Protecting Her Secret Son(4)

By: Regan Black



The call ended and the cruelty in that unfamiliar voice quashed Shannon’s hope. Aiden would not be inside the house.

A sob tore free from her throat on a tide of emotion. Her son was gone, out of sight and out of reach, but still alive. Would the same be true for Rachel and her boys? If her ugly past had brought harm to her friend and neighbor, too, she’d never forgive herself.

“Stop!”

She spun around, struggling to fit her boss into the miserable context of this godforsaken day. “Daniel?” He should be at the site, not here. “How did you...?” Her voice trailed off as she figured it out.

“I followed you,” he replied, confirming her guess. “What are you doing here?”

Rachel’s phone had gone silent, so she hit redial. “My son.” She choked. “Should be here. H-he’s not.” Daniel wasn’t a cop, but he knew plenty of them. She had to tread carefully. Aiden’s life depended on it. “The sitter should be inside.” With the phone in her hand, she fought tremors as she pointed to the busted door. “I need to check on them.”

“Hold up.” He stepped in front of her. “We need to call the police first.”

“No!” She made a grab for his phone. “You can’t call anyone or he’ll hurt Aiden.”

“He who? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know yet,” she admitted. “Just hold off on the police for a minute and let me check on my sitter and her kids. I’m going inside.” She used her elbow to nudge aside the broken door, calling Rachel’s name again. Daniel followed, silent as a shadow. She found her friend’s cell phone under the toe kick of the kitchen island, the screen cracked.

As the ringing died and the voice mail message came through her phone, Shannon caught the unmistakable sound of crying children from the other side of the basement door. The doorknob was broken off, preventing their escape.

“Rachel? Boys? Are you okay?”

The crying faded and she heard shushing noises. “Shannon, is that you?”

“Yes.” Relieved, she felt her hammering pulse ease a bit, though her friend’s voice was faint and full of pain. “Are you hurt? Should I call an ambulance?”

“No. No police!” Rachel coughed and sputtered, tried to talk again. “I’m fine. The boys are fine. They said no police.”

They. So more than one person attacked her neighbor, kidnapped her son. “I know. It’s okay,” Shannon assured her. “She sounds weak,” she murmured to Daniel. “How do we get her out?”

Daniel ran his hands over the door hinges. “On it. Give me a second.” He jogged out of the house.

As she spoke through the door with the boys, they confirmed Rachel’s claim that they weren’t injured. She hoped the same held true for their mother.

Daniel returned, tool belt slung over his shoulder. He made quick work of popping out the hinges and Rachel and her boys emerged from the basement.

For a long moment, Rachel clung to Shannon, quaking from the ordeal. When she finally sat down at the kitchen table, her brown eyes were filled with worry and sorrow. Her gaze shifted between Shannon and Daniel. “You didn’t call the police? He’s not a cop?”

“No,” Shannon replied. “This is my boss, Daniel Jennings. He followed me when I left the job site.”

“Thank God.” Rachel hugged her boys close. “Oh, that’s horrible and I know it.” She pressed her hands to her face, hugged her boys again. “They took Aiden. I’m sorry.” Tears flooded her eyes, rolled down her cheeks. “They promised to come back if we called anyone. Not that I had a phone to use down there. How did you know?”

Shannon couldn’t say the words, just pulled up the messages and showed Rachel. Daniel, too. No sense hiding the truth of this fiasco from him now. He scowled for a long moment at the phone, but he didn’t say anything.

Meeting Shannon’s gaze, Rachel only cried harder. Daniel handed her a roll of paper towels. “They had Aiden before I knew what was going on,” she said, blotting her face dry. “I’m so sorry, Shannon. You know I love him like my own.”

“I know.” She sat down and hugged her friend, taking and offering comfort through an unthinkable crisis. “They didn’t hurt your boys?”

“These two seem to be fine,” Daniel said gently. He had the twins perched on stools at the kitchen island and had given them each a juice box. He handed Rachel a bottle of water. “Tell us how it went down.”

“I heard a loud bang near the gate and suddenly two men stormed into the yard, out of nowhere.” She tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear and dabbed at her eyes.

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