Blood Carousel — A Dark Legacy Book 2 — is available to buy in THREE days (5th June 2018)! Three! Count ‘em! To celebrate that, I’m posting up the first chapter to shamelessly entice you into preordering it now! 😉
“Hey, Sid!” The Detective lifted his head at his name. “She’s here again and asking for you.”
Detective Sid Marshall sighed. He didn’t need to ask who ‘she’ was or why she would be asking for him. There was only one person the other officer could be referring to and, sure enough, rising to his feet and looking out toward the public area of the Seattle Police Department, he could see the expected auburn-haired twenty-two-year-old personal pain-in-his-ass.
With a heavy sigh, he headed out to where she stood, arms folded and blue eyes like ice-chips.
“Miss Walker,” he greeted her.
“Why?” She levelled a finger at him. “Why have you closed the case?”
“It’s been almost a year and we’ve found no evidence to say your sister was taken against her will.”
“No evidence? Her apartment had been broken into. There was blood!”
“Miss Walker,” his voice gentled. “Rowan. Your sister has called you a number of times, telling you not to look for her. She even spoke to a police officer, do you remember?”
“She was forced … coerced.”
“You don’t know that.” The Detective shook his head. He’d had this argument a thousand times with the woman standing in front of him.
“I know my sister. She wouldn’t have just taken off without telling me.”
Detective Marshall gave the young woman a pitying look. She had turned up at SPD almost every week since her sister had disappeared – convinced she’d been kidnapped and, while she made a good argument, further investigation had brought up nothing at all. The fact that her sister had spoken to the police and confirmed she was safe meant that there wasn’t much the department could do.
Patting his shirt pockets, he fished out a business card. “I’m going to give this to you.” He held it just out of Rowan’s reach. “Now, this doesn’t mean I think you’re right, but if anyone can find the truth without any evidence at all, it’s this man.” He allowed Rowan to take hold of the card but didn’t release it himself. “But I think your sister just wanted a fresh start and you’ll be wasting his time and your money.”
Rowan tugged on the card and Detective Marshall let go. Lowering her eyes, she read the print.
“FW, A&R? It sounds like one of those taxes and accounting companies. Like H&R Block?”
“They’re not. They find missing objects, and people … For a price.”
“Like Private Investigators?” Rowan offered.
Detective Marshall raised a hand, palm-down and waggled it. “Something like that, yeah. They have a pretty good success rate – from what I hear, anyway. Let’s just say they aren’t encumbered by standard rules and regulations. If you really want to find your sister, give them a call.”
Rowan sat cross-legged on her bed with newspaper clippings, missing persons reports, and other articles surrounding her. When her sister had initially gone missing, Rowan had been convinced the man she’d been dating at the time was involved. Researching him had taken months, but over time she’d amassed information and links hinting to his association with some small-time criminals who ran many brothels across Seattle. From that, she had dug deeper – finding other reports of missing women, but SPD hadn’t been interested in looking at what she had found.
Her eyes strayed to the business card Detective Marshall had given to her earlier that day. She was still undecided on whether she should call FW, A&R or not. Would they laugh at her the way the police did? She knew they thought she was just a silly young woman who was blind to the idea that her sister had willingly cut off all contact with her. She understood why they thought that, her sister wasn’t the most reliable person, but Rowan knew – she just knew – her disappearance was not through choice.
She picked up the card, looked at the number and then reached for her cell phone and dialled it before she could change her mind.
The number went directly to a recorded message.
“I’m sorry. FW, A&R are not available to take your call right now. Please leave your name and number and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you!”
Rowan hesitated for a second, then reeled off her phone number and name, and hung up. No more than a few minutes passed – long enough for someone to listen to the recorded message and jot down the number, possibly – before her cell rang. The display told Rowan it was a blocked number and, feeling strangely nervous, she connected the call.
“Hello. Is that Miss Walker?” A slightly-accented female voice responded.
