“You look like you’ve been traipsing through the woods and fallen a few times.”
Daniel’s look was flat and unamused. “My dad kept telling me I could make better money in LA, and I wouldn’t be combing creek banks. So this son of a bitch tried to kill Mila, then came here and stole her dog.”
“Maybe stole. Maybe just turned her loose.” God, Sam hoped that was the case. Even though it meant Poppy would be at risk from traffic, getting permanently lost, mean animals and meaner people.
“There’s a special place in hell for people who mess with pets,” Daniel muttered. “So we need to get the window fixed, secure this place and get some people out looking for the dog. You want me to take over here so you can get back to Mila?”
The thought soured Sam’s stomach. How was he going to tell her Poppy was missing? It would break her heart, and Gramma’s, and his own. “Yeah. I, uh… Yeah. Here’s her keys.”
“I don’t envy you.” Daniel took the keys on his way to the bedroom.
No, this was going to rank at the top of Sam’s worst-moments-on-the-job list.
My scream—our scream—was still reverberating in the air when a new voice broke into the torment. It came from behind me, from the open barn door, from the center of nature’s fury and rage, and it struck a chord hidden deep inside me, buried in years of sorrow and fear. It was my grandmother, red hair and clothes plastered to her skin by the rain. Backlit by car headlights and near-constant flashes of lightning, to me she looked ten feet tall, stronger and braver than any superhero ever imagined. Her name was Anna, and I called her Gramma, and she was an avenging angel come to rescue me.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my dear God in heaven!” She clamped her hands to her mouth as if to keep in her own scream, and for a moment, I thought the horror and shock would drop her to her knees.
Oh, I loved that voice! I hadn’t heard it in years, but it was woven into my brain and heart. It was the only voice that had ever sung to me, laughed with me, told me sweet stories about bunnies and puppies and happily-ever-afters. It was the only voice that had ever said, “I love you,” and when my parents made it disappear from our lives when I was little, I lost the only light and hope I’d ever known.
My mother whirled to face her, rage making her ugly. “What the hell are you doing here, bitch?” she shrieked. “Get out! Get out! Get out!”
“Dear Lord, Lin.” Gramma’s voice sounded broken, scraped raw. “What are you—what have you—” Her words trailed off into a wail like a wounded animal.
My mother looked around wildly. I’d seen her do it a hundred times. She was looking for a weapon, something that would cause more pain than her bare hands alone. I wanted to warn Gramma, but my earlier attempt at that had gone so badly. I stood petrified, trying to shrink, to become invisible.
Unable to find anything else, my mother grabbed one of the oil lanterns and flung it at Gramma. It wasn’t the first time she’d thrown things at her mother, and Gramma easily sidestepped it, coming a few precious steps closer to me. More than anything I wanted to run to her arms, but I couldn’t move.
The lantern shattered, burning oil spreading in a pool that sizzled and sputtered on the wet ground. My mother was looking for something else, my father was just enjoying the show, and his victim hung limply, blood flowing from her wounds.
Gramma didn’t take her gaze from my mother. “Sweetie,” she said, sending a ripple of hope down my spine. She knew my parents had kept changing our names, though she didn’t know why, so that was what she’d mostly called me. “Sweetie, go get in my car.”
“No!” With an unholy scream, my mother charged across the barn, the movement so sudden that it seemed blurred.
The shock of it propelled both Gramma and me into motion. “Now!” she screamed, and I lunged to her. We grabbed hands and ran together, out of the barn, into the storm, sliding through the mud and puddles to her car where the engine was still running. She shoved me in the driver’s door, and I scrambled across the center to the passenger seat. By the time I sat down, she’d jerked the car into gear, the tires spinning before finding the traction of hard ground, and we were racing down the driveway.