PRE-ORDER - AVAILABLE MAY 25TH
Silas had spent the night with Hannah, going over the possibility that Baby Olivia was still alive, and he awoke the next morning wondering how they were going to prove it.
“What’s wrong?” asked Hannah as she pulled her shirt over her head to get ready to leave. “You look like you’re lost in your thoughts.”
Silas gave a heavy sigh as he sat up on the edge of the bed. “I am. I can’t help but wonder how we’re going to go about this. I mean, we know Lonnie was there, and it’s more likely now that it wasn’t a coincidence with the whole stunt thing. But how are we going to prove it? He’ll never admit it. And we can’t just go around saying something like that.”
Hannah sighed. “Don’t second-guess yourself. We both agree that his being there is too much of a coincidence. I mean, the stunt matching the car going off the bridge and the fact that he just happened to be at the scene are proof enough to convince me. His personal connection to Claire alone gives us a fair reason to think that he’s involved more than he’s letting on. Not to mention the fact that he’s been dodging you from the beginning.”
He nodded to agree with her. “Right, but we can’t just throw this out there without proof. We have to figure out where she is. Who could have her? And why did Claire lie? Because if we’re wrong?” He shook his head. “I don’t even want to think about that.”
He hated to be a doubter, but there was a lot for both of them to lose. And once he realized that not only could he be hurt by this but Hannah too, that changed everything.
Hannah reached down and picked up one of her shoes. “If it helps, I think we’re on the right track. We both agree the most likely scenario is that Olivia’s still alive. I can start with her mother and then talk to Lonnie Smith again. Maybe going at them with what we know will help to see something we couldn’t see before.”
Silas shook his head. He didn’t want her going anywhere near that man. “No. I don’t want you to talk to him again. I think it’s time the two of us have a man-to-man talk instead. I have to question him on the fact that he did a stunt like that and see what his reaction is to me knowing it.”
Hannah cocked a brow. “You’re going to talk to him alone? Are you sure that’s a good idea? He won’t like that, for sure.”
“I don’t really care what the man thinks or what he likes, for that matter. If what we think is true, Claire is innocent. And since she’s about to go away for a very long time, I’d like to make sure that she’s earned the sentence.”
“Lonnie wasn’t happy when you showed up with me. He’s surely not going to want to welcome you. Be ready for anything.”
Silas shrugged. “He’ll have to talk to me. I’m not taking no for an answer.”
“Silas, I’m not sure that’s the way to go about it. Unless you want to fight him.”
She seemed to think that was a real possibility.
“What’s he going to do?” Silas didn’t think the man was as violent as he wanted people to think he was.
“You may not want to know,” she said with a chuckle. “Lonnie seems a bit unpredictable to me.”
Silas couldn’t believe she was worried about that at all. “I’m not afraid of him. Besides, if he’s going to lose his temper, I’d rather he’d do it with me and not you. And this is more about seeing his reactions than anything else. I don’t expect him to tell me anything. If this is their plan, they’ll stick to it.”
“Unless they panic,” she says. “There is still the chance we tip them off. We have to think about everyone involved. Including that child.”
Silas had already thought of that. “If Lonnie’s involved, so is Aria. And if Aria is, Bell might be also. Then there’s Claire and her mother. She has to know something.”
Hannah walked over and sat on the bed next to him to put on the other shoe. “So, we’re taking care of Lonnie and the mother. What about Aria? I know we said it’s not practical with her being so far away, but maybe that’s the point. Who is to say she isn’t the most likely candidate?”
“That could be true. But we don’t even know where she is. I think we can find her, but it’s going to take time. I’ll get Zoe on it. Maybe we can at least find a forwarding address that could give us her city.” He gave a heavy sigh. “Claire shouldn’t go to prison just because she doesn’t want her daughter to be around her father. There are other ways to do this.”
“No, you’re right. But I can’t help but think that she must have tried everything else. Or maybe normal options weren’t possible for her. Not with a man like Owen Bishop in her life.” Hannah’s demeanor suddenly changed, and her face clouded with emotion. “I need to talk to Traeger and find out just how close we are to getting his arrest. I’m hoping they’ll get the job done, and maybe they’ll find something linking Owen to it.”
Silas wasn’t sure Hannah would hear from him. He still had his doubts about the detective, and while he was glad he had continued to support Miley, he just wasn’t sure of his motives when it came to Hannah. He was an officer of the law and had no reason to share with Hannah other than he had given her his word, which was worthless coming from a cop. But he didn’t want to upset her again. Some things were best left alone.
They had worked through everything, and the whole thing about Traeger using her was in the past. All he wanted now was to move forward and prove his client innocent.
Once he got the proof he needed about the child, he could save his client from a lifetime in prison. And while that all seemed great, there was a side to it that had been gnawing at him for hours. “You know, if we uncover this grand scheme and I prove my boss is involved and that he used me like a pawn, it’s going to greatly impact my career. I can’t go on as if nothing happened. And I’m pretty sure if Bell is involved, I’m out of a job.”
Hannah gave him a sympathetic look. “I guess I can understand why that would make you second-guess.”
“It’s a lot to process. It’s not just Claire’s life that could be affected. And I don’t want to sound selfish, but if Bell is in this, if he used me to carry this through, it means my career was over before it really got going, not to mention the fact that you and your show could be affected. We have to be ready for anything.”
