Attempting to Have a Plot in Nano…

Author’s Note: So today I actually made… progress. I hesitate to call it that because as far as plot goes, with all the tension and drama that a mystery/thriller is supposed to have… they just keep having conversations and domestic moments. I like their moments, and I like their banter.

At this point, given the way that my last four solo projects have imploded, I think I’ll just roll with what I’ve got and hope for reaching the 50,000 words. I’m over halfway there, but I keep thinking I’m going to hit a wall again (I even wrote the wall already, who am I kidding?) so I’m a bit doubtful about finishing this… I suppose I’d still have enough time to throw this sucker out and start over with a new one.

Ugh. I can’t believe I said that. I feel sick.

Not Much Progress

“I think I should raid your closet and get rid of all of those suits.”

Nolan looked back at his door, frowning at Shaelynn. She was planning something he wouldn’t like—he could tell that much by her clothes—that red excuse for a business suit was designed to exploit the fact that she was a woman and men were idiots—but that did not explain why she was contemplating ruining his wardrobe.

“Nora would be angry. These are expensive designer suits.” Nolan stopped to button his cuff. “I would be angry, actually. I don’t exactly enjoy standing around getting measured for these things. I have them just the way I like them, and I don’t want to have to replace them.”

“You are not a suit. What happened to all of your t-shirts and jeans?”

“I am a suit. I wear the suit, I live the suit, and I look good in the suit,” he said, going over to lock his closet. That wouldn’t stop her—she knew how to pick locks—but it would slow her down for half a second, maybe.

She shook her head, her voice taking on a stubborn tone. “You are not a suit.”

He snorted. “Thirteen years, Shaelynn. I’m not that teenage rebel anymore, and you don’t know me anymore. We’re not that close, not like we were, and this is me now.”

“This,” she said, a dangerous frost creeping in as she gestured to his suit, “is one of your acts, and it pisses me off to see it.”

“And what do you call that outfit you’re wearing, then?” He shook his head. He had too much practice in keeping his reactions from her, and he needed it, damn it, since that skirt was too teasing and that top too tight, but he had noticed it far more than he wanted to, and he had to keep his attention on his own clothes to stop thinking about hers.



She laughed. “I am going in to see the enemy in his lair. I want to visit the man who wants to take your company over, and I do not want him to know why I was there or to remember much of anything about me except that red is not my color.”

“Are you kidding? I think you should let me call you Betty Boop after that. Though… you still have Betty Grable legs.”

Shaelynn rolled her eyes. “Enough with the references. I’m neither of those women, and you’re clearly immune to me, so it’s not worth arguing over.”

Immune. She thought he was immune to her. He didn’t know how he’d managed to pull that off, but that was one hell of an accomplishment. He reached down to pick Creamsicle off his suit jacket, not sure he could look at her right now—the temptation to prove how weak he really was to her was almost overwhelming.

“Stay away from my suits. I am not going to replace them.”

“That just gives me more reason to do it. I don’t like them, and I’d be glad to see you never wear one again.”

He set Creamsicle down and dusted off his jacket before pulling it on. “I’m starting to think you want to get me naked again.”

“You had a towel, and I saw more than I ever wanted to.”

He glared at her. He shouldn’t care. That wasn’t what they were, not even when they were married, but it still stung. She used to make jokes like that when they were kids, and he’d hated them then, too. He didn’t expect to be called the sexiest man alive—that title belonged to movie stars or other celebrities—but he did have something of an ego, and the fact that his wife had never been attracted to him was rather a blow to that ego no matter how messed up their situation had been.

“We should go. It’s getting late.”

He nodded. “We should, but since Nora hasn’t rung the bell yet, no point in rushing. Or did you forget that you didn’t get a rental and my car is impounded?”

“That’s the first thing on my to-do list—getting a car.”

“I’ll buy you a proper muscle car, just the sort of thing a girl like you dreams of—if you decide to become a partner in the firm.”