“Hi there! My name is Kate Chan. I work for FW, A&R. You left a message for us?” Kate Chan sounded far too chirpy, Rowan thought – one of those eternally happy types with a perfect phone voice. “Will you tell me what caused you to call us?”
“I was given your number by SPD,” Rowan began. She explained about her sister’s disappearance, about how SPD weren’t investigating the case and had dismissed her concerns about a possible kidnapping.
“Please hold,” Kate Chan said once Rowan stopped speaking and she found herself humming along to an instrumental version of Sympathy For The Devil while she waited. The song cut off abruptly. “Thank you for holding,” Kate Chan’s voice rang out. “We have an available slot this evening at eight. Would that be convenient for you?”
Rowan checked her watch. “That’s only an hour from now?”
“Yes. We assume there is some urgency to your case otherwise you would not be calling us.” She didn’t wait for Rowan to confirm. “As that is the case, we are happy to meet you at the earliest opportunity.”
“Well … yes. Of course. Where are your offices?”
“We find most of our clients prefer a first meeting to be held at a neutral location, Miss Walker. Do you have such a location?”
“Um …” Rowan cast around in her mind for a place that would fit the woman’s description. “The Blue Star Diner and Coffee Café?” She named the 24-hour diner she worked at and was only a few blocks from where she lived. “Do you know it?”
“Yes, Miss Walker, we know it. My associate, Mr Wylde, will meet you there at eight.” The call cut off before Rowan could ask how she would recognise him and she was left staring at the phone in her hand.
By the time Rowan had dressed, slicked a pale shade of lipstick across her lips, twisted her hair up into a ponytail and added a touch of eyeshadow, it was closing fast on seven-thirty. Dashing out of her apartment, she half-jogged to the diner, arriving there with fifteen minutes to spare. She slid into a booth, ordered a coffee, placed her file of research carefully onto the table-top and tried to check her reflection in the window to make sure her unruly hair was still tamed into its style.
When the waitress brought her coffee, Rowan thanked her and flipped open the file to read through some of the notes she’d made until a sudden lull in the conversation around her made her look up.
The man, clearly the reason for the sudden silence, stood framed in the doorway. Rowan let her eyes slide over him – noting the elegant expensive dark suit, white shirt open at the throat, and sunglasses (who wore sunglasses after dark?) and looked away. Obviously in the wrong place, she thought with some amusement, as she wrapped her hands around her mug and returned her attention to the file in front of her.
“Miss Walker?” A shadow fell across her table and Rowan lifted her gaze to find the well-dressed man standing beside her.
“Fallon Wylde,” he thrust out a hand before she could respond. “I believe you were expecting me?”
“I was expecting someone,” she took his hand and shook it, masking a slight wince at his firm grip. “You? Not what I was expecting.”
In the process of sliding onto the bench seat opposite her, Fallon quirked an eyebrow at her words.
“I was expecting someone older. Not quite as—” she paused, looking for the right words. “Not quite as expensively dressed, I suppose.”
“You would believe me better suited to the job had I turned up in combat gear? Or maybe a dirty trench coat and a more rumpled suit?” He settled back into his seat. “I can assure you, Miss Walker, I’m older and more experienced than I look.” He reached up and removed his sunglasses, folded and placed them onto the table and Rowan found herself staring into a pair of vivid green eyes. “Is that all the information you have on your sister’s disappearance?” He touched the file with one long finger, waited for her to nod and then drew it across the table towards him.
“The police officers you spoke to,” Fallon said, after a few moment’s perusal. “The ones who actually worked the case?”
“Nash and Cooleridge,” she answered. “At least, for the first week or so. But the Detective in charge, who handled most of it, was named Marshall.”
“Sid Marshall. A good man,” Fallon murmured, with a quick and brief glance up from the file. He continued reading for a few minutes longer then looked up to catch her gaze. “It reports here that your sister – Eden – phoned you a few times? Four, to be exact. And she spoke to a police officer on one of those occasions.”
