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Dark Cravings is a romantic suspense novel by Luna Wild. The main character has a dangerous job, one that makes women a distraction he can’t afford.
His love interest was the perfect damsel in distress, though. She was so irresistible to him.
The closer she got to him, the more dangerous his life became… but he was addicted to her.
It still feels strange to walk around alone, after all those years with Mitch around. He’d been a rock in her life. A constant. And now, without him, it all seemed strange.
It was worse where she was going now, though. Everything seemed to be coming down around her, and there was absolutely nothing that she could do about it by herself.
So she did what she was always supposed to do. Even Mitch, who never had a problem he didn’t think he could solve for himself, wouldn’t disagree with going to the cops.
Not when Ava went missing.
He’d say, go on, get out there, girl. You better not let anything happen to her. And Anna wasn’t going to let anything happen to her, not if there was anything she could do about it.
So even though he didn’t want to hear from her, in a weird kind of way, it was Mitchell’s idea to go. And even though she didn’t want to go by herself, didn’t want to go out without him there to make sure it’s all gonna end up alright, she went.
It took a long time to get the attention of the guy behind the desk. Maybe if she’d said something, but she didn’t. He was cross-referencing some paperwork and typing it all into a computer. Finally the guy, dark blue uniform that borders on black, looks up.
He’s got a clean-cut look, like he might be the poster boy for cops. “Yes ma’am; can I help you?”
Anna smiles as best as she can. Her voice sounds weird coming out of her own mouth, but she can’t let that get to her. “I need to speak to a policeman.”
He straightens a little bit. “Of course. What’s the problem?”
“My daughter’s missing.”
Anna doesn’t know how to be sure that he’s not just faking interest, but he at least pretends that comment makes a big difference.
“How old is your daughter, ma’am?”
Anna’s skin crawls. How’s she supposed to talk about it? It’s all so embarrassing. She lost Ava. It must have been her fault. Babies don’t just walk off.
“Um, ten weeks?”
Her hand tightens and loosens up. If Mitch were here, this would have all been so much easier. He’d have handled it for her. He’d have gotten it all taken care of. How was she going to tell him that she’d lost his daughter?
The man behind the desk lets the comforting look slip off of his face for a moment. Anna knows what that means, it’s time for things to get worse again. He holds up a finger for her to wait, and picks up a phone.
Anna doesn’t listen to his conversation. She knows how rude it would be. Mitch used to hate it when she eavesdropped on his conversations. So she’d learned to tune it out.
He sets the phone down in its cradle, and Emma is back to listening to him. Like she turned the tape recorder back on.
“Ma’am, I just need you to wait a moment? We’ll have a Detective out to talk to you in just a few minutes, okay?”
Anna knows how to wait. She’s good at that. “Of course.”
She steps away to a nearby pair of large tables and stands there, and waits. It’s not any easier than anything else that she’s had to do today. She’d kind of assumed that there would be a whole lot of craziness going on. That everything in her life would go crazy.
But the truth was, with Mitchell gone, everything was pretty crazy already, so… that wouldn’t have been much of a change.
Anna stares out the window. It’s better not to pry into whatever is going on behind the desk. They’ll get to her when they’re ready, and until then it’s rude and presumptuous to stare.
Which is why she doesn’t see him walking up. She doesn’t really connect the sound of the shoes tapping on the floor with being something she should worry about. So the first thing that alerted her that she should turn around was a man’s voice.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” His voice was low and soft, and a little bit gravelly, like a movie star’s.
Anna turned around slowly. There were things she wasn’t very good at, and then there were things she knew how to do. She wasn’t so good at being in situations like this on her own.
Turning around without rushing, without looking hurried or panicked, those were things she was good at. It would have been real embarrassing for Mitch if she couldn’t keep her control at dinners.
She gives the man a smile. He’s wearing a shirt and tie, no jacket. The tie is striped, blue and yellow. Anna liked blue a lot. This was a good shade of blue, and it brought out the color of his eyes.
He was attractive, a wide-set jaw with dark features that made his eyes look a little bit daunting.
