Long Lost: Gay Romance - Trina Solet - ebook
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Blake Adler is back in town on a mission. Years ago Blake's father cut him out of his life so completely that he never spoke of him. Now that his father has passed away, Blake finally gets to meet his younger brother and sister. But Blake didn't come back to Meadowview for a reunion with his lost family. He's desperate to find the man he can't live without and win back the love he threw away. Blake and Reese were once best friends. They could have been more, but Blake screwed up the most important relationship of his life. Now he wants to fix things with Reese, if he can only find him. Blake isn't the only one looking for Reese. No matter how far Reese runs, trouble follows him. Wild and vulnerable, he always had it rough. The one good thing in his life was Blake. Now Reese is taking a big risk coming back to town. It might be worth it if he can reclaim the man he can't stop thinking about, the one who rejected him, the one he loves more than anyone.

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Long Lost: Gay Romance

By Trina Solet

Copyright © 2015 by Trina Solet

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locales or actual events is entirely coincidental.

All sexual activity takes place between persons eighteen years of age or older.

This novel contains material intended for mature readers.

Cover image is only for illustrative purposes. Any person depicted is a model.

Long Lost

Gay Romance

Trina Solet

Chapter 1

It was nearly summer, but Finn shivered and balled up his fists in the pockets of his suit jacket. The shiver wasn't from the cool breeze that blew among the headstones. Finn was watching his father being put into the ground. It was the greatest loneliness Finn could imagine. He felt it like a cold hand wrapping around his heart. That's when Dee put her arm through his. She always knew when he needed her close. This time she was reminding him that he wasn't alone in this. Jim Monroe wasn't the nicest guy, but he was their father, and it was hard to say goodbye to him. Finn looked over at Dee. The breeze was stirring the ends of her long, dark hair, making them do a little twirling dance. As he looked at her face, Finn saw that she was staring off toward the edge of the cemetery to his left.

"Look," Dee nudged him to look over there. "Who is that?"

"Never seen him. Maybe Mom knows," Finn whispered to her.

When they tried to point him out to their mother, he was gone. The copse of trees where the guy had been standing only rustled as the wind picked up and shook the branches. The day was cool and sunny with only the barest hint of late spring. The sky was very blue above the trees that edged the cemetery. Looking for any sign of where the guy might have gone, Finn noticed another young guy loitering further on. Though he was cute, he didn't interest him right now. Finn's eyes searched for the guy Dee had spotted, but he had disappeared.

"That must have been him," Dee whispered.

"We don't know that," Finn told her. He was always the naysayer, and he wasn't about to abandon that role just because his heart was beating a little faster and his eyes were still combing the edge of the cemetery for their mystery man.

"You saw him. He looked just like the old pictures of Dad when he was young," Dee said, pressing herself closer against him. "Who else could he be?"

"Any random guy," Finn said, stubbornly playing the skeptic.

She scoffed at that.

Dee was right. The guy, who was nowhere to be seen now, had resembled their father in his younger days. The very handsome face was just like Dad's in those old pictures. This guy had brown hair cut very short except on top where it was longer and spiked. He was fairly tall. His jean jacket was buttoned up against the chill in the air, but Finn was sure he had a good body under there. From so far away, Finn couldn't see the color of his eyes, but they might have been dark blue like their father's.

Turning away from his futile search, Finn looked at the coffin as it was about to be lowered. He got ready to say goodbye to his dad and to all the questions he had for him about his other family and especially his other son.

*

Blake stayed well back from the crowd at his father's graveside. He wasn't sure if there was anyone there who might recognize him, but he wasn't taking any chances. From where he stood on the edge of the cemetery, he couldn't see much or hear anything. He had only gotten a glimpse of the coffin. But nothing he could see or hear would help him sort out his feelings about his father. He just wished he didn't have any. Mostly he wished he had stayed away. He didn't want to feel this welling up of sadness for a man who had turned his back on him when he was still a child.

