November 29, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Twenty-two

"Why did Charleston stage the ceremony then?" Gavin finally broke the somber spell and asked the question of Katrina.

"I'm...not sure. I know that when…" she licked her lips, keeping her eyes closed and her head bowed. "When we went on our...honeymoon, he expected me to go and see some person and ask for my share of some money. I…I didn't know what he was talking about." Katrina opened her eyes, but kept her head down. "I didn't know anyone who owed me money. He told me I was the long lost granddaughter of the founder of the McSwayne Diamond Mines and that they owed me tons of money, as I was the only heir. I didn't know anything about that. Charleston said I was lying. He...he threatened to beat me if I didn't help him.

“I told him they couldn't be my relatives. My Grandfather McSwayne worked for the railroad. He had been dead since I was nine—the year before my parents were killed. I knew of no other relatives on my father's side. There was only my mother's Aunt Monalee, and my mother's parents, the Price's. That's all the family I ever knew of, and all of them were…well, not really poor, exactly, but not rich, by any means.

“He…Charleston had some notion he could prove a connection anyway, but by then we had run out of what little money Grandfather Price had given me as a wedding gift. That's when we went to his Uncle Andrew's."

"I see. I'm sorry I had to ask, Katrina."

Katrina shrugged her shoulders, still not daring to look up. She was too tired and in too much pain to care anymore, now that the truth lay between them. Gavin knew her shame; nothing seemed to matter anymore. Katrina sighed deeply.

“Lt. Carew, Katrina is tired and in pain. May I take her home now?"

"Yes, but I suggest you watch her carefully."

Lt. Carew gave a business card to Katrina. "If you think of anything else, please give us a call. You need to stay somewhere else for a few days while we check a few things out and make sure everything is okay.”

“Where? I don’t have anywhere to go....”

“Something is being arranged for you, Ms. McSwayne. Mr. Browning can take you home tonight, but tomorrow he will take you to a safer place. Please cooperate with him, for your own safety. He’s promised to remain in close contact with us until your attacker is found.”

Katrina looked from Gavin to the pair of detectives and back again.

“All…all right. If you think it would be best…”

"I do think it’s best." Lt. Carew gave Gavin a meaningful look and handed a business card to him. "Call me if you need anything. We’re on the evening shift, but this cell number,” he gestured at the card, “will reach me at any time.” He turned toward Katrina. “Thank you for your help, Ms. McSwayne. Go now, and get a good night's rest." Both officers shook her hand, then Gavin's, before leaving.

As Gavin pushed her wheelchair out to the car, Katrina quietly asked, "Gavin, do you think it’s Charleston who is trying me?" She could not bring herself to think the other word in connection with Charleston, even in the wake of the attempts on her life.

Gavin continued to push her chair for a few moments before answering. Slowly, he said, "I think it's a distinct possibility. Who else do you know that has any reason to harm even one hair of your head?"

"No one." Her voice was very small, a sigh escaping her lips following the pair of words. “I thought I was safe. It’s been so long. Do…do you think...he'll try again?" Her bottom lip trembled with the effort it cost her to speak the words. She bit her lip to still the trembling.

"Not tonight, anyway, Kitten." They stopped beside the car, quiet and still.

Silence spiraled into a heavy blanket before Katrina used the wheelchair arms to push herself upright. She discovered as she did so that her whole body was trembling, not just her lip. She turned and looked into Gavin’s eyes and saw tenderness there, and something else. It was almost as though he wanted to kiss her again, yet didn’t dare to make the move.

They stood wordlessly looking at each other until a car door closing on the other side of the parking lot broke the spell. Gavin bent slightly to open the car door, then helped her inside.

Gavin got in, fastened his seat belt, and started the engine. He looked at her again, seeming to search her face for something, then turned his head, checking for traffic around the car before backing out of the parking space they had occupied. Katrina didn't know what he was thinking, but it made her nervous to have him continually look at her so intently without saying anything. She tried valiantly to marshal her courage and sit quietly as he left the parking lot and drove out onto the street. A deep breath helped.

Gavin didn't drive straight home. He drove a haphazard route, circling here and there, crossing and re-crossing streets. Throughout his apparently meaningless meandering, he kept a very careful watch in the rear-view mirror. Apparently he was finally satisfied no one was following them. He stopped at the drive-up window of a fast food chicken place and bought their dinner, then drove to Katrina's home. Other than ordering their food, their journey had been accomplished in silence.

Pulling into her driveway, he asked for her house key. She handed her key ring over, still without a word. Telling her to stay in the car, he got out and locked the door behind him. Striding to the front door, Gavin unlocked it.

She noticed the mechanism worked right away. Katrina decided the lock must like Gavin better than it liked her. Or maybe, she giggled to herself, it was simply that the lock felt his commanding touch and didn’t dare disobey him. Katrina wished he’d use that commanding touch on her…she shook her head to clear the thought away and pain seared behind her forehead. What in the world was she thinking? She wasn’t the sort of girl who fell into the arms of any and every virile male who looked twice at her. Katrina admonished herself to school her thoughts into proper channels.

Gavin came back to the car and unlocked her door and then opened it for her. Taking the chicken from her and helping her out, he told her he had checked the whole house and it was secure. He turned toward the house, his manner protective. There was no sarcasm in his voice tonight, and Katrina was glad to hear that lack.

They walked inside, Katrina carefully locking the door behind them. Gavin went into the kitchen and set the chicken on the table while she went into the bedroom and exchanged her torn clothing for a clean set. She stepped into the bathroom and ran a brush through her hair, wincing when the bristles raked over her painful bumps.

A glance into the mirror to survey the damage to her face brought a sigh. Gavin was right. She was going to have a dandy of a black eye. The unsightly discoloration had already begun. Mindful of the pain any sudden movement brought, she slowly shook her head at her reflection and sighed again. Of all the times she wanted somehow to look just a bit ravishing and to have, instead, this bruised, scraped girl staring back at her was almost more than she could bear. Tears gathered at her lids, threatening to spill over and run down her cheeks. She grabbed a cloth and ran cold water on it, wringing it out before applying it gingerly to her face. She didn't need the evidence of tears to make her look even worse.

The thought of just why she had wanted to look ravishing was steadfastly pushed to the back of her mind and ignored. Sighing once more, she lowered the washcloth, setting it on the edge of the sink. She took one last deep sigh as she looked despairingly at her mirrored image and left the bathroom, going through and closing the bedroom door behind her.

Joining Gavin in the kitchen, she noticed he had added a carton of milk, the jug of juice, plates, flatware, napkins and glasses to the table. She smiled at him.

"You really do know how to set a table. It looks good. Thank you. Somehow, after tonight, I feel almost mundane sitting down to eat, except that I'm starving. Isn’t that silly?"

"Is what silly? To be famished after not eating for seven hours? Or to sit down to dinner?" His eyes twinkled at her, making heat rise in her face.

"Oh, Gavin, you’re terrible! In all the books, the heroine isn't hungry after her big ordeal. She just pushes the food around on her plate with her fork, while she sits around and looks vulnerable, helpless, and beautiful. My food isn't going to be that lucky. It's going to be gobbled up quickly by the ugly black-and-blue victim!"

Gavin grinned at her. "You've been reading the wrong books, then, Kitten. The ones I've read, the sweet young maiden looks exactly like you, and she keeps her sense of humor, to boot. I would much rather have you be at the table with me, joking, than sitting around wasting good food. So, my pretty, eat your chicken and hush!" They both laughed, then settled to devouring their chicken.

Eating in companionable silence, they washed the chicken down with juice and milk. When they finished, Gavin insisted she just go into the living room and watch television while he did the clearing up.

She tried to protest, especially in view of the fact there were the breakfast dishes also. Gavin would have none of it.

"After all," he said, "it's right to pamper you at least this one time for your bravery during this harrowing day! Now, away with you; in to watch TV!"

Katrina silently went into the living room and turned on her radio. She didn't own a television. She bit her lip to think what he would say to her when he realized that fact. The soothing music blended with the sounds of dishwashing coming from the kitchen.

"Turn to the news channel, Katrina. It's almost time for the network news to come on." His voice sailed in from the kitchen; her face heated with embarrassment.

Katrina selected a radio station which broadcast national news at the hour. She walked over and sat down on the couch, then watched her fingers play nervously with the small opal ring on her finger. She looked up as Gavin came in from the kitchen. He looked toward the sound source and found the radio. He looked at Katrina. She knew her face was still red because heat still radiated from it; she dropped her eyes back to her hands.

"I'm sorry, Katrina," he said gently. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." She looked up at him, catching a look of tender concern on his face. The heat left her face, reassured by the look she had seen.

"It’s all right, Gavin. I know most people have a television, but it isn't very high on my list of priorities. The news will be on in just a moment, though."

"Thank you." Gavin sat down next to Katrina. He took her hand gently in his. As tired as she was, a tingle still went through her, and she looked at their entwined hands. It didn't seem to matter what she'd been through this day, she wanted to be in his arms right now. She wanted him to kiss her thoroughly, deeply.

"Katrina, answer me, please."

Startled, she looked up at him, her wayward thoughts making heat fill her cheeks again. "I'm sorry. My mind must have been off somewhere. What did you say?"

"Oh, heaven help me," he prayed aloud. "Katrina?" He reached for her, drawing her close. His lips gently moved over hers, branding her with desire. She opened her mouth a little. Gavin groaned and crushed her to him.

Katrina felt as if the earth had disappeared, and they were up in the heavens somewhere. She felt as if she had never been kissed before and was breathless with the wonder of it. Her hands came up, fingers entwining in his thick, dark hair. At last they broke slowly apart.

"Oh, Little One!" A groan rumbled deep in his throat. "What you do to me! You make me forget things!" Gavin's lips brushed her ear as he whispered to her.

"Forget things? Forget what things?" Katrina softly said, her voice sounding funny…a bit husky…like it didn’t belong to her.

"Things like...I shouldn't be doing this. Not after what you've been through today. I should let you get feeling better first. But I want you. I can't hold you close enough!" His arms tightened around her, molding her to his frame. "May the Lord help me, Katrina! I want to take you, right here and now! You're so very sexy!"

Katrina looked up at him, her surprise overwhelming. He thought she was sexy?

Gavin groaned again. "You're so untouched, Kitten! So innocent despite everything! Hasn't anyone ever told you nice things about yourself?"

