Authors: Dee Henderson
“Sit down, Adam. You’re intimidating when you pace,” she said quietly. “I need your word that you will not repeat what I’m going to tell you—that includes your lawyer and your sister.”
“My lawyer also happens to be my brother-in-law, but you’ve got my word.”
“Children are targets, pawns, very effective ways to influence and pressure political figures, and I became one of those statistics when I was six. My father had just been appointed to the British post, and there were some extremely sensitive negotiations going on with China at the time. My parents’ marriage didn’t survive the kidnapping, and I didn’t talk for two-and-a-half years after the event.
“One of the men is serving a life sentence in a federal prison, but the second man has never been apprehended. I know his face, buried somewhere in my mind, and I would put him away for life if I could remember it. He knows it. But rather than lie low, every few months he keeps taunting my father with…mementos…of the event. Worse, he’s daring the FBI to catch him. The psychiatrists think he is going insane.”
Adam’s eyes closed.
Lord, tell me what I’m hearing didn’t happen…please.
He looked over at Sara who sat there calmly, her coffee cup resting in her relaxed hands. Other than her stumble over the mention of mementos, she had told him the facts with no discernible emotion or change in her voice. Could she even really feel after all the trauma she had just described, or had her emotions been so suppressed that this was the only way she could cope—to detach and say everything is okay when it could never truly be okay inside?
She looked up.
Adam came over and sat beside her, noticing the slight tightening of her posture. He took the coffee cup and held her hands in his. “Is that when you got these?”
The scars on her wrists were more like tight bands of skin than ridges. He had noticed them as they fixed dinner, and they would’ve gone unmentioned until she chose to tell him, if not for the opening she had just given him. If she was six when the scars had occurred, it would explain the appearance of the skin now. As she had grown, the scarred skin would have been too tight to stretch naturally.
She tried to pull her hands away, but after a career where hand control was a necessity, he could feel the nuances of her movements before she could make them, and he deliberately countered every one of them. She was very uncomfortable having him look at the scars. “I don’t mind the scars, Sara. I’d just like to know how they happened.”
She bit her bottom lip. “The left wrist was from the initial struggle to get free of the ropes on the first day; the right wrist…it was later.”
“How long were you held?”
The tremors were back in her hands now, the ones he had felt in the elevator, the ones he had felt the morning he tried to apologize in her office. “Come here.” He drew her toward his chest.
Her entire body stiffened. His hand moved her head down to his shoulder; he wrapped his arms around her, then forced himself to go very still.
She couldn’t break his hold. “Adam, I don’t want this.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because you need it.” He rubbed her back.
It took almost three minutes before he felt her relax.
She had been six when all this had happened. The details of her past were not going to change in the next few days or weeks. There would be plenty of time for questions and answers. And he’d need to understand them. He instinctively knew the biggest obstacle he had was not her past, but her ability to trust him.
She trusted Dave.
She could learn to trust him.
“You are an obstinate man.”
He smiled into her hair. “So my sister tells me frequently.” She tried to push away from him again, and he simply shifted his hold.
“Adam, my coffee is going to get cold.”
He let her turn in his arms and retrieve her cup.
“Better?” He brushed her hair back behind her ear so he could see her face. He liked her earrings, for they sparkled with every turn of her head. He was now willing to bet the emeralds were real.
Her bent head lifted to give him a rueful smile. “Yes.” Her blue eyes were clear.
She was such a beautiful lady.
“What did your father want?”
“I’m maid of honor for my best friend’s wedding, and he’s not pleased with the idea.”
“He just likes to be the one in control, that’s all. Her fiancé is the grandson of a former governor. There may be some press in attendance. He thinks it’s a bad risk.”
“What does Dave think?”
“It can be managed. There is no easy way to trace Sara Walsh to Sara Richman, and the picture will only make the local papers.”
“Get me a wedding invitation.”
“I’d like to meet your best friend.”
Sara grinned. “I can guarantee Ellen would like to meet you, but I hardly think a wedding invitation is necessary.”
Adam gently squeezed her shoulder. “Then how about a quiet restaurant where you and I can have dinner with Ellen and her fiancé?”
He was surprised at her sudden stillness. She pulled away from him and rose to her feet, moving to the far side of the room before turning. “We won’t be seeing each other after tonight. It just felt wrong not to at least explain my reasons after what happened the other morning.” The formality was back in her voice. “Adam, you are a public figure. You are noticed wherever you go. I cannot afford to be around you.”
He got up. “There are many quiet places away from the public where security is not a problem.”
“We have no future. You have to accept that. I have no choice in this. If you continue to push it, Dave will simply take me from level two protection to level three, and not only will you never see me again, I’ll be stifled to death by their presence. At level four, not even my father will know where I am. Don’t make this difficult for me, Adam. Please.”
Accept it? Hardly.
“Do you like me?” He moved away to pick up his coffee.
He looked over at her. “It’s a simple question. Do you like me?”
“Then quit being so defeatist before we’ve even explored our options. We’re going to get to know each other, Sara.”
“And if I don’t want to get to know you?”
