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OLIVIA CROUCHED IN THE corner of her family’s large estate on the beach, playing hide-and-seek with her best friend, Alex. She was a great hider.
“What is this, Jack?” her mama asked, her voice concerned.
“Marilyn, you weren’t supposed to find that.” Her father sounded angry.
“Jack, this is some serious stuff. Please tell me that you’re not involved.”
“What do you take me for? Some criminal? I would never betray my country like that!”
“Then explain to me what this is. Please. I beg you.”
“This is classified stuff. Something I’m working on. A bit of a side project. There’s a lot of big brass involved here, Mary. I don’t know who I can trust. This runs so deep, even up to the top of the CIA. I had to bring all the evidence home so that they don’t find out that I know. To keep me safe… To keep you safe…”
Olivia’s mother let out the breath she was holding. “Thank god. You had me worried for a minute,” she said, running her hand against his face. “I need to go. I’ll be back by dinner.”
“Marilyn, wait. Where are you going?”
“Out with Colleen. She’s heading back home later this week to get ready to deliver the baby. I want to spend some time with her before I don’t see her again for the rest of the summer.”
“Okay. I love you, sweet girl.”
Olivia saw her mother turn and smile at her father. “I know.”
She heard the door close. Her father strode over to the phone in the kitchen and dialed. “Hey. It’s me. I need your help.”
“OLIVIA, WAKE UP, PLEASE. You’re scaring me. Come on, baby,” Alexander pleaded, trying to shake her awake. He had been trying to wake her up for the past several minutes. He had hoped the nightmares would subside once she knew who she was. Apparently, that wasn’t the case.
“Olivia, please…” He watched as she shook and screamed, unable to do anything. “Please…”
Suddenly, her eyes flung open and she gasped for air.
“Oh, thank god. You had me worried, love.” Alexander pulled her head flush with his chest. “That must have been some nightmare.”
Olivia couldn’t speak. Her tongue felt as if it was caught in her throat. She had never had that dream before and she didn’t know what to make of it. It didn’t make any sense. Nothing did anymore.
At first, Olivia thought that the only thing Alexander had kept from her was that they were childhood friends. There had to be something more…something that had to do with the reason his father had to fake her and her father’s deaths. She had a feeling Alexander had all the answers, and she wanted those answers. But, at the same time, she kept hearing Carol’s words in her head, pleading with her to trust his judgment.
Alexander held Olivia tight and soothed her tears as her shaking began to subside, desperate to calm her down. He didn’t want to ask, but he needed to know what had her so shaken up. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Just another stupid dream, Alex. Go back to sleep. Don’t worry about me.” She took a deep breath, inhaling his scent.
“But I do worry about you, Olivia.”
“I know you do. I just don’t want to talk about it. Okay?”
He held her tight, scared that he would lose her again if he pushed her any further. “Okay.”
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, ALEXANDER’S phone began ringing, waking him and Olivia up. “Alex, don’t answer it. Please,” she begged sleepily. “I don’t want you to leave this nice warm bed.”
Reaching for the cell, he looked at the caller ID. “It’s Carol. She may have some information about Kiera’s case.”
Olivia exhaled. “Fine. But you owe me.”
He answered the phone, grinning at the beautiful brunette in his bed. “Hey, sis.”
“So, thanks for telling me Jack DeLuca is still alive.”
Shit. Alexander got out of the bed and walked down the hall to a spare room for a little bit of privacy.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for anyone to know. I didn’t even want Olivia to know.”
“What?!” she shouted, enraged by Alexander’s admission. “That’s her father, for crying out loud! You really wanted to keep that information from her?! After everything she’s been through?! Haven’t you kept enough secrets from that poor girl?!”
“I know, I know. But there was a reason that Dad put them both under protection. There was a reason their lives were better off if the people they were before the accident were thought to be dead.”
“I trust you, Alex. I always have. But you need to start looking at the bigger picture here. Some serious shit must have gone down back then for Dad to do what he did.”
Alexander walked over to the window and stared down at the waterfront, sunlight shimmering on the ocean below him. “What I’m about to tell you cannot be repeated to another soul.”
“Alex, come on. I’m a detective, in case you’ve forgotten. I know all about classified information. I deal with it on an almost daily basis.”
He took a deep breath. “Several months ago, I confronted Jack outside of Olivia’s home. He was sitting out there, keeping watch over her. I have no idea how or when he found her, but he did. I had just read Dad’s letter that told me what happened all those years ago…or, at least, a rough idea of what did.
“Anyway, I had been seeing the same rental sedan everywhere Olivia was so I wanted to find out who the hell it was. As I approached the car, I thought my eyes were betraying me. It was him. Jack. But an older version of him.”
“Wow,” Carol exhaled.
“I made him get out of the car so that we could have a little talk. I still had no idea why Kiddish and his goons were after Olivia again after all these years. She was just a little girl back when everything went down.”
“I’ve always wondered the same thing. None of it made any sense.”
“I know. Come to find out, Jack had collected evidence on certain higher-ups in the government, including the CIA, who had been brokering deals with known terror organizations. It became clear that the entire family was in trouble so he reached out to Dad for help. After the crash, Jack was concerned that both his and Olivia’s lives were still in danger.”
“But that doesn’t explain why these people hired Kiddish again. I mean, Olivia was…”