"Uncle Andrew told me some good things about me while I was there,” she said wistfully. "Aunt Monalee occasionally calls me her 'good little girl'."

"That's all?" Gavin's voice was incredulous.

"Yes." She felt miserable, and dropped her lashes down over her eyes.

"Didn't your parents or your grandparents ever tell you how special you are?" Just the smallest hint of astonishment was evident in his voice.

No longer able to speak, she simply shook her head, recoiling with the pain.

Gavin put his finger under her chin, lifting her face until she raised her eyes to meet his. "Well, my Sweet, then let me be the one to tell you. You are so beautiful!" He kissed her earlobe. "You are so innocent!" His lips began punctuating his words, slowly sliding down her neck as he spoke, igniting fires where they touched. "You're so sensual, Katrina!" His mouth came to hers, and he kissed her long and deeply, drawing her soul out of her body and into his.

Katrina felt heat building up inside, her stomach alive with flutterings. Her hands, independently compelled, played in his hair at the nape of his neck. She surprised herself with the realization that she wanted him, too, in the fullest sense of the word.

Gavin's hand left Katrina's back, and gently made its way around her body. His fingers softly massaged each place they touched, as he slowly made his way to her chest. Finally, his hand gently cupped her breast. The heat went through the thick fabric, and she arched her back, pressing herself firmly against his hand. She moaned softly, whispering his name.

His head came up and he looked at her, long and hard, his eyes bright with heated desire.

"Please, Gavin, kiss me!"

Gavin obliged, giving her a sensual kiss, his tongue plunging deeply into her mouth. Her fingers gently tugged and twirled the strands of his soft hair. Their kiss ended, and they held each other close. Groaning, he nipped Katrina's earlobe gently with his teeth. His voice was husky, his breath warm, fanning her ear.

"Oh, Baby! Come on, give it all to me!" His words were rough with his passion.

Suddenly, Katrina froze with fear. Her eyes widened, and she pulled away.

"Katrina?" Gavin's voice contained his surprise.

"No! No! Please, no more! Please go away! Leave me alone!" Katrina pushed Gavin away as hard as she could, panic-stricken. His strong arms remained wrapped around her, and her terror mounted. She began to struggle against Gavin, writhing and wriggling, determined to win free of his embrace. Her breath came in gasps; she felt she had run a hundred yard dash, and there was little air left in the room to breathe.

“Let…me…go!” She was screaming as she pleaded for release.

Gavin gently untangled their limbs, letting her lie back on the couch alone. He rose and stalked across the room, throwing himself into the single chair, looking at her with what she was sure was disgust.

Katrina sat up, feeling a flood of guilt. How could she have led him on like that, then screamed at him? Maybe Charleston was right. Maybe she was a cold-hearted tease. She dropped her face to her hands and sobbed.

November 26, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Twenty-one

Gavin maneuvered her chair down several more hallways away from the busy emergency area. At last they came to a door and entered a small, nearly deserted waiting area.

Two men were seated in soft chairs by a window. They stood as Katrina and Gavin entered. “Katrina, this is Lt. Carew and Detective Beals.”

Gavin parked her near another chair in the room and leaned forward to secure the wheelchair’s brakes.

“I’ll be right outside the door. If you need anything, just yell.” Gavin gave her an encouraging smile and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Katrina took a deep breath and surveyed the two men. Lt. Carew was an older man, with a kindly face and watery blue eyes. He was hefty rather than stout, and when he smiled at her, she felt a little easier. Detective Beals, on the other hand, was younger, with a dimple in his chin. He was trim, and Katrina got the feeling he was a serious jogger. Something about him, however, put her on edge just a bit.

Lt. Carew smiled his encouragement. "Now, Ms. McSwayne, please tell us what happened today, as clearly and as carefully as you can. Leave nothing out, even if it doesn't seem particularly important to you. It may be important to us, you see. So, why don't you just start from breakfast this morning and go from there?" Detective Beals had his notebook out, his pencil at the ready.

”I’d feel better, Lieutenant,’ she said, looking at the older man, “if Gavin were in the room with us.”

“You would?” Surprise registered on his face, his eyebrows taking a hike toward his receding hairline. “I asked him to stay outside, thinking you’d be more comfortable telling your story without him listening in.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I’d really rather he was here.” ‘Maybe then I won’t have to go over things twice,’ she thought, knowing Gavin would only grill her until he got his own answers anyway.

Lt. Carew shrugged and stepped to the door and invited Gavin inside. Gavin returned to the room, taking the chair close to Katrina’s wheelchair.

She took a deep breath and began, occasionally asking help from Gavin to clarify a point or two. When she finished speaking, Lt. Carew looked at Gavin for confirmation. He nodded.

Officer Beals had been scribbling madly in his book throughout her discourse. He now consulted his notes, then asked, "Do you remember what the man driving the cart was wearing?"

"No,” she said. “I only remember that wicked grin as he swerved deliberately to hit me."

"What do you think he might have been wearing?"

"I don't know. Long pants. Long-sleeved shirt or jacket, I suppose."

"Do you remember a color? Green, red…?"

"Brown. It was brown on his arms, but not…." she hesitated, screwing up her face in her attempt to remember.

"But not what, Ms. McSwayne?"

"But not by his face. It was darker and patterned by his face. I’m sorry, but I don't remember what kind of a pattern."

"That's okay. You're doing fine. Now, his pants. Were they brown like his jacket? Take your time. Think about it. He's coming at you. His shirt is patterned, his jacket is brown, his pants are…."

"Dark blue. Like new jeans, but I'm not sure if they were really jeans. And…" Again she stopped, unsure.

"And what?"

"I don't know." She passed her hand wearily across her forehead.

"Come on, think about it. You remembered something else. What?"

"I'm not sure. I…I think he had on a hat, but I'm not sure. It…it's just an impression. I wish I could remember better for you!" Katrina’s frustration made her impatient.

"You're doing fine, don't worry! Now. About the hat. What kind was it?"

"I don't remember."

"Let me help you. Was it a cowboy hat?"

"No. It wasn't that big."

"A baseball cap?"

"No-o-o-o, smaller, I think."

"Okay, smaller than a ball hat. Did it have a bill that stuck out over his face?"

"No." Katrina shivered. "Nothing hid his face. I have…the impression," she said, "…that it was one of those floppy kind that little old men wear. The kind that the top pulls forward so it looks like it's got two bills instead of one. Do you know what I mean?"

"A driving cap? Golfers wear them most often. That kind of hat?”

Katrina nodded and then winced with pain.

“What else do you remember?" he said, his pencil just skimming the page.

Katrina thought for awhile. "Nothing else."

"Can you tell me what color the hat was?"

"Mmmm, light. Just light. It was lighter than his hair." She sighed with the effort of trying to remember so much.

“And was his hair light or dark?”


“So he was an old man?” Officer Beals almost pounced on the information.

“Not…not really old old,” Katrina said, “Not like a little old man covered in wrinkles kind of old. More of a young old, oh…like an early fifties just barely retired sort.”

"Good. Now, is there anything else about him or maybe about what he was doing that you can remember? Did he say anything or yell at you?"

"No. He just grinned that awful grin, like he was really going to enjoy running over me." A shudder passed through Katrina's body. Gavin patted her hand, giving her some comfort.

Lt. Carew asked if she had seen anything when the shots were fired. Katrina thought and replied, no, she had not seen anything then.

"Anything at all?" Detective Beals spoke once more.

"No. I was looking at the ground, as I told you. I saw the quarter and leaned forward to pick it up. I heard a loud crack—like a tree branch breaking, then a whizzing noise and a ping behind me at the statue base. I sat up, looked across to the parking lot, but I didn't see anybody or anything moving. Then I had a feeling to hide. I can't explain it. I don't know what made me do it. I just jumped for the bushes and rolled under them. The second shot came almost at the same time I moved. I stayed there until I heard Gavin call for me. I'm sorry, but I just didn't see anything. Or anyone."

"Did you see a car?" Lt. Carew asked her.

"No. Not even Gavin's."

Lt. Carew asked Katrina who would want to hurt her so badly.

"I don't know, Sir." She twisted her fingers together in her lap, watching their interplay, not looking at anyone in the room.

"Don't you? Is there someone who is angry with you, perhaps?" His persistence made her uneasy and she looked at Gavin for support. His face was inscrutable. Katrina dropped her gaze back to her hands.

"Please think hard. I think you have a very good idea who would want to hurt you, but you're afraid to tell us. The only way we can help you is if we know who to look for. Could this person have threatened you that he would hurt you if you told anyone about him?"

"No. Not really, I mean." Her eyes were still on her hands. She willed them to stop moving, but her eyes remained fixed on them, staring without really seeing them.

"Tell me exactly what you mean, Ms. McSwayne. Please."

"Well," Katrina licked her lips to moisten them. She looked at Gavin and this time he nodded. Looking back at her fingers, she cleared her throat.

"Well, it…might be…I mean if he found me, he might want to…to…" she gestured with her hand in her agitation.

"Who might want to what, Ms. McSwayne?" Detective Beals took up the question. Katrina looked at him and then at Lt. Carew. The watery blue eyes looked kind and interested in what she had to say. He smiled encouragingly. Her mouth worked, but no sound came out. She tried again, but a hoarse whisper was all that found its way past her suddenly stiff lips. Helplessly, she turned to Gavin, pleading with him with her eyes.

"Do you want me to tell them what you told me last night, Katrina?" Gavin quietly asked.

She nodded, misery and fear swamping her, weighing her down in the chair.

Gavin briefly repeated the last parts of Katrina’s story; tersely mentioning Robert and Charleston’s abuse and how she’d come to settle in Spencer.

"She fled in fear. She thought if he came back then, he'd kill her, or at least do her very serious bodily harm. That was roughly six years ago," Gavin concluded.

"I see," Lt. Carew said gravely. "Ms. McSwayne, have you seen him since then?"

Katrina shook her head no.

"Have you seen this Robert since then?"

Again she shook her head.

"Have you spoken to either of them by phone, or had any contact whatsoever, like regular mail or email?"

Once more a negative answer was given.

"The man who tried to run you down today…could it have been Charleston or Robert?"

"No." The word was nearly a whisper, but at least Katrina was able to manage it. "I'd never seen him before."

