Rachel shrugged, "No problem. The attic creeps me out, though."
Haley suppressed a shudder. She couldn't get the thought out of her head that she'd heard someone up there the night she'd gone into labor.
Rachel barreled into her. "What? What is it?" She quickly looked around. "Is it a rat?!" she asked with alarm.
Haley buried her head in her hands. "That night... I heard something... someone was in our house."
Rachel paced nearby. "And I bet I know who! That lying, two-timing, braying jackass!" she fumed. "He's the only person that would've wanted that picture."
Maritza looked over her shoulder, "Rachel, I think it's best if we all stay calm..."
"I am calm!" Rachel snapped back, resuming her pacing.
Haley tuned her bickering roommates out. She couldn't believe Gage had snuck into her house. He was supposed to be a police officer!
Everyone turned towards the door when the doorbell rang.
"Who could it be?" Haley asked, jumping up.
Rachel rushed to the door.
Rachel shook her head, "I'll let Haley tell you."
Johnny trailed behind his sister and rolled his eyes. How could he fix a situation when he didn't even know what the problem was? "Alright, will someone tell me what the heck is going on?"
"He's practically naked!" Rachel informed him with glee when it was obvious Haley was having trouble spitting it out.
Johnny shook his head against the images that flashed through his head. "Okay," he said in a gravelly voice, then taking a moment to clear his throat and shove a lid on his runaway imagination. "That makes a little more sense. Leave it to me. I'll take care of it."
Johnny cocked his brow, "Oh yeah? Well, looks like I'm in here anyways."
"I'll have you arrested!" Gage threatened.
"I'm sorry! I.. Don't hurt me..." Gage pleaded, "I've got a family!"
Johnny's eyes flashed with anger at his words. "What I like even less is when my loved ones are threatened. And Haley Black-Wolff is my family. You get it?"
"Haley?" Gage asked with surprise.
Johnny ignored him. "What'd you do with the painting?"
Gage's mind reeled. "What painting?" he asked.
"The one with you butt-naked?" Johnny snapped.
Johnny balled his fist and raised it.
Johnny was getting a bad feeling. "You didn't sneak in and take it?"
Gage sputtered, "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Johnny just laughed as he pushed the door open and strolled from the locker room.
"I know! I want to go out and look for wildlife, too! But, we can't, Mr. Mittens," Maritza said, snuggling her cat, "It's raining cats and dogs outside."
Mittens meowed loudly.
"Haley said she'd start on the illustrations today. Do you want to go check on it? Come on, let's go!" Maritza headed from her room with Mittens close on her heels.
Haley smiled. "I'm happy, too. Truth be told, I haven't been able to paint anything for months now! I'm glad to have brush in hand again!"
Maritza patted her friend's shoulder. "You'll paint again. And when you do, it will be amazing as always!"
Haley nibbled her lip. "I hope so," she said doubtfully.
Johnny shook his head. "It wasn't him."
"Damn," Rachel cursed under her breath.
"I wanted to talk to Haley and see if she had any other ideas."
Rachel checked her watch and made a face. "I have to get to work. But, Haley's upstairs in her room. Go on up."
Shaking his head at the ridiculous thought, he took the steps two at a time.
"Sorry, Rachel said to come on up," he said apologetically.
Haley blushed, "No! It's okay. Did you talk to Gage?" she asked.
Johnny nodded. "It wasn't him," he said firmly.
"To my way of thinking, someone doesn't just break in for a painting," Johnny said. "They left a whole bunch of other stuff untouched in the attic."
"But why? It was just an embarrassing picture I'd painted!"
"Hey! Watch it!" Penelope Landgrabb shouted when Armando shoved her out of the way. "Jerk!"
"We're going to have a little chat," Johnny told him. "Again."
Johnny's gaze dipped to her lips.
Johnny swallowed thickly, nodding slowly, at a loss for words. "Well, I got your painting back," he told her in a gravelly voice. "Looks like my job is done."
Besides, it was impossible. He lived in Bridgeport and she lived in Sunset Valley. He was a... what did he do for a living anyway? she wondered. Maybe it was better if she didn't know...