Tag Archive | Trober Bennett

Knights of Hope – Chapter 10 – Trouble Brewing

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The next day Braylin woke earlier than usual. Maybe it was the rumble from the nearby train or the unfamiliar bed. It didn’t matter. The bed he was in was empty. Tossing back the blankets he shuffled into the living room rubbing sleep from his eyes. It too was empty. The dishes from the night before were put away from where he had stacked them on the counter.

Knocking on the bathroom door. Waiting for a response before opening it and sticking his head inside. Empty. Had Trebor received an emergency call from the hospital? Surely he would have left him a note or a text. Frowning he went back into the bedroom pulling on his boxers. There was one other place he hadn’t checked yet. The roof. Trebor had mentioned it was his favorite place to think.

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Climbing the stairs he found Trebor starting across the river. Silently he approached him wrapping his arms around him pressing his front into his back. Lifting his face he kissed his shoulders where it sloped up to his neck. “Morning he whispered.”

“I used to think we’d be close forever” Trebor said reaching for Braylin’s hand. “My sister and I. The older we got the further apart we became.”

“You can’t blame yourself for that” he said quietly.

“I keep thinking if I hadn’t been so busy. If I wasn’t so focused on getting good grades. Becoming a doctor. Maybe I would have seen when she started going down the wrong path.” Turning into Braylin’s arms “I’m a terrible brother.”

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Kissing the top of his messy head he ran his fingers through Trebor’s hair. “That’s not true. I’m the terrible brother not you. She’s responsible for her own decisions.”

“I could have done more. You heard me yesterday. I sounded more like our mom than her brother.” Pulling away from Braylin’s embrace he took several steps away hugging himself. “I could have tried to be a little more understanding.”

“Why don’t you give her another call” he suggested “tell her what you just told me.”

Holding his phone up he said “I already did. At least I tried. I’m not sure if it came out the way I wanted it too.”

Taking slow careful steps forward he suggested “why don’t we go out for breakfast?”

“The diner isn’t busy this time of day. Their breakfast isn’t as good as their supper menu. It’s still good” he added hastily his eyes focused on his phone.

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“It’s better than sitting around waiting for a response” he said taking the phone from Trebor’s hand. “We’ll leave this here.”

“What if I get a call from the hospital” he protested reaching for the phone.

“Another thirty minutes won’t matter” he said holding the phone just out of reach from Trebor’s hands.

Giving his phone one last longing look Trebor glared at the pink haired male. “You can’t just take my phone” he made an expected lounge for it. His fingers sliding across its surface.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get it back” he chuckled “I promise. It’s just for breakfast.”

“Fine have it your way” he mumbled.

“Goodie” he clapped his hands. “Now let’s get dressed and go eat.”

***

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When they were both dressed and sitting outside the diner Braylin asked “tell me about when you were a kid. You hardly talk about your family.”

A smile tugged at his lips. “I don’t like to talk about them. I’m homesick all the time and talking about home just makes it worse. But….”

“But? What” he prompted taking a swallow of his coffee.

“Before I was alone with no one to talk to” he sighed “it’s awful to be alone and so far away from home. That type of loneliness eats at you.”

“I can understand that” he set his coffee cup down. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

“I want to I think” a smile spread across his face as his eyes took on a far away look. “There was this one time my parents took me and my sister to the beach. It was a family picnic. Dad made all the fixings and Mom got all our stuff together. I was about ten and Ava was six. She liked to follow me around everywhere. I found it both annoying and flattering.”

Braylin smiled listening to him. He remembered feeling the same about his little brother. Hearing his brother tell everyone he wanted to be just like him. Then it all changed. Became dangerous to be like him… shaking his head he tried to rid his mind of the troubling thoughts.

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“Somehow we forgot our beach ball in the car. Ava volunteered to go back to get it. She was taking forever. I was busy making sandcastles and forgot all about it.”

“Trebor where’s your sister” Garrett asked a worried frown upon his face.

“I don’t know” he mumbled digging a mote in the sand.

“Did she go swimming” he asked panic making his voice higher than usual.

“Honey what’s wrong” Verity asked coming alongside them.

“Are you sure you don’t know where she went” Garrett asked again.

“How should I know” Trebor demanded looking up at them “I haven’t seen her in awhile.”

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Clutching Garrett’s arm Verity cried “what if she went swimming alone. What if she got caught in a rip tide?”

“Do you remember what direction she went” Garrett asked his son.

“I don’t know” he pointed “I think she went that way.”

Garrett tore off across the beach towards the ocean in the direction Trebor had pointed in. Verity ran behind him searching the water for any sign of her little girl.

A few minutes later “what’s daddy and mommy doing” Ava asked stopping beside her brother carrying a large beach ball.

“Looking for you I think” Trebor said “where were you?”

“I went to get our ball” she tossed it into the air “it took forever to blow up.”

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“Mom” he called getting her attention “I found her.”

“Did not” she protested “I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly where I was at all times.”

“OMG Ava” Verity cried running up and hugging her little girl “don’t ever run off like that again.”

“I didn’t I told Trebor” she protested.

“Did not” he said.

“You need to tell me or your dad” Verity said “never run off by yourself again.”

“Dad wasn’t very happy that he’d been diving in and out of the ocean for no reason.” He laughed at the memory of his dad soaking wet in his clothes. “I really did forget about her telling me where she was going. She had been gone so long it completely slipped my mind.” Taking a bite of his omelet he asked “what about you? Any embarrassing stories you want to tell?”

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“Well there was this one time. We were visiting our grandma and we wanted to go fishing.” He smiled at the memory. He loved his grandma and still missed her. “Grandma said we could but we had to find our own bait.”

“Bait? Did you use lures or anything” Trebor asked.

“Nope. Grandma taught us how to fish the old fashioned way.” He grinned enjoying the disbelieving look that crossed Trebor’s face. “I’m not making it up. She had us find the straightest sticks we could find and tied a fishing line and hook at one end of it. It took some practice to get used to but it was fun. Kind of like being Huckleberry Finn or something.”

“So you went hunting for bait” Trebor prompted.

“Yeah” he thought for moment “we decided we needed bugs and night-crawlers.”

“Night-crawlers” Trebor asked “what’s that?”

“Worms” he chuckled remembering. “We spent most of the day searching under rocks and logs to get the best works we could find. We found out later that the best time to go night crawler hunting is at night when tons of worms come up from the ground.”

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Trebor shivered “sounds gross.”

“Worms don’t hurt you and makes the soil good to grow things. Grandma’s garden had lots of worms in it.” Taking sip of his coffee he continued “Bodhi kept pulling up weeds and throwing them at me. It wasn’t until the next day we realized what those weeds were.”

“Oh no” Trebor laughed “don’t tell me…poison ivy.”

“Yep” he shook his head “Bodhi was pulling it up by the handfuls and he didn’t get anything. Me on the other hand. I was was covered from head to foot in the stuff. I itched so bad.”

“Did your grandma use calamine lotion to keep you from itching” he asked.

“Yeah I was pink from head to foot then too” he scowled at Trebor “yeah go ahead and laugh. Wait until you get poison ivy and see how funny you think it is then.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t help it.” he grabbed his orange juice to keep from bursting into another round of laughter.

***

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“So glad you decided to grace us with your presence McGavin” the coach yelled as he came onto the ice from the locker room.

“Sorry coach” he mumbled feeling everyone’s eyes upon him. “Won’t happen again.”

“See that it don’t otherwise you’ll find yourself on the bench” the man thundered.

“A general grumble rose amongst the team. “Yes sir” he said knowing that was the general accepted response.

“As I was saying before we were interrupted we have three new team members. Joseph Bennett from Starlight Shores. Rory Braxton from Bridgeport. Matt Ryan from right here in good old Boroughsburg.” There was a heavy pause that followed his announcement. “The are subs in case anyone can’t play.” He stared at Braylin a moment before continuing. “I’ll let you guys introduce yourselves later. Let’s practice.”

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As they were leaving the ice Matt skated up behind Braylin forcing him into the boards. “Better watch your back” he whispered harshly in his ear before John pulled him off.

“What’s his problem” he asked glaring after the new guy.

Rubbing his neck Braylin shrugged “I think he wants my position.”

“Fat chance of that happening” John slapped him on the back “you’re the best center we have.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence but I don’t think Coach feels the same way.” His day had started off great. Breakfast. Talking about their respective families. The feeling that maybe he wasn’t the worst brother in the world. Things were going good until now.

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“Just be on time next time” John advised him “Coach isn’t going to let Matt take your spot unless you don’t give him any choice.”

Nodding he followed John into the locker room. The old feeling of things slowly unraveling around him was making him feel jumpy. Slumping onto the bench in front of his locker he peeled off his sweat soaked jersey. He had a sense of being out of place. A square peg in a round hole.

“Hey did you hear” John asked smiling down at him. “The new kid Joseph is throwing a party at his place over the weekend.”

“Count me out” he said with a shake of his head. “I don’t party like I used to. I think I’ll pass.”

“Don’t be like that. It’s not going to be that kind of party. It’s more of a get to know you party. We’re all going and bringing our significant others with us.” Jabbing him playfully in the side “maybe we’ll finally meet that handsome doctor of yours.”

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“There’s a reason why I keep him away from the likes of you.”

“Hey I can’t help it if I’m irresistible” John held his hands up “but if it makes you feel better I promise not to try anything. I just want to meet him.”

“I’ll think about it” he said “if he wants to come and if he doesn’t have to work we might come.”

“Awesome” he jumped up unable to contain his excitement any longer. He somehow always reminded Braylin of a puppy who knew he was about to get a treat. “I’ll see you there.”

Tossing his uniform into the locker he wrapped a towel around his waist. H walked over to the showers stopping when he came face to face with Matt. The cocky sneer he was wearing sent shivers down his spine. H didn’t know what it was about this guy but he had the uncomfortable feeling that he was up to no good.

***

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“Are you sure you want to do this” he asked as they walked up the sidewalk towards the house.

“I want to meet the guys on the team” Trebor insisted.

“Are you sure that’s it” he asked “you’re not concerned I’ll have a relapse or anything?”

“I trust you” he looked into Braylin’s troubled eyes. “You can do this alone if you wanted to. We don’t have stay long either if it makes you uncomfortable. We can leave anytime you want.”

Stopping to tuck a strand of hair behind Trebor’s ear he said “I never want to lose the faith you have in me. That means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

“Are you sure you want to do this” Trebor asked his apprehension rising. “You don’t have to do this if you’re not ready.”

