exactly. Early.”
“Can you approximate?” Mullins asked. “It could be helpful if we at least have a ballpark figure.” He watched Hannah.
“She was on her way to play racquetball,” Nikki said. “And on Saturdays, she usually plays at seven. The manager of the gym said she could tell you whether or not she got there once the report’s filed.”
“Okay, that’s good,” Mullins said as he typed something into his laptop. He looked at Nikki. “And you are?”
“My name’s Nikki Medina. I’m her best friend.”
More tapping. “So, did either of you see her before she left?”
“I did,” Hannah said, glad to have an answer. “So, that probably would have been around sixish, if her game was at seven.”
“What was she wearing?”
Oh, God. Hannah recalled Jordan’s eyes, her hands, her mouth, the weight of her body—and nothing else. “I don’t know.” She felt a hot blush creep into her face.
Mullins raised an eyebrow. “If you can remember anything…”
“Was she already dressed to play?” Nikki asked Hannah.
Hannah remembered the feel of Jordan’s shirt against her breasts, the buttons. “No, she had on a dress shirt, sateen.” But what color? She glimpsed it in her mind as she relived Jordan pulling her nightshirt over her head. “Pale yellow,” she blurted.
“What else?” Mullins asked even as he entered the information. He seemed almost automated.
Hannah sighed. She doubted she could come up with anything else. She had barely opened her eyes. She shook her head.
“Pants? Skirt? Shorts?” Mullins waited, his hands poised above the keyboard.
Nikki chuckled. “Definitely not a skirt.”
Hannah shifted her gaze to meet Nikki’s. “No.” She managed a weak smile. In that split second, she recalled the seam of Jordan’s pants against her fingertips. But which ones? What does she wear with that shirt? “Cotton pants,” she said, returning her attention to Mulllins. “But I don’t know what color. I was mostly asleep when she left.” God, what must he think of her—of her and Jordan’s relationship? She didn’t know what her girlfriend was wearing even though she had seen her. She knew what she would think, but he just kept asking questions in a bland, polite tone.
“Do you know what kind of shoes?”
Despondent, she gave a single shake of her head. She looked down at the coffee table. “Is this going to make it harder?”
“These are routine questions, Ms. Lewis. Just to get as much information as we can.” Mullins spoke softly. “Would you like to take a break?”
Nikki slipped her hand over Hannah’s on her thigh.
The shift in Mullins’s monotone and Nikki’s touch soothed her. She took in a breath. “No, I’m okay. Let’s keep going.” She refocused on Mullins but held on to Nikki.
“Okay.” Mullins smiled. “Have you checked with her friends?”
Maybe Hannah did need a minute to regain her composure. With each question, she felt herself slide further beneath some invisible surface of normalcy, into darkness and out of the light of her life a mere two days earlier when she had turned in her school keys and headed into what she thought would be two months of summer break relaxation. She closed her eyes against a swell of emotion.
Nikki squeezed Hannah’s fingers and began to explain the calls they had made. Her voice faded as Hannah searched her mind for something else to latch on to. She couldn’t relive that series of disappointments.
Mullins leaned back, and the leather of his belt and holster creaked.
Hannah’s eyes fluttered open and shifted to the sound. She thought of Batman’s utility belt as she took in the little compartments positioned around the officer’s narrow waist. Batman’s belt, though, held crime-fighting necessities like batarangs and freeze grenades and a cryptographic sequencer, not mundane things like handcuffs and pepper spray and those gloves which, she knew from watching CSI, were used to handle corpses and unsavory evidence. No gun, though. Batman never used a gun because his parents were killed by one. She had learned a lot about Batman from a freshman boy she had been counseling the past several months, who lived and breathed all things Caped Crusader. She wondered how the first couple of days of his summer vacation were going.
“Hannah?” Nikki’s voice touched her awareness, calling her back to the conversation.
“I’m sorry. What?” She looked between Nikki and Mullins.
