They rushed through the emergency room doors coming to a stand still upon hearing the joyous sounds of their son’s voice calling “Mommy. Daddy.”
“Trober” Verity cried running to throw her arms around him. Tears ran down her cheeks unheeded.
After making sure his son was alright Garrett approached his Dad and Uncle “did you get her?” he demanded. As soon as his Dad turned he could see it in his eyes that they didn’t find her. “She got away again didn’t she?” He could feel his body begin to shake as he took several steps away.
“Son,” Ian said in his calm reassuring voice “the important thing is we found Trober.” Cautiously he approached his son pulling him close.
“She’s still out there,” he cried “she can come back. Take him again.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Ian pushed him far enough away from him to gaze into his eyes “she doesn’t want a baby she has to take care of. She didn’t realize the work involved in caring for one. She’s too self-centered to give that much of herself to a child.”
Ian could see the struggle in his son’s eyes. He could see he wanted to believe him “Dad are you sure?” was all he asked.
“As sure as I can be when it comes to her,” he said “we still need to be take precautions but according to the criminal behavioral analyst they say her obsession with us has been broken.”
“Why?” Garrett asked confused “how? I don’t understand.”
Shaking his head Ian said “to be honest I don’t understand it myself. Let’s talk to the experts.”
Approaching the men Ian interrupted their ongoing conversation. “Excuse me. Could you please explain to my son why you think Kara has lost interest in our family.”
Garrett could sense the poorly concealed irritation the so-called experts seemed to have toward them. He realized a moment later that part of that irritation stemmed from all the questions Ian had been asking them. They seemed to not take kindly to anyone questioning their expertise to read people. “So you think because she destroyed all the pictures she had of us that means she’s lost interest. How do you know she didn’t do that because she was angry and want’s to kill us?”
“In the past she didn’t go through the effort to change her appearance. She left behind an at home hair color kit that indicates she changed her hair color. She cut several inches off as well. She doesn’t want to be known as Kara Bennett anymore.”
“Then who is she?” Garrett demanded.
“We don’t know” the man said “I’m sure we’ll figure it out. We always do.”
Garrett walked away from the so called expert. He gazed across the hall towards Verity who was hugging and kissing their son to the obvious delight of the little boy. He went to stand by a window and gazed outside at the darkening sky.
“What are you thinking about son?” Ian asked coming up beside him.
“I think those experts are a bunch of idiots” he mumbled. He heard Ian’s muffled grunt as he tried not to laugh “I think we’re going to move to Sunlit Tides. I can get transferred to the coast guard there. Verity is going to take time off from being a private investigator. It’s where a lot of the family is. It’ll be good for Trober to be around his cousins.”
“Sounds like you’ve been thinking about this for a while” Ian observed “do you mind if your mother and I follow you?”
“I think Grandma and Grandpa would be disappointed if you didn’t,” Garrett smiled at him “have I told you how thankful I am that you found my son?”
“No but there’s no need” Ian brushed his thanks aside “I’m sorry you had to go through this alone.”
“You’re here now,” Garrett hugged his father close “that’s all that matters now.”
Verity stood staring up at the house. Turning when Garrett came along side her slipping his arms around her “penny for your thoughts,” he murmured nuzzling her cheek.
She turned her face away blinking fast. “Hey” Garrett spoke gently “none of that.”
“I can’t help it,” she sniffed leaning into him “I made so many mistakes. I almost lost everything I loved most. I…”Her voice was cut off abruptly when Garrett’s mouth clamped down on hers “what was that for?” she asked when they both pulled apart to breathe.
Shrugging he half turned away with a slight smile on his lips. “To stop you” he laughed when she glared up at him “it wasn’t all your fault.”
She gave him a let’s get real look before mumbling “most of it.”
Tilting her chin up forcing her to look up at him “let’s not get into an argument about whose more to blame. Let’s just be thankful that we’re both here to try again. I love you. That hasn’t changed.”
Nodding she smiled up at him eyes full of hope “do you think Sunlit Tides will be better for us?”
Pulling her close he chuckled a little “well it can’t be much worse.”
She shivered as the cool Aurora Skies breeze blew across the yard rustling the leaves in the trees. “It’ll certainly be warmer” she said turning away from the house.
“Yeah it has that going for it,” Garrett agreed stopping at the for sale sign long enough to change it to read sold. “Here’s to the future,” he said walking to join Verity at the waiting taxi. Getting in he directed the driver to take them to the airport.
Ian and Celia arrived in Sunlit Tides ahead of their son who had stayed behind to sell the house in Aurora Skies. They had volunteered to take Trober with them since Trober seldom was able to let Ian out of his sight for long.
Taking Ian’s hand Celia asked “are you nervous?”
“Petrified” Ian said eyes darting around the busy airport. “It’s been so long,” his voice caught in his throat.
“Gampa” Trober tugged on his hand fear in clear blue eyes.
“It’s alright bud” Ian smiled reassuringly at him “Grandpa’s alright.”
