Home > A Beautiful Funeral (The Maddox Brothers #5)(3)

A Beautiful Funeral (The Maddox Brothers #5)(3)
Jamie McGuire

“So far.”

“What is it?” I asked, seeing the concern in Liis’s eyes.

“I don’t know that yet, either.”

I reached back to pat her knee. “It’s going to be okay, Mommy.”

She craned her neck. “Please let’s not be that couple who calls each other Daddy and Mommy.”

I frowned. “How else will Stella learn what to call us?”

Liis sighed, a rare concession. “Fine. Just … only do it around her, but not in public.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said with an amused grin.

Liis leaned back, appearing relaxed, but I knew better. She continued to periodically lean over to glance in the rearview mirror and then down at Stella.

“How’s she doing?” I asked.

“We need one of those mirrors that sits above the car seat so you can see her in the rearview,” Liis said. “What if one of us is in the car with her alone? We’ll need some way to check on her.”

“Making a mental note now,” I assured her.

She closed her eyes for half a second before they popped open again to look at the side mirror. She gave it a second glance and instantly metamorphosed from tired new mother to FBI agent. “White sedan, four back. Left lane.”

I glanced back. “Got it.” I touched the radio on my lapel. “We’ve got a tail. White sedan. Left lane.”

“Copy that,” Hyde said.

Brubaker radioed in, and we barely drove two miles before receiving word that more vehicles were on the way. Just before they arrived on-scene, the sedan took an exit.

“Make sure someone follows,” Liis said.

“Don’t worry,” I said, trying to remain calm. “They’re all over it.”

Liis swallowed, struggling to keep her cool. Being parents was an added security issue we couldn’t plan for. I knew part of her wanted to follow the sedan, to catch them and question them, and lock them away from our fragile new family. As urgent as her commitment was to being an agent, her need to protect our daughter was stronger.

We drove the remaining fifteen minutes home without event but were unable to enjoy our trip with our new addition as other new parents would. As we unhitched the car seat, the agents stood guard. Hyde and Brubaker glanced around, occasionally speaking into the small radios in their ears while Liis and I took our daughter to the porch. We waved to the neighbors and then walked up the stairs to the front door. Under the shade of the porch, I dug for my keys and then touched one to the lock.

Hyde gently touched my forearm. “Sir, I’d like to take a look around first, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” I said, stepping aside.

Just two days ago, I would have been the one to sweep the house. I would have left Liis with the agents while I checked each room, closet, behind every door, and under every bed before I let my pregnant girlfriend enter. But now, my place was to stand next to her, protecting our daughter. Everything had changed in less than forty-eight hours.

Hyde unlocked the door and then drew her weapon. She held her Glock like it was an extension of her arm, walking through the front room so stealthily I couldn’t hear her footsteps.

“Was I that good?” Liis asked.

“Better,” I said.

“Don’t bullshit me, Maddox.”

“Never, Agent Lindy.”

After a few minutes, Hyde returned, holstering her sidearm. “All clear, sir.”

“Thank you,” I said, following Liis inside.

Liis took a deep breath as she crossed the threshold, already feeling more at ease. I carried Stella’s car seat into the nursery, setting it gently on the floor. Liis had decorated in grays, blue-grays, tans, and coral with not a bow or ballerina in sight. Liis was determined to keep Stella as gender-neutral as possible, even before she was born. An ivory upholstered rocking chair was in the corner next to the crib, a square pillow of a fox outlined in blue in the center.

I unbuckled Stella, lifted her limp body into my arms, and then lay her on her back in the crib. She looked so tiny within the walls of her brand-new bed.

Everything was new—the carpet, the Santa Fe-style rug, the five-by-seven portrait of a cartoon fox on the side table, the curtains, the paint on the walls. Until that moment, the room had been beautiful and pristine but empty. Now, it was filled with our love for the brand-new baby for whom the room belonged.

After staring at Stella for a moment, Liis and I traded glances.

“Now what?” she whispered.

I adjusted the nursery camera and signaled for Liis to follow me out into the hall. I shrugged.

She shrugged too. “What does”—she shrugged again—“this mean?”

“It means I don’t know. I was expecting chaos and crying when we got home. You know … all the horrible things you see in the movies.”

Liis smiled and leaned against the doorjamb. “She’s perfect, isn’t she?”

“I’ll reserve judgment until two o’clock this morning, or the first time she shits in my hand.”

Liis playfully elbowed me. I kissed her temple.

“I think I’ll lie down for a bit,” Liis said, reaching for the monitor.

I swiped it off the dresser first. “I’ve got it. You rest.”

She pushed up on the balls of her feet, kissed the corner of my mouth, and then touched my cheek. “I’m so happy, Thomas. I never thought I could feel like this. It’s hard to explain.”

I smiled down at her. “You don’t have to. I know just how you feel.”

Liis ambled down the hall to our bedroom, leaving the door cracked open about three inches.

I chuckled to myself as I headed to the kitchen, opening the dishwasher to unload the dishes Liis had just started when her water broke.

My cell phone buzzed in my pants pocket, and I fished it out, holding it to my ear. “Maddox.” I listened, walked over to the window, and moved the curtains to the side. My heart sank.

“You’re not serious,” I said. I listened as the director gave me instructions that made my blood run cold. “The plan is to let them shoot at me?”

“They’ve already taken a shot at Travis.”

“What? Is he okay?” I asked, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

“Just grazed his shoulder and he’s a little banged up. They ran his car off the road.” The director cleared his throat, uncomfortable having to say his next words. “It was meant for Abby.”

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