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“What’s wrong?” Hannah resisted.

He whispered in her ear. “Someone was in the house.”

Chapter Eleven

Grant hustled them back to the van. He put the kids and dog inside and handed the keys to Hannah. “Lock the doors, drive down the street, and call the police.”

“Where are you going?” Hannah protested.

“I’m going to check the house.”

“But—”

“I’ll be fine.” He closed the van door.

As soon as the vehicle pulled away, Grant turned back toward the door. Anger and purpose sped his strides as he sprinted up the walkway. God help anyone he found in his brother’s home.

He crept inside through the door he’d left open. He listened, but the house was silent. He stopped in the kitchen and selected the utility knife from the block on the counter. Rage boiled in his veins and blurred his thoughts as he stalked into the hallway. Reverse gripping the handle, he started searching rooms. The office and dining room were clear. If someone was in the house, he’d find him.

Grant walked up the stairs. He slid into the kids’ rooms, checked their closets, and peered under beds, then crossed the hall to Lee and Kate’s room.

Grant stood in the center of the master, listening for a creak of hardwood that would give away an intruder. In his peripheral vision, a curtain moved. He crept across the floor with silent feet and swept the fabric aside, the blade poised for attack. But the space was empty. Air from the floor radiator blew into his face and moved the drapes.

With his fingers clenched on the knife handle, he turned away. Clothes hung from half-open drawers as if they’d exploded. A pair of silk panties lay in the middle of the room. The intruder had gone through Kate’s intimates. Grant’s fury compounded as he eased back into the hallway and trod toward the guest rooms, then went up to the third floor and checked the attic.

A wide-open, dusty—and empty—space greeted him.

Disappointment flooded him. One minute with his brother’s killer. That’s all he wanted. That’s all he needed.

Breathing hard, he stopped at the base of the attic steps. To do what? He hadn’t had a choice in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’d killed to protect other soldiers. He’d killed for his country, but to kill for pure revenge would be different. He looked down at the knife in his hand. If Grant had found someone behind that curtain, would he have slit the intruder’s throat? Without even making sure he was the same person who’d killed Lee and Kate? The answer was a disturbing maybe.

Frankly, he wasn’t sure what he would have done.

He dragged the sleeve of his sweatshirt over his sweating forehead. His adrenaline rush ebbed, leaving his hands shaky. He flexed his fingers. The physical letdown would pass. His fury, however, remained at low simmer in his gut. He breathed in and out and willed his anger to cool. He needed to control his temper. Carson and Faith were reliant on him to take care of them. He couldn’t lose it.

Grant jogged down the stairs and peered out the living room window. A marked police car pulled into the driveway and two uniformed cops got out. A dark blue sedan parked behind the black-and-white. Detective McNamara stepped out of the second vehicle and walked toward the house.

Grant greeted the cop on the porch. The flow of cold air chilled his clammy skin. “There’s no one in there now, but there was.”

“We’ll just have a look inside.” The uniforms disappeared into the house.

Eying the knife in Grant’s hand, McNamara held out a hand. “You should have waited for us.”

Yes. Grant handed him the knife, handle first. “I’m pretty much an expert at clearing buildings.” His argument sounded weak because it was lame. He’d gone into the house hoping to find someone to take the brunt of his anger.

McNamara accepted the knife. “Yeah. I bet you are, but you don’t do it alone, do you?”

“No,” Grant admitted.

The minivan pulled into the driveway. The sliding door opened, and Carson jumped out. He bolted across the lawn and hit Grant in the legs with a full-body hug hard enough to knock him off balance. Grant pried his thin arms from around his thighs and picked the boy up. “What’s wrong, buddy?”

AnnaBelle circled them, barking.

Carson buried his head in Grant’s shoulder. “I was scared for you.”

Oh, shit. He’d fucked up. The kid had lost his parents, and Grant had left him in a frightening situation and put himself at risk. Carson might not fully understand the circumstances, but he could probably pick up on Hannah’s fear and Grant’s aggression. Holding the trembling child, Grant realized things were never going to be the same again. It wasn’t about him and what he wanted anymore. The kids had to be considered first in each and every decision.

