CHAPTER TWO

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Miami isn't too far from California, really. Same type of people, same blistering heat, same vibe. In the Uber, I look over the case file Thomas had made up for me.

It's almost scary how real this file looks.

I shouldn't have lied to Clara.

Of course I felt bad about lying. But I couldn't tell her the truth. Not yet, anyway.

How do you tell your girlfriend that your supposedly-dead-dad's family reached out to you and payed for you and your little sister to fly out to them. I wasn't ready to tell her that my parents didn't die in a car accident.

My future did.

I shut up my mind and look over at Max. "There's an ice cream shop near the hotel. You want to go after we check in?" Her eyes light up at the mention of ice cream and she nods viciously. I laugh as the Uber comes to a stop in front of the lobby of our hotel for the next week. After I thank the driver, he clicks open the trunk and Max and I pile out. I grab each of our suitcases and tap the back of the car to let the driver know that we've got everything. He drives off and I lead Max inside to check in.

———

"Cookie dough!" Max shouts excitedly when the ice cream clerk asks her what flavor of ice cream she'd like. With a small laugh, the clerk makes up her ice cream and mine which I had requested chocolate.

She taps at the register for a second before speaking. "Your total is 6.84." I put a ten in front of her with a smile.

"Keep the change." She smiles gratefully at me and I grab our ice cream, hand Max her own. She runs in front of me, sitting at a table. I slide into the stool across from her and dig in also. After a few moments, I speak. "Max, I need to talk to you about something very serious." She gives me a questioning look and nods. I continue. "We're not here for one of my work cases."

"Then why?" She asks immediately.

"Dad's sister contacted me and flew us out here. She wanted to meet us." Max looks down, avoiding my eyes.

"Why would she want to meet us?"

"She said she felt bad that we didn't have other family because of what he did," I start. I can tell she looks uneasy so I reach across the table and grab her hand. "Max, I don't think she's anything like him and even if she is, I won't let anyone hurt you." This seems to ease her a bit but not completely. She looks up, meeting my eyes.

"Why did you lie to me?" Is that what has her still upset? As soon as she asks, the guilt feels heavy in my stomach.

"I was waiting to tell you the truth because I had to lie to Clara. She doesn't know about him, remember?" She nods and I continue. "I didn't want to lie to you. But I couldn't risk her hearing me talk to you about it." Understanding lights up her eyes and she smiles.

"Okay, I guess I still love you," she teases and I laugh, relived that she's not mad at me.

"You guess?" She laughs as we slip into a comfortable silence and finish our ice cream.

"So what's our aunt's name?" I go to answer but she speaks again before I can. "Amanda?"

My eyebrows knit together and look up at her. "Amanda? Why would you think her name would be-"

"No, look. Amanda," she says and points behind me. When I turn around, I recognize her immediately. Her light brown hair which she always kept at the same length has grown out a bit now. She's in a pink sweater and blue jeans. Her back is to me as I stare in shock. Her hand is intertwined with a tall, muscular guy in a black t-shirt. It's almost as if I'm seeing a ghost from my past. 

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