Hannah smoothed her hair frowning at her reflection in the mirror. Her stomach churned despite her best efforts to appear relaxed. Where was he? She glanced over at the window. Heart leaping into her throat as headlights turned towards their house and drove past.
“Relax” Eddie advised her “he’ll be here.”
“I know” she gave him a stiff smile that did nothing to relieve her butterflies. What if he changed his mind? What if he wasn’t coming? What if he had gotten arrested? What if the investigation into Dexter’s disappearance uncovered his hacking forays? What if he was languishing inside some prison somewhere?
“Hannah” Rory’s voice barely broke through the haze of her mind. She looked up blinking several times “Hannah what’s wrong?”
“I” she shook her head “nothing.” She clasped her hands together in her lap.
“Rory how about we watch a movie while we wait” Eddie suggested giving his daughter a reassuring smile. “He’ll come. I know he will.”
“Thanks Daddy” Hannah blinked back tears pushing aside her growing fear that Donovan wasn’t coming.
“If he doesn’t come I’ll personally kick his ass” Rory promised. Hannah knew by his tone he was in earnest. It wasn’t an idle threat or joke.
Several hours later Eddie set a tray of cheese and crackers on her dresser. “Sweetie you should try to eat something.”
She pulled her knees up to her chest “he didn’t come.” The devastation in her voice was all Eddie needed to hear for him to pull his daughter into his arms.
“I’m sorry sweetie” he whispered rubbing her back like he had when she was little and had awakened in the middle of the night from a nightmare.
“He promised he’d come” she cried sobbing onto his shoulder “he didn’t even call.”
Cradling her he looked up as a soft click from the door opening announced Rory’s presence as he walked into the room. His face was grim. Green eyes sizzling with anger.
“Looks like I’ll be kicking some ass after all” he grumbled as he walked over to his daughter. He stroked her soft blond hair “I’m sorry sweetie” he murmured softly wishing there was something he could do.
The sound of Hannah’s phone cut into her sobbing. “Daddy I don’t want to talk to him.” She clung tighter to Eddie burying her face in his shoulder.
“You don’t have to” Rory assured her taking her phone. “Hello” he barked brusquely into it. Silence followed his terse greeting. He turned to look at his daughter before he walked a few paces away. “No I’m sorry Mrs Glenn he isn’t here.”
“What?” Hannah lifted her head up “why does she think he’s here?” She shifted in Eddie’s arms following Rory’s every move listening intently.
“Yes Mrs Glenn I let you know the moment he arrives.” Rory stared at the phone in his hand for a moment before turning to face his daughter and husband. “Donovan left early this morning. His mother expected him to be here already.”
“It doesn’t take this long to get here from Riverview” Hannah protested.
“I know sweetie” Rory came and knelt in front of her bed. “He called his mom six hours ago when he stopped for gas in Simm City.”
Her eyes grew large “that’s only an hour away” she struggled to sit up. “He should have been here hours ago.” Looking from one concerned face to the other she felt her world begin to crumble. “Where is he? Why isn’t he here? Why hasn’t he called? What if something bad happened?”
Rory pulled his husband and daughter close. “I’ll find him” he assured both of them with a confidence he didn’t feel. He watched as both nodded accepting his assurance without question. He kissed each of them on the forehead before he stood. Walking towards the door he paused to glance back. Both sets of eyes were watching him with identical expressions of anxiety and hope.
Before he could open the door Eddie’s voice stopped him “be careful” was all he said.
“I will babe” he smiled briefly hoping to instill a sense of calm and confidence. “I’ll find him” he looked over at Hannah “I promise.”
“Dad” she called as he opened the door “Tell him I…I love him.”
He gave her a lopsided grin “I will sweetie. I will.” He said it with resignation. His little had gone and grown up on him. As much as he hated it he and Eddie had been replaced by someone new. His chest felt heavy with the knowledge. He looked at Eddie. His soft brown eyes reflected the same realization. Rory knew Eddie had known it for a while he had fought it wanting to keep his little girl a while longer. When Hannah had informed them that this boy was coming to meet them Rory had felt he was losing his daughter now he was sure of it. All the texts and phone calls while she was away at school. All the times she mentioned his name. Rory hadn’t wanted to believe it. “I’ll find him” he mumbled to himself. He was losing his daughter but he wouldn’t stand back and do nothing to find the boy his daughter loved. Although he still reserved the right to kick the boy’s ass if the need ever arose.
