The Hero (Page 35)

Author: Robyn Carr

Gina laughed. “Isn’t being a single mother dating a single father romantic?”

“And then I think we broke up.”

Shock showed all over Gina’s face. “Are you kidding me?”

Devon shook her head. “I think it was something I did. I think I screwed up.”

She could tell Gina was momentarily speechless. “What could you have done?”

“I asked him for something, and I didn’t think it through very well. I should have waited. It was too soon, but at the time it felt safe enough. I reminded him that I have no family, just Rawley, and he’s not really family. So I asked if we’re a couple and something happens to me, would he watch over Mercy. Take her on. Take her in. And it was like he closed the blinds right at that moment. Pulled down the shades. Closed the door. He said he thought he was sick, but that was an excuse to avoid me. I tracked him down at Cooper’s on Sunday and he leveled with me—he isn’t interested in getting that serious. I haven’t heard from him since.”

Gina poured herself a cup of coffee, shaking her head. “Oh, brother.”

“He doesn’t really want more family. He’s in a different place. His singleness is not so single as mine—he’s got Cooper and Sarah to look after Austin. He said he’d take on Mercy if something happened to me, but he needs some time to think about us. He’s been thinking for a few days, so I’m done. I’m adjusting to that idea.” She sat back and pasted a fake smile on her face. “I’m all right on my own.”

“Maybe a little time is really all he needs?” Gina ventured.

Devon sighed. “Yeah. Well, I spent a few days fantasizing he’d call saying he just panicked...but the call didn’t come. And tempting as he is, I really don’t want a guy who feels like he’s all in and then he suddenly freezes up like that.”

“Maybe it has something to do with his late wife?” Gina suggested.

“Oh, definitely. He mentioned that, but we’ve talked about her before, about what a huge life lesson that was for him. He seemed so stable, so right with the world, you know? But he’s got secrets—did you know his parents both died last summer?”

“I knew about his dad. He left Austin with Cooper and went back east to see him buried. But I didn’t realize...”

“I think Spencer has stuff to work out. And I know I have stuff to work out. I think maybe this is for the best, much as it hurts. We shouldn’t be working stuff out on each other.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Gina said, sipping her coffee. “I’m just so sorry. And surprised. Not only do you seem like one of the least troubled people I know, so did Spencer. I don’t know him well, but I know him.”

“We don’t always advertise our baggage. You know?”

“I know. Someday we’ll have a glass of wine and I’ll tell you how well I know about that.”

“I guess everyone has their stuff,” Devon said. “You know, I look at all my new friends and they all look like they have everything in life figured out and sometimes I feel like the only person with a past to put in perspective. Sometimes I pray one day I can be like everyone else.”

“There is no everyone else, Devon. Life is complicated and difficult for everyone. Absolutely everyone. And you shouldn’t feel alone. You’re just like the rest of us—hard stuff to work through so you can have a stable, productive, happy life. There’s no reason you can’t. If you ever start to feel like the struggle is bigger than you are, there’s help. I have the name of an excellent counselor.”

“Really? Because that was suggested to me, but I’m not sure I can afford one.”

“She has a sliding scale based on income. My insurance helped, but I would’ve had trouble paying her fees if it hadn’t. If you ever want her name, if only to find out what the fee might be, just let me know.”

“Is she a friend of yours?” Devon asked.

“No, sweetheart. She was my daughter’s counselor. She got us through a very rough patch. Counseling works.”

* * *

Devon gave the idea of counseling some thought through the afternoon. She might look into that, but for now she was determined to get on with her life. She picked up Mercy from Gabriella and took her home. Once there she asked Mrs. Bledsoe if she could keep an eye on her for a little while so she could get a little exercise. While it was still light, a run on the beach would solve some immediate problems, like feeling sorry for herself. And if she saw him or he saw her, she would just run in the other direction.

“A half hour? Maybe forty-five minutes at the most?” she asked Mrs. Bledsoe. “She had a snack and I’ll give her dinner when I’m back.”

She was about twelve minutes into her run when the adrenaline kicked in and she was reminded that what had just happened with Spencer was probably normal. It was probably the kind of complication “regular” people go through when forming relationships, but she’d gotten a little off the track because of her unusual circumstances. People who lived in the real world, people who weren’t so alone and screwed up probably examined and reexamined their relationships constantly.

Spencer was not in evidence on the beach. She didn’t see him on the deck, either. She ran across the beach as far as the dock, then back across and up the hill, past Spencer’s house to her own.

And in front of her house was the deputy sheriff’s car!

She sprinted to her door and burst inside. Mrs. Bledsoe, looking so small sitting on her secondhand sofa next to Mac, was weeping into a tissue.

“What?” she shouted. “What is it?”

Mrs. Bledsoe struggled for control. “He took her,” she said. “He said he was her father and he took her.”

Devon looked at Mac. “Jacob?” she asked. “Was it him?”

“Sounds like it was. I’ve notified the sheriff and the FBI.”