Frowning the little boy slowly nodded “otay” he murmured.
“I agree with him” Celia whispered beside him “I know you’re worried about seeing your parents for the first time in so long.”
“I am” he gripped her hand “I never meant to hurt them yet I know I did. How could I not? They thought I was dead. That must have destroyed them.”
Celia at a loss for words gently kissed his cheek. “I’m sorry” she murmured knowing it had been her decision to go into protective custody. She had talked Ian into staying despite his concern for his family and parents. He had stayed for her.
Looking intently at her Ian held her gaze “don’t for a minute go to blaming yourself. You did what you thought was right. I stayed because I hoped it would help. It didn’t.” He sighed looking around the baggage claims area “now we live with the consequences of that decision.”
“Daddy” a woman’s voice shouted above the noise of the airport.
Ian and Celia both looked up to find a young woman hurrying towards them with red-gold hair and glasses. Rushing to meet her they fell into her arms “Katrina it’s so good to see you.”
Once the hugging and kissing was done Ian scanned the area “where’s dad? Mom?”
Worry flickered in Katrina’s dark brown eyes as she attempted to smile “they’re at home waiting for you.” She stated walking towards the exist confident they would follow her “they wanted to give you a real welcome back party.”
Ian grabbed his daughter’s hand “Katrina tell me what’s wrong. I know my parents. They’d have been here come hell or high water if they could.”
Slowing Katrina came to a stop “they don’t want you to know…” she bit her bottom lip “Grandpa’s heart…”
Alarm shot through Ian sending chills throughout his body. Jeff had told him about the heart attack his dad had suffered. His parents were getting old. How much longer would they be around?
“Daddy I’m sorry” Katrina cried “he’s been having chest pains since Kara kidnapped Trober. We practically had to tie him down to keep him from hopping on a plane to Aurora Skies.”
“I suppose he’s refusing to see a doctor,” Ian guessed.
Nodding Katrina added “he wants to see you first and not from a hospital bed.” Reach for him she continued “I’m hoping you can convince him to see a doctor. You know how stubborn he be.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Ian muttered wishing he could go back in time and change that one decision. He had lost so much valuable time he could have spent with his family. Time he’ll never be able to get back.
“Ian” Aimee cried tears spilling from her eyes and down her face.
“Mom” Ian’s voice was gruff as he tried to keep from crying too “I’ve missed you so much.” Once his arms wrapped around her frail form Ian couldn’t hold the dam from breaking. They stood crying on each other’s shoulders.
“The prodigal son returns,” Gene’s firm deep voice pulled them apart.
Sniffing Ian practically fell into his father’s arms. He was relieved to see there weren’t anything different about his father’s appearance that shouted weak, frail or old. “Dad I’m so so sorry” Ian cried on his father’s shoulder overcome with emotion.
“We’ll have none of that” Gene said eyes twinkling “you’re here now. That’s all that matters.”
“Grandpa” a little girls voice spoke from behind them.
“Is this?” Ian asked blinking back tears “Sara? You’ve gotten so big.” He pulled the little girl into his arms. “How old are you darlin?”
“Six” she gave him a toothy grin “I’m in the first grade and I’m the smartest in my class.” She looked over at her mom for confirmation “aren’t I mom?”
“Yes you are sweetheart,” Katrina beamed with pride holding another child about two years old in her arms “you haven’t met your other grandchild. This is Stevie.”
A week later Ian was strolling along the beach beside his father. “It’s so peaceful here,” he said stopping to look out to sea. A sudden gasp of breath and grunt of pain had Ian turning towards his Dad.
Gene clutched his chest gasping for breath “it’ll pass” he waved away Ian’s helpful hand “give it a minute.”
Reaching out Ian put an arm around his father “you need to see a doctor” alarm making his voice higher pitched than normal.
Shrugging off his son’s helping hands “I’m not an invalid. I don’t need a doctor.”
“Dad you’re in pain” Ian stood there feeling helpless unsure what he should do.
“It’ll pass,” Gene insisted his voice taking on its usual stubborn tone “it always does.”
“That’s it,” Ian said taking hold of his Dad’s arm he started walking towards the parking lot. “I’m not taking no for answer. You’re going to see a doctor. No excuses.”
“I’m not going,” Gene insisted even though he gave little to no resistance to Ian as he pulled him along. Sitting in the passenger seat sweating profusely “your mother has enough to worry about than my health. She doesn’t need to add this to her list.”
Hitting the steering wheel Ian glared at his father “you’re on top of that list whether you want to be or not. She worries about you all the time. She knows you’re in pain every time you clutch your chest. She worries every time you turn that sickly shade of grey like you are now.”
“I’m fine,” Gene insisted refusing to meet his son’s eyes.
“Admitting you’re in pain isn’t a sign of weakness dad” Ian sighed letting his frustration go “saying you’re not in pain doesn’t make the pain go away.” He looked over at his Dad glaring out the window. “Saying you’re alright doesn’t make us worry any less. Dad please. We love you. We want you around for several more years to come.”