“Officer Mullins asked about Jordan’s family. I told him to my knowledge she hasn’t talked to them for a long time. Do you know if they’ve been in contact recently?”
“Her family?” Hannah heard the incredulity in her own voice. Nikki had to know better than that. “You mean her parents? No. I’ve never even met them. She never talks to them.”
“What about her brother?” Mullins asked.
“Ms. Medina said she has a brother. David?”
Hannah blinked. “I…I don’t know…anything about a brother.” She looked at Nikki. “Jordan has a brother?”
“Well, yeah.” Nikki blushed. “But I’ve never met him. She doesn’t talk to him, either. That I know of.”
Astonished, Hannah stared at Nikki. How could Nikki know that when she didn’t? Sure, she hadn’t known that Jordan was playing racquetball with a brand new person Hannah had never even heard of, and Nikki had. She hadn’t known how to get in touch with Jordan’s coworkers, and Nikki had. She’d had no idea what time she’d seen Jordan last, and Nikki had. But this…? Here was a relative, a brother, she hadn’t had a clue existed—and Nikki had. “Well,” Hannah said, her tone cool. “Clearly, you know far more than I do.” A tremor vibrated through the foundation of everything else she thought she knew.
Mullins cleared his throat. “Okay, well…is your girlfriend involved with drugs in any way?”
“No.” Hannah returned her attention to him. “Never.”
“Did the two of you have a fight, or anything? Or has she been acting strange in any way?”
Hannah studied him, her anger rising as she comprehended his meaning. “She wouldn’t just leave. Something must have happened to her.” What am I saying? She didn’t want to go there, but what he was suggesting was ridiculous.
“It’s been known to take place.” He scratched the underside of his chin. “People leave their lives behind way more than anyone realizes. Someone gets unhappy, wants a new start…” He shrugged.
The muscles in Hannah’s neck tightened. She thought of her birth mother, the woman who had given her away, who had left her behind for a new start. Her old feelings of abandonment started oozing to the surface. “Jordan wouldn’t do that. And she wasn’t unhappy. I would have known if she was.” She felt a twinge of embarrassment at her statement with everything she hadn’t known. But this was different.
Mullins nodded. “She drives a Chevy. Does her car have OnStar? Maybe you could call and see if they can track it.”
Hannah’s temples began to throb. “It has an OnStar button.”
“Check that out. Does she have an iPhone?”
“Yes.” Hannah said, feeling a surge of hope without knowing why. Maybe it was just a thrill to actually know something about Jordan.
“You may be able to track it through the Apple Phone Finder,” Mullins said as he closed his laptop.
“What are you doing?” Hannah asked, fear gripping her. “Is that all?”
Nikki tightened her grasp on Hannah’s hand.
“It’s all for now,” Mullins said quietly. “I have all the basic information. I’ll file the report and a detective will be in touch with you in the next day or two. We’ll also flag her car as belonging to a missing person, so if it turns up, we’ll be notified.”
Hannah felt empty. She had expected more.
“What can we do?” Nikki asked.
Mullins rose. “Your best bet is to keep making calls to anyone you can think of that she knows and check out any favorite hangouts or vacation spots she might have. Things like that. And if you have numbers for her family, call them, even if you don’t think she’s been in touch with them. You never know. And the phone and car. See if you can track them.”
“I thought that’s what the police did,” Hannah said, not even trying to keep the criticism out of her voice.
“Only on TV.” Mullins gave a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Truth is, we can’t really do much unless some sign of foul play surfaces. Right now, there’s no evidence of that. It’s not a crime just to be missing.”
Nikki shook the officer’s hand. “Thank you.”
Hannah couldn’t make herself move.
“If you do think of anything else, call me.” He pulled a business card from his shirt pocket and gave it to Nikki.