Looking back at Mrs. Bledsoe, she demanded, “What did he look like?”

“I don’t know,” the poor woman faltered. “Tall. Dark hair. A little gray, but not much. Strong. He told me not to try to fight him or I’d get hurt. He said this was a dangerous world and he was taking Mercy to a safe place. Oh, my dear, I was so afraid of him!”

“And what was he driving?” Devon demanded.

“I don’t know. It was blue. It was a truck,” she stammered.

“What else did he say, Mrs. Bledsoe?” Devon said, getting right in her face. The older woman backed up, clearly frightened by Devon. “What did he say? Exactly!”

“That Mercy was his daughter. He said, ‘Come here, Mercy,’ and she went to him. He picked her up—she wasn’t afraid of him. He said, ‘No one takes my child from me,’ and that if I tried to stop him I’d get hurt. I had to go home to call the police, but I came right back here. I couldn’t stop him, please believe me.”

“How long ago?” she asked.

“Half hour, maybe. Not long after you left. I called Mac right away,” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!”

Devon grabbed her truck keys off the kitchen counter and ran for the door.

“Devon!” Mac barked. “You should stay here! Where are you going?”

She glared at him. “I’m going to get her.”

“Devon! Don’t!”

But she was out the door and in the truck so fast no one could have possibly stopped her. She drove immediately across the beach, parked and ran up the stairs, through the bar and into the kitchen. There were people on the deck and inside, but she took no notice of them.

“Rawley! Jacob found out where I live and he took Mercy! About a half hour ago. Mrs. Bledsoe was watching her. I have to go get her. I have to have... Rawley, I need a wire cutter to cut through the fence. And I need... Do you have a weapon? Any kind of weapon?”

He grabbed her by the upper arms and gave her a little shake. “Shh! Do you think he took her back there?”

“He hated to leave. I never saw him leave the compound alone. Where else would he take her?”

“I’ll go get her,” Rawley said. “Can you tell me where to go once I get into the camp?”

She nodded and said, “I’ll go with you. We’ll go together. I’ll show you.”

“No, you shouldn’t go, you should—”

“She’s mine! She’s my little girl! I’m going to get her and I don’t care if he makes me stay, I won’t leave her there with him! I’m going!”

“And I’m going,” a voice said from behind her. She whirled to see Spencer standing there. “We’ll go together. I’ll go with Rawley to the inside. We’ll get her.”

“You ever done this before?” Rawley asked him.

“Done this?” Spencer asked stupidly.

“Snuck into a village or a prisoner camp to get someone out?”

Spencer was clearly stuck for an answer. With something that sounded almost like a laugh, he asked, “Have you?”

“Unfortunately. Been a while, thank Jesus. Get Cooper. Right now.”

Spencer blinked a couple of times, then did as he was told. When Cooper followed Spencer into the kitchen he was muttering, “What the hell...?”

“I need to get in your closet,” Rawley said. “I need a black or dark green jacket or dark-colored sweatshirt with sleeves. Camouflage would be good, but you probably don’t have that. Devon needs something real dark from Sarah’s closet—just a jacket’ll do it. She’ll be okay in those tennis shoes—she’s not walking far. We’ll be going through the woods and can’t be seen.”

“What the hell?” Cooper said again.

“Mercy’s father came for her. He took her back to that commune and we’re going to go get her,” Rawley said. “He’s likely dangerous.”

“The police were called,” Devon said. “I told Mac I was going to go get her. Jacob has some men who work for him and they have rifles. They always said it was for hunting and to keep us safe, but I always wondered about the protection part.”

“We’ll have to look out for them, too,” Rawley said. “Coop, I gotta have a little help here. There’s no time to waste. Best chance is gettin’ right on him, surprise him.”

“Hell,” Cooper said. “I’ll be right back.” He took the stairs two at a time, rummaged around in his closet, in his trunk, under his bed. He was back in the kitchen with his arms full of clothes plus one very large handgun. He threw the clothes and gun on the counter and pulled one dark brown hoodie over his head.

“Wait a minute,” Spencer said. “You have to stay here for Austin.”

“Sarah will take care of Austin and I have to go to make sure you don’t get shot.”

“What’s this old guy gonna do to get her back?” Spencer wanted to know.

“This old guy served three tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret and stands a better chance of pulling this off than you or I,” Cooper said.

Rawley was pulling on a navy blue shirt, buttoning it up to his neck and around his wrists. “I’d have a better chance if you two dipshits would stay right here. If four are going, we’re going to have problems....”

“I’m going,” Devon said. “I can tell you every detail of the buildings inside the fence.”

“I’m going,” Spencer said, picking up a pair of boots and a jacket.

“I’m going,” Cooper said.

Rawley sighed and shook his head. “We’ll have to take your extended cab,” he said to Cooper. He headed for the door. He looked back over his shoulder. “We on coffee break here?” And then he was out the door, leaving them to follow.