She was even more embarrassed today. She could see why he’d slipped; he might have even called her Maddie over dinner, because the other two were, and she hadn’t even noticed. She had trouble sometimes distinguishing between Maddie thoughts and Nell thoughts. And yet...she did need to know why he was attracted to her. Whether it was mostly Maddie he felt compelled to protect. What he meant about being confused.
Tomorrow, she thought, but knew better. When she got home tonight, his porch light would be on, and he would step out, waiting for her to cross the yard to him. And she wouldn’t be able to resist going. She didn’t even want to resist him.
She spent half an hour browsing job openings in Angel Butte and neighboring towns. Just out of curiosity, she told herself. Salary ranges in the libraries tended to be lower than in Seattle, but not by much. She looked wistfully at an opening for a librarian—master’s degree required—but then spotted one for Deschutes Public Library for a supervisor in a branch library that didn’t require the degree but was essentially the same work. She had the qualifications they were asking for, and the commute wasn’t impossible from Angel Butte....
And you are crazy, she told herself flatly as she closed the website, to even let yourself think you might have a reason to stay in Angel Butte.
She showered and changed into decent pants and a sweater, and used a couple of clips to pull her hair back in wings to each side. A touch of makeup, and she decided she looked respectable enough for her mother.
Nell hated the fact that it was already dark. Even at home she didn’t like leaving work in the dark. The world felt a lot scarier at night.
Because whatever bad thing happened had been in the dark.
That made sense—but human instinct in general was to be more cautious after nightfall, and for good reason.
She locked the house carefully. Just as she got to her car, headlights turned into the driveway. Colin, she thought with hope and relief. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized how alone she’d felt today.
The headlights blinded her. She squinted, trying to make out the shape of the vehicle. It didn’t seem quite right. On a niggle of apprehension, she turned and tried to get the key in the lock of her car, but she was still seeing stars and kept stabbing metal. If she could just get in, lock the doors, then she could roll the window down a little to greet whoever this was....
It was a car, she saw as it pulled in, blocking hers from backing out. She got the key in just as the driver’s side door of the sedan opened and someone stepped out. “Maddie? Good, I caught you.”
That sounded friendly. She hesitated, recognizing the man who came toward her. “Uncle Duane?”
“I thought I could drive you to your parents instead of both of us going separately.”
The motion-activated light lit his face harshly. Her apprehension deepened into something stronger: fear that wanted to become panic.
“I’m meeting Colin after dinner,” she said. “Why don’t I follow you?”
“I’d rather you come with me,” he said, closing on her fast.
She wrenched open her car door, then felt shattering pain.
* * *
SUNDAY OR NOT, he’d been trapped in meetings for hours. Now Colin sat at Bystrom’s desk trying to get a handle on the urgent issues. He’d long since lost the ability to concentrate, though.
Nell would be at her parents’ by now, he told himself. Rushing home wouldn’t do him any good.
This state of distraction wasn’t normal for him. If a month ago he’d had the right to take over this desk, he’d have been immersed until midnight and been up at 6:00 a.m. and ready to go again tomorrow. He was capable of sustained, intense focus—usually.
Instead, here he was staring without any understanding at the coming week’s calendar presumably maintained by the assistant to the police chief. His intention was to cancel anything unnecessary; he’d need to start the week by making the rounds internally. Brian Cooper first thing tomorrow morning, then lieutenants, sergeants, heads of support departments. So decide what can be put off.
A split second later, his mind had jumped sideways. Damn it, I should have cut out soon enough to drive Nell to her parents’.
She should be safe enough. Hardly anyone knew she was staying with him.
He was staring blankly at the monitor again. Colin groaned, squeezed the bridge of his nose until the cartilage protested, then closed the calendar and logged off the computer. Enough, damn it! There was nothing he could accomplish now that couldn’t wait until morning.
He’d phone Nell and insist she not start home until he was there to follow her.
He tried to call during his walk down to the parking lot. Again as he drove through downtown, clogged with tourists trying to find parking. Voice mail each time. She’d probably put her purse with her phone somewhere she couldn’t hear it.