When I opened the door, I heard voices. I paused a minute. We didn’t have any appointments scheduled. Lost and Found Pets is open Monday through Friday from nine a.m. to five p.m., but I do work outside of those hours. Pets can go missing at any time. Although the hours vary, the majority of our searches are conducted during the day. Clients do come to our offices, but we seldom have drop-ins. Most of our business is conducted over the phone or through email.
As I stepped through the door, the voices stopped, and all eyes turned toward me. There was a tension in the air that I normally didn’t feel when Claire was around. She gave me a tight smile and tilted her head toward the couple standing in the middle of the room.
I didn’t know the female. She was of average height with beautiful, ginger hair that fell in waves to her shoulders. She had a heart-shaped face with wide bright blue eyes. The color was so vivid I suspected colored lenses. Her face was lovely, and her make-up carefully applied. Curvy, with large breasts, she looked like she stepped out of the pages of a girlie magazine. She gave me a sweet smile and blinked innocently.
It didn’t fool me. It was the same look I had seen hundreds of times on my mother’s face when she was working a mark. My mother had been better at it. Of course, she had a lot more practice.
Elise Prescott had been spoiled as a child. Her parents had been in their forties when she was born, and they had been unprepared for the wild, willful girl that had been my mother. When she became pregnant with me at the age of seventeen, her wealthy, conservative parents had disowned her. Elise made her way through life by sleeping with or conning any man who could get her what she wanted. And what she wanted was drugs and alcohol.
My childhood had been…unpleasant. Elise had loved me in her own way, but I was mostly an afterthought. She never really taught me how to act or deal with people. I learned how to blend in and successfully mimic those around me. It was the only way to survive, but my social skills suffered. As a result, I tend to be blunt and plain-spoken. Unconsciously, I think I was trying to be as different from my mother as possible, but I knew a con artist when I saw one.
This girl was good, but she still had a long way to go to master the art. She looked about eighteen, but I was betting she was in her early twenties. One thing was evident. She had the man standing beside her completely fooled.
Like me, he was tall and lean with a runner’s body. Not muscular but strong and athletic. And like me, he had auburn hair and dark emerald green eyes. His name was Wyatt Bennett, and he’s my half-brother.
Growing up, I had never known my father. He was not listed on my birth certificate, and Elise had never mentioned him. After she died and I came to live with Nora, I wondered if I would meet him, but Nora had not known who he was either.
All that changed a few months ago when I came face to face with Nathaniel Bennett. He had recognized me immediately. Facially, I look just like my mother. Same bone structure, same high cheekbones and aristocratic nose, same smile. My eyes were the only facial feature I didn’t inherit from her.
Bennett had been shocked. He hadn’t known I even existed. After doing a little research, it hadn’t taken him long at all to determine I was his daughter, and he wanted me in his life. His wife had been equally as welcoming. Their daughter, Natalie, was excited about having an older sister, but Wyatt was a different story.
We had only met twice. Both times at a family event. The first time was a Sunday dinner and the second at an informal gathering where I was introduced to my father’s extended family. For me, both events had been an ordeal. I don’t like to make small talk. I’ve never really had a family. For the first thirteen years of my life, it had just been my mother and me. After that, it had just been Nora and me. I didn’t know how to act, and more importantly, I didn’t know how to feel.
Everyone had been kind and friendly except for Wyatt. His resentment and dislike had been evident right from the beginning. I didn’t know why he was taking his anger out on me, but I understood him better than all the others. He and I quickly came to an understanding. We simply avoided each other which was why I was so surprised to see him standing in my office.
He looked at me, banked down the dislike, and said, “We need your help.”
I’m currently working on the next Lost and Found Pets Mystery Novella called The Lost Calico. I am hoping for a release in late March or April. The cover will be available soon. Here’s an unedited, non-proofed blurb and snippet.
The Lost Calico is the fifth novella in the Lost and Found Pets series. Alexandra Prescott is a licensed private investigator specializing in finding missing animals. Reuniting pet and owner is more than just a job.
Alex is still learning to cope with her new-found family when her half-brother, Wyatt, comes to her for help. His girlfriend’s cat is missing. Ivy is a con artist who has Wyatt wrapped around her finger and a secret that threatens her life.
It doesn’t take Alex long to expose Ivy’s secret, but she can’t leave the girl to face the consequences on her own. As events unfold, Alex faces the dangers it takes to solve the mystery of the lost Calico.