He grabbed the kid’s arm, hauling him close and the kid turned. Matt got the impression of narrowed blue eyes just before the kid hoofed him—hard—right in the crotch.
Matt gasped and hit the floor.
“Savannah.” He tried to gasp in warning, but the thief leaped over him toward the door before he could get out the breath, much less the words.
Forcing himself to swallow the nausea and crushing pain in his groin, he crawled toward the door, pulling himself to his feet in time to see Savannah tackle the thief to the hardwood floor of the hallway.
The thief fought, but Savannah ducked her head to keep her nose and eyes safe and held on tight, her whole body taut with effort.
Fierce wasn’t the half of it.
“Good catch,” Matt said, hauling the thief off Savannah. He wrapped his arm around the kid’s neck to keep him in place then yanked off the ski mask.
Long blond hair fell out around a beautiful and terribly familiar face.
“Mom?” Savannah breathed.
SAVANNAH FELL BACK against the wall, her legs nonexistent. Her whole body eviscerated. She’d stepped down some rabbit hole or something, because looking at her mother was like looking into a mirror. Or into the past. She was unchanged. Her mother stood there, as lovely as the day she left.
As lovely and as cold.
How could this be happening?
Savannah had to shut her eyes and pretend this was a dream. Or that she’d finally lost her mind because there was no way, no way in hell, her mother was back.
And breaking into my home?
Yeah, I hit my head or something. This can’t be happening.
“Hello, Savannah,” Vanessa said. And the voice was real, carved right out of Savannah’s memories. The voice that had read her bedtime stories when she was little. The voice that had sung her songs and scolded her brothers for picking on her.
The voice that had said goodbye and lied.
This was real. This was now.
Rage, bitter and hot, a thousand times stronger than grief, pounded through her.
“Get out of here,” Savannah snapped.
“Whoa!” Matt cried. “Wait a second, let’s get some answers here. Your mother just broke into your house.”
Savannah looked at Matt. She saw the nobility of him and all that love he had for her and wanted to howl. That love was a dream, an illusion.
Her mother was real, standing here after a twenty-year absence.
“She’s not my mother,” Savannah said, nasty and cold. “She’s no one.”
“I’m your daughter’s grandmother,” Vanessa said, such a vicious low blow that Savannah jerked into action, stepping right into her mother’s face.
“You stay away from Katie,” she hissed. Then understanding dawned. “That was you?” she whispered. “That second break-in through Katie’s room?”
“I didn’t even know you had a daughter,” Vanessa said, her eyes suddenly full. “I’m a grandmother and I didn’t know. She’s so beautiful, Savvy. So—”
Savannah reeled back. What was this? Grief? Regret? A thousand strings attached to her stomach yanked and she thought she might be sick.
“You left me,” she stammered. “You walked away. Twenty years ago! You don’t get to cry. You don’t get—”
“I missed you,” Vanessa said. “Every minute of all of those years, I missed you.”
Savannah put her hand to her head, a sudden headache. A sudden desire to scream clawing its way up her throat.
“Then you probably shouldn’t have left,” Matt said. “You probably shouldn’t have abandoned your children.”
“What the hell do you know about it?” Vanessa said, pushing at him, a little snarl replacing those tears.
“I know you don’t leave behind your kids,” Matt said, pushing back. “And then break into their home and make them feel unsafe.”
“I’m not here to hurt anyone,” Vanessa said, her eyes pleading in Savannah’s direction and Savannah wanted to burn down the building with everything she felt. Fires raged inside of her, questions and anger and hurt. Every single thing she thought she’d gotten over was right here as she stared into her mother’s lovely face.
Why did you leave me?