Her Last Goodbye Page 54

“So would I,” she said. “Which is why we did what we did tonight.”

“Plus, I’ll bet forensics will find evidence that the first victim and Chelsea were both held in that trailer. Chelsea will be able to go on with her life knowing that the men who kidnapped her are behind bars. Your family can rest easy too.”

“I know.” But uneasiness stirred in Morgan’s belly. It didn’t feel over.

“Do you think they’ll get a plea deal?” Lance asked.

“I doubt it. After what happened last month, the DA needs to save some face, and he’s up for reelection next month. He’s going to promise to bring the hammer down. A high-publicity case against a previously convicted sex offender and his brother is media fodder. Plus, New York no longer has a death penalty. What can the DA offer the Burns brothers in exchange for a guilty plea? This is a particularly heinous crime. The Burns brothers kidnapped and held a woman captive for eight months, impregnated her, and then beat her to death. The beating also killed her unborn baby. They are going to prison, probably for life.”

“So what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. Something doesn’t feel right.”

“We’ll know more after we talk to the sheriff tomorrow. The forensics team will be in that trailer all night. Let’s see what they find and then reassess the case.” Lance drove toward town. “We’re both too tired to think straight. We need food and sleep. We’ve been running on adrenaline all night. The most useful thing we can do is get some rest and look at the facts with fresh eyes in the morning.”

“You’re right.” She was wired. Her blood was still humming even though her eyelids were as gritty as sandpaper.

There was something lurking in her exhausted brain, a connection she was too tired to make.

Were adrenaline and stress stimulating her paranoia? Or was her subconscious issuing her a warning?

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Morgan paced Lance’s guest room, her cell phone pressed to her ear as she talked to her sister. Her nerves were still frayed by what happened with the Burns brothers that night—and by the sight of Karen Mitchell chained up in that trailer. But rescuing Karen was worth every drop of clammy sweat and rush of adrenaline-induced nausea.

If only Grandpa would wake up.

“So there’s no change?” she asked Peyton.

“No.” Behind Peyton’s low voice, a monitor beeped in a steady rhythm. “He’s stable. Please try to get some sleep.”

“When do you think he’ll wake up?”

“I’m a doctor, not a psychic, Jim,” Peyton said in her best Dr. McCoy voice.

Morgan appreciated her sister’s attempt to lighten her mood, but she didn’t have the energy to laugh. “You’ll call me if anything happens?”

“I promise.” Peyton’s tone grew sincere again. “I will watch over him all night. I’ve got this covered. Go. To. Sleep.”

“OK.”

“And Morgan?”

“Yes?”

“Grandpa is tough,” Peyton said. “Don’t give up on him yet. He’s not going down without a fight.”

“Thanks, Peyton. Good night.” Morgan ended the call, crossed the hall to the bathroom, and turned on the shower. She undressed as the water warmed. The instant Morgan stepped into the heat, her tightly reined emotions burst. She leaned against the tile and let herself cry. She was too damned tired to hold back any longer.

Her sister meant well, and as a doctor, Peyton was a far better judge of Grandpa’s medical condition, but Morgan was afraid to let herself hope. She’d just crawled out of a seemingly bottomless pool of grief and now felt the need to brace herself. To prepare. To gather her energy against the possibility of another devastating loss.

Hope raised the platform from which she’d fall if the worst happened.

She had children to care for.

When her husband had died, they’d been too young to understand, and John had been deployed more than he’d been home. Their world hadn’t been disrupted. But this time, they were old enough to grieve for the great grandfather who’d willingly stepped up to fill the role of a father.

Just as he had for Morgan and her siblings.

Grandpa had been her rock. Without him, she’d never have gotten through the deaths of her parents and then John. She couldn’t imagine losing him.

Who did you turn to when your source of comfort was gone?

But someday that would happen, even if it wasn’t today. No one lived forever. And when that day came, her girls would need Morgan to be strong. She would have to be their rock. She couldn’t allow herself to sink again.

She turned the water to cold and stuck her head under the spray, letting the shock of freezing water jolt her out of her heartache. Shivering, she shut off the water and dried herself.

Morgan emerged from the bathroom, her damp hair hanging down her back and soaking the borrowed T-shirt. Her eyes were raw, and her face felt tender from crying. No matter how much resolve she mustered, the despair inside her refused to back down.

She’d never felt so alone.

In the bedroom, she stepped into the sweat pants Lance had given her, tying the drawstring tight to keep them from falling down. Returning to the hall, she glanced into his room. The decor reflected him: all masculine, nothing fussy.

His furniture was modern and clean-lined. A dark-wood dresser and leather headboard. The king-size bed was covered in a solid navy-blue comforter. A single nightstand held a clock, a lamp, and a book. The entire room smelled faintly of his cedar-scented body wash. She sniffed her skin. So did she.

She’d slept in his guest room once before. But that’s not where she wanted—or needed—to be tonight.

The sounds of soft piano chords floated down the hall. The poignant lyrics of “Tears in Heaven” pulled her into the living room. Lance sat at the piano. He wore gray sweatpants and a snug black T-shirt. His short hair was still damp from his shower. A tumbler of whiskey occupied a coaster on top of the gleaming mahogany.

She knew he used music to express emotions he couldn’t verbalize. Sadness poured out of him. Was he thinking about the suffering of the woman they’d rescued? Her grandfather, his own long-missing father, or the damage his disappearance had done to his family?

If anyone understood her grief, it was Lance.

She crossed the room and sat next to him on the bench.

He paused, hands over the keys. His eyes grew worried as he scanned her face. “Are you OK?”

“Please, don’t stop.” She leaned her head against his shoulder.

He continued. His voice was soft and gentle, doing justice to the pure and simple anguish in the song.

When he’d finished, he turned his head to plant a soft kiss on her head. “Did you call Peyton?”

She nodded. “She says he’s the same, and she’ll call if that changes. Did you talk to Sharp?”

“I did. He’s still at my mom’s house. He’s too tired to drive home and is staying there tonight.”

Lance craned his neck to view her face. “It’s been a long few days. You should get some sleep. Are you sure I can’t feed you? Scrambled eggs or toast maybe?”

“I’m not hungry.” And she wasn’t ready to settle either. Restlessness pawed at her. “Do you believe in heaven?” Morgan had lost her father, her mother, and her husband. With her grandfather’s life in jeopardy, she wanted to think they were somewhere, waiting for him.

That he wouldn’t be alone.

He picked up his whiskey and drank. “I don’t know. I hope so. I hate to think this is it.”

And on that note, she reached for his glass.

He held the glass tight. “Remember what happened last time?”

“I’m not going to get drunk.” She had no tolerance for alcohol, something she’d demonstrated to him in the past. “I could get a call at any time. But I need the warmth.”

“I could make you a cup of tea,” he said as he released the glass.

“This is fine.” She took a small sip and handed it back to him. The whiskey burned a path down her raw throat. “Do you think your father is alive?”

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