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To Rene.

Here’s to our next road trip.

Contents

Dedication

Title Page

1

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Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Credits

Also by Nalini Singh

Copyright

1

My mother vanished without a trace ten years ago.

So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash from my father’s safe.

The police came.

The neighbors whispered that she was a thief.

My father called her a bitch.

“She’ll turn up, and when she does, I’ll have her in handcuffs!”

That’s what he said. That’s what he screamed.

He was right.

It took ten years, but she has turned up.

The police found her car in the dense bush of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park four hours ago. She was inside. Well, her bones were anyway. Those bones were clothed in the remnants of the red silk shirt she was wearing that night.

The night I heard her scream.

2

I’d just spent two hours staring at my unfinished manuscript when the police came to the door of my father’s subtly upscale residence of glass and polished wood. Designer enough to make it clear he was no ordinary man, but understated enough to blend in to the dark green landscape that surrounded it.

I’d come “home” to live after my hospital discharge a month ago. Doctors’ orders.

“You can’t be on your own,” Dr. Binchy had said, hazel eyes unblinking behind square black spectacle frames. “Not yet.”

I didn’t know why I hadn’t just hired a nurse instead of returning to this unhappy place thick with ugly memories. Before adding, then deleting, a thousand pointless words on my next book, I’d started to look up nursing agencies. Then the police came. The ­middle-­aged man in plain clothes, the ­twenty-­something woman in full uniform, cap included.

Recognition flashed in her eyes when I opened the door.

The man, solid and stolid with a square jaw and watery blue eyes, flashed his ID. “We’d like to speak to Mr. Ishaan Rai.”

“Sure.” Turning on my crutches, I saw that my father was already coming down the hall, a ­well-­dressed CEO on top of the world, his graying black hair perfectly styled and his shirt a crisp blue.

He wasn’t a tall man, nor was he short. Average height, with average features. He should’ve looked ordinary, even bland, but my father has a presence, a dignity to him that I’ve always found a grand irony.

“What’s this about?” he demanded, because that’s what Ishaan Rai does. Demand. It’s served him well except for when it comes to his son, who is his disappointment.

“Mr. Rai,” the man began, raising his ID. “If we could speak in private.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, just spit it out. What complaint is it now? The plant is built to the highest ­specifications—­it isn’t breaching any environmental restrictions.” He’s so used to ordering people about that it doesn’t seem to occur to him that a senior officer wouldn’t knock on his door at eight in the morning for a complaint about emissions or discarded chemicals.

The male officer’s expression stilled, and right then, I saw an intelligence I hadn’t previously spotted. Solid and stolid could also mean dogged and relentless. “I’m Detective Senior Sergeant Oliver Regan and this is my colleague Constable Sefina Neri. We regret to inform you that the body of a deceased female was discovered early this morning in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. Her identity has yet to be officially verified, and normally, we wouldn’t inform you at this ­stage—­but, given the likely publicity and attendant conjecture, the decision was made to alert you. She had her driver’s license and credit cards with her. All in the name of Nina Rai.”

Time stopped, filled with the sound of a sharp, pained scream.

Even my father seemed stunned into silence, but that never lasts long with him. “Where’s she been all this time?” he barked. “Living it up on my money I’m guessing.”

Constable Neri’s eyes were a deep, intense brown and she locked them unblinkingly on my father, but let her senior officer do the talking. Her job, I understood, was to watch and make note of any and all reactions.

The intensity of her, it reminded me of Paige.

“Indications are that the deceased has been in place for a significant period,” Regan responded, the pale skin of his face pockmarked with old acne scars. “Full forensic examinations will take some time, of course, but we have reason to believe that she’s been there since the night she was last seen ­alive—­our people have discovered remnants of the clothing you described her wearing in your theft complaint.”

Red silk, a top that had left her arms bare and slipped neatly into the high waist of her ­wide-­legged and tailored black pants. Her heels had been black, too, her lips a pop of red that matched her top.

Around me hung silence.

Heavy. Cold. Cutting.

Like the silence my father had utilized as a weapon against my mother. She, in turn, hadn’t been much for silence. My mother preferred smashing things, preferred screaming.

But not like that final scream.

“Could it be someone else?” I asked, because my father was just staring at ­them—­and because I didn’t want their words to be true. “Someone could’ve stolen her wallet and you could be wrong about the clothes. It’s been a long time.”

Regan’s expression didn’t soften as he said, “The body was discovered in a vehicle registered to Nina Parvati Rai.”

My hand tightened on the edge of the door. I had no more straws left to clutch.

Deep, aching stabs of pain shot through my left leg at the same time, transmitted from the bones in my foot and ankle knitting themselves back together cell by cell.

“If you have something of Mrs. Rai’s that might hold her DNA,” Detective Regan said, “that’ll speed up the process. But we realize that may be impossible after all this ­time—­a familial DNA match will be our next option.”

My mouth opened. “I might have something.” I had no intention of elaborating further in front of my ­father—­what normal son went into his mother’s room and carefully picked up and bagged her favorite hairbrush? What normal son kept it all these years?

A son who’d heard a scream.

“In

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