Hannah watched as Nikki closed the door behind Mullins and turned. She studied Nikki, taking in every detail as though seeing her for the first time. Straight, dark brown hair that closely matched those rich eyes, fell just below her shoulders. A white, button-up shirt, sleeves rolled to her elbows highlighted bronze-colored skin, and black jeans hugged her narrow hips. Her trim frame and tight abs and thighs spoke to the workout schedule Hannah once knew she kept. She carried herself with the air of soft butch, just like Jordan. She looked as she always had, but suddenly she seemed like someone new, someone who knew more about Jordan than Hannah did.
“Are you okay?” Nikki asked.
“How do you know so much about Jordan?” Hannah’s tone was sharp, but she didn’t care.
Surprise flashed in Nikki’s face, then softened into patience. “She’s my best friend.”
“She’s my girlfriend.”
Nikki eased her weight onto the support of her crutches. “Yes, Hannah. I know. I didn’t mean to overstep any boundaries. I just thought it was important to give the police as much information as we could.”
“I’m not asking about boundaries. I’m asking how you know so much about her.”
“We’ve spent a lot of time together. She’s talked about things.”
“She and I live together. We sleep together every night and wake up together every morning. We make love. We lie in each other’s arms afterward and talk.” Even as the words left her lips, Hannah wondered about their truth. Did they talk, or did she talk?
Nikki paused, searching Hannah’s face. “What are you saying, really?”
Hannah remained silent. She didn’t actually know.
“You think Jordan and I are having an affair?” Nikki’s tone held amazement.
Hannah felt heat rise in her cheeks and her ears began to burn. She hadn’t allowed herself to think it, but now that it had been said, she realized that was what she was implying. In the same moment, she realized how ludicrous it was.
Nikki laughed. “Hannah, I swear to you, Jordan and I are not having an affair. We’ve never…even back before you. We don’t think of each other that way.”
Slumping forward, Hannah buried her face in her hands. “Oh, God, Nikki. I know that. I’m sorry.” She listened to Nikki close the distance between them and felt her ease onto the couch. Hannah shifted and leaned into her.
“It’s okay,” Nikki said, slipping an arm around Hannah’s shoulder.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Hannah’s voice broke, and she began to cry.
Nikki hugged her. “Your girlfriend’s missing. You’re worried and scared. And you don’t have any idea what to do. That’s what’s wrong.” She stroked Hannah’s back. “It’s understandable.”
A sob wrenched free from Hannah’s throat.
Nikki pulled her closer. “Shh. It’ll all be fine. Jordan will turn up, and she’ll have some explanation, and everything will be okay.”
Eventually, the tide of Hannah’s emotions ebbed, and she lay quietly. Nikki’s arms felt so good, so comforting, so safe. Hannah let herself absorb Nikki’s full presence in their snug hold. She was so grateful not to be alone.
Nikki shifted, and she began to ease Hannah from her.
Hannah grasped the front of Nikki’s shirt. “Don’t go,” she whispered.
Nikki relaxed again. “I thought you were asleep.” She tightened her arms around Hannah. “I was just going to go make some fresh breakfast.”
“No. Don’t go,” Hannah said. “Please. Just hold me.” The longer she could stay right there, the longer she could not think about anything else.
As Nikki cleaned up from the making of two breakfasts and loaded the dishwasher, she listened to the faint sounds of Hannah rummaging through the desk in the second bedroom that served as an office. She felt nauseous—and guilty. She should have told Mullins about the affairs or flings, or whatever they were, that Jordan had. How could she, though, with Hannah sitting right there? What if she’d revealed all and then Jordan showed up with some believable explanation for where she’d been all weekend?
On the other hand, what if one of the women she’d slept with had something to do with her disappearance? If Nikki kept silent, she’d be responsible for whatever could be happening to Jordan. How long could she keep the secrets she’d been entrusted with? And…how mad was Hannah going to be at her for not having already told her everything?
