In Dark Woods (Signal Bend Series #4.5)

BOOK: In Dark Woods (Signal Bend Series #4.5)
9.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub












A Signal Bend Byway

(Book 4.5)



Susan Fanetti
















In Dark Woods
© Susan Fanetti 2014

All rights reserved


Susan Fanetti has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this book under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.


















To all who struggle and persevere.


















Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself

In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell

About those woods is hard—so tangled and rough


And savage that thinking of it now, I feel

The old fear stirring: death is hardly more bitter.


, Canto I






Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

Nella braccia della mamma

Fa la ninna bel bambin,

Fa la nanna bambin bel,

Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

Nella braccia della mamma

Rocking in the chair Isaac had made for them, Lilli looked down at Gia in her arms. Her daughter was wide awake and did not seem to be in any rush not to be, but she was still and, except for singing along with the sounds that she knew, she was quiet. And that was something. Like her mother—and, for that matter, her father—‘still’ was not something that Gia did well.

“Mo’. Mo’.”

. I’ll sing more if you close your eyes for me. It’s naptime, little love. Come on, close your eyes.”

Gia squinched her eyes tightly shut, and
Lilli laughed. “Good girl.”

Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

Nella braccia della mamma

Fa la ninna bel bambin,

Fa la nanna bambin bel,

Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

Nella braccia della mamma

It was a song that
Lilli’s sad, doomed mother had sung to her when she was a child. She hadn’t even known she had any memory of it at all, much less had remembered the words—until she’d sat in this rocking chair with her infant daughter in her arms and begun to rock. The words and melody came unbidden to her lips. She remembered every word, every note.

Being a mother had given Lilli her own mother back. She had lost so much of her in the years since her suicide, when her father, feeling furious and betrayed and lost, had made it a mission to remove her whole from their lives. Her father was a great love in her life
, a wonderful father, steady and loving, and she did not fault him for taking her memories of her mother. She understood. He’d come home one night to find his beloved Mena dead in their bathtub, floating in water scummed with her blood, and their ten-year-old daughter hiding behind the toilet. She understood why he could not forgive his wife enough to allow their daughter to remember her.

But the memories that had been left t
o Lilli had been of her mother as broken, hurting and hurtful. Neglectful. Reckless. Lost. And so incredibly sad. A woman buried so deeply in her own nightmares that it had not occurred to her that it would be her young daughter who would find her bloody corpse, and that she would be alone with it for hours.

Mothering her own daughter, though, had released
in Lilli a trove of repressed memories, like this lullaby, of the deep love her mother had had for her. They came slowly and unexpectedly, little jolts of melancholy joy coming sporadically over the fifteen months since Gia had been born. She could remember good days, days spent on her mother’s lap reading Italian fairy tales. Evenings spent curled against her breast as she sang her to sleep. Trips to the zoo or the bookshop or to museums—adventures that hadn’t gone wrong. There had been plenty that had; Lilli was moved nearly to tears every time a memory of one that hadn’t was returned to her.

As Lilli sang, Gia’s squinched-up eyes relaxed, but her lips were
yet moving to the sounds she could make from the song—
fa fa fa ba, fa fa fa ma
—Lilli slowed down the tempo and quieted to a whisper, and Gia’s eyes opened, a frown creasing her brow. Smiling down at her stubborn little love, she sang a bit louder as Gia’s eyes—brilliantly green, so like Isaac’s—drooped to a close. When her little girl was at last asleep, Lilli sang two more rounds for good measure, then eased out of the chair and carried her to her crib.

After checking to make sure the monitors were on, she tiptoed out of the room, stepping carefully over the squeaky boards, and closed the door.

Lilli had needed that respite, a quiet moment to feel nothing but the love she had for her family. Because she had a chill wind dancing up her spine—things were wrong again. When Isaac had called her hours before dawn and told her that the Scorpions were in town, arriving early and unannounced, and asked her to help get all of the actors out, her heart dropped deep into her gut. She wasn’t sure she could withstand another dark time.