"Could your husband have gotten him to do that, do you think?"

Fear leapt through Katrina as the possibility occurred to her. She became agitated, her breathing accelerated. She looked at Gavin, then the other two men.

"I…I don't know. Could he…could…? It's been six years. Why would he all of a sudden send someone now? Why not right away when he would have been angry still?”

No on answered her. Detective Beals shrugged his shoulders, continuing to look at her closely but keeping his silence.

After looking at each of the policemen, Katrina looked at Gavin. “I don’t think he’d spend much time or energy this long after I left. He always just…sort of lived from minute to minute, looking for his ‘big break’. He constantly talked it. I'm not sure what that really meant to him. No, trying to find me…I don't think it is something he would follow up on. He seemed…to not…really want me around all the time, anyway. In fact, he…really had no…use for me…at all. I don't . . . think he would have…tried to find me…very hard…when I wasn't close by…right at first."

"Could you have seen anyone recently who would have told him your whereabouts?"

"I don't think so. No one in Spencer knows I was even married. Except…" she faltered.

"Except who?" Detective Beals asked.

Katrina stared at Gavin, her suspicions of him reborn.

"Except who, Ms. McSwayne?" Lt. Carew gently prodded her.

"Except Gavin. I haven't seen anyone that I knew from before. I only met Gavin a few days ago when he called me on the telephone and asked if I had been married to Charleston. I’ve gone by my maiden name since I came here. I have no idea why Charleston would start after me now if, indeed, he is behind this. Not after this long a time. He usually…." Katrina bit her bottom lip.

"He usually what?" Beals prompted her.

"Well, like I said, he usually didn't have any follow-through. Even on things he was thoroughly involved in. If he had to do much work on it, he…kind of let things peter out easily. Unless Jason was involved. Jason could keep him focused. I don't know," she sighed. "It's been such a long time, and I really don't think he would pursue it. Not really. Not on his own."

"Who is Jason?"

"Charleston's older brother."

"Was he involved with Charleston and Robert and their…unkindness?"

"No. We hadn't seen Jason for about six months or so when…that happened, nor have I seen him since then." She sighed in relief, the sound a little forlorn in the quietness of the room. She looked around her with quiet dismay. She felt very alone, even though Gavin was here.

"Do you think the brother would have any reason to hurt you or come to find you now?"

"Jason?" Katrina questioned. "No, I don't think so. He didn't have much use for me back then, but he never deliberately sought me out to be hateful, either. He more or less ignored me unless Charleston brought me to his attention. He really seemed to just…I don't quite know how to put it. It was sort of like I was beneath his notice, or something. If I couldn't be used to fetch and carry for him, he wouldn't even speak to me." She sighed again.

"So you don't think he could be behind this action against you?"

"No. I don't think he would stir himself for someone he felt was so very far beneath him." Katrina's voice trailed off, a frown on her face.

Silence reigned for a few long moments as Lt. Carew studied Gavin and Detective Beals checked over his notes.

"Do either of you have anything else to add?" Detective Beals looked at each of them. They, in turn, shook their heads no.

"Just a final question or two, please, Ms. McSwayne, for myself, then," said Lt. Carew.

"Yes?" Katrina looked at him.

"Do you know where your husband is right now?"

"No, I don't."

"Have you known his whereabouts at any time since you fled?" Fear clogging her throat, Katrina shook her head, the swirling pain making the room begin to wobble.

"One last, simply curious question, if I may. Why, with all you say you suffered at his hands, have you not gotten a divorce?"

"I…I… because he would find me and…because…" Katrina rubbed her temples with her eyes closed for a moment and then opened her eyes and looked at the floor.

"Well, Ms. McSwayne?" Carew said gently. “Please finish your thought.”

"He…Charleston, told me once…that…that…" Her distress was rapidly increasing along with her breathing. Her voice became very soft. She felt, rather than saw, the men leaned closer to hear her.

"That what?" Detective Beals verbally nudged Katrina when long moments passed with no sound passing her lips.

"It…was during an…argument. I…had said something about treating me as a proper wife. He…he laughed at me. He told me…that we weren't…" she swallowed. "He said…the preacher at our wedding had been an…actor friend of his and our…wedding was only…play-acting. We weren't really…married."

Katrina's shame brought heat to her face, and she knew she was blushing yet again.

"And yet you stayed with him after that?"

"I'm…a…very religious…person," Katrina said quietly, feeling tears begin to fill her eyes. "I…could not…bear for anyone to find out…I had in sin…for those years. It…it would have killed my aunt. I…I couldn't tell anyone. In my own mind, I had married Charleston in good faith and it was a full and correct marriage for me, even if it wasn't particularly happy." Katrina's voice was so low now, it was almost a whisper. The tears were now coursing down her cheeks. There was no sound for long moments after she stopped speaking. Was there no end to her shame and misery? She kept her head down, eyes firmly on her toes, her fingers occasionally wiping at her cheeks.

Katrina wanted to shrivel up and fade out of their sight. She knew they had no use for her now, knowing the wickedness she had done.

How could anyone good and wonderful like Gavin want to ever even speak to her again? Her heart cried out in its torment, without fully realizing the reason for such a question. She felt she had lost something very precious to her. She didn't dare look at Gavin…she couldn't have borne the censure in his eyes…couldn't have shouldered the disgust she knew she would find there. Still, after all this time, she could barely stand the shame.

She closed her eyes, but it didn't help shut out the agony. Silence filled the room as long minutes passed. Even the heavy quietness in the room seemed to shout her shame, and her misery was complete.

Black Friday

I didn't go shopping this morning, because my Christmas shopping is finished. I do still need to finish knitting 1 1/2 socks and a pair of wrist warmers. I'm not sure what my partner need to do for Christmas, but I know she didn't go shopping either.

In any event, "Black Friday" is about getting great deals (from the consumer standpoint). So here's my great deal for you...I'm going to post a second chapter today.


Inherit My Heart Chapter Twenty

Katrina changed into her hospital gown and waited. A nurse arrived, asked her at least a thousand questions, removed the soiled bandages and cleaned her wounds. She left, promising the doctor would be in shortly. When he arrived, she was checked thoroughly. The doctor then left the room. Just when she was thinking seriously of holding her scanty gown tightly about her and venturing out to see if she’d been forgotten, a man in hospital scrubs showed up to take her down to X-ray.

She assured the X-ray technician there was no possible way she could be pregnant. As if there was a man willing to get her in that condition, she thought dejectedly. She lay still, holding first in this position then in that one, and holding her breath when advised.

She was returned to her cubicle in the emergency room and told the doctor would be with her after he’d looked at the X-rays. She hoped she took better pictures with an X-ray camera than she did with a regular film camera and wrinkled her nose at the thought.

Again the wait was interminable, and she found herself wondering where Gavin was and why he wasn’t hovering over her. At least, if he were here, she would have someone to talk to, which was better than listening to her own thoughts.

It had occurred to her that both times she was attacked at the zoo, Gavin had not been exactly right on hand. He’d egged her into running up the hill ahead of him, which made her a better target for the driver of the cart, and he’d been nowhere in sight across the lake when those shots had been fired.

She didn’t want to believe he would hurt her, but, on the other hand she seemed to be safer when he was where she could see him.

The nurse finally bustled back in, babbling merrily about Katrina’s discharge instructions. Discharge? She’d thought the doctor was coming back to talk to her. She listened closer to the nurse’s prattle which was being delivered at high speed. Katrina’s X-ray had disclosed a mild concussion. The doctor had ordered a tetanus shot, just as the zoo nurse had advised. Here the nurse paused, slid Katrina’s gown up to expose her hip and plunged the needle in before Katrina could even frame a protest.

Still at top speed Katrina was cautioned about various activities for the next few days and what to do if she felt nauseous or faint. She would have to be awakened several times during the night to check for signs of the concussion being more serious than they may have thought. It was the normal procedure followed in these incidences. Katrina would be okay, the doctor was sure, if she would just take it easy for awhile and was watched carefully.

A medicated ointment was slathered on her scrapes and clean bandages applied. If Katrina would please sign here, here, and here, she could get dressed—and a clipboard was shoved into Katrina’s hands. Katrina signed by the X’s and handed the clipboard back to the nurse.

The doctor had prescribed a pain killer to be used sparingly for headaches anytime after tomorrow, but absolutely not to be used tonight. The prescription page was thrust into her hand as though it, and she, were contaminated. It was a full sheet of paper rather than the small, pad-sized piece Katrina was used to. She wondered why it was so large until she realized it was computer generated before being signed by the doctor.

A second sheet was shoved into her hand with the rest of the paperwork, and she was admonished to see her own doctor if any of the things on this list happened.

“Your husband can take you home now and get you into bed, then watch you through the night.” The nurse finished off the orders at the same lightning speed she’d delivered all the other instructions.

Her husband? Katrina looked up at her in confusion.

“He’s waiting for you. You may join him as soon as you’re dressed.” With a bright smile, the nurse left the cubicle, pulling the curtain firmly behind her.

Katrina stared at the closed curtain, stunned. She looked at the list. The first item on it was ‘dizziness’. The nurse’s spiel had been delivered so quickly, the very speed of it made her feel dizzy. Somehow, she didn’t think that was exactly what the doctor meant, though. Katrina hastily suppressed a chuckle at the thought. Honestly, she was such a dolt. She would often laugh at inappropriate moments…a trait Charleston had hated and one he and his brother had often reprimanded her for.

Katrina slid off the bed and slowly pulled her dirty blouse and torn jeans onto her aching body, folding the hospital gown neatly onto the bed. Why on earth did people insist on thinking Gavin was her husband?

‘It would be awful nice if he was, though,’ a small voice in her head suggested. Katrina immediately stomped on the thought.

Someone must have been peeking through a gap, because the moment Katrina’s clothing was in place, the curtain was whisked aside and a wheelchair pushed into place. The new woman was prattling happily along with her memorized speech of ‘sit here my dear, it’s hospital policy.” “Here are your shoes; let me tie them for you. You shouldn’t be bending over with a concussion, you poor dear, and if you have your papers I’ll just push you out to meet your husband.”

Katrina felt like she was being pushed swiftly out of the hospital to make room for the next warm body. If the concussion hadn’t made her dizzy or given her a severe headache, the nurses certainly could have simply from the speed with which they spoke and moved her.