“I’m Detective Josh Meadows? My officer tells me that you’ve got a missing child. Is that—”
“Well. I don’t know.” Anna doesn’t like to sound too confident. It’s unbecoming. “I, uh. I fell asleep, last night, and, uh, when I woke up—”
“Calm down. We’re going to get this taken care of, okay?”
“So she went missing some time last night?”
“Yeah. She’s not really sleeping through the night, so… I think that was about four? When I went to sleep. Just a few minutes after she finally settled down. I, ah, I didn’t wake up until… nine thirty-six? And then I went to check on her, because five hours without waking up had me a little worried.”
“And then she was missing?”
“She wasn’t in the crib.”
“Okay.” Detective Meadows looks thoughtful. He doesn’t look like a man who smiles a lot, but then again, who would look like he might crack a smile when they were talking about a missing little girl? “Do you have any idea if someone could have taken your daughter?”
“No,” Anna answers. Who would do something like that? She didn’t know anyone except Mitchell, and Mitch doesn’t want anything to do with Ava. “Not really.”
“Okay. Well, we’ll start at the beginning, then. Do you know who the father is?”
“Okay.” The Detective is giving her a look that it takes her an embarrassing amount of time to realize means that she’s supposed to tell him who it is.
“Uh, Mitchell Queen? He’s—”
“I know who Mitch Queen is,” the Detective says. Anna feels like it might have been impolite to cut her off, but it takes a heavy weight off her chest, so she’s relieved. “Okay. Do you have anyone else who might have problems with you, specifically?”
The detective puts his hands in his pockets.
“And you locked the door before you went to bed?”
“Yes, sir. I leave the door locked all the time.”
“Was it locked when you woke up?”
“When you checked the door this morning, was it locked?”
Anna’s brain hurt. She wanted a break from all these questions. But that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
“Is it possible you forgot?”
It would be hard to explain how impossible it would be without getting too much into how she felt without Mitch around. The constant fear, the panic that constantly threatened to overtake her.
“No. I locked it. I’m sure.”
“Okay,” Detective Meadows says. “Does anyone have a key to your residence?”
“My mom and dad, and… uh…”
“Does Mr. Queen?”
“But not any more?”
“Not any more. He said he didn’t need it any more.”
Detective Josh Meadows could use a cup of coffee, and the woman in front of him looks like she could, too. She’s nervous. Whatever she’s got going on, she doesn’t look like she’s handling it all that well, and it’s got him worried.
Not that he would be handling it all that well if he had a missing kid, either. But if he doesn’t miss his guess, there’s more to all of this, and it’s going to cause trouble for one of them. If there’s something that Jose can do to get rid of that danger for her, then he’s more than happy to do it. But first, she’ll have to be up-front with him about what’s going on.
“Do you want to come back to a room where we can talk?”
The woman nods. She’s pretty even at her worst. She looks like she’s been wrung out like a rag, and she’s one of the prettiest girls that has ever had occasion to come into the station. Josh can’t let it distract him.
“Okay, this way.”
He fits a key into the door to the back room and uses it to twist the handle, pulling it open before switching his hand around. Anna steps inside without needing to be told, and he pulls his key ring free of the door, letting it close and lock automatically behind him.
Anna doesn’t make it look like she’s letting him pass, but she slows her walk very subtly until Josh is in front of her, and then speeds up to match his pace from a step or two behind.
He jags off into the break room to pour a cup of coffee.
Anna stops herself from immediately saying no. “Uh. I guess it’s fine. Sure.”
He pours a second cup and hands it to her. “Cream and sugar?”
“Um. Two sugars. Please.”
He pulls the packets out of the jar and hands them over. She tears them open and pours them into her cup. She takes the offered plastic coffee stirrer and turns the hot liquid around a few times.
They start moving again a moment later. She follows a few steps behind him. Like it’s a routine. If it was a routine for her, it was routine with someone else. Josh would have remembered meeting a woman who looked like Anna Witt.
He opens the door to an interrogation room. It’s quiet inside, which he suspects is exactly how the woman will like it. She sets down with her coffee and takes an experimental sip.
“Give me just a minute, I’m going to go grab some things for taking down your statement, alright?”
She nods, without really looking at him. Josh steps out to his office and when he comes back into the interrogation room he’s got a pad of paper and his digital recorder. He sets it down.
