“I repeat, this is the police. Come out with your hands up.”
Bracing herself, she tried to speak but a dry throat made her voice inaudible. A convulsive swallow, and she tried again. “I’m coming out.”
Cautious, she eased into the doorway. She pushed open the screen, grip tight on the heavy flashlight, then hesitated, blinded by the powerful beam of his light.
He stood in front of the porch, a shadow darker than the rest. “Stop. Lower your flashlight to the floor.”
Emma ordered herself not to freak out. Crouching, she reluctantly set down her only possible weapon. “This is my place. I can be here.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded tight with dread.
“We’ll figure that out.” When she’d risen again, he continued, “Put your hands behind your head and come down the steps.”
Emma raised her arms, linking her fingers behind her head. Slowly she moved forward. That voice kept whispering in the back of her mind. He could be a rogue cop. He could rape and kill her, bury her body out in the woods somewhere and no one would even know she was gone. If he made one wrong move, she’d take her chances and run. Poised for flight, she couldn’t keep a hard shiver from wracking her body.
“What’s your name?”
His voice had a low timbre that was somehow calming. They probably taught the technique in cop school. She tried to see beyond the blinding light but couldn’t make out his features. “My name is Emma, and this is my property.” She paused. “Can I put my hands down?”
She’d never felt more vulnerable in her life when the cop ignored her question and moved behind her. She tensed as he gripped her wrists with one warm hand and conducted a quick pat down with the other. “Is there anyone with you?”
Her heart beating so hard it was a wonder she didn’t pass out. Emma conducted a fast internal debate on whether to admit there was no one else, but realized she had no choice. She was alone. “It’s just me.”
The unyielding presence behind her made her hyperaware. The creak of the leather cop belt, the hiss of his radio, even the scuff of his boots on gravel brought back frightening flashes of memory that served to reinforce that she was at his mercy. And that this could go very, very badly for her. To the depths of her soul, Emma hated feeling so vulnerable.
He released her clasped hands and moved to stand in front of her. Angling the flashlight so it wasn’t shining directly in her face, he stood back, watchful. A stillness settled over him. He stared at her, making her aware of the pull of his gaze. After a long, arrested moment he appeared to gather himself.
“You can lower your hands now. Sit down on the steps.” He pulled the radio off his belt, low voice reporting his location and situation, then strode back to his vehicle to open the rear door.
Sinking onto the porch steps, Emma watched as he leaned inside to retrieve something, then moved to the driver’s door to reach in and flip off the headlights. His radio buzzed and he paused to respond. He had the sure, economical movements of a supremely self-confident man.
The dome light of the SUV lit him from the side, showing a strong profile. His eyes were on her but he was a good thirty feet away. He responded to the radio and took his gaze off her to lean farther into the vehicle.
Watching him warily, Emma thought briefly, insanely, of running. She could do it. Just slip into the darkness and find safety in the trees. But that would be madness. So far he’d done nothing threatening, other than being a cop, and, more importantly, she hadn’t done anything wrong. But having the legal right to be here sure didn’t make her feel any safer.
“Don’t even think about it.”
Emma startled, looking up to find him staring at her across the distance. Great, the cop was a mind reader.
A native Southern Californian, Diane enjoys nothing better than summer. For a high school history teacher, summer means a break from teenagers, and summer allows her to spend her early mornings immersed in her current writing project. With both kids living out of the house, in addition to writing, she enjoys camping and gardening with her husband. Diane loves hearing from her readers.