Claudia's friend Kelly learns that she's an aunt when her estranged half-sister Erin shows up in desperate need of help. Erin and her husband have been living as member of The Temple of Brighter Light in an isolated compound. Now Erin's husband and child have disappeared, leaving behind a cryptic note. Using her skills as a forensic handwriting expert, Claudia gains entry to the compound. She has only days to uncover the truth about Kelly's missing niece before a child's life is written off for good...
The angelic little face gazed past the camera with serious eyes the color of spring violets and a rosebud mouth turned down.
The child in the photograph was a hardly more than a toddler—two, two-and-a-half at most—but there was a grown up wistfulness in the way she rested her chin on her dimpled hand. Studying the picture, Claudia Rose fancied she could see life experience in those eyes, extending far beyond the scant few months the little girl had been on earth. An old soul. She couldn’t help wondering what it was that had captured the child’s attention as she returned the photograph to the child’s mother.
Erin Powers took the photo and replaced it in an envelope, then stuffed it into an inside pocket of the battered leather bag at her feet. More saddlebag than purse, its faded sides bulged with unseen items. Erin’s slender shoulders shook as she choked back a sob. “We’ve always known Kylie was special. As soon as we saw those eyes, we said God has a plan for her. I’ve got to get her back. Please, please tell me you’ll help me find them.”
Claudia watched Kelly Brennan lean over to put an arm around Erin and murmur soothing sounds. They were gathered around a small wrought iron table on the plant-filled patio of Kelly’s condo, but no one was paying attention to the lush colors or the scent of star jasmine filling the sun-warmed air.
It had been only a couple of hours since the half-sister Kelly hadn’t seen in twenty years had showed up at her door, and Kelly wore a slightly stunned expression, as if she were still getting used to the idea. The even greater surprise Erin dropped on her was that Kelly had a niece. And that the child was missing.
Kelly had called Claudia, her closest friend, and asked her to come right over.
“The handwriting is a little disturbing,” Claudia said, her eyes dropping to the sheet of notebook paper in her hand. Kelly had asked her to analyze the handwriting in the note Erin had brought to show her. “I’m glad you asked me to look at it.” She searched for diplomatic words that wouldn’t add to Erin’s distress, but they weren’t easy to find. Red flags sprouted from the brief note.
Hand-printed in black ink, it read: DON’T BOTHER LOOKING. THERE MIGHT BE SUFFERING BUT NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK. GOD’S WILL BE DONE.
Below the words, the signature was little more than a scribble which Erin identified as that of her husband, Rodney Powers.
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