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For twenty-five years, multimillionaire businessman Ron Raven played the loving husband and father– to two very different households.But when Ron disappears, his deception is revealed. Now both families are left with questions, while the man who holds the answers is…MISSING. Megan Raven is desperate to save her mother's Wyoming ranch, used as collateral on a three-million-dollar loan– money that disappeared with Ron.Worse, the loan is being called in by Georgia bank manager Adam Fairfax– brother to Ron's other wife. Brought together by their families' turmoil, Megan and Adam head south of the border in search of the missing millions. But what they find is a whole new web of lies, secrecy and greed.

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Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three


The author gratefully acknowledges the

contributions of four outstanding storytellers: Diane Mott Davidson, Constance Laux, Emilie Richards and Karen Young.

For Maggie Osborne, who first decided

Ron Raven should be a bigamist, and for Marsha Zinberg, editor extraordinaire, who always loved this story.


June 8, 2004, Fairfax, Georgia

Adam Fairfax stepped out from behind his desk and greeted his brother-in-law with a smile, a warm handshake and a friendly thump on the shoulder. “Ron, it’s good to see you. How was your flight?”

“No major problems for once, but I travel too much and the flying’s getting real old, if you want to know the truth.” Ron Raven clapped the younger man on the back and pumped his hand. “You’re looking fitter than ever, Adam, damn you. Still running those marathon races of yours?”

“Half marathons these days. It’s all I have time to train for. But I guess I can’t complain. My work schedule’s a stroll in the park compared to yours. Every time I speak to Avery or Paul they tell me you’re on a plane or just getting off one.”

Ron sighed. “Seems that way to me, too, and flying’s no fun these days, that’s for sure. Shuffling through those security lines in your socks is about as enjoyable as watching mold grow on the shower wall.”

Adam reached into his top desk drawer and pulled out the loan agreement that had been ready for his brother-in-law’s signature for the past week. “It must be stressful, too, even when you’ve learned all the insider tips for making the process a bit easier.”

“You’re right, it’s very stressful. My blood pressure’s through the roof.” Ron looked momentarily gloomy, then chuckled. “But that sister of yours is something else. A tyrant who looks like an angel. Avery’s determined to keep me healthy even if we both die in the attempt. She tells me I’ve gotta eat lots of fish and green leafy vegetables and then I’ll live to be a hundred. I told her that if all I can eat is fish and vegetables, why the hell would I want to live that long?”

Adam laughed in sympathy. “But Avery doesn’t listen, of course.”

“Of course not. Just keeps serving the damn spinach. And salmon. That’s her other biggie. I’m surprised you didn’t tell me my skin’s turned orange from all the salmon she makes me eat.”

“That’s my sister for you.” Adam gestured for Ron to sit down. “Beneath the Southern charm, she’s just like our mother—as stubborn as a mule.”

“Well, that’s not unique to Avery, or even your mother! I swear stubborn is built into the female DNA.” Ron chuckled. “Still, I wouldn’t be without ’em, not for all the tea in China. You should try getting married, Adam. Workaholics like us need women to keep us in line.”

“The hell we do.” Adam smiled. “Listening to you always reminds me of all the reasons I’m happy to be a bachelor.”

“You just haven’t met the right woman,” Ron said. “Trust me, you’re gonna fall hard one of these days and then you’ll wonder how you held out so long.”

Adam pulled a wry face. “Has my sister deputized you as her front man? You’re parroting her lines.”

“Well, shoot, Adam, you caught me out. But what do you expect? I’m just a western cowboy. I’m no match for a steel magnolia like your sister. When she gives me orders, I salute and say, Yes, ma’am,” Ron replied. “I’m a brave man, but I’m not stupid.”

Adam sighed. “I’ve learned there are few things in this life harder to resist than the genteel nagging of a Southern lady. I should just give up and marry the next woman Avery parades in front of me.”

“Don’t.” Ron was suddenly serious. “Ignore the nagging, genteel or otherwise.” He stabbed his forefinger into the desk for emphasis. “Despite what I said earlier, don’t marry to satisfy anyone except yourself. I’ve seen what happens when a man marries to please his family and it isn’t pretty.”

“At the moment, I’m in no danger of marrying, period. Running the bank hasn’t left much time for socializing this past year. And speaking of socializing, I hope you have time to stay for lunch today.”

“I was planning on it. Thanks.”

“We’ll go to the Oak Room.” Adam gave a conspiratorial glance. “Their beef is the best in town—and I promise not to report back to Avery if you order French fries.”

“You’re a mighty fine brother-in-law, Adam. Knew I could count on you for more than money.” Ron grinned as he drew out a stack of papers from his briefcase, and Adam grinned back, appreciating his brother-in-law’s camaraderie. Both men were perfectly well aware that Ronald Howatch Raven, founder and senior partner of Raven Enterprises, Inc., could raise money wherever the hell he wanted and that Adam, in fact, was very much the junior partner in this deal, even though he was the man handing over the money.

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