About the Author
Alafair Burke is the Edgar-nominated, New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Wife, The Ex, If You Were Here, Long Gone, and the Ellie Hatcher series. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Laurie Moran could not ignore the satisfied expression on her nine-year-old son’s face as he watched the waiter place her breakfast on their table.
“What’s the secret?” she asked with a smile.
“No secret,” Timmy replied. “I was just thinking how really cool you look in that suit.”
“Well thank you so much,” Laurie said, pleased, even as she reflected on the fact that Timmy’s use of the word cool was another sign that he was growing up. School was closed while teachers were at an education convention. Because of that Laurie had decided to go in late so she could take Timmy and her father to breakfast. Timmy had been to Sarabeth’s restaurant for breakfast at least twenty times, but never approved of Laurie’s choice of the eggs benedict with salmon.
“No one should eat fish for breakfast,” Timmy pronounced with confidence. “Right, Grandpa?”
If Laurie had to handpick a rival for her son’s affections, she couldn’t have chosen a better role model than her father, Leo Farley. While other kids Timmy’s age were starting to admire athletes, comedians, and musicians, Timmy still looked at his grandfather, retired NYPD First Deputy Police Commissioner Leo Farley, as if he were Superman.
“Hate to tell you this, kiddo,” Leo said crisply, “but you can’t keep eating pancakes with chocolate and powdered sugar on them for the rest of your life. Thirty years from now, you’ll understand why your mom’s eating fish, and I’m pretending to enjoy this turkey bacon that tastes like paper.”
“So what do the two of you have planned for the rest of the day?” Laurie asked, smiling.
“We’re going to watch the Knicks-Pacers game,” Timmy said. “We recorded it last night. I’m going to look for Alex in his courtside seats.”
Laurie suddenly put down her fork. It had been two months since she and Alex Buckley last spoke—and two months before that Alex had taken a break as the host of her television series to focus on his own law practice. Before Laurie even realized how important Alex was to her daily life, he was gone.
There was a reason she often joked that she needed a clone. She was always busy, both at work and as a mother, but now that Alex was gone, there was an unmistakable void in her life. She kept herself going, one day at a time, focusing on her home and her work, but that was no help.
Given Timmy’s mention of Alex, she expected her father to jump in and ask, How is Alex, by the way? Or, Does Alex want to join us for dinner this week? But instead, Leo took another bite of his dry turkey bacon. Laurie suspected that Timmy also wondered why they hadn’t seen more of Alex recently. If she had to guess, she’d say he was picking up on his grandfather’s cues not to ask about it directly. So instead, he had mentioned Alex’s courtside seats.
Laurie tried to sound matter-of-fact. “You know Alex donates them to charities most of the time. His seats will be there, but there might be other people in them.”
Her son’s face fell. Timmy had managed to survive witnessing the murder of his own father. Heartsick, she realized that he was trying to replace him with Alex.
She took a final sip of coffee. “Okay, time to earn my keep.”
Laurie was the producer of Under Suspicion, a series of true crime–based television “news specials” focusing on cold cases. The show’s title reflected its format of working directly with the people who were unofficial suspects in the investigations. They had never been formally charged, but still were living under a constant cloud of suspicion. It was always so hard for Laurie to commit to one case for each special, but she had narrowed the newest possibilities down to two.
She dropped a kiss on Timmy’s head. “I’ll be home for dinner on time,” she promised. “We’ll have roast chicken?” She constantly felt guilty for not preparing more healthy meals for her son.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” Timmy said. “If you’re late, we can have pizza.”
Leo pushed back his chair. “I need to pop over to task force headquarters tonight. I’ll go after you get home and be back for dinner by eight.” A few months ago, her father had stepped back into law enforcement waters by joining the NYPD’s anti-terrorism task force.
“Sounds perfect,” Laurie said. She could not believe how blessed she was to have these two gentlemen—her sixty-five-year-old father and her nine-year-old son—always trying to make her life easier.
• • •
Fifteen minutes later she arrived at work and another man in her life immediately gave her a headache. “I was starting to wonder if you were coming in.” It was Ryan Nichols, calling out to her from his office as she passed his door. He had been hired as the host of her television show a mere three months earlier, and she still had no idea what he was doing at the studio full-time. “I have the perfect case for us,” he shouted as she pretended not to hear him.