HE STOOD ALONE, and his vibrant blue eyes scanned the horizon, as if he were looking for something or someone. The cold morning fog on the gray waters of Elliott Bay hampered his view, but the lonely, broad-shouldered man didn't seem to notice. Haggard lines were etched across his forehead and an errant lock of dark brown hair was caught in the Pacific breeze. Noah Wilder didn't care. Though dressed only in a business suit, the icy wind blowing across Puget Sound couldn't cool the anger and frustration burning within him.
Realizing that he had wasted too much time staring at the endlessly lapping water, he began to walk along the waterfront, back to a job he could barely stomach. He gritted his teeth in determination as he continued southward and tried to quiet the anger and fear that were tearing him apart. Just half an hour earlier he had been notified that his son was missing from school. It had happened before. Noah closed his mind to the terrifying thoughts. By now, he was used to the fact that his rebellious son hated school — especially the school into which he had been transferred just two months before. Noah hoped that Sean wasn't in any real trouble or danger.
He paused only once as he walked back to the office and that was to buy a newspaper. Knowing it was a mis-take, he opened the paper to the financial section. Al-
missing from school again. At the thought of his rebellious son, Noah's stomach tightened with concern. The lines deepened on his forehead, and his thoughtful scowl gave him a ragged, anxious appearance. Unfortunately, Noah could blame no one but himself for his son's attitude.
Noah should never have let Ben talk him into taking control of Wilder Investments, not even for a short period of time. It had been a mistake, and Sean was the person who was paying for it. Noah shouldn't have let his emotions dictate the decision to move to Seattle, and Ben's heart attack shouldn't have made any difference in that decision. Noah uttered an oath under his breath and slapped the rolled newspaper against his thigh in frustration. It had been difficult enough trying to raise a son alone in Portland. But now, in Seattle, along with the problems of managing Wilder Investments, it was nearly impossible for Noah to find enough time for his son.
Noah pushed open the wide glass doors of the Wilder Building and strode angrily to the elevator. It was early in the day, and the lobby was nearly empty. Si-lently the elevator doors parted and Noah stepped inside, grateful that he was alone. This morning he had no use for small talk with the employees of his father's multimillion dollar corporation. Anyone or anything that reminded him of Ben Wilder only served to deepen Noah's simmering anger.
After pushing the button for the thirtieth floor, he glared at the headlines of the financial section of the paper and reread the beginning of the article that had ruined his morning. His stomach knotted as the headline jumped up at him. "Burned" Wilder Investments Suspected of Insurance Fraud. Noah gritted his teeth and tried to control his anger. The first paragraph was worse than the condemning headline: Noah Wilder, acting president of Wilder Investments, was unavailable for comment against the rumor that Wilder Investments might have intentionally started the blaze at Cascade Valley Winery. The fire, which started in the west wing of the main building, took the life of one man. Oliver Lindstrom, the deceased, was in partnership with Wilder Investments at the time of the blaze
The elevator stopped, and Noah drew his eyes away from the infuriating article. He'd already read it, and it only served to make him more frustrated with his father and his decision to prolong his stay in Mexico. To top things off, Sean had taken off from school this morning and couldn't be found. Where the hell could Sean have gone? Noah bit at his lip as his eyes glinted in determination. Regardless of anything else, Noah promised himself that he would find a way to force Ben to return to Seattle to resume control ofWilder Investments. This time Sean came first. There was just no other alternative.
Noah stepped from the elevator and headed for his father's auspicious office. He paused only slightly at Maggie's desk to order a terse directive. "See if you can get Ben on the phone immediately." He forced a smile that he didn't feel and entered the spacious, windowlined office where all the decisions for Wilder Investments were made. Pitching the bothersome newspaper onto the contemporary oak desk, Noah shrugged out of his suit jacket and tossed it unceremoniously over the back of a well-oiled leather couch.
The bank of windows behind the desk overlooked Pioneer Square, one of Seattle's oldest and most prestigious areas. Brick buildings, set on the sides of the rolling hills overlooking the sound, boasted turn-ofthe-century architecture contrasting sharply to the neighboring modern skyscrapers. The area was packed with an interesting array of antique shops, boutiques and restaurants.
Beyond Pioneer Square were the soothing gray waters of Puget Sound, and in the distance were the proud Olympic Mountains. On a clear day, they stood as a snow-laden barrier to the Pacific Ocean. Today they were merely ghostly shadows hiding in the slate-colored fog.
Noah cast a glance at the calm view over the rooftops of the city before sitting stiffly down in his father's leather chair. It groaned against his weight as he leaned back and ran an impatient hand through his thick, coarse hair. Closing his eyes, he attempted to clear his mind. Where was Sean?