“Yes, but there was something wrong. It was like she was reading from a script. Every time, every conversation was the same. ‘I’m fine, Ro. Don’t try and find me.’ She said the same thing to the police,” Rowan stopped, hearing the quiver in her voice and sucked in a calming breath. “But she was lying. I know she was.”
“You and Eden are twins? Are you saying you have some kind of twin telepathy?”
Rowan shook her head. “No, nothing like that.”
“So, you and Eden were … are close?”
One of the shop’s roving baristas – a gawky geekish collection of ragdoll blonde hair, metal-framed teeth and a name-plate that read ‘Dustin’ – arrived and set a fresh cup in front of Rowan. He stepped back, giving Fallon a ‘geeks-rule-pretty-boys-die-screaming’ look.
“What can I get you, sir?”
“How about coffee? French Roast, black, if you have it,” Fallon smiled, holding back an amused chuckle as the barista departed. He turned his attention back to Rowan. “I take it you come here often?”
“I work here a few nights a week.” She pulled the cup toward herself and blew across the top. “What else do you need to know?”
“As much as you can tell me. Eden – tell me about her. What’s she like? Her habits, personality, likes and dislikes. What about places she liked to frequent? Friends?”
“Okay, well … like you already know, Eden is my twin sister, but we’re not identical. She’s a few minutes younger than me. Last time I saw her she’d dyed her hair pink, but her natural colour is similar to mine, maybe a little bit darker. Habits, yeah she has habits.” Rowan’s laugh held a tinge of sadness to it. “Her top three are cocaine, vodka and violent men. We argued the last time I saw her. She’d promised me she was clean, but she wasn’t.” She waited for Fallon to offer the same argument as the police – that Eden had simply left because Rowan was putting pressure on her to clean up her act – but he merely nodded and waved a hand for her to continue. “I didn’t really know the people she hung out with. The few times I did meet them, they … well, I felt uncomfortable. Maybe if I’d made more of an effort, spent more time with her, I could have—”
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” Fallon cut in. “Addicts live for their next fix. How long after you last saw her did she disappear?”
“I’m not sure. I phoned her every day, but she wouldn’t always answer, so it wasn’t unusual to call and not actually speak to her. But after three or four days, she’d run out of money and then she’d turn up at my apartment. It was five or six days after our fight that I went to her place. The front door was off the latch. I thought she’d just left it open, but when I went in—” Rowan bit her lip, thinking back. “There was blood on the floor and it looked like there’d been a fight. Her coffee table was broken in half, the tv screen was smashed …” her voice trailed off.
“And the police found nothing unusual in that, regardless of the calls that came later,” Fallon’s words were more a statement of fact than a query.
“According to Detective Marshall, Eden most probably had a falling out – he called it a ‘little love spat’ – with her boyfriend. Her calls to me confirmed that, in his opinion, anyway.”
“But not in yours.” Another statement.
“No. Detective Marshall said there had been numerous calls reporting disturbances at Eden’s – arguments, fights between her and her boyfriend. Sometimes with other people. It wasn’t unusual for the police to be called out two or three times a month.” She paused to take a sip of coffee. “The phone calls. They weren’t normal. Eden never called me. If she wanted something, she would show up. I was the one who kept in contact, who would phone her.”
Fallon nodded, scanning the open folder. “And this boyfriend of hers?”
“Taylor,” she responded quickly. “Last name, first name … I don’t know,” Rowan shrugged. “That’s all I ever heard her call him. We only met once, a month before Eden disappeared.” She hunched both shoulders and shivered. “He gave me the heebie-jeebies.
“Eden had a type, of a sort. Lowlifes, I called them. The roughest kind of biker, bar trash, wannabe hustlers. She’d hook up with them for a while, never longer than six months, then drop them and find herself another. But Taylor, he was different. His whole manner. I mean, some men have this way of looking at you … of undressing you with their eyes. But with him, when he looked at me, it made me want to take a long shower afterwards to wash away the slime.”
