Hey all! So sorry I didn't post this yesterday, as I know I told some I would. However, I'm thinking of moving my weekly post to Wednesdays. Mondays just aren't working for me. I'll try it out the next two weeks and see if that works better. If not, then I'll probably go back to Mondays.
First off, I'd like to dedicate this story to several amazing people, without whom this-and all of-my stories would not be nearly as good as they are. So Darvia, Pounce, and Kayla, this is for you. I know you'll probably never see this, but I love sooo much, and you have no idea what you mean to me. Thank you for everything you do.
Anyways, sorry for going into sap mode. I'll let you get on to the story (not that many people will actually READ this...).
Sophie took a deep breath and stared at the sign that read Gibson Family Reunion. In the past two years, she had encountered many near-death experiences, solved copious amounts of complex riddles, and cracked countless codes. Yet nothing scared her more than what she was about to do. She desperately wished Connor, her older brother, could be there with her. However, he was currently busy as the Temporary Director of Junior Covert Operations. And so, Sophie had to face her extended family alone.
Letting out the breath, she took one more look at the quaint inn that was hosting the reunion before opening the door and stepping in. The sweet-looking middle aged woman at the front desk smiled at her.
"Hello. Are you here for the Gibson Family Reunion?" She asked, offering Sophie her hand. Sophie took the woman's hand and gave it a small shake as she nodded.
"Um, yes, I am."
"Okay, well here's a room key. If you just come with me, I'll show you where that is."
Sophie smiled. "Thank you."
The lady just nodded as she led the way up the stairs to the left of the desk. Once she'd showed Sophie her room, she went back down stairs. Sophie sighed and set her bag on top of the bed. She was so not ready for this.
Brushing her fingertips over her mother's necklace, Sophie crossed the room to the open window that looked out at the Gulf Coast. The private stretch of beach was enchanting; various members of Sophie's family were scattered across the sand. This was the moment she'd wanted for practically three years. The moment when she would get to meet her family, get to know them. But now that the moment was here, she was afraid. Afraid that they wouldn't like her, wouldn't accept her….afraid that she might not be good enough. She bit her lip and shook away the old insecurities. Just as she pulled the photo of Ethan out of her back pocket, there was a knock on the door.
"Come in!" She said, crossing the room. The door opened before she got there, however, and a cheerful brunet stepped into her room.
"Hey! You must be one of the cousins. I'm Jessica." She said, pulling Sophie into a full blown hug. Sophie hugged Jessica back, no trace of the surprise she felt inside showing. Jessica let go after a few seconds and Sophie smiled at her. Sophie guessed the girl's age to be sixteen or seventeen.
"Yeah, I'm Selina."
Jessica's eyes went wide. "Connor's little sister?"
Sophie bit her lip and nodded hesitantly. "Um, yeah."
"Oh my gosh! I can't believe that you're Uncle Jay and Aunt Kate's long-lost daughter!"
Sophie laughed nervously. "Yup, that's me."
"Come on, Mom is going to love this!" Jessica said before grabbing Sophie's wrist and pulling her out the door and down the stairs. Five minutes later, Jessica was tapping on the shoulder of a woman with the same brown hair as Jessica. It was cut to right above her shoulders, and was slightly shorter in the back than the front. She turned around and Sophie bit her bottom lip.
"Mom! It's Selina Gibson!" Jessica said excitedly, "Uncle Jayson's daughter!"
The woman's light brown eyes went wide with shock and her mouth hung open slightly. The flute of wine in her hand was dangerously close to spilling its contents.
"I—I um…" Clearly she had no idea what to say. "Welcome, Selina. It's so good to see you after all these years. I'm Jenna Weldin. I'm…"
Sophie nodded. "You're my aunt."
Jenna smiled and nodded. Sophie hadn't come unprepared. Oh no. She'd done her research, and lots of it. She knew every detail about her aunt and uncles and cousins; and not only on her father's side. In that moment Sophie knew she had been afraid for nothing. These people were her family and family loved you no matter what.
"It's so good to see you too," Sophie said with a smile.
For a few seconds the three just stood there, looking around at the relatives surrounding them. Suddenly, Jessica leaned next to Sophie. Sophie had to stop herself from reacting impulsively when her cousin suddenly reached over, taking the photo of Ethan in her hands.
"Who's this?" She demanded.
"Jessica!" Jenna admonished. "That's none of your business."
Sophie shook her head. "No, it's fine. That's Ethan, my fiancé. He really wanted to be here with me this weekend, but he uh, he's on a business trip."
"Oh, congratulations!" Jenna said, "I'm sure he's a wonderful young man."
Sophie smiled. "Yeah, he really is." Jessica handed Sophie back the photo and grinned at her as Sophie slipped it back into her jeans pocket.
"Come on, I'll introduce you to some people." Jenna said, placing a hand on Sophie's arm for a moment before gesturing to the groups of people.
