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From Author Karen Witemeyer – FULL STEAM AHEAD
Nicole eased down the stairs, holding her breath when the wall area shielding her gave way to open space, exposing her feet and the white of her sleeping gown. No shouts of discovery sounded, so she continued downward, praying the boards wouldn’t creak beneath her weight.
“Where is it, old man?” one of the intruders demanded. “Tell me, or I’ll start snapping the bones in your fingers and work my way up your arm.”
“Go ahead. I ain’t good for much these days anyhow.”
Papa! Stubborn, defiant man. He’d never give in to their threats. His body might be weak, but his will was as strong as ever. That’s what scared her.
“Oh, yeah?” a second voice sneered. “What if we break your lovely wife’s fingers instead? Still want to play the hero? It’d be a shame if she couldn’t play the spinet for you any more, don’t you think?”
“No!” Her father’s shout echoed Nicole’s mental cry. “Lay a hand on my wife, and I’ll kill you. I swear it.”
“Big words from a man who can barely stand. Now where’s the dagger?”
The dagger? Oh, no. This was worse that she’d thought. Her father might swallow his pride enough to hand over money or other valuables to spare her mother, but the Lafitte Dagger? It was the Renard family legacy. He’d die before giving it up. She had to do something.
Glancing both ways down the hall to be sure a third man wasn’t lying in wait somewhere, Nicole left the stairs and padded toward her parents’ room. Flattening herself against the wall, she darted a quick glance inside before yanking her head back out of view.
One of the men had a gun on her father in the back left corner. A lamp had fallen from the bedside table and the curtains were half pulled down, as if her father had put up a struggle. Unfortunately, in his weakened condition, he’d been no match for the much younger man.
Nicole gritted her teeth. A year ago, no one would have dared accost Anton Renard in his own home. Even six months ago he would have bested them. The thieves had waited for his illness to do their work for them. Cowards.
Nicole scanned the hall for anything she could use as a weapon. Her gaze settled on a decorative porcelain vase perched on the small Chippendale pedestal table between her parents’ bedroom and the parlor. Seizing it against her chest, she drew in several fortifying breaths before inching back to the bedroom doorway.
“So Renard,” the man taunted, “what’s it gonna be? The dagger or your wife’s hand?”
“Let her go!” Papa demanded at the same time her mother’s soft grunting announced her struggle to free herself.
Visions of her maman’s elegant fingers mangled and crooked spurred Nicole into action. Lifting the heavy vase above her head, she ran into the room and slammed it down upon the intruder’s skull.