Dustin returned then with Fallon’s coffee and Rowan fell silent while he paid for it and the barista stomped away. Fallon took a sip, grimaced at the taste, then slid the cup away.
“Anything else you can tell me?” he asked.
“About a month ago, I think someone was in my apartment. There was nothing missing, but something wasn’t right. It felt different … wrong.”
“I don’t know for sure. I came home from work, from here, in fact. Everything was fine until I went into the bedroom. I thought I heard a noise, the door closing. But I’d closed and locked the door when I got home. I went back into the sitting room and there was a smell, like cologne, and the chain was off the door.” She swallowed another mouthful of coffee. “I reported it to the police, but they said I’d probably just forgotten to put the chain on in the first place.”
Fallon studied the young woman sitting opposite him. Nothing she had told him so far gave him a reason why Detective Marshall would think it was a case that would interest him. Either she wasn’t mentioning something important or the Detective had just wanted rid of her – either option was viable. He could tell from her posture and facial expression that she was waiting for him to discount her concerns, to tell her that she was worrying needlessly, that she was a silly girl seeing shadows were none existed but, while she had given him nothing to think otherwise, his instincts were telling him there was a lot more to this story.
From the picture Rowan was painting, and the impression Fallon was receiving, the two sisters were very different from one another. Rowan worked part time at the diner, which suggested she either had another job or something else that occupied the rest of her time. There was no smell of drink or drugs around her, nor any of the mannerisms usually associated with someone hiding an addiction. There was also genuine concern in her eyes and voice when she spoke of her twin.
“Okay,” he said, realising he had been silent for too long. “So far, we know that Eden is an addict, and that it’s highly likely her boyfriend is too, or he’s her dealer. Do you know how they met?”
Rowan nodded. “Eden had gone to a club, some place near the Space Needle. She was excited because it was hard to get into without an invite and one of her friends knew someone who worked there. He was in her place when I went to see her the next day. I’m sure they were both high and I think they’d been doing something else,” she bit her lip, clearly uncomfortable.
Fallon leaned forward and touched her hand. “What do you think they were doing?” His hunter’s instinct told him this was it, this was the information he was waiting for.
“Something … unusual. There were teeth marks and blood on her neck. It looked like she’d been bitten, but not the hickey kind of bite. When she opened the door, I could see them on her wrists, too.”
Fallon looked down, feigning interest in an item inside the file to conceal the sudden spark of curiosity that would have been clear in his eyes.
“Alright, Miss Walker. I think what you’ve given me so far should be sufficient. I’ll take the case,” he told her. “Now, shall we discuss my fee?” He paused, choosing his next words carefully. “I’m going to be honest with you. My services don’t come cheap. And, please don’t take this the wrong way. At the lowest affordable rate, it’s twenty-five-thousand dollars for the investigation and search; another seventy-five-thousand if the situation calls for, shall we say, extreme measures. Can you afford that?”
“I’ve done most of the searching already.” She waved a hand toward the file. “And I can continue the investigation. What I need is someone to help, not someone to take over.”
“And if your search had truly been that effective, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Fallon countered her argument. “I will find your sister, Miss Walker, there’s no doubt about that. But I’ll do it my way and I work alone. That’s not negotiable.”
“Then I’m wasting my time here,” Rowan reached forward to close the file.
“If that is an attempt to make me reconsider my fee, it won’t work,” he told her. He pulled a pen from his jacket pocket, picked up a napkin and jotted something down then slid it across the table to her. ”That’s my personal number. If you change your mind, call me.”
Rowan looked at the number scrawled in big, bold handwriting, picked it up, folded it and tucked it into the file. “Thank you, but I won’t.” She rose to her feet and held out her hand, waiting for him to take it. “Thank you for taking the time to listen to me. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
Fallon held onto her hand when she started to pull away and waited until she lifted her gaze to his.
“Save my number, Miss Walker. If you insist on carrying on with your search and you do end up in a situation you can’t get out of, call me. I’d hate to have your death on my conscience.”