She shook her head. “I don’t want you buying me a car, and you don’t have that kind of money to throw around.”

He laughed. “Actually, I do. You have more money than I know what to do with. Nora finds uses for it, but me? I don’t need a lot. It’s a shame, really. If you’d held out a bit longer before you divorced me, you could have gotten a huge settlement.”

“I didn’t divorce you. We weren’t married,” Shaelynn said, her voice tight. “And that is not funny.”

He shrugged. “Sometimes trying to laugh about it is the only way to cope with how badly our lives got screwed up back then. Still… If you wanted to go get a car, we could pay cash for it today.”


“What, I tempted you into it?”

“No,” she said. “I need my gun. Apparently, there’s a lot more reasons someone would want you dead than I was aware of.”


“I know I don’t want to know this, but what is with the two of you this morning?”

Nolan looked at his sister, really not wanting to answer that. Shaelynn had gone to start on her to-do list, off to get a car from somewhere, and now he was alone with Nora and her nosiness. Great. This was a wonderful morning. That was the price he had to pay for getting what he wanted last night, he supposed. Shaelynn had never liked sharing the same sleeping space, and she’d hated being the snuggly toy, but it had been… good that Ambrose found them that way when he roused them for one of his obnoxious drills. Good and bad. They’d convinced everyone they had a more normal marriage, but Ambrose hadn’t liked what he saw and Nolan had gotten extra “training” sessions for it.

He closed his eyes, leaning back for a moment. “The one part that I suppose matters is that she’s very determined to keep me alive. The part that is causing us frustration is that the past is getting in the way again.”

“In what sense?”

“You really are nosy today.”

Nora rolled her eyes, coming over to sit on his desk. “I don’t want the past distracting you right now. I know how you feel about her, and I know that—whatever differences I have with her—Shaelynn will get you through this alive. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be more scars when it’s all over. Tell me you didn’t… make a pass at her or anything like that.”

“Since when have I ever made a pass at anyone?”

“I’d say never, but you used to be a flirt before you got married,” Nora told him, and he almost shoved her off his desk for calling him that, of all things. She shook her head. “You used to be a lot more playful, and you were more willing to talk to people in a way that wasn’t all… practiced and polite and designed to get the information you needed as quickly as possible so you could send yet another satisfied client on their way.”

He grimaced. “I was not a flirt. That was not flirting. I was just teasing, trying to get along with people, make myself likeable with the others so that if something happened to Mom—and it was going to, I always knew it would—that we wouldn’t get kicked out right away.”

Nora frowned. “You didn’t really want to stay there, did you?”

He let out a breath. “No, but I didn’t think they’d let you go even if they got rid of me. You were slated for his twenty-first wife before Mom died, and I knew that all along. I just tried to keep myself there long enough to stop that.”

Nora shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. “I’m never getting married.”

Nolan shrugged. He said the same thing himself, but then he didn’t necessarily want that for either of them. He did want to believe Nora would find a way to love someone besides him, to find a way to heal that didn’t involve a bank account, and that she’d get to have the sort of things they were supposed to have and never got because their mother was an addict. She was a good person, his sister, and she deserved to know love.

“What’s on the docket for today? I should know, but after the last three days of flipping the schedule around, I lost track.”

“You’re not really planning to work like this is business as usual, are you?”

“Why not?”

“Because your life has been threatened. Because someone from our very screwed up past is trying to kill you, and that’s not—you can’t just work like this is nothing.”

Nolan let out a breath. “I can’t do much about this but wait until they make another move. If it is someone from the cult, it’s not anyone that got out recently. That means… That means a bunch of people I don’t want to think about looking at. Shaelynn’s half-brothers and sisters or one of the wives—I always thought they were just… victims. I don’t want to think of them actually wanting me dead. I don’t want to go digging all that up for them again—I know it means my life, but those wounds aren’t worth reopening.”

“Even if it means your life?”

