Read Her Stolen Past Online

Authors: Lynette Eason

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BOOK: Her Stolen Past
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Brandon tried again. “Get out while the getting’s good.” He pressed the phone back to his ear and whispered his address.

“Yes, sir. I got it. What’s the emergency?”

He didn’t answer, just listened.

Still the intruder said nothing and made almost no sound. Brandon waited, nerves bunched, muscles quivering with his tension. A low voice finally came to him. “Stop looking for Heather Bradley.”

And then the quiet snick of the door shutting.

Brandon stayed still, ignoring the adrenaline rush racing at fever pitch through his veins. Was it a trick to get him to show himself? He moved and peered around the kitchen cabinet, into the den area. No movement, but it was so dark, someone could be hunched down and he’d never see him.

Brandon flattened himself on his belly and kept his weapon in front of him. Army crawling, he moved toward the den, eyes probing the darkness.

He could see nothing. He heard nothing. He turned the volume down on the 911 operator frantically trying to get him to answer.

The sirens in the distance caught his attention and he figured they were headed for him. If the intruder was still in his house, he was going to be trapped.

No one spoke. No more shots came his way.

Brandon’s adrenaline ebbed as he finally decided he was alone. He stood, still cautious, watchful. He flicked on the small light above his sink, not wanting to turn on the bright kitchen light after being in the darkness for so long. He needed to let his eyes adjust slowly.

Still keeping himself protected from anything that might come from the den area, he waited to make sure.

Then slowly, methodically, he swept each and every room, weapon ready.

The place was empty.

Only now he knew someone didn’t want him looking for Heather Bradley. The question was: Why?

That someone had just made a very bad mistake because now Brandon was more determined than ever to get answers to all of his questions. All of them.

THREE

S
omehow Sonya made it through her twelve-hour shift without collapsing. She didn’t like working on Sundays, but it was part of the job. She was fortunate she had to take only one Sunday a month.

Now she had one more thing to do before she went home to collapse.

She knocked on the door to room 412.

“Come in.”

Sonya stepped into the room and saw the woman in the bed. “Hi, Dineen, my name’s Sonya Daniels. I was in the park when you were shot.”

“You’re the one who saved me,” she whispered and held up a hand.

Sonya took it and squeezed. “I’m glad you’re going to be all right.”

“I am, too.” She coughed and winced. Sonya handed her the cup of water by her bed. After Dineen took a small sip, she set it aside.

“Is someone staying with you?”

“My husband. He went downstairs to get something to eat. He’ll be back soon.”

“Good.”

“Did they catch him?”

“No, not yet.”

She nodded. “I figured I would have heard something if they had. It’s still all over the news.”

“They’ll catch him.”

Her lids drooped. “I’m sorry. I can’t seem to stay awake very long.”

“It’s the pain medicine. I just wanted to check on you. Go to sleep and heal.”

“Thank you.”

Sonya smiled and left. Exhaustion swept over her. All she wanted was to go home and crawl into bed. Even the thought of her empty refrigerator couldn’t tempt her into stopping at the grocery store. She would make do with peanut butter and crackers and a bottle of water. Sleep was all she craved.

“Hey, Sonya,” Missy called.

Sonya turned. “Yes?”

“Are you going home? Do you need to stay another night at my house?”

“I think I’m all right.” She’d managed to dodge the reporters this morning. Security had kept them from her while at work. She wondered if they’d be waiting for her at her car. The thought made her grimace.

“Well, you’re welcome to stay if you need to. Just let me know.”

“Thanks.” Sonya gave her a small smile. It was all she could muster. However, she decided Missy was the real deal and hoped they could build their friendship. She missed having a close friend.

“I’ll see she gets home all right.”

Sonya turned at the deep voice and found Brandon standing in the small foyer. He looked as tired as she felt. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”

Sonya felt the heat in her neck start to rise and cleared her throat. “I’m sorry. How are you?”

“I’m just teasing. I thought I’d stop by and see if you could use a bite to eat?”

Sonya was amazed to feel energy start to seep back into her tired body. His mere presence jump-started her pulse and made her heart pound. She swallowed hard. “I could eat.”

“Great. I want to talk to you about something.”

“Like what?”

“Don’t mind me. I was just leaving,” Missy said.

Sonya felt her flush deepen and she shot Missy a look that said to stop. Missy grinned, waved and headed out the door.

Sonya rolled her eyes and turned back to Brandon, who smiled, his eyes dark and mysterious. She wished she could read him.

