“Constable, have you found my granddaughter?”
But Mercer merely stared at him, indignation draining from him like beer from an overturned bottle. His mouth opened but no words came forth, and when it closed again it was with finality.
“I see.” Stoner sat down and leaned back in his chair. He forced himself to breathe deeply. It would do her no good to have a heart attack. “I take it the news is not good?”
“No, sir. I’m afraid it isn’t.”
He knew, without hearing the words he knew. But he had to be certain. “How bad is it?”
Mercer’s big shoulders drooped. “As bad as it gets. I’m sorry.”
He’d been so certain she was fine, simply run away for a bit — for pique, for romance, even for fun or spite. But he’d been so certain she’d reappear when her mood changed. This, the worst news of all, he’d never expected.
He found himself staring at his cot, in the far corner of the room, and at the little table he used as a nightstand. He crossed the room, suddenly aware of how difficult it could be for an old man to walk, and lifted one of the silver frames nestled there. Jennifer and Harriet, aged eleven and nine, grinned out at him from the profusion of flowers in the garden of his old Oxford home. There were carnations in Jennifer’s slender hands, daisies in Harriet’s two tails, and Asiatic lilies hemmed them in on both sides, wavering behind their hair, bright and dark.
Harriet in her long white nightgown, eight years old and first arrived in his quiet home, sitting in his lap, beating her fists against his chest and howling for her mother who would never return. Harriet at ten, again dressed for sleep, climbing into his and Daphne’s bed for her bedtime story, no, she wasn’t too old for that and she wasn’t going to sleep until she had her way. At fourteen, wildflowers in her hair, swinging with the big bands on the radio all around the living room until he’d give ten years off his life for a bit of the quiet he used to know. Just two days ago, in her bright yellow dress and with her dark hair fluffed about her face, resplendent in pink lipstick and nail polish, no, she wasn’t too young to go to the village dance and help entertain the pilots who were defending England, it was her civic duty and she wasn’t going to be quiet until she had her way.
As usual, she’d had her way. He had given in; he hadn’t supervised or protected her; he had let her go off with Sally who wasn’t two years older. And now he’d have all the quiet he’d ever wanted, which was much more than he could bear.
He hugged the frame to his chest as if he could still shelter her there, as if she could still beat against him with her fists, not for her dead mother but for her dead self. Was he crying? If it brought his littlest girl back to him, he’d bawl without shame.
Again, Deal with the Devil is on sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for 99¢. There will never be a better time to grab a copy, so if you've been putting off getting yours, now's a good time.
Below's the Sweet List. Have a great week, everybody. Cheers,
1. Rachel Rossano - romantic fantasy
2. Heidi Murphy-Paranormal romance, SF, romance
3. Andrea Buginsky, YA fantasy
4. Meg Mims - Nat'l Day of the Cowboy!
5. Jenna Jaxon, historical romance
6. Carrie-Anne Brownian ~ 1970s historical fiction
7. Marsha Ward~Westerns with Heart & Grit
8. J. Gunnar Grey, mystery~adventure
9. Lindsay Downs-suspense
10. Laurel-Rain Snow - Contemporary Fiction
11. Elaine Cantrell-contemporary romance
12. Leah Sanders - sweet historical romance
13. Iris Blobel - Contempory Romance
14. Lisa Orchard, teenaged mystery~suspense (think Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew)
15. Beth Trissel Historical-Paranormal Romance
16. Rachel Van Dyken, Regency
17. Kay Springsteen, Regency