Searching for Always - Jennifer Probst Page 0,1

he noted a small vegetable garden on the side that was neat and weed-free. Someone had cared and maintained it well. A pink tricycle with streamers that had seen better days lay abandoned in the driveway. Was that crying? His muscles tensed.


The female scream turned his blood cold. A crash echoed through one of the half-open windows, and a child joined in with the screaming.


Stone shot to the door. Knocked. “Police, open up.”

Another crash. Stone grabbed his radio. “Officer entering premises at Two Sycamore. Still awaiting backup.” No time to wait for Devine. Enough suspicion of bodily harm to break in.

He did.

The door was open so he shot through.

The scene before him was out of his worst nightmare.

A big, meaty guy dressed in jeans and bare chested beating the crap out of the woman, probably his wife. She was trapped in the corner, hands over her face to protect it while he punched her. Her screams punctured the air, but that wasn’t what made him lose it.

It was the child.

A pretty girl, probably around five, sobbed and clutched her father’s leg, begging him to stop hurting Mommy. Stone had almost reached him, ready to scoop up the girl so she was safe and get the asshole off, but he was too late.

The guy paused in bashing his wife’s face, turned, and picked up the child.

Then threw her across the room.

The girl hit the wall with a bang. Slumped to the floor in a crumpled pile of delicate bones. Her soft blond hair covered her face. She didn’t move.

Things happened in slow motion. Stone had been through enough shit to know he needed to keep calm, get the medics, handle the situation, protect the unprotected. His training usually kicked in with no pause.

Instead, he was ripped to another time and place, and the haze of red swarmed his vision and his logic.

Stone grabbed the man in one fast motion. He got an impression of surprised bloodshot eyes, fingers clawing and trying to pry him off, and shrieks peppering the air.

He hit. And hit. And hit.

The man slumped to the ground, but Stone didn’t stop. He punched with all his might, all his emotion and locked-up rage that came through to punish a monster who hurt defenseless women and liked it.

He didn’t know how much time had passed before he was dragged off the guy. Ambulance alarms sounded in the air, and Devine was shaking him by the shoulders, saying his name over and over, trying to get him to focus and get back to the light. Medics rushed in, cries rang out, and when Stone Petty came to, he realized it was too late.

The damage had already been done.

Yeah. All in all, it was a shit day.


ARILYN MEADOWS LOOKED around the cheery bungalow that was now her new home. Boxes lay half-opened, clothes were stacked in piles, and her foster dogs, Lenny and Mike, were battling over her only pair of expensive shoes. Scarlet red. High heels. Strappy. She’d bought them last month to surprise her lover.

He’d been surprised all right. So had she when she caught him banging one of his yoga students.

The black-and-white rat terrier mixes tumbled over the floor in a challenge to see who’d make the first bite. With their floppy ears and white stripes dividing their faces, her new fosters were a bit too cute to live. They also got away with way too much because of their looks. She opened her mouth to discipline, then shut it. Yes, it was bad for the puppies’ training, but it felt kind of good to see them tear those heels apart. She’d never wear them again without that memory clocking her like a sucker punch. At least Lenny and Mike could have some rebellious fun.

The low hum of anger buzzing inside surprised her. She’d spent most of her days searching for peace, kindness, and harmony within the world. Last week, she would’ve announced to anyone she’d found that quiet place inside and had never been happier.

Not this week.

Arilyn held back a sigh and began hanging her clothes up. Organic cottons and linens wrinkled too easily, especially with no dryer. She smoothed her hand down the soft fabrics and lined them up neatly in the closet. At least her new place was sound. After discovering mold at her last rental, and weeks of dealing with bad electric and burst pipes, her friend Genevieve MacKenzie offered to let her rent the quirky bungalow. Thank goodness, Gen had found the love