The sadness threatened to replace the anger he had carried with him for so long. The anger seemed pointless anyway. The black coffin told him that he had missed his chance to confront his father. With no outlet, the anger inside him might stay bottled up forever.

He hadn't even planned to come to his funeral. Then he only intended to stop by and leave. Now he couldn't take his eyes off Jim Monroe's other children. They drew Blake's eye more than the coffin. The teen boy and girl stood close together next to their mother. Their mother was Asian, and they looked like her. Blake couldn't see any resemblance to their father. He considered that a blessing. He hated that he looked so much like his father. For the rest of his life, his father's face would always be staring back at him from every mirror he looked into. It was like some horrible practical joke.

Blake remembered the day the kids were born. He was six and excited that they were twins. He was only told about them, but he had fully expected that he would get to go and see them. But he was never even told their names. Sixteen years later, he was seeing them for the first time.

The twins' mother stood by the grave, dry-eyed and sad but not like her love had died. She only seemed truly sad when she gazed at the two teenagers next to her. Blake's eyes had strayed from the kids, and now he saw that they were looking his way. Blake moved further back, hiding among the trees. He couldn't leave yet. It was like some unfinished business held him there, maybe the need to say a final goodbye.

The girl with the long hair and glasses and the guy with the spiky hair still looked his way as Blake retreated into the deep shadows. Hidden among the trees, he saw the boy take his hands out of his jacket pockets and put his arms around his mother and his sister. Blake had no one to put his arms around, to give him comfort just by being close, and to take comfort from him in return. If he didn't find Reese, he felt like he never would.

Driving away from the cemetery, Blake had the car windows down. He didn't feel like being closed up in the car. The breeze coming in was cool. He hoped it would help to clear his head. After all, his father's funeral was only a detour. His real reason for coming back to Meadowview was still out there somewhere.

Blake's eyes searched the sidewalks as if he might spot Reese just walking down the street. All around him familiar sights of Meadowview were mixed in with new buildings and new fountains decorating the corners of intersections. Everything around him, from antique looking street signs to the high-end boutiques, said that Meadowview belonged to people with money to spare.

Those kinds of people lived in mansions on the east side of town with views of the river and the rolling hills beyond. On the west side, the mansions looked onto the Meadowview Country Club's golf course and the mountains in the distance. There were also the luxury high-rises in the center of town. That's where all the expensive shops were. In the small northern suburbs, the middle class could afford to shop and live. The south side was the narrow section along the railroad tracks where everyone else lived and where the rich went to buy sex and drugs or just to find trouble. That's where Blake was headed but not for any of those reasons.

Though the days when he could afford to live in the good part of Meadowview were long gone, Blake wasn't heading to his cheap motel yet. He had another stop to make. He knew it wouldn't lead him to Reese, but he couldn't help himself. The place drew him much like the funeral had. It was like Blake was trying to stitch his life together from meaningless scraps until he could find his real reason for living.

Gripping the wheel too tightly, Blake drove down 12th Street. Every boxy house and bare yard he passed struck him with a wrenching sense of familiarity. This was the way he walked to Reese's house back in the day. Now the sight of each of the houses that lined up along the street made his heart beat faster. Those days were coming alive, echoing inside him. He could almost believe that Reese was still waiting there. When he stopped the car, the sight of Reese's house was such a sharp reminder of the past, it was like a slap. Blake just breathed for a minute.

He remembered that the blinds in the front windows were always mangled and crooked. The blue paint on one side didn't match the rest of the gray house. The screen on the front door was ripped in one corner. Blake could still hear the screen door bang when Reese ran out to him, smiling, forgetting not to slam it. The sound was always followed by Reese's father cursing and calling him names. That's when Reese's smile would falter but not for long.

For a moment Blake could see Reese so clearly. He was coming toward him with a wickedly determined look in his eyes. Thin and tall, with dark blond hair that was always a little too long and flying around his pretty face, he was real enough to touch. As Blake held his breath, the vision of Reese disappeared, and there was only the house.

