Lullabies and Lies - By Mallory Kane


0 hour

Sunny Loveless laughed as Emily reached for the silver rattle. “Not now, sweet Emily Rose,” she said. “We’ll play Drop the Rattle when we get home. I have to pay the nice lady for the groceries.”

Emily gurgled happily.

The grocery clerk grinned. “So you get pureed peaches tonight, Emily? You are growing so much. Sunny, I swear she’s bigger every time I see her.”

“Six months old last week,” Sunny said proudly.

“It doesn’t seem that long since you brought her home.”

Sunny smiled, remembering the day Emily became her daughter. “I know. She was so tiny. Not even a week old. My lawyer had everything arranged for the adoption by the time she was born.” She looked down at her happy baby. “Isn’t that right, Emily? Every little thing.”

Sunny’s heart took flight when Emily smiled and waved her arms. Six months ago, she’d never have believed she could love so much. Her heart felt full to bursting.

“Here you go.” The clerk handed Sunny her purchase. “I double bagged it for you. Be careful out there. That rain’s really coming down.”

“I will. Thank you, Callie.”

Sunny rolled the grocery cart to the rear door, slung the bag over her arm and unbuckled the infant safety seat from the grocery cart. Then she fished out her car keys and looked out at the dark wet parking lot. The streetlights were nothing more than pale circles through the downpour.

“Okay, Emily. Let’s make a run for it.” She took a good grip on the infant seat and smiled at Emily before pulling the hood up to protect her from the rain.

Shouldering the door open, she lowered her head and hurried toward her car, pressing the remote key lock. She threw open the rear door and tossed the grocery bag inside. Then she set Emily’s infant seat into the waiting car carrier and buckled the straps.

Water dripped down her daughter’s face. She wiped it away. “Oh Emily, you’re soaked. We’ll have to take a bath when we get home, won’t we?”

Sunny felt the rain intensify, driving through her cotton top and tailored slacks. She shivered. She was soaked, too.

“Good thing it’s only a few blocks, right, sweetie?” She straightened and took a step backward to close the car door.

A noise, barely audible over the roar of the rain, reached her ears. Shoes, crunching on gravel.

She started to turn. Suddenly, something came down over her head, blinding her.

She screamed and pushed at it.

A blow to the back of her knees knocked her to the ground. She went down hard, scraping her palms and knees on the asphalt.

“No!” she screamed, and gulped a mouthful of wet, smelly wool. She clawed at it, kicked, tried to fight the thing attacking her.

Something slammed into the small of her back. She lost traction. Her hands and feet scraped along the asphalt as a bony knee forced her flat.

Rough hands jerked the blanket away and grabbed her hair. Sunny couldn’t see because of the rain, but she heard Emily cry. “Stop it! Help!” she cried, but the knee in her back kept her from taking a whole breath. Brutal hands slammed her head against the asphalt.

Two leather-covered fingers pushed something into her mouth. It tasted like paper.

“Chew on this, Loveless.” The voice had substance but no tone. It was a whispered growl.

Her head was slammed into the pavement again, dazing her. Then silence.

Rain splashed in her face. She heard the crunch of gravel again, and a car started and pulled away.

She tried to rise but her hands and feet slipped on the wet asphalt.

“Help!” she cried, knowing her voice was too weak for anyone to hear.

With all her strength, she pushed herself up onto all fours.

“Emily!” She crawled over to the backseat of her car.

“Hey, sweetie. You okay?” She pulled herself to her feet and leaned in to check on her baby.

The infant seat was gone.

Emily was gone.

“Emily?” she called, feeling around on the seat, checking the floorboard. “No! Emily!”

It couldn’t be! She had to be here.

Dazed and shivering, Sunny remembered her assailant’s words.

Chew on this.

Paper. She clawed the piece of paper out of the corner of her mouth and spread it open, holding it under the car’s dome light.

The paper was wrinkled and wet. She wiped her eyes.

You’ve messed with the wrong person this time Loveless. Tell the police anything about me and your kid will die.

…your kid will die.

Horror shattered her soul.

“No!” It was a prank. A nightmare. She pushed wet hair out of her face. “Emily!” she screamed, her baby’s name ripping