Authors: Rebecca Phillips
Tags: #New Adult, #Romance
By Rebecca Phillips
By Rebecca Phillips
Copyright 2014 Rebecca Phillips
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarities to real people, living or dead, are coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover Image: Copyright 2014 Aleshyn_Andrei
Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Table of Contents
Note from the Author
I started writing the
series about five years ago, and until recently, I was adamant that I’d stop at two books. Then, after two years of fans asking for a third installment, I figured
? I gave it some thought, wondering how I could continue on with Taylor and Michael’s story. I didn’t want to write another book about them, to be honest. To me, their story was finished. Then I thought about Taylor’s friend Robin. She’d been through so much and still had a long way to go.
story wasn’t finished.
Taylor and Michael make appearances, of course, but this is 100% Robin’s story, told from her point of view. It takes place three years after
An important note:
are both Young Adult fiction, but
is a New Adult romance, and therefore suitable for readers ages 17+. If you haven’t read the first two books, no worries.
can also be read as a stand-alone.
Thank you for buying this book and for your continuous support of this series. Happy reading!
For all the fans who wanted more.
My cell phone rang as I hurried across campus, my high-heeled boots skirting the puddles of rain that had collected in various craters in the sidewalk. I ignored it, too intent on reaching the warm, dry shelter of my white Nissan Sentra, parked in the student lot alongside the Science building. When it rang a second time, I gave in and answered.
“Hello?” I said as I stood by my car, fumbling in my bag for my keys.
“Is this Robin Calvert?”
I flung the door open and dropped into the driver’s seat with a sigh. “Yes, it is.”
“This is Claudia Wells.” The voice belonged to a woman, and she sounded both concerned and slightly annoyed. For a moment I thought it was someone from the college, calling to tell me I’d flunked all my classes and shouldn’t bother coming back for my fourth year next fall. But that didn’t make any sense, seeing as I’d finished my last exam barely an hour ago and wouldn’t get the results for several days. “I’m Director at Tiny Tots Childcare Center.”
“Okay,” I said, distracted. I ran my fingers through the damp tangles in my hair and wondered idly if I had a brush in my bag.
“I have Drake and Lila here,” she went on, and I froze.
“Are they okay?” I asked, hand dropping from my hair.
“Yes, yes,” she assured me. “They’re fine. I’m calling because we close at five, and I can’t get a hold of their parents. Mrs. Madsen put your name and number under the twins’ emergency contacts, and you’re also on the list of people who are allowed to pick them up. You’re their sister, right?”
Shivering, I glanced down at my phone to see the time. Five-thirty. My mother usually picked them up around four, after she’d had her fill of manicures and shopping. “Yes,” I said. My stomach clenched as I thought about them, my baby brother and sister, not quite three years old, scared and crying and forgotten.
“Well, sometimes parents are late for pick-up, even though they get charged extra. But your mother is always here by four, four-thirty at the latest, and she’s not answering her home phone or her cell. We left a message on her voice mail, but that was twenty minutes ago. We haven’t been able to contact your father either.”
“Stepfather,” I corrected. “He’s in London. On business.”
“I see.” She cleared her throat. “Anyway, we have to close up for the day. Are you able to come and pick them up?”
Anger surged through me. My mother was unreliable and self-absorbed, but she’d always remembered to pick up the kids from daycare, at least. Where the hell was she? I didn’t have time for this. Not only was I exhausted from studying and writing exams all week, I had to be at work at six and was already running a bit late. Bay Street Fitness, where I manned the front desk, was located clear across the city, and it took me forever to get there when it
pouring buckets during rush hour traffic.
I explained this to Claudia Wells, but she insisted again that the twins had to be picked up as soon as possible. And since no one else seemed to be available, the responsibility had fallen to me, the big sister. The only one who’d bothered to answer the phone.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I told her.
Before I left campus, I called Wade, my boss at Bay Street, and told him I had a family emergency and would be late. He was not pleased. Next, I searched up the address for Tiny Tots, which was located in the south end of the city. I was halfway there when I realized I didn’t have car seats in my car, so I turned and doubled back toward Redwood Hills and home, cursing the weather and my mother in alternating bursts.
My rage expanded further when I pulled up to our McMansion and saw my mother’s SUV parked in the driveway, sitting there empty like it had nowhere else to be. I parked my own car and got out, slamming the door behind me. Rain pelted against my face and clothes, soaking me through as I marched up the driveway to the house and inside.
“Mom!” I shouted into the silence. Water dripped off my hair onto the hardwood floors as I moved through the house. Usually, when I came home in the late afternoon between classes and work, she was either sprawled on the couch in the family room, watching TV while the twins wrecked the place, or pacing the floor like a caged panther, eager for someone to come along and set her free. And sometimes—more often than not these days—I’d arrive home to find Drake and Lila with one of their many babysitters, handed off like unwanted accessories. Maternal instinct had bypassed my mother entirely.
“Mom!” I called again. Nothing. She either wasn’t here, dead asleep, or just dead.
My stomach tightened again, this time with a painful twinge of adrenaline. I sprinted into the kitchen and then upstairs, calling for my mother and remembering all the times I’d come home to an empty house as a child. She always came back, eventually, but to a six-year-old, hours may as well have been days.