“You don’t mind if I record this, do you?”
She shakes her head, and then seems to think better of it. “I’m sorry—no, I don’t mind.”
Josh puts the recorder down on the table and makes an effort to show that he’s pushing the button to record.
“Could you state your name for the record?”
“Um. Anna Witt?”
“And where do you live?”
“We live, um. I have an apartment. #801, 315 Terrence Lane. Right off Seven? Do you need, um. The zip code and stuff?”
“No. I know the area you mean. So. Tell me what you told me in the lobby, first of all. Just for the record. What happened last night?”
“Oh. Um. I laid Ava down for the night, but she was up for a long time. She finally settled down at around four in the morning.
“Once she was down, I let myself lay down on the bed for the night. I figured that she would act as my alarm clock, and everything would be fine.
“When I woke up a little bit past nine-thirty—nine thirty-six, I think—I was worried that something was wrong, so I went to the crib, and it was empty.”
Josh tries to give her a reassuring smile. “Was there anything in the crib with her, before she was taken? A bottle, or a toy, perhaps? Maybe a blanket?”
“She had, um, a plastic key ring. And a blanket, with a Mickey Mouse pattern on it.”
“And were they there when you checked on her in the morning?”
The question seems to catch her off-guard. “What?”
“Was the blanket and the key-ring in the crib?”
“The, um. No. She had a sheet on the crib mattress, and that was still there, though. If that helps.”
Josh tries to smile, but it’s not as easy as it should be. It’s hard not to worry about all of this. Already, several pictures are starting to form in his head.
None of them don’t cause a real tightness in his chest, one that threatens to disturb whatever self-control and professional distance that he might have in the case.
“Okay. What is the situation with the baby’s father?”
“Mitch—Mitchell Queen—and I had been dating, um, for a while? A few years. And, um. I don’t know. He ended the relationship, a few months ago.”
“Could you be more specific?”
“It was, um. March. I think. March 17th, maybe? Someone asked him if I was pregnant, at one of his parties, and, um. I was, so.”
“So he ended the relationship that night?”
Josh felt his jaw get tightened. “Did he give any indication of a reason for the separation?”
“No, sir. He, um. Just told me not to contact him.”
“And did you?”
She’s trying valiantly not to let her nerves get the better of her, but it’s not working, and Josh can see that. It’s all written right there on her face. There’s nothing that he can do to help her, though. Even though his heart jumps into his throat when he can see tears threatening to fall out of her eyes.
“If you need a minute…”
Anna nods, wiping under her eyes with the pad of her thumb. Josh clicks the recorder off. “I’m sorry. I know I’m being trouble.”
“No trouble at all, Miss Witt. Do you want more coffee? A water?”
She looks at the cup like she’s surprised to find it empty. She seems as if she didn’t even realize that she’d been drinking it.
“Um. A water would be good.”
“I’ll give you a few minutes to collect yourself before we start again.”
Josh presses the door open. It’s no different in the hall, as far as the room temperature. The ventilation runs the same through the entire place. But somehow it feels like he’s out of a lot of pressure when he steps out into the open hall.
His chest hurts. Every case hurts. There isn’t any crime, any victim that doesn’t pull at the heart-strings a little bit. But Anna Witt isn’t just any crime, and not just any victim. This isn’t just any heart-string-tugging.
The break is as important for him as it no doubt is for her. Josh takes his time getting back to the break room and pushes down the water-cooler tab. The cup fills slow, as he puts the next steps in order.
He’ll need to finish this interview. Regardless of what he wants, he can’t spare her the questions, even though they’re clearly upsetting her. Because every little detail counts in these cases, and it’s better to get them as soon as you can. Every little detail counts, and people remember better right after.
He’ll have to see the scene of the crime. There might be nothing there, but it will help to confirm what did or didn’t happen, because every little detail does count.
Then, once that’s done, he’ll have to talk to Mitch Queen, which is going to be the worst of the steps. First, because nobody talks to Mitch Queen.
Second, because right now the suspect list is real short, and it either needs to get longer or shorter, and Mitch Queen looks good for making one of those happen.