• Missing
  • Missing


4.2 8
by Jasmine Cresswell

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For twenty-five years, multimillionaire businessman Ron Raven played the loving husband and father — to two very different households. But when Ron disappears, his deception is revealed. Now both families are left with questions, while the man who holds the answers is...MISSING.

Megan Raven is desperate to save her mother's Wyoming ranch, used as

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For twenty-five years, multimillionaire businessman Ron Raven played the loving husband and father — to two very different households. But when Ron disappears, his deception is revealed. Now both families are left with questions, while the man who holds the answers is...MISSING.

Megan Raven is desperate to save her mother's Wyoming ranch, used as collateral on a three-million-dollar loan — money that disappeared with Ron. Worse, the loan is being called in by Georgia bank manager Adam Fairfax — brother to Ron's other wife.

Brought together by their families' turmoil, Megan and Adam head south of the border in search of the missing millions. But what they find is a whole new web of lies, secrecy and greed.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The first novel in Cresswell's new Ravens trilogy is a taut suspenser concerning the double life of missing multimillionaire and secret bigamist Ron Raven. Having disappeared from a Miami hotel room, leaving signs of a bloody struggle, Raven's trail leads police to his two families, whom he had for 25 years kept in separate cities-one in Chicago and one in Thatch, Wyo.-and entirely clueless about each other. As police uncover deeper levels of deception, it comes to light that Raven used his Wyoming wife's ranch as collateral on a loan he received from his Chicago wife's brother, Adam. Furious, Adam shows up at the ranch to demand his money, only to find that Raven's fortune has vanished with him. Soon, he and Raven's daughter Megan (of the Wyoming clan) set out on a global search for the missing millions, leading them into a web of intrigue and murder. Grabbing readers from the get-go, Cresswell's book is fraught with sex, secrets and double-crosses, and her cast of characters-especially the charismatic leads-are sharply developed. Full and satisfying, Cresswell's twisty series kickoff is sure to please. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Ravens Trilogy , #1
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By Jasmine Cresswell


Copyright © 2007 Jasmine Cresswell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780778324676

May 2, 2006, Thatch, Stark County, Wyoming

Harold J. Ford, Sheriff of Stark County, wished like hell that he were somewhere else. Almost anywhere other than here would feel pretty good to him right now. Despite the spring sunshine and budding wildflowers, the familiar road leading to the Flying W ranch struck him as slightly less appealing than the frozen tundra of Alaska in midwinter. Unfortunately, there had been no stray cows or broken tractors to slow him down and he'd made the journey out from town in record time. He was now less than half a mile from Ellie Raven's front porch and he still had no clue what he was going to say to her.

He braked to give a couple of white-tailed prairie dogs time to scurry across the rutted gravel driveway, then drew his official Jeep Cherokee to an unusually quiet and sober stop on the patch of blacktop in front of the Flying W's machine-storage shed.

A pair of quarter horses were munching grass in the side pasture and he gave them an envious stare. One of the horses stared back, new spring grass dangling from the side of its mouth, the picture of equine contentment. Lucky damn horse. Harry sighed. Some days it really sucked to be the sheriff of Stark County.

Ellie, thank God, must be working in the kitchen out back, as she didn't cometo the door to greet him. Another brief reprieve. Harry threw a frustrated punch at the steering wheel. Unfortunately, bruising his knuckles did nothing to sharpen his brain function. He rubbed his sore hands, mentally rehearsing a couple of possible opening lines before giving up with a disgusted exclamation. Jesus, how was he going to find the words to tell Ellie about her husband? Everything he'd come up with since he got the call from the cops in Miami seemed insulting, patronizing or just plain heartless.

Megan, Ellie's daughter, came to the front door and whistled for the dogs, waving when she saw him. Harry waved back, finally forcing himself to step out of the car. He gave the dogs an absentminded pat as they bounded past him.

