Read Gone Online

Authors: Mallory Kane

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Suspense, #ROMANCE - - SUSPENSE


A couple must recover a precious gift stolen from them in Mallory Kane’s The Delancey Dynasty miniseries.

Marcie Powers saw her son everywhere. For two years, no stroller or baby seat passed without his face. She saw him so much, not even her estranged husband, Joseph, believed her. So he wasn’t surprised when she claimed to have found their son once again. Yet this time, she wasn’t hysterical. There was something…different. And although she couldn’t have known it, news of Joe’s own secret parentage was about to hit Louisiana headlines—and it would put his son at risk for a big payday. Now Joseph and Marcie will have to trek through the bayou at the whims of a kidnapper to find the son they’d thought lost to them forever—and reclaim the love between them.…

She looked at him with an unmistakable intent in her eyes.

“Marcie, this isn’t—”

She uttered a sad, small laugh. “Of course it’s not a good idea,” she murmured, looking up at him. “Right now, I don’t care. Do you?”

Joe looked down at her and knew exactly what she was doing.

She wrapped her arms around his neck. He knew her body as well as he knew his own, and he recognized her awakening desire in the suppleness of her muscles, in the softness of her skin and the sultriness in her eyes. He knew, as he always had, on a level much deeper than physical, how much she wanted him.

“No, I don’t care,” he said, and lowered his mouth to hers.


Mallory Kane


Mallory has two very good reasons for loving reading and
writing. Her mother was a librarian, and taught her to love and respect books as
a precious resource. Her father could hold listeners spellbound for hours with
his stories. He was always her biggest fan.

She loves romantic suspense with dangerous heroes and
dauntless heroines, and enjoys tossing in a bit of her medical knowledge for an
extra dose of intrigue. After twenty-five books published, Mallory is still
amazed and thrilled that she actually gets to make up stories for a living.

Mallory lives in Tennessee with her computer-genius husband
and three exceptionally intelligent cats. She enjoys hearing from readers. You
can write her at
[email protected]
or via

Books by Mallory Kane


  992—JUROR NO. 7
%Black Hills Brotherhood
##The Delancey Dynasty


Joseph Powers—
Just about the time Joe Powers finds out he’s Con Delancey’s son, his estranged wife tells him she’s spotted their child, who’s been missing for almost two years. Her claim forces him to face his guilt and fear, as well as his still-burning love for his wife. But when the boy is kidnapped because of his relationship to the Delanceys, will Joe lose his son and his wife all over again?

Marcie Powers—
Joe’s wife has cried wolf twice before, so when she’s sure she’s seen her son, she knows she can’t go to the police. Instead, she goes to Joe, begging him to help her. But before she can convince him that the child really is their missing son, the boy is kidnapped. Has Marcie at last found her child only to lose him forever?

Rhoda Sumner—
This childless woman stole little Joshua Powers when his dad set down his baby carrier for a few seconds. Rhoda has never been happier, until the boy’s mother spots him in the backseat of her car. Then Rhoda’s boyfriend kidnaps the child to get money from the Delanceys. Will she sacrifice her boyfriend to try to keep the child who’s not hers?

Howard Lelievre—
Howard knows a good thing when he sees it. So when he finds out the kid who Rhoda has shown up with is a Delancey, he kidnaps the child and asks for an outrageous ransom. But he finds out that between the child’s parents and Rhoda, he may have bitten off a lot more than he can chew.

Michael, I love you more than anything. Congratulations for making it through. We are going to have so much fun!

Chapter One

There had been a time when just the sight of his wife had Joseph Powers panting with desire. From the blue eyes that sparked fire through his every nerve, to the tips of her pretty pink toes, he’d known, tasted and loved every inch of her. But that was a long time ago, back when they’d been a family, when they’d been happy, when they’d been three. Now, they were just two.

He hadn’t seen her in a year, not since the last time she’d called him, crying and begging for his help, promising him that
time, unlike every time before, she was sure.