He closed his eyes. “You’ve seen Shaelynn. She was one of the ones that came out of that almost well-adjusted, and she’s still a mess. Why go dragging that up for all of those people when it probably has nothing to do with why someone wants me dead?”

Nora reached over and grabbed his tie, yanking him forward. “You can’t keep burying your head in the sand like this. You may not want this to be about the past, but it is. It’s about someone from that hell deciding it’s finally time to get revenge against you for ending it. Some of them wanted that life, don’t forget that. Some of them would love to torture you to death for ruining that. You’re a hero to most people, but that doesn’t change what you are to the others—a traitor. We were all afraid of what they did to the ‘unbelievers.’ Why would you think that they wouldn’t do worse to a traitor?”

He tried to keep himself from reacting to that. He’d lived with that fear for years now, and he was not going to let it rule him. “I don’t think it’s about the cult. I really don’t. I think they’re using the cult as a convenient cover, but it’s not and never was about that time.”

Nora gave him a long, hard look. “Then prove it.”


Shaelynn let the secretary lead her into the room, taking the seat she was offered. She liked Nolan’s office a lot better than this one—both catered to a similar class of clients, cultivating a certain level of sophistication and expectation, the entryways and offices decorated with carefully chosen expensive pieces. They were arranged just right, like they’d been posed for a painting or photo spread. The difference was that the photos were the most life these offices ever saw, whereas Nolan and Nora somehow managed to make their office like a home—warm, inviting, somehow informal despite the décor, and she supposed the fact that Nolan half-lived there helped it seem lived in and comfortable.

This place made her skin crawl. She was reminded of the things her father used to keep in his office, and that comparison made her sick.

“Ms. Danvers?”

Shaelynn nodded. She’d taken the name from one of Nolan’s comic books, and she knew better than that, but these people apparently didn’t. They’d fallen for her story and her identification, but then Nolan and Nora had been fooled by the guy they’d sent, so maybe fair was fair. She didn’t think Nolan was incompetent. Distracted, yes, and he was still recovering from being shot, so she could understand how he might have missed it if the guy was a good actor, and it looked like he was.

“What did you want to see me about?”

Shaelynn forced a smile. She thought she had a decent carrot to dangle in front of Cunningham, and she might just enjoy this, even if she disliked the way he looked at her. She was going to use that. She moved one leg over the other, letting her skirt fall back a little to expose more of her skin, and then she leaned forward, knowing he’d get a good look at something else when she did.

“I am hoping you can help me, Mr. Cunningham. I did try and get advice already, but that silly man seemed to think I didn’t have anything valid and—”

“What man?”

“Nolan Sheppard.”

“You went to Sheppard with this and he rejected you?”

“In a rather unpleasant way,” she agreed, shaking her head. “I hope you’re more willing to be open-minded. I didn’t think I had such a terrible request, but you’d have thought that I’d asked him to commit murder or something with the way he treated me.”

Cunningham grinned. She suppressed a shudder. He did remind her far too much of her father. He was old enough to be him, and yet he was looking at her the way her father used to look at his wives, even the younger ones. She refused to let that bother her. She’d known he would before she came. She’d planned on it. She’d been expected to use that against him from the beginning.

“Sheppard is, unfortunately, somewhat prejudiced. We here at Cunningham and Associates prefer to keep our options open. We have taken good care of many cases like yours—ones that Sheppard so foolishly rejected. Tell me more about what you need.”

“Well, that’s the trouble,” she said, trying for her best Nora. “I don’t know what I need. I thought that Sheppard would help me, but he didn’t.”

Cunningham smiled. “Well, then, let me see what I can do for you. I assume you have all the information you took to Sheppard?”

She reached over to pick up her briefcase. She pulled it into her lap. “I guess I was very confused. Do you think I need a lawyer and not a consultant? I figured a consultant was supposed to be the sort of man who would tell me whatever I needed to know to go forward.”

She felt like an idiot, even though she knew that she was doing this on purpose. Still, she hated herself for the way she was doing it. This was why she didn’t want to work with Nolan. He did this kind of talking all the time, wore all these pretenses—no, give her something straight up to fight. She preferred that to this kind of crap.