Several hours later Sophie knew that her uncertainties had been foolish. Her family had accepted her with open arms. She was so happy she felt she might burst. The only possible thing that would make the day better would have been Ethan and Connor being at her side. Absently, she rubbed her left hand ring finger. Because her engagement ring was safely locked up in Ethan's apartment, Sophie often took to rubbing her bare finger. She didn't wear it in order to avoid drawing attention to herself. Especially now, while she was searching for clues about her parents. A ring was something to identify her by, and she couldn't risk that. The family reunion was the only thing she was willing to stop the search for, even if it was only for three days.
She was sitting on the beach, her arms stretched out behind her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone join her on the sand, sitting two feet behind her on the left.
"It's a pleasure to see you here, Agent Whitlock." A male voice said calmly, quietly.
Sophie didn't react despite the jolt of surprise that shot through her, making her heart race slightly. She continued to stare out at the water as she nodded.
"I wondered if I'd see you here," she said. Finally, she turned to look at the face of her uncle. His eyes shone with guarded emotion. In the same second, they both stood and hugged. After a few minutes they let go of each other and each took a step back.
"I knew the moment I saw you, you know." He said quietly. He looked down before grinning at her.
"I knew that you were my niece, the mysterious daughter of Jayson and Kate."
Sophie stopped herself from frowning. "I guess being mysterious is a family trait."
Joel gave her a knowing look, nodding. "I suppose it is. When Jay and Kate decided to give you to your grandmother it practically killed them both. I was the only one they could tell the truth too. Not because they didn't trust anyone else, but because they couldn't put them in potential danger."
Sophie nodded in understanding. The best way to make someone talk was to threaten their loved ones. Only the ones who were truly cold and heartless would never give answers when the lives of their family were seriously at stake.
"How's Connor?" Joel asked, setting a leisurely pace down the beach.
"He's doing great. He's getting married soon, but I think you already know that."
Joel smiled and nodded. "Yes, I do. Madi's a great girl; they'll be good together."
Sophie nodded in agreement. "Yes, definitely."
"I'm surprised they let you come here."
Sophie knew that by "they" her uncle was talking about The Agency. She shrugged.
"They don't know."
Joel shook his head and chuckled. "You're a lot like your father."
"Really?" Sophie asked, hiding her eagerness to learn more about either of her parents.
Nodding, Joel said, "Jayson wasn't really one to follow the rules. He often broke protocol, especially when it involved his family in anyway. The Agency only let it slide so often because he almost always got results."
Sophie chuckled. "I'm not really breaking protocol. I just chose not to tell them where I was going to be this weekend."
"I thought you were on a mission? Couldn't being here be dangerous? You might miss something."
Sophie laughed. "I'm not on a 'mission,' per se. More like recon. And no worries, anything I might find isn't going to go anywhere. Not that I'm getting anywhere." She tried to hide her frustration at lack of results, but Joel had more experience at reading people. He stopped and put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's okay, Selina. Sometimes things don't go how we want them. But don't ever give up and you'll always find something." He looked her directly in the eyes.
Sophie nodded. "Believe me, Uncle Joel. I will never give up." She said.
"Not something this important," she added in a whisper as she avoided his gaze.
No one but Sophie, Ethan, and Director Hans knew about her current 'mission' – to find any kind of clue regarding the disappearance and possible murder of her parents and Abigale Sullivan. The mission she would never give up on. The Director had given her a year, and though that year was almost up, she wouldn't stop until she found out the truth. If that meant she'd have to search on the side, then so be it. Sophie and her uncle started walking again.
"I see you have your mother's necklace." Joel said softly.
Sophie bit her lip as she nodded.
"Yeah," she said quietly. "Ethan gave it to me. Joe gave him the necklaces."
Joel nodded. "He told me."
"He did?" Sophie had never thought of the possibility of her old teacher and future father-in-law staying in touch with her uncle. Joel's only response was a nod. Sophie's sigh was barely audible over the crashing of waves against the soft, white sand.
"What about Mom?" Sophie asked. "What was she like?"
"Kate was a genius. She could crack a code in five seconds. But she wasn't just a bookworm or desk junkie. Kate was unbelievable in a fight. She knew exactly where to hit, exactly when to hit. She hated to use force except when absolutely necessary, though. She often tried to avoid actually killing someone. Unless someone was in immediate danger she tried to just incapacitate the enemy."
Sophie smiled, recognizing her own hesitance to kill. They both lapsed into a comfortable silence, mutually listening to the gentle crash of the waves against the sand and enjoying the light breeze. Sophie knew that she had made the right decision in coming here. Getting to know more about her parents wasn't only good for the mission, but also for her. She'd known next to nothing about her parents for twenty years. Now she knew much about them, except what had happened to them. But by some unexplainable instinct, she knew that fact was about to change.