Grevellia raced through the house. After she checked every room she tore outside again. Her heart raced while she surveyed the perimeter of the house. Shit! She strode to the side of the house and found fresh footprints in the soft earth near the living room window.
Big feet. Definitely a male. Her stomach twisted.
Someone had been standing here looking inside. Goddamn it! A freaking peeper? Or someone worse? Hair curled at the nape of her neck.
Barely keeping herself from panicking she squeezed her hands so tightly her fingernails bit into the palms of her hands. It grounded her enough to figure out what had happened to Verbie.
She’d known something was off all day. But she expected anything but Verbie being kidnapped. Why? Why would someone do that?
She stared down their quiet street.
Hell, she’d moved here because it was a good neighborhood. She’d even checked records at the precinct and had found out there’d been less calls from this location than anywhere else in the city. She’d promised herself she’d give Verbie a good home. A place where she could feel loved.
Energy built inside her until her body felt like it was on a low hum. She needed to do something! Whipping her cell phone out of her pocket she started to dial. Her hands were shaking, she could barely hit the buttons.
“Aunt Grev? What’s wrong? You look like you’ve been run over by a Mack Truck.” Verbie walked along the sidewalk toward her, hoodie over her head and her shoulder scrunched up around her ears as if it was below freezing.
Relief rushed through Grev, then anger. She shut off her phone and rammed it back into her pocket. “Verbie, oh my God, kid, I thought you’d been kidnapped.” Not holding herself together now. She knew she was losing it, but had a hard time getting a grasp on her shattering fear.
“What? Why?” Verbie asked.
“You weren’t home. I found footprints outside one of the windows. Someone was watching from the side of the house. I thought they’d taken you.”
“Crap. I had the feeling I was being watched earlier, but put it down to being nervous at home alone.” She looked suddenly guilty. “That's why I followed you. I didn’t want to be alone, Aunt Grev.”
Verbie never called her Aunt unless she was being extra honest. That bit Grev to the bone and her gut twisted again. She glanced down and saw a pizza box in Verbie’s arms. The same pizza place she’d just left. “How’d you get that? I was just there. I didn’t see you.”
“I went to the bathroom. Just came out when you were leaving, I tried to catch you but I was too slow, you were driving away before I got outside. So I headed for home right away.”
Grev’s shoulders slumped. “You should have called me.”
“I tried. You didn’t answer.”
Grev glanced down at her phone. She’d put the ringer on mute when she was on surveillance and hadn’t turned it back on again. Grev had royally frigged this up. As it was, the poor kid had separation issues thanks to her nearly non-existent mother. Verbie constantly needed to know someone would be there for her. Grev wanted to give her that stability. But damn it, she’d failed Verbie tonight.
Grev reached out and wrapped her arms around Verbie. Not easy to do with a pizza box between them. “Oh doll, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have even gone out there tonight if I didn’t need the scratch. I have bills due, and this gig covered the lot.”
“Sorry, Grev. I didn’t want to make you feel like you can’t do your job at night time.” Verbie’s voice came out squeaky like she wanted to cry but was holding it back.
“Oh hon, it’s my fault. Next time I do night surveillance, we’ll make sure you can stay over with one of your girl-friends. I won’t leave you home alone again.”
She felt a shudder go through her niece. “Good idea.”
Grev pulled Verbie toward the house. “What kind of pizza did you buy? We’ll be eating pizza all week.”
Safely inside, Grev eyed the street before locking the front door. Someone had been outside their house. But who? And why?