Ransom in Rio Excerpt

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Her worst nightmare had come to life.
Now, the fear of what she would do if it ever happened was over, but the loss of her brother came with a burden she hadn’t foreseen. It left her to deal with her family alone. To carry the legacy. To protect the empire. To convince everyone to believe the lies.
“He was always so careful,” she muttered to herself as she drove.
Snow had started falling as the last “Amen” was said at the cemetery. The heavy white powder made the pale, yellow lines on the road fade in and out of sight. Lexi tugged her sweater tighter around her body with one hand and gripped the steering wheel with the other. The funeral had drained her of what little emotional strength she had left. It was crazy, but several times throughout the day she’d found herself picking up her phone to see if Jace had messaged her. He used to text or call every day. Silly stuff sometimes, like never walk the dog with no shoes on. Once he’d texted that he had the hiccups.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone.” Lexi glanced at her friend. She didn’t expect Kristy to say anything. Nothing she could say would make the pain go away.
Jace had been the perfect big brother, Lexi’s best friend. From an early age, they learned that sticking together in a dysfunctional family was their only hope. One thing Lexi knew for certain was that Jace wouldn’t leave her here alone. He would not have put himself in danger for a stupid fishing trip. His chance to break free of their crazy family was finally around the corner. He’d just bought his girlfriend an engagement ring. They had plans to move to New York as soon as the wedding was over. Now he was gone. None of it made any sense. Why was she the only person who could see that something was wrong with ruling the cause of death as accidental?
Lexi brushed at her red hair with a careless hand and caught a glimpse of her swollen, blue eyes in the rearview mirror. She hardly resembled her brother at all—a fact that had always bothered her, but she’d never questioned it the way Jace had. He had always asked where he’d gotten his blonde hair.
“Lexi, why don’t you stay with me tonight?”
The sound of Kristy’s voice startled her. “I’m sorry. I’m really out of it.” She smiled and wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “Thank you for everything. You’ve done more than enough for me over the past few days.”
“You know I’m always here.” “I know.” She swallowed hard. “Kristy…”
“What’s wrong?” “I can’t stop thinking…I just don’t think this was
an accident. It couldn’t be. Jace didn’t even like to fish. He wouldn’t charter a boat to go fishing in Cozumel. He liked nice restaurants, museums, theaters. Not fishing. And then there’s the fact that he didn’t take Selena with him. He always had Selena with him. Why doesn’t anyone else seem to think this is odd?”
“I don’t know. Now that you bring it up, Jace wasn’t much of a risk-taker.”
“Exactly. The strangest thing is that Selena said he told her he would be back in an hour. He only left for one hour. Who charters a fishing boat for only an hour?”
“Did Selena tell you why he didn’t take her?”
“She didn’t say, and I didn’t want to ask her a lot of questions. Not yet.”
Kristy nodded. “I saw her today. She’s really not handling this well.”
“No one is.” She pulled into Kristy’s driveway. It was a relief to be off the snowy roads.
No matter how she looked at this, her brother’s death could not have been an accident. Somehow, she would prove that he didn’t drown on a fishing trip. She would prove Jace was murdered.
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