Her Last Goodbye Page 42

The light also silhouetted two dark figures, one child and one adult, at the other end of the hall. Morgan stopped in her tracks. Did Gianna or Grandpa wake up and see to Sophie?

Her eyes continued to adjust to the dimness.

The adult figure was much larger than Gianna and definitely male. The child’s shadow wiggled.

“Grandpa?” she called softly, but as the word left her lips, she knew the figure didn’t move like an old man.

He spun to face her. Morgan’s blood chilled to ice water. Definitely not her grandfather.

A strange man stood in her hallway.

An intruder.

A hood shadowed his features. The small form next to him struggled, but he held her firmly by the arm, her back pressed against his body, one of his hands covering her mouth.

Sophie’s eyes were opened so wide that the whites showed in the dark corridor.

Morgan’s brain processed the scene in front of her with horror. She looked for a weapon. But both of his hands were visible and occupied. The chill in her body transformed itself into a cold and furious calm.

“Release my daughter.” Morgan didn’t recognize her own voice. It was full of a menace she’d never felt before. She’d secured her gun in its safe when she’d arrived home and set the alarm. Not that she’d risk firing a shot with the intruder using her daughter as a shield. TV shows aside, pistols were not accurate enough to fire over a child’s head, especially in a dark hallway with adrenaline mainlining through Morgan’s bloodstream.

So what could she do?

She took a step closer.

He moved his hand from Sophie’s arm to her chin. “If you take one more step, I’ll snap her neck.” His voice was an unidentifiable whisper.

Morgan assessed his hold on her daughter. With one hand across her face and the other cupping her, could he scissor his hands with enough force to break her neck?

Sophie was tiny and fragile, and Morgan couldn’t take the risk.

Fear and adrenaline flooded her veins, but Morgan’s mind felt strangely detached. Some primitive instinct kept her concentrated on getting her child away from the intruder without giving in to her terror.

“What do you want?” she asked. She didn’t recognize her own voice. The calm inside her was steely and determined and pissed off beyond measure. It waited, biding its time, until it could be unleashed upon this man who dared to touch her baby.

“You’re coming with me.”

“Done.” She would do whatever it took to get him away from her child. Sacrifice herself, kill him with her bare hands, claw his eyes out. There was no price too high, and no act beyond consideration. “Let go of her.”

He chuckled, a low and mocking sound that rippled along the goose flesh covering Morgan’s arms under her sweatshirt. He was enjoying himself. “It’s not going to be that easy.”

“Tell me what you want me to do.” She waited for his response.

“She’s coming too.”

Sophie turned her head and bit him. He jerked his hand away from her face. “Ow. You little . . .”

His hand rose, as if he was going to smack the child. But she didn’t give him the chance. Her little body pivoted to face him, her arms flailing wildly to keep him from getting a fresh grip.

The hallway seemed to grow longer as Morgan rushed forward.

Six feet still separated them as Sophie kicked out. Her bare foot connected with his leg. One flailing fist struck his groin. He doubled over, and Sophie broke away, running behind her mother.

The flash of relief was fleeting.

The man got to his feet. They were too close now. Barely five feet separated them. Sophie clutched Morgan’s thigh, inhibiting her movement.

His head turned toward the doorway on his left. The girls’ bedroom.

Morgan wanted to put herself between him and her other two children. Without lowering her gaze, she pushed Sophie backward. “Go in Mommy’s room and lock the door.”

Crying softly, Sophie clung to Morgan.

“Do it now.” Morgan kept her gaze firmly on the intruder, watching his head, hands, and hips for signs of his intended movements.

Sophie let go. Morgan heard her whimpering and her bare feet slapping the hardwood as she ran down the short hallway. Her heart bled for the child, but she had to protect her first. Comfort would have to come later, when they were all safe. A door slammed shut. A lock clicked.

But Morgan knew that flimsy interior door wouldn’t keep her daughter safe for long. And now her older two children were also in danger.

“Don’t move.” Grandpa’s voice came from the shadows behind the intruder. Light glinted off the pistol in his hand. “I promise that I will shoot you without hesitation.”

Morgan breathed.

Thank God.

Grandpa was in the dark and smart enough to stay there. Moving any closer to the intruder would show how old and frail he was, plus closer quarters would give the intruder the opportunity to disarm him.

The intruder froze for a few long seconds, then turned and bolted for the front of the house. He unlocked the door, opened it, and disappeared outside. The security lights illuminated as his footsteps thudded on the concrete stoop. Gun in hand, Grandpa shuffled after him, stopping on the front stoop and scanning the brightly lit front yard.

Morgan hesitated. Part of her wanted to follow Grandpa. He wouldn’t be able to catch the intruder, and she hated the thought of him getting away. She didn’t even know his identity. But Grandpa would make sure the man was gone. She needed to check on each member of her family.

She turned around. Sophie was locked in Morgan’s bedroom, alone and no doubt terrified.

“What happened?” Gianna stood in the doorway across the hall from the girls’ room.

“We had a break-in.” Morgan rushed for her room. “Could you call the police, and then make sure Ava and Mia are OK?”

Her older daughters were quiet. Hopefully, they hadn’t woken.

Morgan knocked softly on her bedroom door. “Sophie? It’s Mommy. Open the door, sweetie. Everything is all right now. The man is gone.”

Nothing.

Morgan tried the door. Locked. She reached for the top of the door frame and swept her hand along the molding. Her fingers found the thin key she kept there in case one of the kids locked themselves in a room.

As Sophie had done multiple times.

Morgan unlocked the door and opened it slowly. “Sophie? Where are you?”

She crouched to check under the bed and found only her slippers. There was only one other place to hide. She crossed the room to open the closet door. At first, she didn’t see anything. She moved her hanging clothes aside and almost burst into tears.

Sophie was huddled on the floor of the closet.

Morgan squatted down to her level. “It’s OK, sweetie. You can come out.”

She held out her arms, and Sophie leaped into them, sobbing. The child’s pajamas were wet, and she smelled like urine. Morgan stood, lifting her baby in her arms. She grabbed her cell phone from the nightstand and called Lance as she walked back out into the hallway.

He answered, sounding wide-awake and anxious. “What’s wrong?”

“We had an intruder in the house.”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

She ended the call, shoving the phone into the pocket of her pajamas.

Gianna was coming out of the girls’ bedroom. She held a finger to her lips. “Unbelievably, they are both still asleep,” she whispered. “I called 911 and Stella.”

“Thank you.” Morgan walked toward her. “Sophie needs dry pajamas.”

Gianna slipped back into the bedroom, emerging a minute later with a clean nightgown and panties. She handed them to Morgan, then headed for the kitchen. “I’ll put on some coffee.”

It was going to be a long night.

Morgan set the shivering little girl down, stripping the wet clothes off her body. She set them aside in case the police wanted them as evidence.

“I’m sorry, Mommy.” Sophie’s voice was thin and small and helpless. “I was going to the baffroom, and I saw him. He grabbed me. I was sca-wed.”

“Of course you were, honey.” Morgan’s heart cracked, visions of her baby confronting an intruder breaking her in pieces. Sophie shivered, and Morgan wanted to rip the intruder to shreds.

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