Her Billionaire Widower

By: Cher Etan

“I’ve already applied for leave and booked the destination mother,” she said.

“So that’s a yes?” her mother persisted.

“Yes mother. I fully intend to keep my promise to Nadya. I do miss her you know?”

There was a pointed silence on the line. Her mother wasn’t one for passive aggression but she had a knack for making Angela feel like a delinquent teenager instead of a responsible working parent.

“I’ll pick her up on Friday,” she said at last.

“She’ll be ready,” her mother replied.

Chapter 2

Chapter Three: The Drawing

"Are you sure we're going the right way, Niana?"

Doug's voice was muffled and coming from a few feet behind Niana and to the left. Niana stood in one spot and waited for Doug to catch up, dried leaves cracking under her sneakers.

The air was sharp and cold; the sun just starting to set. Niana could see the sky glow hot pink and gold through the branches of the trees around them. She shivered in her hermes scarf, the short sleeves of her top not providing any warmth. Niana palmed her gun more carefully. Her fingers were getting numb and the last thing she wanted was to shoot her own foot off by accident. Doug would never let her hear the end of it.

"Niana. I said-"

"I heard you." Niana turned when Doug walked up to stand next to her. The tops of Doug's cheeks and the tips of his ears were pink. They had ten, maybe fifteen minutes before they lost all the light, and they had to find what they were looking for before then. Niana wasn't sure how she knew that, she just did.

Niana shook her head. "And we are," she told Doug, taking a slow step forward. "This is the right way." The set of trees in front of them were starting to look a little more familiar. Niana squeezed her eyes shut and tried to remember the dream. She had them now and then and even as police officers who believed in dealing with facts, her partner Doug was willing to go along with her on this. It had led them right too many times for him not to. They still didn’t talk openly about it.

She and Doug had been walking in the dream, just like they were now. Things swam into and out of focus all the time when Niana had her dreams, visions, whatever you wanted to call them - but Niana remembered everything about this particular dream.

She remembered the sign just to the side of the road where she made Doug pull the car off the road a few hours earlier. Remembered the path, the way the sun was shining. Everything was just as it should be, except-

She opened her eyes and looked around. There. Off to the right and-

"Niana, where the hell are you-- Niana!"

"This way," Niana called back. It was just up ahead, only a few more feet. She recognized all of it now; the pattern of rocks and branches on the ground, the markings on the tree on the left side of the path, the initials JS and TW carved into the bark who knew how many years ago. They were almost there, and Niana tightened her hand on the gun as she felt Doug's hand close over her shoulder.

"Niana. Niana."

Niana whipped around and glared. "What?"

"Whoa, nothing." Doug held his hands palms up, his own pistol pointing toward the darkening sky. "But hang on a minute. You said it yourself; you don't even remember what we're looking for out here. It was - what did you call it? - a blurry shape of something by the base of a tree? We don't even know what the hell this thing is."

"It's nothing dangerous," Niana told him. She wasn't sure how she knew that, but she did. Even if she hadn't seen the face of whatever it was they were looking for, she knew it wasn't anything that was going to hurt them. "It's not evil, Doug, whatever it is. Trust me."

Doug watched her quietly, and then rolled his eyes and looked off to the side. "Yeah. All right, Niana. Let's just go find this thing."

They were close already. Niana knew the pattern of trees ahead. "I think it's coming up over here," she said quietly. Doug fell into step beside her, both walking with their guns drawn, taking careful and measured steps.

This was finally it. Niana looked at Doug who nodded toward the tree and jerked his thumb to the left. Niana took her spot creeping around the right. She could hear something breathing on the other side. Leaves were rustling, there was a weird gurgling sound coming from down by the dirt.

Doug was a step ahead, and when Niana heard Doug's sharp intake of breath - the way he said, "Holy shit, Niana," - Niana whipped around the tree, gun drawn, both arms steady in front of her. She was ready. All she needed to do was take aim and he could blow whatever it was to hell and back.

When Doug reached over and slapped Niana's arm out of the way, Niana nearly fell back onto her ass. "Doug! What the fuck-"

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