Chapter 28

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As I suspected, Pop went thermonuclear.

"Leigh Isaac Wright, I cannot fathom in what corner of your tiny mind did you think that leaving the house, when you were under strict instructions to stay indoors, was a good idea! Can you possibly explain to me why you felt the need to put your lives at stake?"

"Pop, we didn't know..."

"Oh, didn't know. Clearly, you didn't know anything. You foolish boy, risking your safety and that of your friend. When will you stop acting like a child? Does this mean I can't even trust you when I go away for a single night to not pull some sort of ridiculous, dangerous stunt?"

I tried to let it roll off my back, but Keira sat huddled in her chair in the library, Pop's chosen location for reprimands. Stepping between her as if I could act as a physical shield between her and Pop's wrath, I said, "Pop, I get it. We're really sorry. But will you look at this?"

I handed him my tablet which showed just one of the dozens of news articles we'd found online.

Pop read out loud. "Keira Pierce, who has been listed as a missing person for several weeks now, has today been identified as the victim of a kidnapping. Police believe her abductors have used sophisticated mental conditioning, or brain washing, in order to gain her compliance. The star of the city's popular casino variety show was last seen collecting her pay check on Tuesday, with her kidnapper accompanying her. Her distraught father has openly pleaded to the public for help."

Pop clicked the little video window beside the article, and a man with short hair and a big nose started speaking. "Please, if anyone sees my beautiful Keira, I beg you, call the police and try to separate her from the man she's with." He paused dramatically, wiping at his brown eyes. "Please. She doesn't know who she is anymore. Help bring my little girl home to me."

There were only a few lines left to the article. "A cash reward has been offered for any information leading to Pierce's whereabouts. Anyone who sees her should immediately contact police." A large headshot of Keira loomed above the video, her gorgeous grey eyes seeming to call for help. No wonder that couple at the movies had gone all vigilante; they were convinced they were saving the princess.

"Keira, do you know that man?" asked Pop, indicating the dad on the screen.

"No, I've never seen him before." Her brow was creased in angst. "He's not the guy from the photo of my father I saw as a kid. We look nothing alike; I don't think we're related at all."

I was at an equal loss. "Pop, what is going on here? Why is Keira listed as kidnapped? Who has this kind of pull to make up stories to the police? To the media?"

He shook his head and sank into a chair. "I have a meeting next week with someone who should know the answers. Until then, and I am not even close to exaggerating, you are to both stay in the house or I will throw each you over my knee and flog you. Understood?"

"Yes, Pop," we answered meekly.

"Good." He stared at us sternly for just one more moment, then pulled us into an awkward group hug. "I'm glad you're okay."

I hugged Pop with one arm, my other holding Keira low around her tiny back. Her hand was on my neck, the short hairs on my nape standing up and tingling. I had to break the embrace before I found myself having some very confusing feelings while cuddling my grandfather.

"All right, off you go then. I've got reading to do." Pop dismissed us and we fled from the library like a couple of naughty kids.

When we reached the kitchen, we looked at each other and then started laughing.

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