“Would you like an immediate answer?”

“No,” she said, throwing a bit of panic into her voice. “That’s what he did. Why don’t you take all the time you need? You can call me back when you find something. I think that’s better, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, reaching over to pat her hand. “I’ll give this all the attention it deserves. I think you might even want to think about lodging a complaint against Sheppard. I’ll help you take care of that if you like.”

She smiled. “Would you? I think that would be a good thing to do. Thanks.”

“Anything for a lovely young lady like you,” Cunningham said with a smile that made her shudder. She didn’t know how she managed to keep herself from showing it, but he didn’t seem to see it. He slipped the briefcase away from her. “Besides, Sheppard really doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s got no business being a consultant. No schooling, no training—he just trades on being a so-called hero, but he has no skill and no talent.”

“He didn’t say that he was a hero.”

“Yes, well, he plays at modesty, but I assure you it’s false,” Cunningham told her. “We’ll contact you soon, I promise.”

Shaelynn forced a smile as she stood, smoothing down her skirt. “Thank you, Mr. Cunningham. I do appreciate this.”

“Of course, Ms. Danvers. We’ll get this all sorted out for you.”

She nodded, knowing that Nolan would be angry when he found out she’d re-appropriated one of his cases for this. She had no doubt that he’d already given his clients a satisfactory answer, but she needed something that would seem convincing for Cunningham just as he’d had for Nolan when he tricked him.

“Thanks so much. Call me as soon as you know what I should do.”


“Cunningham is sleaze.”

“That surprises you?”

Shaelynn shook her head, yanking off her jacket and going around behind Nolan’s desk to the closet. She opened it and took out one of his shirts, pulling it on and buttoning it over the blouse that wasn’t much of a blouse. Nolan watched her with a frown, unsure how to react to any of this. He knew that she knew her way around his office, had for years now, and he also preferred not to have her as exposed as she had been a moment ago, but then again, he didn’t. The skirt was still a tease, and now that she was in one of his shirts… Someone shoot him.

He grimaced. That was not a thought he ever wanted to have.

Shaelynn came over and sat on his desk. “What about the lawyer? Did Nora send him over?”

“Why are you asking me and not her about that?” Nolan asked, leaning back in his chair. “I don’t talk to lawyers. They make my skin crawl, have ever since I first met Cyril. I suppose it didn’t help that he was spouting all that crap about Boath becoming our legal guardian with Mom’s marriage to him and…”


Nolan rose and went over to the cupboard, opening up the bar. He typically kept it closed and told himself not to remember it was there, but he knew times when it was necessary—some consultations left a bad taste in his mouth, even if it was only for the initial part of it and he rejected taking them on, and some just plain ended badly, like life. He filled them both a glass and carried hers over to her.

“If there were legal adoption papers back then, then the reason that other lawyer said the marriage wasn’t legal doesn’t fly. They told us it wasn’t because we were underage and didn’t have the consent of our guardians—but if Boath had custody of me and you were his daughter…”

Shaelynn downed her drink in one shot. “No. You may not have thought about before, but if that were true, they wouldn’t have said that and—and we can confirm later that it wasn’t because there’s no way he had custody of you. It was never legal. I need another one of these.”

Nolan nodded. “Me, too.”

“You didn’t drink yours yet.”

He did, letting the burn be punishment for bringing that unpleasantness up. He crossed over to the decanter, bringing it back with him to her.

“You must have had that thought before.”

He shook his head. “Tried not to, just like you did. Can’t believe I brought it up.”

She took a swig right from the decanter and then held it as she looked at him. “Are you sure you don’t need the whole formal paperwork? I’m starting to think you do.”

He took the alcohol back, shaking his head. “I never said I did. I am well aware of the fact that things are over—that they were thirteen years ago. It’s just this stupid threat is mixing everything up, and Nora won’t stop arguing with me—she swears this is about the past, about someone from the cult being after me, and I don’t believe that it is.”

