His eyes are the one thing that haven’t changed, and the sparkling green brilliance still takes my breath away. In my entire life, I’ve never seen eyes as beautiful as his.
August scrunches his eyebrows, an inquisitive expression crossing his face over finding a woman on his doorstep at two o’clock in the morning. He even gives me a polite smile—perhaps thinking I might need assistance with a broken-down car.
Then, he actually sees me. He leans a little closer as his gaze roams all over my face, finally locking on my eyes. Recognition dawns, and his mouth parts in astonishment.
“Tracey?” he asks, sounding awed. His voice trembles slightly. “Is that you?”
I smile, relieved he recognizes me even though my hair is coffee brown instead of blonde. It’s no longer down to the middle of my back, instead it’s cut into an angular bob. My blue eyes are now brown, thanks to the miracle of colored contacts.
“It’s actually Leighton now,” I say with an upturned chin. Wincing, I realize how sanctimonious that sounds, as if I were too good for my name. “What I mean is… I had to change my name to Leighton.”
August regards me in surprise before his expression changes… it’s almost as if he understands, but I don’t know how. How could he possibly understand why I’m here right now?
Stepping back from the door, August motions me inside. “Why don’t you come in?”
I cross the threshold, more nervous now than I have been in an exceedingly long time of having to look over my shoulder. August may have figured a few things out due to my change in appearance and name, but he has no clue what I’m getting ready to hit him with.
Honestly, I’m reeling.
It’s not every day I’m confronted by a ghost from my past.
Tracey Glendale is in my home, apparently alive and well. Of course, under a different name now. Leighton. She definitely looks different. Given my cop background and current work with Jameson, it’s clear she’s hiding from someone or something.
“You want some coffee or something?” I ask. Moving through the spacious living area, I head into the kitchen at the rear of the house, flipping on lights as I go.
“No, thank you,” she replies, but I continue to the coffee pot. I have no clue why Tracey—Leighton—has suddenly shown up on my doorstep. I’m going to assume she needs help. Maybe she somehow knows about my background in law enforcement.
Regardless of the reason she’s here, I know I won’t be going back to sleep tonight.
Flipping on the Keurig, I turn toward her, leaning against the counter while it heats up. She stops on the other side of the kitchen island separating the open-floor plan from the living room, then places her purse almost gingerly on the counter. Her head dips, as if she’s afraid to look me in the eye.
“I thought you were dead for the longest time,” I say. Her head snaps up, eyes locking on mine. “You just disappeared. Not a word. No explanation. I went to your house, but all your furnishings were still there… your clothes. You and your dad just vanished into thin air. It was reasonable to conclude something bad had happened, so I just naturally assumed you’d died. Otherwise, you would have tried to reach out to me, right?”
Whoa… I had not intended to go off on that diatribe, but it suddenly hits me how angry I am she’s standing in my house after ten long years without a single word from her.
“I couldn’t,” she murmurs. Despite the bitterness welling inside me right now, I motion her toward one of the island stools. She sits, clasping her hands tightly together. “We were in WITSEC.”
“No, you weren’t,” I reply with a confident shake of my head. “I checked. Once I started with the Vegas PD, I used my connections to see what happened to you because I was having a tough time accepting you might be dead. But you weren’t in the system.”
Her head tilts, sympathy softening her features at the anger in my tone. “We were in deep. Very, very deep.”
“Who was in deep, Tracey?” I demand, crossing my arms. Although, truthfully, I already know the answer.
“Leighton,” she whispers, gaze dropping to her purse.
“You need to call me Leighton,” she says, a bit of bite in her voice. “It’s been my name for ten years now. Tracey is gone.”
I ignore the twinge of empathy her words conjure, needing to know more. “Was it your dad? Did he do something?”
Her lips press flat, her expression going almost blank. I can tell she’s been trained—maybe conditioned—to never speak about such things. Finally, through gritted teeth, she admits, “He witnessed something the federal government felt was particularly important. So much so, they dragged us out of our house in the middle of the night, then informed us our lives as we knew them were over. That we were considered assets of the government, and we had to start our lives over.”