To her immense relief, Gavin was waiting at the nurse’s station where they’d checked in so many hours before.

"Are you going to be all right, my dear?” His smile was dazzling, his tone tender.

She started to nod, but the pain in her head, heightened by both chatty nurses’ strident voices, swirled and intensified. “Yes; they tell me I’m going to live.”

The look of relief on his face was plain and immediate. Maybe he hadn’t had anything to do with the cart…or the gun, she thought. Hope stirred within her.

She started to rise, but the nurse put her hand on Katrina’s shoulders, keeping her still. Gavin stooped, bringing his face level with hers. He looked up at the nurse, gave a brief nod, and she walked away.

“Sweetheart, the police are here to talk with you. They’ve arranged a place away from people so you won’t be overheard." Gavin gently touched her cheek as he looked into her eyes.

Katrina’s stomach tightened and roiled within her. She recalled that “nausea” had been on the nurse’s list, but knew this nausea had nothing to do with her head injury.

"It won't be easy, Little One, nor pleasant, but it needs to be done.”

Katrina nodded, then closed her eyes against the searing pain.

"Gavin?" She put her hand on his.

"What, Kitten?"

"Stay close by me, please?" Her voice wavered, catching on the words. "I need to…um, to…borrow your strength to…to get…through this."

Gavin shook his head, a frown pulling his mustache down.

“I can’t. Lt. Carew has already told me he wants to talk to you in private.”


"Yes?" His gentle smile steadied her.

"They…they're going to…find out about…Charleston, aren't they?" Her eyes filled with threatening tears, the moisture ready to spill if she blinked.

"Katrina, I don't know what they'll ask you. Just tell them the answers as honestly as you can. That’s the best thing you can do. It's the only thing you can do." He stood up, then leaned close to her. He gently kissed her forehead at the edge of her new bandage.

"Come along, Fair Maiden. The law awaits." His light tone and courtly bow were obviously meant to ease her fear. Katrina appreciated that, and gave him a shallow half-smile in gratitude as she blinked back tears. As Gavin pushed her chair down the hall at a thankfully slower rate than the nurse had used, Katrina spoke again. “Gavin?”

“Yes, Kitten?”

“The nurse said they were discharging me, and releasing me to my husband. Why do people keep thinking we’re married?”

“In this case, it’s because I told them we were.”

“Gavin!” Katrina couldn’t believe her ears.

“Calm down, Little One. I had to tell them that or they would have kept you here overnight. They weren’t about to let you go home alone to an empty house.”

“But…but…” Katrina spluttered. “Gavin, did you tell the maitre d’ the same thing?”

Gavin laughed. “Are you still worried about what he thinks? The only thing he cares about is that you had a miserable time at his restaurant and that you won’t ever return to try for a better meal, and that you’ll tell all your friends not to go there.”

Katrina felt her cheeks grow hot. “The food was very good, but I probably won’t be back simply because I can’t afford it. Anyway, that’s not the point. What are you going to do if your wife finds out you’re out here telling people we’re married?”

He laughed again. “It’s a shame we’re not in Scotland a hundred years ago, love. By the laws there and then, declaring we were married in front of witnesses would have made us married, true and legally. Then you wouldn’t need to fret about it.”

Katrina felt additional heat rising up her neck and flowing into her cheeks, and knew she was blushing again. What was it about him that had her blushing so often?

“But as we’re not in Scotland,” Gavin continued, rounding a corner with her chair. “I suppose the only way to calm you is to tell you that I have no wife. And before you ask, I've never had one, because I'd never discovered anyone that would put up with me and the odd hours I keep at times. Granny despairs of my ever getting married. She says that when a legal brief or a contract is more important than eating her good cooking, then I'm already married to my job and a lost cause to any butterfly that flits in my direction!"

Gavin patted Katrina’s shoulder, then removed his hand as he continued pushing the chair. Katrina felt the warmth of his fingers lingering after his hand was gone, and wondered at the sudden feeling of giddiness in the pit of her stomach.

November 25, 2010

Thanks Giving

I'm thankful for my daughter, and all of the wonderful things she does for the family. Because of my physical situation, she has done most of the cooking for the last eight years, and most of the housework for the last three...and still manages to keep up on her homework.

I'm thankful for my parents who took me in when I had nowhere else to go, and who continue to cheerfully provide me with the necessities of life.

I'm thankful for federal grants that are allowing me to go back to school and learn things that will make my books--and my website--better.

I'm thankful for teachers who use their time to teach me, and are even available by email over holiday weekends.

I'm thankful for technology: the computers and Internet that allow me to write and share my stories with others.

I'm thankful for the country I live in, and the freedoms I enjoy. I'm thankful that I'm free to write about anything I want to write about, and no person or group has the right to tell me to stop writing, or to change what I write. I'm thankful for the soldiers in all branches of the military forces who don't even get holidays off, but have risked their lives to protect not only my freedom, but my life.

I'm thankful for my friends who are writers, who encourage me, and lead by example. They've make my writing better.

I'm thankful for the people who read my stories and ask for more, who enjoy reading about the characters who I worked so hard to give life to.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for believing in me, and for helping me to be not only a better writer, but a better person.


November 24, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Nineteen

Gavin and Katrina took their turn in the waiting room before Katrina was finally given a gown and a cubicle. Gavin assured her he would wait while the doctors checked her out; giving her his promise not to leave her alone at the hospital.

He settled back into the uncomfortable orange plastic chair, his eyes on the double sliding doors. Presently, a pair of men entered. Their suits and their manner caught Gavin’s eye, and he stood. The men went directly to the nurse’s station, the older one taking something from his back pocket to show to her. The younger man stood slightly to one side, glancing over the people in the waiting room. Gavin walked toward them, arriving in time to hear his name spoken.

“No, we don’t have a Mr. Browning here, Detective,” the nurse said as she watched him put away his wallet.

“I’m Gavin Browning,” Gavin said, stepping up.

The man turned toward him, offering his hand. “I’m Lt. Carew; this is my partner, Detective Beals.”

Gavin shook hands with both men, then asked the nurse if there was a quiet place in the hospital where they could talk in relative privacy. She glanced at the large wall clock, then directed them to the main lobby, which had been closed half an hour now and should be virtually deserted until morning.

The three men followed her directions and were soon settled in the more comfortable couches of the large, dimly-lit room.

“Chief Harrison at the zoo has already told us what happened there, including everything you told him at the time,” Lt. Carew said. “I’d like to hear what else you have to add, as you were particular to mention you wanted to speak to us before we interview the victim.”

Gavin nodded, fishing out his wallet and passing them some identification. Detective Beals noted the information in a notebook as Gavin began speaking.

“I’m a lawyer from Rehoboth, Massachusetts. I deal mostly in contracts and wills. I am here in connection with a murder investigation. One of my clients, Andrew Charleston Beardsley, was murdered about three weeks ago. His nephews, Jason and Charleston, are the prime suspects, although there isn’t currently any concrete evidence that ties them to the murder.

“Do we need to ship Ms. McSwayne back east then?” Detective Beals asked.

“No,” Gavin said, “Ms. McSwayne isn’t wanted for anything, not even questioning.”

“What’s her connection to all this, then?” Lt. Carew wanted to know.

Gavin continued. “She is, or at least was at one time, married to Charleston, and I have questions for her relating to some of the provisions of the will, which I am not at liberty to discuss at this time.

“The two incidents at the zoo today lead me to believe Charleston, or Jason, or the both of them, have followed me to Spencer. I’ve no proof, but I feel strongly they’re behind the attacks.”

Detective Beals cleared his throat and looked up from the notepad he’d been furiously scribbling on. “Do the gentlemen in question have a motive to attack Ms. McSwayne?”

Gavin nodded, his brow furrowed. “They do have a motive…a strong one, but I can’t discuss it.” He paused, thinking hard for a long moment. “I believe I can say, without violating client privilege, that their motive has to do with some of the provisions of the will. They…may feel their lives would be considerably…easier with Ms. McSwayne…out of their way.

“They both have long and varied histories of trouble with the law and have been known in the past to be violent. That much, at least, is verifiable.”

Lt. Carew spoke, handing Gavin the ID Detective Beals had passed to him. “What you’ve told us does put a more urgent cast on the incidents at the zoo. How familiar are you with the world of criminal justice?”

Gavin chuckled. “Not very, although I’m well read in fictional criminal justice.”

Detective Beals snorted.

Lt. Carew nodded. “To be blunt, we don’t have much to proceed with. Chief Harrison will try to find something tomorrow at the zoo, but he can’t do much more tonight. He’ll let us know what he finds. We now have both the slugs and casings—and no gun to match them to. We’ve a pair of possible suspects, who may have a motive, although we have to take that on faith. We have no evidence the suspects are even within a thousand miles of Spencer. We can keep an eye out for your brothers and file an official report, but beyond that, there’s not much we can do. We don’t even have enough to put a watch on her house, I’m afraid.”

Gavin nodded. “I suspected as much, but I did want to make sure you understood the situation. Ms. McSwayne, as you’ll see when you meet her, is a timid soul. She hasn’t known me long, only a day or two, most of which hasn’t been enjoyable for her…some of the questions I had to ask made her relive some very unpleasant memories.

“I feel the best thing she could do is to lie low for a few days, so I can have a chance to try and ferret out our lovely duo, Jason and Charleston. I…have the financial latitude, from Andrew’s estate, to put her up in a motel and hire a bodyguard—“

“A bodyguard?” Detective Beals echoed. “You really think she’s in that much danger?”

“I believe her life is at stake,” Gavin stated gravely. “I’m willing to spare the State of Colorado considerable expense by setting her up in a private ‘safe house’ at a motel. I’ll keep the pair of you informed of my investigation and on her well-being. What I need to ask is if you could, without perjuring yourself, leave her with the impression that this is an official police safe house, and that she has no choice about cooperating in the matter.”

Detective Beals shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re even asking us that question.”

Lt. Carew smiled slightly at his partner. “I can believe he asked it. I even have to admit it’s not the strangest thing I’ve had a lawyer ask me to do, though it comes close.”

He turned to Gavin. “Mr. Browning, you tell a very entertaining tale. You can be certain I’ll follow up and check your credentials, and the truth of the verifiable statements you’ve made.

“I won’t, however, make you any promises to lead the young lady astray until after I’ve talked to her. I want you out of the room while we talk, so she’s not feeling any undue stress.”

