Home > When I Meet You (Tree of Life #3)

When I Meet You (Tree of Life #3)
Author: Olivia Newport

CHAPTER ONE

 


Jillian supposed she should be grateful he hadn’t gagged and blindfolded her when he intruded into her home office, snatched her, and stuffed her in the truck. She’d already been out for a morning run and wasn’t planning to spend all of Saturday afternoon working. Tidying up was all she had in mind. And then he burst in, and now she was strapped into the front seat without her phone as the truck rolled out of town.

She gripped the passenger door armrest. He clicked the power button to lock all the doors.

“Dad. You can tell me where we’re going.” Jillian side-eyed her father. “I’m hardly going to leap out of a moving vehicle on the highway.”

“Why do you demand to know every detail about everything?”

From behind the steering wheel of his pickup, which he’d been driving so long he talked about it like an old friend, Nolan grinned at Jillian with green eyes that mirrored hers. Spring mountain sunlight bounced off his pupils, and he reached in the console for his dark glasses and set them on his face. In his midfifties, he still cut a fit, youthful figure. Rediscovering skiing over the winter, after a long hiatus, had suited him.

“And why do you insist on doing everything by the seat of your pants?” Jillian raised both hands to draw her long, dark waves under control behind her neck. He hadn’t given her a chance to grab a band or clip before leaving the house, a circumstance she was likely to regret if there was any wind once they were out of the truck at their mystery destination.

Her retort was halfhearted. Who could complain about a Saturday afternoon drive on a day like this? The rainy mid-April week was behind them, the bounty from the sky having nourished the earth and coaxed forth undulating, ripe, burgeoning greens of the season. They were barely out of Canyon Mines, so the mountains still cradled them, and a mammoth burning flare of sunlight radiated across the landscape. Immaculate snow lingered on the shoulders of the Rockies. The views, as they did on so many days when she paused from her work to raise her eyes to the dazzling Colorado terrain, tugged at her spirit.

“I promise you’ll like it,” Nolan said. “You have to admit I know you well.”

“The people stipulate to that point, Your Honor.”

“Someday I might give up lawyering and become a judge and you’ll really have to use that title with me.”

“And I would do so proudly,” Jillian said. “Now let’s see. Heading east. Probably downtown Denver.” Unless they would turn north to her Duffy grandparents’ home once they got to I-25.

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“So it is Denver.”

“You think you’re so smart.”

“I am smart.”

“The court stipulates to that point.”

“What’s going on in Denver that we need to go today?”

“A museum. You like museums. And you’ve never been to this one.”

“Why not? Did I have a deprived childhood?”

“Hardly. I always let you bring home souvenirs, and you’ll get a doozy today.”

“Okay, you’ve got me curious.”

“Good. You need to get out more.”

“We’re both going to St. Louis in a few weeks for Tucker and Laurie Beth’s wedding,” she pointed out. Jillian had already started on the complex genealogy project Tucker hired her for—which would likely take years for the number of individuals involved. In addition to the nuptials, visiting St. Louis meant she would see where the story of Tucker’s family history first tangled in the baby snatching that had nearly undone him when he found out.

“And we’ll have a spectacular time,” Nolan said, “but we have our own great city right here with history and culture and all the good stuff. You liked it when you went to college.”

“I still do. I just haven’t had a lot of reason to come down lately.”

“Well, today you do.” Nolan merged into a faster lane and accelerated.

“I have a feeling there’s a story here,” Jillian said.

With her dad, there was always a story. People liked to talk to Nolan. He was one of those people who made friends wherever he went and stuck in people’s minds. In his work as a family law attorney and legal mediator, he met a variety of people other than his clients, but he could still drop into a random coffee shop or a hardware store and come out having met four new people—and probably would talk with them long enough to find a common connection with at least one. Shops, parties, sporting events, business meetings. People remembered Nolan Duffy. He thrived on it. Not Jillian. She inherited some sort of recessive introvert gene—and another one for preferring a well-ordered life.

“The curator called me,” Nolan said.

“And how do you know a museum curator?”

He shrugged. “We had coffee once.”

That meant Nolan had chatted with the curator in the line ordering coffee or something else equally ordinary and forgettable to most people.

“And?” Jillian said.

“And he has a situation he thinks may require legal attention. Or at least he’d like to probe a legal opinion about the advisability of legal representation around matters of liability and financial consequence.”

“Now that’s legal speak if ever I’ve heard it.”

“Do not mock my profession, young lady.”

“Never!” Jillian laughed. “What does this have to do with me? Or a souvenir? Is this all just an excuse to get me out of the house?”

“What if it is? It’s a fine day for a drive, and I enjoy your company.”

“You don’t have to charm me. I already love you.”

“Oh, right.”

“It’s Saturday. And you’ll be in Denver on Monday. Why the special trip?”

“Because I wanted to bring you along, obviously.”

“Dad.”

Nolan checked his mirrors and changed lanes again. Clearly they were headed to Denver now.

“Here’s what I know,” he said. “It’s not much. Years ago—decades, I think—the museum received a trunk that was abandoned at Union Station.”

“Decades?”

He nodded. “The curator is relatively recent, but the museum is about fifty years old. He’s not at all sure of the story, but from what he can tell, the trunk arrived at Union Station over a hundred years ago and somehow was separated from its owner.”

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