Looking at it now through the car window, Blake saw no improvement from back then. If anything, the place looked worse than ever. The biggest change was the name on the mailbox. The Kielers didn't live there any more.

That's why it was so strange that Reese was in town. He had no family there any more, so why was he back?

The day they met, Reese had only just arrived in Meadowview. He and his parents had moved there so his dad could work for some old buddy of his, but that didn't last. Reese's father couldn't keep any job for long, and he took out his frustration on Reese and his mother.

Reese didn't show any signs of the hard life he lived on the day he started his first year of high school. On that day, when he stood staring at Blake in front of Meadowview High, he looked fresh and way too attractive. His blue eyes didn't leave Blake for a second. Skewered by his gaze, Blake was ready to jump out of his skin. He had never felt that particular kind of uncomfortable. It hit him low in the gut. The tightness inched lower, making him feel both weak in the knees and aggressive.

"What the hell are you staring at?" Blake asked him.

"I'm not sure. Are you trying to scare me with that look? Add some tattoos and a knife, and maybe you'll have something going," Reese told him, but he wasn't Reese to him yet. He was just some nameless, pretty boy getting in his face, trying to get a rise out of him.

Now Blake knew why Reese looked down to his mouth then back up to his eyes, but he was in denial then. He thought Reese was challenging him, maybe trying to prove something. As the bell rang, Blake walked past him through the metal detector.

He knew that wasn't the end of it though. Reese went to his school now. Blake would be seeing him all the time. And every time he did, Reese would look at him like he was picking a fight.

Reese was a freshman and Blake a sophomore, so he never had to endure having those blue eyes on him in class. Blake didn't know what to make of him. Reese didn't look at anyone else like that, but they acted like he did. A few times Blake saw some assholes trying to mess with him. Reese never looked worried about it, but Blake held his breath and clenched his fists. If he saw Reese being pushed around, his whole body tensed like he was ready to rush over there and start busting heads, or more likely get kicked to death himself.

When Reese walked away without a scratch, Blake was more relieved than if he had been the one in danger of getting a beating. That's when Blake stopped holding his breath and started cursing Reese for inviting trouble with his in-your-face attitude. For a guy who was too pretty for his own good, Reese had too much fire inside him. It was as if he was telling the world to come and get him. But if Reese wasn't that way, he could never have become Blake's friend. Blake was always better at pushing people away than getting close to anyone. With his challenging stare and his fearless attitude, Reese kicked down the door and barged into his life.

Chapter 2

Finn and Dee were already feeling down after their father's funeral. Now they were heading home after trying unsuccessfully to find their brother. Their failed search only made their grief worse. If they had to lose their father to lung cancer, at least they should be able to track down their brother while he was still in town. So far, not so good.

This wasn't the first time they were setting out to find their older brother. Two years ago, Finn and Dee got up the courage to go in search of him. Their first stop was his mother's house on Tierney Lane. That wasn't a fun visit, but the one thing they found out was that Blake had left town two years before. They had started their search too late.

They weren't making that mistake again. Only hours after the funeral, they were on the case. Once again they found themselves in front of that rundown mansion on Tierney Lane. The garden was just as wild and overgrown as the last time. It hid a lot of the decrepitude of the place. Standing on the front porch, he and Dee could see wood rotting and paint falling off in chunks.

After they got no answer at the door, a nosy neighbor told them that Blake's mother was away. They asked if Blake had been around. The answer was no. That was disappointing, but they weren't out of ideas yet. They would scour the whole town for him if they had to. Too bad they had to wait till tomorrow.

Dee leaned on Finn heavily as they walked through the front door of their house and into their mother's arms. She only knew half of the reason they were so upset, but that was enough. She hugged them tightly and called them her babies. Finn would never admit it on the pain of death, but sometimes it was nice to be mothered.

That night, Finn went to bed gloomy and worried that history was going to repeat itself. If their brother was in town only for the funeral, he might already be gone.