Gavin bit his inner cheek at the request he be absent from the room, but nodded his agreement and the three men returned to the emergency room area.

November 22, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Eighteen

Panic filled Katrina as she huddled beneath the edges of the bushes. Glad they weren't thorny, she hoped they wouldn’t make her itch, either, like poison ivy. She lay shivering in her hiding place, the fear causing temporary paralysis. She knew she must remain absolutely still; her life depended upon not being discovered.

Katrina heard someone’s footsteps pounding across the bridge, with more hurried footsteps coming from inside the zoo itself. She heard shouting, but didn't dare move. She wasn't sure who was running around and was terrified of being shot at again.

"Katrina!" She heard Gavin call to her. "Katrina, where are you?"

Still Katrina didn't move. She didn't dare. What if he were behind it? What if he’d done it? Where had he been when the shots had been fired?

"Katrina! Katrina, Honey!" It was Gavin’s voice.

Footsteps came running to the bench where Katrina had been sitting. They paused, while their owner looked for her. She held her breath, desperate not to be found.

"Kitten, where are you?”

Katrina remained silent.

Gavin swore. Katrina lay still in the bushes, too terrified to move.

“If he's killed her…" There was raw pain in Gavin's voice as he cried out for her. Something in the sound moved her, and she rejected the idea he was the person shooting at her.

Katrina slowly, quietly rolled out from under the bushes and sat up. Gavin was nearby, his back to her as he searched the bushes around the statue’s base. Several of the zoo security people were by the gate; one of them was on the bridge going toward the parking lot. She looked toward the trees, but could see nothing. She looked back at Gavin just as he turned in her direction. Instantly, he was at her side, relief showing plainly on his face. He enfolded her into his arms, his back between her and the trees in the parking lot, sheltering her.

Katrina reached up and touched his face. He was real; he would protect her. How she knew this, she wasn't sure, she just did. The relief she felt from the thought drained her remaining strength and she felt herself grow very lightheaded.

"Sorry," she mumbled. The world swirled around her and she felt Gavin tighten his hold on her as the blackness closed over her.

*     *     *     *     *     

Gavin looked down at her, noting her pale, tear-streaked cheeks, her now-dirty bandages and torn jeans.

"My poor little Love," he murmured softly. "My little innocent kitten. How could anyone mistreat you? That bastard has mush for brains!"

Tenderly, Gavin lifted Katrina into his arms and headed for the car, which he’d moved to the end of the bridge. The security chief joined him and they walked across the bridge together.

“We didn’t find anyone in the parking lot with a weapon, but we did find two spent shell casings just on the other side of the row of trees,” the chief said. “They were still warm when I picked them up.”

"Of course you didn't find anyone," Gavin said irritably. "He probably drove off as soon as he’d fired the second round and realized he hadn’t killed her.” The rest of what the chief had said registered then. “You picked up the casings? You just picked them up? You destroyed the evidence, you brainless idiot!”

The security chief chuckled. “Brainless? Maybe; I’ve been called that, and worse, on many occasions, but please, not an idiot.” He showed Gavin a rather lumpy paper napkin he was holding by its corners, and pulled a digital camera from his pocket.

“I did pick up a thing or three in my thirty years on the force, before I retired and came to work here. I took pictures of them where they lay, as well as the area around them. I also,” he continued a little smugly, “took the liberty of coaxing the shells into the napkin with the tip of my pen, where they’ll be safe and totally free of my fingerprints. I didn’t want them run over, and they were in the middle of the only exit from the zoo’s parking lot. I can’t just block it off at closing time.”

Gavin gave an approving grunt. “Thanks; then I’ll leave it to you to notify the police, too. Don’t forget the slugs—they should be in the wall or the dirt behind that bench she was sitting on. Be sure to tell them about the earlier incident as well. I'm going to take Katrina to the hospital. I imagine we'll be there awhile getting her checked over. Ask them to please send someone to talk to us there. Make sure they know I’ll need to fill them in before they speak to Katrina. I'll be in touch with you tomorrow."

The captain opened the car door for Gavin. "No problem. I just wish we could have been of more help to you. Be careful. The guy after you two must be desperate to take such chances in a public place. Either that, or he's a real nut."

Gavin put Katrina in the seat and buckled the safety belt and shoulder harness carefully around her. He closed the door as softly as possible and still be sure it was latched tight.

"He’s only after Katrina, but I rather think you're right on both counts. I’ll be careful. Thanks again, and I'll see you tomorrow, or at least be in touch by phone. See if you can turn up any leads. Someone must have seen something."

The two men shook hands and Gavin walked around to his door. He surveyed the parking lot. They were nearly the last car there. He got in and started the engine.

*     *     *     *     *     

Katrina stirred and then opened her eyes. Her head ached worse than ever. She reached up to touch her temple where the bump was and saw the fresh dirt on her bandaged arm. Memory returned and her eyes flew open wide.

"G…Gavin?" Shakily, she reached out and touched his sleeve.

"Hush, now, Little One! Time enough for questions later. Right now, I'm taking you to the hospital. Lean your head back on the head rest and close your pretty eyes. That's my girl."

In too much pain to argue, Katrina did as Gavin bade her.

November 19, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Seventeen

When Katrina opened her eyes, a different nurse was sitting in the chair by the desk, her back to Katrina. She tried to sit up but the motion made her head throb and she moaned.

The nurse turned quickly. Seeing Katrina awake, she came over to her and took her pulse, checking her blood pressure efficiently and marking it on a page held secure by a clipboard. With her help, Katrina sat up on the edge of the cot.

She took stock of herself, mentally checking her body. Apart from her throbbing head, she didn't feel too bad.

Gavin came through the door just then. Seeing her sitting up, he smiled.

"Feeling better, Kitten?" he asked as he walked over to her.

"Yes, thank you," she said.

He looked down into her face, searching it carefully.

"Liar," he said softly.

Katrina smiled weakly. Gavin, looking at her face, whistled softly. "You're going to have quite a shiner, Little One," he said, a small grin playing with his mouth, his dimples wavering at the edge of his mustache.

"Thanks a heap, just what a girl wants to hear," she said to him as she tried to stand. Luckily, she only wobbled just a bit, then caught her balance.

"Can we go home now?" she asked.

Gavin looked inquiringly at the nurse.

"Well," she said slowly, "you could take her home, but I'd advise a stop at the hospital or doctor's office first. A tetanus shot would be advisable, and an x-ray of that bump on her head."

Gavin nodded his head. "Point well taken. Will do, Ma'am, and thank you. Could you write the directions down for me, please?" He turned back to Katrina as the nurse moved to do his bidding.

"Are you ready, Kitten?"

Katrina nodded to him and Gavin helpfully took her arm to support her. The nurse gave him a slip of paper with the directions written on it. He read them, and slid the paper into his shirt pocket. Slowly they made their way out of the first aid office.

It was growing dusk. Katrina looked at Gavin in surprise.

“How long was I asleep?" she asked with dismay.

"About three hours," Gavin answered as he led her towards the entrance.

"Why didn't you wake me up?" Katrina was aggravated with him.

"I felt it was important that you rest. Besides, it gave us a chance to look around without your being unattended."

"Did you find…that man?" Katrina shivered in fear as she spoke.

"No, Kitten, I'm afraid not. We found the cart, though. It seems that when one of the keepers went into a pen to feed some animals, his cart was taken."

"Did you get fingerprints from it?" Katrina wanted to know, looking up at him.

Gavin looked at her in surprise. "Are you serious? Do you hope we can find fingerprints?"

"I do, and I am serious. I can't think of any reason the man should have wanted to hurt me. I've never seen him before in my life. How could he want to knock me down if I've never done anything to him or even seen him before?"

They were just inside the zoo gates now. Gavin stopped, took her by the shoulders and turned her to him.

"You're sure you've never seen him before, Katrina?"

"I'm positive." She shuddered again. "I don't think I'll ever forget him, either! That wicked look on his face—Gavin, I know he was deliberately trying to run me down! If…if you hadn't called to me, I wouldn't have looked back, then I couldn't have jumped out of the way at all!" She shivered, thinking about what might have happened if he had caught her totally unaware. She swayed slightly with the abhorrence of the thought. Gavin’s grip on her shoulders steadied her a bit before they turned and continued walking out of the zoo.

Gavin led her down a small gravel path near the zoo’s gate. There was a small garden here, with a bench. He guided her to sit on the bench. The small gravel path forked. Katrina looked briefly down both paths to get her bearings. One led around the side of the zoo just outside the gates. It was flanked by beautifully shaped green bushes, scattered flowering shrubs and attractive flowers. The other path wandered through the small garden and met the bridge. Katrina’s bench was just in front of a tall column holding a life-sized statue of a panther gathered for a powerful leap, and offered a bit of rest.

"Sit here while I bring the car up to the bridge, Kitten." As Katrina started to protest, Gavin hushed her and promised he'd only be a few minutes. She knew they had parked quite a distance away because there had been so many cars in the parking area when they’d arrived. She gave in, only because her head was throbbing badly now and she felt she couldn't have walked so far without a great deal of difficulty.

She watched Gavin walk down the path, then cross the bridge and go out of sight behind a row of trees which offered shade to the parking area. She looked down at the ground by her feet, enjoying the sight of little purple blooms at the edge of the graveled path when something shiny caught her eye. It was a quarter. She leaned down to pick it up. A loud cracking noise rent the air as she bent forward, then something whizzed above her head. It made a pinging noise against the column at the base of the statue behind her.

Startled, she sat up and looked behind her at the statue, then out across the water toward the trees and parking area. Instinct made her dive for the bushes beside the bench. Another cracking noise was heard as she hit the ground and rolled into the shelter of the bushes. The zinging sound came once more to her ears as something hit the statue's base again, causing a shower of plaster and dust to erupt near her.

A terrible thought unfolded in her brain. That was no tree branch breaking, nor was it a car back-firing. It was some kind of a gunshot. Those were bullets whizzing by just above her head. Someone wasn’t trying to hurt her, they were trying to kill her!

She was suddenly glad her budget was so tight she’d reached to pick up that quarter. She would have been dead, otherwise. She suddenly began to giggle at the thought of being saved by a quarter, then her fear silenced her.