He waited for her to nod before releasing her hand and allowing her to walk away.
Fallon watched her leave, a half-smile on his lips. First impressions, he mused to himself as he admired her hip-swaying walk. Rowan Walker was a determined, stubborn, gorgeous red-headed bundle of trouble and it was probably for the best that she hadn’t hired him. He laughed softly to himself and absently took a sip of the coffee at his elbow, grimacing when he tasted it. Awful stuff, who the hell willingly bought it, let alone drank it.
He turned his head toward the window and watched Rowan as she exited the diner and walked past him without looking. Fallon let his eyes track her until she was out of sight, then stood up. From what she had told him, this Taylor was a vampire – possibly using a fake name – and the ‘unusualness’ Rowan had noticed told Fallon that he enjoyed drugged blood. A chuckle escaped him as he thought about Rowan’s reaction when she had brought it up – an intriguing mix of embarrassment and horrified fascination – and wondered how she would react to some of the things he’d done over the years. With a headshake, he left the diner and headed toward where he’d parked his car. He decided to head over to Shadowfall, obviously the club Eden had been so excited to visit; and see if they had any footage from around the time the girl had gone missing. Rowan hadn’t hired him, nor shown any signs of doing so in the future, he acknowledged to himself, but she’d piqued his interest and, if he was going to be honest with himself, he had nothing better to do.
Chatty bartenders. For as long as Fallon could remember, they had been in the upper tier of his list of things that grated on his nerves. Not to mention the ‘Five Types He Would Most Enjoy Killing’. But, as the saying went, there are always exceptions. And, at this particular point in time, the woman presently pouring his x-teenth shot of Ronrico 151 was one of them.
Tigr – ‘That’s Tiger minus the e’, as she was ever quick to correct. A permanent fixture at Shadowfall and, like most (though primarily more regarding the collection of diehard nightly regulars than staff) she came with her own unique story – one-part fact, and three-parts fiction.
Blonde, tall, big-boned, a penchant for leather, latex and mesh net apparel. Originally Swedish-born by some accounts, Norwegian by others. According to ongoing legend, she had always been associated with bars and/or alcohol. A ‘saloon floozie’ in the Bella Union Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota in the late 1870s; a bootlegger’s moll and speakeasy owner in Illinois in 1952 (one story even claimed she had shared a flophouse bed with the infamous bootlegger Dutch Schultz), whorehouse Madame and black marketeer … dealing in eggs, butter, and booze during World War Two; owner/bartender of Mickey’s Bar & Grill, San Francisco, during the Korean War; and so on and so on.
As a member of a time-honoured profession known worldwide by varying and sundry designations – from barkeep to mixologist – Fallon knew of none better. As a conversationalist, she could be engaging, witty, captivating. But the one thing that made Tigr truly unique – that set her apart from her brethren, in both the Vampire and Human realms – was a gift of recall that could, without exaggeration, be called supernatural.
According to popular reports, Tigr possessed an ability Vampires called văz notoros – Perfect Eyes. In Human terminology, a photographic or eidetic memory. A gift that, for reasons unknown, only manifested itself in turnbloods and, even then, a one-in-a-million occurrence.
They said she could remember everyone she had ever fed upon, going all the way back to the very first. She could; and Fallon had personally witnessed several demonstrations; walk into a room, a club lounge, a gift shop, or restaurant and take one quick look then walk out. Outside of the room, she would then describe everything and everyone therein, right down to the cobwebs in the upper corners and the scuff marks on certain patrons’ shoes. In Fallon’s opinion, supernatural fell about a mile short.
The night had proved to be less gratifying than he would have liked. Although Shadowfall’s normally surly Chief of Security had been surprisingly agreeable where access to the club’s video security archives was concerned, for three, almost four, hours of scrutiny; not counting periodic breaks to ease the tedium of sitting on his ass with his eyes glued to a flickering tv monitor; he’d come away with only three semi-decent, though not altogether useful, hard copy photos of Rowan Walker’s missing sibling.
