Chance berated himself for the millionth time. Because he had feelings for Molly, he’d lost sight of his job, his goal, and in turn she could have been hurt. If he hadn’t been so busy getting a damn picnic together, he would have been with her.
“Chance, talk to me,” she said in a small voice. The sound of it undid him.
He realized that it wasn’t just the idea of failing at another job that was getting to him. When he looked at this extraordinary woman, his entire being changed. In such a short time, she’d come to mean everything to him.
“You could have been injured.”
“But I’m fine. Why are you reacting like a crazy person?”
“Why? Why? Because I love you,” he shouted.
She stumbled backward but he grabbed her arms and pulled her to him, crushing his mouth to hers in a desperate embrace.
“I think I’ve loved you since I fell out of the pantry door and landed on you two weeks ago.”
Just then the unmistakable sound of a gunshot sounded from the house. Agitated birds flew from the tree where they were standing and Chance’s heart leapt into his throat.
“Stay here and call 911.” He started toward the house, pulling his own gun. “And don’t come inside this house, Molly. I mean it.”
He didn’t look back to see if she agreed.
Like hell she was staying outside.
The man was an idiot. He just professed his love for her and then runs off in the direction of a gunshot. No way would she let him handle this alone.
Molly ran across the lawn and through the kitchen door. Before she went up the back stairs, she dialed 911 and set the phone receiver on the counter. At the top of the stairs, she listened for noise but the house was eerily silent. She wanted to call out to him but a creak above her head stopped her. She quietly made her way to the third floor.
She looked into the first two rooms but they were empty. Finally, she pushed the attic door open, walked up the steps and her breath caught in her throat.
After all of the heartache she’d been through in the last six months, Molly thought she could handle anything. Unfortunately, nothing prepared her to walk into the attic and find herself staring into the dark barrel of a gun.
The fact that the gun was being held by the man she just realized she loved didn’t help matters.
“Chance, what are you doing?” Her heart began beating rapidly.
“Don’t move.” His grip on the gun tightened.
Her mind raced to figure out what the hell was happening. Only a short time earlier, they’d shared the most amazing moment of her life. Chance told her he loved her.
She looked up now and saw the anger in his eyes.
Had it all been some kind of trap? After all, she’d only known him for a short time.
Her breath rasped out in uneven bursts as she wondered what a bullet ripping through her body would feel like. Surely not as bad as the sensation of her heart shattering into a million pieces. If only she’d never come to this house in the first place….
“Molly, get down.”
“Get down now,” he whispered urgently.
Before she could react, the door behind her burst open again and a tall man ran up the steps and thrust a gun at her as well. Her head bounced between the two of them, unsure what she should do next.
“Drop it,” Chance ground out, his hand steady on the gun that was now pointed at the intruder.
“Give me the rubies or I’ll shoot her.” The man had a raspy voice that held a tinge of fear.
Molly realized quickly he was referring to the legendary Carnegie ruby necklace. Unfortunately, she’d yet to come across it in the last two weeks. “We don’t have the rubies. They’ve been lost for years,” she said, her voice shaky.
“Liar!” he yelled as his gun hand shook.
Chance’s voice remained calm. “She’s not lying. We haven’t found them. Now, how about you put that gun down and we talk about this.”
Without warning or reason, the attic door slammed shut and Molly jumped. But it only took that millisecond for Chance to react. He threw himself at the man and both tumbled down the steps. A gun went off and Molly’s heart slammed into her throat. “Chance!” she screamed.
She ran down the stairs and saw that Chance had the man pinned down as both guns lay to their side. “I’m fine,” he said through gritted teeth. “His gun went off but it just took out a chunk of the wall.”
Molly felt the tears rolling down her cheeks. “Chance, I love you too.” She watched his eyes light up as the man he continued to hold the down let out a grunt.
In the distance, the police sirens wailed their arrival.
Later that night, Molly and Chance walked the police detective and Molly’s boss, Gasper, through the scene once again. Chance retraced their steps before they all walked back into the third floor hallway.
