I was late. I was never late.
I pulled up to my daughter’s private school and slammed the SUV into park, stepping out before it had even stopped moving.
“I had a meeting,” I said breathlessly, as I approached the school’s headmistress. “That almost never happens, and it definitely will not happen again.”
The woman looked at me as if she thought I’d gone insane. Had I mistaken the headmistress with a parent? It wouldn’t be the first time.
“Your daughter’s been picked up, Mr. Matthews,” she said.
“No, I’m the only one authorized to pick her up.”
“The man said there was a family emergency. He’s just right there,” she said, relief coming into her eyes as she spotted someone just to my left. “You can ask him what’s going on.”
I turned and found myself looking into the eyes of a stranger. But he knew me. His eyes widened, and he quickly turned, rushing to a car parked almost a block down. I chased after him, moving on instinct.
McKelty, my eight-year-old daughter, appeared in the back door of the car, fighting against something I couldn’t quite see. I heard the woman behind me yell to someone to call 9-1-1, but I knew that it was too late. They were already taking my little girl.
I ran faster, trying to reach her before she disappeared for good. I couldn’t lose McKelty, too. I couldn’t…I couldn’t believe this was happening.
The man in front of me reached the back of the car, but he was out of breath and couldn’t do much more than shove my daughter’s forehead back, making her head snap at an odd angle. Something about the movement, however, freed her from whatever or whoever was holding her in the car. She fell to her knees on the sidewalk, scrambled up, and rushed toward me. The first man reached for her, snagging her backpack, but the strap was broken—I’d been meaning to do something about that—and it snapped under the pressure of his grip. McKelty reached me just as the man’s partners revved the car’s engine and took off, away from the curb. He managed to grab the door, running beside the car for a moment before someone grabbed him by the belt and pulled him into the backseat.
They were gone. For now.
“The police have been called,” the headmistress said, coming to stand behind me as I cradled my daughter in my arms.
But I knew the police couldn’t do anything. I knew who it was. They’d made threats against my daughter six months ago. I hired a security firm to watch over her, but they were next to useless and did little. I ended up firing them before the emails with pictures of my daughter going about her daily routine stopped coming.
I could protect her better than those fools. But then the emails started again a week ago. Clearly, they were a little more serious this time.
It was time to make another call to Gray Wolf Security. I’d been told that if they couldn’t keep McKelty safe, no one could.
They had better live up to their reputation. If I lost my daughter, I’d have nothing left.
No one wanted to deal with a man with nothing left to lose.
I was scrubbing the wax off my hands at the kitchen sink when Kirkland came up behind me. He pressed the side of his body against the length of mine.
“How’s it hanging, Joss?”
I gestured at the wet suit I was wearing and made a wave motion with my hand. Kirkland smiled.
“As long as the waves are good.”
He leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Here’s to good waves, hot women, and another couple weeks of easy jobs, huh?”
I nodded again, enthusiastically. That made his smile widen as he turned and wandered off.
Kirkland is the most charming man I’ve ever known. And I’ve known quite a few. At five foot four and barely a hundred and twenty pounds, I’ve had my share of charming men try to tell me I can’t do the things I’ve done—and done quite well—in my life. Kirkland was one of them until I flipped him over my shoulder and got him in a chokehold on our first meeting. He hadn’t tested me since.
I work for Gray Wolf Security, a private security firm started by a buddy of mine from boot camp, Ashford Grayson. Ash. He started the company a little more than two years ago after his brother was involved in a car accident that took the lives of their parents and left him in a wheelchair. Ash runs the office, with his office manager Rose, and David runs the technology part of things. It’s his job to design and oversee the installation of cameras in a target’s home, as well as to monitor the program that alerts him to any danger picked up by said cameras or the motion detectors installed with them. In turn, he alerts the operatives watching over that specific target. There were three of us all together: Kirkland, Donovan, and me.