Laptop tucked under her arm, she moved closer to the window, the warmth of the afternoon sun bathing her face as she peered outside. More of the yard and the long, winding driveway that looped out to the west side of the property came into view.
Her breath caught in her throat as she tried to digest what she was seeing.
A line of dark SUVs were rolling down the drive, some with flashing blue lights, and a swarm of men dressed in all black were rushing the house.
She was racing for the door, ready to shout for her dad, when an explosion sounded downstairs.
“Dad!” she screamed as she spilled out into the hallway. Fear lanced through her, sharp and stinging. What the hell was going on?
At the top of the stairs she saw that the explosion had been someone ramming the front door open. It hung off its hinges and two men in tactical gear with huge freaking guns pointed them up the stairs at her.
“Hands in the air, now!” one of them shouted.
Without thought she dropped the laptop and threw her hands up. Her heart was an erratic, out-of-control beat in her chest as her computer tumbled down the stairs, clacking along the wooden steps.
“Face down on the ground!” the same man shouted.
Even as she was complying, falling to her knees at the top of the stairs, both men were racing up toward her. Seconds later one of them yanked her arms behind her back and slapped handcuffs on her.
“Dad!” she screamed for her father even as the armed man yanked her to her feet. She could see the FBI logo on their vests so she knew they were from the government, but none of this made sense. Why would they be raiding her father’s house when he worked for a defense contractor? He was one of the good guys.
She jumped at the sound of gunfire. Two more sharp pops went off in quick succession. Then glass shattered.
Oh God, her father. Was he injured? Before she could do or say anything…
Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.
The sound of staccato gunfire made her flinch even as the armed man spoke to her. She had no idea what he was saying, couldn’t comprehend the words. No, she could only focus on the terrifying sounds of gunfire in her childhood home and the people swarming in through the broken front door. They were like roaches, all dressed in black.
“Where’s my father? Is he okay?” she shouted, unable to get her voice or her heartbeat under control as the man led her downstairs. She was vaguely aware of the other man having left them and storming into the guest room she’d just been in. Maybe they were looking for more people? Maybe they thought someone else was here?
She struggled to push the fear aside. This had to be a mistake. Whatever was going on they would fix it. But she just needed to find her father, needed to see that he was okay.
The man leading her downstairs didn’t respond, just spoke into an earpiece. She wanted to keep shouting at him, to keep screaming, but knew it wouldn’t do any good.
As they reached the bottom of the stairs Michael stormed through the front door. She froze, looking at him, not comprehending why her boyfriend was here. There were so many people hustling in and out of her father’s home.
She felt as if she was watching this happen to someone else, that this was some nightmare she’d wake up from.
“Get those cuffs off her!” Michael shouted at the man next to her.
Fear for him slid through her veins like slow-moving ice, sharp and burning. She started to tell him to back off or something, worried that this armed man would handcuff him too, but to her surprise she felt the handcuffs being released. The armed man practically shoved her at Michael before hurrying off upstairs, his boots stomping loudly on the treads.
Blinking, she stared up at Michael, trying to find her voice and trying to understand this entire situation. “What are you—”
That was when she realized he was wearing a jacket that had the FBI logo on it. A blue windbreaker that seemed too light for the current weather, not that it mattered one bit.
She blinked again, frozen in place. “You’re FBI?” she asked stupidly. He’d told her that he was a security contractor for a private company. Just like her father.
His jaw tightened. “Come on. I need you out of here.” He wrapped his fingers around her upper arm.
She pulled back from him, ignoring the strangers moving around them as if they had every right to be here. “My father—”
He didn’t let her go even though she tried to yank away. His grip only tightened. “I need you out of here now!”
“I need to see my father!” Her voice rose with every word. Her entire body trembled and all she knew was that she’d heard gunfire.
In her childhood home.
And her father wasn’t calling for her.
A sick sensation pervaded her, making her stomach lurch. “My father?” she whispered.
Even though she was certain Michael didn’t hear her over the cacophony of noise, he shook his head, his jaw tight and his expression tormented. He turned slightly to the side and she saw an earpiece.
His grip dropped for an instant as one of those armed men stepped up to him, spoke in quiet tones. It was the only opening she needed. Shoving away from him, she sprinted down the hallway. Two steel bands encircled her from behind as she reached the doorway of her dad’s office.
But it was too late.
Her father was sprawled on his blue and green Persian rug, the crimson of his blood staining it and him. A gun lay near one of his limp hands. Blood covered the front of what had been a pale cornflower blue shirt, one she’d given him for his last birthday. Two huge holes gaped in his chest and there was a bright red stain in the middle of his forehead.
Oh… God. No, no, no.
“Noooooo!” She realized she was screaming only as Michael lifted her into his arms and tossed her over his shoulder, racing her away from her worst nightmare.
Isa’s eyes opened with a start, her heart racing out of control, sweat dotting her upper lip and dripping down her back despite the cool temperature in her bedroom. She hadn’t had that particular nightmare—which wasn’t a nightmare, but a memory—in months.
Trembling slightly, she slid out of bed and headed to the bathroom. After splashing cold water on her face she stepped into her bedroom and realized it was only ten o’clock. She’d crashed an hour ago, abnormally early for her to go to bed, but she’d just wanted to shut out the real world, and sleep had been the best way to do that.