Hannah had been pissed because Nikki knew about David and she hadn’t. For a second, she’d even thought Nikki and Jordan might have been having an affair. How ridiculous is that? Nikki might very well be the only woman Hannah didn’t need to worry about in that sense. In fact, it was Hannah that Nikki had always had inappropriate thoughts and feelings about, not Jordan. She’d thought they’d subsided since she hadn’t experienced them for quite some time, but it seemed now that’d only been because she’d kept her distance. Now, after not even a full twenty-four hours, they were, once again, surfacing.
Nikki rested her elbows on the counter and held her head in her hands. Damn you, Jordan. Where the hell are you?
“I couldn’t find anything on OnStar from Jory’s car paperwork,” Hannah said, coming into the kitchen. “But there’s a number I can call that I found online.”
Nikki straightened but didn’t turn around. “That’s great.” She drew a deep breath to compose herself.
Hannah dropped into one of the dinette chairs. “Is there any coffee left?”
“Yeah. I’ll get it.” Nikki grabbed a fresh cup and filled it. She heard a chime through the phone speaker, followed by Welcome to OnStar. The para continuar en Español and the this call may be monitored messages only vaguely registered in her awareness as she added cream to Hannah’s drink. She sat down at the table and slid it across to her.
For emergencies, the automated voice continued, roadside assistance, door unlocks, and stolen vehicles or missing persons, please press one. Please note that for vehicle thefts and missing persons, police involvement is required.
Hannah punched a button, her mouth tight in a firm line.
“Emergency services. May I help you?” The words drifted across the line in an alto female voice.
Nikki listened as Hannah explained the situation.
“I’m not even sure if she has OnStar,” Hannah said, finishing. “But I was hoping…”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. If you’re not on the account, we can’t release any information. And for the missing person, we’ll need the case number of the police report.”
“I don’t have it yet, but I did file a report.” Hannah’s voice began to rise. “They said they couldn’t do anything unless there was foul play involved, but she could be trapped in the car in some ravine somewhere.” She slapped her hand down on the table.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. If you can get the police to—”
Hannah cut off the call. She dropped the phone and pressed her fingertips to her eyes, her breathing ragged.
Nikki remained silent. What could she say? If she’d told the police about Jordan’s infidelities, would that be enough to bring the question of foul play into the conversation? She doubted it. In fact, if it did—if the TV dramas were accurate—it could make Hannah a suspect.
“I feel like a ghost in her life,” Hannah said, her voice shaky. “I’m not really a part of anything—except sleeping in her bed every night.”
Nikki studied Hannah’s distraught expression, and watched her massage her temples. Her statement wasn’t far from the truth, both parts of it. Nikki had never understood why Jordan had let Hannah move in with her, while she still maintained her sexual pursuits of other women. Clearly, Jordan felt there was something special about Hannah. After all, she’d never lived with a woman before—never even been in an actual relationship—and yet, she’d not only moved Hannah into her condo, but she’d maintained the living arrangement for over two years and the relationship for three. She never fully let Hannah into her life and heart, though. Nikki felt torn. Hannah really needed, deserved, to know the truth, but it wasn’t Nikki’s place to tell her. Maybe the only thing she could offer was comfort. She extended her hand across the table.
Hannah took it.
“I’m sorry,” Nikki said softly.
The phone rang, and Hannah grabbed it. “Hello?”
Nikki waited, hopeful.
“Oh, hi, Kate…no…we filed a missing person’s report. I don’t really know what else to do.”
Nikki sighed. She needed some time to think. She grabbed her crutches from their spot against the counter and moved toward the kitchen doorway.
“Where are you going?” Hannah asked, interrupting her call.
“I’m just going to run home to get cleaned up and change clothes. I’ll be back.”
Hannah covered the mouthpiece. “You can’t go,” she said, sounding almost frantic. “Please? I don’t want to be alone.”
“Maybe Kate can come over?” Nikki needed some space, a little air. She needed to clear her head and figure out what to do.
