Home > Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)(4)

Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)(4)
Author: Melinda Leigh

She undressed, hanging up her suit and putting on her robe. John stared at her from the photo on her nightstand. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she picked it up. She had better photos of him, formal pics taken in his dress uniform, but it was this one that spoke to her heart. Sweat glistened on his tanned brow, and his face was deployment-thin under a head of unruly dark hair. Dressed in tan BDUs, he laughed against the desert backdrop. That was John. Always looking at the bright side.

If he were here right now, he’d say, You can do this, babe.

“I’m trying. I miss you,” she said to his photo.

Heaviness settled over her. She opened the nightstand drawer and contemplated the sealed envelope in the back. No. Not ready for that. She closed the drawer. Setting his picture on the nightstand, she eased onto the pillow.

She’d taken the first, huge step toward getting her life back. That would have to be enough for today.

The sound of the phone ringing startled her. She lifted her head, confused. Her bedroom was brightly lit. She glanced at the clock. Just after midnight. She must have fallen asleep. It took her a few seconds to realize it wasn’t her cell that was ringing but the house phone. No one called on that line except telemarketers. The caller ID read Palmer.

Morgan lifted the receiver, expecting to hear the echo of a call center in the background. “Hello?”

“Morgan?” a woman’s voice asked, the rising pitch projecting anxiety.

“Yes,” Morgan said.

“This is Evelyn Palmer, Tessa’s grandmother.”

Morgan sat up straighter. Tessa was her occasional babysitter.

“What time did Tessa leave your house?” Mrs. Palmer asked.

Still groggy, Morgan said, “Tessa wasn’t here tonight.”

The line went quiet.

Morgan propped herself on an elbow. “Mrs. Palmer? What happened?”

“Tessa is gone.”

“What?” Morgan shifted the phone. She couldn’t have heard that correctly.

“We had a big fight yesterday, and she left.” Mrs. Palmer’s voice cracked. “She said she was going to spend the night at her friend’s house, but I called Felicity’s mother. Tessa didn’t go to the Webers’ house.”

She’d lied.

“So you haven’t seen her since yesterday?” Morgan asked.

“Yes.” Over the connection, Mrs. Palmer sobbed. “Since Tessa has been babysitting for you every Friday night, I hoped you’d seen her. Then at least we’d know she was all right.”

“Tessa hasn’t babysat for me for weeks,” Morgan said.

“So she lied about that too.” Mrs. Palmer went quiet.

Morgan set her pillow aside and climbed off the bed. Tossing her robe on the bed, she rooted in her dresser drawer for a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. “Have you called the police?”

“We’d thought she’d cool off and come home tonight. But it’s almost midnight and she’s not here.” Mrs. Palmer sniffed. “I’ll call the police now, but I don’t know what they can do. She’s eighteen.”

“Have you tried to locate her cell phone?”

“I wouldn’t know how to do that,” Mrs. Palmer said.

“Do you need help looking for her?” As she offered, Morgan felt under her chair for her canvas sneakers.

“I don’t know. I keep thinking she’s going to pull into the driveway any second. My husband is driving around now. I’m not allowed to drive at night anymore.”

Mr. Palmer probably shouldn’t be driving at night either. Tessa’s parents had died in a car accident when she was twelve, and her grandparents had been raising her for the last six years. Unlike Morgan’s robust grandfather, the Palmers were plagued with medical problems.

“I’m getting dressed.” Morgan found the shoes. “I’ll be at your house in a few minutes.”

“Oh, thank you.” Relief softened Mrs. Palmer’s tone. “I’m calling the police and her friends.”

Morgan ended the call, set the phone back in its cradle, and pulled her T-shirt over her head. Picking up her shoes, she left her bedroom barefoot. The phone call had rattled her, and she took a minute to peek into her daughters’ room. In the slant of light from the hall, she could see three dark heads nestled on pillows. The tiny shiver of relief made her feel almost guilty.

Poor Mrs. Palmer.

Morgan couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than having one of her girls missing.

She went into the kitchen. Footsteps scuffed in the hall.

Her grandfather came through the doorway, putting one hand on the frame for balance. He wore a navy-blue robe over tailored cotton pajamas. “What’s wrong?”

“That was Evelyn Palmer. Tessa didn’t come home tonight.” Morgan filled him in on the phone call as she sat down in a chair and slipped her bare feet into her shoes. Her grandfather walked forward, his leather slippers dragging on the tile, one steadying hand sliding along the wall.

“Where’s your cane?” she asked.

He scowled. “I don’t need a cane.”

“That’s not what the doctor says.”

“My slippers are older than that doctor.” He leaned a shoulder on the wall and crossed his arms, signaling an end to the topic.

Morgan gave up, for the moment. As much as she hated to admit her grandfather was aging, he absolutely refused to act his age. “Anyway. It doesn’t sound like something Tessa would do.”

Her grandfather shrugged. “No. It doesn’t. But the best teens can be a handful. You have to raise them with a healthy dose of suspicion.”

Morgan remembered coming home from parties to his scrutiny. She could still picture him sitting in his leather chair, a book in his lap, his sharp gaze sizing her up over his reading glasses. He had had no qualms about giving her breath a not so subtle sniff. The retired homicide detective had guided three of the four Dane siblings into adulthood after their father had been killed in the line of duty and their mother had moved them from the city to upstate New York when Morgan was in high school. Her mom had had a heart attack a few years later.

“Her car could have broken down somewhere out of cell range.” Standing, Morgan grabbed her denim jacket from the back of the kitchen chair. “She could have hit a tree or a deer.”

Her grandfather followed her down the short hall to the foyer. “Let me know what you’re doing, all right?”

He was living proof that parenting—and grandparenting—was a lifelong commitment.

“I will. I’m just going to drive over to the Palmers’ house and see if I can help.”

“You know that one night out isn’t unusual for a teenager,” Grandpa said. “Almost all of them show up within twenty-four hours. Plus, she’s legally an adult. She hasn’t committed a crime.”

“I know.” But Morgan’s concern wouldn’t ease. Then again, Morgan had lost both her parents and her husband. She often held her loved ones closer than was entirely healthy. But grief had wrapped barbed wire around her heart. The slightest touch made it bleed.

“Do you want me to call Stella?” Grandpa asked.

Morgan’s younger sister was a detective with the Scarlet Falls PD.

“Not yet. She works too much as it is. Let me see what’s going on. Tessa will probably turn up soon, and Mrs. Palmer already called the police. I’m sure the responding officer can handle the call. Like you said, Tessa hasn’t done anything illegal.”

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