Winner of Adelaide Piper novel from Beth Webb Hart’s “A Daddy’s Belle” post last week is Kathryn Edgar! Thanks to everyone for posting such heartfelt comments. Your personal memories truly gave depth and substance to all the happy Daddy thoughts last week. There will be more give-aways in the coming weeks so keep checking in on the cyber porch!
Max stood in the darkened parking garage of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Two agents were detailing Blaine’s abandoned car for any clue, any sign of struggle. Gattis was a rookie, but he was smart enough to cover his tracks. He’d been trained by the best, and he was no idiot.
Rafe. The name blasted through Max’s mind like a jackhammer. Rafe Sanchez. Rafe Sanchez. Rafe Sanchez. He was capable of anything, and he was undoubtedly behind this. The question was where? Where did they take Nina and could Max get to her in time?
He’d been racking his brain for a clue. Nina had told him a lot about her life with Rafe, but he knew she had held back too. She had turned a new chapter, taken a huge leap of faith in marrying him, and she didn’t want to go back and revisit all the miserable details of the physical and emotional abuse her former fiancé had relentlessly inflicted upon her.
Max had been guilty of holding back too. In fact, if he’d gone ahead and told Nina that Rafe was out as soon as he knew, she wouldn’t have felt like bait. Like an asset to the FBI instead of the wife he loved. Becoming one flesh was harder than Max ever imagined it would be. He’d been so trained to have two lives: his work and his personal, and he’d never let them meet until the last few months, and boy, did they ever meet. He had known beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nina was the wife God had for him. Goodness knows his Mama had been praying for her since Max’s birth twenty-seven years ago, and once he became a believer , the summer between his junior and senior year of high school, he started praying too.
As soon as his eyes met hers as he took her arm at the oyster roast outside of the fire station a few months ago, he knew. He felt a tingling down his spine and a heat suddenly emanate from his solar plexus. It wasn’t just attraction, and it wasn’t lust. He’d known all of those things before. It was something entirely different. It was the spirit of God and it said. “Here she is. Don’t let go.”
But he had let go. In just a few weeks of marriage, he’d let go by withholding information. By keeping from Nina what she needed most to feel secure and loved: the truth. If he found her, he would never do that again. And he didn’t care if it cost him his job or even his life.
The file on Rafe was three inches thick. The weasel owned a home in Chicago, an apartment in Manhattan and practically a compound in West Palm Beach. Plus he had extensive property in remote areas of Idaho, Montana and South Texas.
Max’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket. It was Lucas who was checking the record of private jet flights in and out of the Atlanta airport.
“Billings, Montana. This morning at 5 am.”
“No. A couple of flights to New York, several to Florida but none to Palm Beach. One to Kansas City, one to Nashville, one to Birmingham.”
Max shook his head. Somehow he pictured the place in South Texas. Thought there’d be a flight to San Antonio in the record.”
A call from Max’s boss, Stewart, flashed on Max’s phone.
“Call you right back, Lucas. See how fast you can get us to Billings.”
“You bet.” Lucas said.
“What do you know, Stewart?”
“That Nina’s sister is missing.”
Max exhaled hard. This was getting uglier by the moment. Rafe Sanchez. He was out for blood this time. It was more than just keeping Nina quiet. This was about revenge. “No way.”
“Yeah, when her roommate came home from a night class, the dorm room looked like it had been torn apart. There was no sign of Claire. And both her cell phone and her purse were still in the room.”
Lord, help them, Max prayed. Lord, help us to help them.
“Any clues from your end?” Stewart said.
“The car hasn’t yielded any, but Lucas found a record of a flight to Billings early this morning.”
“We’ve got agents headed out to each property, Max. The one in South Texas is the most remote so it will take a while to hear back from them, but I should be hearing from the others any time.”
“They could be anywhere.” Max’s voice broke in the middle of ‘anywhere’.
He could hear Stewart take a deep breath, cover his hand over the phone, mumble for a few long minutes and then come back. “Just heard back from the guys in Montana. No sign of them out there. They searched the entire estate.”
Now a heat filled Max’s solar plexus. He felt a renewal of strength and resolve.
“Stewart, can you see if there are any other private airports around Atlanta.”
“Sure thing,” he said.
As Max lifted his chin he felt a breeze swirl through the garage. It lifted a plastic grocery bag which swirled down the corridor between a row of cars before it caught on side mirror of an old Cadillac.
Max’s phone vibrated again. Stewart was fast. “Just got off the line with a small airport in Macon. There was a flight at 4:30 am to San Antonio this morning.”
“That’s it,” Max said.
“Maybe so,” Stewart said. “We’ve got guys on our way out there right now. There’s a main house and a series of buildings and what looks to be some sort of barn and caretaker’s house on the far side of the property next to the border.”
“I’m heading out there,” Max said.
Stewart put his hand on the receiver again and then came back. “Leslie just booked you and Lucas on a flight that leaves out of terminal B twenty-five minutes.”
“We’re on our way,” Max said. Then he dialed Lucas. “Meet me in terminal B. We’re going to San Antonio.”
“Good,” Lucas said. “I’ve been praying and Billings just didn’t feel right. See you in ten.”
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