A Merciful Secret(11)

By: Kendra Elliot

Her hands looked fine, but her heart raced erratically. Did I absorb something into my skin? She closed her eyes and took deep breaths, willing her heart to slow. Opening her eyes, she found Morrigan staring at her with concern.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.” She forced a smile.

“Who’s going to watch me now?” Her eyes were large in her elfin face.

Mercy brushed her unruly hair off her forehead. “Until your mom comes back, a kind woman from the . . . agency that helps kids will take good care of you.” Please be a kind person.


“Hopefully your mom won’t be gone for very long.”

“She only took the small suitcase, not the big one.”

That’s reassuring. “Good.” Her heart rate felt nearly normal. Both she and Morrigan looked in the direction of the road at the sound of a vehicle. Mercy recognized the black Tahoe with a light bar.

Relief and a spark of happiness filled her.

Truman could find her in any crowd.

Mercy drew his attention as if she harbored a homing beacon and he were internally wired to the frequency. His nerve sensors locked on her as she sat in the yard and wouldn’t let go. His brain instantly calmed. Being unable to reach her had left him feeling disjointed and empty. Not to mention very worried.

She stood, a tall, slim figure all in black, her long, dark hair only a shade lighter than her clothing.

He frowned. She wore the backup gear from her bug-out bag. What happened to her clothes?

Her hand was held by a small girl in a brown coat and jeans that were too short. Truman assumed she was the granddaughter the deputy had mentioned and was stunned that the child had made it all the way out to the main road to flag Mercy down.

He parked and strode across the snow, his boots crunching, his eyes never leaving Mercy’s green gaze. She gave a wide smile as he walked directly into her arms and held her tight. “You’re going to get a mass of text messages from me when you get your cell service back,” he said into her hair. He inhaled, catching the faint lemon scent from her hair, and the bulk of his anxiety floated away. His arms tightened slightly and he relished the solid feel of her.

“I’m sorry. I knew you might be worried.”

He pulled back, took her face with both hands, and kissed her, not caring about their rule against PDAs when on the job. Four months earlier she’d walked into his town, and he’d known his life would never be the same. In the best way possible. They argued. They made up. They butted heads. But damn, it was fun. Life before her had faded from his memory, and now it felt as if she’d always been with him.

“Yes, I worried.”

“Who told you where to find me?”

“I just followed my nose.”

She scowled.

“I was headed to your cabin to see if you were still there and spotted county waiting at the end of this drive. He told me you were here. What happened?”

The story she recited made him shift his attention to Morrigan. “You went all the way out to the road in the dark?” he asked, holding tightly to Mercy’s hand.

The girl pointed. “There’s a shortcut through there.”

Truman turned around and eyed the dense woods. I wouldn’t walk through there at night. “You’re very brave.”

“I know,” she answered with a shrug.

The home’s front door opened and a man in a bright-blue coat stepped out. Mercy dropped Truman’s hand as the man’s gaze went from Truman to Mercy. He joined their group, and Mercy introduced the detective. Truman noticed the small, wry twist of Bolton’s lips as they shook hands.

Thought she was single, did you?

Think again.

“Have the crime scene techs gotten to the knives yet?” Mercy asked Bolton.

“Not yet. And I talked to the ME. Told her there was a chance some poison could have been on the blade that—” Bolton stopped, his gaze shooting to Morrigan, who stood just outside their group, listening intently.

Mercy laid a hand on Morrigan’s shoulder and looked around. Spotting a deputy in the doorway, she waved him over. “Morrigan is giving tours of her animals. Have you seen them yet?” she asked the deputy, who quickly got the message.

“Nope. I’d love to see them,” he told Morrigan. “Do you have any rabbits?” Truman heard him ask as the two of them walked away.