“Look, I believe your brother may have survived the crash. I believe he was taken in by a woman who couldn’t have children.”
“Names, what are their names?”
“She went by a different name than her husband, and apparently her husband went by several different names.”
Michael frowned. “Several names. He must’ve been a criminal.”
“Some records indicate he’d been charged with petty theft. When I checked three of the names, I got a bunch of complaints about grifting. Some that involved a boy.”
Michael closed his eyes. “What was the boy’s name?”
“Depends,” Carson said. “John, George, but no Leo. The complaints that included a mention of the boy stopped when your brother would have been about fifteen.”
“Do you think he died?” he asked. “Or was killed?”
“Either of those could have happened, but there’s another possibility. He could have disappeared and changed his identity.”
“I want a written report of everything you’ve found. Is the woman who kept him still alive?”
“No, and I’m not too sure about the man, either. I’m still working that end of the lead, but I have to pursue others, too.”
“Okay,” Michael said with a sigh. “Keep me posted.”
The rainy day matched Bella’s mood. Since it was slow that morning at the spa, she urged Charlotte to get out and take a break while Bella manned the reception desk. It took some arm-twisting, but Charlotte finally agreed.With no customers in sight, Bella sipped a latte as she tried to distract herself by reading the paper. She was still angry with herself for expecting Michael to share more of himself with her. When he’d decided to introduce her to his family, she’d let her guard down. She should remember that he viewed her as temporary and she should always, always do the same.
Under the downtown community section, a short article caught her eye. The article reported how a fire had destroyed a community center, the same one where she and Michael had worked that Saturday. An anonymous donor had stepped up to pay for a new center to be built.
Her heart skipped over itself and suspicion raced through her. A warm, lovely kind of suspicion. Anonymous donor. She’d just bet she knew who that was.
Bella sighed. How was she supposed to tell herself that she shouldn’t care about Michael when he did these kinds of things? Just when she thought he was too hard and remote, he did something to turn her opinion of him upside down.
Michael heard the side door open. “Hello?” Bella called. “Anybody home? Anybody want a hot dog with mustard and chili and greasy French fries just because it’s Monday and it’s raining?”She walked into the den still wearing a yellow slicker and carting a paper bag and what he would guess were two milk shakes.
He chuckled. “Sounds good. Gary may not like it, though. He thinks you’re going to put him out of a job.”
She shook her head. “Ridiculous. I can make a few things, but he’s the professional. Where do you want to eat?”
“In here,” he said. “What kind of milk shake did you get me?”
She tossed him a sideways glance. “How do you know I got one for you? I may have gotten both of them for me.”
He grinned. “I guess I’ll just have to see if I can negotiate one from you.”
“It’s possible,” she said, pulling off her jacket. “I hope you like chocolate.”
“I do,” he said. She made the room brighter, somehow.
“Okay, then, if you answer this question honestly, I will give you a chocolate shake,” she said and unpacked the bags, giving him two hot dogs while she took one.
“Depends on the question,” he said, joining her at the table.
She nodded. “During one of my breaks today, I was reading the newspaper.” She lifted a French fry to his lips and he ate it.
“Well, you remember that community center we were painting, the one that blew up?”
“Yes,” he said and took a bite out of one of the hot dogs. “This is really good.”
She shot him a conspiratorial smile. “I agree. Back to the newspaper. There was an article about how the community center is going to be torn down and a new one is going to be built in its place.”
“That’s good,” he said, continuing to eat his meal.
“An anonymous donor has made this possible,” she said, regarding him with deep suspicion. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this donor, would you?”
“I suspect if the donor is anonymous then he—” He swallowed another bite. “Or she prefers to remain anonymous.”