Donovan kicked the offending tire. Flat as a pancake. He must have picked up some glass or a nail somewhere. He had checked the air pressure before he leaving that morning just like had checked the oil. He knew he should call Hannah to let her know what happened so that she didn’t worry. Normally a flat tire wouldn’t be a big deal. He could change a tire in less than ten minutes. The problem was it had been raining buckets and the dirt road he was on was going to be soft. He’d have to be careful that the jack didn’t slip in the mud unbalancing the car while he was changing the tire.
Sitting in his car he grimaced as water from his hair and clothes soaked into the car’s interior. He reached for his phone that he had tossed carelessly into the passenger seat. “Shit” he muttered as he found he had no signal. He got out of the car and stood in the pouring rain trying in vain to find a signal. In the back of his mind he kept thinking of that stupid commercial of the guy asking “can you hear me now?”
As thunder rolled over his head he tossed the useless phone into his car deciding to fix the fat before the storm got any worse. His feet squished in his shoes as the soft dirt sucked at his feet. He loosened the nuts before he started to jack up the car.
He was almost done. He was fitting the spare onto the wheel when the jack shifted. The car started to slide towards the ditch. He tried to jump out-of-the-way but the mud and rain hampered him. He fell heavily onto his back. His head hit something hard. Then everything went dark.
The first thing he noticed when he opened his eyes was the it was dark and the rain had stopped. How long had he lain there unconscious? He was wet, cold and uncomfortable. He tried to sit up. Pain shot through his leg and up his spine and into his head. His vision dimmed to narrow pin pricks. He couldn’t move his leg. It was pinned beneath the spare tire that was under the car. Waves of nausea swept through him as his body broke out in a cold sweat. Shock he guessed. Gritting his teeth to keep from screaming in agony.
He closed his eyes attempting to block out the pain. He tried to still the fears swirling around inside his brain. The what if scenarios that had him imagining he’d have to hack off his foot to keep from starving to death. Where was his handy-dandy pocket knife when he needed it? How long had he been on this back road? Two, three hours? In all that time he hadn’t seen one person drive by. He’d never be seen again. Hannah would think he stood her up. His hands balled into helpless fists as tears ran down his cheeks.
Taking a deep breath he tried to calm himself down. He should have called Hannah at the gas station instead of his mom. At the time he was thinking of the surprised delight he’d see in Hannah’s eyes when he arrived early. He took this stupid back road in the hopes he could cut off time on his journey. He hadn’t counted on it starting to rain thirty miles after he turned on it. He should have stayed on the main roads. He kept berating himself until he passed out a second time.
Rory sat in his are hands drumming on the steering wheel. If he were a young nineteen year old again which way would he have gone from Simm City? The back roads he thought. An opportunity to go fast without all the traffic. They only problem with that idea was the road turned to dirt thirty miles out of Simm City. Someone from out of the area wouldn’t know it.
Making up his mind Rory turned without hesitation down that road. He could always try the more common routes later if this didn’t pan out. The fact that the boy hadn’t called or shown up only confirmed he was down this road somewhere. More than likely he had car trouble and only farmers tended to use that road meant no one would find him till morning. The road was sloppy after the rain and Rory fought to keep his car straight as he crawled down it.
Rory squinted into the darkness. There was something a little ways ahead that his headlights were just bouncing off of. It might be the car he was looking for. He stopped in the middle of the road not risking getting stuck pulling over to the shoulder where the road was softer. The car was empty except for a phone left behind on the passenger seat. Frowning Rory wondered why anyone would leave their phone behind.
Walking around the front of the car he found the reason. The car had toppled to the side, sliding part way into the ditch. A young man lay beside it in the long grass. Rory knelt beside him checking for a pulse. Finding a pulse he sat back on his heels relieved inspecting the car. From the angle of the car and the missing tire he surmised the kid had attempted to change a tire and the jack had moved in the unsteady soil.
