Page 71 of Killer Secrets

Poppy preened under her attention, offering her belly, her leg, her ear for scratching, the whole time slowly drifting off. Mila straightened when the snores started and found both Gramma and Sam looking at her. Sam had the police-chief look. She was very sure he wanted to ask her questions, lots of them, starting with What does that note mean to you?

Gramma had her protective mama face on. “You look like—” The words stopped so fast they caused verbal whiplash.

Mila wore the closest to a smile she could manage. “Gramma’s favorite saying when someone looks crappy is, ‘You look like death warmed over.’ Hits a little too close today, huh?”

Gramma came across the room to hug her tightly once more. “I have a new favorite saying. ‘You look like you been rode hard and put away wet.’ Don’t ask me where it comes from—I just heard it from Charles today—but it means the same thing. Come on, baby girl, let’s get you settled in bed. The doctor said rest, and you haven’t gotten one bit yet.”

“I’d like to—”

They both turned to Sam, and he stumbled with a few uhs and ums. “Can your questions wait until tomorrow?” Gramma asked. “It’s been a hard day.”

His gaze fixed on Mila, then shifted to Gramma. Mila wasn’t sure which one of them garnered the most sympathy. She probably did look the crappiest, but Gramma was looking pretty stressed-out, too.

“Of course they can,” he said, everything about him gentling. “I’ll be here if you need anything.”

Gramma hustled Mila into the first guest room, the one with the queen-size bed. “I usually sleep in the other room,” she reminded her, and Gramma grinned.

“Someone might join you tonight. Just to make sure you’re okay while you snooze.”

“Poppy’s used to the twin bed,” she said, but her grandmother’s look was far too smug to mean the dog. Ah. Sam. That would certainly make her feel better…and maybe she should take the chance before he got to ask his questions. Before she had to tell him something about her past.

The prospect wearied her.

She didn’t bother undressing; her shorts and T-shirt could double as pajamas. With help, she climbed into the bed, scooted into the middle so Gramma could stack pillows to support her arm, then swallowed a pain pill. She hesitated when Gramma offered a second tablet. “What’s that?”

“A muscle relaxant. The doctor said your back, shoulders and midsection will likely be sore from wrestling underwater with that son of a bitch. Next time we swim, we’re both taking knives, and don’t you argue with me.”

Mila swallowed the second pill. “I’m not arguing.” She was exhausted, physically and emotionally. Lord, if she could go back to this morning and have this day never happen. She’d known she loved Poppy, of course, but she hadn’t realized the depth and the pain of it until this afternoon.

Gramma closed the blinds, turned off the light, then crossed back to the bed to turn on the tiny beaded lamp on the night table. Giving in to fatigue or the medications, Mila smiled, then closed her eyes, shut off her brain and closed off her fears.

She had no idea how much time had passed when she next opened her eyes. The sky outside the window was dark but for streetlights, and her wrist was cold and achy. She tried to draw it under the covers, but something weighted it down. An ice pack, she realized. The splint rested on the night table, and an ice pack had been secured with a rolled towel so she couldn’t wiggle it loose.

She made a sound, half frustration, half self-pity, and a shadow moved in the chair in the corner. Sam came into the dim light cast by the lamp, smiling at her. “You’ve been sleeping like the—”

She brushed her hair back from her face. “Like I’ve been rode hard and put away wet?”

“Aw, you’re prettier than any horse I’ve ever seen.” He checked the ice pack, for iciness, she supposed, then sat on the edge of the bed. “Dr. Andrea brought her mobile clinic over and said Poppy’s fine. Did you know that dog’s afraid of needles?”

“She needs ice cream to make sure all is right with her world again.” Relief sagged through her, making everything from her eyes to her limbs feel heavy. “He didn’t poison her?”