The cool night air felt light, as opposed to the heavy, humidity-laden summer nights of Phoebe’s home. Nothing weighed her down, not even the awkwardness of her mating with Parker.
“Are you okay to walk?” Parker asked, as if she hadn’t already walked to the diner.
“It’s not the walking that has me dawdling,” she admitted. “Your friend’s mate gives off a lot of negativity. I’m not in the mood to deal with attitude.”
“Well, you and Ethan were giving off some strange vibes,” Parker reminded her.
“You thought they were strange?” Phoebe’s voice rose half an octave. “Try being on our ends.”
“I still don’t understand it.”
Phoebe studied the overhead sky. Too much ambient light in town dimmed the stars, even though she viewed them through the shimmer of tears filming her eyes. “He reminded me of . . . someone. I don’t want to talk about it.”
They walked in silence, their footfalls scuffing on the uneven sidewalks. Most of the houses they passed were dark. Here a backyard light was on; there the pale bluish glow of late-night TV illuminated a window. A string of early Christmas lights twinkled on the eaves of another dwelling. Dog droppings scented the air.
They rounded onto the block on which Ethan’s house sat. Phoebe noted there was only one other house on the block, and it seemed to glitter in the feeble beams of the corner streetlamp.
Help me. Please.
Parker’s head jerked up. “Did you hear that?”
Phoebe nodded. She tilted her head to get a better sense of the direction from which the plea came.
“Over there.” She pointed to the sparkly house across the street from Ethan’s.
“Helga,” Parker muttered, and sprinted toward the house.
“Helga?” he called out. “It’s Parker Rowe, a friend of Ethan’s. Are you okay?
“I fell,” came the weak reply.
He tried the doorknob. Locked. “I’m going to have to break down your door,” he said.
“Wait,” Phoebe said. Wasn’t it just like a male to be destructive when a little finesse would do?
She didn’t have her tools on her, so it took about sixty seconds to disengage the lock rather than the fifteen it should have taken, but nothing was destroyed in the process.
The look Parker gave her as she opened the door, was quick but disturbing. He rushed past her to the occupant, who was sprawled in the middle of the living room floor. “What happened?”
Phoebe followed, nose prickling at familiar scent of burnt sage clinging to the air.
“The batteries in my TV remote are dead, and I haven’t had a chance to get to the store,” an old woman whined, as Parker knelt next to her. “I was going to turn on the TV and fell. I hate getting old.”