The uniforms came out of the house. “House is clear. The laundry room window was opened. He used a glass cutter.”

“Dust the doorknobs and window for prints and look for footprints under the window,” McNamara said to the uniforms. He turned back to Grant. “You’ll have to give us a list of what was taken.”

“That’s going to be hard. I don’t exactly have an inventory.” Grant carried Carson inside.

“Burglary is pretty common when—” McNamara stopped and glanced at Carson. “In a situation like this.”

“I’ll call an alarm system company today.” Scanning the rooms as they walked back to the kitchen, Grant shifted Carson in his arms. Kid had a grip. “I don’t see anything obvious missing.”

“Maybe they heard you coming in, and you scared them off.” McNamara returned the knife to its block on the counter.

“It’s possible. We weren’t exactly quiet,” Grant agreed.

Carson lifted his head and sniffled. “My pictures are gone.”

Grant stared at the refrigerator. “They were probably knocked to the floor. I’ll move the fridge and check later, OK?”

Carson shrugged. “I can draw new ones.” He squirmed, and Grant set him down. The boy knelt on a chair at the kitchen table and pulled out his paper and crayons.

“We’ll find them,” Grant said and then turned back to the cop.

“We’ll have a patrol unit drive by tonight,” McNamara said. “Hopefully, this was just someone who saw the news and was looking for some easy cash, but I’d push to get an alarm system installed ASAP.”

“I’ll call them as soon as we’re through. Do you have any recommendations?”

“I can give you a few names,” McNamara said, turning as noise came through the open door.

Hannah schlepped the baby and diaper bag into the kitchen. Faith was sleeping. Hannah set the car seat in the far corner. AnnaBelle brought McNamara a tennis ball.

The cop patted the dog’s head. “I don’t suppose she’s much of a watchdog.”

“AnnaBelle isn’t much of a threat to anyone, but she barks,” Grant said.

“Better than nothing I suppose. I’ll go check out the damage.” McNamara went into the laundry room.

AnnaBelle moved with the cop. Grant grabbed the dog’s collar. “You better hang with us.”

Holding on to the dog, he looked over Carson’s shoulder. He was drawing another crying man. Was that supposed to be Grant? He hadn’t cried in front of the boy. Maybe Carson was simply expressing that he knew Grant was sad. Should Grant have cried? He scrubbed a hand down the center of his face. He had no clue what he was doing. With a sense that he was missing something, he handed the dog off to his sister and started making a mental list of items that might be missing.

Something was wrong with the entire situation. Something that went beyond his brother and Kate being robbed or car-jacked. Grant scanned the adjoining family room. An e-book reader sat on a shelf, next to the TV and DVD player.

“I’ll be right back.” He tousled Carson’s hair and went upstairs to his room. His bag was unzipped and obviously searched. He pulled out his electronic tablet. In the master bedroom, in addition to the open drawers, a few shirts and a pair of slacks had fallen off their hangers to puddle on the floor of the closet. Someone had swept the clothing from side to side. Grant crossed the wall-to-wall carpet to the dresser. He opened Kate’s jewelry box. She wasn’t much of a bling girl, but Grant recognized the pearl earrings that had belonged to his mother. Lee had given them to Kate the first Christmas after they were married.

Suspicions confirmed, Grant returned downstairs to talk to McNamara. This wasn’t a robbery. The house had been thoroughly searched and valuables ignored. Faith was already crying in the kitchen, and Grant could hear Hannah’s voice. He headed toward the laundry room, intent on talking to the cops, but Carson met him at the bottom of the stairs. How was he going to communicate his discovery with the cops and take care of Carson at the same time? Grant picked up the child.

AnnaBelle barked, drawing Grant’s attention to the living room window. Ellie’s daughter, Julia, was walking up her driveway.

He opened the door and called out, “Julia?”

She stopped and waved at him.

“Would you like to babysit for an hour?” Please say yes.

“Sure!” She smiled, and her step lightened. “Give me five minutes to dump my stuff.”

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