He’d expected her to call, if not today, then tomorrow. Knowing ahead of time didn’t make it easier, though. It made it worse. Tomorrow was a big day for both of them. It was her birthday and the second anniversary of their child’s disappearance.

He dreaded opening his front door and seeing her standing there, looking sad and lost. Although, she had sounded different this time. Not quite as desperate. Not quite as beaten down. The tone of her voice had given him a tiny scrap of hope. Maybe she’d finally agreed to take the antidepressants the doctor had prescribed. Maybe she wanted to see him, not to declare that
time she’d really found Joshua, but to let him know that she was doing better.

He laughed, a harsh sound that scratched his throat.
Yeah, and pigs can fly.

He paced back and forth, wishing he could wipe away the memory that haunted him. That split second at the outdoor market when he’d reached down to pick up Joshua’s baby carrier and encountered empty space. The helplessness, terror and anger of that horrifying instant had never faded. Nor had the guilt. They were as strong and all-consuming as they’d ever been. He’d taken out a lot of that anger on Marcie, just as she’d taken out her own sadness, rage and devastating grief on him.

There were some tragedies that were too awful to share, some burdens that could not be lifted.

The doorbell rang and Joe’s heart skipped a beat. He opened the door and there she was, fresh and beautiful, her lovely face shiny and clean of makeup. Her beautiful dark hair was caught up in a ponytail and her wide blue eyes sparkled with unshed tears. No matter what had happened between them, no matter how impossible it was for them to live together with the specter of their missing child between them, he still loved her. He was still
in love
with her. That had never changed and he knew it never would.

Marcie looked pretty and sad and yet determined as she pushed past him into his apartment. He caught a faint scent of her melon-scented shampoo and his body responded. So much for not desiring her anymore.

“Marcie,” he said with resignation, closing the door and turning to meet her gaze.

“Joe,” she said as she glanced around his apartment. Her gaze stopped for an instant on the small framed photo on the kitchen counter. Joe’s gaze followed hers automatically, although he knew the photo as well as he knew his own face in the mirror. It was a picture he’d taken of her and Joshua in the hospital, when Joshua was about four hours old. She walked over and picked up the frame, brushing her fingers across the glass, a wan smile on her face. “I saw him, Joe,” she said without taking her eyes off the image.

“Marcie, don’t—” he began as it occurred to him that she wasn’t frantically excited, the way she’d been every other time she’d been
that she’d spotted Joshua.

She touched the image of Joshua’s round newborn face one more time, then set the frame down. She straightened, took a deep breath and clasped her shoulder bag more tightly. “I’m not hysterical,” she said evenly. “I saw him. It was only a glimpse into the backseat of a car, but I know—” She stopped and pressed her lips together before continuing. “I’m almost positive it was Joshua.”

Almost positive?
Joe stared at her, trying to reconcile this new Marcie with the hysterical woman who, within the first six months after Joshua was gone, had been
absolutely positive
she’d spotted him at least four times. Who’d screamed and thrown things the first time he’d suggested that she go to a grief counselor. He ran a hand across the back of his neck. “Marcie, are you on medication?”

She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and shook her head. “No,” she said on a sigh, meeting his gaze again.

His wife’s eyes were damp with tears, but she wasn’t the broken and defeated fragile bird he’d watched her become as weeks stretched into months with no word about their missing child.

“You don’t believe me,” she said.

“About being on medication?”

“About Joshua.”

He winced, the way he did whenever he heard his son’s name. “We’ve gone through this so many times before. You can’t keep doing this to yourself. You’ve got to try to get on with your life—”

“Like you did?” she retorted. “Just presto—” she snapped her fingers “—and it’s oh, well, Joshua’s gone. Guess I’ll go help
parents find
lost children.”