“Come on. I’ll drive and bring you back when we’re done.”

She hesitated. “Do you mind if I just follow you?”

He shrugged. “Sure.”

He walked her the rest of the way to her car. She slid into the driver’s seat and clicked on her seat belt.

Twenty minutes later, she found herself sitting opposite Brandon at one of her favorite cafés about a mile from her mother’s home.

Brandon rubbed his coffee cup between his palms. Sonya took a bite of her chicken panini. With food in her stomach, the strong black coffee racing through her veins and the handsome man across from her, she felt as though she’d just had eight hours of sleep. Her watch said it was pushing eight o’clock. If she was in bed by eleven, she would be good to go for tomorrow’s shift. “What did you want to talk about?”

“Heather Bradley.”

“What about her? Did you find out if—” She bit her lip, unable to voice the question.

“If you’re her?”

“Yes. I can’t even believe I’m asking. It’s just too bizarre.”

“Unfortunately, bizarre stuff happens all the time.” He smiled. “I’ve talked to Mr. Bradley once. He’s open to meeting you. Would you be interested in taking the baby stuff to them?”

Sonya paused midbite. “Me?”

“Well, it was in your mother’s house where you found the stuff. Mr. Bradley said they’d love to have the bag and other items back.”

“But...but...” she sputtered. “Won’t they think my parents had something to do with their daughter’s kidnapping?”

“He asked what I thought about your parents and how they might have come by the items.”

“What did you say?”

“Just that you had come to me with this story and the items and were as confused about them as everyone else.”

Sonya took another bite, chewed and swallowed. The distraction gave her time to think. “I’m okay with returning the stuff, then.”

“Good. He wants to talk to you. Said he had questions for you.”

Sonya shrugged. “I feel sorry he’s lost his daughter, but unfortunately, I won’t have any answers to his questions.”

“I told him that. He wants to see you anyway.”

She paused. “Did you tell him we were pondering whether I might be Heather?”

“No. But I think the thought crossed his mind when I told him about you.”

“I see.” She thought for a few more minutes then nodded. “Well, then. When do we go?”

“As soon as you get off your shift tomorrow night? Or will you be too tired?”

“I’ll be tired, but I still want to go. The sooner we get this resolved, the better I’ll feel. And I’ll ask if I can leave a couple of hours early if that would help.”

“It would. So around 5:00?”

“Okay. I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

“Yo. Brandon, my man, what up?”

Sonya jerked at the voice to her left. She turned to find a tattooed young man with more earrings in his ears than she had in her jewelry box.

Brandon stood and held a hand out to the kid. “Spike. Haven’t seen you in a while. How are you?”

“Hanging, dude. Just hanging.”

“Staying out of trouble?”

“Of course.”

Sonya almost had to laugh at his attempt at an innocent look.

Brandon rolled his eyes, but the smile on his lips was genuine. He turned to her. “Sonya, I’d like you to meet Landon Olsen, aka Spike. Landon, this is Sonya.”

“Pretty lady, dude.” He elbowed Brandon and winked. Sonya could feel the flush inching its way up her neck and into her cheeks. Brandon gave a gentle slap to Spike’s head. The boy laughed and said, “Sorry. I’m kidding you.” He made a formal bow in Sonya’s direction. “Pleasure to meet you, ma’am.”

“Well, thank you, Spike. It’s nice to meet you, too.” She shot a glance back and forth between the two. “So how do you guys know each other?”

Spike stuck out his well-muscled chest. “I’m one of his more successful projects.”

Sonya lifted a brow at Brandon and he groaned. “He’s a pain in my side most of the time.”

Spike grinned. “Dude, you know you’re my hero.” He looked at Sonya. “I’m gonna be a detective like him one day.”

“That’s a wonderful goal, Spike,” she said. “I have a feeling you’ll be one of the best and brightest.”

Spike’s eyes lit up and she could see he took her compliment seriously. Just the way she meant it. He turned to Brandon. “I like her, man. Don’t mess it up.” Before Brandon could say anything, Spike announced, “Hey, I gotta go, dude. See you Saturday?”

“I’ll be there.”

“I’m going to beat you so bad, you’re going to need a doctor to put you back together.”

“Don’t count on it. Your head’s getting so big, it’s going to weigh you down.”

Spike barked his laughter, gave a two-fingered salute and slipped out the door.

Sonya sat back. “What in the world? Beat you?”