“Kate, I’ll call you later,” Hannah said and hung up. “Nikki, please. I don’t want Kate here. She’s too…I don’t know… She gets crazy ideas. I need your…your calm.”
Nikki stared into Hannah’s clouded green eyes, remembering the softness of her hand, the feel of her against Nikki when she’d comforted her. If she held her again, felt Hannah’s body meld into hers, had to think about where Jordan might be and what she might be doing one more time before she could regain some distance, she thought she’d scream.
“Please, Nikki,” Hannah said again. “You could take a shower here.”
Nikki shifted her weight. “I can’t. I have this shower bag thing I have to use to cover my leg.” She lifted her foot.
Hannah looked at the cast and frowned. “Well…” She faltered. “You could take a bath and just keep it up on the edge of the tub. And maybe change into some of Jory’s workout clothes. Would that work?” She sounded so desperate.
Nikki winced inwardly. Would it? Maybe being alone in the bath would be enough. Maybe. If it were a long bath. Still a little reluctant, she nodded. “Okay.”
Hannah released a deep sigh. “Thank you.”
As Nikki resurfaced from soaking her hair, warm water sluiced over her bare skin and soothed her raw nerves. She poured shampoo into her palm and had already begun lathering it into her scalp before she realized her mistake. It was Hannah’s shampoo. The spiced fruity scent swirled around her head, reminding her of Hannah’s silky hair against her cheek as she’d held her. The memory, combined with the soft fragrance, stirred an old arousal in Nikki’s abdomen. Her nipples tightened slightly. Christ. Still? She squeezed her eyes shut. This was why she’d had to get away from Hannah, but how could it still be so strong after all this time? She had to get a grip. This was so wrong—especially now.
She quickly rinsed her hair and glanced around the shower. She found another bottle of shampoo—Jordan’s. Forcing her thoughts to what needed to be done when she was dressed, she rubbed the lather through her hair and over her body.
A knock sounded, and Nikki heard the door open on the other side of the shower curtain. She stiffened.
“Here are some clothes,” Hannah said, her voice quiet in the damp air. “I’ll leave them on the counter.”
“Thanks,” Nikki said. She remained motionless until she heard the door close. Focus. She had to stay focused.
She emerged from the bathroom in Jordan’s navy blue running pants and a gray T-shirt from a half-marathon they’d done together in San Diego the previous year, and found Hannah sitting askew on the sofa with a laptop on the cushion beside her. “What’re you doing?”
“I called Kate back, and she told me how to check that phone finder thingy the cop was talking about,” Hannah said without looking up. “I found the site, but it needs a password.”
Nikki looked over Hannah’s shoulder to the screen. The curser blinked in an empty box beneath Jordan’s email address. “Do you know it?”
“No,” Hannah said, then sighed. “It’s yet one more thing I don’t know about my girlfriend.” She shifted to look up at Nikki. “Do you?” There was an edge to her voice, but a softness in her gaze.
Nikki laughed. “No. I’m relieved to say I don’t either.”
A slight smile touched the corners of Hannah’s mouth, and her eyes traveled down Nikki’s body.
Something Nikki couldn’t define passed through them. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
Hannah pursed her lips. “It’s just a little odd seeing you in Jory’s clothes.”
Nikki looked down at herself. “You want me to change back into my own?”
“No.” Hannah returned her attention to Nikki’s face. “It’s okay.” She pinched the fabric on Nikki’s thigh and pulled it out from her skin. “I gave you the real stretchy pants so they’d fit over your cast more easily,” she said, her tone lightening. She released the material, and it snapped back into place.
“Thanks,” Nikki said, touched by the thoughtfulness. It was probably only Hannah’s way of showing her gratitude for Nikki staying, but it still felt good. “Some people hide all their passwords in a file somewhere.”
“On the computer,” Nikki said, pointing to the screen. “In a hidden file.”
Hannah turned and lifted the laptop to her thighs. She closed the Apple log-in box.