Six months after Joshua had disappeared, Joe had gone back to work, because he couldn’t sit at home all day and watch Marcie turn into a depressed recluse. But his lucrative corporate attorney position had felt like a waste of time. So he’d quit and taken a job with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The pay was so low it could almost have been considered volunteer work, but at least he felt he was doing something important. The job was both a blessing and a curse. He helped others search for their missing family members while holding out hope that one day, one of these trails would lead to his own son. Then maybe, no matter what the outcome, he and Marcie could finally get closure.

“Marcie, I’ve told you before, the fact that I went back to work didn’t mean—”

“No,” Marcie said, waving a hand dismissively. “I’m not letting myself get sucked into that argument. I came here for one reason and one reason only. I saw our son. I copied down the car’s license plate and I need your help.”

“You got the license plate number?”

“The woman has our child, Joe.”

He steeled himself. So she’d written down a license plate this time. So she was calm—almost too calm, he thought—rather than hysterical. That didn’t make her any less delusional. “Come on, Marcie. How good a look did you get? Was it a glance into the backseat at a red light? You can’t possibly know for sure that a child you saw for a split second in a dark car is Joshua.” He felt the empty hole inside him open up and start bleeding. A familiar stinging began behind his eyes. “Do I have to remind you what the police told us? How slim the chances are of finding him as time goes on?”

“I haven’t forgotten a single word the police told us,” Marcie said stiffly. “I can’t be like you, Joe. I can’t convince myself that he’s dea-dead, so I can pretend I don’t hurt anymore. I
him and this time I have a way to find out who has him and I’m going to do it. If it’s not him, then at least I’ll

“What are you planning to do? Not go to the police,” Joe said stonily, because he couldn’t tell her that he didn’t think Joshua was dead. Not all the time. “You burned your bridges there.”

He was being unfair, blaming her for crying wolf one too many times. During those first long weeks, his heart had jumped, too, every time he saw a woman with a baby. Time and again, he’d allowed her to call 911, hoping against all reason that she was right and the child she’d seen really was Joshua.

“I know that,” she agreed. “But we don’t need the police. You work for NCMEC now. You can run a license plate and find the woman.”

“I can’t do that. I can’t use the center’s resources for myself.”

“Of course you can. It’s what you do! Joshua is a missing child. He’s on the register, just like the lost children of the parents you help every day. The only difference is, he’s our child, Joe. He’s my baby.”

With those last three broken words, Marcie’s face crumpled and she almost lost it. Almost. He wanted to reach out to her, to hold her and comfort her and, yes, take some comfort himself, but the two of them didn’t do that anymore. It had been well over a year since they’d even touched.

As he gaped in stunned silence, she pulled herself together. The only sign of her near breakdown was the two tears that slid slowly down her cheeks.

He turned and headed to the kitchen, muttering something about a glass of water. But truthfully, he needed a moment to think about what she’d said and, yes, to get control of his own emotions.

She was right, of course. Joshua was listed in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database. There was no reason he couldn’t run the plates. He was reviewing several cold cases in the New Orleans area. Joshua’s disappearance could easily be classified as one of those. But as soon as he did, everyone from his staff here in New Orleans, to the employees at the center’s headquarters in Virginia, would contact him and want to hear what he’d found out about Joshua that made him start searching again. He didn’t want to tell them that once again, on the anniversary of their son’s disappearance, his wife had started seeing their child everywhere she went.

He drew a glass of cold water from the refrigerator dispenser and took a long swallow, then wiped his face with a shaking hand. Scowling, he clenched his fist so hard his hand cramped.

He didn’t have the strength or the will to get sucked into Marcie’s fantasy world again, where Joshua was out there waiting for his mommy and daddy to find him. The sick emptiness inside him started aching and he imagined the taste of blood. After a second cooling swallow for himself, he took the water to Marcie. She refused it, so he set it down on the coffee table.

“Where did you see the car?” he asked.

“I drove up to Hammond yesterday to see my aunt, and when I pulled up to a red light, there was a woman in a Nissan hatchback with a child seat in the back. I eased forward until I could see him.” She took a deep breath. “Joe—”

He closed his eyes.