She wasn’t here. Still dripping, I headed back downstairs and outside, where the rain was falling even harder. I tried the door to Mom’s SUV. It was open. Drake and Lila’s car seats were in the back, strewn with small toys and cracker crumbs like usual. I untethered them one by one and installed them in my Sentra as fast as I could.
It was well after six when I got to Tiny Tots, where two women with forced cheerful expressions waited near the door with the twins. Lila squealed when she saw me, running toward me with arms spread wide, while Drake started to cry.
“Look, I’m really sorry,” I said to the older of the two woman, who had introduced herself as Claudia. The other woman was one of the childcare attendants and, from the looks of things, the only employee who’d stuck around.
“Did you get a hold of your mother?” Claudia asked. When I shook my head, she frowned and said, “That’s not like her.”
Yes, it is
, I thought as I held Lila close with one hand and patted Drake on the head with the other. The twins had only been coming here for about a month, having outgrown their last daycare because it didn’t offer a pre-school setting like this one. The employees didn’t know Mom very well yet; they only dealt with her for a few minutes a day at pick-up and drop-off. All they saw was a typical suburban mom, still youthful and beautiful at forty, body lithe and trim despite carrying two babies for eight months. She’d disappeared before, on spontaneous trips with her girlfriends that she somehow forgot to mention. But she’d never taken off when my stepfather, Alan, was away on business, and never without arranging childcare for the twins first. Okay, so maybe
part wasn’t like her.
On the drive home, Lila dozed, unaffected by the change in routine, while Drake continued to wail. My nerves were completely frayed by the time I pulled into the driveway next to my mother’s car. Whenever she decided to drag her ass back home, I was going to kill her. Contrary to what she believed, I wasn’t one of the kids’ babysitters, on call twenty-four-seven. I wasn’t living at home so I could be taken advantage of. As much as I loved my little siblings, I had a life, one that didn’t involve playing second mother to them.
“Okay, guys,” I said, unbuckling Drake and resting him on my hip as I circled the car to Lila’s side. “Who wants peanut butter sandwiches?”
“I w-want…macaroni and…and ch-cheese,” Drake sobbed into my ear.
“And grapes? I know you like grapes.” I put him down next to the car and freed Lila, who still looked half out of it. “Lila,” I sang, trying to rouse her enough to walk.
“I want pizza,” she told me. Obviously, she’d been following the conversation.
“No, LaLa,” Drake said, tears forgotten. “I get to choose. It’s my turn.”
“I don’t want stinky macaroni.”
I took a little hand in each of mine and directed them toward the house. “How about we have both?”
* * *
A couple of hours later, after the kids had been fed, cleaned, and dressed in pajamas and fresh Pull-Ups, I tucked them into their twin-sized beds and recited a rapid-fire version of
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
. Already well-accustomed to being taken care of by me or someone else who wasn’t Mom, they didn’t even ask about her or her whereabouts. I was glad, because I had no idea what I would’ve told them.
The cavernous house, with its airy rooms and sparse furnishings, became almost museum-like once the twins were asleep. I crept down to the kitchen and opened the shiny, stainless-steel fridge, half-wishing I still drank heavily. But I didn’t do that anymore, not since Lila and Drake were born, and I knew all those bottles of chilled, imported beer needed to stay untouched. I grabbed a diet Coke instead and headed back upstairs, this time detouring into the master bedroom.
The king-sized bed was neatly-made, likely the work of the once-a-week house cleaner that came on Friday mornings. Mom must’ve been here at that point, to let her in. I tried to recall if the front door had been unlocked when I came home to get the car seats, but I’d been so pissed at the time, it hadn’t registered. Her car was unlocked, which wasn’t an unusual occurrence in safe, affluent Redwood Hills, where the typical city crime rarely penetrated.
I crossed the sleek, walnut-colored hardwood and stood in front of the walk-in closet. Like a lot of the wives in this neighborhood, Mom was obsessed with clothes and shoes, filling every available closet space with treasures that sometimes never saw the light of day.
If nothing is missing
, I thought, my hand on the door lever,
then I’ll know something bad has happened
. My mind flashed to the
48 Hours Mystery
marathon I’d watched a couple of weeks ago. When the wife went missing, it was almost always because the husband had killed her and hid the body. If Alan wasn’t three thousand miles away and separated by an ocean, I may have wondered.
When I opened the closet door, I caught the scent of my mother’s perfume, light and flowery. Without even stepping inside, I could tell that something was different. Half of one of the clothing racks was empty, and the floor-to-ceiling shoe shelves had several gaps. I sprinted into the en suite bathroom and opened the top drawer. Her makeup bag was gone, as were her bottles of sleep aids and sedatives. She’d never leave her precious Xanax behind, even for a day, but the fact that she’d taken half her wardrobe told me that she probably wasn’t off on some hastily-planned, overnight trip with her girlfriends.
I shut the drawer and peered into the mirror above the sinks, the reflection of my wide, blazing eyes reaffirming what I already knew in my heart: She was gone.