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“I want to show off my drop dead sexy doctor” he grinned forcing the uneasiness he was feeling to the back of his mind. “I’m proud of my handsome doctor.”

“As I am of my hockey player” he grinned allowing Braylin to pull him close and kiss him in front of the house.

Neither of them noticed the curtains move as their arrival didn’t go unnoticed. “Let the games begin” the observer muttered turning from the window. “Hey everybody they’re here” he announced picking up the two drinks he’d prepared special for their arrival.

“Those are nonalcoholic right” John asked his words slightly slurred.

“Of course” Matt nodded “taste it if you don’t believe me.” Carefully he handed the cup intended for Trebor to him.

“Eew” he made a disgusted face “that’s really bad.”

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“Anything nonalcoholic is bad” Joseph said slapping John on the back “but we make allowances for people with different tastes. Don’t we buddy?”

“Sure do” John agreed letting himself be steered into another room away from the door.

“Welcome to the party” Matt greeted them handing Trebor the cup John had sampled and the other cup he gave to Braylin. “I wanted to apologize for the way I acted at practice the other day.”

Taking a sip of the contents Braylin nodded “that’s okay. We all want a chance to play. You’ll get yours.”

Turning away muttering under his breath “sooner than you think.”

Chapter 9 – Movie Date /

Knights of Hope – Chapter 6 – Safe Zone

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“Do you mind taking him to your place” Eli asked as he helped Braylin get Trebor to his feet. “I don’t think he should be alone right now.”

“What about Lia and Geoffrey? Aren’t they still at his place” he asked putting an arm around Trebor’s waist to keep him falling over. “What did you give him” he asked in concern.

“A mild sedative” Eli said “I think he’s just opting out. Which is why he shouldn’t be alone. Unfortunately if he went to his place Lia would pester him with a million questions.” Pointing at him he asked “do you think he’s in any condition for that?”

“Well…no” he glanced at the man leaning into him all but unconscious. “You don’t think it’ll freak him out waking up in my house” he asked. “He’s been through enough trauma don’t you think?”

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Nodding Eli said “I guess he could stay with me and Lana but with Russell staying with us we really don’t have the room. Plus there’s Lia. She’s family so she’ll be over there pestering him with questions too. She means well but she hasn’t figured out when to stop.” He gave Braylin an appraising look “you seem like you genuinely care about him. He seems to trust you. I think he’ll be okay with you if he freaks out on you.”

“Is that likely to happen” he asked his brow rising in concern.

“He might. There are things in his past that might come up because of what happened today. It might explain why he’s giving us a fair impression of a wet noodle right now. I think given time he’ll tell you about it himself. Just give him some space and don’t pressure him too much. Right now he just needs to know he’s safe. Do you think you can do that?”

***

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Twenty minutes later Braylin found himself helping Trebor from his car. His light blue eyes appeared to be more alert. Without thinking Braylin said “your zipper’s down.” Instantly he regretted the thoughtless words as tears filled Trebor’s eyes and his bottom lip and chin began to quiver. A silent fury build inside him like lava inside a volcano building up pressure to erupt.

“I didn’t want him to” Trebor sobbed “I….I tried to stop him.”

“It’s okay” he soothed keeping a tight lid on his growing anger. “He didn’t get a chance to do anything. You pushed him away.”

“I…I did” he questioned lifting his head up seeking reassurance. “You’re not just saying that because you think it’ll make me feel better?”

“I promise you pushed him away” he said firmly “if you don’t believe me you can ask Eli.”

Nodding he let the matter drop asking instead “how did you know I was in trouble?”

“We followed you” tapping his phone he explained “Eli downloaded a tracking app onto your phone.” At Trebor’s bewildered expression he added “I was worried about you. I know you wanted to deal with this yourself. You did well but that guy wasn’t playing fair. I wanted to be available if it all went bad.”

Nodding he asked “how did you get the Hospital Director down there?”

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“That was Eli’s idea. He thought that given enough rope Doctor Creepy would hang himself.” He grinned remembering that he had indeed hung himself.

“Why” Trebor asked “you hardly know me.”

“Doesn’t matter” he gently caressed Trebor’s cheek “I care about you. I couldn’t just sit by and let you be hurt.”

“Thank you” he leaned into the hand resting on his cheek. “I thought I could handle it. I thought I was misreading things. That he couldn’t really be doing what it felt like he was doing.”

“It’s over now. He can’t hurt you” Braylin soothed wrapping an arm around him holding him tight. “Will you be okay? Do you want me to call anyone for you?”

“No I’ll be okay” he sighed nuzzling his face into Braylin’s chest “I’m so tired.”

“You can sleep once we get inside” Braylin said attempting to move towards the entrance but finding it difficult with Trebor hanging like a limpet around his neck. “Come on honey you’ve got to do your part and walk.”

“Carry me” he requested.

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“You can walk” he said thankful that they had finally made it to the elevator. “You can do it. Just one foot in front of another.”

The doors whooshed open. Trebor squealed backpedaling “no I want to use the stairs.”

“Then you have to walk” Braylin said firmly.

“No carry me” he pouted.

“Not up five flights of stairs” he thought a moment “if you get in the elevator I’ll carry you down the hallway to the apartment.” Even then Trebor hung back needing Braylin to practically carry him into the elevator. “You’ll be okay. Just hold my hand.”

Nodding in a jerking head motion Trebor squeezed Braylin’s hand in a vice like grip when the elevator jerked a little as it started upwards. They stopped on the second floor to allow a dark-haired man on. Trebor gasped in shock causing Braylin to look down at him as the sound of Trebor’s labored breathing filled the elevator.

“Is your friend alright” the man asked.

“He will be” Braylin said focusing all his attention on the man in his arms.

“I…can’t…breathe” he gasped eyes round as saucers.

Leaning forward resting his forehead on Trebor’s he said “I want you to concentrate on my face. Not the floor. Not anyone else. Just me. I’m right here. Nothing’s going to happen to you while I’m here.”

“Okay” he said gazing into Braylin’s eyes “I’m okay.”

Once the elevator stopped at their floor Braylin whisked Trebor into his arms at the amusement of the other man they share the elevator with. He felt Trebor move in his arms burying his face in his shoulder. A steady boiling fury rose inside him. How he wished he could go back and beat the shit out of Doctor Creepy.

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Unlocking the door proved daunting when Trebor refused to be put down acting more like a toddler than an aspiring heart surgeon. He hurried across the apartment to lay his precious burden on his bed. “I’m going to help you get more comfortable” he said before he started removing the lab coat Trebor was still wearing from the hospital. He removed his shoes and socks next before he reached for the buttons on Trebor’s shirt. Noticing how agitated he was becoming he stopped not wanting to make any moves that would upset him anymore than he already was.

Taking two pills from a bottle Eli had given him he dumped a couple of little white pills into his palm. “Take these” he said holding his hand out.

“What are they” Trebor looked at them suspiciously.

“Eli said they’d help you sleep” he explained “remember you said you were tired.”

“Okay” he agreed taking the pills.

***

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Stripping down to his pants Braylin went into the living room to review the plays he needed to learn for his next game. He’d skipped practice that day to be available to be at the hospital. He didn’t know exactly what was happening to him. He never let anyone come between him and the game before. In such a short time Trebor had become his everything. Rubbing a hand over his mouth his brow creasing in worry. With an irritated sigh he turned the TV off. There was no point watching the plays if his mind was on the man in the other room.

Laying back closing his eyes he meant to only rest his eyes for a few minutes. The next thing he knew he was being jolted from his sleep by blood curdling screams coming from his bedroom. Heart hammering in his chest he stumbled to the door expecting to find a bloodbath when he opened the door. He found Trebor tossing and turning on the king sized bed moaning in his sleep rising in pitch and he steeled himself for another gut wrenching scream. The sheets were twisted around his sweat covered body making his skin gleam in the light.

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Moving closer Braylin could hear the mumbled pleas mixed with inarticulate groans. “Baby its okay. You’re safe” he reached a hand out to smooth the messy hair. The sweat drenched hair reminded him of how his head felt when he removed his hockey helmet after a game.

“No please” Trebor moaned swatting Braylin’s hand away.

“It’s me” Braylin soothed “you’re safe. No one is going to hurt you here.” He didn’t know what he was supposed to do or say. He was in foreign territory and found himself just repeating that he was safe in the hopes that maybe it would calm him.

A few minutes later Trebor opened his eyes. “Bray? Where am I?”

Smiling up at him from where he was resting his head on the mattress he said “in my apartment. In my room.” He held his breath expecting another melt down.

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Sitting up Trebor took several long moments to absorb where he was and why. “Was I screaming? My throat feels like I was screaming.” Looking down at Braylin he asked “did I wake you up?” He pulled his knees into his chest giving the impression of being apprehensive.

“Kind of” he moved to sit on the edge of the bed careful to not do anything that might startle Trebor. “I fell asleep on the couch. It’s been a long day. You must be hungry” he said “it’s been hours since we had breakfast.”

“More Chinese” he asked hopefully.

“If that’s what you want” he said standing up and stretching. “I’ll place the order.”

Following Braylin into the living room he asked “mind if I take a shower while we wait?”

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“Sure help yourself to anything you need” he said going back into his room and emerging with a bundle of clothes he handed to Trebor. “You might want something to put on afterwards.”

“What? No sitting around naked on the furniture” he said giving Braylin a cheeky grin.

“You must be feeling better” he said relieved. “I thought with the nightmare that…” he shrugged.

“I wasn’t dreaming about that asshole” Trebor’s voice was harsh and unforgiving. “I’m still shaky over what happened but that’s not what I was dreaming about.”

“Do you want to talk about it” he asked wondering if this had something to do with what Eli had alluded to earlier.

“After I have my shower. I’m all gross” he took the offered clothes and shuffled towards the bathroom.

Staring after him Braylin hadn’t expected him to take him up on the offer to talk. He expected him to brush him off with something along the lines of it being just a nightmare produced from the days events.

***

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Their food was delivered as Trebor emerge from the bathroom from his shower. Braylin raised his brows when he was just wearing the sweats but not the t-shirt. The sight of his damp bare chest was enough to awaken his more base desires.

“I took longer than I thought” he said joining Braylin on the couch “I’m starving.”

“When aren’t you starving” he teased.

