She dropped back onto her pillow as a cool breeze washed over her.
Did I leave a window open?
“Lexie, get up,” Vinnie’s voice whispered through the night air.
A growl rose from Bear lying across the bottom of her bed. She started to tell him it was okay when the rattle of a doorknob stopped her. Footsteps thumped on the wooden deck outside her bedroom window. A creak from the window tore through the quiet house.
Reaching for her cell phone, ready to hit 911, Lexie scooted across the mattress and tiptoed to the edge of the window. Gently she pulled the curtain back an inch to give her a view of the deck.
Her breath stuttered.
Her heart stopped pumping.
A form in black stood at the French doors, shoving something between them.
Hitting send on the phone, Lexie identified herself to Rose, the town’s night dispatcher, explained what was going on, and promised she’d stay inside until help arrived. Like she could do anything else. Pains wracked her chest from lack of oxygen, and with legs no longer sturdy, she melted down the side of the wall, hugging her knees to her. Rose’s voice babbled away in the background, the words merely jumbled noise. A loud bang against the French doors had her jumping out of her skin.
“Lexie, get your billy club.” Vinnie popped in next to her.
She crawled across the floor to pull the antique police club out from under her bed. Kat had given it to her as a joke one year on her birthday. “Did you get a look at their face?”
“No, they’re covered head-to-toe, but I’d bet my left nu…hand, it’s the same guy from the Irwin’s place.”
The intruder gave up on the doors and moved to the living room window. Lexie knew he couldn’t get in without breaking the glass, which wouldn’t be easy as they were hurricane rated, and all of the doors and windows had strong security latches. Bear growled louder as the footsteps grew heavier and closer. He must be making his way from room to room.
Lexie pulled Bear back with her to the hallway. Breaking free, he ran to the window jumping up and barking. Heavy curtains prevented her midnight guest from seeing in, but a few times Bear knocked the material out of the way, giving Lexie a glimpse. Whoever was out there wasn’t afraid of her dog. Bear was a sixty-five-pound Akita and while she knew he was more like Scooby than Cujo, a perfect stranger wouldn’t.
The only reason he wouldn’t be afraid of the dog, was if he was armed or knew him. The window frame creaked and groaned as he worked it trying to pry it loose.
“Could you see if he had a gun, Vin?”
She’d crawled back across the room and stood with her back to the wall next to the window out of sight.
“I’ll go check. If you knock him out with that thing, we can catch our man and solve the case.” Vinnie nodded to the rubber-covered stick in her hands and disappeared.
If only it were that easy.
She hated sitting and waiting, but she wasn’t going to be that girl—the one who ran into the basement, or in this case outside to face the armed burglar. You didn’t take a stick to a gunfight. He was at the back of the house. If she could grab her keys, she could make it to the car before he got around to the front. But what if he’d disabled her car? She’d be toast.
And she couldn’t leave Bear alone to get hurt.
Then she heard it, the slow slide of her bedroom window as the frame glided across the tracks. Bear went ballistic jumping, barking and growling as he tried to get to the intruder. Lexie held her breath. It was now or never. She couldn’t let him in the house. She swung the nightstick like she was the last batter and the bases were loaded.
A noise came from the other side of the deck. He turned in the opposite direction right as she let loose. Her visitor swore, stumbling on the deck as he grabbed his shoulder.
She missed her target—his head.
Distant sirens pierced the night air. Lexie released her breath as relief washed through her. Just as she started to relax the intruder turned back, his eyes met hers, black as the night and filled with hate. Lexie’s heart jumped in her throat, cutting off all airflow. She had no idea how long she stood there, five second, five minutes, or five hours and then he was gone.
Bear ran to the living room, whining, then back to Lexie in the hall, licked her face and ran back to the outer-rooms. He no longer barked. The intruder was gone, but he was somewhere out there in the night, and Bear wanted a piece of him.
Flashing lights peeked through the edges of the curtain, the pounding of her heart drowning out the noise of the sirens. The pounding grew louder, seeming to vibrate through the house. A familiar voice penetrated the fog of her brain.
“Open the damn door or I’m breaking it in!”
She whipped the door open causing Rafe to nearly fall on her.
Wrapping his strong arms around her, his strength and warmth filled her, chasing away the dark that had enveloped her. Whispering soothing words, he held on until the shakes subsided.