Where was Gavin? Nervously she bit her lip, desperately thinking. Where was he when the shots were fired? She hadn't seen anyone or anything after the first shot when she’d looked toward the parking lot before she had lunged into the underbrush. Could Gavin have shot at her? Did he want her dead? He was the only new person who had come into her life and now she was suddenly being attacked. But would he have done that? He didn’t seem to be the type, but then, after all, she’d married Charleston, so what did Katrina know about the type of person who would attack someone? Now there was a chilling thought…was Charleston after her?

Her mind immediately rejected the thought. No one from her life with Charleston knew where she was. Even if they did, they had no reason to hurt her. But who would want to hurt her? Why suddenly was she being attacked? And shot at? Who wanted her dead? And why? Did the man on the cart work for Gavin? Did he work for Charleston? She could not even venture a guess, but nothing else made sense, either. She slid further from the graveled path into the bushy undergrowth, then lay deathly still.

November 17, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Sixteen

Going to the zoo with Gavin was fun, Katrina decided. There were turtles under the bridge before you entered the actual gates and they spent two slices of bread coaxing them closer. They laughed as carp would swim up at the last second and steal the pieces of bread almost from the turtles' mouths.

The carp were successful most of the time. The turtles would gulp a mouthful of water and then look around as if to say, ‘where did it go?'. The turtles also had to compete with ducks for the bread, but the ducks were really uninterested as a whole, making a play for the bread merely to tease the turtles.

Katrina was happy. Gavin laughed out loud several times at the antics of the animals, and all felt right with her world. They finally decided to go into the actual zoo and leave the turtles, fish, and ducks to their own devices.

Although it was a school day, there was a myriad of children at the zoo. They saw several groups on field trips, the teachers and mothers harried in their efforts to keep the children together as the children clamored to see everything at once.

Katrina and Gavin wandered hand-in-hand from exhibit to exhibit. They couldn't decide which was more interesting to watch, the animals or the people watching the animals and had an animated discussion, punctuated with lots of laughter and bantering as the better points of each were reasoned.

While they were watching the new baby white rhino, a zoo keeper arrived in a small electric golf cart. He pulled a huge bucket of food from a specially-built wooden platform behind the driver’s seat, then unlocked the heavy padlock and entered the enclosure, closing the gate securely behind him.

He carried the bucket to their food trough and dumped it in. The mother rhino stayed between the attendant and her baby, watching him with what seemed to be a mixture of suspicion and warning. The keeper didn’t pay any attention to the rhinos, which seemed to be what the mama wanted.

The fellow went to the back of the enclosure and unlocked, then opened, a wooden door. Reaching inside, he picked up a pitchfork and a pair of gloves. Leaning the pitchfork handle against his chest, he put on the gloves, grabbed the pitchfork then stepped inside the door emerging moments later with the tool heaping with hay. He walked over to their trough, but dumped the hay on the ground beside it. He got four more forkfuls of hay before returning the gloves and pitchfork to the shed and locking it. He then left the enclosure, carefully locking the gate behind him.

Smiling at Gavin and Katrina, he got onto his little electric truck, and, with a soft hum of sound, drove off.

Katrina looked up at Gavin and smiled. "Those little truck things don't make much noise, do they?"

"No," he said with a grin. "I bet it's good for not scaring the animals like a gas-driven truck might do. They also fit the size of the paths, a helpful thing when the zoo is full of people and it’s feeding time. Plus they don't pollute the air." Taking her hand in his, Gavin and Katrina walked on, still chatting about the cute little truck.

They came to a crossing of the paths. Katrina stopped, reading the signpost in front of them. "What's next, the gorillas or the lions?"

Gavin consulted the self-guided tour map he had been given with their tickets.

"Let's go for the gorillas, then catch the alligators. That will lead us in the rear way to the lions without having to backtrack at all."

Katrina groaned with mock dismay. "I was afraid you'd say that. Just look at the hill we have to climb to reach the gorillas."

"Surely, my sweet, you're not so faint-hearted as all that? Besides, look at the hill we get to come back down after we’ve seen the lions. Come on, I'll race you to the top. I'll even give you a head start. Get ready; now, GO!"

Katrina, giggling like the school children they'd passed, began to run. Halfway up the hill, she heard Gavin shout something to her. Not quite understanding him, Katrina threw a glance over her shoulder. One of the little electric golf-cart trucks was almost upon her.

Instinctively, she threw herself to one side. The cart swerved in her direction instead of away from her, the side fender catching her leg. Katrina was thrown to the ground, gravel and dirt tearing at her hands and arms. Instead of stopping, the cart sped off up the path and out of sight. Katrina, the breath knocked from her, lay on the ground without moving, watching where the cart had disappeared. Gavin reached her within moments.

"Katrina! Are you all right?" Gently he lifted her, turning her over. She looked at him, her heart racing with terror. Her mouth was working but no sound came out. Gavin quickly and carefully checked her over.

Her hands and arms were stinging and Katrina saw they were skinned and bleeding slightly. One cheek ached; she tentatively touched her face. Her cheek was slick, it must be as scraped as her arms. Her gently questing fingers also located a bump quickly growing above her eye. Her pants were torn at the knees, and the skin there was also missing, the fresh wounds filled with dirt and gravel. She was shaking all over, but she felt no serious damage had been done.

"Hush, Little One. Don't try to talk right now. Stay right here and don't move, okay?" Gavin’s soothing voice came from somewhere above her head.

Wordlessly, Katrina nodded. Gavin ran up the trail and out of sight, following the path of the fleeing cart.

When he returned, he knelt by her side, his eyes looking into hers.

“Did…did you see where he went?” she asked, her voice merely a husky whisper.

Gavin shook his head. "Sorry, Honey, he’s nowhere in sight."

"Gavin?" Katrina's voice sounded weak and shaky, even to her own ears.

"Yes, Little One?"

"He looked straight at me and…and…he was grinning. Why? I don't understand. It almost seemed…I mean, he looked as if…well, he…was trying on purpose to…Gavin, did he mean to hurt me?"

Gavin looked steadily at her.

"I don't know, Kitten,” he finally said. His jaw was set and he looked angry. Was he mad at her? What had she done now?

“I’m sorry…” she began, but Gavin cut her off.

“Katrina, unless you arranged for the driver to run you over, you have nothing to be sorry for. I’m the one who should be apologizing, for failing to protect you.”

A crowd was forming around them. Gavin helped her to stand.

"Can you walk?" he asked, steadying her.

"I…I think so," she faltered.

Gavin slipped his arm around her waist as support, but before they could move, a zoo attendant came up to the group and the crowd opened, letting him in. With one look at Katrina, his face grew concerned. “What happened? Did you fall? Are you all right?”

Katrina nodded weakly. Gavin looked at the man carefully. Katrina watched as his eyes flicked over the photo on his zoo badge, as if checking to be sure it matched his face.

"Is there somewhere we can take her where she can lay down for a bit?" he asked

"Yes, Sir, just let me get a cart,” the attendant replied as he looked Katrina, his eyes sweeping up and down her. “She shouldn't be walking that far." Turning, he hurried back through the crowd.

Several people asked Gavin how they could help. Smiling disarmingly, he assured them everything would be fine. Slowly the crowd dispersed, leaving only one or two curious on-lookers watching them. The attendant returned with a cart which had a longer truck bed than the other ones they’d seen. Gavin and the worker, whose badge bore the name of John, helped Katrina onto the truck bed. Gavin sat beside her, his long legs taking up most of the length of the little flat bed, one arm wrapped protectively around Katrina’s shoulders.

John got in front, driving carefully away. Gavin tucked his free hand under Katrina's chin. He tilted her face up until he could see into her eyes. He smiled softly.

"Be brave, Kitten. We'll have you fixed up in no time."

Katrina gave a small, answering smile, and felt her lips quiver just a little bit. The look in his eyes caused her heart to wrench, however, and she suddenly wasn't sure if the lightheadedness she felt was from her tumble or his nearness. She gulped in a huge breath of air to steady herself.

Soon they were at the first aid station. Over Katrina’s protests, Gavin carefully lifted Katrina in his arms. John hurried ahead and opened the door. Gavin carried Katrina in and sat her on the edge of a cot. A nurse was inside the room. Giving Katrina a brief but thorough look-over, she walked to the cabinet and gathered her supplies.

While the nurse cleaned and dressed Katrina's injuries, Gavin retreated to the far end of the room. Another man entered, wearing a security-type of uniform. He arrived before the nurse was finished, going straight over to Gavin with only a glance at Katrina.

He spoke with Gavin in a low voice, apparently obtaining information from him and entering it onto a clipboard full of forms. Gavin answered just as quietly and Katrina could not hear their conversation. A few moments later, the guard left the room. Gavin walked over as the nurse finished Katrina's dressings. He smiled down at her.

"Well, Kitten," he said, "are you feeling better now?"

Katrina’s arms stung slightly from the scrubbing the nurse had had to give them to get the dirt and small rocks out of her arms. Her cheek and knees had fared no better. The goose egg-sized lump on her head was throbbing abominably and the evilly grinning face of the man in the cart was haunting her.

Close to tears, Katrina didn't want to cry in front of Gavin yet again. That was practically all she had done from the time she’d met him. Pinning a smile to her face, she answered him with a joke. It was her only defense against the threatening tears.

"It only hurts…when I laugh?" Her flip answer made him smile. Relieved to have sidestepped the tears, she was appalled at her trembling.

The nurse brought over a glass of water and two white tablets just then, interrupting them.

"Take these. You'll feel better," she told Katrina.

"What…are they?" Katrina was still not able to speak with a steady voice.

"Only Tylenol, I'm afraid." The nurse smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry I can't give you something more to help with the pain. We're not allowed anything stronger."

"That's all right," Katrina said, "I usually don't take medication of any kind, so they should be strong enough to help." She put the tablets in her mouth and drank the water.

The zoo worker, John, stepped back into the room. He looked at her anxiously and seemed relieved to find her looking better. He turned to Gavin.

"Sir," he said, "may I see you a moment, please?" Concern marked his face, and he seemed a bit agitated. Gavin nodded and turned to Katrina.

"Sit tight, Little One. I'll be right back." He followed John outside.

The nurse encouraged her to lie down on the cot while she waited. Katrina decided to take her advice, hoping the Tylenol would soon dull the ache in her head. Against her wish to stay awake, she was soon asleep in the warm comfort of the light blanket supplied by the nurse.

