Chapter 1- Part 2
Her foot pressed the gas pedal. The engine raced, but the wheels of her 1993 Honda continued to roll backward.
“Dammit.” Melanie mashed the brake and struggled with the gearshift until something beneath her jerked. “Thank you, baby,” she mumbled as the car began to move forward. It was with high hopes that her poor excuse for transportation would get her through one more week before taking its dying breath. That new four-door Audi was just one paycheck away, then all those hours spent marketing, taking field trips to the park, serving lunch, and keeping records will have finally paid off…. not that she didn’t like her job.
Okay, she loved her job just as much as Mac did. But, truth be told, he was the reason for their daycare’s success. It gave single moms – and a few married ones – an excuse to see him every weekday when they dropped off their children. There was just something irresistible about such a big, burly man who could handle a wet sneeze as easily as a power tool. It got even worse when he started shaving his head. Mac was humble enough to deny it, but she loved to tease him about his appeal to women.
As she reached the curve that would steer her out of northern Springfield, her mind ventured to the phone call she’d gotten from Danny. Apparently, the woman who’d tried to kill them almost two years ago had just escaped Valley State Prison’s psychiatric ward. They believed she’d had outside help.
The news didn’t sit well. Rena Hellberg had turned all their lives upside down when Derek had become the single victim of her murderous rampage. Danny had lost her favorite of eight brothers, Melanie lost the only man she’d ever loved and DJ lost his father before they even realized he’d been conceived. Was it possible Rena had come back to stalk, lurk and kill again? If so, the police believed she’d lay low for a few days while attempting to avoid recapture.
Headlights streaked past the approaching woods as Melanie veered along the curve. With a gasp, she stomped on the brake until the small hatchback came to a screeching halt. When the dust cleared, a dog blinked at her through the windshield. Its long, black coat quivered in the breeze as it sat defiantly in the middle of her lane with a pink monogrammed blanket draped loosely from its teeth.
The temperamental engine sputtered beneath the hood. Precious moments ticked by as she processed things. Should she dare leave the car with her precious cargo nestled in the back seat? Heather-blue eyes darted to the rearview mirror to see if Mac had given chase, but the road behind her was clear. Of course. He wouldn’t leave baby Sasha.
Melanie reached for her purse, but her hand encountered an empty passenger seat instead. A mental snapshot of her oversized canvas bag sitting on the counter justified that ever-present feeling of forgetting something.
Jeez, she’d done it anyway! Her phone, her driver’s license… At least she hadn’t gotten too far away, but the least she could do was try to get Sasha’s blanket back. Maybe the four-legged critter would respond if she called him over.
When she rolled the window down, the passenger door opened. Light illuminated the car’s maroon interior as a person quietly slid into the seat beside her. As the door slammed shut, returning the interior to darkness, she opened her mouth to scream only to have it swallowed by warm, demanding lips. Something about them stirred memories deep within her soul, but fear reigned when his gloved hand curled around the base of her neck. A slight prick penetrated the skin just below her hairline.
Her claws came out. The intruder captured them before they could draw blood, but instead of punishing her, he angled his head, deepening the kiss while he gathered her closer. When his tongue glided across the roof of her mouth, her thought to sever it with her teeth instantly disappeared. A confusing cocktail of emotions flooded her body as her head began to swim.
No. I can’t go under… not with DJ in the… back…
* * *
As soon as the woman in his arms went limp, he promptly removed his tongue from her slackened mouth. He was lucky to still have it given the risk of sticking anything between vicious, snapping jaws. But the temptation of tasting her again had proven too great to ignore.
She hadn’t changed a bit. Even unconscious, Melanie Parker was a vision of flawless beauty. The brief glimpse of porcelain skin offered by the dome light wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy him, but soon he’d soak in as much of her as he wanted.
He opened his door and exited the car. Chewie hopped in and took his place in the passenger seat. The drug wouldn’t wear off for at least an hour, so there was no chance of the woman coming to while en route to his hideaway. No reason why she’d object to being stuffed in the cargo area.
The longer they stayed in the road, the greater the risk of getting caught. But he knew how to work fast in impossible situations and had her unbelted and in his arms in one swift move. But something wasn’t quite right.
Chewie had moved to the back seat. The sound of soft babble pricked his ears.
No. She left the baby with Mac…
Blood swiftly drained from his face. With Melanie’s weight adding to the sinking feeling in his gut, he bent below the doorsill and visually confirmed his worst fear.
Tiny fists had Chewie by the jowls. The dog took the abuse without complaint, instead leaned in and gave a tentative lick to the cherubic face beside him. A delighted squeal reverberated through the enclosed space and a pair of wondrous heather-blue eyes narrowed with laughter.
He took a deep breath as he marveled at the smaller version of the woman he held. “Chewie, we are soooo screwed.”
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