“Try Documents,” Nikki said.
Hannah touched the icon with her fingertip. Immediately, a password box came up. “Those are probably her work files.”
“Hm.” Nikki thought for a minute. “Okay, close that out and go into My Computer and into the C Drive.”
Hannah did as directed.
Nikki scanned the list of files—AdwCleaner…Config.Msi…PerfLogs. She finished the list, noticing nothing that looked unusual, then skimmed back up. “Try Program Files.” She slipped from the arm of the couch and onto the cushion beside Hannah.
Hannah opened the folder. “Do you know what you’re looking for?”
“Not specifically,” Nikki said. She was dimly aware of the warmth of Hannah’s leg pressed gently against her own. “Just anything that catches—there. Try that.” She pointed to a file.
“Alarter?” Hannah read aloud. “What’s that?”
“Ali Larter,” Nikki said.
Hannah stared at her.
“The actress? Resident Evil? Heroes?”
Hannah shook her head.
“Jordan thinks she’s hot.” Nikki shrugged.
Hannah’s eyes narrowed.
“Sorry,” Nikki said, turning back to the computer. She tapped the screen, and the file opened to reveal a list of websites and passwords, beginning with Amazon. Then American Express. The third was Apple iCloud, followed by Password:Freedom1.
Hannah cast a sideways glance at Nikki. “I’m impressed.”
“It’s not all that impressive.” Nikki felt herself blushing under Hannah’s praise. Jeez, what a sap. “A lot of people keep their passwords this way.”
Hannah returned to iCloud.com and signed in to Jordan’s account. She bypassed the Mail, Contacts, and other icons and went straight to Find My Phone. She tapped the big green button. On the next screen, she went immediately to All Devices.
Nikki felt Hannah’s disappointment as her own eyes registered the Offline message beside Jordan’s iPhone. She sighed. “Well, I guess we kind of knew that. All the calls were going straight to voice mail, right?” The words didn’t comfort her, so she knew they wouldn’t comfort Hannah either, but she didn’t know what else to say.
“Isn’t there a way to see where it was last?” Hannah asked.
Reaching across Hannah, Nikki moved the computer to her own lap and maneuvered around the site. “It doesn’t look like it,” she said, finally conceding defeat.
Hannah rested her head on Nikki’s shoulder and released a deep breath.
The scent of the shampoo she’d gotten such a strong hit of in the bath gently caressed Nikki’s senses. Its subtlety now was actually worse than being overwhelmed by it earlier. “We’ll keep checking back, though.” She gave the laptop back to Hannah and eased up from the couch. “You know, in case she turns it on again.”
Hannah gazed up at her, eyes wide with evident concern. She simply nodded.
Nikki wanted so badly to be able to give her the reassurance that look was asking for, but her own fear was growing with each failed attempt at finding out anything about where the hell Jordan was. She felt useless.
Jordan drifted back into consciousness to the smell of coffee and something sweet. Her stomach churned with both hunger and slight nausea. She heard the murmur of unintelligible voices, and the low tones of music playing. She remembered Tina again. No, it wasn’t Tina. That was a dream, but the bed beneath her still vibrated, and now she could feel the mild sway of her surroundings. Where the hell am I? The rustle of someone shifting close beside her brought her to full attention. She opened her eyes and tried to sit.
Soft but strong restraints held her arms and legs in place.
Her heart began to pound as panic seized her. With sudden awareness, she remembered the van, the cloth over her mouth, the arm around her middle. Her gaze found Liz—not walking away this time, but sitting right beside the bed.
“Good morning,” Liz said, her voice steady.
Jordan stared, waiting for something to make sense. At least Liz was someone she knew. Her anxiety eased a bit. “Where am I? Why am I tied down?” She tugged again on her bonds. “And what are you doing here?”
Liz closed the magazine on her lap and set it on the night table.
Jordan followed the movement. The room was small, like the sleeping berth of her boat. Or a motor home, maybe?