Brandon blew out a sigh. “I help out at Parker House. It’s a place that takes in young men who’ve had some brushes with the law and rehabilitates them. Or at least tries to. It’s part that and part recreation center. When he said he was going to beat me, he meant he was going to win our game of three-on-three this weekend.”

“Basketball?”

“Yes.”

“Sounds like fun.”

He studied her. “You like basketball?”

“Love it.”

“You want to come watch?”

She did. “What time?”

“Nine o’clock.”

She groaned. “As in a.m.? On a Saturday morning?”

He laughed. “Not a morning person?”

“Not in the least. I mean, I have to be for work, of course, but on my days off...”

“You almost smiled.”

She frowned. “What?”

“You don’t smile much.”

“I haven’t had much to smile about lately.” She tried to force her lips into one and he shook his head.

“I’m not talking about a fake smile. I’m talking about a real one.” Before she had a chance to respond or even try to find a “real” smile, he said, “But you’ll come?” His voice softened and he leaned forward. She caught a look in his eyes that made her gulp.

“Sure. I’ll come.”

He nodded and looked away. She wondered what he was thinking, but couldn’t tell. Did he regret asking her? He cleared his throat. “Anyway, tomorrow after your shift, we’ll go see Heather’s parents.”

So it was back to business. “Yes. That’s fine.”

* * *

Brandon studied Sonya and wondered what had come over him that he would invite her into a place that he kept as his. His home was his haven. Parker House was his escape, his passion. And he’d just invited Sonya to come. He must be more tired than he thought. “I wanted to talk to you about something else. Someone broke into my house last night.”

She gaped at him. “Broke into your house?”

He nodded and told her what had happened.

“But why?” she asked.

“To tell me to stop looking for Heather Bradley.”

She paled and sat back. “What?”

He took a sip of his coffee. “I think it’s extremely weird that you were shot at yesterday and then someone breaks in my house the same night. It could be just a crazy coincidence, but I’ve been in this business a long time and I’m just not sure I’m going to buy that theory.”

“I don’t know, Brandon. The shooter wasn’t really going for me personally. He was shooting at others in the park, too.”

“True. I’ve thought about that. And maybe I’m just grasping at straws trying to link the two things.”

“What else did the person say?”

He shook his head. “Nothing. Whoever it was didn’t get to stay long enough. When he realized I had a weapon, he took off. The cops got there and we searched the area, but came up empty.”

He saw her swallow. “I’m so sorry.”

“I am, too.”

“Do you have any enemies?”

“I think a better question is, do we have any enemies in common?”

“But we’ve only known each other a couple of weeks.”

Brandon lifted a brow. Had it been such a short time? It seemed as if he’d known her a lot longer. “Exactly. The only thing we have in common is your case.”

“Heather Bradley.”

“Yes.”

“So someone doesn’t want us looking for her? But who would even know?”

He shrugged. “I honestly don’t know, but it’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with. But most likely you’re right. The two incidents probably aren’t connected.”

“You don’t have an alarm system?”

“I don’t.”

“I’m surprised.”

He gave a low chuckle. “I never really felt the need for it. I don’t have anything worth stealing and I have a gun on my nightstand and know how to use it.” He paused. “After last night I might reconsider, though.”

“So what now?”

“Now we watch our backs.”

“But we keep looking for Heather?”

“Absolutely.”

She nodded, relief in her eyes. “Good. I really want to know who she is—or was.” Her jaw firmed. “And prove it’s not me.”

It hit Brandon that Sonya didn’t have a deceptive bone in her body. The realization allowed him to relax a fraction. She wasn’t after him because of some silly hero status that had been dumped on him. And she wasn’t interested in him romantically.

The sharp pang of regret surprised him. Made him look at her a little closer. And he decided that if she wasn’t a client, he’d be asking her out.

He drew in a deep breath at the silent admission.

“Are you okay? You have a funny look on your face.”

Brandon cleared his expression. “I’m fine. Are you ready to go?”

Her brows knit but she nodded. “Sure.”

Together they walked out of the restaurant and he escorted her to her car, his nerves alert, senses sharp. At her car, she started to slide in the driver’s seat when he noticed a small square of paper about the size of an index card under her windshield wiper. “What’s this?”

He handed it to her and leaned in to read along with her. “‘Stop looking for Heather Bradley. She doesn’t want to be found.’”

BOOK: Her Stolen Past
3.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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