Blowing through his nose Gene turned to meet his son’s worried glare “alright I’ll go. If only to make your mother feel better.”
“It’ll make her feel much better,” Ian assured him.
“How do you like your new house?” Garrett asked approaching Verity as she gazed through the open window towards the ocean.
Turning her eyes shining “it’s perfect.”
“Do you think you can be happy here?” he asked concerned since Uncle Jeff didn’t have any business on the islands. “Are you sure you won’t miss working?”
“Who says I won’t be working?” she smiled up at him “very soon I’m going to have my hands full of work.”
Garrett gave her a concerned almost fearful look “did you decide to start your own private investigative service?”
Shaking her head eyes beaming as a wide grin spread across her face. “No I’m going to keep my promise. I’m not going to worry about mysteries any more.” She put a hand up to stall whatever Garret was about to say “I love solving problems. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been a huge part of my life since I can remember. I’m not going to lie. I’m afraid if I continue the obsession of needing to find the answers will control me forever.” She giggled as Garrett pulled her close peppering her face with light sweet kisses “I love my family more than any old mystery.”
Kissing her tantalizing lips he asked “then what’s going to keep you so busy?”
“I’m going to have a baby,” she laughed as Garrett picked her up swinging her through the air “I guess I don’t need to ask if your happy about it.”
“I’m ecstatic” he beamed at her “how far along are you?”
“Not far” she said “I missed my last cycle. I took a test. It was positive.” She squeezed him tight “I still need to go to the doctor to confirm it. Do you think Katrina could recommend someone?”
“I’m sure she could,” he smiled “once you ask her everyone will know. My family is too large to keep secrets for long.”
“I wasn’t planning on keeping it a secret” Verity told him “I want everyone to know.”
“Mom how is he?” Ian asked sitting next to her on the couch.
Patting his hand Aimee smiled “stubborn as always.” A stray tear slipped from the corner of her eye “thank you for convincing him to see the doctor. Of course he says the doctor is wrong.”
The corners of Ian’s mouth quirked up “of course he does. You know dad has never been fond of doctors.”
“Oh I know” Aimee chuckled “this has been an ongoing battle for years. Can’t say I blame him. I’m not over fond of them myself.”
“But he is going?” Ian asked “he hasn’t talked his way out of his appointment has he?”
“Don’t worry he’ll be there,” Aimee leaned over to kiss his cheek “even if I have to hog tie him to get him there.”
A genuine smile spread across Ian’s face as he imagined his mom, as frail as she was wrestling his father down to tie him up. He had no doubts she would do it too if it meant saving his life. “Let me know if you need any help,” he said standing up smiling towards Celia as she walked into the room.
Walking up to her mother-in-law Celia held her hands out “I wanted to tell you how much Ian and I appreciate your hospitality in letting us stay here with you while we look for a house.”
“It’s been our pleasure” Aimee told her struggling to her feet to give Celia a hug ” I’ve enjoyed having you here.”
“Thank you” Celia said again looking towards Ian “we think we found a house we both like. We’re going to look at it tomorrow. I’m sure you’re looking forward to having your house all to yourselves again.”
“Oh” a look of disappointment flashed across Aimee’s face “I was hoping…” Shaking her head Aimee took a few uncertain steps towards the stairs “I’ve enjoyed having you so close.”
Ian and Celia exchanged glances watching her go up the stairs to join her husband. “Good night mom” Ian called after her. There was no response from his mom.
“Maybe she didn’t hear you,” Celia said sitting in his lap.
“Celia I think she wants us to stay” Ian looked back at the stairs half expecting his parents to materialize.
“I got that impression too” Celia agreed “what do you think we should do?”
He looked into her familiar blue eyes “I have no right to ask this of you. We’ve had so few chances to be on own.”
Stroking his beloved face Celia sighed content to be in his arms. “It doesn’t matter where we live or who shares the same house with us. As long as I’m with you that’s where I’ll call home.” Leaning in close she tenderly ran her lips across his “it took me to many years to realize that. I regret the times I doubted your love for me and mine for you.”
Ian opened his mouth to protest only to be muffled by her kissing him. “You’re a dear sweet man to always try to protect me from my own actions. Please don’t do it anymore. Let me take responsibility for the mistakes I’ve made.”
“Celia let’s not worry about what’s in the past. We both made mistakes. I won’t let you take the blame for what has happened with Kara. Kara is responsible for herself. She made the decision to terrorize her family. Why? Who knows. At this point I don’t care. At this point she doesn’t deserve our time or pity.” He leaned in kissed Celia running his fingers through her soft hair. “I’m done wasting my time and energy on her. I want to spend what time I have left with you, my parents, our kids and grand kids.”
Smiling at him she asked “does that mean we’re coming up with an excuse as to why we’re not moving?”
“Definitely” he grinned “mom and dad will love to have us stay with them. We’ll move when they get tired of having us here.” They both knew it was far more likely his parents would pass away before that happened. Neither wanted to think that far ahead.