“It was Joshua. I’m not saying I
it was him. But I’m almost positive. His face, Joe. That little widow’s peak. The woman saw me looking and I swear she went white as a sheet. As soon as the light turned green she gunned her car and sped away. I couldn’t keep up with her.”

He picked up the water glass and took a sip because he couldn’t meet her gaze. The hope in her expression would fuel his, and he knew that one of them had to remain rational. Being the unflappable, levelheaded one had been his job ever since that awful moment in the outdoor market. Yes, he was the rational one. The strong one. Trouble was, he was also the guilty one. It had been his fault that their baby was gone.

“What about the woman?” he asked. “Did you get a good look at her? Could you identify her if you saw her again?”

“Yes,” she said, surprising him. “She was probably in her late forties. Her hair had that faded noncolor that blondes get before they go gray. I can’t tell you how tall or how large she was, but behind the wheel of the Nissan she looked small and thin. Oh, and she had a scar on her upper lip.”

Joe’s surprise turned to amazement and worry. Previously when she’d insisted that she’d seen Joshua, her claims were vague and boundless. But today, not only did she have a description of the car and the license plate, but she also had a clear, concise description of the woman. The realization that she’d been thoughtful and careful about getting the information, combined with the mention of Joshua’s widow’s peak, had Joe’s insides churning like an addict looking at a bag of heroin. For Joe, that bag held hope, and for him, hope was a drug that fed on his ability to function.

What could it hurt if he ran the plate at the center? Maybe it would help Marcie—help them both—if he found out for sure that the child she saw was not Joshua. Even though his conscious mind was certain that this random sighting at a random red light could not possibly be the answer to their prayers, in another, deeper place, far below his conscious mind, a faint thought that was as much feelings as words arose, and it was anything but rational. He did his best to ignore its insidious, hopeful message.

“Maybe I could run that license plate.” As soon as he said it he wanted to take it back. If he’d had any sense, he’d have waited until after he’d run it. Then he could have gone to her with a fait accompli.
It’s not Joshua. Sorry, hon.

“Joe? Really?” Her face brightened and her eyes welled with tears again. “Thank you,” she whispered, stepping toward him.

It was the most natural thing in the world to open his arms and pull her in. But holding her sent conflicting emotions roiling through his insides. In one sense, it was like coming home. She was his beautiful princess. The girl he’d been in love with ever since they were in high school together. The woman he’d married and promised to love and cherish as long as they lived. The mother of his child.

But as wonderful as it was to hold her, it was even more painful. It reminded him of the countless nights they’d spent huddled together after Joshua had disappeared, clinging to each other as if each one feared the other would disappear. And the equally countless nights when they’d lain back-to-back, rigid and sleepless, but unwilling to offer or ask for help.

A shudder rippled through him as the struggle continued inside him between his need to hold this woman he’d loved as long as he could remember, and his need to protect himself from the painful, heartbreaking memories she’d brought with her.

Her body was lighter, less substantial than he remembered. She’d lost weight in the year since they’d split. He felt bones where before she’d been soft and curvy. He’d already noticed that her face was not just paler, but thinner, as well.

She pressed her temple against the hollow of his throat and he felt her tears dampening his skin. Carefully, he wrapped his arms around her and pressed his nose against her hair, breathing in the evocative scent of her shampoo.

Just a few seconds of comfort,
he thought, trying not to notice that her body still fit with his, as though they were two parts of the same whole. “Happy birthday, Marcie,” he said tentatively, wondering if mentioning it would cause her to pull away. But she didn’t. After a few moments, she lifted her head slightly, causing Joe’s nose to press more firmly against her hair. His arms tightened, and when they did, Marcie’s fingers curled against his chest. She looked up at him, her eyes no longer wet with tears, but shimmering with something he’d thought was gone forever. His body recognized it, too. He almost groaned aloud as he felt the stirrings of arousal for the first time in a very long time. Gritting his teeth, he wrapped his fingers around her upper arms and set her away from him.

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