“Who is he to choose for me what I do with my life? He treats me like my opinion doesn’t matter.” Exasperation fueled her flaring temper. Her mother always told her it was her downfall. She pushed thoughts of her mother aside. His answer surprised her. “I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. Ben is an old soul. He grew up in a time when men took care of their women. He loves you and doesn’t want to see you hurt. He’s only trying to do what he was raised to believe is right. Ben means no disrespect.” Alistair’s straight answer cooled her head yet her objections remained steadfast. “I understand all that. Except it doesn’t work for me. Women in my time are allowed to choose for themselves. My choice is to stand with him. If Ben dies while I sit here eating waffles and twiddling my thumbs, I will never forgive myself. And whatever happens, I have to be able to live with myself.”
“Stop it Bill,” she scolded sharply. Carefully, she pushed open the door and entered her apartment. The growling ball of fur in her grasp was having no part of it. Clawing at her with his sharp back claws, Bill took a few chunks out of her forearms as he finally leapt free of her, racing down the hall and out of sight. Sam didn’t give chase or even turn her head to see where he went. He wouldn’t go far, he never did on the rare occasion he got out. In a few minutes he would be beating at the door with his soft, declawed front paws. Her focus was on what had incited such panic in her even keel pet. Why was Bill so scared to go inside? He liked Paul. Even more unsettling was the feeling crawling down her spine. Something was very wrong. She could feel it. There was no sound or movement coming from inside. When Paul was over he always had the television turned on a game whether it was football, basketball, soccer, whatever. He always had to have background noise. Unlike Sam, he liked noise. “Paul?” Sam realized she was crouching. Telling herself she was being ridiculous, she forced herself to stand up, pushing the door open and peering inside. There was no answer. Maybe he was tired and had nodded off she told herself. It did nothing for the now painful gooseflesh covering her body. “Paul?” she called his name again, whispering it this time. He wasn’t in the living room or kitchen. She pushed a cabinet door closed with the back of one hand as she walked past. He had to have been here, she never left drawers or cabinets open. Glancing around, she noticed a piece of mail hanging over the edge of her sorter. What had he been doing in here, snooping? With considerably more effort, she forced her feet toward the bedroom, stepping over one of Bill’s toys lying in the middle of the floor. “Paul?” His name died on her lips as she walked past the open bathroom door and froze. Without knowing what she was doing, Sam drifted inside and stopped just inside the doorway. Her hand flew to her mouth too late to stop the scream.