She’d finally snapped out of her reverie or whatever it was and become aware of where she was when she’d turned onto the lane leading to this farmhouse and parked near the garage. Then, gathering her courage and hoping Trent was fast asleep, she’d dashed through the storm to the wide porch, getting soaked in the process.
She’d been careful of the door, winced when she heard it creak, and then had been greeted by Trent’s low voice.
Now she closed the door behind her.
A low woof from the den followed by clicking toenails on hardwood told Cassie that she’d woken the dog as well. She’d hoped to sneak in quietly, not waking either man or beast. It looked like she failed on both counts.
Hud appeared in the doorway to the den, his tail wagging wildly and thudding against the jamb when he saw her. Wriggling, he sidled up to greet her with happy little yips. “Late, huh?” She bent down to pat his soft head. “Yeah. You’re a good boy,” she assured the dog, then straightened. Her hair was wet, her jeans damp, and the cold seemed to seep all the way to her bones.
She walked into the den. Trent was seated on the couch. No lamps had been lit and the television was dark. The only light came from the dying embers of the fire.
“You waited up?”
“Yeah.” He was pissed.
“You didn’t need to—”
“Didn’t I?” he snapped, his face in shadow. “When all hell’s been breaking out? If you haven’t noticed, people all around you have been disappearing or assaulted or killed.”
“Still what? I shouldn’t have worried? Is that what you’re saying?” He climbed to his feet and for a second a bit of firelight reflected in his eyes. “Hell yes, I waited up. More than that, I tried to chase you down.”
She felt her heart sink.
“What was I supposed to do? You wouldn’t answer my calls. And when you finally texted that you were on your way home, I came back here.” He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced pointedly at the digital display of the time on the television. “That was hours ago.”
“I . . . I know.”
“What have you been doing?”
“Driving around. Thinking,” she hedged as he crossed the short distance between them. What could she say that didn’t sound like a lie or whacked or both? How could she explain losing two hours?
“In the middle of the damned night? When people have been killed?”
“In LA. Lucinda was—”
“Lucky,” he cut her off. He was towering over her, his face etched with concern. “If you can call it that. She could have died just as easily. What were you thinking?”
“My cell phone was nearly dead.”
“I thought I should save it for an emergency.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” he said, placing his hands on her shoulders. Warm, strong hands. Deeply worried eyes. “This is a fucking emergency. You’re living it.”
She wanted to argue, started, then thought better of it. “Okay. All right. I should have called.”
She could see him struggle to rein in his own ragged emotions. He dropped his hands and took a step back. “So why the hell did you meet Brandon McNary? I thought you didn’t like the son of a bitch.”
“I didn’t. I don’t.”
“Then why? What information did he have that was so all-fired important that you had to go racing off in the middle of the night?”
She crossed the room and put some space between them as she stood before the glass door of the wood stove and felt the heat radiating, warming the back of her legs. “He thought he’d seen Allie, in Oregon City, and of course he couldn’t get near to her. When he tried to chase her down? Poof!” Cassie snapped her fingers. “She was gone.”
“Big surprise,” he said sarcastically.