If not for the chills rushing over her skin and multiplying quickly, Taylor Mitchell would think today’s stroll in the park was like any other day with her daughter. A soft, autumn wind blew through the trees and stirred a lock of hair against Taylor’s cheek as if to soothe her.
Instead, fear pumped through her like a disease, cold and impetuous. She sucked in a quick breath. Remember, breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. She peered over her shoulder and glanced at the cluster of trees near the edge of the park. Nobody looked her way, but it was as if somebody’s gaze crawled over her. Trepidation of the unknown raked through her like jagged fingernails.
Taylor tightened her hands on the handle of the baby stroller and pushed it faster. Instead of walking to the swing-set like she’d promised her daughter, she headed back toward the parking lot.
Three-year-old Megan tilted her head and looked at her with sad eyes. “Mommy? I wanna swing.”
“No. Not today.” Taylor bit her tongue, wishing her tone hadn’t been so sharp. Instinct told her to get out of there as fast as she could.
Meggie’s big blue eyes filled with tears and her bottom lip protruded. “I wanna swing.”
Taylor tried her best to smile, but her unsettled nerves made her lips quiver. “Meggie, let’s go home and make some cookies. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
Meggie shrugged. “O-tay, but I wanna swing.”
Taylor glanced around the park, taking in the number of people standing by the fenced pond, the park benches, and the jungle gym. Since it was lunchtime, many walked toward the group of trees near the picnic areas. Out of all the people who surrounded her, there wasn’t one she detected watching her every move. Still, the unidentified terror rushing through her testified differently.
The closer to the parking lot she came, the more she wanted to break into a run. It was bad enough her poor daughter’s head bounced in rocky rhythm as they dashed over the grassy knoll. The heavy pounding of Taylor’s heart knocked through her chest, overriding the steps her athletic shoes made as they slapped the ground. Her car wasn’t much farther.
Who’d be doing this to her? Could it be one of the many people threatening her father? She should be used to this since he’d been threatened a lot in his profession. Although, this time was different. Her father had acted different.
She clenched her jaw. Two nights ago, her father informed her he’d been receiving threatening letters again. Threats weren’t unusual for multi-billionaire Leland Mitchell, but he had mentioned hiring a bodyguard to protect her. She’d argued. Her safety had been just fine during the past twenty-three years.
Almost to the car...
Taylor slowed as she neared her shiny silver Audi. She calmed her breathing, hoping to ease the panic lodged in her dry throat. When she stopped, her legs wobbled and her hands shook. As she reached to unlatch her daughter, she glanced over her shoulder. The cars that filled the parking lot held no immediate threat—none she could see, anyway.
Meggie giggled and clapped. “Fun, Mommy. Do it again.”
Taylor didn’t want to laugh, but the sweet cherub face of her red-cheeked daughter had her smiling anyway. “I don’t think so, honey. Mommy’s all out of breath from running.”
“You were fast.” Meggie giggled. “It tickled my tummy.”
The burning in Taylor’s throat matched the pain in her chest, and under her breath, she grumbled for feeling like she was out of shape. She wasn’t, but fear made her body weak. She bent and rested her hands on her knees, breathing in deep gushes of air. Perhaps she was overreacting. She glanced behind her at each car. As far as she could tell, nobody had followed.
She blamed her father for putting fear into her. He’d drained the first twenty-six years of her life by being so over-protective, she didn’t want him doing it any longer. She’d told him time and time again she needed to control her own life, not live under the Mitchell Dynasty’s thumb.
Once she helped Meggie out of her stroller, her daughter ran to the back of the car to help put it in the trunk.
“No, honey, we’ll just put this in the back seat.”
Meggie shrugged and skipped to her side.