“You’re safe,” Liz said. She rose and adjusted the pillow beneath Jordan’s head. “Do you want some water?”
Slowly, Jordan became aware of an ache in the muscles along her arms and legs and up her torso. “What I want,” she said, her jaw tight, “is to know what the hell’s going on. I want to be untied.” She jerked on the restraints.
“I’m sorry. I can’t do that. You might hurt yourself.” Liz returned to her seat and smoothed the floral skirt she wore over her thighs and knees. “And I can’t feed you, but I can get you some water.”
Jordan studied her. She looked the same—dark blond hair framing slightly angular features, blue eyes that held intelligence—but still, she was different somehow. She wasn’t the hard-edged, aloof businesswoman who kicked Jordan’s ass at racquetball on a semi-regular basis. She seemed softer, like she should be more malleable, but she definitely had the upper hand here. Jordan felt her panic rising again. She had to stay calm. She had to be able to think. She had to get free. If she could convince Liz to untie her, maybe she could get a clearer picture of the situation. “I have to pee. I need a bathroom,” she said.
A knowing smile shaped Liz’s lips. “You have a catheter in. You can go any time you need to.”
“What?” This was crazy. “You can’t just tie someone down and catheterize them for no reason. That’s illegal.”
“I know you don’t understand, but you will, soon. Everything will be explained.” Liz sat still, clearly intent on staying with Jordan, but she offered nothing else.
“Look, I don’t know what’s going on,” Jordan said, “but if you let me go right now, I won’t press charges.” It probably wasn’t the truth, but it might work for the moment.
“Are you sure you don’t want any water?” Liz’s eyes warmed with…what was that? Sympathy? Pity?
Anger pumped through Jordan’s veins like molten lead. Her voice rose with it. “No. I don’t want any fucking water.”
Liz pursed her lips into a thin line and averted her gaze. “We’ll be at our destination by this evening. You’ll be untied there.”
“There? Where? Where are we going?”
Liz didn’t answer.
A male voice sounded slightly above the music in another part of the motor home. “You want me to take over driving for a while after we stop?”
Jordan looked to the doorway.
“That would be great. Thanks,” another one said.
“Who’s that?” Jordan asked. “Who’s out there?”
Liz stroked Jordan’s arm. “No one you know. Just try to relax.”
Jordan seethed. “I’m not going to relax until I know what the hell’s happening and until I’m out of these.” She yanked on the straps and tried to kick her feet. Her stomach turned, and bile rose in her throat. She moaned. “I’m going to be sick.”
Liz moved quickly and took a wet washcloth from a pan. She pressed it to Jordan’s forehead. “You need to calm down.”
“Is everything okay back here?”
Jordan shot a look to the doorway again where a thirty-something man with a pasty complexion that contrasted a toned build leaned against the jamb. “Who are you?” she asked, her tone sharp. “And what’s going on? Why did you kidnap me? What do you want?”
“She’s just a little agitated,” Liz said as though Jordan hadn’t spoken. “She’ll be okay.”
“You’ll need to sedate her.” The man seemed completely indifferent to Jordan’s presence. “We’re stopping for gas soon.”
Liz merely nodded.
The man turned and vanished from the doorway.
“Hey,” Jordan yelled after him. “Get back here, you asshole. Let me go, or I’ll make sure every one of you gets locked up for a very long time.”
With no reaction, Liz tightened the restraint on Jordan’s right arm.
For the first time, Jordan noticed an IV catheter in the underside of her forearm. She watched as Liz opened the drawer to the night table and took out a syringe. She began to thrash, but her arm was held completely still. “Liz, no. Please, don’t do this.”
“It’s okay, I’m a nurse. I know what I’m doing,” Liz said as she pushed the needle into the IV and pressed the plunger. “You’re safe.”
Jordan tried to fight, but within seconds, she spiraled back into unconsciousness, her only awareness the pounding of her heart.