Shaelynn let out a breath. “I don’t want to believe that, either, and after my meeting with Cunningham, I’d like it to be him because he was a real sleaze—I’ve met sleaze before, but this guy was sleaze and he insulted you and then he didn’t have any interest in the case, just me. He was so patronizing and—he is not interested in hiring you. That is not what his takeover is about. For some reason, he is interested in destroying you. That doesn’t mean that he’s the one that wants you dead, though. I don’t think he is capable of doing anything this… organized.”

“You think this is organized?”

She pulled the decanter back out of his hands. He frowned. She took a drink before setting it down on the desk. “That magazine article was prepared at least a month ago. This means planning. A lot of it. They’ve been watching you for at least a little while—you sensed them at the restaurant and probably before then because you weren’t sleeping—but they used a very short window between when you started eating and when they disappeared from your senses to write that message on the car—unless, of course, there were two of them, one watching and the other working, which is possible. The message they left on the car was deliberate. Everyone thinks this is about the cult. People could be chasing their tails right now. Plus anyone could guess that something like that would—you have every reason to fear someone from the cult coming after you. You’ve known that for years. That fear could have debilitated someone else.”

He let out a breath. “I won’t pretend that the idea doesn’t bother me. I just have a hard time believing that’s all it is. I didn’t when I was just having trouble sleeping, and I don’t now.”

She took his hand. “I don’t want to accept that it’s just the cult, either, and since everyone is going to assume that, let the others investigate that angle. We can concentrate on the places that other people won’t think to look. That’s why I met with Cunningham. What did you today?”

“Argued with Nora, met with the people whose appointments I had to reschedule yesterday and the day before, tried to decide how I would prove that it wasn’t about the cult, paced the office for a while, and tried not to get into that bottle. You can see how well that worked, right?”

“Yeah.” She shook her head. “We need more than what we’ve got, Nolan. A lot more.”

“Oh, I have another decanter somewhere around here.”

She rolled her eyes. “I meant evidence of who is really behind this death threat and ways to keep investigating it. Cunningham was my best lead, and I feel like I came up empty.”

“We could go back to more of those files you flagged before.”

“You didn’t think it was them.”

“What else have we got?”

“Not much.” She grimaced. “Not anything. We may as well start with the files.”

He glanced at her skirt. “Not until you change.”


“I want to talk to her.”

“You are jealous.”

Shaelynn snorted. “You’re the one that brought up the marriage again and couldn’t handle me in a skirt. You’re the jealous one.”

“I’ve got nothing to be jealous about. You have no one in your life,” Nolan said, not looking up from his file, even when Nora glared death at him from the doorway. Shaelynn figured she was the cause of their tension again. Maybe Nora even had some stupid idea that all of this was her fault, that Nolan was under threat again because of her, but Nora had been the one to ask her back, and whatever this was had started before then. Shaelynn was certain of that, even if she knew little else about what was going on now.

“The lawyer said the magazine would like to do a retraction slash feature on you to make up for what they did print about you and using you on the cover without permission.”

“Absolutely not.” Nolan dropped his file onto the other seat. “I’d say we should sue them for that, but I’m not interested in that kind of ugly publicity. Did the lawyer get them to say how they thought that was okay? I dislike what they wrote about me, but who the hell does a cover with someone and doesn’t ask for permission?”

“Oh, that’s the interesting thing—they said they had it. That they contacted our office for an interview, which was declined, but a blurb was given as well as a picture. Since we have kept a tight lid on our press in the past, this didn’t raise any flags with anyone.”

Nolan shook his head. “That’s not possible. You are the press department, and you don’t give out blurbs. Or photos. Ever.”

“I said the same thing. They couldn’t possibly have gotten that from us or spoken to anyone here.”

“Unless someone used the office while you were on vacation,” Shaelynn said, and both of them looked at her. Nora’s look was pretty cold, but Nolan’s was troubled. His mind had taken that and started running, and she had to admit, she didn’t like the possibilities that she’d come up with, either.

