Lost and Found Sisters Read online

  to see Chuck waiting in the reception area as well, face pressed to the window, looking out into the night.

  When they walked in the office, Chuck moved past Quinn, exchanging a look with her that she couldn’t translate, and went straight to Tilly. “You okay?” he asked.

  Tilly, staring at her shoes, nodded.

  He let out a shaky breath. “Good. But Christ, Tilly. You can’t just sneak out like that. You just can’t.” He put a hand on his chest. “My ticker can’t take it.”

  “I expected to be back before you woke up,” Tilly muttered. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”

  More words than she’d ever managed to string together for Quinn and she watched them, wondering at their relationship. The clear concern, and even affection, in Chuck’s voice surprised her.

  “What’s that shit all on your face?” he asked.

  Tilly huffed out a sigh and glanced at Quinn. “Nothing.”

  “Bullshit. It’s makeup. Your mom didn’t allow you to do that, why would you think I would?”

  Score another point for the man, Quinn thought, starting to look at him in a whole new light.

  “Okay,” Cliff said. “Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Have plans changed for Tilly’s guardianship?”

  Feeling reluctant to discuss this in front of Tilly, Quinn turned to the girl. “Can you give us a minute?”

  “Why? So you can admit to Cliff that you lied about being my legal guardian to the store clerk tonight?”

  Cliff looked at Quinn.

  “She wasn’t exactly planning to come peacefully,” Quinn said.

  “So she lied,” Tilly said again. “And used swear words too. Pretty sure if the question is who’s qualified to be my guardian, a judge might frown upon those things.”

  “I’m your only relative willing to step up,” Quinn said.

  Tilly took a peek at Chuck.

  He shrugged.

  “Okay, what?” Quinn asked. “What’s going on that I don’t know about?”

  “Chuck’s my uncle,” Tilly said. Paused. “Kinda.”

  Both Cliff and Quinn turned to Chuck in unison.

  He lifted his hands. “Carolyn sometimes called me that because I was around when the kid was little. A lot. You all know we . . .” He glanced at Tilly and grimaced. “Look, go wait outside, would ya?”

  Tilly crossed her arms.

  “Now,” Chuck said.

  Tilly narrowed her eyes, but huffed out a breath and headed to the door.

  “And don’t vanish again or I’ll take your damn phone!”

  Tilly slammed the door behind her.

  “We’ve been over this, you and I,” Chuck said to Cliff and then turned to Quinn. “Carolyn and I go way back. To before your good-for-nothing, dickheaded, self-centered prick of a father came along. She chose him and I forgave her.” He paused. “Twice. But the fact is that she trusted me with Tilly. Temporarily.”

  “Temporarily?” Quinn asked.

  “I never wanted kids and she knew that. I still don’t want kids, and she knew that too. But in this case, she didn’t have a choice. There was no one else to watch over Tilly. And we’ve done fine. Better than fine. I’m happy to take care of her.”

  “I can take care of myself!” Tilly yelled through the door. “I don’t need anyone to do it! Especially her, since she ran away back to L.A. after the thought of being my guardian traumatized her so deeply!”

  The her in question took umbrage at this. “I left because you’d made it clear you weren’t interested,” Quinn yelled at the door and took a deep breath. She was incredibly aware of Mick quietly standing there, listening to all of this, which should have embarrassed her but instead, she felt his strength and calm and took some of it in for herself. “And also because I was scared,” she admitted to Tilly. Hell, holding back from the girl was only making things worse. Might as well lay it all on the line.

  “Maybe if we all just calm down,” Cliff said.

  “I am calm!” Tilly yelled.

  “A hint about women,” Mick said to Cliff. “Never in the history of all history has telling a woman to calm down ever calmed one down.”

  “And that’s sexist!” Tilly said through the door.

  “She’s right,” Quinn said, and blew out a sigh. There was really only one thing to do here and she knew it. The thing was, she might be a complete hot mess at the moment but she wasn’t, and never had been, selfish. Beth was gone and there was nothing she could do about that.

  But Tilly wasn’t gone. She was right here, scared, alone, and pissy as hell.

  And Quinn wanted, needed to do the right thing for her, even if that meant putting her L.A. life on hold, including jeopardizing the job she’d thought she’d loved above all else. “How about a trial period?” she asked, thinking that it might actually reassure Tilly if nothing was set in stone.

  Cliff nodded his approval and opened the door.

  Tilly, who’d had her ear to the door, nearly fell in.

  Chuck snorted.

  “What do you think of a trial period?” Cliff asked Tilly.

  Tilly slid Quinn a dark look. “So she can decide she doesn’t like me and then throw me out?”

  “No,” Quinn said quietly. “I don’t throw people away.”

  Tilly stilled, staring at Quinn some more. Somber, and for once free of the cynicism she wore like a suit of armor. “For how long?”

  “As long as you need.”

  Quinn felt Mick look at her in surprise, which she got. Only a week ago, she’d run away from here. Now she was offering to stay, temporarily anyway.

  “Listen, it’s late,” Cliff said gently. “Or early, however you want to look at it.” He looked at Tilly. “Since all of your stuff is already with Chuck, I don’t see a need to move you to the B and B and then back to Carolyn’s house, so how about you go home with Chuck for tonight. You get some sleep, wake up, and give you and her a shot.” He looked at everyone. “Acceptable?”

  Quinn nodded.

  Chuck nodded.

  Tilly didn’t move.

  Cliff put a hand on her shoulder. “Your call, Tilly. Your say.”

  “You can think about it,” Quinn said. “If you want.”

  Tilly’s gaze met hers. “Yeah. Okay. I’ll think about it.”

  Quinn held out her pinkie. “Pinkie promise?”

  Tilly rolled her eyes. “What is this, the nineties?” But she wrapped her pinkie in Quinn’s—their first physical contact—and shook on it.

  And that was that. Tilly left with Chuck. Quinn walked out into the night with Mick. He took her hand and pulled her in against him.

  “Proud of you,” he said.

  Her throat tightened up and her eyes burned at the quietly spoken words that were like a balm to her churning gut.

  Chapter 21

  How am I supposed to make big decisions when I still have to sing the alphabet to myself to alphabetize stuff?

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

  Quinn walked through the café the next morning, still on the phone with her parents. They’d wanted to make sure she’d found Tilly, and then her mom had wanted to make sure Quinn understood the choices they’d made.

  “It’s not that we thought you couldn’t get your own job, Quinn,” her mom said. “It was nothing like that. We just wanted you to have the world.”

  Quinn rubbed the ache between her eyeballs. “I get it, Mom.”

  “So you’re not mad anymore?”

  “Are there any more surprises?”

  “No,” her mom said emphatically. “Promise.”

  Quinn sighed. “I’m not mad.” She wasn’t sure what she was. “But I’m at the café, I’ve gotta go.”

  “We love you,” her mom said.

  “Check your oil,” her dad said.

  Quinn choked out a laugh and disconnected, and as had become habit, she took a moment to look at the wall of pictures before she was discovered and hugged half to death by Trinee