Lying awake, Finn was preoccupied with his father's death and the brother he might never get to meet. He still managed to squeeze in a few thoughts of Nando, his current obsession.

Finn hadn't seen him since Nando gave him a hug when he heard his father had died. Nando had never hugged him before. Never kissed him either. They kept their contact strictly below the belt. Hands and mouths on cocks – nothing tender or sweet.

"If you want that crap, go with girls," Nando told him the only time Finn tried to kiss him.

"Maybe I should. Between the two of us, I'm the only one with any interest in girls," Finn told him. He was bi, and he was pretty damn sure that Nando was a hundred percent gay. And for a guy pretending to be straight, Nando didn't put much effort into faking an interest even when girls threw themselves at him.

With his strong build and those intense dark eyes with thick eyelashes, he could have had all the action he could handle. But as far as Finn could tell, Nando only saw him. That's what kept Finn coming back for more. He might be Nando's dirty, little secret, but there was that irresistible faithfulness.

Finn was such a sucker. He had too much pride to try and kiss Nando again, but not enough to stop seeing that closeted jock. Now he fell asleep to the memory of Nando holding him and whispering, "I'm so sorry." His grip on Finn tightened, and he felt like the embrace might last forever and soothe all his pain. The best part was that Nando didn't let go until Finn did.

Next morning, Finn and Dee were ready to continue the search for their brother. As usual, they were in agreement about not telling their mom what they were up to. They pretended to be planning a sad, lazy Saturday as they sat around in their pajamas, finishing up breakfast. Dee wasn't doing a good job acting the part of a listless, bereaved teenager. While their mother was getting ready to go to a meeting at the college, Dee was guzzling coffee. That didn't exactly fit their story. Mom looked at her funny, but then she figured that was just Dee being Dee.

Doing an impression of their fat cat sunning itself, Finn didn't budge from the breakfast nook as their mother gave him a kiss on the cheek and walked out the door. On pins and needles and about a gallon of coffee, Dee parted the curtains and impatiently watched her leave.

Once their mother drove away, Dee was jumping with excitement. "We're gonna find him! We're so gonna find him. I can feel it. Today is the day. Dee Day!"

"You're too hyper. You're going to make a bad impression if we find him. Walk it off," Finn told her as he got up and pushed her toward her bedroom to go get ready.

Two seconds later, she was poking her head into his bedroom. "Can you believe he's here?"

"Yes. No. Go get ready," Finn told her. He was afraid to get his hopes up. This might be like last time, and all they would find out was that he was gone.

"I'm all coffee-crazy," Dee said and shook herself all over, her long hair flying everywhere.

Finn nudged her out of the way so he could close the door in her face, but first he told her, "Get your overcaffeinated self out of here so I can make myself pretty. I'm about to become a little brother for the first time in my life."

That was the plan, but it wasn't that easy. It took some serious legwork before they were standing face to face with their big brother.

Lurking in front of the Sunny Shores Motel, Finn and Dee craned their necks to look up at the second floor walkway. They were standing under the shade of some sickly looking trees by the chain link fence around the pool area. The motel was dingy white, dotted with beige doors. Its sign boasted about the pool, but one look showed that the pool had been drained. Under the circumstances, the No Diving sign was hilarious.

Dee was repeating 212 to herself as they waited. That was Blake's room number. It had been a while since her last dose of caffeine, but she was still buzzing like a bee. They had been standing there since noon with no lunch break or anything. Without knowing when Blake might be back, they couldn't risk leaving for even a second.

At first they had waited right outside his door, but then Dee got paranoid that if he saw them, he might run off like he did at the funeral. Now they were waiting out of sight and splitting their time between watching his door and staring at any cars that drove up.

They both held their breaths as an old, black Impala pulled into the motel parking lot with Blake at the wheel. Dee squealed and clawed at Finn's arm as Blake got out of his car. He was tall and attractive, and moved with subtle, masculine grace. Finn would expect nothing less from any brother of his.

