The first bullet whizzed by my head. I saw a flash of light but couldn’t make sense of what was happening even when the shell found a target behind me. I stood, frozen in place, on the front porch of the elegant private cottage Aunt Letty’s lawyer reserved for me. I hugged Marlowe who was barking fiercely and took a step backward into the foyer. Marlowe wriggled free and jumped to the floor.
A hand holding a white Stetson whacked the porch light, shattering the fixture and the bulb. The owner of the Stetson bumped into me as he bounded indoors. That sent me sliding over the polished wood floor of my rustic chic suite. I yelped as I landed on my well-padded derriere. A barrage of bullets flew over my head.
My heart raced as the shots sank into some surfaces and ricocheted off others. When I struggled to sit up, the stranger tackled me and forced me flat onto the floor. I fought to wrestle free. Marlowe snarled and pulled furiously at the man’s sleeve.
“Stay down,” he said as he rolled off me. He shook his arm forcefully and Marlowe tumbled, end over end. Furious, I punched the man as he kicked the door shut with a firmly planted, exquisitely carved leather boot. In almost the same motion, he reached up and yanked the lamp off a table near the entry. As the room went dark, two bullets slammed into the heavy wooden front door and sent splinters flying.
Moonlight streamed in through the sliding doors leading outside from the great room behind me. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see the shadowy figure straining to shove the sofa in front of the door. Marlowe had a grip on his pant leg, growling, and shaking his head as he tore at the fabric.
Were Marlowe and I hostages? I wondered as my stomach roiled in terror.
As my would-be captor peeked through the blinds he shut, I flipped over onto my belly and scrambled, crablike, toward the safety of my master suite. The door could be bolted from inside. I didn’t get far before he grabbed me and pressed me flat again, knocking the wind out of me. This time the bullets shattered glass and the maniac returned fire shooting at someone behind us. My heart sank realizing that he had a gun.
In the distance, I could hear a siren blaring. As it drew closer, I heard shouts, and then footsteps. The footsteps came from the deck outside my bedroom. A minute or two later, tires screeched as a vehicle took off.
“I’ve told you, already—stay down.” When he rolled away, the intruder pulled a phone from a pocket. Then he handed Marlowe to me. “Take this and keep it quiet.”
“Rikki,” he said almost immediately after he placed a call. “I’ve got a situation on my hands.” Those sirens blared now. I imagined them racing toward us up the long driveway leading from the roadway to the cottage.
I considered making a run for it again while the madman spoke on the phone in a low voice. The sofa blocked the front door, but maybe I could escape out the sliding doors to the deck taking the same route the gunman had used. With my luck, running in the dark, I’d impale myself on an enormous shard of glass. A piece of glass might make a good weapon, though. With my free hand, I carefully explored the ground around me, searching for anything that I could use to hurt this guy. He hadn’t even flinched when I landed a blow earlier.
“How should I know? Hang on a second, and I’ll ask her.” No longer speaking in a whisper, his voice jolted me.
“My boss has a question for you.” The glow of light from his phone lit the space around him. He was leaning back on his haunches, squatting down like a catcher behind Homeplate.
“Who wants you dead?”
Excerpt from Lily’s Homecoming Under Fire
By Anna Celeste Burke
By Anna Celeste Burke
Included in Love Under Fire
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