Apparently the apprehended man was a well-known jewelry burglar. The police had been looking for him for years. When Molly’s firm announced they were working on the Carnegie estate, interest in the lost ruby necklace surfaced.
Chance escorted the police down the hall but Molly stayed with her boss.
“You didn’t have to come all the way out here,” she said.
“Are you kidding? My best employee is held at gunpoint. Of course I needed to come here.”
“I’m just happy you’re okay. Are you sure you want to stay here and finish the job? I really miss you in the office.”
“You do?” she couldn’t keep the shock out of her voice.
He turned a surprised face toward her so she quickly continued. “I thought you sent me here because I’ve been having some problems coping. I thought maybe you wanted me out of your hair.”
“Oh, my dear. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’ve had such a rough time lately. I thought that by sending you out here it would help you. This house is so remote and I thought the quiet would be good for you.”
Molly breathed a sigh of relief. It felt like she’d been holding it in for months.
He gently took hold of her hand. “You’ve had to deal with some tragic events. But even without them, everyone is allowed to stumble and fall from time-to-time.” He smiled kindly at her, his eyes twinkling. “I look forward to having you back in the office.”
“But I’m still having trouble designing. It just doesn’t come as easily as it used to.”
“Don’t force it.” He patted her hand. “I have no doubt that you are talented and that talent will return to you. I want you to enjoy this job. Now, I’m going to have another word with the detective before he leaves.”
Gasper walked toward the stairs as Chance came back. He gathered her in his arms and she held tight.
“I think you took ten years off my life tonight.” He leaned down and kissed her.
“At least everything is back to normal.”
Chance ran a hand up and down her back in an assuring gesture. “There are a couple of unanswered questions. The kid basically owned up to most of the strange noises we heard over the last two weeks but not all. Why would he lie about some of them?”
“That’s odd,” she agreed.
He looked over her shoulder and cocked his head. “What’s that?”
Molly turned and saw a handkerchief on the floor at the end of the hallway. Together, they walked toward it. As Chance leaned down to grab it, Molly glanced in the corner room.
Her mouth fell open.
“Chance,” she whispered, walking over the threshold.
Every piece of furniture in the room was covered with tissues. She walked into the middle and turned in a circle. She’d been in this very room the day before, cataloging the belongings. It had definitely been tissue-less then.
“Why in the hell would he put tissues in here?” Chance asked from behind her. “Weird.”
“He didn’t do this.” A smile blossomed even as tears formed in her eyes.
“Then who did?” Chance asked. “Are you going to tell me that you came up here and decorated like you used to do in your Granny’s…”
She nodded her head as Chance’s eyes widened. “Look,” he pointed behind her at a small sofa.
Walking to it, her pulse went into overdrive as she picked up a gold satin pillow. Standing out in dark black crayon was one word.
“Oh my God!” She turned to Chance and saw that his face held the same bewilderment as she felt.
She ran her hand over the silky fabric of the pillow until her fingers felt something sharp. Turning it over, she gasped.
“What?” Chance was at her side.
Molly unzipped the thick pillowcase and reached inside. When she pulled her hand back out, it was dripping in bright red stones. She had found the lost ruby necklace.
“Holy crap,” Chance exclaimed. “Is that what I think it is?”
“This is unbelievable.”
Chance ran his hand over the glittering rubies. “We need to give this to the police detective.”
“But maybe we shouldn’t mention the satin pillow and tissues.”
They both laughed as they clasped hands. Molly took a last look at the reminders of her childhood. For the first time in months, the memories made her happy instead of sad and she knew she’d never truly be alone.
As they walked out of the room hand-in-hand Molly smiled as the distinctive scent of Wind Song wafted over her. She knew without a doubt that she would be able to design again.
Want to read this story in one post? Visit the Waterworld Mermaids Free Read page and click on the story title. Come back tomorrow for another installment in Ghosts in Mermaid Lagoon with a story by Denny S. Bryce.