(Not professionally edited)
With the list of names and addresses of the families of the other missing children her father had given her over the telephone, Sam set out to investigate. She promised him he would be rewarded lavishly though she felt he hadn’t totally believed her.
With the list in hand, she started alphabetically with the A’s. She’d called ahead of time to make sure someone was home and had lied, once again, about investigating it for her mother.
“Thank you for taking the time to see me, Mrs. Anton.” Sam smiled warmly as she entered the fragrantly scented house. Some people went a bit overboard with the air fresheners.
“Please, call me Cindy. Anything I can do to get my baby back. The police aren’t telling me much and I often wonder if they care about my son at all,” Cindy sighed, her hands neatly tucked on her lap.
“Did you know there have been several other children abducted in the past year, like your son?”
Cindy’s face went ashen grey. “No, I was unaware of that.”
“The police didn’t tell you they have a serial abductor on their hands?”
Her ashen face turned a little paler. “I thought my son was a random kidnapping. But this makes it all so very different, doesn’t it?” Her eyes met Sam’s. “I wonder why I wasn’t informed of this.”
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the police that. I’m very sorry, Cindy, I thought you knew. If you’re not up to answering any questions now, we can do this another time.” She would understand completely if she preferred to stop now.
“No.” Cindy shook her head. “I would like any help available in getting my son back.”
Sam continued. “What school did Gregory attend?”
“St. Christopher’s, just down the block.”
So much for a match there. Alexis went to an entirely different school. “Was he involved in any extracurricular activities?”
“Oh yes, plenty. Gregory loved being active. He played softball and soccer. There were several activities he partook in at school as well,” Cindy said with pride.
“Would it be possible to get the names of his softball and soccer coaches?”
“Sure, but why?”
Sam looked up from her note pad. “It helps to get as much info as possible.”
“Of course. His softball coach is Eldon Mansfield, wonderful gentleman and loves working with the children.” She recited his number. “And his soccer coach is Craig Leon.” She gave Sam his number as well.
Sam wrote them all down, noting not one of them had the initials of D.B. “That’s a Catholic school your son attends, am I right?”
“Yes it is.”
“Do you and your family attend church?”
“Faithfully, and now in our time of need, the church has been there for us with incredible support. I don’t know what we would do without them.” She sucked in a quick breath, closing her eyes.
Sam could see the woman was beginning to lose it. “If I could get the name of your church, I’ll be on my way.”
“St. Luke’s Parish.” She sniffled.
“Do the initials, D.B. mean anything to you?”
Cindy shook her head, her eyes shimmering. “No, I’m sorry they don’t.”
“One more question and I’ll let you be. Could I possibly get a list of people you and your son know? I would like to talk to as many people as possible to find out about Gregory, for my report.”
“Certainly. It might take me some time to get it together.”
Sam stood. “That’s fine. Here’s my number, just call me when you have it. Thank you for your time, Mrs. Anton,” Sam said as she stepped out of the door.
“Anything I can do to bring my baby home, safe.”
As Sam walked to her car, a single tear slipped from her eyes. She hoped with all her heart that was the case.
Her eyes were beginning to cross and her head was throbbing like a jackhammer. It didn’t clue Sam in that the rumbling in her belly was an indication she had yet to eat since she’d woken that morning. She hadn't had time to bother with food. She’d been too busy talking with people, cross referencing names from one list to the next. Nothing was working and she was getting nowhere. So she thought maybe if she sketched the place Alexis had taken her too, she might be able to figure it out. With her hand on the sketchpad, her fingers poised, Sam drew as if she were possessed.
The little girl lay coiled in a ball on the damp musty dirt floor. The walls were cement. What else had she seen?
Nothing, because it was dark.
Sam threw the pencil across the room at the very same time that her doorbell rang.
Taking a deep breath, she walked to the door, rubbing her sore tired eyes. As she peered out the security hole she was baffled by what she saw. Standing on her doorstep was a tall bearded man with long brown hair tied back in a pony tail. She didn’t have a clue who he was.
Then she heard the familiar voice.
“It’s me, Ethan, and I come baring gifts.” He held up a boxed pizza.
Hunger prevailing over reason, Sam opened the door. “What’s with the get up?”
He stepped inside and shut the door with his foot. Handing her the pizza, he tore the beard away. “Damn thing is irritating. I’m imitating a pizza delivery boy.” Next came the wig. His usually neatly styled hair was a disarray of ebony and still managed to look incredibly soft. He wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a worn-out black bomber jacket. He looked so completely different than he normally did, without his perfectly tailored suits. Yet still, Sam thought, the guy was breathtaking to look at.
“Had me fooled, but the question popping to my mind is. Why the disguise?”
Smiling that dimpled smile that had her heart pounding, Ethan took the pizza from her and comfortably walked to her living room. “I was going stir crazy at home, thought I would go out for a drive. Here, eat and soothe your stomach.”
Frowning, clutching her growling belly Sam took the slice he offered her and said nothing.
He saw the sketches on her sofa and lifted one for a look closer. “My God, this looks so life like.”
“She was once,” Sam mumbled then bit into her pizza. “Mmm, this is great.” Grabbing the sketchbook, she put it aside on the floor than took a seat. “You were saying.”
