The mournful sound of taps cut through the coarse gray afternoon. Lynn Danfort stood tall and proud before her husband’s casket, refusing to release the emotion that clawed at her chest. Her two children were gathered close at her sides, as though she could hold on to them tightly enough to protect them from the reality of this day.
Seattle’s police chief, Daniel Carmichael, assisted by Ryder Matthews, neatly folded the American flag that rested atop the polished casket and calmly presented it to Lynn. She tried to thank the police chief but realized she couldn’t speak. Even nodding was more of an effort than she could make.
When they’d finished, Pastor Teed spoke a few solemn words, and then slowly, in coordinated movements, Gary Danfort was lowered to his final resting place.
Lynn repressed a shudder as the first shovelful of dirt slammed against his casket. The sound reverberated in her ears, magnified a hundred times until she yearned to cover her head and scream out for them to stop. This was her husband . . . the father of her children . . . her best friend . . . and Gary Danfort deserved so much more than a cold blanket of Washington mud.
Shot in the line of duty. Pronounced dead at the scene. At first Lynn had refused to believe her husband was gone.
The thick dirt fell again, and Lynn believed.
The tightening in her chest worked its way up the constricting muscles of her throat and escaped on a sob as the shovel was handed in turn to the men and women who had so proudly served with Gary. The trembling increased as each dull thump echoed like a somber edict in her tortured mind.
Hope was gone.
Death the victor.
Tears welled like hot liquid in the corners of her eyes, her first for that day. She’d wanted to be strong—it was what Gary would have wanted—but now she let them fall. The moisture seared crooked paths down her ashen cheeks.
A voice violated her pain. “It’s time to go.”
“This way, Mrs. Danfort.”
Again she shook her head. “Please. Not yet.”
Her strength was depleted, and for the first time since she’d learned of Gary’s death, she needed someone—someone she loved, someone who had loved Gary. She looked around for Ryder. Her friend. Gary’s partner. Godfather to their children.
Her gaze scanned the crowd until she found him, standing in front of Chief Carmichael.
A protest swelled in her throat as she watched him pull his badge from his wallet and place it in the police chief’s palm.
Ryder turned to her then, his pain and grief as strong as her own. She could see that Chief Carmichael was trying to reason with him, but Ryder wasn’t listening. His gaze reached over the crowd of mourners until it found Lynn. Their eyes met and locked.
Lynn pleaded with him not to leave her.
His gaze told her he must. Regret clouded the harsh features as his eyes shifted to Michelle and Jason, her children.
Then, silently, Ryder Matthews turned and walked away.
Copyright © 2019 by Debbie Macomber. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.