The stranger was tall and muscular, clad in a formal black, thigh-length suit coat and slacks. His face was handsome and intense, bearing a rugged edge to his features. His straight, light blonde hair fell neatly to his broad shoulders.
Terrified, Janice could only stand motionless before him. The blood drained from her young face when she spied the ugly, ornate dagger in his hand. He held its honed blade at Cecelia’s throat as his other hand clamped over her mouth, restraining the fire of her outrage.
“Mom?” Janice squeaked, fearful tears gleaming in her eyes.
“You will please release the weapon and set it down. Slowly, gently.”
His foreign accent was gruff, and his glittering blade moved toward Cecelia to say that he had little patience for childish heroics of any kind. So, trembling, Janice obeyed and dropped the knife to the kitchen countertop behind her. She moved away from it and watched the man’s callous face. He was calm and serious. When for a moment their gazes met, Janice saw in his deep blue eyes a shrewd intensity that pierced her shuddering heart.
He nodded at the girl’s submission. Allowing a curious look at her, a sad smile crossed his lips. For an instant, Janice glimpsed what appeared to be a silver tooth shimmering in the back of his mouth.
“Such a shame, you arriving home so soon.” He tightened his hold on Cecelia and said, “We were just on our way out. And now, my dear, you will be joining us.”
Janice’s heart stopped at the words, and her body felt numb.
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