Mission: Without a Trace - Nicole Edwards Page 0,1

be headin’ out now.”

“No dessert?” Iris asked, her pale blue eyes shifting to him.

Patting his stomach, he grinned. “Watchin’ my figure.”

“Not gettin’ enough exercise?” Trey quipped, the mischievous gleam in his eyes returning.

“Oh, I’m gettin’ plenty,” he mumbled, passing by his brother to give his mother a hug.

“You goin’ to Curtis’s house tomorrow night?” Frank asked when Brantley turned to him.

“Not this weekend, no. Got some stuff to deal with on the work front.”

His father nodded. “Lorrie called, extended us an invite.”

“You goin’?”

“Thought about it. Been a while since I’ve seen my brother’s young’ns.”

“There’s a lot of ’em. Might bring your earplugs.”

Frank chuckled. “All those little ones? That’s the best part of goin’ over there.”

Yeah, Brantley happened to be quite fond of the kiddos himself. All twenty-plus of them.

Not that he wanted to spend every waking hour with them. He valued his sanity far too much for that.

Thirty minutes later, after saying his goodbyes to the rest of the clan, Brantley pulled into his driveway, parking beside JJ’s SUV. He should’ve expected she would be there being that she’d spent a good majority of the past week in the barn, getting it in order, or so she claimed.

Rather than go inside the house, he made his way to the barn in the dark, briefly wondering if he should have a walkway put in. Would detract from the country vibe the property had, but might be better than trekking through the mud when it rained. For JJ, of course. Brantley couldn’t give a shit less if he got mud on his boots, but she might.

Once he reached the big red barn, he slid the enormous door back, keyed in his code, then opened the steel security door he’d installed shortly after he acquired the property. Colt Ford’s voice spilled out into the night, JJ’s favorite country star singing about showing Vegas how the country folk party.

And because JJ’d gone to the efforts of installing it, Brantley instructed Alexa to turn the volume to three. The shift in decibel was instant, drawing JJ’s attention from the computer screen.

“Hey. I like that song.”

“I’m aware. Not sure the neighbors are fans though.”

“Place is sound-proofed. Neighbors can’t hear.” JJ rolled her eyes. “Even if there were any.”


“Whatcha workin’ on?” he inquired, walking down the wide aisle created by the scattering of furniture JJ’d had delivered recently.

Using his credit card, JJ had outfitted the once empty space with desks, chairs, rugs, a couch, couple of small tables, and a foosball table. The state had coughed up the money for the electronics, save for what Brantley had prior to agreeing to put together a task force solely responsible for working missing person cases, both old and new, for the great state of Texas.

And while they’d brought in more computers, monitors, and a dedicated server, Brantley had agreed JJ could keep his original equipment, ensuring it wasn’t connected to the government-owned stuff. While they had immunity and means when it came to solving their cases, JJ had convinced him there were perhaps a few things the government might not approve of; therefore it was important they kept the prying eyes of Uncle Sam out of their business. Who was he to argue with that?

“I’ve been goin’ through the case files that were sent over,” JJ explained, “tryin’ to find one for us to work on.”

“I thought we agreed we’d focus on Lauren Tyler.” That was what they’d decided on shortly after he’d brought her on board. Their first official case would be that of a teenage girl who’d gone missing from Coyote Ridge nine years earlier. She’d been best friends with the governor’s daughter, and since this task force had come together at the behest of the man himself, seemed fitting they would find some closure for Lauren as well as her family and friends.

JJ sat back in her chair, stared up at him.

She looked tired. And a bit out of sorts. Her dark hair was piled haphazardly on her head, face clean of makeup, her green eyes weary. The crease in her forehead gave away her worry and had him curious.

“We are,” she said quickly. “Yes. We’re definitely gonna prioritize that case. But…”

Brantley raised an eyebrow. “But what?”

She sighed, spinning around in her chair as she motioned toward a glass whiteboard she’d had him and Reese hang on the wall. The thing was roughly five feet by five feet, looking as large as it was because there were very few words scribbled across it.

“That’s what I have