Lost and Found Sisters Read online

  Chapter 1

  I walk around like everything is fine but deep down inside my shoe my sock is sliding off.

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  Here was the thing: life sucked if you let it. So Quinn Weller usually worked really hard to not let it. Caffeine helped. For up to thirty-eight blissful minutes it could even trick her into thinking she was in a decent mood. She knew this because it took forty-eight minutes to get from her local coffee shop through L.A. rush-hour traffic to work, and those last ten minutes were never good.

  That morning, she got into line for her fix and studied the menu on the wall, even though in the past two years she’d never strayed from her usual.

  A woman got in line behind her. “Now that’s a nice look on you,” she said.

  It was Carolyn, a woman Quinn had seen here at the coffee shop maybe three times. “What look?”

  “The smile,” Carolyn said. “I like it.”

  Quinn didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted, because she smiled all the time.

  Didn’t she?

  Okay, so maybe not so much lately . . . “I’m looking forward to the caffeine rush.”

  “Nectar of the gods,” Carolyn agreed.

  Something about the pleasant woman reminded Quinn of an elementary-school teacher. Maybe it was the gray-streaked hair pulled up in a messy bun, the glasses perpetually slipping down her nose, the expression dialed into sweet but slightly harried.

  “You’re up, honey,” Carolyn said and gestured to the front counter.

  Trev, the carefully tousled barista, was an L.A. beach bum and aspiring actor forced to work to support his surfing habit. His hands worked at the speed of light while the rest of him seemed chilled and relaxed. “Hey, darlin’, how’s life today?”

  “Good,” Quinn said. She didn’t want to brag, but she’d totally gotten out of bed today with only two hits of the snooze button. “How did your audition go?”

  “Got the part.” Troy beamed. “You’re looking at the best fake Thai delivery guy who ever lived. It means my luck has changed, so say you’ll finally go out with me.”

  Quinn smiled—see, she totally did smile!—and shook her head. “I’m not—”

  Trev piped in along with her, in perfect sync, “—dating right now,” and then shook his head.

  “Well, I’m not,” she said.

  “It’s not right, a hot chick like you. You’re way too young to be in a rut. You know that, right?”

  “I’m not in a rut.” She was just . . . not feeling life right now, that’s all. “And hey, I didn’t tell you my order yet,” she said when she realized he was already working on her coffee.

  “Has it changed?” he asked. “Ever?”

  No, but now she wanted to order something crazy just to throw him off, except she wanted her usual, dammit.

  Okay, so maybe she was in a rut. But routine made life simpler and after the complications she’d been through, simple was the key to getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other every day.

  That and the badly needed caffeine, of course.

  “You should go out with him,” Carolyn whispered behind her. She smiled kindly when Quinn craned her neck and looked at her. “You only live once, right?”

  “Not true,” Quinn said. “You live every day. You only die once.”

  Carolyn’s smile slowly faded in understanding. “Then make it count, honey. Go hog wild.”

  Hog wild, huh? Quinn turned back to Trev.

  “I’m all for the hog wild,” he said hopefully.

  Quinn went for it. “An extra shot and whip.”

  Trev blinked and then sighed. “Yeah, we really need to work on your idea of hog wild.”

  WHEN QUINN FINALLY got to Amuse-Bouche, the trendy, upscale restaurant where she worked, it was to find her fellow sous-chef Marcel already in the kitchen.

  He glanced over at her and sniffed disdainfully. Then he went back to yelling at Skye, a good friend of Quinn’s she’d brought on board a few months back.

  Skye was chopping onions exactly as Quinn had taught her, but apparently Marcel didn’t agree. His voice had risen to a pitch designed to split eardrums as he went on and on in a mix of English and German that no one understood but him.

  “Leave her alone, Marcel,” Quinn said.

  He slid her a glacial stare. “Excuse me?”

  “I’m the one who taught her how to chop. She’s doing it correctly.”

  “Yes. If you work at a place flipping burgers and asking what size fry you want with your order,” he said, dropping the fake German accent as he sometimes did when he lost his temper and forgot to keep it up.

  So here was the thing. There were days where Quinn surprised herself with her abilities, and others where she put her keys in the fridge. But she was good at this job. And yes, she understood that at twenty-nine years old and quickly rounding the corner kicking and screaming into thirty, she was young and very lucky to have landed a sous-chef position in such a wildly popular place. But she’d worked her ass off to get here, going to a top-notch culinary school in San Francisco, spending several years burning and cutting her fingers to the bone. She knew what she was doing—and had the tuition debt to prove it.

  Oddly, Marcel wasn’t that much older than she was—late thirties, maybe. He’d come up the hard way, starting at the age of twelve washing dishes in his uncle’s restaurant not all that far from here, but light years away in style and prestige. He was good. Actually he was excellent, but he was hard-core old school, and resented a woman being his equal.

  Quinn did her best to let it all bead off her back, telling herself that she believed in karma. What went around came back around. But though she’d waited with pent-up breath, nothing had kicked Marcel in the ass yet.

  “You,” he said, pointing at her. “Go order our food for the week. And don’t forget the pork like last time. Also, your cheese supplier? She’s shit, utter shit. Find another.”

  Quinn bit her tongue as Marcel turned away to browbeat a different kitchen aide who was dicing red peppers, swearing at the guy in German as if that made him more intimidating. Quinn thought it made him more of an idiot. He jerked the bowl away to prove his point and ended up with red pepper all over the front of his carefully starched white uniform shirt.

  Ah, karma at last—fashionably late, but better than never.

  “I’m sorry about that,” she said to Skye.

  “You’ve got nothing to apologize for,” Skye said. “If it’s got tires or testicles, it’s gonna give you trouble.”

  Wasn’t that the truth . . .

  ON SUNDAY, QUINN drove to her parents’ place for brunch. A command performance, since she’d managed to skip out on the past two weekends in a row due to working overtime.

  She hoped like hell it wasn’t an ambush birthday party. Her birthday was still several weeks away, but her mom couldn’t keep a secret to save her own life and had let the possibility of a party slip several times. Quinn didn’t like birthdays.

  Or surprises.

  She parked in front of the two-story Tudor cottage that had been her childhood home and felt her heart constrict. She’d learned to ride a bike on this driveway, right alongside her sister, who’d been a far superior bike rider. So much so that Quinn had often ridden on Beth’s handlebars instead of riding her own bike. They’d pilfered flowers from the flower gardens lining the walkway. Years later as teens, they’d sneaked out more than a few times from one of the second-story windows, climbing down the oak tree to go to parties that they’d been grounded from attending—only getting caught when Quinn slipped one year and broke her arm.

  Beth hadn’t spoken to her for weeks.

  Once upon a time this hou