They ate in silence for several minutes before Trebor said “I was kidnapped when I was two almost three.”

Braylin looked from his meal “I’m sorry” he mumbled around his mouthful of food.

“It was my Aunt. She was my dad’s half sister and for some reason she hated him and my mother. Maybe it was because she couldn’t have children of her own. I don’t know. My parents didn’t like to talk about it much. The memories I have are all vague and come to me in the form of nightmares when I’m stressed out.” He took a deep breath to steady himself. “I do remember wanting mommy and daddy and not understanding why they weren’t there.”

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Braylin felt his throat close losing his appetite. Pushing the half eaten food away he stared at Trebor. He didn’t have the words to express how he felt. Moving closer on the couch he reached for Trebor’s hand. Moving of his own accord Trebor leaned into Braylin resting his head on his shoulder.

“Is that what you were dreaming about? Being kidnapped” he asked pressing his lips to the top of his head.

Shivering he pressed closer to Braylin “yeah. She didn’t like me much. Always yelling and screaming me.” Shifting he lifted his face up enough to look into Braylin’s eyes “she threw me away like you would garbage.”

Braylin shivered squeezing him tight. “She can’t hurt you anymore” he said thinking she was in a prison where she couldn’t hurt anyone.

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“That’s just it. She’s still out there somewhere” he laid his head back on Braylin’s shoulder “she knew my great-uncle was close to finding her. She decided to get rid of me before she was caught.” Inhaling deeply “I have vague memories of being locked in a room all by myself. From what I’ve been told she lost interest in making me her son when she found out how difficult having a baby really was. My grandpa said when he found me I was nothing but skin and bones and my diaper was rank. I guess she didn’t like to change diapers either.”

“Do you remember that” he asked horrified that anyone could do anything like that to someone so young.

“Not really” he shrugged “I did some research and read all the stories that were written about my rescue and the state of I was in. Then my grandpa filled in the gaps.” Taking another deep breath “the thing that bothers me the most was the way she left me. She could have just left me in that filthy stinking room I was in. But she….” he blinked as tears ran down his cheeks “she threw me away. Put me inside a trash can and put the lid on so I was trapped in the dark.”

Pulling him onto his lap Braylin peppered his face with soft tender kisses. He could taste the salty from his tears. It all made sense now. The reaction to being trapped inside an elevator, being enclosed. Claustrophobia. “I wish there was something i could do for you.”

“Just hold me” Trebor said “I don’t need anything else.”

***

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The next morning they woke up still in each other’s arm on the couch. Trebor resting on top of Braylin using him as a pillow. Opening his eyes he found Braylin watching him. A smile slowly spread across his face “morning” he mumbled “guess we fell asleep.”

“Opted out” he agreed “I think this is the first time we’ve slept together without having sex first.”

“Must be why I feel so rested” he stretched moving to get up.

“Not so fast I was thinking we could have morning sex instead” he rolled Trebor onto the couch beneath him kissing him deeply slowly moving his hands across his body. He went slowly making sure Trebor was okay with this pace.

“I could wake up to this every morning” Braylin said when their needs had been met and they were cuddling in the afterglow.

“Until you got tired of me” Trebor said lightly.

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“Never. Morning sex is a bonus to having you to wake up to” he asserted determined that Trebor never feel like he was disposable again. He may not always know what to say to express himself but it was that feeling of being cheap that hurt the most from everything that happened recently and the desire to get Doctor Creepy in a room by himself was strong.

Giving him a serious look Trebor said “you don’t have to treat me with kid gloves. I’m not fragile. I know I have issues…”

“Like what” he asked curious.

“Well….that” waved towards the congealing food inside the Chinese takeout boxes. “I’m dying to clean that mess up. It’s driving me crazy.”

“I’m not stopping you” Braylin teased. He pulled Trebor down on top of him when he moved to get up and clean up. “I was joking. I want to lay here and cuddle.”

“I’ll cuddle better when that mess is cleaned up” he protested “besides I thought you had hockey practice this morning.”

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“Shit” he cried jumping to his feet “what time is it?”

“Almost seven” he said pulling on a pair of sweatpants.

“Good” sighing in relief “I still have time. I don’t have to be at the rink until eight.” He smiled watching Trebor move around his home cleaning. It was all so domestic. “Want to come watch me play?”

“I don’t know anything about hockey” he said surprised by the invite.

“Haven’t you ever played hockey” he asked in a state of shock.

“I grew up on an island. I never even saw snow until I went to university” Trebor said “the first game I watched was the one you had your face smashed into the boards.”

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“For someone who doesn’t know hockey you’ve picked up on some of the terms already” he said impressed “I’ll turn you into a die-hard fan yet.”

“What if I don’t like hockey” he challenged.

“That’s impossible everyone who’s anyone likes hockey” Braylin asserted.

“I guess you could teach me everything I need to know” he said “I have to admit I didn’t know what was going on. Most of the time I had no idea what was going on.”

“Weren’t you paying attention” he demanded.

“I was” he asserted “but I kept being distracted by a certain player in a McGavin jersey.”

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“Is that so” he smirked placing his hands on Trebor’s hips. “I was that distracting.”

“No” he shook his head “I just have a thing for jersey’s with the name McGavin on them.”

“You don’t have to make up excuses. I know I’m irresistible.” He pressed his lips to Trebor’s while his hands slipped between his sweats to cup his cheeks forcing the sweats downward.

Gently pushing him away before things could get too heated Trebor said “you’re going to be late.”

“It’ll be worth it” he moved to pull Trebor close so they could resume what they started.

Pushing him away a second time saying “but I was looking forward to seeing you play. I’ll make it worth your while tonight.

Chapter 5 – Confrontation / Chapter 7 – Hockey Practice

Garrett – Chapter 21 – Not Ready

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“Grandpa” Trober shouted upon entering the house “Grandpa” he repeated smiling as he listened to his voice echoing off the walls. Grandpa’s house was so cool he thought as he proceeded into the sitting area. It was empty. Undaunted Trober walked through the kitchen stopping as he entered the dining room “you’re not Grandpa” he said to the older man smiling over at him.

“I am” Gene teased “at least that’s what your daddy calls me.”

Trober’s eyes sparkled matching the merriment in the older man’s eyes. “Your old” he said trying to sound serious despite the smile that kept spreading across his face.

“That I am” Gene agreed pushing away from the table “what are you doing here?” he asked glancing at the time. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” he couldn’t help but chuckle. Only his five year old grandson would skip kindergarten. He couldn’t help but wonder what the boy would be like in ten years time. A rebel no doubt. A handful he could be proud of.

“Came to see grandpa” Trober said without blinking or remorse.

“He’s not home,” Gene told him “come back after school if you want to see him.”

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“That’s not fair” Trober stomped his foot “I want to see him now.”

“You’ll see him later” Gene said standing up “get your things and I’ll drive you.”

Kicking the table leg Trober mumbled “Grandma Aimee would let me stay until Grandpa gets home.”

Laughing Gene shook his head “you know as well as I do that Grandma Aimee wouldn’t let you stay. In fact she’d make you walk to school and call to make sure you got there.” Walking towards a hook in the kitchen where he kept his keys he continued talking “you’re getting off easy by letting me drive you to school.”

“Oh man” Trober mumbled following Gene from the house.

“Is there a reason why you don’t want to go to school?” Gene asked as they walked towards the garage.

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Trober stopped to consider the question while Gene waited patiently for him to answer. Knowing all the while it was a delaying tactic. “It’s boring” Trober finally came up with waving his hands around “there’s so many other things I’d rather be doing than sitting inside a dusty old room.”

Gene rubbed a hand across his mouth hiding the grin he couldn’t help. The boy was definitely a kindred spirit. “You have to go to school” he said repeating what he had been told hundreds of times by his parents decades ago. Ian had liked school for the most part and Garrett had been a lazy learner but still want to school without fuss. Trober was a different story altogether.

“I learn stuff all the time” Trober insisted a distinct whine in his voice “I don’t see why I have to go to school.”

Opening the garage door Gene said “what would you say if I said you had to go to school because I said so?”

Rolling his eyes Trober shook his head “that’s a stupid reason. I shouldn’t have to do something I don’t want to do just because you said so.”

“Kid I happen to agree with you but the state doesn’t” Gene said getting into the car.

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Reluctantly Trober settled into the backseat fastening his seat belt “it’s not fair” he complained.

“Life isn’t fair sometimes” Gene agreed backing from the garage “until we can convince the state to change their minds about school. You have to go.”

“I’m going to start a protest” Trober declared from the backseat.

“Not today” Gene said looking at him in the rear view mirror “you don’t have any protest signs.”

Nodding thoughtfully Trober was silent the rest of the way to school. Getting out he turned to Gene with a grin “I’ll go on protest tomorrow. Today I’ll get followers to protest unfair school rules today.”

“Good luck with that” Gene waved him on hoping the boy never lost his spunk.

***

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“That was the school,” Garrett said putting his phone away.

“Not again” Verity sighed “he’s too young.”

“To hate school?” Garrett laughed “afraid not. The teacher says he’s making protest signs to stop unfair school rules.”

“What?” she asked laughing.

“Yeah our son thinks it’s unfair to force kids to go to school,” Garrett chuckled sitting beside Verity on the couch “it’s going to be a long twelve years if he continues to hate school this much.”

“I’d like to know whose giving him these ideas,” she demanded turning up the volume on the TV.

Garrett watched the group of women protesters before glancing over at Verity “I hate say this but I think we’re to blame.”

“What do you mean?” she asked turning her attention to him.

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Waving a hand towards the TV “we may be watching too much of this and not enough cartoons.”

“Oh” she said blankly as she watched the group on the screen waving around their signs “that explains the protest signs. Not his dislike for school though.”

“He’s a typical kid,” Garrett shrugged “I didn’t much like school either.”

“We need to do something” Verity insisted “I don’t want to fight with him everyday for the next twelve years to go to school.”

“I’ll talk to him” Garrett promised “Not to change the subject but what have you decided regarding that job you offered at the police station.”

“Totally changing the subject” he said snuggling into him.

“Alright I am but I really want to know,” he draped an arm around her dropping a kiss on her nose.

Glancing towards Ava playing on the floor Verity sighed “I don’t know. It’s a great opportunity but I” she sighed again “I don’t know.”

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“I think you should take it” Garrett encouraged “you love investigating, solving problems. Helping people. You’re good at it.”

She moved restlessly in his arms “I do. I mean I did” she stopped confused “what about you and the kids?”

