He held his hand up. She didn’t even appear to have thought about going with him. That told him everything he needed to know. “I know. You’re busy. The thing is, Dena, you complained about me not wanting you, but let’s not forget who moved out. I think you like playing the part of the wounded party. The truth is, you’re the one who didn’t want me anymore.”
He’d hurt her with his words. There was pain in her eyes. “I can’t believe you think that.”
“Don’t end it like this,” she begged.
“I’m not the one ending it.”
“Jeff,” she called, but he was already walking away.
“Good-bye, Dena,” he said without looking back.
A week and a half into her stay with Nathaniel and Abby, Dena was ready to move back into her apartment. Nothing against the Wests as hosts—they were welcoming and accommodating—but she missed her own space. Besides, there had been no harassment or threats of any kind since she moved in. Her reasonable mind told her it was probably because whoever it was didn’t know how to find her, but she counted it as a positive anyway.
Childish giggles drifted down the hallway. Nathaniel must have just gotten home. She was fortunate her current caseload allowed her to work remotely, but part of her wished she could miss the daily homecoming chatter.
The giggles escalated into peals of laughter, and Nathaniel’s low voice added to the sounds of the family’s happy reunion. It wasn’t just that she missed her own space, Dena knew, but also that little Elizabeth and Henry were a constant reminder of what she’d lost. And the worst was when she’d spend the evenings with Nathaniel and Abby. Especially those nights when Abby would settle on the floor by Nathaniel and he’d look at his wife with such intensity and passion that it caused Dena’s heart to ache.
Her phone rang. Without looking at who it was, she snatched it off the nearby table. “Hello.”
“Think you can hide, bitch? I’ll always find you.”
Dena froze. Her entire body turned ice-cold, and she couldn’t remember if it was better to talk to him or to stay quiet. Whoever it was used a voice distorter and the gravelly sound was frightening. But at the same time, there was something to it … the cadence or the words …
The person on the other end laughed, and the sound sent shivers down her spine. Not caring if she should keep him on the line or not, she ended the call and sat for long seconds until her body stopped shaking.
When she felt steady enough to stand, she made her way down the stairs to where she knew the West family would be gathered in the kitchen, catching up on the day.
Abby’s back was to her, but Nathaniel saw her. She must have looked terrified, because he set Henry on his feet and rushed to her. “Dena? What’s wrong?” He took her gently by the elbow and guided her to a chair.
“He called again,” she said once she had sat down.
“Elizabeth,” Abby said. “You and Henry go play in the living room for a bit, okay? I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Nathaniel waited until the kids left before turning to her. “He called? Just now?”
Dena nodded and told him the details. “The strange thing is, I think I recognize the voice.” She squinted, trying to remember. “He used a distorter, but I recognized something about him.”
Nathaniel leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “That means it’s probably not connected to your father. Unless it’s someone you both know. That’s not much of a clue, but it’s the first one we’ve had.”
She needed to call Jeff. Her stomach sank just thinking his name. She hadn’t spoken to him since he left, and she knew he’d be upset to learn the calls hadn’t stopped. And she felt guilty for not calling to see how he was doing and if his father had gotten worse.
“Someone should call Jeff.” Abby put a glass of water in front of her on the table. “And the police.”
Dena agreed. There were children involved this time. She wouldn’t put them in danger.
“Anything else you remember about the call?” Nathaniel asked.
“No, but the phone number was listed as private.” She’d looked when she’d disconnected.
Nathaniel had his phone out, making notes. “I’m going to call the police, get them involved. And then I’ll call Jeff.” He looked up at her. “Do you want to talk to him?”
Dena shook her head, doing her best to not to acknowledge the disappointment in Nathaniel’s eyes. When he left the kitchen, she dropped her head to the table.
Abby patted her shoulder. “They’ll find him.”
“I know. I just wonder what my frame of mind will be like by the time they do.”
“Let me pour you a glass of wine. That’ll help it a little.”
“Thanks.” Dena rolled her shoulders. “What I really need is about two hours with a Dom who knows what he’s doing.” As soon as the sentence left her mouth, she remembered. “Fuck.”
Abby set the wineglass down in front of her. “What?”
“I have a damn training session with Daniel and Ron tomorrow. I swear when Ron’s finished with his training, I’m not doing any more mentor sessions for a while.”
“Do you play with anyone other than Ron?”
“Not lately. Jeff and I did, before he left….”
“I shouldn’t have let him leave like he did. I thought I was being helpful, but I hurt him.” It had been an amazing night. Even now, almost two weeks later, she still recalled every detail: his moan of pleasure when her nails raked down his back, the fullness of him inside her, the sharpness of his teeth as he nibbled her skin.
Then she compared that to the look of despair—no, it had been more than that. She remembered the look of betrayal on his face when she’d told him to go to Colorado without her.
Abby placed her hand on top of Dena’s. “You’ll work through it.”
“I wouldn’t count on it. Jeff and I don’t have a stellar record in the work-through-it department.”
“You’re both older now, with a lot more life behind you. And you know what it’s like to live without him.”
“What if he doesn’t come back?” It was her newest fear. That he would stay in Colorado. That her words had killed whatever small spark they’d managed to reignite.