Authors: Emily March
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To Christina Dodd
For helping me so much on this ongoing
TEN YEARS AGO
Daniel Garrett's eyes flew open to darkness and an unholy sensation of dread slithering in the pit of his stomach. He'd like to think it was due to the greasy plate of ribs he'd eaten with his dad last night at the Patriots game, but he knew better.
Something was off. His universe just wasn't right. The feeling had plagued him for the better part of a week.
So what was it? What had yanked him out of a sound sleep atâhe glanced at the bedside clockâ4:57 in the morning, a full hour before the alarm was due to go off?
He took stock of his surroundings. Beside him, his wife lay sleeping peacefully, smelling of the rose-scented lotion she'd lathered on after her shower, the blocks of ice that doubled as her feet burrowed beneath his legs. Lifting his head from his pillow, he turned his ear toward the doorway and listened intently for any sound coming from the bedroom down the hall.
No. Nothing from Justin. Nothing from the puppy who slept in his son's room. No creaks from the staircase or chime from the clock downstairs in the living room. No howl of wind or ping of sleet outside. The winter storm that had chewed its way across the Eastern seaboard last night as they went to bed had moved on as evidenced by the stars visible through the sliver of space between the white eyelet window curtains of the master bedroom.
No, nothing external had disturbed his sleep. The trouble was in his mindÂ â¦ his intuitionÂ â¦ his gut.
He'd seen something. Sensed something. But what?
He lifted his arms, laced his fingers behind his head, and stared up toward the ceiling. Maybe it was work. Maybe he was about to be laid off. Rumors of budget cuts abounded, and he was the youngest detective with the fewest years on the force. Last in, first out would get him. Or at least get him bumped back to patrol.
He hadn't helped himself by failing to hide his disdain for department politics, either. Daniel didn't play games. He didn't like people who did. As a result, he didn't get along with his boss or his boss's boss. They put up with him because he was good at his job, which made them look better at theirs.
But if heads had to rollÂ â¦
Wonder where his old uniforms were stored? Guest room closet, maybe? He hoped his wife hadn't gotten rid of them. He tried to recall the last time Gail had gone into one of her closet-cleaning frenzies. If she'd done it since his promotion, the everyday uniforms were likely history.
I don't want to go back to patrol.
He loved the job. Maybe he could get on as a detective somewhere else. They didn't have to live near Boston. Gail's family was spread all over creation. His parents would miss their regular Wednesday-night dinner with their only grandson, but they'd come to visit. They could fly freeâone of the advantages of his mom having worked for an airline all these years. And his brothersÂ â¦ wellÂ â¦ it might be good to put some distance between himself and those know-it-alls. Maybe he should put out some job feelers just in case.
Maybe the job wasn't the problem. Maybe this bad juju he was feeling had something to do with one of his family members. His dad had mentioned his angina last night. Daniel hadn't liked hearing that.
I'll call him later and make sure Mom knows he's having chest pain. She'll make sure he sees the doctor like he promised me.
Restless, Daniel rolled onto his side and pulled Gail over to spoon against him. She mumbled something about Soupy Lou and vegetables and managed to distract him from his dark thoughts. Daniel grinned into the darkness. He figured she was reliving last summer's garden disaster.
Gail had gone totally ballistic after their puppy had made the serious mistake of plucking green fruit off her plants and gnawing them just enough to ruin them. In her angry outburst upon discovering the crime, she'd threatened to give the dog away, which sent their four-year-old son into a panic.
Daniel had known it to be an idle threat because Gail loved the six-month-old boxer as much as Justin did. Nevertheless, it had taken him half an hour and the promise to build a fence for their backyard garden to calm down both mother and son.
So the following day when Soupy made a chew toy out of his favorite pair of sneakers, he'd chosen his own idle threats more carefully.
Remembering how Gail's eyes had sparkled as she and Justin stood united in defense of Soupy had Daniel giving the clock a second glance. He'd burned almost forty minutes with all his worrying. Still left twenty minutes before the alarm. A good husband woke his wife from her nightmares, didn't he?
He shifted his arm and slipped his hand beneath the clingy knit of her pajama top. Cupping her breast, he trailed his thumb back and forth across her nipple until she stirred and sighed his name. He nipped the soft, sensitive skin of her neck, and when she shivered in response, murmured, “I love you, Gail Garrett.”
“Love you, too,” she sleepily replied.