“What about us?” she asked “you’re not afraid to leave them at home with me are you?” he half joked. “If you’re afraid what we’ll eat I’ll take us all over to mom’s.”

“It’s not that” she laughed “but I’m glad you wouldn’t subject them to your idea of cooking.” She leaned into him taking comfort in the feel of his strong arms around her. She wished she could stay like this forever.

“Then what is it?” Garrett asked giving the impression of endless patience when inside he was dying of curiosity.

Sighing she craned her neck to look up at him a frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. “I’m afraid. Afraid that I’ll become obsessed again.”

“Shh” he said softly “that won’t happen.” Garrett cupped her face between his palms “I trust you to see the line now. You’ve learned from your mistakes and so have I.”

A tear dropped rolling down the side of her nose. “How can you be so sure? What if I can’t let go? What if I neglect my family?”

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He slid his fingers across her face drying the tears. “I trust you. You won’t let that happen again. Not now. Not this time. We’re both older, wiser more settled this time. It’s been over three years since you became a stay at home mom.” He kissed her forehead where her hairline began “I know it’s what you wanted and needed to do but can you honestly say that’s your dream come true?”

Closing her eyes she listened to his even breathing. Felt the gentle touch of his warm breath on the nape of her neck as he nuzzled her. Her skin prickled with anticipation of his touch. She calmed her heart taking in all the sensations. The mosaic of her life. She loved moments like this. The moments she could see the answers so clearly. Every one of the answers were interwoven with this man and the family they created together. This was the family she always wanted. The closeness she longed for but never had with her parents. Their lives focused around their jobs, the mystery solving, the case. She was left on the outside looking in. Lonely. “I do love the mystery. Solving the case. It’s not all I want though.”

“That’s good,” Garrett enthused “that means you won’t forget about us.”

She smiled at that “I was pretty bad before wasn’t I?”

“You were” Garrett agreed his voice gentle “your heart was in the right place.”

“You still maintain that I won’t go over board again become obsessed” she inquired.

“I’m positive this time things will be different” Garrett affirmed “solving mysteries is part of who you are. I never meant for you to give that up. I appreciate that you did for me and the kids. It’s what we needed at the time. I think if you wanted to go back to work we can manage.”

“Wife, mother and crime solving sleuth,” she smiled up at him content with the world “I like the sound of that.”

***

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Putting his phone away Ian sighed giving his grandson a stern look. Glancing up Trober lost his grin “that was daddy wasn’t it?”

“Yes” Ian confirmed “they were looking for you. It seems you didn’t have permission to come here after school.”

“Yes I did” Trober said standing up straight meeting Ian’s eyes “Grandpa Gene said I could.”

“No I….”

“Yes you did” Trober insisted “this morning when you drove me to school. You said I could come back to see Grandpa after school.”

“You drove” Aimee said turning to Gene “you know what the doctor said.”

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“He didn’t say I couldn’t drive” Gene protested “he said to avoid high stress situations.”

“Driving isn’t a stress free activity” Aimee said throwing her hands up in exasperation.

“It wasn’t that far” Gene protested voice rising “I’mm not an invalid.”

“No one’s saying you are” Ian interjected before the situation could deteriorate further. He gave his mom an irritable look. She knew better than to antagonize Gene, “the issue at hand is Trober.”

The young boy looked up in surprise at the sound of his name being said “I have no issue” he said giving them all a sweet smile.

Shaking his head Ian counted to ten before proceeding. “What have I told you about coming over here?” Ian asked his voice firm commanding attention.

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Trober remained silent staring up at his grandfather “I’m to get permission before coming here after school.” He sighed crossing his arms “I did get permission. Grandpa Gene said I could.”

Ian gave his dad a frosty look stalling any intervention Gene might have made on the boys behalf. “Why were you here this morning?” Ian asked.

“To see you” Trober replied as if it should have been obvious.

“Did you have permission to come here this morning?” Ian asked.

“You didn’t say anything about needing permission to come in the morning” Trober protested “just after school. Besides Grandma Aimee never said anything all the other times I came. Why is this time different?”

“Don’t look at me like that” Aimee protested sensing Ian’s displeasure directed at her “I always made sure he got to school.”

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Nodding Ian knelt in front of the boy “any time you go anywhere without your parents you need their permission. Do you understand?”

Trober’s eye darted around the room desperately looking for an allay. “What if my parents aren’t around to ask? Then what?”

Ian wasn’t fooled by the boys tactics. He knew the boy was looking for a loop hole. “If your not with your parents then you can ask another adult who is watching you. The important thing is your family needs to know where you are.”

“Alright” Trober acknowledged looking at the floor a sullen look on his face at his sudden loss of freedom. His parents would never agree to him coming here before school. They barely let him come here after school.

“Your parents are on their way here to get you” Ian told the boy “get your things together.”

***

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“Mom. Dad” Garrett enthused giving each a hug before turning to his grandparents. “Grandma” Garrett chided “encouraging my son in his rebellion.”

“I always made sure he went to school” Aimee asserted “doesn’t that count for something?”

“Of course it does” Garrett kissed her cheek careful not to hurt her fragile frame “Grandpa on the other hand” Garrett laughed at the mixture of guilt and mirth on the older man’s face “your a bad influence on my boy” Garrett intoned giving Gene a hearty hug.

“That’s what Grandpas are for” Gene chuckled.

“Hmm” Garrett laughed “I don’t remember you being so easy on me when I was Trober’s age.” Shaking his head at the older man Garrett turned to his son “are you ready to go?”

Nodding Trober sighed. He liked being at his grandparents house. If he could live here he would. It was safe. He didn’t have to worry about the boogeyman coming in and taking him away. He dragged his backpack over to where his dad was standing “do I have to go home? Can’t I stay here?”

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“Son if you wanted to spend the night you should have asked first” Garrett knelt down to be on the same level with his son “we were worried about you.”

“I know” Trober sighed blinking back tears “I just wanted to be here…”

Giving the boy a slight smile Garrett held his arms out drawing the boy in for a hug. Squeezing the sturdy solid frame of his son Garrett said “I’m glad you like coming here but you need to ask first. Your mother and I need to know where you are. When you didn’t come home we were scared.”

Trober gave him a quizzical look. It never occurred to him that parents could get scared. Were they afraid of the boogeyman too? “Is it because the boogeyman took me away once?” he asked his voice low confidential.

Squeezing his son tight Garrett nodded “yes that’s why. We never want that to happen again.” Garrett had often wondered how much if anything Trober remembered of his time with Kara. He had been reluctant to ask too much afraid it would cause more harm than good. Maybe he had been wrong about that. “Are you scared the boogeyman will come?” he asked keeping his voice down so as not to be over heard.

“Sometimes” he mumbled “it’s safe here.”

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There was the clincher. The magnetic draw as to why Trober always found his way here instead to his own home. Ian had rescued him. That bond. The assurance that he was safe in Grandpa’s home. “Would it make you feel better to come here after school for a little while?” Garrett asked. He didn’t want to award bad behavior but it didn’t seem so bad after knowing the reason why he came.

“Yes” he replied. The simple unembellished answer more than emphasized the depth of his need.

“I’ll see what I can do about that” Garrett assured him “in the mean time you have to ask before you come, ok?”

“I promise” Trober said “I’m sorry for scaring you and mommy.”

“I know bud” Garrett said lifting the boy in his arms.

***

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“Gene” Aimee called from the bedroom. “Gene are you alright?” she asked throwing the blanket back. She shuffled across the floor towards their bathroom suite. He had been too long in the bathroom. His silence was becoming alarming. Opening the door she found him on the floor clutching his left arm panting. “Gene” she cried falling to her knees beside him.

His eye lids fluttered in response to her voice. A slight feeble smile flitted across his ashen face “get Ian” he gasped.

Leaning forward she place a kiss on his clammy forehead. She felt a slight pressure on her hand as he attempted to reassure her. She forced her arthritic joints to move faster then they had in years as she ran to get her son. Not once did it cross her mind to simply call his cell. “Ian” she called once she was in the hall “Ian” she called a second time.

Running up the stairs in response to her cry. Ian almost knocked her over in his haste to get to her. “Your father” she gasped “collapsed in the bathroom.”

Stunned he stared at her into panic, grief stricken face before leaving her side to find his dad. Stumbling into the bathroom he fell to his knees beside Gene. “Dad” he bit back the strangled sob that threatened to escape. He fumbled for his phone “I need an ambulance. My father’s having a heart attack.” He recited the address feeling as if he was trapped in a nightmare. He wasn’t ready. It was too soon.

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His phone slid from his hand as he reached out to take his dad’s hand. “I’m here dad”he said trying to comfort the older man “help’s on the way.”

Gene’s dark brown eyes opened as he struggled to talk “take…care…of…your…mother…”

“Dad you’re going to be alright” Ian cried clinging to his hand “hang on just a little longer.”

“Promise…me” Gene pleaded.

Ian looked up as the bathroom door opened. Tears in his eyes as he found Celia holding onto Aimee who was weeping helplessly in her daughter-in-laws arms. “Dad you’ve got to hang on” Ian pleaded “it’s your time. Not yet. Not like this.”

“Please” Aimee pleaded “Please I can’t go on without you.”

“Celia honey take her out of here” Ian urged “please.”

Nodding Celia guided the distraught woman from the room. The sounds of her sobbing faded as the door closed behind them. “Dad you hear that” Gene nodded “you’ve got to hang on. She’s not ready to let you go. I’m not ready to let you go. We’re not ready. I know it’s hard but you’ve got to fight. Please dad don’t go. We need you.”

Chapter 20 – Welcome Home / Chapter 22 – Let’s Make A Memory

Garrett – Chapter 20 – Welcome Home!

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

***

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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.”

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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.

***

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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.”

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“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.”

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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.

***

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“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.

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“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.”

***

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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.”

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“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.

***

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“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.”

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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.”

***

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“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.”

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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.”

***

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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.”

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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.

 Chapter 19 – The Lost Is Found / Chapter 21 – Not Ready

Garrett – Chapter 19 – The Lost Is Found

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A month later Garrett stared sullenly at the spot where his son’s crib had stood inside their cramped living room. He had fought tooth and nail not to take it down but after a month Verity had taken it down herself. He understood how she felt about seeing it empty day after day and how it was a silent reminder of what they had lost. She failed to consider how taking the crib down felt to him. It felt like failure, defeat, admittance that Kara had won.