“I’m not worried about my career,” she said. “I guess that comes with having it fail over and over again. I’ll be fine, Silas. And you are capable of doing more than working for Bell. I know that. You could do a lot of good things in this world, Silas. Go into practice for yourself. You don’t need him. And besides, if you expose him in this, there are going to be a lot of people who won’t trust him. They’ll need a good lawyer.”
She was trying to stay positive, but Silas knew what a shit show this would be. A lot of good people would be affected. And yet, he knew it was what he had to do. “It’s going to blow everything wide open,” he said. “I guess that’s why I’m struggling.”
“I can understand that,” she said, reaching for his hand. “You’ve got a lot at stake.”
“We both do. I don’t want bad things for you.”
“As I said, I’m going to be okay. I just worry about that child. What happens when the truth comes out, and Owen finds out that his daughter is alive? He’s going to lose it. He’ll be a danger to everyone involved if he isn’t put away, and what’s worse is he will look like the victim yet again. Claire won’t admit whatever this dark secret is about him that had her going over the edge in the first place.”
He was sure the pun was unintentional. “Yeah, if you thought he was bad before, I think you’ll see an even worse side to him. No one likes to be duped, especially about something this serious.”
“Not to mention that his mother is going to want her rights to her grandchild, even if he doesn’t. And if he thinks that anyone wants to keep him from her, he’d do anything to get her. It’s all about power for him. Now that I think about it, it’s a lot to think about. We’re blowing the lid off of something that other people think is best. I’d hate for them to be right.”
She had a look of doubt in her eyes, and it made him worry that he had just talked her into having second thoughts.
“We have to uncover this,” he said. “You know that we can’t just let it go.”
“I know, but at the same time, if we can’t do something to ensure that Owen can’t get to her, she’ll never be safe. She is better off where she is.” She seemed to truly believe that. Silas believed it too, but it didn’t make it okay to ignore it.
“Do we look at the safety of the child or the innocence of the mother? I can’t ignore that my client might not have committed a crime, Hannah. Not to say that what she’s doing isn’t a serious crime as well. But I can’t let that go before a judge when I know better.”
“What happens to her when this is uncovered? Won’t she just be in more trouble?”
“I think that depends on how it is brought to light. She has potentially faked a death, and she is keeping a child from its father. Not to mention all of the lies she’s told to get to this point. It won’t sit well with the courts. In fact, it could make her lose Olivia anyway.”
“That’s why we have to show them why she did it. We have to expose Owen for the monster he is. Anyone would do the same thing. No one would blame her if they only knew the truth about him. Suppose they knew that all of the rape accusations were true, at least? That alone should be enough.”
“He’s beaten those accusations before,” said Silas.
“Maybe it will be different now that his father isn’t around to bail him out of trouble.”
“He’ll just bail himself out now.”
“He doesn’t have his father’s good name. That man knew how to protect himself. Owen is sloppy.”
“I don’t know,” said Silas. “He doesn’t do too bad. Anyway, that’s up to Traeger, right? We have to get him on board?”
“Right.” She gave a sigh. “I just don’t know what to say to him. He’ll think I’m nuts. He’s still on the fence about believing Claire. I’m not sure he’ll ever get there.”
“We have to focus on proving that the child is alive and Claire is innocent. When we find out if we’re on the right track, we’ll figure out the rest from there.”
Hannah nodded in agreement. “I’m prepared to speak to her mother again,” she said. “It’s possible that she has the child with her. I told you how I never went into the house. And the more I think about it, the more she was eager for me to leave.”
“Lonnie needs to answer for the whole stunt thing. Maybe he’ll slip. That’s the best I can hope for, but I’m not sure if I shouldn’t just lay it on the line with him and tell him what I think.”
“I don’t know. I’d feel him out first. It’s a lot to think about. This is Claire’s freedom and a child’s life at risk. We can’t get caught up in everything else and forget that.”
“We won’t,” he said, pulling her closer in a warm embrace. “I’m still torn on one thing.”
“What’s that?” she asked, turning her head from his shoulder to look up at him.
“Dragging you into it. If anything happens to you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“We’ll both be fine. We’ve got each other. Besides, I think we make a great team.”
Silas smiled. “You’re right about that.”
She leaned up and kissed him, and while he wanted it to last much longer, she pulled away. “I have to get home. But thank you for a wonderful night. I’ll call Traeger to see where he’s at with his investigation.”
“Don’t tell him anything just yet. We will do it together, but only after we’re certain we’re right about this.”
“Oh, don’t worry. If I went to him with that right now, he’d think I’m nuts. Well, he might think that already, but you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do,” he said. “It does sound crazy.”
“Anyway, I’ll make plans to go and see Claire’s mother too.”
“Perfect. I’ll get in touch with Lonnie, and we’ll compare notes.”
She kissed him again and finished getting dressed. As he walked her out, he gave her a look of reassurance. “You know we’re doing the right thing.”
Hannah smiled. “I’m not sure if you’re trying to convince yourself or me, but yes, I think we are.” She gave him another hug and a quick kiss on the lips before leaving.
Silas let go of a deep breath and with it went his doubt. He had to do this for his client. He had to save Claire Ford from herself.