He’d spent another two hours having dinner, drinks and idle conversation at LaDonna Roma’s with the club’s General Manager, Gayle Hunter, before finally finding his way down to the sub-level or, as his friend Eayann affectionately called it, The Vampire Classic Zone, and the Shadows of Night Lounge for, if little else, relaxing refreshment amongst his own kind.
“You look like a man with an itch that scratchin’ won’t stop,” Tigr said, pouring him another brimming shot glass. “Or, at least, you drink like one.”
“This,” Fallon quirked a lopsided grin, then tilted his head and let the liquor slide down his throat in one smooth unbroken gulp, “is a slow night for me. But you are right,” he placed the glass on the bar, allowing her to refill it. “Although, I don’t think itch is exactly the right word. More like a bug bite.”
“A woman?” Tigr prompted. “And don’t be afraid to tell me to mind my own business.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Fallon shook his head, toying with the rim of the glass. “And yes, a woman, kinda.”
“Ah, business,” Tigr excused herself and made a quick hop down the bar to tend one of the other customers. She was back in under a minute. “Wanna talk about it? Never know, it might help.”
“It’s okay, I—” Fallon started and stopped himself, shrugging after a beat’s consideration. “You know, it just might, at that.”
A jerk of his head took them both to the bar’s secluded end, away from curious eyes and ears where Fallon produced a page of computer print-outs that contained the three images. One showed Eden Walker and an entourage of three entering Shadowfall’s main entrance, past a pair of dark-suited security staff. The second showed the group among other patrons at the lobby’s bank of elevators. The third shot was one taken by the elevator-cam.
“I’ll take a guess. The one you’re interested in is the girl with the Nicki Minaj do,” Tigr offered.
“Well, if it helps—” Tigr started, then stopped at the sound of Fallon’s cell phone. He raised a finger to delay her and moved away from the bar.
She woke with a start, her eyes snapping open in the darkness of her bedroom; heart pounding, ears straining to hear the noise that had woken her. Sitting up, she was in the process of swinging her feet around when she heard a muffled curse and a footstep outside her bedroom door. Rowan froze, holding her breath. Slowly … carefully … she stretched out an arm and scooped up her phone from the bedside table. Pulling the covers up over it, she hit the LED display as she keyed in her passcode and navigated to her phone book. For a second or two, she hovered over the number for SPD then scrolled past it. She didn’t think they’d believe her if she rang them.
Who else could she ring?
She watched as the list of phone numbers slowed and stopped at the very last entry in the list.
Wylde, Fallon, she mouthed. Could she call him? Did she dare? Another shuffling step sounded. He’d said if the situation called for it to call him. Did this count?
Decision made, she hit call. He answered on the second ring.
“Mr Wylde …” she whispered.
There was a long pause and Rowan was about to cut the call when Fallon spoke again.
“Miss Walker? Isn’t it a bit late for you to be calling?”
“I … yes, I’m sorry … I shouldn’t have disturbed you,” Rowan paused, listening intently to the movements in the outer room.
“You haven’t disturbed me. What can I do for you?” She could hear the rich amusement in his voice and knew he thought she’d rang for an entirely different reason, one that had nothing to do with hiring him to find her sister and, despite the fact she was alone with a potential murderer in the other room, Rowan squirmed in embarrassment.
“Miss Walker?” His voice prompted her, telling her she’d stayed silent for too long.
“It’s just … I don’t think the police will come and … Well, you said if I needed to call you and I don’t know who else to ring …” she realised she was babbling and sucked in a shaky breath. “I think there’s someone in my apartment,” she finished in a whispered rush.
“There’s someone in …” Fallon repeated slowly, then caught himself the amusement gone from his voice. “Where are you?”
“In …” she swallowed. “In my apartment.”
“And you didn’t think to open with that? Give me your address,” he demanded in a clipped tone. Rowan did so. “I know the area. I’m about five minutes away. Do they know you’re there?”