“Garrett,” Celia spoke gently behind him. Walking into the room she found him staring at the spot Trober’s crib had been “honey they’re going to find him.”

“When” he shouted his voice bouncing off the walls “every minute he’s with her is hurting him.”

She reached a had out touching his stiff taut shoulders “I’m sorry,” she murmured.

“What am I going to do?” he cried turning into her eyes blinded with tears “what if he never comes home? What if he comes back and he’s not the same? What if she’s warped him beyond repair?”

“I don’t know,” she pulled him close feeling his body shake with the force of his sobs.

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When he had his tears under control he hugged his mom close leaning his face on her shoulder drawing comfort from her like he had when he was little. “Where’s Verity?” he asked knowing before he asked that she was looking for clues.

“She’s checking with the police for any new leads,” she said her voice reluctant as her son pulled away from her with an irritated expression.

“She’s always searching for Kara,” he said pacing around the small room arms swinging wide “she’s never here when I need her. Something is always more important.”

Celia listened to his ramblings growing more and more concerned “Garrett are you afraid she doesn’t love you?”

He stopped stunned running his hands through is hair “I don’t know.” He flopped onto the couch “I just don’t know.” He ran ha hand over his face “she’s always so obsessed with finding Kara. She tries to hide what she’s doing. She never let’s me in.” He closed his eyes leaning back “I feel like I’ve lost everything. My son. My wife. I’m all alone in this.”

Sitting beside him Celia took his face between her hands “you’re not alone. You have us. Your father and I. Your family. We’re not going anywhere.”

“I know” he blinked back tears “I’m so glad you and dad are ok.” He erupted into tears again. This time he felt his mom pull him close. Something she had been doing a lot of since he found out she was alive It was like he was given half his wish list only to have the other half ripped from him.

***

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Kara turned up the volume on the old stereo that came with the house. The screams from the brat filled the house becoming louder and louder with each successive day. She hated the dirty diapers, the snotty runny nose, the tears, the piercing screams, the stubborn refusal to call her mommy. The sight of the child irritated her.

She got up stomped outside. She needed air. Breathing deeply the clear crisp air she wondered why anyone would ever want children. They were disgusting vile things. Once her nose was clear of the smell of dirty diapers she picked up the paper someone had thrown in the nearby rose bush. The front page was all about the kidnapping.

She gave the paper a satisfied smug smile. Her plan had been flawless. Her brother and wife were shattered, broken. The only thing that could have made it better was if Garrett had died from the gas exposure. That would have been a pleasant bonus.

She flipped through the pages frowning as came to pictures of familiar faces “not his can’t be,” she muttered to herself “they can’t be alive.” The pictures told her otherwise. It couldn’t be denied. Ian and Celia were very much alive. Screaming she crumpled the paper between her hands.

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She shivered growing cold. Retreating into the house she paced the floor. Back and forth. Her arms waving as her face became pinched and drawn. There was no way she was going to let the Bennett’s win. She’d have the last laugh. They’ll regret ever rejecting her.

She turned towards the door that held her prize. Her ultimate achievement. Throwing the door open her senses were assaulted by the stench from a months worth of dirty diapers and unwashed baby bottom.

Trober looked up squeaking at the scary apparition standing within the door frame. Shivering he cowered in the corner sucking on his thumb.

Kara drowned down at the frightened toddler. Other than his initial shock he never made a sound. His large blue eyes stared at her. His eyes reminded her of her brother. She hated those eyes. They were the same as her dad’s and in he end he too rejected her. Ian should be dead. Garrett should be dead. What she failed to do with the first two times would be rectified with the third. Didn’t they say third times the charm?

***

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Jeff looked across at Ian. He could see the month long search was wearing thin on his cousin. His shoulders drooped. His eyes had a dull lifeless clouded look to them. “We’ll find him,” Jeff tried to give him his best self-assured encouraging smile. The one that instilled confidence in all of his clients.

“It’s my fault,” Ian muttered as if he hadn’t heard anything Jeff said to him “all of it. It’s my fault.”

“You can’t say that,” Jeff objected “Kara’s an unstable personality. You had no idea …”

“Yes I did,” Ian blurted “I knew she was obsessed withe me. I still rejected her. If I hadn’t…”

“Ian don’t,” Jeff shook his head “you don’t know what might have happened if you had played along with her delusions.”

“I do know,” Ian insisted “my family would have been safe. Free from her attacks. Trober would be safe at home with his parents.”

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“Ian,” Jeff shouted catching his cousin’s attention “I won’t let you blame yourself. That’s only distracting you from the bigger picture.”

“Which is what?” Ian sniffed.

“Finding Trober,” Jeff said “concentrate on finding him. Nothing else matters. Blaming ourselves will only cloud our thinking. Muddle our emotions.”

“You’re right,” Ian took a deep breath “I just lose focus when I’m dealing with her.”

“With reason. We need to focus on Trober right now,” Jeff repeated squeezing Ian’s shoulder firmly.

“Alright where do we look today?” Ian asked with a small shake of the head.

***

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Verity sat outside the police station. They had escorted her outside after she started screaming at how stupid everyone was involved in the case. She had completely lost it. The pressure of the past month had finally brought her to her melting point. She exploded. She took it out on the men and women who were doing their best to find her son.

Restlessly she moved on the hard wood bench. At least she hadn’t come unhinged on Garrett. Her relationship with him was shaky enough it didn’t need that on top of it. She could see the hurt in his eyes each time she left him. She couldn’t just stay at home and wait. She had to be doing something. Why couldn’t he understand that? She shook her head as an image of Garrett entered her mind. His grief filled eyes flashed before her and knew he didn’t understand. She knew he needed her to there by his side holding his hand.
She buried her face in her hands as reality set in. Garrett’s accusation finally sank in. She was obsessed. Everyone could see it but her. Which explained why the police refused her help. Why Jeff refused her help. He had even gone so far as to fire her. Was she really willing to give up her marriage to hunt Kara down? Had it really come to that?

Shaking she stood from the bench no longer interested in stopping any detective or officer to ply them with questions regarding her son’s case. She just wanted to get home. She needed to hold her husband if he still wanted her too. She didn’t want to become what she was hunting. She wasn’t Kara.

What she was was a young woman with an even younger husband. She was a young mother whose son had been kidnapped. She was scared but she didn’t have to go through this alone.

***

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Verity walked into the house momentarily shocked to see the empty corner where Trober’s crib used to be. The bare space stabbed at her heart. She had insisted they take it down. She hadn’t wanted to be reminded of her failure. Hadn’t wanted to be reminded that Kara still had him.

Now it sank into her awareness everything Garrett had tried to explain to her. Removing the crib indicated they had given up. That they didn’t expect their son to be coming home. Shaking she moved to that spot on the floor. Sinking to her knees crying “I want my baby.”

She felt strong arms envelop her. She didn’t need to see who it was to know his scent, the strength of his arms, the beat of his heart. Garrett was lending her the strength she lacked. It took strength to admit you needed help. Strength to admit you were hurt.

All the things she had rejected thinking she could do it all on her own. She gulped for air as her body convulsed with sobs. She released her obsession go and leaned into Garrett’s embrace. “I can’t…” she cried “can’t do it any more.”

“What can’t you do?” Garrett’s soft comforting voice asked as his lips lightly peppered her face with kisses.

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“Be alone,” she wailed “all my life since my parents died I’ve relied on myself. I had the solutions. The answers.” She gripped Garrett’s shirt with her fingers “I’m sorry.”

“You were only doing what you thought was right,” Garrett said his free of recriminations and accusation

“No no I should have been with you,” she clung to him as if she were afraid he’d disappear. “I didn’t need to go after Kara on my own. My baby is gone. I don’t belong out in the field. I belong here with you.”

“It alright baby,” Garrett caressed her face between his hands “you are now.”

“I shouldn’t have made you take down Trober’s crib” she gulped crying harder “I hated the reminder of my failure.”

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“I know baby I know,” Garrett assured her “it’s ok we’ll get through this together.”

“Garrett?”

“Yeah”

“I love you” Verity said with a deep sigh leaning into him.

“I love you too” he tilted her chin up to softly kiss her trembling lips “Trober will come home.” He said it with gentle firm conviction.

***

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“Come here you little brat” Kara demanded her nose burning from the stench from the mammoth pile of soiled filthy diapers strewn around the room It had taken about a day for her to realize babies weren’t her thing. She detested changing diapers. Couldn’t be bothered to feed the pooping machine either. It all required too much work. Too much effort. She couldn’t remember the last time she had giving the boy something to eat. A day or two maybe longer. She had left a box goldfish crackers and a bottle of water in the room. He seemed to have figured out how to get into them so he couldn’t be starving.

“Don’t make me come in there after you” Kara stood by the door scowling at the filth around her. She never dreamed a child could be so awful. She stomped her foot becoming impatient at the toddler who hadn’t moved from his corner. “It’s time to say goodbye,” she clapped her hands with glee at the prospect of being free of this little nuisance.

It was as if he didn’t hear her. Kara frowned her brows furrowing deeper as she realized if she wanted the child she was going to have to go in after him. Carefully she threaded her way through the piles She bent to pick up the boy.

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He squealed in terror as she lifted him in the air. She kept him at arm’s length afraid he’d soil her clothes if she held him any closer. The diaper he was wearing was sagging, over flowing with things she’d rather not see or touch. Disgust transfigured her face. The ugly red rash covering his sensitive skin elicited not an ounce of sympathy inside Kara for the child. The fact that he was lighter than he was when she first brought him here was of no concern to her.

She carried him from the room singing “good night sweetheart good night” to him. She had a slight smile on her face as she thought about what she was doing. It felt so right. She dropped the boy on the kitchen floor not caring whether he stained the tile or not. She went outside to retrieve the trash can. The bottom was crusted with dirt, mud and old leaves. She didn’t care. She wasn’t staying around after this. One thing she had learned was when the plan worked and you no longer liked what you got it was time to take the trash out. Removing the lid she picked up the listless child who hadn’t moved from the spot she had put him in.

She didn’t ever care this wasn’t the actions of a healthy, happy toddler. She was beyond caring She dropped the boy unceremoniously inside the trash can replacing the lid over him. She smiled. The trash was taken care of. One less thing to worry about she thought.