He and Dee rushed up to him and tried to introduce themselves. They talked over each other, and for some reason Dee insisted that her name was Dee Dee. Crazy girl not knowing her own name.

"I know who you are," Blake told them curtly, cutting through their chatter.

"Then you should have been the one who came looking for us," Finn told him, trying for the same gruff tone.

"That's right," Dee agreed and scowled at Blake from behind her glasses.

"How did you find me?" Blake asked.

"There aren't a million motels in Meadowview," Finn said.

"We just went from one to the other and showed this," Dee held up the picture they had been showing around.

Blake grimaced at it. "That's..."

"Your spitting image. The scruffy guy in reception recognized you based on this," Finn said pointing to the old picture of their father, which was Dee's favorite.

"I flirted with the scruffy guy," Dee bragged. She was so deluded.

"She tried," Finn said. "And it was just as awkward and embarrassing as you would imagine."

"I was sexy!" Dee insisted.

Finn gave her a sympathetic look and a shake of his head.

"I'd rather you didn't flirt with strange men in motels on my behalf," Blake told her.

"That's brotherly protectiveness," Dee said pointing her finger at him accusingly.

"The point is we dragged out underaged asses through every motel until we tracked you down, so we don't want any lip from you," Finn told Blake.

"We went to four motels," Dee said. Whose side was she on?

"And now you can go back home, or to an arcade, or to a mall or wherever," Blake said, trying to act all cool. Who was he kidding?

"Like hell!" Dee yelled. She never even heard of cool.

Ignoring them, Blake went up to his room. They were close on his heels, but he still closed the door on them. They huffed and then knocked. After only a few minutes, he opened the door and came out. It looked like he was stuffing some money in his back pocket and leaving again. Finn and Dee were right behind him once again.

"He's going to drive away!" Dee said in alarm as Blake headed to his car.

"Let's slash his tires," Finn said then drew back as Blake turned to glare at him in warning.

Dee went around to block their brother's path. "I was hoping that you didn't come here just for Dad's funeral, that you wanted to see us," she said to Blake.

"I didn't come here for either of those reasons," Blake told her.

"Then why are you here?" Finn asked, narrowing his eyes at him.

Blake only looked at him sharply. His look clearly said, "None of your business." Yeah right. Just because he didn't want to have anything to do with them didn't mean they couldn't bug him to death.

Blake stalked to his car. Instead of slashing his tires, Finn and Dee ran to their car, also known as their mom's old car, and a slow speed car chase was on. Surprisingly, or maybe disappointingly, Blake didn’t try any evasive maneuvers. He didn't try to lose them by peeling through an intersection just as the light turned red or by making any sudden, unsignaled, left turns. He drove a little over the speed limit and eventually pulled up to the curb on Collins Street. Finn parked as well, and he and Dee joined Blake as he went into a bodega.

The place was called simply Manuela's and it smelled like something Finn wanted to eat right now. There was some prepared food under glass and the rest was just cold drinks and groceries.

"How long are you going to follow me?" Blake asked as they stepped inside right behind him.

"Until we get bored or distracted by something shiny. Now buy us lunch. We're starving." The smell of something meaty was making Finn's mouth water.

"I'll buy us lunch," Dee volunteered. She went up to the woman at the counter and said, "What's cooking?"

"Empanadas are fresh, $1.25 a piece."

"We'll have two each to go," Dee said pointing at herself, Finn and Blake.

"Don't buy me any," Blake told her.

"Ignore him. Six empanadas, please," Dee said to the woman when she hesitated while filling their order. "And three iced teas."

"Dee Dee, stop ordering for me," Blake told her.

"This is my tutoring money. I can spend it however I want," she told him.

"Dee does tutoring. She sells her brains for money," Finn said.

Blake glared at him for making it sound salacious. Then he went up to the woman behind the counter and asked if Gabby or Roberto were around.

"You are that friend of Reese's. Gabby said he's back," the woman said while wrapping the order Dee put in.

"So he is here," Blake said. There was a stunned, hopeful look on his face as the woman nodded.