Checking on the unconscious boy again before running back to his car. He fetched a tow rope and his jack. He would need to use his own car to keep the other one from sliding further into the ditch and harming the boy more. It was going to be a risky move but one he had to take to free the boys foot.
After that Rory blocked all concerns for the boy from his mind. Concentrating instead on what needed to be done. It took several minutes for him to find a secure enough spot to set up his jack. He checked on the boy again to find the boy’s light blue eyes staring up at him. “Looks like you could use a little help” he smiled down at him.
“Yeah maybe a little” Donovan agreed. Rory chuckled a little at the boy’s brevity. “Do you think you can wiggle out from beneath if I manage to raise the car enough to free your foot?”
Donovan nodded pulling himself up to sitting position. Rory put a hand to steady the boy when he swayed losing all color in his face. “I’m ok” Donovan insisted breathing heavy.
Rory got up to check his tow rope. He hoped the rope would hold long enough to keep the car from sliding. It was a risk to use his car as an anchor for the other car but there was little else he could think of that might work better. Going back into town wasn’t an option. It would mean leaving the boy alone to suffer more and running the risk of him losing his foot altogether. Shaking his head to deflect the bleak thoughts he moved back to the boys car. He started to slowly jack up the car keeping a wary eye out for the slightest movement. It wouldn’t do any of them any good if he too wound up pinned beneath the car with the boy. He didn’t relish the thought of calling the kids mother either if something went wrong…
“Shit” he mumbled as he felt the jack shift. Without turning to look he yelled “are you out yet?”
“Almost” Donovan grunted “just a little bit more.”
Rory nodded electing not to tell the kid how precarious the situation was. He either got out or he didn’t there was no going back now. “Alright” he grunted hoping the jack held a little longer.
Donovan moved as soon as the pressure eased on his foot. He moved as quickly as he could to drag himself away from the path of the car if it slid further. The next thing he knew two strong arms were pulling him to safety. “What about your car?” he asked when Rory dropped in the mud.
“There’s a few dents and scratches” Rory told “but the tow rope held long enough to get you out.” He nodded towards the kids car “you do however owe me a new jack,” he added causing them both to laugh.
Donovan woke up to the sound of someone moaning. It took him another moment to realize that someone was him. He blinked at the stark white of the room. The pain in his leg was better than it had been wedged beneath his car. Someone had stopped to help him. He closed his eyes, heading sinking into his pillow. This was not how he imagined spending his vacation.
The door opened eliciting a groan from him. He expected his visitor to be another nurse come to check his blood pressure or IV drip like they had done all night long waking him up each time. How did they expect anyone to rest when all they did was disturb them?
“You’re awake?” a familiar voice said above him.
Smiling he opened his eyes to find a pair of green eyes looking down at him. “Who can sleep?” he asked.
“Are you in pain?” she asked a frown marring the beauty of her face.
“What? No” he shook his head “it was a bad joke.”
“I can get the nurse” she offered worry in her eyes.
“I’m fine,” he repeated “all I need is you.”
“That’s cheesy” she laughed at him moving to sit on the edge of the bed “I was really worried about you.”
“I bet you thought I wasn’t coming” he smirked up at her.
“Well the thought did cross my mind” Hannah smiled down at him “then your mom called looking for you.” Her eyes filled with tears “I was never more scared thinking you were hurt and needed help.”
“You called the hospital looking for me?” he asked taking her hand and giving it a little squeeze. “I’m flattered you thought so much of me to go through all that trouble.”
She raised an eyebrow at him “don’t be ridiculous. My dad went looking for you. He’s the one who found you and brought you here.”
Stunned he laid back on his pillow “how did he know to look for me on that road?”
“I don’t know” Hannah she shook her head “you’ll have to ask him but I’m glad he though.”
“So am I” Donovan agreed “I owe him my life.”
“Jack you owe him a jack” she grinned impishly at him.
He pulled her down to him “have I told you how much I love you lately?”
“Not today” she shook her head.
“Well….I do” he held her face between his hands before moving to kiss her.
Breaking the kiss she sighed gazing into his eyes “I love you so much. If you ever scare me like this again I’m going to kick your ass.”
“Never again” he promised wrapping his arms around her.
“Good because you know I can right?” she teased.
“Yeah I’ve seen in you in action” he grinned “now shut up and kiss me.”