Drew followed the sound of pots and pans clattering to the kitchen. It seemed Suzie could draw him in as easily as he could draw her. Except in his case, he simply wanted to know what was bothering her.
She stood by the stove with a cast iron skillet in her hand . Tears ran down her face unabated. When she saw him she rubbed at them with the back of her wrist, and refused to look him in the eye. The skillet hit the unlit burner with a clatter.
“Hey,” he said in soft greeting.
“Hi,” she muttered to the wall.
“Nothing.” She shrugged away from him when he placed his hands on her shoulders. “Nothing you can do anything about.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that,” he suggested, pulling her close.
“Is Ben ever going to be able to come home?” She pulled a chair out at the kitchen table and sat down.
Drew took the seat cattycorner to hers. He wished he could re-assure her that the men who made her send Ben away would be caught soon, but so far the only crack in the case had been a brief moment when the software he’d set up to watch the Smash Master’s web site showed activity by the perp. He’d traced it to an apartment complex on the East side where a woman had found her apartment filled with trash, including some bloody rags. Drew took samples but didn’t hold out much hope for a match with the FBI criminal files. The woman said she only saw one man, but he’d had red hair and a laptop. All of this would be very interesting to Suzie, and none of it could he tell her.
“ Rob and I have a court date at the end of the moth to go over the custody ruling.”
“You mean he’s taking advantage of the situation here?” Drew shoved his chair back, ready to march out the door and pound some sense into Suzie’s former husband.
“No, no.” Suzie kept him in his seat with the lightest of touches. “The court date was scheduled before Miranda talked me into renting out the rooms to any of you.” She looked contemplative. “I sometimes wondered if Rob hadn’t had something to do with my losing my accounting job. He made a lot of comments about how I should sell the house before I defaulted on the mortgage, and kept saying I should give him Ben before I ended up on the street. One day at work I saw him talking to my boss…” Suzie shook her head. “It was probably nothing.”
Drew leaned forward to take her hands in his, offering comfort and support. “If he did, we can fight it. Would you like for me to find out for you?”
“No.” Suzie laughed, her smile still a bit watery, but a big improvement over the silent tears. She shook her head. “If I hadn’t lost the job, I would never have met you. Only, I have to get Ben back. Soon. It’s killing me to see what’s happening to him. He’s changed, Drew. And not for the better.”
“You’ll get him back. I promise.”
She gave him a long, considering look. He was afraid she’d ask about the men who had almost shoved Ben into the back of a Jeep and driven off with him. Twice. He should have felt releif when she turned her head away, though her lower lip quivered.. Instead, he felt less a man because he knew she was disappointed in him.
Was this why Ben never misbehaved?
Well Drew wasn’t Ben. He reached for Suzie, pulling her into his lap where he could put his arms around her and comfort her. She sat, stiff-backed long enough to make him wonder if she was going to push her way free.
Instead, she leaned against him, drawing a deep, shaky breath.
He’d done this to her. He hadn’t meant to, never planned on bringing his work home with him, let alone letting it slop all over her son. It was up to him, and him alone, to fix it. And he would. Soon. Sean or Joseph, whichever one was the Smash Master, had already made a mistake once by going back to his own site. It wouldn’t take long for Drew to track him down.
In the meanwhile, he had Suzie in his arms. He knew he shouldn’t do anything but comfort her, but she turned toward him, pressing her chest against him. Her lips were so close, just a lift of his chin away. She sighed, and went limp, and he gave in to temptation.