Neither Gabby nor Roberto were there though so Blake gave her his phone number and left. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, he looked dazed.

"Eat," Dee told him sticking two wrapped empanadas in his hand. "And don't worry. We'll help you find this Reese guy," she assured him.

Blake looked at her in surprise as if she wasn't supposed to know anything about it. How was she not supposed to know? She was standing a foot away from him when the whole exchange went down.

"I'm not going to ask you who this Reese is. I know you're just going to give me that 'None of your business' look," Finn told him as he bit into his own empanada.

For a while they stood on the sidewalk and ate, even Blake. He was lost in thought, staring off into the distance as Finn and Dee watched him and wondered who this Reese was to him.

*

Until he met Blake, Reese lived under a heavy, dark shadow. Blake was the morning breaking over his world. Everything was clear and bright. Reese's heart sang, and his blood pounded a new beat. All sorts of possibilities came to light. Anything might happen, maybe even something good. All because on his first day of school, Reese's eyes fell on a serious boy with a stay-back glare and an aggressive stance. He was the one who made a light shine inside his heart. And even after Blake hurt him, the light was somehow still there.

Reese and Blake used to stop at Manuela's after school. That was in the days when the two of them roamed the town aimlessly, always together, seemingly inseparable. It was a good place to grab something to eat, and they knew Roberto and his sister Gabby from school. Manuela was their mother, and they often worked at the bodega with her.

After his falling out with Blake, Reese roamed the town by himself. Maybe he was hoping to run into Blake at one of the places where they used to go together. While Reese hung out at the bodega, he got to be good friends with Gabby and Roberto. The two of them kept him from feeling alone, and Roberto helped him out when he decided to leave town more than four years ago.

Reese couldn't come to Meadowview without seeing Roberto and Gabby. He called them a few times, but now he hoped to see them in person. Since the bodega was a public place, Reese felt safe dropping in. As long as he didn't linger, there wouldn't be any harm in it.

Just as Reese was about to turn a corner and cross the street, he caught sight of Blake right in front of Manuela's. Reese drew back before he revealed himself. He should have just walked away, but he couldn't. He ducked back and kept out of sight and then stared.

Blake was right there, so close. He was the one who cut his heart open and left him to bleed. But even after all these years, Reese couldn't take his eyes off him for even a second. He drank him in, memorizing how he had changed since he last saw him. Reese had barely gotten a glimpse of him at his fathers funeral. But even if he looked at him all day, it wouldn't be enough.

Reese kicked himself for lingering, but his body just wouldn't move to take him away from there. Wasn't his life bad enough? He didn't need to torture himself even more by staring at Blake.

Maybe that's why Duke used to say, "You are a boy who sure knows how to suffer and then come back for more." Thinking of his thick, insinuating voice made Reese's skin crawl. He looked hard at Blake to force every other thought from his head. It was amazing how well that worked, always did. Blake could drive out every bad thing, fill him up, make him feel free and then crush him into the dirt.

Telling himself how Blake had wronged him didn't seem to make any difference. It didn't make him look away from him, and it didn't make him move. He only walked away when he saw Blake get into his car and drive off down the street.

Chapter 3

Once they were done eating, Blake thanked Dee for feeding him and then tried to send them home again. When they refused, he shook his head and drove away. Finn and Dee followed. Dee was at the wheel as they passed a mostly vacant strip mall, a furniture rental store, and a medical supply warehouse. This was not the most cheerful part of Meadowview. It looked like their next destination wasn't going to be as friendly and delicious as Manuela's.

Blake stopped his car in front of an abandoned parking garage where skaters, druggies and runaways hung out. It had once been part of a planned shopping center that never got off the ground. Chunks were falling off the place. It was just a matter of time before it was condemned. The parking structure was well known, and Finn and Dee were strictly forbidden from going anywhere near it.

When he parked and got out, Blake came over to their car. "You're not getting out. Lock the doors and sit in the car. Got it?" he told them.