It was a big relief to discover that Megan was at the ranch. Harry had called her apartment in Jackson Hole before he left town, but he'd reached her answering machine. Then he'd called the fancy ski lodge where she worked. They'd told him she wasn't scheduled to come in again until Wednesday, which wasn't surprising since this was the off-season: too late for skiing and too early for the summer crowd. Harry had been afraid Megan might have left for a minivacation in Denver or Salt Lake City. Unless you were fascinated by watching cows swat flies, Stark County didn't provide much in the way of entertainment for a young, single woman. But Megan, thank God, was here and he'd count that as a blessing. At least Ellie would have her daughter right beside her when he delivered the news. "Hi, Harry. What's up?" Megan greeted him with a smile, not waiting for an answer to her own question as she butted the front door open with her hip and shooed the dogs inside. She was a dynamo of energy, packed into a curvaceous five-foot-two-inch package. Conversations with Megan tended to be conducted at warp speed. "How is it that every time Mom bakes one of her chocolate-fudge cakes, all the neighbors know to come calling?"

Harry didn't joke as he usually would. "I'm here on official business, Megan. May I come in?"

"Of course." Megan shot him a glance that was still more surprised than worried. She gestured him inside.

"Official business, huh? Has there been another report about wolves in the area?"

"Plenty up near Yellowstone, but nothing in this county, or I'd have heard about it. We're hoping the one Jerry Hotchkiss spotted last month was the proverbial lone wolf." Harry realized he was babbling and clamped his mouth shut. Tucking his uniform hat under his arm, he followed Megan into the living room. Ellie had told him about the new sofa and chairs she'd ordered online—her first Internet purchase—and they had been delivered since the last time he stopped by the ranch. The sofa loomed big and golden in the middle of the room, and the copper-colored armchairs flanked the massive brick fireplace where before there had been empty space. Maybe that was why the familiar room suddenly looked so alien.

"If it's not wolves, what's going on?" This time Megan clearly expected an answer. "You look upset, Harry."

"Yeah, I'm upset. This is going to be very difficult. Fact is, I've been given some bad news to pass on." There was nothing for it but to say what had to be said. "Could you ask your mother to come in here, please?" "You're scaring me, Harry." Megan finally looked alarmed. She drew in a shallow, nervous breath. "Has something happened to my father? Or my brother?"

Her spectacular green eyes darkened with foreboding when he didn't interrupt to reassure her. "Oh my God. There's been an accident, hasn't there? Is it Liam? Or Dad?"

"Something like that." Before he had time to say more, Ellie pushed open the swinging door that led from the kitchen straight into the living room. Harry found himself thinking that nowadays builders would consider a door like that a lawsuit waiting to happen. Then he realized he couldn't avoid looking at Ellie for the rest of the afternoon, so he shifted his gaze to meet with hers.

Her green eyes, slightly more hazel than Megan's, were warm, friendly and unreservedly happy to see him. "Hi, Harry. What's up? I didn't expect to see you this week."

He cleared his throat. "Hi, Ellie." He didn't ask how she was doing or make a comment about the weather, and she immediately responded to his somber mood. Her smile switched off with the abruptness of a snuffed candle.

Her hand went to her throat. "Harry, what is it?" "I'm sorry, Ellie, but I'm not here on a social visit. Truth is, I just finished a long phone call with a detective sergeant in Miami."

"Miami?" She tilted her head in a frightened question.

"That's where Ron was going on Sunday morning."

"Yeah, I know." Now that the moment couldn't be delayed any longer, Harry spoke crisply, standing straight, draping himself in the mantle of his professional obligations. He needed to handle this like the sheriff of Stark County, not like a friend who'd known Ellie since the eighth grade. And he definitely shouldn't handle it like a man who had always thought Ellie deserved a better husband than Ron Raven. "I'm sorry, Ellie, but there's no easy way to say this, so I'll give it to you straight. The police in Miami called me because they think that Ron has met with an accident. There's signs of a struggle in his hotel room." The sheriff breathed deeply. "Fact is, the police believe there's a chance that he's dead."