***

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It was getting late. Ian rubbed his dry itchy eyes. Glancing at the time on he dash. Six o’clock. He should head back to the office. He glanced at his list of addresses. He had just this one more address to check out in this area. It was less than ten miles away. He nibbled on his bottom lip knowing he had promised to meet up with Celia for supper. Just the two of them. Something they had missed from the two years it had just been the two of them It had greatly improved their relationship.

He picked up his phone from the side pocket in the door. A place he kept it while driving It was in handy reach while driving. “Celia” his voice sounded like a question.

“Who else would it be?” her voice traveled down to him sounding like she was smiling. Good he thought. It had been a good day for her. He had that going for him at least.

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“Babe I’m running late,” he let his voice convey the apology he felt “I have one more house to check in the area then this section will done.”

“Do it hon” she told him “maybe this will be the one.”

He smiled at his reflection in the rear view mirror. She sounded so hopeful. If only it were that easy he thought. “I love you babe,” he said putting his phone away this time inside his pocket not wanting to forget it when he went to check on the house.

Ten minutes later he drove up to a dark farm house with a tall wall around it. It gave him the chills just looking at it. Slowly he got out of the car. He couldn’t see any lights on inside. He swallowed feeling something wasn’t quite right. Acting on instinct he sent a quick text to Jeff with the address of the house he was checking on. Better safe then sorry he thought as he started towards the house. He didn’t hear it until it was too late. A slight rustling sound from the bushes. A pain in the back of his head as something hard collided with it. Then nothing.

***

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“Ian are you alright?” a familiar deep voice asked.

Moaning Ian opened his eyes focusing on Jeff’s concerned face. “Ow” he groaned lifting a hand to his head wincing “what happened?”

“Someone hit you on the head” Jeff explained “one guess who that might be.”

“I don’t need any guesses” Ian said feeling lucky he was waking up at all. Jeff gave him a hand up. He wobbled for a moment before nodding towards the house. “It’s probably too late but let’s see if she left anything behind.”

They entered the deserted house. Turning on the lights they found themselves inside a shabbily furnished room. The air was stale and smelled of dirty diapers. They opened a door off of the living room to a horrific sight of piles of dirty soiled diapers. They forced themselves to search the room.

Eyes watering they backed from the room “he’s not here” Ian gasped chest heaving “I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.”

Jeff silently put a hand on his cousin’s shoulder. There were no words of condolence or encouragement he could say that would make this situation any better. Pointing towards the stairs he said “I’ll check up there if you check the kitchen.”

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Nodding Ian knew Jeff was trying to complete the search before he broke down. Stumbling towards the kitchen he tripped over something that sounded like metal. Flipping the switch he flooded the room with light.

Grimly he found the outside garbage can had been what he had walked into. He picked up the lid that had come dislodged he glanced inside. Gasping he dropped the lid with a loud clatter. A little red-haired boy with blue eyes stared up at him. “Trober?” Ian cried feeling his chest tighten.

“The little boy whimpered lip quivering “mommy daddy.”

Lifting the little boy from the trash Ian cradled his grandson to his chest despite the reeking soggy diaper. “I’m your grandpa” Ian told him “you’re safe now.”

A few moments later Jeff came running into the room “I didn’t find anything….” He came a complete stop upon seeing Ian holding Trober in his arms

Ian lifted watery eyes to him “do you think you can find a clean diaper somewhere in that cess pool?”

Nodding Jeff went to look. Returning with a brand new diaper bag. “At least it has everything you need to change him ” Jeff said watching Ian lay Trober carefully on the counter to change his diaper.

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He put a restraining hand on Ian’s shoulder. “I better video this” nodding Ian waited for Jeff to pull his phone out to document how they found Trober.

The toddler screamed as Ian attempted to clean the raw sore areas that was a result of being forced to wear a dirty diaper. Ian did the best he could to soothe the boy snuggling him when he was done.

“You’re frowning,” Jeff noted “what’s wrong?”

“He feels so light compared to other two-year olds” Ian said.

“It doesn’t surprise me. When Kara realized how much work babies are to take care of she probably stopped trying” Jeff said “she probably didn’t feed him like she didn’t change his diapers.”

“I could strangle her,” Ian hissed rocking the boy in his arms feeling Trober sag in his arms as he started to fall asleep “he needs a doctor as soon as we get him out of here.”

“I’ve already called the local police,” Jeff informed him “it won’t be long now.”

 Chapter 18 – The Return / Chapter 20 – Welcome Home!

Garrett – Chapter 18 – The Return

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Kara waited a few more minutes before stopping her newly acquired vehicle. She walked over the sleeping body guards frowning in distaste. Uncle Jeff really should do a better job of selecting guards to protect people she thought unkindly. Her lips quirked up as another thought came to her that she was just that good. Good enough to outsmart her highly intelligent Uncle. She really liked that thought. She was the cat to his mouse. If she only had more time she’d toy with him a little more.

She walked to the crib where the object of her obsession slept. “It’s time to go home with mama,” she cooed at the sleeping toddler. She cradled him in her arms wrapping the tatty blanket around him “I’ll get you a new one my precious.”

She looked around the small house wishing she could light it on fire. Rid herself of the half brother she hated and the red-haired demon in the room beyond. With a sigh she shook her had dismissing the urge. She wanted them to suffer knowing she had their son. She wanted them to always wonder if he were alive.

Laughing softly she jostled the small child in her arms. Trober cried out in his sleep alerting Kara that the sleeping agent was wearing off. She had to leave now. With a final glance around the room she nodded in satisfaction. She turned swiftly her pocket catching on the chair. A single crap of paper fluttered unnoticed through the air landing halfway under the nearby TV stand.

Glancing around scanning the area Kara nodded relieved that nothing appeared out of place. Without anymore hang ups she left the house. Opening her trunk she deposited the baby within it’s dark depths. Slamming the trunk shut she was confident no stray jogger would be able to see the toddler she just kidnapped.

***

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Verity rubbed her eyes. Her head pounding, groggy and weighing a ton. A moan from the floor had her stumbling to her feet. On wobbly legs she staggered to where Garrett was sprawled on the floor by the door.

His breathing was labored as he gasped for air. With excruciating effort she managed to turn him over. His lips were blue tinged as he gasped fighting for air. “Garrett,” she mumbled as her mouth failed to form his name correctly. Even to her own ears she sounded drunk.

Coughing Garrett shifted on the floor waking up, gasping “air. Need air.”

Pulling him to his feet she half dragged him to the door, through the living room and out the front door. Leaning against the porch railing he breathed deeply as if he had been starving for oxygen. Her own head began to clear feeling less muddle and fuzzy. What was wrong with them? Gas? Carbon monoxide? Trober? She raced back inside the house. Running to the crib she screamed.

Hearing her shriek Garrett ran back inside the house. Stopping stunned staring at the empty crib “Trober” he whispered taking a step forward. “Where’s our son?” he yelled as panic set in.

Both of them looked up as the guards stumbled into the room blurry eyes and half awake. “Is everything alright in here?” they asked.

“Does it look like we’re alright?” Garrett shouted “our son is gone.”

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The guards glanced at each other. One of them pulled out a phone to report the missing toddler. When they were finished the guards urged them all outside. Verity jerked free of Garrett’s arms demanding “where the hell were you?”

The guards shook their heads looking at each other. One of them mumbled “there must have been something in our coffee.”

“You’re telling me you were asleep,” she spat beyond caring the guards were subjected to the same sleeping agent she and Garrett had been.

“Sorry Ma’am” they mumbled unable to meet her hostile gaze.

Several police cars arrived to secure the scene and to ask endless questions. An ambulance was called when Garrett continued to have trouble breathing. Verity followed Garrett towards the ambulance torn between staring and overseeing the investigation or going to the hospital. In the end she had no choice. The paramedics insisted she go in for testing until they knew what had been pumped into their air inside the house. She sat in beside Garrett as the ambulance made it’s way to the hospital.

She wanted to hold his hand. She was more afraid then she had ever been in her life. Afraid that when he woke Garrett would blame her. She was the one who was supposed to be protecting them and she had failed.

Her husband was unable to breathe almost as if whatever they had inhaled was keeping his lungs from taking in air. Their son was who know where with who knows who. No she did know with who. Kara. That crazy woman. She wanted her brother dead. To raise their child as her own. How had she let this happen? She thought she had been doing everything right. Still Kara was able to penetrate their home. Hurt the two most important people in her life. If it was the last thing she did Verity was going to hunt Kara down and make her pay for what she has done.

***

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Once the police had done their cursory walk through finding the canister of gas in the air ducts of the small house they dispersed to the hospital to question the stricken parents. Jeff stood in the middle of the room imagining the steps Kara had taken as she entered the house.

He glanced down noting the indentation on the floor where the chair had set until it had been bumped. Of course it could have been moved by any of the dozen police officers that had been in and out of the house. It could also have been bumped by Kara in the process of taking Trober from the home.

Stooping his mind racing with possibilities. Grunting he found the torn scrap of paper under the TV stand. He moved to retrieve it. Studying the torn slip of paper he found what appeared to be a partial address on it. He wondered what or who he might find if he was able to find the address. It was his only lead he had to find Kara before she could irrevocably damage his great nephew.

“Sir” a detective spoke beside his elbow “the police want to lock up. Are you finished?”

Nodding Jeff followed the man outside. He debate whether or not he should share his find with the investigator in charge of the case. If he did that he wouldn’t be able to search it himself. He’d lose his chance of finding Kara himself and he wanted that more than anything. His decision made he stuck the torn paper into is pocket and walked to his car.

Entering his office he sat at his desk drumming his fingers on the table top listening to the steady drum beat his fingers were making. Sighing he pulled up his search engine. Entered the partial address. He began his search in Aurora Skies before widening his search to surrounding areas. Ending his search with the nearest cities in all directions from Aurora Skies. It was just a gut feeling he had that insisted she was within easy driving distance for the things Kara had been able to accomplish. He surmised Kara wouldn’t risk driving around with Trober in easy view of anyone out and about early in the morning. Which meant she had stuck Trober in the trunk. The thought made his blood boil to think of that baby alone, in the dark inside the trunk. It also gave him hope that she was nearby because the air in the trunk would last only so long.

***

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Jeff looked up distracted as his office door opened and a couple walked in. Frowning Jeff stood up “what are you doing here?” he demanded.

“My son is in danger” the man said his voice flat vibrating with repressed anger. “you can’t expect me to sit on a beach somewhere like nothing is happening do you?”

“I told you I was handling it” Jeff protested.

