She nodded. “The system’s on a timer. Every other day right now, until we get some decent rain.”
“There are footprints in the bed underneath the window, a size or two littler than yours. Maybe a small woman, maybe a kid.”
For a moment, her focus went to the fact that he’d noticed the size of her feet. It was silly to even think about. Everyone saw everyone else’s feet. But noticing them struck her as…intimate.
“I’ve got a couple people coming over. While we wait for them, why don’t you call Jessica and see if you and Poppy can spend the night there?”
She didn’t want to. In her own plain little bedroom, she dreamed in color. In Jessica’s guest room, she would dream in vivid, eye-popping Technicolor. Her dreams were scary enough in drab tones.
But she couldn’t imagine lying down in her bed tonight, closing her eyes and going to sleep. Every sound would be magnified, terrifying. Tomorrow, after she saw for herself in the light of day that everything was all right—no open windows, no more footprints, no signs of an intruder—and after she wedged dowels into every window to prevent anyone from raising them, she would feel differently.
She stood to retrieve her cell from the living room. At the same time, Sam moved from the kitchen into the dining room, and they both had to stop to avoid a collision. He gazed down at her, and she couldn’t look away. That comfort she’d longed for a few moments ago warmed the air around her. Even though his hands were at his sides, even though there were several very proper inches of space between them, she felt safe and protected and reassured just standing in front of him.
It surprised her a look could hold such power, though on reflection it shouldn’t have. One look from her father had been powerful, too, and he hadn’t needed to come near for her to sense the danger. In fact, the sensations were very similar, except that where one was very good, the other was very bad.
The corner of Sam’s mouth turned up in the beginning of a smile, and he lifted one hand, bringing it so near that she thought she felt its heat against her face. But before he actually touched her, Poppy exploded in a blur of furry limbs, barreling between them on her way to the front door. They were lucky she hadn’t knocked them into opposite sides of the room.
“I’m guessing that’s your guys,” she said, managing little more than a whisper. “I’ll call Gramma.”
Of course, Gramma was upset. Of course, she wanted Mila and Poppy brought over immediately under police escort. She even thought it a good idea that Sam spend the night and shadow Mila everywhere she went for however long it took to feel safe again.
“Yeah, Gramma, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure things like real crimes and real victims take precedence over me.”
“Not to me, they don’t.”
“Thank you. I don’t know what time it’ll be when we get there.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’ll be waiting with cold milk and warm brownies. You stay right by Sam’s side. Got it?”
“Got it.” After a brief hesitation, she lowered her voice and said the hardest words she’d ever had to learn. “I love you, Gramma. See you soon.”
Sam had gone outside with the officers, Detective Little Bear and a woman Mila hadn’t met before. Sliding her phone into her pocket, she retrieved a canvas shopping tote from a kitchen drawer and went into the hall to gather pajamas, a change of clothes and toiletries. She packed food and treats for Poppy, shoved her work boots and baseball cap into a plastic grocery bag, then after a moment’s thought, added her notebook and ink pen. Times when she couldn’t sleep were usually excellent for prying emotions loose from her brain.
Another half hour passed before the officers finished looking around and asking questions about her gate, her fence, her neighbors. The conversation came to a curious stop when the woman—pretty, on the short side, carrying just enough extra pounds to fill out her uniform with luscious curves—asked, “Have you seen anyone or anything unusual lately?”
Mila looked to Sam, whose gaze went to Detective Little Bear, who cleared his throat. “Ms. Ramirez discovered last week’s murder victim. She was also present when the second victim was found.”