Numbers Page 41

’’Dana.’’ He gripped her arms.

She froze. ’’Mourn?’’

He tilted his head slightly so she could barely make out his features. ’’I was going to knock but I could hear what was going on inside. I knew it wasn\ a good time to make my presence known.’’

’’What are you doing here?’’

’’I wanted to meet your mother. I asked a few of the task force team members to bring me here. I changed clothes so no one would recognize what I am.’’

She started pulling on him. ’’Let\s go.’’

’’I still want to meet her.’’

’’You said you heard us fighting. Trust me. Let\s just go home.’’

He let her lead him to the stairs. She spotted his security detail immediately. Two men dressed in military-style black uniforms stood in front of a big black SUV. They didn\ have any NSO patches to identify who they were, but she knew. Mourn caught her hand and stayed at her side as they went down the stairs.

Some of the motel guests quickly made their way to their rooms, probably mistaking the two guards for cops. Dana planned to walk directly to the SUV Mourn had come in and ask the two men to drive them back to Homeland, but Mourn suddenly pulled her under the stairwell and against the building.

’’You\ e upset.’’

’’My mom does that to me. She brought Dr. Hass with her. Can you believe that? She is so manipulative.’’

’’I heard you tell her that you plan to move here. Does that mea ’’

’’Dana!’’ Paul\s voice came from above.

’’Down here,’’ she called out. ’’I\m fine. Mourn is with me.’’

’’Shit.’’ Paul came rushing down the stairs and spotted them. He looked relieved. ’’Don\ take off without me. What are you doing here, Mourn?’’ He twisted his head, spotting the two guards. ’’Oh. You had the task force drive you. Good.’’

’’He wants to meet Mom.’’ Dana stepped closer to Mourn. She was upset, but his being there helped. She leaned against him and he put an arm around her.

’’That\s not a good idea. Ask my wife.’’ Paul put on his sunglasses. ’’We should go.’’

Someone else came down the stairs and Dana lifted her head off Mourn\s solid chest to look up. Her mother came into view. Dana clenched her teeth. It seemed as if Mourn would get his wish after all.

’’Don\ let her see your face,’’ Paul whispered. ’’Just be cool.’’ He tore off his sunglasses and held them out to Mourn. ’’Put those on. You work security at Homeland.’’

Mourn ignored the glasses and turned farther, forcing Dana to move with him. She gripped him tightly as her mother spotted them in the shadows, her heels clicking on the pavement when she approached the stairwell.

’’I\m not done talking to you, young lady. How dare you walk away from me? I brought Dirk all this way because he\s a good man. He\s willing to forgive this nonsense, and he offered to go to couples counseling with you. We\ e all aware that you are having trouble coping with Tommy\s death.’’ Her mother stopped next to Paul and scowled at Mourn. ’’Get your hands off my daughter.’’

Dana sighed. ’’Mom, meet Mourn. This is my nonexistent boyfriend, as you referred to him. As you can see, he\s very real. And tall.’’

’’Hello, Dana and Paul\s mother,’’ Mourn rasped.

’’Her first name is Daisy,’’ Dana supplied.

’’It\s nice to meet you, Daisy.’’ Mourn released Dana and held out his hand.

Her mother ignored it. ’’You look like a homeless vagrant. I see right through you, mister. My daughter has some money, and you\ e looking for a free meal ticket. Think again. She\s dating a doctor. Go find some other sucker to upgrade your life.’’

’’Oh. My. God.’’ Dana wanted to strangle her mother. ’’Stop it.’’ She grabbed Mourn\s extended hand and clung to it in case he had the same urge.

’’Mom,’’ Paul hissed. ’’Don\ .’’

’’Stay out of this,’’ their mother snapped at him. ’’You\ e supposed to look out for your sister, but you let this security person get close to her.’’

Dana wished a hole would open up under her as she pressed tighter against Mourn in case he wanted to kill their mother for insulting him. She wouldn\ blame him.

’’Knock it off,’’ she gritted out. ’’Right now. Don\ you dare insult Mourn. You don\ know anything about him. You\ e trying to be controlling again and chase him off. It won\ work. I warned him about how you can be.’’

’’Good. You\ e my daughter. I only want what\s best for you, and this security guard isn\ it.’’ She pointed at Mourn. ’’What the hell do you think you could offer my daughter with your minimum-wage job? Nothing!’’

’’Mom!’’ Paul groaned. ’’Stop. Everyone who works for the NSO makes really good money.’’

Mourn forced Dana to release his hand and unwound his arm from her waist. ’’You are very unpleasant.’’ His voice had deepened to almost a snarl.

’’Listen to you.’’ Their mother huffed. ’’You sound like a meat-headed Neanderthal.’’

’’Enough,’’ Dana almost begged. ’’We\ e leaving.’’

’’Not with him. I\ll scream for Dirk. He\ll get rid of this riffraff.’’ Her mother stopped pointing and fisted both her hands at her sides.

Paul groaned. ’’The task force is coming over here.’’

’’Go away,’’ Mourn ordered them.

Dana watched the two guards spin around and return to the SUV, taking up the same position as before.

’’Don\ talk to me that way,’’ their mother huffed, unaware that he hadn\ been speaking to her since her back was to the parking lot. ’’Do you hear that, Dana? He\s disrespectful to your mother on top of it. He\s a loser.’’

’’That\s it,’’ Mourn snarled. He gently pushed past Dana and got closer to their mother. He stopped when Dana grabbed his waist, clinging to it.

’’Don\ . She\s not worth it, and she is my mother,’’ she pleaded. ’’I get it. Believe me. I do. I want to hit her sometimes too.’’

’’Is this overgrown thug going to hit me? I dare you, young man. I\ll have your ass thrown in jail where I\m sure you belong.’’

Mourn snarled again and lifted his head just enough to reveal some of his face to their mother. She gasped, jerking back. Paul caught her before she tripped and held on to her to keep her from running away. Dana winced, seeing her mother\s fear.

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