“We’ve been by the house,” Ian stated.

“There are police everywhere,” Celia said putting a restraining arm around her husband who appeared to be on the verge of exploding “what happened?”

Running a hand through his purple hair Jeff sighed “Kara got past our security ….”

“She what?” Ian yelled “you promised you’d keep my kids safe. I knew I should have come back sooner. I listened to you. Believed you.”

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“You were her obsession,” Jeff snapped “how was I supposed to know she’d switch that obsession to Trober?”

“I was dead. Where else was she supposed to direct it towards?” Ian paced the small room”I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this hair brained scheme.”

“I shouldn’t have kept in contact with you. Than you wouldn’t have known about any of this” Jeff shoved his fists into his pockets “I thought it would keep her stable. Less volatile. I underestimated her obsessive nature.” He turned away blinking back tears “I’m sorry.”

Ian stared at his cousin. He wanted to be angry. Wanted someone to blame. In the end he was as much to blame as Jeff was. He agreed to go into protective custody. He had hope that it would keep Katrina and Garrett safe. It hadn’t worked. It was a colossal mistake.”Jeff I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault” Ian cried “I just…” he shrugged “I’m worried. Scared.”

“So am I,” Jeff admitted “I’m worried what she might do with Trober. Kara hates Verity that rivals her obsession with you.”

“She blames Verity for pushing her into killing Ian,” Celia suggested.

“That’s what I surmise” Jeff nodded “it’s makes sense. It might explain why she fixated on Trober.”

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Ian sat down in a nearby chair “what can we do to help?”

Jeff looked at the couple weariness in his eyes before he slowly nodded “alright we do this together.” He walked around his desk “I found something the police missed. I think it might lead us to where Kara might have Trober.”

Ian got up and followed him around to his desk “you didn’t give it to the investigator?”

Shaking his head Jeff said “I want this to end once and for all.”

“Agreed,” Ian nodded his eyes hardening “just tell me what to do.”

“Its a partial address,” Jeff explained “we need to check out each of these addresses.”

“There’s a lot of them” Ian said feeling somewhat daunted at the massive list.

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“You take half and I’ll take half,” Jeff suggested.

“What about Verity and Garrett?” Celia asked “surely they want to help look for their son.”

“Garrett had a bad reaction to the gas. He’s in the hospital. Verity is better off there than joining the search for Trober,” Jeff explained.

Ian reached for Celia’s hand “why don’t you head over to the hospital?”

“I want to help find our grandson” she protested “the more people looking the sooner we’ll find him.” She looked from one to the other “please let me help.”

“You’d be of more help at the hospital,” Jeff told her “keep Verity occupied. Keep her at the hospital.”

She sagged into Ian as she released all the pent up air “ok” she nodded agreeing to keep Verity distracted.

***

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Kara got out of the car. Stood looking at the empty rolling hills all around her. She detested the country. The fewer people who knew her the better. Less chance of anyone seeing Trober and recognizing him. She could hide out here, keep him hidden behind the large walls surrounding the old farm house. In a few years move to the city where no one noticed a new face in the crowd.

Coming to her senses she retrieved the boy from the trunk. Carrying the child inside the house she all but dropped him on the floor. “Stop that racket” she demanded as the toddler began to howl.

“Want mama” Trober whined “Daddy want daddy.”

“I’m your mama now and daddy’s never coming back,” she said cruelly to the screaming child.

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Lip quivering Trober hugged his blanket to his face curling up on the floor in the corner.

“Mama. Daddy” he cried softly to himself sucking his thumb.

Frowning Kara yanked the blanket from is hands “give that to me.”

He held on to it best he could. With a firm tug Kara ripped the fabric from his hands. “Mine mine” he screamed to no avail as he watched helplessly as Kara shoved his blanket into a trash can. “Mine” he repeated holding the tiny scrap of material he grasped in his tiny fists. Turning his face to the wall he rubbed the material across his cheeks muttering “mine.”

***

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Verity was alone in the waiting room jumping each time the ER door opened and a doctor walked. Each time she expected one of them to walk up to her to inform her how Garrett was. She swiped at her eyes as her thoughts turned inward. Why had she relaxed her vigilance? Why hadn’t she done her nightly checks? Why had she trusted the guards with the safety of her family?

She leaned over covering her face with her hands. This was all her fault. Her son was with a psychopath. Her husband was in the hospital unable to breathe. She looked up gasping at the light gentle touch on her shoulder “Celia” she cried.

The older woman nodded sitting down beside her daughter-in-law. She pulled the young woman close “how’s my son?”

“I don’t…” Verity gulped pushing away from Celia “how? You’re supposed to be dead….at least we…I” she stuttered unable to complete her sentences.

“Protective custody” Celia told her “it was the only way to keep Ian safe from Kara. We hoped without him around her obsession would stop.”

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“Instead it transferred to us. To Trober,” Verity nodded “Garrett will be so happy to see you again.”

“If he isn’t too angry at us,” Celia sighed “I never meant for any of this to happen.”

“You didn’t make Kara the way she is,” Verity told her feeling a kinship with the woman over their shared guilt.

“Thank you dear,” Celia gave her a small tight lipped smile “you’re not to blame either.”

“I caused Kara’s obsession with us. If hadn’t been obsessed with the idea of capturing her. If I had just told Jeff what I was up to. Where I was going. Ian and you might not have had to go into protective custody.” Verity sat up looking around the small waiting room “where is Ian? I assumed he was with you.” She glanced at Celia grabbing her hand “please don’t tell me he actually is dead. That he wasn’t with you all this time.”

“Yes he was with me,” Celia assured her “he isn’t dead. It was touch and go at the beginning. It was my decision to go into protective custody when Jeff suggested it. I wanted to keep my husband safe. I hoped it would keep my children safe.”

“He didn’t come with you?” Verity asked.

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“He’s with Jeff,” Celia said looking towards the ER door hoping a doctor would come out who could tell them something about Garrett’s condition.

Jumping to her feet Verity headed towards the door “they’re looking for Trober aren’t they? I should be out there looking with them.”

Grabbing her arm Celia turned the young woman to face her “no your place is here with Garrett. He needs you.”

Struggling against the firm grip Celia had on her arm Verity cried “you’re here now. You can stay with him.” She tried to yank her arm free “let me go. I need to find my son.”

“Excuse me Mrs. Bennett ” a subdued deep voice said behind them “I’m Doctor Kasprzak.”

“How’s my husband?” Verity asked almost falling forward when Celia relaxed her grip on her arm.

“He’s breathing on his own,” the doctor smiled confidently at her “he had an allergic reaction to the gas which caused his lungs to collapse.”

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“But he’s alright now?” Verity asked not fully grasping what the doctor was telling her. Allergic reaction. Lungs collapsing. It all sounded horrific.

“He will be,” the doctor assured her “as long as he doesn’t come into contact with the gas again.”

“Can he come home?” Verity asked.

“I want to keep him overnight for observation to make sure all the gas is out of his system.” The doctor gave her an encouraging grin “you should be able to take him tomorrow. I’ll give him a prescription for an inhaler in case he has any respiratory distress in the weeks to come.”

“Will he always require an inhaler?” Verity inquired wondering how that will effect his job.

“It’s possible but unlikely,” the doctor informed her “would you like to see him now? He’s been asking for you.”

Nodding she allowed the man to escort her to Garrett’s room.

***

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Verity walked through the door the Doctor held open for her. She lingered by the door unsure what to do. Garrett lay with his eyes closed, dark circles around his eyes. He looked so frail. So weak. She moved forward her feet shuffling on the floor.

Garrett’s eyelids flickered “hey” he said his voice low, weak but glad to see her.

“Hey yourself,” she replied back coming to stand beside his bed.

He reached a hand out to her “sorry” he mumbled

Taking his hand in hers she smiled down at him “sorry for what?”

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“For not being able to stop Kara,” he murmured. His eyes closed for a moment “for not protecting our son.”

“Shh” she kissed his forehead “you did the best you could. It’s not your fault.”

“I tried” he squeezed his eyes shut “knew something was wrong…”

“It’s alright baby,” Verity soothed sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Trober,” his eyes filled with tears.

“We’ll find him,” she said confidently “don’t worry about that. Just close your eyes and rest.” She ran her fingers through his hair “everything is going to be alright.”

Chapter 17 – Narrow Escape  / Chapter 19 – The Lost Is Found

Garrett – Chapter 17 – Narrow Escape

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She could feel Garrett’s eyes on her boring into her back. She regretted having hurt him, betrayed his trust. At the time she thought it was the right thing to do. If he didn’t know what she was doing he wouldn’t worry. Sighing she turned around resisting the automatic urge to hide what she was doing on the computer. If felt strange , unnatural to have her research all out in the open.

“Are you hungry?” he asked her relieved that she hadn’t felt the necessity to hide what she doing. He could see over her shoulder, while it unnerved him to know she was looking for Kara it was a relief to know she wasn’t keeping it from him. He could handle knowing. It was the secrets and lies he couldn’t handle.

Blinking she looked at the time “is it that late already?”she stood up in one graceful movement “what would you like to eat?”

“How about we go out for dinner?” he asked instead. After the weeks of strain he felt it would do both of them some good to go out.

“It’ll only take a few minutes for me to whip something up,” she said as she started to pull things from the cupboards.

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“What aren’t you telling me?” he asked not quite able to keep his disappointment from his voice. It had been a long time since they’d had a night out.

“I’ve told you everything,” she said slamming the cupboard shut “why won’t you believe me?”

He stared at her a moment confusion bright in her eyes. “I just want to spend time with my wife. Is that too much to ask?”

“That’s not what you said” she accused.

“It’s not what I meant,” he growled his rising “all you ever do is look for that woman. You’re obsessed with her.”

“Since when is keeping my family safe a crime?” she shouted back “she’s out there Garrett waiting for us to relax our guard.” Her eyes shimmered while her chin quivered as she fought to keep her emotions in check.

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Sighing Garrett could feel his anger melting as he watched her. Opening his arms wide he beckoned her to come to him. When she was ensconced in his arms, head resting on his chest he stroked her hair. “I’m sorry” he mumbled kissing the top of her head.

“Me too,” she mumbled against him.

Chuckling a little he let the strain drain from him “let’s order in a pizza.”

“Sounds good,” she said lifting her face up “I haven’t a clue what I was going to make.”

Looking at the half opened can Garrett laughed in relief “I don’t think I could eat tuna and chili together.”