“Yes, why the disguise.” He took a slice for himself. “I drove around for a while, not sure where I was going. I decided to go to the bookstore and get some paperwork done. But the whole time I was there, the only thing I could think of was you. So I went to the costume chest and searched for a disguise.”
She wasn't sure how to respond to his statement toward her. “Costume chest?” Sam mumbled through a full mouth.
“We host theme readings twice a month. Our readers dress up in character, something new I’ve been trying and it seems to be going over well. I’m glad I got a large, we seem to be polishing it off quickly.” He smiled, grabbing another slice of pizza for himself. “Anyway, I found the wig and beard as well as these jeans and jacket, though I can’t say I would choose to wear them again. I’m not a big fan of jeans.”
“You don’t say,” she said jokingly. It really didn’t suit him any way.
“I prefer my suits. It’s a flaw, but we all have one in some way or form.”
She thought of her ability to see and talk to ghosts. Would he consider that a flaw? “Go on.”
“I threw on the disguise and strolled out the stock room doors. I decided to stop for pizza and see if I could convince you to share it with me.”
There was that charming smile again and as always, it sent her pulse soaring. “You still haven’t explained the disguise.”
He wiped his mouth and hands on the napkins that came with the pizza, before speaking. “I thought ‘what if Samantha has family over. I can’t just arrive at her door and cause her more grief.’ So I went with a disguise. I had to see you, Samantha.”
She’d missed him terribly and the thought that he would disguise himself for her made her heart trip a little more. “And who would you have said you were if someone from my family had been here?”
“A friend from work?” he offered.
“I don’t work.”
His brow lifted. “Not at all?” He took another slice for himself and one for her.
“Not since I came back home. I have money saved up.”
“Came back home from where?”
She licked the sauce from her lips as she chewed. Swallowing, she responded. “I was in Paris. Taking art classes. I came home because my father had a heart attack.”
“Dear God! Is he all right?”
She nodded, swallowing another bite she’d taken. “As long as he listens to the doctors and eliminates some stress from his life and quits smoking.”
“A nasty habit.”
“I agree with you there. Want a drink?”
“Yes, I would love one.”
Wiping her hands on her napkin, she rose from the sofa and headed to the kitchen. She pulled out two glasses and a bottle of wine she’d bought when she’d signed the contract with Olivia and had yet to share with anyone. She poured two glasses and carried them back to the living room. “Here you go.”
“Thank you.” He took the glass, sampled and gave a sigh of approval. Setting it on the coffee table, he reached out to her. When he leaned in to kiss her, she backed off.
“Don’t.” Setting her wine down, she stood.
“I can’t seem to stop myself. You are always on my mind. It’s like I feel you inside of me and I can’t make it stop.”
How was she supposed to think levelheaded when he was making her brain mush? “God, do you know how hard it is for me to be strong when you talk like that?” Her heart was pounding beneath her chest and all she wanted was to give in to her need. Yet that levelheaded nagging brain of hers kept telling her to walk away.
“I need you, Samantha,” he pleaded, getting to his feet.
She backed away a little more. “Try a cold shower.” He kept on her until he’d backed her into a corner.
“I don’t want a cold shower. I want you.”
She closed her eyes on a sigh when his finger trailed over her face and down her neck. “This is wrong. I should make you go.” But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t. She wanted.
“Do you want me, Samantha?” he asked a mere breath away from her lips.
“More than I can possibly say.” She leaned into him, letting his lips caress hers softly, a whispering glimpse of what was to come.
“Then let yourself go.” He covered his mouth with hers so quickly she gasped. His hands sunk into her hair as he angled her head and dove in for more.
God, she wanted. It had been so long since she’d had. She didn’t stop him when he started backing her toward the sofa.
His mouth was so clever as it cruised along her face, as it dipped to her jaw line, and when he grazed his teeth over her flesh, every part of her quivered. She felt his hands slide from her hair to her shoulders, pressing her back against the sofa. Then his hand dipped beneath her shirt to cup her breast, and she found it wasn't just his mouth he was clever with, but his hands as well.
“Daddy’s not going to be happy,” Trent chimed in musically.
Sam felt her arousal pop like a bubble. “Ethan.” She took a deep breath and couldn’t believe what she was saying. “Go home.”
“We have to stop this. There will come a time when it’ll be right for us to be together. Now isn’t that time. Go home.”
“If I could find a way to end it all, to make me free, to have it all stop right now, I would.”
She smiled though her heart was aching. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” Drawing in a deep breath, she walked to the door. “Thank you for the pizza.”
He grabbed the beard and wig. “I won’t sleep tonight for thinking of you.”
“Oh, Ethan,” she sighed and nearly gave in. But her mind was stronger than her desire. She opened the door, stepped back. “Good night, Ethan.”
“Just one more before I go.” Leaning in, he nipped her lips once, then twice before diving in for one hell of a potent goodbye kiss. When he released her, she was more than a little unsteady on her feet. “Good night, Samantha.”
She closed the door, closed her eyes, and leaned back. She could taste him on her lips, feel his hands in her hair, on her body, and smell that fragrant aroma of cologne he wore.
Opening her eyes, she saw Trent staring at her with disapproving eyes. “That was mean.”
“One of us had to think logically.”
“What I do with my life is no one’s business but my own,” she spat at him.
“Then why’d you shove him out the door.” He sent her a toothy grin before he vanished.
Growling under her breath, she stomped off to her room.