"No! That's impossible! Not Dad!" Megan's protest was harsh with shock, but Ellie said nothing. She stood rock still, except for her forefinger, which tapped in a quick, erratic rhythm against her throat. Harry had expected her to sob uncontrollably and he'd been terrified he'd have to comfort her, which almost guaranteed he'd end up saying all the wrong things. Like, I hope he is dead. You're better off without the bastard. Or, you could have married me and saved both of us from choosing the wrong person. Her unnaturally restrained reaction struck him as even worse than his imaginings.

Megan wasn't anywhere near as controlled as her mother. Tears running down her cheeks, she put her arm protectively around Ellie's shoulders and hugged her close, ignoring her mother's unyielding stiffness. She rocked her gently back and forth and Ellie didn't resist, although she didn't respond, either. But the fact that Megan was comforting her mother at least made it easier for Harry to resist the urge to walk over and hug Ellie at the same time as he yelled insults at Ron. Goddammit, Ellie was a good woman, one of the best, and she didn't deserve what was coming down the pike.

Unlike her mother, Megan soon recovered her wits enough to ask the obvious question. "What do you mean, the police in Miami think my father is dead? Don't they know? How can you be confused about whether a person is alive or dead, for God's sake?" rected himself out of deference to the fragile hope that Ron might still be alive. "I mean, they haven't found Ron yet, so they can't be a hundred percent sure what's happened to him. He's definitely missing from his hotel. The cops are pretty sure he must be either seriously injured or dead, but they've checked all the hospitals in southeastern Florida and he's not a patient anywhere—"

Ellie spoke for the first time. "Ron was staying at the Doral Beach Hotel. He called me from there on Sunday night."

Harry's heart skipped a beat. "What time was that, Ellie?" "I don't recall exactly. I was reading when the phone rang and I didn't pay much attention. Maybe nine o'clock my time? Ron mentioned he was about to go to bed."

"That would make sense. Nine here is already eleven o'clock in Miami." Harry reached automatically for his pen, then decided this wasn't the moment to be scratching down notes.

"Ron was fine when we spoke," Ellie said. "I'm sure he's still fine." Her tone of voice dared Harry to contradict her.

Harry cleared his throat, which seemed to have developed a permanent frog. "Apart from you, Ellie, the Miami police haven't been able to find anyone who spoke to Ron after eight-thirty eastern time on Sunday night."

"Why is that such a big deal?" Megan's petite frame vibrated with the force of her frustration. "If there wasn't Dad might be dead? I thought adults could go missing for weeks without law enforcement taking any interest. Dad's been out of touch for less than thirty-six hours. Why are the cops making a mystery out of something so trivial?"

There was no way to avoid describing the gruesome crime scene, so Harry did his best to lead them there gently. "Your father checked into the Doral Beach Hotel around seven on Sunday night. I guess he called down to room service and ordered breakfast for six-thirty the next morning—"

"That would be for yesterday morning," Megan clarified. "Monday, right?"

"Right." Harry nodded. "Ron also made arrangements with the hotel parking valet to bring up his rental car at seven-fifteen on Monday morning. He told the valet he needed to be at the airport by eight because he was taking the ten-thirty flight to Mexico City and security clearance for international flights eats up so much time these days—"

"Did Dad tell you he was going to Mexico City?" Megan asked her mother, cutting across Harry's painstaking explanation. "You didn't mention to me that he was leaving the country."

Ellie blinked. "What? Oh, yes. Ron told me he had important meetings arranged in Mexico City. He expected them to last four or five days. I have the name of his Mexican hotel written down somewhere…." Her gaze wandered around the room, as if she expected the note about Ron's hotel to materialize out of the ether.

"Did Dad say when he would be coming home from Mexico?" Megan asked.

