Chapter 7: Hidden Danger by Jennifer Pierce

We are excited to share a book installment on Wednesdays and Saturdays! Hidden Danger by Jennifer Pierce is the first in the Small Town Guardians series. Read the next chapter below!

Hidden Danger by Jennifer Pierce

Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

She’d spent the afternoon changing the locks and installing the alarms on all the windows and doors. After managing to get some cleaning and sorting done in her bedroom, her stomach growled. It was a good time for a break. She placed a frozen dinner in the microwave and went to get the newest novel she’d been reading. Reading about lost love and eating the banana pudding that was setting in the refrigerator would be a good way to finish the evening.

She sighed deeply. Being here dredged up all the old feelings of pain and rejection, surprisingly strong and fresh in her heart. She had loved once, then he was gone, and he’d taken her heart with him. After that, she’d never gone looking for love again. The rejection was just too painful to go through again. Cody had deemed her unworthy. There had been some flaw that she hadn’t seen, nor had she been able to find. So now, she found love in her books and poured herself into her job, tutoring children, and writing when her schedule would allow.

The microwave beeped. She grabbed the cardboard container, a fork, and a bottle of water from the refrigerator and went to make herself comfortable on the old, worn out couch in the living room.

Her cell phone flashed a notification light. She had missed a call. She swiped the screen and saw that the call had been from Cody. He was probably calling to check on her. She’d call him back after she ate.

No sooner had she opened her book and put the first bite of noodles in her mouth, there was a knock on the door. She found herself wishing she hadn’t put her father’s gun away. Who was she kidding? Bad guys didn’t typically knock, right? She stood to answer the door and there was another knock, followed by the unmistakable baritone voice of the sheriff himself.

“Magpie? I know you’re in there. I can smell burnt cardboard. You’re sitting on the couch, reading a book, aren’t you?”

She settled herself back down on to the couch and forked in another mouthful of noodles. She was predictable. He knew it. She knew it. So, what? “What do you want?” she yelled around the food in her mouth.

“You didn’t answer the phone.”

“Sorry. I was cleaning upstairs.”

“Can I come in?” His question was slightly muffled by the big wooden door.

“No!” She reached for her book and flipped to the page that was marked with her favorite bookmark.

“Come on, Maggie. I want to talk.”

He wants to talk. What can he possibly want to talk about? She couldn’t stand the thought of listening to whatever he had to say.

“So, talk,” she said in the direction of the door.

“I am not going to talk to you through the door.”

“Well, I’m not letting you in, so we are at an impasse.”

“You have always been so stubborn.” His heavy footsteps descended the porch.

Finally. She smirked in victory, stuffed another bite into her mouth, and got lost in her book. A few minutes passed and movement across the room startled her. Gasping, she stood, knocking everything to the floor. Cody stepped into the room, cocking an eyebrow at the mess.

“What in the world are you doing?” she yelled at him while picking up the closest thing she could find to throw at him.

He smiled and caught the pillow before it could hit him in the face. “I came to check on you.” He threw the pillow back at her.

She knocked the pillow to the floor and stared at him. If looks could kill, he’d be a dead man.

“So, you decided that since I wouldn’t let you in you would break in? Newsflash, Sheriff, that is illegal.”

“I wouldn’t classify it as breaking in really. I just used an alternative entrance.” He chuckled at his own joke.

Her heart rate was finally slowing to normal.

“What alternative entrance? Did you bring the spare key back with you?”

“Nope. The same one Jake and I used to sneak in and out of the house.”

She’d forgotten he had spent so much time at the house and knew all the nooks and crannies just like she and Jacob did. Apparently, he’d climbed the old tree and jiggled Jacob’s bedroom window until the lock flew open. She made a mental note to put something above the window to keep it from opening until the security company came.

She bent down and cleaned up the noodles that had spilled onto the floor. She set the bowl on the coffee table and sat on the sofa.

“You ruined my meal, so thanks for that,” she grumbled.

“I am sorry I startled you. But we do need to talk. It’s important.”

“I guess you’re not going to leave until you say whatever it is you came to say.” She gestured for him to take the chair diagonal to the couch. Cody sat and turned to her.

“I did a quick internet search on the phrases from the two notes you received. One for sorrow and two for joy. Those are lines from an old nursery rhyme.”

She’d thought she had heard them before but hadn’t been able to place the origin.

“There are several different versions of the rhyme, anywhere from six to fourteen lines long. It’s in reference to a bird, and the superstitions connected to the amount of birds one sees.”

“Okay. What does a bird or group of birds have to do with me?”

“Maggie, it’s not just any bird. It’s the Magpie bird.”

She felt sick. Only Jacob and Cody had ever called her that. The situation no longer seemed like just a frightening prank, but a deeply personal violation of her life. Cody leaned forward to rest his forearms on his knees, an earnest expression on his face. She had a hard time focusing on him.