He walked across the room to stand in front of her. The hand under her chin was infinitely gentle. “You do.” He leaned down and kissed her, felt her tremble. “Find a movie you want to watch from your collection. I’ll be back with more coffee and the required popcorn.”
He let the kitchen door swing closed behind him and stopped. He tried to collect his thoughts. It was hitting him too fast to absorb, like calling a play and realizing as the ball was snapped that he was getting blitzed by four defensive linemen.
Sara. What am I going to do with you? You are the most intriguing woman I’ve ever met, with a history so complex it’s going to take months to understand all the layers, let alone all the facts.
He would give anything at this point to be a decent psychologist rather than a former professional quarterback. There had been rules to that game; there were no rules to this one.
What had happened to her during those nine days? Did he dare ask her any questions? If he avoided the subject would she think he didn’t care? If he did, would he be reopening old wounds?
“I didn’t talk for two-and-a-half years.”
Her simple statement covered a wealth of implications. She had felt so threatened she had withdrawn inside for two-and-a-half years. He didn’t know if he was ready to hear what had happened during those nine days even if she had the courage at this point to tell him.
He worked a little more on the timeline of events and hated what it told him. She had been kidnapped at age six, nine days later it had been over. Her parents divorced when she was seven, and by her eighth birthday, her mother had married Frank Victor, leaving her brother behind in London. Sara had not spoken a word from the time she was rescued until she was eight-and-a-half. She would never have been able to cry and talk and express the pain of all those losses.
Was that why she spoke with so much affection when she mentioned Frank? Had he been the one who finally gave her the courage to speak again? Was Frank the one who had finally made her feel safe? “Lord, I need wisdom. Desperately,” he whispered. He rarely felt this uncertain about what he should do.
He fixed the popcorn, cheating by finding a bag he could fix in the microwave, then refilled their coffee mugs.
“So what did you choose?” he asked, rejoining her.
She had two videos in her hand. “Your options.”
He tilted his head to read the titles.
“These are the early
episodes with Trapper John, and the
tape has the classics like the Tribbles episode.”
“There’s no contest.” He met her eyes and saw the disappointment. “We’re watching both tapes.”
Her disappointment was replaced with a look of relief and a giggle…. A giggle.
“Do that again.”
“I can’t giggle on demand,” she replied, her face turning red.
“It was a delightful sound. Try.”
“Adam, give me my coffee and go sit down,” she said, trying to hide what had become a grin.
With a sigh he did as he was told. She put in the
tape and brought back the remote with her.
She sat on her side of the couch, something Adam let last as long as it took for him to set down his coffee, reach over, and lift her to the middle of the couch next to him. “That’s better.”
She made a face at him
“Enjoy being the director for a night because we won’t be seeing each other after tonight.”
“Quiet, Sara. I’m watching TV.”
He heard her drawn-out sigh. A few minutes later she shifted her weight and made herself comfortable against him, trapping his arm behind her back. Adam didn’t mind a bit. She was light and warm and smelled of honey shampoo.
He reached back to shut off the end table light reflecting on the TV screen. She flung her hand across his chest to grasp his arm and stop him, scattering popcorn in her wake. “No, leave it on. Please.”
There was panic in her voice and certainly panic in her eyes. He slowly lowered his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think.”
She wasn’t afraid of the dark—she was petrified of it. Even in her own home with the TV and the hall light on, she still panicked at the thought of the light being shut off.
She buried her head against his shirt and fought to regain control. Hating the fear he had triggered by not thinking, he tentatively soothed his hand over her shoulder.
He felt when she accepted that she was safe, and he didn’t say a word as she carefully moved back and began to pick up the spilled popcorn. When she started to say something, he stopped her words with a finger to her lips. “No. No apologies. No explanations. I don’t need them tonight.” Her fear of the dark was something they were going to talk about in the light of a bright, sunny day, at the right time, and in the right place. This wasn’t it.
She hugged him. It surprised him, and from the look on her face, astounded her.
He put the cup back in her hand. “Finish your coffee.”
“So, have you two been good tonight?” A voice from the doorway made Sara lean her head back against the sofa to look behind her.
“Stuff a sock in it, Dave.” She had to stifle a yawn. She had never been so comfortable in her life. Somewhere at the start of the second tape she had cradled her hands against Adam’s chest and rested her head against his shoulder, turning him into a big, warm pillow. He had tugged a throw cover across her feet. There was no question she would love to enjoy more peaceful evenings like this.
She knew they couldn’t continue to see each other, but that fact had only intensified her desire to ensure she enjoyed the one evening she did have with Adam all the more.
Dave laughed and walked into the room, dropping into the seat near the couch.
Sara watched Dave remove a holstered gun from his side and set it on the end table. Only one. Normally he carried a second behind his back.
“Did you and Linda have a good time?” she asked, feeling tired.
“Dinner was worth it.” Dave shared an amused look with his sister.
“If you’re going to date someone who loves the arts, you’ll have to widen your horizons a bit.”
She didn’t bother to move away from Adam’s side. She was too comfortable, and her brother could draw his own conclusions. She was sure she would hear his opinion later.
“All quiet tonight?” Dave asked.