Bee swallowed hard as the truth of their words sank in. After taking several deep breaths, she lifted her chin and gave her friends a determined smile. “Alright. Let’s do this.”
Minutes later, and all three of them were up on stage as the program’s host completed the introductions. “For one whole day, these three women will be available to mentor you, listen to your stories and share theirs – today is all about you because you matter.”
The event lasted until the wee hours of the night, with the three women and their fifty-plus protégés shedding both tears and laughter as they shared and learned from each other’s experiences in life.
It was an infinitely rewarding experience, and Bee couldn’t thank her friends enough for encouraging her to participate.
“Does that mean you’re up for next month’s function as well?” Isla teased.
“Even if I have to sing and dance,” she joked, “I’ll do it.”
“We’ll hold you to that,” Harry warned her with an impish grin.
Devon and Sean arrived soon after to drive their wives home, and when they asked where Nicholas was, Bee fought hard to keep her smile as she answered, “He’s, um, out of town for work.”
“Of course.” Devon’s smooth voice revealed nothing of his unease. Bee’s smile was just too bright. It was damnably obvious she was hiding something, and it most likely had to do with her missing husband.
Bee waited until all of Nicholas’ friends had driven off before quickly walking to where Nicholas’ driver was waiting. Keep it together, Bee. Just a few more steps. Just a few more. But by the time Jerry opened the passenger door for her, it was already too late, and the tears were running down her cheeks.
The silence inside the car was painfully awkward, with Jerry frequently darting worried glances at his employer’s wife through the rearview mirror. She looked woefully alone, her tiny frame swallowed by the vastness of the Bentley’s backseat, and her quiet sobs made painfully palpable by the sight of her shaking shoulders.
They had seemed so fine a few days ago, Jerry thought morosely. What in the world could’ve happened that would make Mr. Sutherland drive off in the middle of the night like the Devil himself was after him?
Unknown to Jerry, the exact same question had been running through Bee’s mind. For five days now, if one had to be specific, or ever since she had woken up alone in Nicholas’ bed.
At first, she hadn’t been concerned at all, thinking that it was work that had him leaving so early. But when night had fallen once more, and there were still no signs of him, that was when she had tried calling him on his cellphone…and had her call transferred to voicemail.
Five days, Bee thought, and she could only cry harder, unable to believe how little time it took for her new life to fall into pieces.
For five days now, she had done her best to keep busy, with Nicholas’ foreman patiently showing her the ropes as she tried to find her place in the ranch and figure out how she could be of help. And when that wasn’t enough, she had tagged along with Isla and Harry, doing what she could to help with their non-profit projects.
Anything to keep herself busy, anything to keep her from thinking that for those same five days, she hadn’t gotten a single message or call from Nicholas.
Her phone suddenly rang, the jarring sound making Bee jump in her seat.
But then a thought occurred – that it might finally be Nicholas, and this whole nightmare could be over – and she quickly answered the call. “Hello?”
“Hello, pretty mitria.” The word was Greek for ‘stepmother’, and at the realization that it was Danny who was calling…
Danny, not Nicholas.
From the other end of the line, Daniel frowned at Bee’s continued silence. “Hello?”
And then he heard it.
“Danny.” Bee’s voice caught. “I think I messed up.”
The sound of his stepmother’s heart breaking…and his own heart broke alongside hers.
This is it, Nicholas thought as he slowly walked up the driveway. It had recently occurred to him that he had been doing it all wrong by asking strangers to find Daniel’s whereabouts. Those guys might have been experts at finding missing people, but Nicholas’ need to keep things under the radar meant doing their jobs with one hand tied behind their back.
If he wanted to find his son, he would be his own best shot since he knew his son better than anyone. And so for the past five days, he had been flying all over the world, visiting their old haunts one by one, until he finally ended up here: a tiny seaside cottage in Isla de Flores, which he and Daniel stayed in when the boy had asked for “quality time” for his sixteenth birthday.