She had been a
fierce warrior once, but then Lawrence Ellis had happened. He had not broken her, but she wasn’t sure he had left her intact, either. As much as she despised the thought that that man and his minions could have weakened her, she knew they might well have. She didn’t know if she had strength any longer to face down an enemy like that again. And now she had Gia. She wanted a quiet, safe life for her daughter. She did not want dark times for her.

But she’d told Isaac she was on it, and she’d called Lori Mortensen and asked her to come back over.
Lilli had only sent her home a few hours earlier, and she was dead asleep when Lilli called, but she’d said, “Of course,” and had been over within fifteen minutes. And Lilli had gone out to do what her old man had asked her to do. Then, when the morning sun was bright, she’d come home and mothered her daughter—making breakfast, playing blocks, keeping her from terrorizing Pip, their big, black and white cat, letting her pound on pots and pans while she cleaned the kitchen, and singing her to sleep for her midmorning nap.

She’d been surprised at how naturally she’d kept the normal rhythm of their lives, while her mind sped round and round the Horde, worried about Isaac, worried about what it all meant, angry and impatient with him for not telling her everything, for making her wait. She hated not knowing. More than anything else, more than any danger, any fear, she hated not knowing. Ignorance was the worst kind of weakness.

She paced the house, feeling restless and anxious. She checked the video monitors obsessively, needing to see her daughter’s peacefully sleeping form. She thought she heard something in the distance—a bike engine?—but then it was gone. Stopping on the spot and going completely still, she listened. Nothing. She went check the nearest monitor again. Gia was sucking her fist in her sleep. She never had given up the habit of sucking her whole fist rather than her thumb. Lilli smiled, feeling calmer just watching her little girl.

She went out onto the porch,
moving quietly, still feeling off, like she was missing something, and she looked hard, all around. She didn’t want to go far; she couldn’t go far from the house, from Gia, not without the monitor. It was unlikely there was anything wrong here. The Scorpions were friends, even if things were uneasy with the Horde right now, but she was loath to ignore that ‘off’ feeling entirely. Dissatisfied with the recon she could do from their front door, she went back in, crossed through the living room to the kitchen to get the portable audio monitor. It wasn’t at its charger on the counter.

“Dammit, Isaac. Would it kill you to put the fucker away, just once? Just one time. Just to see if you could.” Muttering invectives at the man she loved, she went on a hunt for the portable
, still keeping her ears sharp. She found it in the bedroom, on the floor next to his nightstand. She turned it on—well, at least it had a charge.

On her way back up the hall, she heard an engine again. This time
it was clear—and there were two, one of them Isaac and the other…yeah, Show. Okay, that was what it was. She relaxed and headed to the door.

But she saw them through the living room window, splitting up, their sidearms drawn, to circle the yard and house. Lilli set the portable on a step of the staircase to the second floor, pushing it under the railing, and went
quickly back to the gun cabinet in their bedroom.

She grabbed a loaded Glock and headed to the door again.

As she got to the front hall, a shotgun report rang out, and Lilli ran to the kitchen instead—the shot had come from the side of the house. As she got to the door, she pressed her back against the wall at its side. Peering through the window, she saw C.J. fire and Isaac fall face-first to the ground. Without any thought in her head at all, on pure instinct, she yanked the door open, raised the Glock, and fired. C.J. went down.

She ran off the porch and to C.J.,
wrenching the Mossberg out from under him and checking his pulse. He was dead. The threat neutralized, she turned to her husband, lying on the ground about ten feet away.

“ISAAC!” Show was tearing across the yard. “ISAAC!
!” He dropped to his knees at Isaac’s side, his hands going immediately to the bloody lake that was Isaac’s back. He was going to turn him over.

