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. If you love mystery and romance, come read the next chapter below!
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14/Chapter 15/Chapter 16/Chapter 17/Chapter 18/Chapter 19/Chapter 20/Chapter 21
After he descended the stairs into the dank basement, Cody heard Maggie moving around upstairs before she settled into complete silence. He hadn’t really wanted to search the basement. He didn’t think there would be anything down here, but he thought Maggie might need some time alone when she entered her father’s room.
The only things down here were boxes of junk. He methodically opened the lid to every one. He found three boxes of old musty clothes, several random car parts, and lots of half-empty bottles of cleaning supplies. Two vacuum cleaners stood abandoned in the corner.
He’d gone through every box down here. Standing in the center of the basement, he turned slowly in a circle, taking in the entire basement, making sure he hadn’t missed anything. Satisfied he hadn’t, he looked at his watch. It had been twenty minutes. That should have given Maggie some time to come to grips with the grief he suspected she would face. It was time to go upstairs and check on her.
He climbed the old rickety basement steps and shut the door behind him. The house was eerily quiet, making the hair on his neck stand on end. There weren’t any sounds coming from upstairs. His gut told him something was off, his adrenaline picked up, and he took the stairs two at a time. He called her name as he strode down the hall to Mr. Jones’s room.
Maggie lay crumpled on the floor by her father’s bed. Her hair was wild and covering her face. Heart racing, he feared the worse. He knelt beside her and brushed the hair from her face. He felt for a pulse, it was there, strong and steady. Thank you, God.
“Maggie? Can you hear me?” Why was she laying on the floor? There didn’t appear to be anything out of sorts with room. Maybe she had tripped and fallen. Had she fainted?
A small moan escaped her lips.
“Come on, baby. Can you open your eyes?” He caressed her face, trying to bring her back to consciousness. “Maggie, it’s me. Open your eyes.” He continued to smooth his hand across her cheek.
Turning her head in the direction of his touch caused a grimace to spread across her face. Her eyes barely opened and then closed again. His pulse settled slightly as she began responding.
“It’s okay, Magpie, I’m right here. Come on, open your eyes.” He spoke softly. Her head turned to follow his voice.
She squinted at him.
“Are you all right?”
She stared at him for a moment, confusion marring her beautiful face. He repeated the question, and she nodded. The nod was followed by another grimace. He helped her to a standing position and led her to a chair by the window.
“Can you tell me what happened?” He brushed hair from her face so he could see her eyes.
“I don’t know. I was about to go through some boxes I pulled from the closet when you came in. I asked if you’d found anything. There was a blinding pain, then I woke up to the sound of your voice.”
Lifting her left hand to her head, the glint of something sparkled in the sunlight. She ran her hand through her hair, down the back of her head, and to her neck. She winced when she touched the base of her head.
“Maggie, when I came up here, you were already on the floor.”
She stood abruptly, wobbling before collapsing into his arms. “I’m so dizzy.”
He waited for her to steady herself against him before easing her back into the chair. “Let me look at your head.” She turned in the chair, and he moved her hair. He instantly went on high alert. She’d been attacked. A deep purple bruise was already starting to form. “You took a hit to the head.”
She turned back and shook her head to move her hair. Pain crossed her face, and she raised her hand back to her forehead. The sparkle caught his eye again, and his breath stopped. He grabbed her hand and pulled it closer. On her ring finger was a very familiar sapphire ring. It looked exactly like the ring he’d bought for her six years ago.
It couldn’t be. His ring had to be safe at home. Maybe she had found this one among her mother’s jewelry. Rings like this weren’t exactly rare.
He was grasping at straws.
“Maggie, where did you get this?” He aimed her hand up so she could see the ring.
Words scribbled on the palm of her hand distracted him from her reaction. Dread filled him. Before he could confirm what it said, she yanked her hand from his and stood, walking around him unsteadily. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen it before. How did it get on my finger?”
“Let me see your hand.”
She held her hand out so he could see the ring, but it wasn’t the ring he wanted to see. He turned her palm over and terror gripped him. Eight for a Wish.
“We need to go. Now.” He pulled his gun from its holster and flipped the safety off. Using his free hand, he grabbed hers and pulled her to the doorway. He stood absolutely still, listening for any sound that might be coming from outside the room. Complete silence. He slowly stuck his head around the doorframe, confirming the hallway was empty. He pulled Maggie behind him as he took off toward the stairs.
“Cody, tell me what’s going on.” She didn’t urge him to stop. Instead, she kept pace with him as he ran down the stairs. He pushed her body against the front door and stood in front of her, forming a wall of protection around her.
“He’s been here. For all we know, he’s still here. We need to leave. I’m going to check out front and make sure no one’s out there, then we’re going to run for the truck. I want you to stay as close to me as you can.”
The fear that had frequented her eyes in the last several days was back. He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “I’m going to get you out of here safely.”
He leaned to the left and peered out the window, scanning the front yard. Nothing appeared to be out of place, and there weren’t any shadows moving in the tree line. He grabbed Maggie’s hand and used it to pull her behind him. He was now the wall between her and anything on the other side of that door. Pulse racing wildly, a drop of sweat rolled down his back as he opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, pulling Maggie even closer, her body melding with his. There’s no going back. One. Two. Three.
He took off running for the truck with Maggie on his heels. There were no gunshots. No one surged from the shrubs. He opened the driver’s side door and pushed Maggie in ahead of him. She scooted across the seat as he climbed in and started the truck.
“Get down, just in case.” He motioned for her to crouch low. If their guy was still out there, he didn’t want her in the line of fire. He slammed his foot on the accelerator and sped down the drive, leaving dirt clouds in his wake. When he turned onto the main road, Maggie sat up, looking disoriented and nauseated.
“Cody, what’s going on?” She looked down at the ring on her finger. “Where did this come from?”
How did he answer that? That ring was supposed to be hidden in a drawer. His secret was about to be revealed. Why had he kept that ring? That was a question he would have to answer later. Right now, they had bigger concerns. He decided to sidestep the question.
“It was part of another attack, Magpie.”
He glanced at her. She was studying the ring on her finger. She turned her palm over to take the ring off and let out a loud squeal. She’d finally found the words that had sent them running from the house.
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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
SMALL TOWN GUARDIANS SERIES