Cassie felt as if her world were shrinking into a deep, dark hole. Had the nurse actually said Allie’s name? She thought hard to that ethereal night in the hospital when the woman had seemingly appeared, like a ghost from the past. The dreamlike conversation wasn’t clear. “Oh . . . God . . . I think . . . I mean I’m pretty sure she was talking about Allie.”
But she wasn’t certain. Not a hundred percent.
“I don’t remember,” she said and her own voice sounded strangled. Had she held on to the old nurse’s words, believing she was talking about Allie, when really, that was only because at the time, Allie was the only sister she knew, the only sibling in Cassie’s world?
Jenna picked up her glass and took another drink.
> “I think she was talking about Allie, Mom. Why would she tell me about someone I didn’t even know existed?” She felt wounded and raw inside and Jenna recognized it.
“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry,” Jenna said, setting down her drink and looking her daughter in the eye. “I hope to God I’m wrong about this. I hope my other daughter is somewhere safe, with a loving husband and kids and . . . and that she has nothing to do with any of what’s happening.” Stiffening her spine, she added, “Even considering that she may be a part of this seems like a betrayal. To her. To you. To all of us.”
Carter’s eyes turned dark. “You’ve got to quit beating yourself up about it.” Again, he hugged her and she looked up at the ceiling in her fight to regain control of her emotions.
Cassie was fighting her own instinct of denial. Another sister? An older half-sister she’d never heard of? She wanted to think this was all wrong, but staring at her mother, witnessing Jenna’s guilt and despair, she understood the worry, was infected with her mother’s fears. She grabbed her husband’s calloused hand. “Trent’s right. We don’t know anything, not yet.”
Jenna offered the tiniest of smiles, one without any real warmth. “Look, you need to get going. I don’t want to keep you, but I just wanted you to hear this from me. Not from someone else or a cheap tabloid or on . . . on stupid mystery week on a cable channel.”
“So wait. Whitney Stone does know about this?” Cassie sensed her mother was holding back, probably protecting her again. “Shane?” she asked, eyeing her stepfather.
“You’d better let her know everything,” he advised his wife, and Jenna sighed.
“It’s nothing. Just . . . well, Whitney Stone left me a pointed voice mail.” Jenna found the chair where she’d tossed her purse and after sitting down plucked her cell from a side pocket. After scrolling through her messages she found the one she wanted and hit the speaker button. A second later the reporter’s voice was audible.
“This is Whitney Stone again. I would appreciate a call back. Sooner rather than later. You know I’m working on the next episode for Justice: Stone Cold, and I would love to interview you. It really would be in your best interest. I’ve done a little digging into your life and I would love your input before the program airs. Some of the information I’ve found is private, I realize, but I still think the public, your fans, would love to learn about you, and your life before you became a star.” A pause. As if she was constructing her thought. “To be clear, I’m not talking about the whitewashed version that your publicist spins, but the real truth. Your fans want to know who you are. The real Jenna Hughes.” Another pause. Then, “So please, call me.”
“Wow.” Cassie stared at the phone. “You think this is about your first child?”
“Yeah, I do.” Jenna nodded, then cleared her throat. “I don’t know of anything else that would make her feel so empowered.”
“It’s a threat,” Carter said, pissed. He walked to the window to stare into the night. “The woman’s a vulture.”
Cassie muttered, “Or worse.”
“She’ll be at the party tonight,” Jenna predicted. “Members of the press have been invited, you know, to create a buzz about the film.”
“As if there wasn’t enough of one. Since Allie’s been gone she and the movie have been in all the tabloids and on all the entertainment shows, the gossip columns. Everywhere.” She didn’t say it, but in some ways Allie’s disappearance was the best publicity Dead Heat could get. Even the homicides of people associated with the film fascinated the populace and even appealed to the more macabre of filmgoers, elevated the intrigue factor of the movie, created a buzz, trended on social websites. It was sick.
“I just wish . . . I wish Allie were here, too. I would tell her . . . everything.” Jenna’s tears began to fall again. “Oh, God, where is she? What happened to her?”
Carter was at her side in an instant, lifting her from the chair, holding her close.
Torn, hating witnessing her mother fall apart, Cassie said, “Mom, if you want me to stay—”
“No, no!” Jenna said emphatically as she pulled from Carter’s embrace. “Go.” She made a shooing motion. “Try and have a good time.”
“Oh, yeah. Right,” Cassie said dryly. “As if! Geez, Mom, I’m not going because I think it’ll be fun, and Trent didn’t want to go at all, but I might see someone there who knows something about Allie.”
“Wouldn’t they have said something by now?” Jenna said.
Cassie shook her head. “Not if they’re hiding something.”
Sighing, Jenna said, “I suppose anything’s possible. Listen, I didn’t mean to ruin the night. But I thought you’d want to know. About your half-sister.”
“I did. Or do.” A million questions about this mystery sibling skated through her head. Who was she? Where was she? Did she know about Jenna? What kind of family had adopted her? Were there other brothers and sisters? What had been her life?