“NO! Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him! Look!” Lilli got up and ran over, pushing Show away. “Look at his back. Don’t move him. Don’t. Call 911. It has to be 911. We
can’t move him without equipment.” In battle mode, she could only think of the things she needed to do. She couldn’t think about what was happening at all. She put her hands on his neck, searching for his pulse. She found it.

He moaned, and Lilli put her head down on the ground, face to face with his. “Isaac, Isaac—can you hear me, love?
” He opened his eyes, and she smiled. “Hi. Stay with me. Don’t try to move at all. Just be still and stay with me, okay?”

“ So…sorry.”
There was blood on his lips.

“No. You shut up. I love you, Isaac. You’re okay. You’re okay.”

“Did…he…hurt you? G-Gia?”

“No. I didn’t even know he was here. We’re okay. We’re okay.
” There was a lot of blood, and so fast. She gingerly lifted his kutte to see, but his t-shirt and jeans were sopping, and it was hard to make out the points of entry. She thought she counted at least seven. But C.J. had shot at close fucking range, so it had to be more.

“Yeah…okay…doesn’t…hurt. Just…tired.”

“Well, tough shit. Stay with me.” He grinned a little at that.

“Love…war…rior woman.”

His eyes closed. “Isaac? Isaac—come on, love. Stay with me. Please stay with me. Please stay.” She checked his pulse—there, but weaker. “FUCK!”

Show squatted next to her. “They’re comin’, Lilli. I called Tasha, too. She’s got them moving fast as they can. They’re comin’.”

But would they come fast enough? Was there a fast enough?

She sat back on her heels and looked down at Isaac’s pale, dying face. “Don’t go. Don’t you fucking dare.” There was nothing to do but wait.




Twenty minutes. They heard the ambulance coming from a distance, speeding best it could over the gravel road.
A Sheriff’s Department cruiser was in the lead. In that time, Shannon had arrived. Lilli had looked up to see Show going to his old lady and talking to her. Then Shannon had gone into the house, and Show had come back.

“She’s got Gia, she’s got it covered. You just focus on Isaac.”

She hadn’t been doing anything else. She hadn’t thought of Gia since she’d pulled the trigger and put a bullet in C.J.’s brain.

was still breathing but had not regained consciousness. His respiration had begun to take on the wet sounds that meant his lungs were filling with blood. Show had gone into the kitchen for towels, something to do, even if it meant nothing, and they’d gently packed them between Isaac’s kutte and his shirt. Lilli realized that the kutte would show the points of entry, and she’d wiped the blood away as carefully as she could.

Twelve. From his neck to his ass, shoulder to shoulder, and concentrated dead center, twelve points of entry.

He was going to fucking leave her.




She sat in that waiting room for hours. She told herself that every hour that passed was an hour Isaac had stayed alive. Every hour in that operating room was an hour he was fighting. She sat, perfectly still, staring at his blood on her hands, and focused. She willed him to survive. She focused, and she willed it.

She would not lose another person she loved. She would not lose the only man she’d ever love. She would not. She focused.

The room was full—the Horde, Shannon, Riley, for some reason, and her daughter. She didn’t care. She barely noticed. As if at a great distance, she heard Gia calling for her, but she did not respond. She focused.




She had no idea how long she’d sat, but she was stiff when Tasha and the other doctor sat at either side of her. Tasha took her hand. Show came over and squatted before her, taking her other hand. And the other doctor told her about the damage they had repaired. The damage they had tried to repair. And the damage that they could not repair.

He told her that
Isaac was still alive, but that it was all but miraculous that he was. That she should not get her hopes up, that the first night would be the most uncertain, and that even if he survived the night, there was only a slim hope he would survive the next day.

And then he told her
that, should Isaac pull off an actual miracle and survive, he would probably never move again. The damage to his spinal column was severe.

She asked if she could be with him. The other doctor said no, but Tasha said she would work it out. And then they stood, and Show tried to hold her, and she followed the doctors to Isaac.

BOOK: In Dark Woods (Signal Bend Series #4.5)
9.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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