Her Last Goodbye Page 43

And maybe set the shredded bits on fire.

Drawing in a calming breath, she tugged the flannel nightgown over Sophie’s head. “You were very brave. Grandpa chased him away.”

Her children were all right. If she focused on that fact, she’d get through this.

Once dressed, Sophie wrapped all four limbs around Morgan and clung hard. Her three-year-old was surprisingly strong—inside and out.

“It’s all right now,” Morgan soothed, staggering to her feet with the additional weight.

“Morgan!” Gianna’s shout came from the front door.

Heart clutching, Morgan carried Sophie out onto the stoop. Three concrete steps led to the front walkway. Grandpa was sprawled at the bottom.

“Stay calm,” he said in a breathless whisper. “I’m still alive.” But his words were strained, his face was drawn, and one leg was bent at an impossible angle.

Chapter Thirty

“Don’t move, Grandpa.” Morgan used her cell to call for an ambulance. Then she brushed her daughter’s hair from her face. “Sophie, I need you to go inside with Gianna.”

Sophie hugged her harder. For a second, Morgan thought she’d have to peel the frightened child from her body, but Sophie seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. She released Morgan and allowed Gianna to take her from her mother. Gianna carried the child back in the house.

Morgan ran inside and grabbed a blanket from the back of the living room sofa. Back outside, she dropped to her knees beside her grandfather, tucked the blanket around his trembling body, and took his hand.

“Twenty years ago, I would have chased that son of a bitch. Ten years ago, I would have shot him,” Grandpa wheezed, pain creasing his face. “But my hands are so shaky now, I was afraid I’d miss and hit you by accident.”

Morgan held beck her tears. “You still saved us all tonight.”

As always.

“I wish I wasn’t so damned old.” Grandpa’s breaths shortened. “I can’t believe I fell down a couple of steps.”

The next ten minutes seemed to take ten hours to pass, but the ambulance and paramedic vehicle finally arrived, just a minute apart. Morgan stood aside to give the medics room to work.

Lance’s Jeep sped down the street and parked at the curb. A few seconds later, he jogged across the grass to stand next to her. He took off his leather jacket and wrapped it around her.

Morgan hadn’t realized she was freezing until the warmth of it enveloped her. It smelled like him, a cedar scent that now comforted her. Her knees, her whole body, felt weak. She leaned into him, grateful for his presence and support.

His arm wrapped around her shoulders, and he pulled her close. “What happened?”

“Grandpa fell chasing the intruder.” She watched the paramedic start an IV and assess her grandfather’s injuries while she briefly recapped the details of the break-in for Lance.

A minute later, Stella drove up to the house and parked behind Lance’s vehicle. She ran up to one of the paramedics and peered over his shoulder. “I’m here, Grandpa.”

Stella turned and joined Morgan and Lance on the lawn. She hugged Morgan. “How did he get inside?”

“I don’t know,” Morgan said. “I’m absolutely positive I set the alarm as soon as I got home and again after I took the dog out.”

Stella rubbed her arm. “Brody is on his way. He’ll review the surveillance feed. He’ll find out what happened.”

The paramedics loaded Grandpa onto a gurney. His face was as white as the pillow under his head, and worry roiled in Morgan’s belly.

“I need to go to the hospital, but I don’t want to leave Gianna and the girls here, not after the break-in.” Morgan brushed her hair out of her face. Would she ever feel safe in her own home again? She didn’t know who had broken into her house or why.

“Mac is on his way home,” Stella said. “But he won’t be here for a few more hours.”

Morgan turned to Lance.

“What can I do?” he asked.

“Can you take the girls and Gianna to your place?” She had complete faith that he’d protect them.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I hate to leave you alone right now.”

Morgan hated to give up his support too, but . . . “My kids come first. They were in danger tonight. I can’t function if they aren’t safe. Gianna will help you get their stuff together.” She looked into his eyes. “Please, I need to know they’re safe.” Her gaze drifted to the ambulance pulling out of the driveway.

“Or course I’ll take care of them. I’ll do anything you need.” Lance rubbed her arms.

“Thank you. I have to go inside and get my purse. I’ll get you the keys to my minivan.” She started toward the house, still feeling dazed. “I can take Grandpa’s car to the hospital.”

“No need. I have my Jeep,” Lance said.

“I doubt two car seats and a booster will fit in it.” Morgan moved toward the house.

“I’m going to follow the ambulance. Are you all right to drive yourself to the hospital?” Stella asked.

“Yes. I’ll be a few minutes getting the girls ready.” Morgan had thought juggling three young children and an aging grandfather was difficult before. Handling an intruder and a probable broken leg for her grandfather seemed overwhelming.

“You’d better get dressed too.” Stella took her keys from her pocket.

Morgan looked down at her bare feet, which would be freezing if she weren’t numb with shock. She’d forgotten she was in her pajamas. “Right.”

The ambulance pulled away, lights flashing red in the darkness. Stella followed in her car.

Morgan went inside and got dressed, then helped Gianna pack a change of clothes for each of the girls. Lance carried Mia and Ava to the van with a brief explanation about Grandpa being hurt. Gianna grabbed some dog food, snapped Snoozer’s leash to his collar, and carried him to the minivan.

“Mommy, don’t weave me.” Sophie clutched Morgan’s thigh.

Morgan crouched. “I have to go with Grandpa to make sure he’s OK. Lance will keep you safe.”

Sophie’s gaze drifted toward the open doorway to Grandpa’s bedroom. How much did she understand? Between being attacked and seeing her beloved Grandpa lying on the concrete in obvious pain, poor Sophie was traumatized. “Pwomise?”

“Promise.” Morgan hugged her daughter. She wished she could be two people right now. How could she possibly take care of three children and her grandfather? The answer was, she couldn’t, at least not alone. She needed help.

She needed someone to lean on, to trust, to share the burden, and she knew without a doubt that Lance was that person. Together, he and Gianna were perfectly capable of caring for the girls. But it still broke her heart to put Sophie in her car seat, shut the minivan door, and watch it drive away.

Brody and two patrol cars arrived at the house just before Morgan left. She gave Brody an abbreviated statement and left him to his investigation. When she was finally ready to go to the hospital, her hands trembled on the steering wheel of Grandpa’s Lincoln Town Car. She blasted the heat for the entire drive but was still shaking when she parked her car in the emergency lot. Stella was waiting outside a cubicle in the ER hallway.

“How is he?” Morgan unzipped her coat.

“His vitals are strong,” Stella began. “But his leg is badly broken. He’s going to need surgery to repair it. Do you have a list of his medications?”

“I do.” Morgan opened her tote bag and unzipped the side pouch. She withdrew a notecard. She kept several printed copies in her bag and a backup note in her phone. Grandpa usually carried a copy in his wallet, which he hadn’t had on him in the middle of the night. Stella walked the card to the nurses’ station and handed it to the doctor.

“Is he going to be OK?” Morgan asked when her sister returned.

“The surgery will be hard on him at his age, but he’s tough.” Stella chewed on a nail. “And we really don’t have any options.”

A nurse emerged through the sliding glass door. “We’re going to take him upstairs in a few minutes. Do you want to see him first?”

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