“Please don’t tell me there’s a body I haven’t yet found.” Inwardly she winced at her comment. It had just come out of its own accord, something she was totally unaccustomed to. She always considered her words before uttering them. It had often meant the difference between annoyance and anger. Anger and rage. Rage and violence.
But in the past week she had been so sociable that her control had slipped. It was freeing, giving her a sense of normalcy she’d never felt. It also tightened her chest and the nerves in her stomach and sent a vaguely queasy sensation bouncing through her. Her parents were dead. Her secrets weren’t.
“No body, please, God. I just wanted to make sure this wasn’t any more difficult than it had to be for you.”
She blinked, sweat burning her eyes, and automatically swiped her sleeve across her face. “You took time to come here…so I wouldn’t have to go into the backyard alone?” The idea puzzled and pleased and touched her, making her next breath hard to come by, making her feel…unworthy. If he only knew…
It was hard to tell whether the flush darkening his cheeks came from the heat or was fueled by self-consciousness. “We aim to protect and serve.”
“I—” So much for speaking without thinking. She couldn’t find the words to say how much she appreciated this gesture. It was the nicest thing anyone other than Gramma had ever done for her.
She swallowed hard and continued to the gate. The code remained the same, five digits and a pound sign, and when she walked into the yard, it looked the same, too. She followed the path to the back of the house and stopped abruptly, her gaze jerking to the patio and the pool. The water was still, blue and beckoning. Everything glistened with raindrops that hadn’t been enough to feed the thirsty soil but had given it a clean shine, and the view was peaceful, beautiful, inviting.
If a person didn’t know that one of the lounge chairs was missing. That a violent act had taken place there exactly one week ago. That the faint stain on the stone was blood. She wondered how porous the stone was, whether that slab would have to be dug up and replaced or if the stain could be sanded out.
Pointless thoughts considering that a man had died.
But sometimes pointless thoughts were the only safe ones to have.
She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until Sam touched her shoulder and it whooshed out. Goose bumps rose on her arms as her wide-eyed gaze jerked to him.
“Sorry,” she said at the same time he said, “I didn’t mean—”
The deep breath that filled her lungs was sweet with flowers and sunshine and rain, and it steadied her almost as much as Sam’s presence did. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “It’s just a little eerie.”
“I know. The family went straight to her mother’s house in New York. That’s where he’ll be buried this week. His boss hired a real estate agent, and they’ll get everything packed up and shipped east.”
“I don’t blame her for not wanting to be here again.” She didn’t believe that souls ripped violently and unexpectedly from their lives haunted places, but she did think they left parts of themselves behind—not good or bad, necessarily, just an essence or imprint of the life they’d lost.
“I know. But someone else will come along and look at it and see a great house, a lot of room, a view, a pool and a garden, and they won’t care that a man died here. If they do, it’ll just be to negotiate a few thousand off the price for the ick factor.”
“That’s a good thing, though.” Mila set down her trug, pulled on gloves and got the shears. “If nobody was willing to live in a place where someone had been killed, think of all the abandoned houses that would accumulate over time.”
When he didn’t respond, she looked at him and saw his gaze was on the shears she held. The weapon used on Carlyle, a knife, wasn’t part of her tools, but she had multiple pairs of shears. She’d seen the ones sticking in Mr. Greeley’s chest, and they were closer to kitchen scissors than garden shears. Still, she held hers out. “Do you want to look at them?”
“No.” He shrugged. “We have the weapon.”