“I would have been too… distracted to realize if anything had changed in the office by the time we got back,” Nolan admitted, rising. He started to pace a bit. “It’s not impossible that it could have happened, I guess. I didn’t get any sense of violation or that things were wrong here, but I couldn’t sleep so I wasn’t really functioning that well. It’s hard to say how much I could have missed then.”

Nora grimaced. “I thought a few papers were messed up, but I’d been arguing with Nolan before we left and just assumed that I left them out of place. Still—we have a security system here. A good one. An expensive one. It’s not all about what Nolan can do when he starts thinking in that old training of his. That system gives us alerts no matter where we are. There was no activity while we were gone.”

“Not even the mailman?”

“It’s called premium forwarding. I paid them to send our mail on to where we were staying while we were on vacation. It’s not that expensive, and we do have a business to run.”

Shaelynn frowned. “I thought they only did that if you moved.”

“No, it doesn’t have to be permanent. That’s the whole point of the service. It’s better than having the mail held.”

“Can we go back to the fact that we think someone might have broken into the office?” Nolan asked, getting both of them to look at him this time. “We don’t know what else they might have done if they were able to get in. If we’re going to get that kind of paranoid, maybe we have to take this whole thing a step forward and start thinking listening devices and cameras and who knows what the hell else. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t sleep. Maybe that was all there and I knew it but didn’t know what I knew.”

“I think you need a moment to calm down,” Nora told him. “You’re getting worse than Ambrose.”

Nolan shuddered. Shaelynn grimaced. “As unpleasant as the thought is, we have to assume the worst and act accordingly. We should go, now, since if anyone is listening, they know we know. there’s no point in trying not to tip them off. We’ll get someone in to sweep the place, but this conversation needs to stop. Now.”

“Ah, now if I was the good soldier I was supposed to be, I’d have stopped myself from saying any of that aloud,” Nolan said, shaking his head in disgust, and Shaelynn crossed over to touch his arm. He gave her a look, and she didn’t say anything, but she figured he knew what she meant by that. She didn’t think letting people believe they weren’t aware of the listen device really worked anywhere outside of Hollywood. If the office had been bugged, whoever was on the other end had known they’d come to that conclusion as soon as they started discussing the possible break-in.

“Let’s just go,” Nora muttered, frustrated.

Nolan started to leave, but his phone buzzed, and he cursed, dragging it out. He checked the message, his skin losing some of its color. Shaelynn frowned, looking down at the screen.

“That’s Creamsicle.”

Nolan nodded. “That bastard has been—or is, right now—in my apartment.”

“We already called the police,” Nolan reminded Shaelynn as she almost clipped another car when she sped around it. He leaned over and tried to look at the speedometer, but her arm was in the way.

“Since when do you leave everything to the police, Nolan?”

He shrugged. He had, more and more, since he started working as a consultant. He was able to pick up on things that he shouldn’t, things that were illegal, but he hadn’t seen the need to go all vigilante and handle them himself, even if he could have.

“I was never a hero,” he reminded her. “I only did what I did back then for the three of us. If I was going to be a cop’s work, I would have gone for the actual badge. I didn’t.”

She nodded, but that didn’t stop her from almost swiping an expensive sports car. A horn blared, but that and Nora’s curse were just bonus points right now. Shaelynn was kind of a crazy driver to begin with—the open road and freedom had always called to her since that day they first escaped, and a part of him figured she had that thought that she could somehow drive far enough away to free herself from the past, too.

“You are going to slow down before we get close to my apartment building, right? You do realize there will be cops there, don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” she snapped, and he gave her a look. She took her foot off the gas, but still turned the corner fast enough to make the tires squeal a little. She grimaced. “Stupid rental.”

“I told you I’d buy you a good one.”

“And I told you no.”