Pulling a disgusted face she said “throw it away. That’s beyond gross.”

***

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Since that night Verity tried her best to communicate her feelings better. The last thing they needed was to let the pressure destroy them as a couple. She knew Garrett was doing the same both were tip toeing around each other trying to not upset the other.

She smiled over at Garrett who was sitting on the floor playing with Trober. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do to keep them safe. “How about we go to the park?” she suggested.

Garrett looked up “do you think it’s safe?” He hated being cooped up inside the house but if it mean keeping their son safe he’d never go outside again.

“It should be,” she said turning to the computer shutting things down “we can’t continue to live like this. It’s not healthy for any of us.”

Garrett knew she was right but it didn’t stop the stabbing gut wrenching fear from tearing at his insides. He knew only too well how relentless his half sister could be. When she wanted something she didn’t stop until she got it.

“Dada,” Trober’s happy high pitched voice broke through his troubling thoughts.

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“What is it little man?” he asked pushing all thoughts of Kara from his mind.

“Look,” Trober pointed towards the xylophone indicating he wanted Garrett to watch him. Giggling when he knew he had his dad’s attention he banged away at the keys.

“That’s very good,” Garrett encouraged not wanting to dampen his son’s enthusiasm for the little instrument while he secretly considered the merits of investing in earplugs.

While Garret was occupied with their son Verity gathered items for a picnic lunch. Humming softly she felt it was going to be a good day. Finishing she smiled over at her boys “I’m ready whenever you are.”

Garrett looked up in relief “we’re going to the park,” he informed the little boy.

“Yay” Trober clapped his hands. Squealing in delight when Garrett lifted him onto his shoulders.

***

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Verity smiled up into her husbands eyes lightly running her fingers through his hair. “Did you get enough to eat?” she fretted having forgotten the chicken salad she had made the night before.

“I’m fine,” he assured her. He laughed when his stomach growled loudly.

“Liar,” she giggled when he pulled her down with him onto the blanket.

Their lips met taking her breath away. “This is the one time I wish we were at home,” Garrett said breathless from the passionate kiss they just shared.

“Mmm hmm” was her only response as she looked around scanning the area. She sighed in relief seeing Trober with one of their body guards happily playing in a nearby sandbox. As much as she knew they needed this moment of normalcy it still frightened her being out in the open where anything could happen.

“Is something wrong?” Garrett asked picking up on her unease. Sitting up he scanned the are just as Verity had moments before. He frowned as he spotted something that hadn’t been there before. “We need to go…now” he grabbed Varity’s hand rushed her from the park.

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He stopped long enough to take Trober from the guard who had been watching him. “What’s going on?” Verity asked fear and guilt in her voice. What had she missed?

“I’m not sure,” Garrett gave her a rueful grimace “I thought I saw something that shouldn’t be there.”

“Like what sir?” one of the guards asked.

“Um a package” he closed his eyes trying to picture what had caused his alarm. He felt slightly foolish “it could have been just a discarded wrapper but it hadn’t been there before.”

“Don’t worry sir we’ll soon now for sure,” the guard relayed the information back to the other guards that had stayed behind to search. Nodding he hurried the family to the car. “Fred will get your things later” he said as he prepared to drive them home.

The ride home was quiet other than the happy jibber jabber coming from Trober. “They found something didn’t they?” Verity asked as they turned down the road towards their house.

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Glancing in the review mirror the guard looked towards Garrett first before nodding “it was a small explosive device.”

“OMG” Verity cried “why would she do that? I thought her goal was to take Trober not kill him.” Her eyes were round with fright uncomprehending.

“That wasn’t it’s intended purpose” Garrett said. His training in the coast guards he had experience with explosive devices “if it was small enough it’d be a good distraction,” he took a deep breath looking across the seat at his son.

“If you hadn’t reacted the way you did so she could have walked away with your son while we were all stunned.” The guard said filling in the silence that had enveloped the car.

“How did she get so close?” Verity demanded as her fear turned to anger.

“We don’t know,” the guard told her.

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“It’s your job to know,” she shouted “I don’t want to hear I don’t know.”

Garrett had to give the guard props for remaining calm under Verity’s accusations. Once the car was parked and Garrett had gotten Trober from his car seat he thanked the man for getting them home. He could feel Verity seething beside him but she kept her mouth shut until they were inside.

“How could you thank him?” she cried “he let his guard down. Who knows what could have happened if you hadn’t seen that package?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her to calm down but he knew that would only upset her more. Telling someone to calm down when while they were upset usually had the opposite effect on them.

Putting Trober down on the floor to play he took a deep breath. “You know as well as I do how tricky and cunning Kara is. It shouldn’t be too surprising that she had been able to slip through our defenses. I wish she hadn’t but she did. Yelling at each other isn’t going to help anyone.”

Slowly she nodded as the fight went out of her “I’m sorry” she gulped “it’s just she was so close. She could have….” Deep wracking sobs burst from her has she was overwhelmed by the events that just happened. How close they had come to losing their son. She felt Garrett wrap his arms around her. She clung to him as she soaked his shoulder.

***

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She drove past the tiny house. Slowed enough to see Garrett holding the red haired witch in his arms. It was enough to make her skin crawl. The door opened and one of the guards from the park walked out. If she thought it’d work she’d flirt with him. Get him on her side.

She dismissed the idea as soon as she thought of it. Her Uncle would have have taken extra precautions with this detail then he had the last one. Plus she had no intentions of repeating her own tactics.

She stomped on the gas when she noticed the guard watching her. It was time to ditch this car she thought pulling the car over to park. Gathering what few possessions she had in it before getting out. She left the car behind as she walked towards town.

She breathe deeply of the clear ocean air. Closing her eyes she listened to the babble of children’s voices playing outside at the nearby school. She imagined coming to pick up her son. He’d come running out calling mommy excited to show her all the things he did that day. His clear happy voice as he recounted his first crush….

No she quickly crushed that thought. He’d never be allowed to date. She’d get rid of anyone who got between him and her. She would be all he would need. She smiled daydreaming about the future with her son. A loud car horn blasted her happy dream apart. She made note of the licence plate filing it away in her head. One day the driver would regret blasting that horn at her. Wake up to the family pet dead on the porch. Maybe missing that cherished family heirloom. Something would happen. She looked forward to that day.

***

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Jeff sat in his makeshift office staring at the screen in front of him. The detail assigned to Garrett and Verity had just finished reporting. They had found a rebellious preteen boy who had admitted to taking money to set a box on the ground near a couple kissing on the ground.

He showed the recalcitrant adolescent a picture of Kara. “Is this the woman who paid you?” he asked

The boys eyes scanned the room as if searching for an escape or a trap. Finding none he slowly nodded chin jotting out obstinately “yeah that’s the broad,” he said trying to sound tough “I’m not giving the money back,” he said belligerently “it’s not my fault that guy spotted the package and ran.”

Jeff just stared at the boy. No doubt the boy would be in and out of correctional facilities in the years to come. Taking their silence as assent the boy got up and headed towards the door. He hesitated for a moment then shrugged before leaving.

Jeff steepled his hands looking at the far wall. If he were Kara where would he be hiding? He wouldn’t be able to rent anything in his own name without it becoming public knowledge. Either she wasn’t living in town or she was renting under an assumed name. He grabbed a notebook and pen. Check on rentals by anyone known to be friends with Kara he wrote down.

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He rubbed his chin deep in thought. He lifted the pen making another note to check all abandoned buildings in or around town. She had to be somewhere.

Sighing he glanced at the time. He grabbed his phone and put through his daily call “yeah” an anxious voice said in his ear.

“It’s me,” Jeff said to whoever was on the other end.

“Obviously” came the irritated response.

Jeff couldn’t blame the person for being upset. Who else would it be calling everyday at this time? Shaking his head he sighed “sorry it’s been a long day.”

“What’s happening?” the voice asked instantly alert and wary.

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“Kara made an attempt on the boy today,” Jeff winced at the explosion his announcement made.

“I’m coming back,” the voice said.

“Absolutely not,” Jeff told the voice. He could hear the stubbornness in the man’s voice. The intent to help. Was it wrong for him to want to keep them safe Jeff wondered.

“She needs to be stopped “came the response he expected to hear.

“Give me a little more time,” Jeff requested feeling he was fighting a losing battle.

“How much time?” the anger in the man’s voice was palpable in Jeff’s ear “I won’t stand by and watch that woman destroy their lives. Not if I can prevent it.”

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There was a resounding click in his ear. Jeff stared at his phone rubbing his neck. He missed his old partner. If Zayne were still around he’d get twice as much legwork done. Verity was good but she was walking a fine line with Garrett right now. He could see her giving up detective work to keep her family safe. Not that Garrett would demand that of her. She would do it for herself to keep from letting the mystery control her life.

He glanced at the picture of his family. His kids were the most important things he had in the world. But there was a growing gulf between them. Things hadn’t been good between him and Lisa for a while now. It had taken him a while to notice. Maybe he had been gone too often but he fire was gone. he had the feeling Lisa preferred he was gone to having him home to often. What they had left was the cooling coals of the love they once had. Were they just going through the motions? No he still loved her. It just wasn’t the same as it once was. It was too comfortable. Too predictable. Not enough passion. Which left them with what they had and what they had was …. nice.

***

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Closing the book she was reading Verity asked “did he finally go back to sleep?”

“Our little man doesn’t like sleeping in his crib,” Garrett said slipping under the covers “maybe it’s time we look into buying a bigger house so he can have his own room.”

“He does need his own room,” she agreed “maybe we can find one with three bedrooms.”

“Three?” he asked surprise lifting his eyebrows “you’re not? Are you?”

Giggling she shook her head “no but when we do have another we should have a room just in case. Meanwhile I could really use an office.”

“Oh” he sighed in relief. As much as he loved being a father he wasn’t ready for another. He leaned over capturing Verity’s mouth with his. It had been a while since they had been intimate. It felt good as he gently helped her slip from her night shirt.

She groaned in anticipation “it’s been too long,” she echoed his thoughts biting his lower lip driving them both crazy with desire.

He caressed her soft smooth skin beneath his hands. His eyes grew heavy despite his desire. “Verity” he murmured his tongue barely able to from the word.

This wasn’t right he thought trying to move his body that had become leaden. He made it as far as the door before succumbing to the tiredness invading his body.

 Chapter 16 – My Son / Chapter 18 – The Return