When six-year-old Matt Wilson and his Shih Tzu, Pixie, step out of the Stanton Community Hospital and disappear, his desperate parents convince Jaron Greenberg, a local pet psychic, to aid the police in the search. Jaron specializes in finding lost kitties and fixing problem pooches. He isn't prepared for a case with so much at stake. And as soon as he starts, the abilities he's had since childhood begin changing and growing in unexpected ways.
Paulo Silva is a veteran detective new to the small town of Stanton. As the low man on the totem pole at Stanton PD, he isn't happy when the chief assigns him to babysit the pet psychic instead of actively working the missing child case. As Jaron uncovers clues, Paulo starts to wonder if he might be the real thing. Or maybe it's just his testosterone reacting to what he’s sure is mutual attraction.
MARNIE BECKER tapped her thumbs against the steering wheel, her thoughts racing as fast as the beat. How long had they been in the hospital? Five minutes? Ten minutes? How long did a therapy-dog visit take? What if someone gets suspicious and calls the police? She peered into the back of the hollowed out van. She had taken out most of the equipment her brother had crammed in the back, but not all of it. What if the police search the van and find drugs? The sour stench permeating the van made her sick to her stomach, evidence of her brother’s depravity. She hadn’t had a choice. She’d never replaced her demolished car after the accident. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. It was all a lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Eighteen months Brandon had been in the hands of strangers. Her child was alive.
She smacked her palms against the steering wheel hard enough to send a jolt of pain up her arms. How could I have believed them? The skinny bastard pretending to be Brandon’s father must’ve bribed the doctors. She remembered Dr. Roberts had switched her meds the week before the accident. Tired. So very tired that day. She’d never so much as been in a fender bender before, let alone hit a curb and crash. They must have replaced her lithium with sleeping pills. It was the only thing that made sense. After pulling down the hood on her black jacket, she lifted her sweaty brown hair off her neck, then let the frizzy curls cascade down her back.
The sound of a car passing by made Marnie jump in her seat. She couldn’t afford to be spotted! Seeing a crumpled ball cap on the floor of the van, she reached down and picked it up. The dismal excuse of a park was empty for now, but she needed to be prepared to move if needed. She twisted her hair into a bun before tucking it under the cap.
Her gaze drifted to the side window, the urge to get out making her body twitch. Her muscles ached with the need to move, move, move. Can’t leave. Need to stay and watch. The nurse had told her last week that volunteers with therapy dogs show up on Saturday at 4:00 in the afternoon, and he’d been right. Just need to keep it together for a little while. She’d follow the skinny bastard home. Once she had a name and address, she’d find a way to rescue Brandon. They’d run away together. Go to Mexico or Canada. Travel the world.
Matt. The skinny bastard had called Brandon “Matt.” Last week, Brandon had walked right by his momma and not recognized her. The doctors must have done something to him. Drugged him. Brainwashed him. Brandon would be afraid at first, not realizing what was going on. He wouldn’t understand that she was rescuing him. I’ll make him understand. I’ll make him remember.
Marnie’s body tensed as she noticed a kindergarten-aged child exiting the side door of the hospital with a little white dog in tow. It couldn’t be. The boy walked briskly through the back parking lot and stopped at the street separating the hospital from the park. After carefully checking left and right just like she’d taught him, he crossed the street and headed toward the park. Brandon. Her eyes burned at the sight of him and her heart began to race. It was a sign. Some part of Brandon must sense that his momma was near. She bit the skin around her pinky finger. There were a lot of preparations that still needed to be made before she could act. Money, passports, an untraceable car—
Brandon stumbled and Marnie found herself out of the van and walking toward him without conscious thought.
“Are you okay, Br—Matt?”
Frowning, the boy rose to his feet, his little dog yapping several times. A small bag of chips had fallen out of his coat pocket and spilled onto the grass. Marnie had never let Brandon eat that kind of junk food.
“I’m okay,” Brandon said, looking suspicious. She realized the brainwashing’s hold was still too strong and Brandon’s “stranger danger” alarm was likely blaring. She’d taught him to be cautious. Not like the skinny bastard that let her precious child walk to the park alone.
The dog moved between her and Brandon. It was another sign. Kneeling, Marnie picked up what she thought was a shih tzu or possibly a Maltese dressed in a pink dog vest. Its little heartbeat thundered against her hand as she tilted up the heart-shaped tag on the collar.
“Matt,” she said, pouring urgency into her voice, “there’s something wrong with Pixie.”
Brandon’s brown eyes widened. “What’s wrong?”
“Her heart is racing and I’m afraid she’s going to have a heart attack.” Marnie rose to her feet, cradling the dog in her arms. “I’m a vet, and I need to treat her right away or she’ll die.”
Tears welled in Brandon’s eyes, but he didn’t close the gap between them.
“You can either come with me and try to keep Pixie calm or go back to your dad. Either way, I’ll call your dad and tell him to meet me at the animal hospital.”
Turning back toward the van, she wasn’t surprised when Brandon decided to follow. Deep down inside he knew who his momma was.
I was drawn into the story and did not put the book down ...
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