Nora reached forward and smacked him. He looked at her and shrugged. He wasn’t above bribery—but Shaelynn was. He couldn’t coax her into staying with anything material. No, he didn’t think he could get her to stay with anything he had—words, promises, money… None of that would be enough, not even in combination.

She pulled into the parking structure next to his building, right into his spot, and he said nothing as he reached for the door handle. His car was still impounded, and the fact was that none of them would be staying here tonight. They’d have to find a hotel that took cats—assuming his were still okay; he hadn’t seen the creep do anything to them on the video that he’d sent, but he wouldn’t know until he got into his apartment again.

If this guy had done anything to his cats…

He shook his head, mouth in a tight line as they walked into the building. The uniformed officer in the lobby stopped them as soon as they got in the door.

“Hold on. There was a break-in upstairs, and we need to—”

“Yeah, that was my apartment,” Nolan said, taking out his wallet and flipping it open to his id. “Is it still off limits or can I go up and see if anything’s missing?”

“Let me check,” the kid said, turning away to talk into his radio. Nolan rubbed his forehead. He hated this.

“Nora,” Shaelynn said, turning toward her. “Did you have anyone look at your apartment?”

“I don’t have any proof that it got broken into, but I’ll have it swept after the office,” she said, shaking her head and shuddering. Nolan pulled his sister close to him. For her, having her apartment broken into would be the almost the worst kind of violation. That place was safety and a lot more to her. The possessions that passed for her soul were there, and he knew she couldn’t stand having that taken from her, having those things touched by someone else—he didn’t even go there, that was how private her sanctuary was.

“We’ll get whoever did this.”

“That won’t change much,” Nora said. “If he was in your apartment, in mine—what the hell is safe anymore, Nolan?”

“Places never were,” he reminded her. “It was always people for us, and that’s what we still have. You, me, and Shaelynn.”

The two women snorted almost in tandem, neither of them liking that idea much.

The cop came back over to them. “The lieutenant said to go on up.”

“Lieutenant? Since when do I rate that for a break-in?”

“Maybe since you got a death threat yesterday?” Nora said, shaking her head before stabbing the button for the elevator.

Nolan grit his teeth as elevator doors opened. He stepped inside and pushed the button for his floor. “That was vandalism, and it only said ‘traitor,’ not ‘we’re going to kill you.’”

“If it was from someone in the cult, it was a death threat,” Shaelynn said, leaning against the wall and tapping her fingers against it as the elevator door shut behind Nora. His sister glared at her, but Shaelynn didn’t stop even when the elevator started to rise.

“I thought we agreed it wasn’t from them.”

“No, we agreed we were going to look for the less obvious possibilities,” Shaelynn said, and he glared at her himself that time.

The elevator stopped, and Nolan exited onto his floor to be confronted by another policeman, this one in a suit—a cheap suit—and he really wanted to curse. “I take it you’re the lieutenant that’s in charge of this?”

The other man nodded. “Got the call when someone noticed the connection between this break-in and the vandalism yesterday.”

“Apparently someone doesn’t like me.”

“I’d say a lot of someones,” the lieutenant said, and Nolan had no choice but to nod. He had enemies. He just thought most of them were still in jail.

“Did that creep do anything here? Vandalism? What about the cats? Nolan had four. If any of them are missing or dead—”

“Pretty sure we counted four, and they’re all alive.”

“That’s good. Otherwise I might have had to shoot someone,” Shaelynn said, moving past the cop and into the doorway of the apartment. The lieutenant frowned at her.

“My bodyguard,” Nolan said with a slight smile.

“Lucky man.”

“Not really.”

“Creamsicle,” Shaelynn said, kneeling down to pick him up and cradle him in her hands. He bumped his nose against her cheek, and she smiled as he started to purr. “I swear, if that bastard had done anything to you…”

Creamsicle mewed like he understood, purring louder than before.

“You’re going to lose a cat, too, when she goes this time,” Nora muttered, and Nolan glared at her, but he knew she was right. That kitten was Shaelynn’s, not his. He wouldn’t be able to keep either of them.

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