“I believe whoever is behind this is targeting you specifically, and that they won’t stop until the rhyme is finished.”

The room started to spin, and she couldn’t breathe. Loud pounding filled her ears, and her lungs ached for air. Her vision started to go black, and then she was pushed forward until her head was between her knees. A warm hand rubbed her back. The pounding faded, and she could hear Cody speaking comforting words to her.

The warmth of his hand spread through her entire being. She focused on that warmth and slowly her composure returned. Focusing on her breathing, she sat up and looked at Cody. His eyes were filled with concern. He took both her hands in his and rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb, the comforting gesture he had done whenever she’d had moments of grief after her mother’s death.

She had missed him so much, but she couldn’t sit here and allow herself to open back up to him. She pulled her hands from his and stood to put some distance between them.

“Why would someone be targeting me? Like I told you before, nothing in my life justifies this kind of craziness.” She paced in front of the coffee table.

“I’m just as confused as you are. But apparently, this is about you.” He stood and placed his hands on her shoulders, stopping her pacing. “With this new information, it’s best if you find a more secure place to stay.”

She shrugged his hands from her shoulders. “I’ve already told you. I am not going to be bullied into leaving. I’ve taken every available precaution to keep myself safe. I’ve got new locks, window and door alarms.”

“Maggie, you need to take this seriously. I was able to get in through Jake’s window without you knowing. The house isn’t as secure as you think.”

“That’s true, but you were here more than you were at your own house. You know all the secrets of this old house.”

He cupped her cheek in his hand. “I care about you. I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you.”

She cringed at his words, at his touch, and turned her head, breaking contact. She was silent for a moment. Was he telling the truth? Did he care for her as his Magpie or as a case? She took a step back and turned her head. “Why would I believe you?” The truth was she didn’t know what to believe anymore.

“Maggie, please let me explain.” He pleaded with his eyes. The anguish she saw in them only intensified her own.

“I’d rather not.” She didn’t want to hear about why he’d rejected her. What about her had turned him away. She picked up her mess from the coffee table and disappeared into the kitchen.

She threw away the trash and crossed to the sink. Tears slowly streamed down her cheeks. His eyes told her everything she needed to know. He was truly sorry for what he had done, and he wanted her to know why he had made his decision. She wasn’t ready to hear it. She wasn’t ready to finally know what was wrong with her.

She turned on the cold water and splashed her face. Her eyes cooled, she dried her face. She grabbed two bottles of water and went back to face Cody.

She handed him a bottle and took her seat on the couch. “You said that this nursery rhyme had several lines. The first line was ‘One for sorrow.’ I assume that was why there was only one shot? And ‘Two for joy’ would be the rings because two people get married and that is a joyous occasion. What’s the next line?”

“In most versions, it’s ‘three for a girl’ and then ‘four for a boy’. I really don’t know what to think about those.”

She remembered a baby shower she went to recently. “You know, there are old wives’ tales about predicting the sex of babies. Maybe that is what those two lines refer to. I’m not pregnant and in no position to be so anytime soon, so I don’t think whoever is doing this will interpret it that way.”

Cody’s shoulders seemed to relax when she mentioned she was unattached, or had it been a figment of her imagination? Was he hoping to rekindle their relationship? That wasn’t going to happen.

“I hate sitting here wondering when and if someone will strike next.” She yawned, exhausted from the stress.

“Maggie, please reconsider what I said about staying somewhere else. I know you don’t want to be bullied, but I’m talking about your safety.”

“I’m not leaving. Like I said before, the locks are changed, the door and windows are alarmed, and you’ve got a deputy checking on me. I also have dad’s old pistol, if it becomes necessary.”

He looked her in the eye. “Call me if you need anything, even if you think it’s silly. There is nothing silly about your safety.”

She nodded.

“I’ll go so you can get some rest.” He stood and walked to the door. “I’ll use the front door this time. I did place an old metal bar I found in Jake’s room above the window to keep it from opening.”

“Thank you.” She followed behind him and disabled the alarm on the door.

“Lock the door and set the alarm behind me. And, please, call if you need something. Anything.”

She closed the door and set the alarm.

Before heading to bed, she paused at the bedroom window. Could someone be out there watching her? Maybe she should have listened to Cody. She raised the blinds, illuminating the drive below.

Cody’s car was still parked outside. He looked up. Her heart fluttered at the sight of him standing guard. Despite the anger she harbored, she was grateful he cared enough to stay. She shook her head and gave him a small wave before closing the blinds and getting ready for bed.


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About Jennifer Pierce

Jennifer Pierce currently lives in Arkansas with her husband and two children. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and River Valley Writers, where she serves as secretary.

WHERE TO FIND JENNIFER PIERCE

Website: lovereadwriterepeat.wordpress.co

Facebook / Amazon  / Twitter / Goodreads

SMALL TOWN GUARDIANS SERIES

Available on Amazon

 COMING IN FALL 2020:
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