“I don’t know. I’m in my bedroom.”
“Alright. Stay away from the door, keep as quiet as you can. I’m almost at my car now. Stay on the line and tell me if they try and come in to you.”
She heard his car’s engine fire into life and cringed, hoping whoever was in the other room couldn’t hear it as well.
The next five minutes felt like the longest of Rowan’s life as she sat clutching the phone to her ear and her eyes glued onto the door handle. Every so often, Fallon would ask if she was okay and Rowan would murmur an affirmative until, after what felt like a lifetime, he told her he had arrived and was parking his car.
“Stay in the room until I come and get you,” he told her. “I’m heading up to your floor now.” He cut the call and Rowan waited in the darkness.
Five minutes passed, then ten without Rowan hearing any noise and she was biting on a thumbnail nervously when her bedroom door swung open. Wide-eyed, she inched backwards in trepidation, only to sigh in relief when Fallon was framed in the doorway.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Rowan nodded but didn’t move from where she sat, knees drawn up to her chin, on the centre of her bed. Fallon stepped into the room and gave a quick glance around.
“Whoever you heard left before I arrived,” he told her.
That got her attention and her eyes rose to meet his. “I wasn’t lying.”
“I know.” He sat on the edge of the mattress. “Your front door was open, closed just enough so that it wasn’t noticeable unless you pushed it.” He tilted his head to look at her and held out a hand. “Come into the other room.”
Rowan stared at his outstretched hand, then grasped it with her own. She allowed him to tug her to her feet and lead her back into the sitting room. Still holding her hand, he felt her stop in the doorway and turned.
“There’s no one here but you and me.” He urged her back into movement and directed her to the couch. “Sit down. Do you have anything to drink? Whiskey? Vodka?”
“I don’t really drink,” she replied. “But there might be a bottle of wine in the kitchen somewhere.”
He disappeared into the other room and Rowan could hear him opening and closing doors. Eventually, he reappeared with a dusty bottle of wine and two glasses. He placed the glasses onto the coffee table and filled them before handing one to Rowan.
“Miss Walker,” Fallon eased down onto the couch beside her. “Rowan … I can call you Rowan, can’t I?” He waited for her to nod. “You’ve had quite a shock. It’s not every day you wake up to find an intruder in your home. Drink the wine, it’ll settle your nerves.”
“You believe me, then?”
“Yes. Your door had been forced and there’s a footprint by your bedroom door. Since I can only assume you don’t wear size eleven military style boots, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was left by your unwanted guest.” He couldn’t tell her that he could also smell the intruders.
Rowan sagged back against the couch. “The police said I was imagining it.”
Fallon lifted his own glass to take a swallow of wine and had to hold back a shudder at the taste. “No, you didn’t imagine it.”
She shifted beside him, curling her legs up beneath her. “How much do I owe you for coming?”
“Why don’t we get into that later?” His eyes fell onto the wine sloshing around in the glass clutched in her hand, and he reached out to gently peel her fingers away from the stem and place it back on the table. “Right now, we need to make sure you’re safe,” he told her. “Do you have any other family, or friends maybe, who could put you up for a few days?”
Rowan looked back and forth from Fallon’s face to her wine glass, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. Fallon watched her process what he was saying, and found himself alternating between worry for how vulnerable she appeared and admiration for how quickly she seemed to rally her defences.
“You think they might come back, don’t you?”
Fallon didn’t see the point in lying. “It’s a definite possibility.”
“I have a friend who works with me at the coffee shop – Lainie. We have classes together at …” she faltered, scanning the immediate area around her. “My cell phone. I think I left it on the bed. I can call her. I think it would be okay, at least for a day or so.”
“Good. You do that. Pack up whatever you need.” His eyes drifted over the flannel pyjamas she wore, frowning slightly at the dancing mice that covered them. “Get dressed. I’ll wait here until you’re ready and drive you over to your friend’s place,” he told her.
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