Her Last Goodbye Page 36

“I’m fine.” Morgan broke her sister’s grip, then closed her office door before describing the incident in the grocery store.

Lance had to work hard to keep his temper in check.

Stella wrote in a small notebook she took out of her pocket. “He didn’t say anything else?”

“No.” Morgan already knew where her sister’s question was leading.

“Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do.” Stella closed her notebook. “He didn’t do or say anything threatening. There are only two grocery stores nearby. He has to shop at one of them. He didn’t do anything illegal.”

“I know,” Morgan said. “But I want my statement on record.”

Too many women told themselves they were imagining danger and ended up as victims. If Burns had any ideas about stalking Morgan or her family, it would be vital to have a record of each and every incident.

“OK.” Stella nodded, pulling out her phone. “I’ll call the store and request a copy of the surveillance tapes.” She went into the hallway to make the call.

Morgan’s tote bag buzzed from her desk. She fished her cell phone out and read the display. “It’s Sheriff King.” She answered the call, holding the phone a few inches from her ear so Lance could hear. “Yes.”

“What part of stay away from Harold Burns didn’t you hear?” King yelled.

Morgan jerked. “Excuse me?”

Apprehension slid an icy fingertip along the back of Lance’s neck. Something was wrong.

“I just got off the phone with Harold Burns’s attorney,” the sheriff said. “Burns says you followed him to the grocery store and harassed him.”

“I did nothing of the sort,” Morgan said.

The sheriff continued. “He has a photo of you in the store and another of you driving out of the parking lot.”

“Did he mention that I was with my three-year-old daughter?” Morgan’s voice rose. She breathed, obviously holding back.

“No. He didn’t,” the sheriff said, his voice turning cautious.

“Do you really think I’d follow a violent sexual predator when I had my child with me?” Morgan was shifting into full mamma-bear mode. On the bright side, her hands had stopped shaking and color flushed her cheeks.

After three heartbeats of silence, the sheriff said, “I’ll look into it.”

“No need.” Morgan’s voice chilled, and her tone shifted into I-don’t-need-your-useless-ass, even if she was too much of a professional and a lady to say it. “The SFPD has already requested the surveillance tapes, and I’m filing a complaint with them as we speak.”

“Who is the responding officer?” Sheriff King asked.

“Detective Stella Dane,” Morgan said.

“Of course,” the sheriff muttered. “Of course you’d call your sister.”

Morgan ignored the comment. “I’ll have her send you copies of my statement.”

Lance hoped the store’s videos had recorded the encounter. But really, what would it show? The way Morgan had described the incident, she’d walked around a corner and straight into Burns. The most they could hope for was that she arrived at the store first, which would back up her claim that he followed her. If she was lucky, the cameras had caught him looking for her or acting suspicious in some way.

But Lance had a feeling luck wasn’t with her today. Every fiber in his being told her that Burns had planned their encounter. And that this was just the beginning of whatever scheme he had in mind.

“Be very careful, Counselor,” the sheriff warned. “I don’t know what Burns is up to, but he’s a very dangerous man.”

“Yes. I’m well aware of that.” Morgan’s lips pressed flat.

“Stay on your toes.” The sheriff hung up.

Morgan lowered the phone, her hand shaking. “Did you hear all that?”

“I heard enough.” Lance nodded. “Burns is up to something.”

“But what?” Morgan shoved a lock of black hair out of her eyes.

“He’s setting you up.” Lance could feel it in his bones.

Morgan stared at him, her big blue eyes wide. The fear in them an adult version of her daughter’s earlier response. The implications of Burns’s complaint were sinking in. “But for what?”

“I don’t know, but it can’t be good.”

“Oh, my God. He saw Sophie.” She turned toward the door as if to run to her daughter.

Lance caught her by the arm. “She’s in the kitchen with Sharp. She’s fine.”

Morgan nodded. “I know. It’s just—” She stopped and took one deep, controlled breath. “I can handle defending myself. But when something threatens my kids, it’s different. There’s nothing more terrifying.”

“I know.” Lance was beginning to understand the difference.

The more time he spent with Morgan’s kids, the more he thought of them as part of his life. He’d always liked kids. But Morgan’s three girls had imprinted on his heart. Their honesty, their inability to bullshit. If they liked you, they didn’t hold back. Ava and Mia were free with their affection. They’d lost their father and yet accepted him into their lives with no reservations.

And if they didn’t like you, he thought of Sophie’s resistance to his relationship with Morgan, at least you knew where you stood.

But even Sophie, or maybe especially Sophie, had wormed herself into his heart. She felt every emotion exponentially. She was a handful, but an honest one. She didn’t really dislike him. The way she’d clung to him for reassurance and safety today told him that. She’d had her mother home with her for two years. Now Morgan was back to work and forming a relationship with a man. Sophie hadn’t yet adjusted to Morgan being out all day. Expecting her to welcome competition for her mother’s attention was unreasonable. But Lance would be patient. Eventually she’d accept him.

Probably.

The idea of Burns even standing that close to Sophie shot Lance’s anger into the red zone. But the little girl wasn’t the one he was most worried about.

“Burns’s victim was an adult woman,” he said. “His record indicates he’s a violent predator, but I didn’t see anything to suggest he’s a pedophile.”

“That’s not much of a comfort.”

“No. We’ll make sure he doesn’t get anywhere near your girls,” Lance said. “But you’ll need to take care too. It’s far more likely you’re the one he’s stalking.”

Chapter Twenty-Five

Morgan settled Sophie inside the house with Gianna. Then she stopped in her room and removed her gun from its safe. She changed into a pair of slacks with a belt to accommodate a holster at the back of her hip. Her jacket covered the weapon nicely.

She went outside. Lance stood by the Jeep talking to Stella and Brody. Leaning on his cane in the driveway, Grandpa was wearing his sidearm.

An icy shiver slid though Morgan’s belly. All this activity was because of one man, a violent sexual offender who Morgan had made contact with.

It was her fault Burns had taken an interest in her.

The former prosecutor in Morgan wanted nothing more than to put Harold Burns under police surveillance until he did something illegal. There was nothing in the man’s manner that indicated he was at all interested in being redeemed. In her opinion, it was only a matter of time until Burns gave in to his proclivities.

“Thanks for hanging out here,” Morgan said to her sister. “Are you sure it’s OK with your boss?”

“It’s fine. I’ve missed the girls.” Stella made a shooing gesture with her hand. “Go. Solve your case. I’ll be here until you get back.”

“Stella and I have this covered.” Grandpa tapped his cane on the driveway.

Grandpa had always been an excellent shot. He and Dad had taught all four of the Dane siblings how to handle a weapon. It had been a family ritual. Some families went to church on Sundays. The Danes had gone to the shooting range. But now Morgan wondered if Grandpa’s hands were steady enough to hit his target.

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