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"Nosy frickin' neighbors," Bruce muttered when the curtains of the house five down from hers parted, casting a white line of light into the darkness and illuminating the face that peered out at his car. Again. Luckily, he wasn't in it, having learned his lesson the previous night when a man walking a dog kept doing laps. He'd finally had to pull out, park around the corner, and sneak back like a goddamn burglar.

So tonight he was lying flat out on the grass of the front lawn straight across the street from her place, cozying up to the thick shrubbery hugging the white picket fence. The modest bungalow behind him was like every other house in the neighborhood, older but well-maintained, the original midcentury style updated and added to over the years, its narrow lot adorned with mature trees. Except it was dark, empty. He'd checked it out after noticing the FOR SALE sign.

Ignoring the crack in his back, he propped himself up on elbows and lifted his night-vision goggles to do another scan around her house through the tunnel he'd cleared in the underbrush.

All secure.

A noise brought his head around. You've got to frickin' be kidding me. The dog walker was at it again. Annnnnd the face was back at the window. How long before busybody number one or busybody number two called the only cop who lived on the—

Bam. Her door opened and out she came, looking down the street with a cell phone up to her ear.

"Goddamn frickin' suburbia," Bruce muttered.

She talked for a few seconds, then turned and went back inside.

He'd just finished with the long exhale when she reappeared, still on the phone. And, oh, look, she had a flashlight. He could hear her voice as the light flicked on and she started walking. If she stayed on that path she was going to—

She swung the beam up to the house behind him as her foot stepped off the curb.

Shiiiiit. Bruce army-crawled his way into the opening under the branches and worked on pulling his legs in tight. He moved with painful slowness to avoid giving himself away. And painful it was. Thorns plucked, then punctured, digging into flesh, carving paths across his back as he inched his way up. He ended up in a ball with his feet still sticking out, but it was unlikely she would notice him. Unless she came right onto the lawn. Or started checking leaves for black spot.

It was his car that held her attention, though. Fortunately, they'd all taken precautions-those plates were going to lead her down a dead end.

"I'm sure it's nothing," he heard her say as she walked by. She was wearing those ugly plastic things on her feet—Crocs, or whatever—and flannel pants, plaid, green and white from what he could tell in the dim light. She looked warm, comfortable, ready for bed.

Damn sexy.

Knock it off.

All three of them ended up circling his car a few times. And sure enough, she wrote down the plate number on her palm before they went their separate ways, everyone back inside.

Bruce counted to thirty in his head before attempting to pull out. Unfortunately, things had moved around, branches dropping down behind him, all that vegetation sealing him in with its snug, stabbing embrace. Getting out was going to cause a lot more damage than getting in.

The cell phone in his pocket vibrated. He managed to reach it without too much bloodshed and heaved a sigh when he saw who was calling. The next shift had arrived. "Perfect timing," he spoke into it with a low whisper.

"Hey, man, where you at?" Adam's voice came at him.

"I'm stuck in the bushes across the street from her place."

The Silent Ones [✔️] (#2 in the Chilvati Series)Where stories live. Discover now