Daniel made love to his wife, and the heat they created together chased the cold from his soul.
Sex as a distraction worked only until the worries came rolling back as he stood beneath a pelting hot shower at quarter after seven. Dammit, maybe he should come right out and ask Captain Hill about the downsizing rumor. Not that his boss would give him a straight answer, but his body language would betray him. In the first few seconds after posing a question to the man, Daniel could read him like a book.
However, if layoffs weren't on the horizon, Daniel didn't want to give his captain any ideas.
Another solution might be to fess up to his partner that he had the heebie-jeebies. James Reichs had twenty-seven years under his belt; he would respect hunches. Wouldn't he?
Maybe. Maybe not.
He might tell me I'm an inexperienced idiot.
“Well, kiddo,” Daniel could picture Reichs saying as he rubbed his jaw in his habitual gesture. “I don't know. There's a fortune teller over by the waterfront. Maybe we should go ask her. She could read her tarot cards and tell you what you're gonna be when you grow up.”
On second thought, maybe he wouldn't say anything to Reichs.
Not that Daniel didn't give card and tea-leaf readers their due. He had some Gypsy blood in him from his father's side. His mother was full-blooded Irish. His heritage made him predisposed to accepting the reality of premonitions.
That's why he added an accessory to his workday ensemble when he dressed. He pulled on his Kevlar vest before he slipped into his sport coat and did his best not to feel foolish about it.
Exiting his bedroom, he glanced down the hallway toward Justin's room. The closed door and faint sound of local news turned low on the television downstairs meant that Justin was still asleep. Soundlessly, he pushed open his son's bedroom door. Soupy Lou immediately jumped down from the bedâwhere she knew she didn't belongâand into the dog bed at the foot of the boy's twin-sized bed. Daniel scolded the dog with a look, then turned his attention to his son.
An active sleeper, Justin invariably kicked off his covers so they dressed him in blanket sleepers on winter nights. He had a variety of cartoon-character versions, and the blue and gold of Daniel's collegiate team. Last night he'd chosen a green and orange Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles selection to wear, and now he lay with his knees scrunched up under him and his butt in the air.
A tsunami of love rolled through Daniel as he gazed at the softly snoring boy. Justin was a fabulous kid. Good-natured, except when he was hungry and then he turned into Godzilla-boy ravaging the pantry. The kid was curious about everything. He'd started talking a little late, but once the floodgates had opened, the questions never stopped. All boyâthe rhyme about snakes and snails and puppy dog tails fit him to a tee. Give him the Nature Channel and a show about spiders, and he was one little happy man.
A happy little
man. The boy was entirely too daring for Daniel's peace of mind. Last Saturday was the perfect example. While visiting his grandfather's barbershop, Justin had taken advantage of the adults' momentary distraction when Pitt scored a last second touchdown to clinch a come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech. He'd fastened a barber cape around his neck, climbed onto the back of a barber chair, and jumped off Ã la Batman. His hand knocked scissors off a shelf on his way down, and the point missed hitting his eye by a hair.
“You will be the death of your mother and me, son,” Daniel whispered now as he tucked the covers back over the boy.
He leaned down, pressed a light kiss against Justin's cheek, then trailed his knuckle across the dusting of freckles on his nose. Angel kisses, Gail called them.
We'd better hope your guardian angel covers your face in them.
Daniel took a couple steps toward the door and his right shoe wobbled as he stepped on something. Glancing down, he spied Justin's Batman action figure. His favorite. Now, sporting a broken arm.
Kid needs to learn to keep his toys picked up.
Thinking to teach the boy a lesson, he scooped the small plastic doll up with its arm and stuck them in his pocket.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Gail had breakfast ready and waiting. He savored his first sip of coffee, but despite the early-morning exercise, his normally healthy appetite had disappeared. He had to force himself to eat the bacon and eggs.
“What's the matter, Daniel?” his wife asked when he declined a third strip of bacon. “I can tell something's been bothering you.”
He took another sip of coffee to buy time to frame his response. Gail knew him better than he knew himself. High school sweethearts, they'd married young and had Justin before they'd intended to start a familyâa blessing, they'd discovered recently when Gail developed fertility issues. She'd always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and though money was tight, they'd made it work. The promotion to detective had darn sure come in handy. “I don't like that sound the heater's been making. Really hope we can make it through the winter without having to buy a new unit.”