Her Last Goodbye Page 46

“Wait here.” He went to the front door and looked through the narrow side window.

Stella’s boyfriend, Mac Barrett, held a bag of groceries. Lance opened the door.

“Sorry. Just got in a couple of hours ago.” Mac walked in. “I brought child-friendly food.”

“Thank you,” Lance said, grateful.

“You’re welcome.” Mac handed Lance the bag and took off his leather jacket. “Been there, done that with my nephew and niece.”

“Mac!” Ava and Mia raced to hug him. Even Sophie seemed pleased to see him.

Gianna took the grocery bag. “Oh, good. Pancake mix.” She went back to the kitchen.

The hungry girls trailed after her like baby vultures.

Mac hung back in the living room and spoke in a low voice. “Have you talked to Morgan this morning?”

“No. I was going to call her, but I’ve been busy.” Lance nodded toward the crowded kitchen.

“I’ll bet. I stopped at the hospital earlier. Art is out of surgery. He had a few complications because of his age, so they put him in ICU.” Mac pushed his shaggy hair out of his face. “He hadn’t regained consciousness yet when I talked to Stella last. It’s been a long night for Stella and Morgan.”

Lance’s phone vibrated and he checked the display. “That’s Morgan now.”

He turned away to answer the call. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself. How are the girls?”

“They’re fine. Gianna is making them pancakes.”

Morgan updated him on her grandfather’s condition. “Stella is still trying to get a hold of Ian. She’ll stay at the hospital for now.”

“What are you doing?” Lance asked.

“I want to find the man who broke in to my house.” Morgan sounded determined. “This wasn’t a random event. Whoever bypassed our security system knew what he was doing.”

“Harold Burns?” Lance asked.

“Maybe. The intruder said he wanted me. He wasn’t looking for cash or drugs.”

“Just tell me how I can help.”

“Mac is going to take the girls to his brother’s house after breakfast. They’ve been there before.”

“What do you want me to do?” Lance asked.

“Help me. I’m going to grab a shower, stop in to see the girls at the Barretts’ house, and then head to the office. This break-in was related to Chelsea’s case, I just feel it. None of us are safe until we solve it.”

Chapter Thirty-Two

He paced the yard between the storage container and the shed. The morning chill hung in the damp air, but rage warmed his blood to boiling.

Chelsea. Chelsea. Chelsea.

Grabbing his head between his hands, he pressed on his skull, but his brain continued to whisper her name.

What had he done?

He’d gone to the hospital, intent on seeing Chelsea, to figure out how he was going to get her back. Instead, he’d found a sheriff’s deputy at her door. The image of the lady lawyer at the press conference had popped into his head, and all of his rage had landed on her with the force of a speeding truck. As the family’s lawyer, she would be able to get to Chelsea. If he could force her to help him.

Women were weak, he’d reasoned. It was too easy to use their children as leverage against them. That had been his plan. The lawyer lived with three small children, a sickly girl, and an elderly man. How hard could it be?

But he’d failed. He hadn’t expected the old man to be armed. He hadn’t expected the kid to fight back.

He hadn’t planned the break-in beyond circumventing the alarm system. He’d rushed. He hadn’t done any surveillance. Foolishness had nearly ruined his entire plan.

Anger reared its head like a serpent in his chest. The lawyer and her brat could use lessons in being submissive females. If he ever got his hands on them . . . but they were not his problem. Chelsea was.

And he was never going to come up with a new plan until he regained control. Rage tunneled his vision and blocked his common sense.

He turned to the shed and rammed a fist into the side. His skin split on impact, blood bursting from his knuckles. But the pain that throbbed through his hand wasn’t enough to drown out the whispers.

He had to get her back, but how?

By not being stupid!

Chelseeeeeeea.

Stop it!

He ran into the shed, his gaze bouncing from the workbench to the corkboard of tools. He grabbed a hammer and slammed the flat end into his calf, right where he’d branded himself. Agony, blessed and beautiful, erupted from the burn, leaving no room for emotions. Pain cleansed his focus, swept aside his fury, and clarified his thoughts.

His knees buckled. He braced a hand on the wall to steady himself. The weakness was a relief. In a few moments, he’d recover. He’d drink. He’d eat. He’d redress his wound.

Once his body was restored to order, his mind would follow.

He turned toward the cabin, a plan already spinning in his mind. He would get Chelsea back if it was the last thing he ever did.

If it was the last thing either one of them ever did.

Chapter Thirty-Three

“The girls seemed happy with Mac’s brother.” Standing in the doorway of Lance’s office, Morgan lifted a gigantic cup of coffee to her lips and drank. It was her third, but there just wasn’t enough caffeine to jump-start her brain today. They’d dropped off Grandpa’s car and Morgan’s minivan at her house and picked up Lance’s Jeep.

“They were excited to go to the house with the creek and the big, sloppy dog,” Lance clarified.

“It’s a relief to know they’re safe.”

Mac’s brother was a former army officer.

“You look exhausted,” Lance said.

She gave him a wry smile. “You don’t look so chipper yourself.”

“I slept more than you did.” Lance stood. “And Sophie might actually like me now.”

Sometimes the little lifts in life helped get you over the big hurdles.

“Here.” Sharp walked down the hall. He handed her a protein shake and gave one to Lance.

“Thank you.” Morgan sipped the shake.

“If neither of you will sleep, this is the best I can do.” He frowned at her coffee cup. “How many of those have you had?”

“I’ll plead the fifth on that question.” Morgan tossed the empty cup in the trashcan. She was more than tired. Worry for her kids and her grandfather was eating a hole through her.

“We need a strategy meeting,” Sharp said.

“Definitely.” Morgan retreated to her office. Lance and Sharp followed her inside.

She settled in her chair, leaned on the desk, and stared at the case whiteboard. “I ran into Tim at the hospital this morning. Chelsea is being released later today. The sheriff has agreed to post a car at her house.”

“For now,” Sharp said.

“Tim has no faith in the sheriff,” Morgan said. “He wants us to keep working the case. The reporter’s suggestion of a possible serial killer in the area spooked him. Plus, he says Chelsea will never have peace until the bastard who kidnapped her is caught.”

“We should interview Chelsea,” Lance said.

“Yes,” Morgan agreed. “Tim is going to call me as soon as they get home. He thought she might remember more details if she was in a familiar setting.”

Sharp faced the whiteboard, crossed his arms over his chest, and stared at it. “First question, was the break-in at Morgan’s house related to Chelsea Clark’s case?”

“Chelsea escaped. Her captor was pissed. Then Morgan appeared on that press conference representing the family,” Lance said. “The correlation is logical. Was it Burns?”

“Burns stalked Morgan,” Sharp added. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean he kidnapped Chelsea.”

“Right,” Morgan said. “Burns followed me after Lance and I confronted him at the auto shop.”

Everything about this case felt so convoluted.

A strand of hair landed on her nose. She brushed it back and smoothed her ponytail. She lowered her arm, and her holster dug in to her hip. She was carrying her handgun until she knew the intruder had been apprehended.

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