A Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Reader's Choice Award Finalist for Best in Suspense!
A question that torments Tracy Allen. If she hadn’t slept in, her son would be safe. Only one person could be responsible. Her soon to be ex. But when he’s murdered, and DJ’s still not found, she knows something more sinister is going on than a custody battle.
A mother should keep her child safe. But she didn’t. And now the same question slams into her soul over and over again.
A wave of nausea hit Tracy Allen. Her eyes fluttered open. She glimpsed the digital clock. Six forty-three a.m.
“Oh, no.” Of all days to forget to set the alarm.
She tossed the covers back and stood but dizziness knocked her back onto the edge of the mattress. A headache marched in with full-blown drum corps. What the… she didn’t have time to wait; Daniel would be there soon.
“DJ, your dad’s almost here.”
A car door slammed out front. She slid on a pair of jeans and the grungy t-shirt she’d dropped on the floor the night before. After a deep breath, she shoved her feet into her fuzzy bunny slippers. A second dizzy spell threatened, but she fought it off. She opened the bedroom door and hollered, “DJ.”READ MORE
She rushed to her son’s room down the hallway. Empty. Hopefully, he was dressed. The last thing she felt up to dealing with was one of her soon-to-be ex’s tantrums.
The doorbell sent the drummers in her head into a frenzy.
She headed down the stairs, white-knuckling the banister to keep from going over. What was going on with her? She’d slept well, better than most nights lately. She didn’t recall any signs of feeling ill the day before.
The doorbell rang again.
“DJ.” She smacked her lips, her mouth dry as stale bread. “Come on.”
The pounding on the door provoked the pain between her eyes. She slid the deadbolt back, took a deep breath, and pulled open the door.
“Geez, Tracy,” Daniel said. “You look like crap.”
“Good to see you, too.” She choked the doorknob as she stepped back to allow him entry.
Daniel was his perfectly coiffed self with his standard light-blue oxford shirt and fitted denim jeans. Weekend clothes for the man at the top. The smell of fresh aftershave mixed with the fall air.
Her stomach twisted with nausea. She leaned against the door until the sensation passed.
“DJ better be ready.” Daniel strolled into the foyer. “I’ve got plans.”
Any plans he might have with his little girlfriend probably included watching a Disney princess cartoon. Tracy tamped down the nasty thoughts before her anger simmered over.
She raised her chin and plodded toward the kitchen, pretending his nearness didn’t spark any physical reaction. His Hugo Boss shoes tapped behind her. She’d always disliked those expensive shoes clomping on their mahogany wood floor. But his footwear wasn’t her problem anymore.
Why didn’t he wait in the car and honk? She’d have sent DJ out. Why did he think he was welcome in her house? Men who had affairs didn’t deserve the respect their wives gave them. Too bad for no-fault divorce because this one was definitely his fault.
Stop it. Getting snippy would only make Daniel angry and cause DJ to have a miserable weekend. They’d not put their child in the middle of their battle if she could help it.
“DJ.” She stuck her head into the kitchen. “It’s time to go.”
At the island, a dozen fruity circles floated in a bowl of milk. A half glass of orange juice sat beside the floating o’s. Why hadn’t he finished his breakfast? She picked up the cold glass and placed it on the counter, wiping condensation from her hand onto her jeans.
“When’s the last time you cleaned this place?” Daniel flicked a crumpled napkin on the table with his forefinger.
Refusing to stoop to his level, she glanced at the back patio area but saw no sign of her son. “DJ?”
Daniel twisted his wrist and looked at his Rolex. “Can we get on with it? Please.”
“I’m sure he’s nearby. He wouldn’t go far with you coming.” Tracy pasted a smile on her face. “He’s always excited to see you.”
DJ did love his father, even with all the events of the past couple of months. At one time she did also, before the affairs and pornography.
She opened the back door and glanced around the yard.
“DJ,” she yelled. “Where is that boy?” She planted her hands on her hips and glanced around.
“You act like you don’t know where our seven-year-old is.” She felt Daniel’s sneer on her back. “This isn’t going to look good at the hearing on Tuesday,” he added.
She spun to finally give him a piece of her mind, but her voice caught in her throat. The doorway framed his physique, his features chiseled better than Adonis. He ran his fingers through his jet black hair. Even with the arrogant look in his deep blue eyes, she missed having him in her home. In her bed.
So much for not loving him anymore.
He’d moved on. Time for her to do the same. It was a mantra she’d repeated over and over the past several months, though it did little good. How was she to move on from the only man she’d ever loved? She bit her tongue to keep rising tears at bay.
Tracy slipped past Daniel and rushed back up the stairs to DJ’s room. She might have just missed him. DJ had tossed the blankets across his bed to make it appear made, and his pajamas lay across the footboard. She scanned the rest of his room. His suitcase was nowhere in sight. Not even Herman. He recently took back up carrying the teddy bear around.
A quick look out the bedroom window showed no sign of him in the backyard. She opened the window. “Daniel Joseph Allen.”
A shiver rippled down her spine.
“Did you find him?” Daniel hollered from the foyer below.
She walked to the banister. A triangle between his eyes had replaced the arrogant look from the kitchen.
“Well, where is he?” He stood with his legs apart, and his arms folded over his chest.
“I-I don’t know.” Her mind was in a fog.
She pressed her palm against her forehead. Think. Did she forget he had baseball practice? He wouldn’t have left without telling her. Besides, he knew his father was coming. They’d packed his bag the afternoon before and talked about Sunday night dinner when he returned. Macaroni and cheese, his favorite.
Maybe he was on the bridge overlooking the lake in the backyard.
She cut a look over her shoulder only to see the wall holding several photographs of her smiling child. She’d have seen him from his window. In the office watching cartoons? No, he wasn’t allowed in that room. And he wasn’t in the living room; they’d have both seen him.
Panic slid over her. Stay calm. Don’t fall apart.
Daniel let loose a loud hissing sound like a tire running out of air.
Could he be getting some sports equipment for his weekend with his dad? Tracy tore off into the garage. Still no sign of him.
“You didn’t see him in the front playing?” she asked upon returning to the foyer.
“If I had I wouldn’t have come in.” Darkness crossed into Daniel’s eyes.
She walked toward him. “He should be eating his—”
He grabbed her by the arms and shook her. “What have you done with my son?”