Home > Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(7)

Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(7)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Sharp tossed his glasses onto his desk blotter. “Just because he engaged us doesn’t mean he is innocent. He might think hiring a PI firm makes him look innocent. Some criminals are one hundred percent convinced that they are smarter than everyone else. He might think he can play us.”

“What would be his motive?” Lance asked.

Morgan pondered his question with a tilt of her head. “What if their marital troubles ran deeper than Tim suggested? Maybe Chelsea was going to leave him. Maybe she wanted to take her kids back to Colorado. Tim is obviously attached to his kids.”

“No offense,” Sharp said. “But you’re supposed to concentrate on proving your client is innocent.”

Morgan looked away, her jaw tight. “You’re right.”

Sharp sighed. “I know you aren’t completely accustomed to working in the private sector yet, but making sure everyone accused of a crime gets adequate defense is a cornerstone of our legal system.”

“Yes.” But she didn’t look comfortable with her new role.

Lance considered their client. “Did Tim seem cunning enough to kill his wife, cover it up, and keep his cool during our meeting?”

“Criminals are very good liars,” Morgan said.

She had a point.

“Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Our job is to find Chelsea Clark. It’s already been five days. The case gets colder by the hour, so let’s get busy.” Sharp nodded at Lance. “Make it so, Number One.”

Sharp was right. They had to focus on the missing woman.

Lance wouldn’t wish living with the uncertainty of a long-time missing family member on anyone. Because not knowing was a whole different kind of pain. Every time a body turned up, every time a skeleton was unearthed, or a hiker ran across some bones in the woods, the family of a missing person had their wounds ripped wide-open.

Chapter Six

Chelsea woke to the smell of rust and steel in her nostrils and a thumping pain in her temples. Her vision blurred, and she squeezed her eyelids closed for a few seconds to try to clear it. Confusion fogged her mind. Something was wrong.

She should be hearing William cry. Her overfull breasts ached. Where was the baby? It was past time to nurse. He never went more than a few hours between feedings. He was practically attached to her. Was he sick?

She rolled to the side, coming up against a metal bar. The bed was not familiar. Neither was the silence.

Where am I?

She opened her eyes. For a few seconds, she blinked in the dim light. As she took in her hazy surroundings, bewilderment gave way to fear. It wrapped icy tendrils around her heart, forcing it to beat faster.

Not a nightmare.

The room came into focus in an instant, the truth clicking into place like a key turning in a lock until all the pins lined up.

Reality flooded her consciousness—along with horror as cold and clear as an autumn night. The shock and the sheer unbelievable nature of her predicament passed through her with a shudder.

She’d been abducted.

A vague sense of déjà vu lingered. How many times had she woken, confused and groggy? A memory surfaced.

She stares at her rearview mirror. A streetlight shines on a knife. The blade touches her throat, a sharp, biting pain that vanishes immediately under the numbing onslaught of rushing adrenaline.

“Drink or die,” he says.

Her hands shake as she lifts the fast-food cup he hands her. She sucks on the straw. Though initially sweet, the cola has a bitter aftertaste.

Darkness. A clear night sky. Cold air on her face. Wood smoke in her nose. The waving silhouettes of dead cornstalks in the moonlight.

The flash of memory faded, but not before Chelsea gagged.

She ran her tongue over her teeth. Her tongue was dry enough to stick to the roof of her mouth, and she could taste the lingering sweetness of the drugged cola. Vaguely, her brain registered that this was the first time her head had been this clear since she’d been kidnapped. She knew without a distinct memory that the previous times she’d woken, he’d forced more of the cola mixture into her mouth before she was strong enough to object.

How long had she been here?

It felt as if several days had passed.

What else had he done to her while she was unconscious?

Her brain rejected that line of thought and turned to her family instead.

William! Was he eating? He wouldn’t actually starve himself, would he? No. Surely hunger would force him to accept a bottle. Right?

There was nothing she could do about it from here. Tim might have his faults, but he loved his children. Bella adored him right back. Tim hadn’t quite bonded with the baby yet. In his defense, William had wanted no one except Chelsea since the day he was born. A sliver of guilt wormed its way past her fear. She had to accept part of the blame for that. Bella and Tim were so close that Chelsea had felt jealous at times. When the baby had come along and preferred her, she’d enjoyed it.

She’d been selfish and stupid, and William and Tim were no doubt paying the price.

Forgive me.

She took comfort in the fact that her husband was smart, and he would do whatever it took to take care of their baby. William wouldn’t starve.

Chelsea closed her eyes for a few seconds, replaying their brief argument Friday night before she’d left. Sure, he’d been late. Tim had no sense of time, and she’d been cranky. She’d wanted to have time to do her hair and put on some makeup. She’d wanted a break. But she regretted her snub of his goodbye kiss. When was the last time she’d told him she loved him?

Tim, I love you. I’m sorry I’ve been such a lunatic. Sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture for a reason. If only she could get a do-over of the last few months.

Too late now. He couldn’t hear her. Would that be their last goodbye? Would she ever get a chance to make it up to him? To tell him that despite her recent exhausted insanity, she loved him.

And there was only one way she was ever going to get back to him.

Putting a hand to her forehead, she lifted her shoulders from the narrow cot. Her head swam with the change in position. She slowed her movements, slowly rising until she was sitting up.

She took stock of her physical condition first. Her body was stiff and cold. A wool blanket was draped over her, but her shoes and coat were gone. She stretched her legs, testing their strength. Something clinked and metal bit into her ankle.

She was chained to an upright barrel that stood next to the cot she lay on.

Her mind reeled.


Like a dog.

Terror constricted her throat, the weight of the manacle on her ankle a solid manifestation of the horror of her situation, and the potential that it would get much worse.

This is not helping.

She took two deep breaths and then scanned her body. She was still dressed in the jeans and sweater she’d worn for her evening out with Fiona. Her sweater was damp. Her breasts had leaked, and she smelled of sour milk.

But other than being filthy and uncomfortable, she didn’t feel any major injuries. She moved her arms and legs. No broken bones.

Moving on to her prison . . .

The cot was a simple folding type common for camping. A single camp lantern shone weakly from the barrel she was chained to. Her room was about eight feet long and maybe ten feet wide. Corrugated metal walls formed a rectangular box.

Keeping one hand on the cot for balance, she eased to standing. Her feet landed on a plywood floor. When the initial dizziness had passed, she stretched her arms overhead, but couldn’t reach the ceiling, which was made of the same corrugated metal as the walls.

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