Time to Run

By: Marliss Melton

This one's for you, Sunshine. Thank you for the inspiration.

For my Broken Arrow cousins, the nicest bunch of people you could ever hope to know.





Acknowledgments


A lot of super people had a hand in creating this book, but my editor gets first mention for her skill in taking a rock of a manuscript and finding the diamond in it. Thanks so much, Devi, for your faith in me.

Special thanks to three very loyal readers who offered their time and talent in proofreading this manuscript: Kerry Sehloff, Cathy Goldman, and Lisa Panzarella. I'm so very grateful to you.

Thanks, also, to Louis Dooley and John Polak of the Virginia State Police Fifth Division Bomb Squad, for sharing your expertise with me, not to mention a thoroughly enjoyable luncheon, and to my dear friend Laura for hosting it.

And thank you to my Broken Arrow cousins, Tom and Lynn Lewis and Jennifer Anthis, for all your help in making my setting as realistic as possible.

Big thanks goes to all my children and stepchildren: Bryan, Tricia, Conrad, Chauncey, and Grace, for putting up with me being chained to my computer the entire summer while shrieking, "Be quiet! I have a deadline!"

Lastly, thank you, Alan, my sweetheart, for just being you.





Prologue


Sara was diligent in putting away the frozen groceries first, the way her husband expected. Food requiring refrigeration came next, each item neatly placed into its proper receptacle within the stainless-steel refrigerator. The packages and boxes were already stowed in their respective cupboards, but cans still littered the granite countertop. Hearing Garret emerge from his study, Sara hurried to put them away.

Any minute, Garret was going to poke his head through the door to inquire what her plans were for supper and, unfortunately for her, she hadn't given a thought yet as to what they were going to eat.

Working quickly, she slid the cans one by one onto the cabinet shelf, alphabetizing as she went. Baked beans went before chicken broth, which went before green beans; then mushrooms, ravioli, stewed tomatoes, and three-bean salad.

On second thought, maybe the broth ought to be classified with soups, or would that annoy him?

Transferring the chicken broth to the soup shelf, she stepped back to doublecheck the order: broccoli, celery, chicken broth, chili, gazpacho, lentil, then tomato.

Wherever there were two cans of the same kind, one went behind the other, and the can in front had to have an earlier expiration date.

With a huff of annoyance, she shut the cabinet door. She didn't have time to check the expiration dates, which were all years from now, anyway. If she didn't think of a meal to cook tonight, Garret would find something else to take away from her.

She opened the stainless-steel freezer and frowned at the contents. What was wrong with her that she couldn't remember to take the meat out in the morning? Garret was bound to lecture her. Forethought, Sara, is all that this requires. Or are you too simple to plan ahead just a few hours?

Simple? No. She had a master's degree from the University of Virginia, which she'd earned before she met him, of course. If he knew how truly clever she was, how masterfully she kept her secrets from him, he'd lock her up in the attic.

She snatched up a package of frozen hamburger meat and tossed it into the microwave.

The throbbing of a bass drum had Sara glancing up with consternation. What was Kendal doing playing his music that loudly? Surely he knew that his father worked at home on Wednesdays.

She drew an agitated breath. If he didn't turn the volume down, they were both bound to face some kind of reprimand.

Abandoning the kitchen, Sara hurried through the marble foyer toward the stairs to warn him. She slowed when she saw that the door to Garret's study was open. That's right, she'd heard him leave his study just moments before. She realized that he was already upstairs having words with Kendal. Oh dear.

The sudden silence told her that Garret had ripped the stereo plug from the wall. She could hear his voice now, harsh punctuations of sound that she couldn't make out words to. With a foot on the bottom step, she listened. Garret didn't like it when she interfered.

An awful silence ensued.

"No!"

Kendal's wail galvanized her. Sara took the broad, curving steps three at a time, her heart jumping up her throat as she envisioned what Garret could have done to elicit such a cry of protest. He'd never laid a hand on Kendal as far as she knew.

She arrived at the second floor in the same instant that Garret stalked from Kendal's bedroom, Mr. Whiskers dangling from one hand. "Throw this away," he commanded, thrusting the French Lop rabbit at her as he stormed past. "That ought to teach your son not to disturb me when I'm working."

Sara caught the limp creature in her arms. She could tell right away that it was dead.

She looked down at it, stunned. There was nothing visibly wrong with it—no open gashes, no blood anywhere, but it was definitely dead.

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