"We didn't come all this way to sit in the car," Dee said while looking around worriedly.

Blake kept that stern big brother look on his face. "Don't you have a curfew or something? Where I'm going isn't a place for children."

"Curfew? Listen to him," Finn said turning to Dee.

Of course they had a curfew, but it wasn't this insanely early. And they weren't about to admit to it anyway. Finn got out of the car to show Blake that he wasn't the boss of him. He wasn't the boss of Dee either, so she got out too.

Blake shook his head and walked away. As they trailed after him, he had to accept that wherever he was going, they were coming along. He let them walk close behind him as he went inside.

There was plenty of light coming in through the openings in the upper levels. That's where the skaters were doing their thing. Unfortunately, Blake was leading them down. The underground levels had narrow slits at the top where only a little bit of light came in. Without power, the rest of the garage was dark and shadowy. The low ceiling made Finn feel a little claustrophobic.

"I don't like it here," Dee whispered. Finn didn't blame her.

Overhearing her, Blake stopped and turned to them. "Finn, take your sister home," he said.

"You take your sister home," Finn shot back.

"No one needs to take me home. I'm fine," she said, still keeping her voice down.

"I don't know," Finn told her doubtfully. "You got kind of wimpy there."

"Shut up. I'm tough as nails," Dee claimed.

"Press on nails maybe." Finn was feeling the pain of Dee digging her nails into his wrist just as some guy was coming toward the three of them. He seemed to appear out of nowhere and Finn tensed.

"It's fine," Blake told him, noticing his reaction. "I know him."

Looking around, Finn saw that there were people in the shadows. Most of them sitting or lying down. He saw some bare mattresses and improvised furniture.

The guy who approached looked like a college boy gone bad. His hair was greasy and matted down, his clothes stained. If he cleaned himself up a little, he wouldn't seem out of place in some college bar.

"Blake Monroe, as I live and breathe," the guy said.

"It's Blake Adler. Have you seen Reese?" Blake asked.

Finn and Dee both stared at him in surprise when he said his last name. That's why they couldn't find him all these years.

"Reese was here and gone," the guy said. "He was sniffing around for somewhere else to crash so I don't know if he'll be back."

"Where else might he go?" Blake asked.

The guy looked like he was thinking hard until Blake gave him some money. Then the answer came to him.

"BrillShine is a good bet. Polander's is too."

"Polander's?" Blake said, surprised.

"The poor, old thing finally went under. Just waiting for the wrecking ball," the guy said.

BrillShine was an abandoned cleaning supplies factory, and Polander's was an old department store that had been dying a slow death for years.

"Why was Reese looking for a new place to crash?" Blake asked.

The guy looked around and squinted. "Out of an abundance of caution. Someone is looking for him, and pushing hard for information on our boy Reese," he told Blake.

"Who?" Blake wanted to know.

This time the guy didn’t pretend to think about the answer, just shook his head.

"Here," Blake said and gave him some more money. "That's so you don't repeat what you told me to anyone else who might come looking for Reese."

"I'll go smoke this elsewhere. If anyone comes looking, they won't even find me here," the guy said, pleased with his take and what he was going to do with it.

Blake left the parking garage with a tight jaw and a grim stare. He hardly seemed to know Finn and Dee were still following him.

"Adler? Adler?" Finn asked once they reached their cars.

"That's my name," Blake said simply.

"You changed it," Dee said, disappointed.

"I didn't want his name," Blake told her.

"But it's our name too," Dee said.

"Our name is Huen-Monroe," Finn pointed out to her.

"OK. Then it's half our name," Dee shot back peevishly.

"Well, I didn't want any part of it," Blake said. "The man rejected me when I was five. The least I can do is ditch his name."

"I guess I see your point," Dee said, coming around to the idea but still looking sad about it.

Before they could ask him any more questions, Blake got into his car. Finn drove after him while Dee texted their mom with another bogus update about where they were. Dee looked over at Finn guiltily when she was done. She was such a good kid, which is why her lies were so convincing.