December 15, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Twenty-nine

Katrina set the box of checkers on the stack of puzzles and games. The only thing that really worried her was staying here long enough to learn all of them well, but until Charleston was caught...she quickly stood, shying away from the frightening thought of him somewhere nearby, looking for her.

Katrina came out of the bathroom scant minutes later. She saw Gavin and Sally with their heads close together and their backs toward her, talking in low voices. The thick carpeting allowed her to get close enough to hear Sally say, "Yes, I'll take care of it. Don't worry, she won't find out."

Katrina’s heart was consumed in green flames of jealousy as she watched Sally smile her warm, seductive smile at Gavin. He returned it, and Katrina felt like she had been hit in the stomach. She must have made some small sound alerting them to her presence, as they turned quickly towards her and guiltily moved apart.

"Well," said Sally with a false brightness to her voice as she stood up and came towards Katrina. "Shall we eat?" They all stepped to the table. Katrina, lagging slightly behind, was no longer in the bright, festive mood. Her appetite was now non-existent. What things were they plotting against her?

A premonition of trouble to come made her paste a bright smile to her face to keep them from knowing she’d overheard them. No matter how much she may care for the handsome man in front of her, she really didn't know him well, and Sally was even more of a stranger. Katrina knew she should keep up a pretense of innocence or maybe stupidity until she could figure out what was going on.

Lunch became very strained. Each spoonful of soup, though it was her favorite kind, became harder to swallow; each bite of sandwich felt like sandpaper scraping her throat, choking her. She may as well be eating dirt or ashes.

Sally, her smile soft as it rested frequently on Gavin throughout the meal, tried unsuccessfully to make light conversation. Katrina, distracted, gave soft-voiced murmurs, occasionally rubbing her forehead with her fingers. Gavin gave little more than one word responses in addition to those special smiles as he looked at Sally. Katrina could read nothing in his expression when he looked at her.

As her fingertips lightly rotated small circles on her temples, Katrina realized her headache was back, but again she was unsure of the cause. Everything seemed so unreal. How long before Charleston was caught? How long would she have to stay here? Why couldn't the policewoman have been old? Or at least plain? Even downright ugly would be nice! Why did she have to look like some movie star policewoman? Why couldn't Gavin fall in love with her—Katrina Lee McSwayne? It happened all the time in books and movies. Why not for real?

'Oh, Katrina,' she silently chastised herself, 'that's schoolgirl thinking! Books are not real life. It they were, you'd be happily-ever-aftering right now with Charleston and you wouldn't be in love with Gavin under any circumstances. It’s time to grow up.'

The thought of Charleston made her shudder, bringing her thoughts back into focus. She looked at her plate and the thought of food caused her stomach to churn.

"I'm...sorry, Sally," Katrina said as she pushed her plate away. "I guess I wasn't as hungry as I'd thought. Thank you, though, the soup was good." Not looking at either of them, she stood and headed toward her bedroom. Gavin followed closely behind.

"Katrina," he said before she’d reached the door. "It isn't what you think."

What did he think she was thinking? Did he know she’d overheard them? "You needn't explain anything to me, Gavin," Katrina said, keeping her eyes down.

"Oh, Little One!" He tried to gather her into his arms, but she stepped away from him.

"Please, Katrina, trust me. Just for a little while longer, trust me."

Concern and a touch of pleading deepened Gavin's voice. Katrina looked up at him for a long moment, knowing she had to keep up the fa├žade of trust, yet warring within herself. Her heart said to trust him, while her brain counseled caution. Her heart won out, and she gave him a small, tentative half-smile, consoling herself that she had to keep her suspicions to herself.

"Thank you, Kitten. Now, which game do you want to learn first?" Eagerness colored his voice while warm lights lit his eyes. He made an expansive gesture toward the coffee table where the games were stacked. She looked at the choices and smiled up at him.

"Sorry, I think," she said.

"Great! That one is fun and very easy to learn." Gavin talked as he reached for her arm. She allowed him to keep the touch. Guiding her to the games, he reached for the proper one and handed it to Katrina, smiling down into her eyes as he did so. She dropped her eyes to keep Gavin from seeing the love in them.

"I've cleared the table for you," Sally said, walking past them from the kitchenette.

"Thanks, Sally," Gavin said.

Sally slipped out the door. Without comment, Gavin walked over and locked the door behind her. Coming back, he then seated Katrina at the table and began setting up the game.

Katrina wished she knew where Sally was going, and what effect it was going to have on her life. She was even more uncomfortable and self-conscious than ever.

Once again the thought came to her mind; she really didn't know either of these people. What if they were friends of Charleston's, just trying to throw her off the track with the ploy of protecting her? No one knew where she was...not the people she knew and trusted, Jerilynn. These people—Charleston’s people—could do away with her and no one would know. For weeks and weeks no one would find out she was missing or dead. They could be far away by then, with no clues left behind for anyone to follow, even if there was someone who cared enough to follow them.

Katrina's face must have revealed some of the terror of her thoughts. Gavin's hand came down gently on top of hers, sending the now-familiar jolt of electricity through her. Her eyes flicked up to his, surprising a warm, loving, caring look there.

Confusion flooded her again, reason slowly replacing the fear. After all, Gavin had been doing his best to protect her. Hadn't he? Well, hadn't he? She sincerely hoped so.

Gavin began teaching her how to play Sorry. Gradually the tension eased and she relaxed a little. Enough, at least, to enjoy Sorry and to learn several more of the games she'd always heard about during her growing-up years but had never had an opportunity to play. She sincerely hoped she’d played her part well enough to make Gavin think she wasn’t suspicious any more.

Vaguely, she wondered how long the respite would last. If only they'd catch Charleston. She still wondered about the money he’d asked her for. Would she ever find out? Charleston had said something about it should have been left to kin. Did he somehow think Uncle Andrew had left a little something to her? Why on earth would he have done that? Katrina shook her head, dismissing the possibility. Charleston was right, Uncle Andrew would have left any money he had to his kin.

A chill settled over her as she watched Gavin. He knew more than he let on. Much more. Could she trust him? Could she trust her heart? Should she? It had been fooled by Charleston. Could what she was feeling be true this time? How would she know? She’d been so certain of Charleston’s love. What a huge joke. Would it happen again with this love she held for Gavin?

Suddenly, Katrina shivered with apprehension; almost a premonition of trouble ahead. Once again Katrina knew fear...deep, bone-chilling fear.