November 15, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Fifteen

The omelet he fixed was delicious and gave her a chance to twit him playfully for not making the poached eggs she had ordered. It made breakfast a very relaxed affair, though, and not full of the thick tension dinner had held last night.

He’d also sliced and browned potatoes, and had found a can of pressed luncheon loaf, which he’d opened, cut thin and fried. Between losing her food and the anxiety from worry and the energy expended from crying, she’d been ravenous this morning. They laughed and teased throughout the meal, very much in full charity with each other for the first time.

They rose following the meal and Katrina marveled she could be this relaxed with a man. Gavin, she knew, was not just any man, but one in reality who posed a very real threat to her, even though she continually pushed that particular aspect of him to the back of her mind. She’d never felt this free or safe with any male in her entire life. It was strange, but at the same time, it was comforting to know that she could be relaxed around at least one male. It gave her hope for the future.

Smiling, Katrina picked up the plates from the table. “You go in and relax from your arduous labor as our cook, while I wash these dishes.”

Gavin took the plates from her hand and set them in the sink. “I have never in my life made a woman clean up after me. Well, maybe my mom did up until I was six or seven,” he said with a grin. “Not since then, though. I’ll help you with the dishes when we get back this afternoon, cross my heart,” he said. His voice was full of mock seriousness while the grin still split his face. He drew the traditional X across his chest before raising his right hand palm facing her with his promise.

"Get back? From where?"

"We have an important appointment this afternoon."

All merriment fled and Katrina stiffened. "We do? With whom?"

"The lions and monkeys. That is, if you have a zoo in this town." His face was now serious, but his brown eyes were still full of laughter.

"A zoo? Are you serious? Who's at the zoo?"

"I've just told you. The animals. And, yes, I'm extremely serious. How is your zoo? Big? Small?" He quirked an eyebrow at her with his query.

"I…I don't know." Katrina faltered. "I've never been to it."

His face registered shock, and Katrina wasn’t sure if it were real or more of his mockery.

"And why not? It is one of Granny's rules. You must visit the zoo at least once a year. So, today's the day of our annual zoo visit." Gavin was openly smiling, now.

Katrina looked into his face. He was incredible; really incredible. She didn't know how to take this man. She decided to play along…for now, anyway.

“This would be the same Granny who advocates drinking the disgusting concoction of warm milk to help you sleep?”

“The very same,” he pronounced cheerfully, “and I’d advise you not to argue with my Granny, she is a bottomless pit of wisdom.”

"You’re really serious about this zoo visit, aren't you?" Her own mouth began to turn up at the ends.

"You're right. I'm very serious. Granny said there were several redeeming qualities about an annual zoo visit. First, it allows you to take a step back from the cares of the world, and by so doing, gives you a new perspective on life.

"Secondly,” he ticked the items off on his fingers, a wicked smile stretching his lips, “it helps you to not take yourself too seriously, and helps you relax a lot less expensively than taking a whole vacation.

"Thirdly, it is a great place to people-watch and study human behavior, and last but certainly not least, it helps you to remember the Being who created you is the same One who put these wonderful animals on the earth, and it is His due that you take time to look around you and appreciate the beauties He has placed here for you."

Katrina was stunned by these words. She’d never before heard the like of it.

He looked at her clothing. "I'm glad to see you put on your jeans and a comfortable blouse. It's perfect for zoo day. Get your loaf of bread to feed the ducks, pigeons, monkeys and polar bears, and let's be off."

Katrina took a long look at his face as he nodded toward the countertop where the bread lay, then giggled as she reached for the loaf. They headed for the car, talking as they went, locking the house behind them.

"Polar bears? You feed bread slices to polar bears?"

"Certainly. There was this old polar bear in our zoo at home that sang for his supper."

"Sang for his supper? A likely story." She snorted with her disbelief.

"Well, waved for his supper, then." Gavin helped her into the car, went around and climbed in his side. He started the car and backed out of the driveway as he continued.

"We'd go to the polar bear's cage, you see, and watch him for awhile. Then we'd take a piece of bread. We'd put it in our hand, flat against our palm. Then we'd reach 'way up high and wave our hand up and down. He wouldn't pay any attention to you if you waved from side to side, or if you moved your arm back and forth. But you'd wave to him just using your wrist and then, boy! He'd sit up on his haunches, put one paw on his knee, and use the other one to reach up high and wave back."

Gavin made a clicking noise with his tongue. "When I was little, I thought Old Snooty was as big as a whole mountain."

"Old Snooty?" Katrina tried to hold back her giggles.

"That's right, Old Snooty. I called him that because he'd wave for awhile, then he'd lift his nose in the air like a high-society snob. You know which ones I mean, the really particular ones who are so stuck up they have to look down their noses at us lesser mortals because we’re not good enough to breathe the same air they do…the ones in the cartoons with the funny little quizzing glasses like Cinderella's stepmother."

Katrina could hold out no longer and her laughter rang out in delightful peals. Gavin looked over at her.

"Do you know, Katrina Lee McSwayne, when you laugh, you're positively beautiful."

Katrina abruptly stopped laughing and looked at Gavin in shocked surprise. No one had ever, in her memory, called her beautiful. Her heart skipped several beats. Did he mean that?

"As I was saying about Old Snooty." Gavin continued as though uninterrupted.

"Yes, where were we?" Katrina was anxious to retrieve their happier mien, thinking he hadn’t meant what he’d said and was probably embarrassed those words had been uttered.

"Well, after Old Snooty'd give us our wave and his imitation of a snob, we'd throw him the bread. He'd saunter over to it and sniff it. Just checking to see if it were good bread, I suppose. Then he'd pick it up and stuff it in his mouth in one piece. After three or four pieces of bread, he'd amble on over to his pool and wash his face and paws and take a drink. Then, sauntering back to center front, the whole thing would start all over. It was great entertainment."

Katrina was smiling again and a little more relaxed. "How long would this go on?" she asked, looking at him out of the corner of her eye, trying hard not to stare at him too openly.

"Until we ran out of bread. We'd usually take a whole loaf each. There'd be me and four or five other kids. He'd eat all of the bread and still want more. I was always amazed. Of course, being that young, I had no concept of how much one of those babies can put away in a day.

Katrina turned her head, looking at him squarely, laughter lurking within her, but her face as straight as she could hold it. "Well, how much does a polar bear eat in a day?"

"I don't know. I looked it up in the encyclopedia once. All it said was what they ate and where they hunted for food. Not a word was said about how much they consumed."

"Well, then, when we're at the zoo, we must be sure and ask the bear keeper how much they eat each day there. It would give us some idea, at least!"

"That sounds like a fantastic idea!" He took his eyes from the road for a moment to smile at her.

Immediately her heart started pounding within her rib cage, making her blood rush through her veins. She wondered, briefly, if they could bottle his charm and his good looks, how many zillions of dollars it would cost per gram? More than she could afford, that was for sure. Katrina turned her face from him and looked out the window in time to see them pull into a parking lot. She looked up with surprise.

"How did you know where to drive?"

Gavin laughed. "You'll be angry if I tell you." His eyes were twinkling.

"No, I won't, I promise. I've lived here nearly six years and wasn't even sure we had a zoo. Here you are in town a couple of days and drive right to it!" She shook her head in wonderment as Gavin laughed again.

"Unless," she said accusingly, "you've been here before, or perhaps you live here! Is that it? Do you live here?" For some reason which she wouldn't acknowledge even to herself, she had a strong hope he would say he did live nearby. Katrina mentally held her breath, awaiting Gavin's answer. It wasn't long in coming and it crushed her new-born hope in its tracks.

"No, I live in Massachusetts. I've never been here before this week, in fact, before about three weeks ago, I’d never even heard of Spencer."

"Then how did you know where the zoo was? Come on, give in! How did you know?"

He laughed once more, his dimples coming into full play in his cheeks just outside the range of his mustache. "I cheated. I looked it up in the phone book while you were dressing. Then I called the zoo and asked for directions. Are you angry?"

"You wretch! Of course I'm not angry. I'll say this much for you, though, you're extremely resourceful!"

"At your service, Ma'am, 'Gavin, the Gregarious Gatherer of Goodies, Gossip and Other Assorted Sundries and Delights'!" He made a mock bow from his sitting position, complete with extravagant hand gestures, then straightened and grinned at her. Their eyes locked for a long moment, then Gavin frowned slightly, a crease appearing between his brows. Katrina longed to smooth it away with a kiss.

"Gavin? Is everything all right?"

"Yes, Fair Maiden!" His brilliant smile returned, almost robbing her of breath, and lightening bolted through her inner being. Her heart skipped a beat, then picked up speed, rushing the blood through her veins in a crazy manner. His next words helped calm her by reminding her where they were, and why.

"Shall we go? Our important appointment yonder awaits us,"

She smiled. Gavin dislodged himself from the car and walked around to her door. How marvelous the day promised to be. Katrina picked up the bread, and took Gavin’s offered hand.

November 12, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Fourteen

Katrina stretched lazily as the sun warmed her face. She rolled over and snuggled deeper into the pillow to avoid the sunlight. The sunlight?

She sat bolt upright in bed. Something was wrong. Very wrong! Sunlight? In her bedroom? On a Friday morning? It was Friday morning, wasn't it? Yes. She knew it was. She had overslept...hadn't heard her alarm. She was late for work. Her boss was going to kill her, especially since she’d made Jerilynn late too…no, actually, Jerilynn got her car back last night, so at least she’d only made herself late.

Jumping out of bed, Katrina grabbed her clock and looked at it. 10:07. She groaned. In five years with the company, she'd never been late; nor had she missed a day, either. She'd better call Mr. Leonard right away. She could be to the office within the hour if she hurried through her shower. Maybe she could grab a piece of toast on the way out the door and save another couple of minutes. Her mind was racing as she yanked the bedroom door open and sailed into the living room, heading for the telephone nook.

Gavin was just coming out of the kitchen. Seeing him, Katrina stopped short. Full memory returned to her.

"Did you hear my alarm go off this morning?" she questioned him.

Gavin looked at her for a second or two as if trying to judge her mood before he spoke. Then he shrugged one shoulder and slid a half grin onto his face.

"It didn't go off."

"But I was positive I set it."

"You did. I turned it off."

