Lost and Found Sisters Read online

  “I know and I don’t care about any of that,” Mick said, and he didn’t. “I just want to make sure you know what you’re doing now. Ten years later.”

  “Fuck no, I don’t know what I’m doing.” Boomer let out a mirthless laugh. “I’m keeping my head above water, that’s what I’m doing. It’s a sink or swim world, and I’m doing my best.”

  “And Lena’s your best?” Mick asked.

  Boomer blew out a sigh. “Look, for what it’s worth, I love her. But we’re not together, we never have been, not in the way you’re thinking. And anyway, I told her I couldn’t do this anymore, whatever ‘this’ was, until she settled on just one guy—me.”

  “And she said?”

  “She walked off into the sunset.” Boomer shrugged. “Last I saw her was the other night when she was sniffing around you again.”

  Mick shook his head. “I’m not planning on going there.”

  Boomer paused. “I think I hear a but on the end of that sentence.”

  “But . . . I hope you don’t either,” Mick said. “And not because I want her, but because you have your sobriety to protect, which you’re already straining by working at the bar.”

  Boomer’s eyes shuttered and he stepped back. “Looks like we both have shit to figure out.” He headed to his truck.


  Boomer lifted a hand, but still got into his truck and drove off, leaving Mick eating his dust.

  QUINN DECIDED THE thing to do was to try to talk to Tilly. She parked behind the café, in front of Carolyn’s house. She knew Tilly was staying with a next-door neighbor, but she had no idea which one.

  Getting out of the car, her attention was immediately drawn to the house to the right of Carolyn’s, where a woman who was dressed like her job might be a stripper came out the front door. In five-inch FMPs she got into a little beater of car, and with a puff of smoke out of the exhaust pipe, ripped down the street and vanished.

  Okay, then. Quinn turned to the house to the left of Carolyn’s. There were two guys in the yard, no shirts on, fit and tan and gardening. “Hi,” one of them called out with a wave. “Can we help you?”

  The other one straightened and slid his hand into the first guy’s. “You’re Quinn.”

  She sighed and they laughed. “Wildstone takes a while to get used to,” one said. “I’m Jared and this is Hutch. We were just rearranging the garden a little bit to make room for some more tomatoes. Carolyn loved them. We’re going to miss her, and we’re very sorry for your loss.”

  “Thank you,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m looking for Tilly. Have you seen her?”

  “Other side,” Jared said. “She’s staying with Chuck, though she does come over for pizza night. She’s a meat lover.”

  “Like me,” Hutch said and smiled. “Jared here is a veggie lover.”

  Quinn hesitated. “I just saw a woman coming from that house.”

  “FMPs? Tiny dress? That’ll be Kendall,” Jared said. “Chuck’s renter. She’s an exotic dancer.”

  Quinn turned to Chuck’s house and thought she caught a quick peek of Tilly looking out the window. “Thanks,” she said and headed over there.

  No one answered her knock.

  Quinn was back in her car trying to figure out her next move when Chuck’s garage door went up and a truck pulled out. An older man sat behind the wheel, with Tilly in the passenger seat. Quinn rushed out of her car and waved at them.

  The truck didn’t stop.

  Quinn ran to the driveway and blocked the truck, gesturing for Tilly to roll down her window.

  Tilly rolled her eyes but did it.

  “Why aren’t you in school?” Quinn asked.

  “It’s a minimum day. Heading to the racetrack day.”

  Quinn looked at Chuck, who didn’t speak. “Okay,” she said to Tilly. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you’re good. That you don’t want me to stick around for you.”

  “I’m good,” Tilly said without blinking or batting an eye. “I don’t want you to stick around for me.”

  The man said nothing and the second Quinn backed up, they drove off.

  Chapter 15

  My mom used to say it’s easy to love someone when they’re at their best, loving them at their worst is the true trick.

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

  It was afternoon by the time Quinn walked into Cliff’s office. She found him leaning back against his desk eating the hugest bowl of Cap’n Crunch she’d ever seen. The empty box lay on its side like the dead next to him.

  “Life hack,” he said. “So your cereal doesn’t get stale, you eat the whole box.”

  She found a laugh but sobered quickly. “As the only sane person I know in this whole godforsaken town, please tell me why Tilly is living with Chuck, whose girlfriend is a stripper—excuse me, exotic dancer—and he takes Tilly out of school to go to the racetrack.”

  Cliff shoved some more cereal in, his eyes hooded. Which was interesting, because though she didn’t know him well, she sensed he was honest to the core.

  “Look,” she said. “It’s obvious you have a good idea of what’s going on here.”

  “Carolyn trusted Chuck, enough to know he’d take care of Tilly with or without the compensation she set up from her small estate—”

  “He’s being paid?”

  “But I can tell you,” he went on, “that he moonlights at the track as a janitor and Tilly helps him sometimes. His mom’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s in a nursing home and it’s expensive. Also Kendall, the dancer, rents a room at Chuck’s. She didn’t start out as his girlfriend, although that seems to be changing.” He paused. “What you have to understand is that Carolyn trusted Chuck with Tilly. Again, you could consider taking over—”

  “She won’t have me.”

  “You’re sure about that?”

  “One hundred percent.” And with nothing to keep her here in Wildstone, it was time to go home.

  Tomorrow morning, she told herself. On the off chance that Tilly changed her mind, she would stay until morning before heading out.

  THAT NIGHT TILLY was in her “bedroom” at Chuck’s house, which was really the laundry room with a futon shoved in it. She had her phone plugged in and was on Hulu with Cliff’s password. She had the volume up so she couldn’t hear Chuck snoring.

  But at least he was sleeping. The poor guy was an insomniac. She’d made him some Sleepytime tea, which he swore helped him. Of course the liberal dollop he added from whatever was in his flask was the real magical element.

  Kendall hadn’t gone to bed yet; she was in the living room practicing dance moves, making the house shake when she leaped across the floor.

  Tilly sighed and tossed and turned some more, stilling at a sudden ping of a rock on her window. Before she could get up, the window slid open and Dylan’s long, lanky body climbed in.

  Her best friend in the entire world had a fat lip and a black eye.

  “I told you to keep this locked,” he said. He was pissed.

  And hurt.

  Tilly drew him down to her bed to take care of him, like she did every time his asshole dad beat on him. She cupped his face, her eyes filling when she saw what had been done to him this time. “I want to kill him,” she whispered.

  “Shh,” he said and closed his eyes. “But if he touches my mom again, I’ll kill him myself.”

  Fear for him made her legs wobble. His dad didn’t live with Dylan and his mom, he’d been kicked out of the house several years back and now lived two towns over in Paso Robles. Whenever he came to “visit,” aka steal money from Dylan’s mom, Dylan did his best to draw his attention away from her.

  Brave. And terrifying.

  She got up and slinked into the kitchen so Kendall wouldn’t hear. Like she’d notice anything anyway with her Beats headphones on as she writhed against the floor.

  Tilly grabbed an ice pack, and then on second thought also peanut butter and jelly, and we