Ellie focused her attention on her daughter with visible effort. "No, he didn't specify an exact time. He said he had to stop off in Chicago to report on his meetings and check in with his business partners, but he hoped to get back here by the end of next week and he'd confirm later. I never expected to hear from him yesterday when he was traveling."

Megan's forehead wrinkled in puzzlement. "Why would Dad go to Mexico on business? He always claims there are so many opportunities within the States that there's no need for him to go overseas."

"This was something new," Ellie said. "He's looking into an investment opportunity for an old friend from college. Something like that. I don't know the details."

"We never know the details," Megan muttered. "Dad's great on sticking to the big picture and leaving everyone to guess about the rest."

I'll just bet the bastard left them to guess, Harry thought angrily. As for Ron's excuse that he'd be stopping off in Chicago to brief his business partners—what a load of bullshit. Talk about the wisdom of hindsight! If only people around here had known earlier what the son of a bitch was really up to.

Ellie ignored her daughter's comment. She turned her gaze toward Harry, but her eyes were blind, as if she looked inward to some unshared memory. "I expect Ron will be calling any minute now. He probably changed his plans at the last minute. You know how he does that." Ellie subsided into silence again, her finger still tapping against her throat.

Megan bit her lip, visibly choking back the urge to crush her mother's hope that the two of them could expect to hear from Ron at any minute. "Did my father actually catch the flight to Mexico?" she asked. "Is that why there's so much confusion? Maybe Dad has gone missing in Mexico and there's a communications problem with the police there?"

The poor kid looked so damn hopeful. Harry shifted from one foot to the other, easing the stress. None of them had thought to sit down, as if shock had deprived them of the ability to make ordinary movements. "No, that's not it, I'm afraid. The police down in Florida are sure Ron never left the country. Screening is intense on international flights these days and the cops are one hundred percent confident your dad hasn't flown out of the country."

"Then maybe he was delayed in Miami," Megan suggested. "Or he might have been called to an urgent meeting somewhere in the States—"

"That seems real unlikely. Let me explain why the cops in Miami are worried." Harry gulped in much-needed air.

"Here's what happened. The room-service waiter arrived with Ron's breakfast at six-thirty yesterday morning as re waiter got one of the maids to open up your dad's room. They immediately realized something was wrong."

"Why?" Megan demanded.

"One glance was all it took to see that there had been a struggle," Harry said, deciding they needed to know the unpleasant truth. "The phone was ripped out of the wall and smashed. The TV was damaged. Several pieces of furniture had been overturned and there was blood in several places. Most of it smears near the bed."

"A…lot of blood?" Megan asked. The hostility had vanished from her voice, replaced by stark fear.

"Enough blood that everyone was immediately worried for your dad's safety," Harry admitted. He chose not to tell either of the women that a quick preliminary test showed the blood had come from at least three different people, suggesting a minimum of two attackers and a brutal fight. Or it was possible that the blood might have come from one attacker and two victims, raising the embarrassing possibility that Ron Raven hadn't been sleeping alone.

That was an avenue Harry definitely didn't want to explore with Ron's wife and daughter. He hurried on with his explanation. "Even before the hotel security staff could initiate a search of the premises, they had word from the parking valet that your father's rental car had gone missing. The valet was afraid the car had been stolen since they still had possession of the keys, but the car itself was nowhere to be found."

"Why did they assume the car had been stolen?" Megan asked. "My father could easily have had a second set of keys."

"But he didn't," Harry said flatly. "The Miami police have checked with the rental company. They only gave your father one set of keys. Besides, the car has already been found. It was abandoned in a restaurant parking lot close to the ocean, about ten miles from the hotel. There was a set of keys left in the ignition." Keys that had been polished to a high gloss, obliterating any possibility of fingerprints. Keys that were so shiny it seemed likely they'd been cut within the past twenty-four hours.

"There were more blood traces in the trunk of the car," Harry said when neither woman spoke. "The evidence


Excerpted from Missing by Jasmine Cresswell Copyright © 2007 by Jasmine Cresswell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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