Katrina turned to face him fully, anger boiling through her. Before she could vent her feelings, Gavin continued.

"After what you had been through last night, I felt you needed the rest." The partial smile left his face as he became serious.

"Well, thank you very much!" Heavy sarcasm laced her voice. "I appreciate knowing exactly why I'm going to be fired."

"Your Mr. Leonard was very understanding, Katrina. I seriously doubt he's going to let such a valuable employee go for taking one day of sick time in five long, devoted years of service." Humor threaded through his voice instead of the sarcasm she thought would be there. His audacity in calling her boss spiked her anger even higher and she opened her mouth to berate him further.

He grinned at her. "I wish you could see your face right now. It's classic! It's a mixture of anger, disbelief and relief. I bet actors would pay a fancy price to know how to portray that particular mixture."

He smiled deeper, the dimples flashing just beyond the ends of his mustache and the effect on her was devastating. Katrina caught her breath and blushed, defusing her anger faster than blinking. Gavin saw the blush and laughed. She was caught off-balance by his actions once again. She sighed. Would she never learn to hide her emotions from him? She doubted it. But then, it really didn't matter, considering he wouldn't be around very long. The pain of that thought pierced her heart with regret.

Gavin put his hands on his hips and surveyed her thoroughly. She looked back at him nervously, trying to gauge his ever-changing mood.

"As tempting as you look, Kitten, I think you'd better go in and put on something a little more substantial. I'll have breakfast ready by that time, if you'll tell me how you like your eggs."

Shocked, she looked down at her thin nightgown and blushed again. Her eyes flew to his face. His grin was infectious, even if he reminded her of a wolf. It suddenly brightened her day. She smiled back at him, and turned to go get dressed. Over her shoulder, she called, "Two eggs, poached, and one slice of toast, lightly buttered, with apple jelly, please!" She flung a deliberately saucy smile in his direction.

"Poached! Gee, Lady, you don't want much, do you?" Katrina giggled all the way into the bedroom, then closed the door to shower and dress.

November 11, 2010

Problem Solved!

First, I want to thank Okie Dog, one of my letterboxing friends, for discovering the problem and pointing it out to me.

When I go into my account at Createspace, I see a much different page than the people trying to find my books see, Which is why when Createspace recently made some changes, I was totally unaware that it is nearly impossible to search for a book, or an author, from their main page. This makes it very difficult for anyone who wants to purchase a book to find it if I only have given them a link to Createspace's main page.

Until I discover a better solution, I have changes the "buy my books here" link that's over in the right hand column. The link will now take you to my website, to the Book Shoppe page...where there are individual links to the print books at Createspace, the Kindle versions at Amazon, and the other ebook formats at Smashwords. No matter what format you prefer to read in, you can now "get there from here".

I do apologize for the frustration and difficulty in getting to the page to purchase the books. I am deeply grateful to Okie Dog for telling me about the problem. And even though it means an extra click, I have at least provided a work-around.


November 10, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Thirteen

More tired than she realized, exhaustion claimed Katrina and she fell asleep quickly. Her dreams, however, were troubled.

She kept reliving the nightmare with Robert and Charleston chasing her, tearing at her clothes and beating her. She was trying to get away, but they continued laughing the insidious, demonic laugh which haunted her.

She broke free and was running, but she was running in a forest with trees whipping past her. Bushes snagged her tattered nightgown, the thorns tearing both her nightgown and the skin that was exposed where the gown had fallen away. The two men chasing her were catching up to her. Then she tripped on a tree root and fell headlong into the weeds and leaves beneath the trees. Katrina screamed at the top of her lungs. She kept on screaming, the terror now ruling her.

She heard her name called. Was it Charleston or Robert? The voice didn’t fit either of them. Was someone trying to save her, or were they going to hurt her, too? She didn't know the answer and cowered on the ground, crying.

Someone caught at her wrist. Katrina struggled to free herself. She screamed again, and felt herself being yanked up.

"No, please! Don't hurt me! Please!" She was growing tired and could hardly fight anymore. But she must try! She must!

'Fight! Fight!' her mind urged her. Katrina redoubled her efforts to win her freedom. She kept hearing her name called. She tried without success to see who was calling her. Still, it wasn't Charleston's voice. Nor Robert's. It was…different. It was lower. It was…she could almost see him through the gloom.

There he was! It was…Gavin! Gavin? What was he doing here? He shouldn't be in this terror…or at least, he never had been before. Was he really here? She called his name.

He answered. Katrina reached out to him. She felt him touch her. She began to feel safer. She pulled him closer to her. He was speaking soft words she couldn't understand. He kissed her forehead, her temples, her eyelids, her cheeks, then her lips. A long, deep kiss, which Katrina returned unashamedly, it felt so good, so warm, so real. The kiss finally ended, and she opened her eyes.

Gavin was there, holding her. He was stroking her hair. She knew she would be all right.

Suddenly, she sat straight up. Gavin was here. Really here. She reached up and touched his face. She could feel the roughness of his unshaven cheek.

"What? How? Why? How did you? I locked...didn't I lock? Gavin?" She was confused, the tattered remains of the terror of the dream still wrapped around the edges of her consciousness. Katrina’s hands dropped to her blankets, pulling them up and clutching them tightly to her chest.

"You can’t make much sense, Little One, unless you finish each question, but let me try to do it for you." He smiled as the back of one knuckle brushed along the lower edge of her jaw, sending shivers washing through her body. "What am I doing here? I never left. I'd made you relive that nightmare, and I thought you might not sleep too well.

"How did I get in? I'd have broken the door down, if necessary, but it wasn't. You were so upset when I left, you didn't lock the door. Thank goodness! Let me see, I think 'why' was the next question. Why am I here? You needed me. I waited until you'd turned off the lights, gave you another thirty minutes, and came up onto the porch. Shortly after that, I heard you screaming. You fight very hard when you're asleep. Did you know that, Kitten?"

"No." Katrina hardly made a sound with her answer.

Gavin gently stroked the side of her face with a fingertip. "I'm sorry I made you go through all that, Little One. I had to know. And now that you have shared it with someone, it will begin to diminish." He gently kissed her forehead once more.



"Why are you here?"

"I just told you." He smiled as he looked into her eyes.

Katrina scowled, wrinkling her forehead.

"No. Not just now. Not just tonight. Why did you come looking for me? What…what kind of trouble is Charleston in this time? Why did a…lawyer have to come looking for me?" As she thought of the possibilities, Katrina was becoming more upset.

"Hush, my Little One. There's plenty of time for all your questions later. Right now, I want you to be quiet and rest. After what you've been through, it's the best thing for you. Where's an extra blanket? I'm going to be in on the couch in case you have another nightmare."

But, Gavin, I…"

"But nothing, Katrina, rest now. Doctor Gavin's orders. Now, where’s that blanket?"

Katrina searched his face, looking for what, she wasn't quite sure. She knew she would certainly feel much safer knowing he would be nearby. The thought warmed her cheeks and she dropped her eyes from the compelling gaze meeting hers.

"In…in that cupboard, there, by the bathroom." She pointed, still keeping her eyes on the coverlet spread over her.

"Thanks. Now. Do you need some warm milk in order to get back to sleep?" His tone was light, almost teasing.

Her eyes flew to his. He smiled at her, his brown eyes twinkling, the dimples very evident on his handsome face.

"Yuck, that sounds awful!" She pulled a face and Gavin looked injured.

"My Granny says it works! And my Granny knows everything; just ask her, she'll be more than happy to tell you."

Katrina smiled. "Well, not to offend your Granny, but it sounds disgusting!" She wrinkled her nose and shuddered with the thought of it.

"Well, if I can't interest you in Granny's famous remedy, then just lie back down and go to sleep." He stood, looking down at her as she snuggled back onto the pillows behind her. Then she sat back up. Taking one of her pillows, she held it out to Gavin.

"You'll be more comfortable if you have one of these, Kind Sir, warm milk for yourself or not." She knew she had to strive for the same light touch, or she would be asking things that were not right for her to ask…like would he please stay with her in her bed and not so far away as the couch. She smiled at him, hoping he couldn't hear her heart pounding in her chest.

After the briefest of hesitations, Gavin accepted the pillow with an exaggerated bow. "Thank you, Fair Maiden," he said. He turned to get the blanket and her breath caught in her throat. She wanted to be safe in his arms. She shook with her longing.

"Ga…Gavin?" Her smile was gone, and she shivered once more with desire.

"Yes, Kitten?" He turned back to her before reaching the cupboard and she saw a fire leap to his eyes. Then, almost as quickly as it had come, it was gone. The lightening mood shift caught at her, and she struggled against asking him to share her bed, no matter how bereft of his presence she felt. He was still looking at her, one eyebrow raised slightly.

"Th…thank you. For…helping and…being here." The words struggled to pass the sudden tightening of her throat.

She watched the muscle in his jaw line work back and forth a moment. His voice, when he finally spoke, was without any emotion. "No problem."

Their eyes continued to look deeply into the other's, then Gavin seemed to draw himself up and a grin came to his face.

"Now, to sleep with you, Scamp, before I have to go and warm that milk!" He turned to get the blanket, adding it to the pillow already in his arms.

"Yes, Kind Sir!" Katrina knew it was for the best to keep him from knowing how much she wanted him in her bed.

She snuggled down into her covers, feeling warm and calm with Gavin in the house. And safe. Very, very safe.

Katrina yawned, rolling to her side. She had certainly been through the gamut of emotions today and the effort had been exhausting.

Gavin, bedding in his arms, stood watching her from the doorway for a long moment. After a long pause, he sighed. "Who said chivalry was dead?" he muttered, before he turned his back on her. He quietly closed her bedroom door.

Katrina heard him shaking out the blanket with a crack as he made up his bed on the small couch. She felt a little guilty knowing the man was quite a bit longer than the couch and he wouldn’t be comfortable. Only a little guilty, though. Certainly she didn’t feel guilty enough to offer him her bed, and take the lumpy couch herself. A short lumpy couch was exactly what he deserved after what he’d put her through. She just hoped he’d gotten enough of his stupid answers, so he could go away and leave her alone in her misery.

Katrina rolled to her other side and punched her pillow into a more comfortable shape. She lay on her bed, trying not to wonder whether Gavin would be sleeping in his clothing…or what. Almost before she knew it, she was asleep once more.