Chapter Eleven ~
Janna lay Jessie in the metal crib and stretched her good arm. Her broken arm was aching, but she didn’t care. Jessie had needed her.
“You’re going to make a wonderful mother.”
She gasped. “How do you even know about that?”
“You kept talking about it all the way to the hospital,” Jedidiah said.
“I did? I don’t remember any of it.” She pursed her lips, trying to remember the scene, but it wasn’t in her brain.
He moved over to his chair and sat down. “You were out, but you were talking.”
She could feel her face begin to burn with embarrassment. “I’m sorry you had to witness that. I’m usually a very private person.” She got up into the hospital bed and turned around to face him.
“There’s no shame in what happened here, Ja-Ja.” He gave her a playful grin and her face grew even hotter.
“Wow. Are all my secrets out?”
He shook his head, a smile curling the edges of his lips. “Pretty much, yeah. Jessie and I had a talk while you were away.”
The smile slid from her lips like ice cream off the cone on a hot summer day. “Poor little guy. And what was she thinking anyway? I don’t know the first thing about kids.”
“I don’t even know you that well and I know better than that. You know love, and that’s the most important thing.”
She shook her head in agreement, “Yeah, that’s true. I just can’t believe she’s gone. Just yesterday morning…” She broke off, sobs taking over her words.
Jedidiah moved toward her before he realized his feet were moving. He pulled her into his arms and stroked her long, silky hair, breathing in the faint scent of some kind of citrus, and a faint musty smell, probably from the basement. “I’m so sorry.”
She sobbed even louder, but cuddled up to him like a teddy bear on a cold winter night. “I…am…too. She was the best friend I ever had. I don’t understand why God took her away from me,” she sniffled.
He continued to hold her, rocking from side to side, not caring that the cold metal of the bed railing bit into his legs. “I don’t know, either. I don’t understand the ways of God, but I know they’re true.”
She stilled, and then pulled away to look up into his face. “You do?”
“Yes, of course. Why, are you surprised?”
“I am, actually. You don’t seem the type.”
Her words cut into him, but he was quick to hide it. “Oh.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you,” She said.
“It’s fine. I’m actually new to all of it, but I do believe in everything the Bible says is true. Do you?”
She smiled up at him and he caught his breath. She was so beautiful. “Yes, of course. God has sustained me through these last few years, I...”
It was Jedidiah’s turn to pull away. He put a finger against her lips. “You don’t have to talk about it right now.”
“I know I don’t, but I want to. I know you know.”
“I’m here to listen then.”
He tried to extricate himself from her iron-like grip, but she just squeezed tighter when he made to pull away. His heart did that funny little flip-flop again and he took a breath.
“Are you okay? Am I hugging too tight?”
“No I’m fine. You hold me as long as you need to. Talk to me, tell me everything.” A fierce possessiveness came over him and he tightened his grip, splaying his huge hand across the back of her tiny skull. “I’m not going to let him hurt you again. You know that, don’t you?”
Silence. And then, “Yes, I believe you.”
“Good. Now talk Janna. Tell me everything. Let it go.”
And she did.
“I loved to sing. I even planned on being a singer someday,” she began.
“What genre do you sing?” He asked quietly, stroking her hair and pulling in her scent with each movement of his hand.
“Different ones. I love country, but I also love Gospel and Bluegrass, and even some soft rock.” She harrumphed. “Well, I used to love them.”
His heart ached for the hurt in her voice. “You still love them, don’t you?” He asked into the silence that fell between them.
Her answer was slow in coming. “I do, but I don’t listen, or sing anymore.”
He moved away from her, put a hand up to smooth a silky strand of tangled blond hair from her wet lashes where it had attached, and stared into her beautiful amber eyes. “Why?”
“I can’t. I’ve tried. When I turn on the stereo it just makes me cry, and when I try to sing my throat closes.”
Her head came to rest on his shoulder once more and he stroked her hair. “We’ll overcome it, girl. I’m right here with you.” He couldn’t understand the feelings pulsing over him in waves. They were something new, almost tangible. Was this what love felt like? It was so close to pain he cringed, yet so close to tenderness he could feel the tears prick his eyes. He shook his head. He had to get it together. She needed him.
“You barely know me,” she said.
She stared into his eyes, a look he couldn’t discern shining in the depths of her amber-colored ones. He’d heard of people having amber eyes before but never met anyone with them. Her brother had green eyes so when he’d gotten his first glimpse of hers he’d been surprised. And he was afraid they would be his undoing. She could ask him anything when she looked at him this way and he would be forced to comply.
“Jedidiah, are you okay?”
He shook his head, pulling himself out of her eyes. “Yes, why?”
“I was asking you something and you just stared at me.”
“I’m sorry. What were you asking?”
“I was asking why you felt you had to stand beside me when you don’t know me. I mean, I’m just a job to you.”
Anger coursed through his veins at her words. “That’s not true. You’re not just a job to me.” He could hear the fierceness of his loyalty to her in his tone and it scared him, and it must’ve scared her too, because she pulled away and shrunk into the safety of her hospital bed.
“I don’t understand.”
“What?” He forced softness into his tone.
“Why do you act like you know me? Like I’m yours?”
He didn’t say anything at first. He wanted to collect his thoughts and choose his words carefully. “That’s how I feel. I can’t explain it, but I feel like I know you, like we’re meant to be together.” He stopped, looked at her and waited for her reaction to his shocking admission.
He didn’t have long to wait.
“And do I get a say in this?”
He was confused. She didn’t seem angry, maybe playful, flirty. “I guess. What do you want to say?”
She opened her mouth and started to speak, and then shut it tight.
Disappointment filled him. He was sure she’d been about ready to agree with him.
“I’m still waiting,” He prompted.
“Look, I’m really tired. Could we talk about this tomorrow?”
Hurt swept through him so sharp he gasped. “I suppose.” He hung his head for a moment to hide the pain, pulled himself to a standing position using the arms of his chair and said, “Do you need anything when I come back tomorrow?”
“I’m not sure you should come back tomorrow.”
The words hung between them like an exploded bomb. Humiliation swept through him and he groaned. He wasn’t used to this particular feeling. “Okay.” He walked away without another word.
He was walking toward the entrance of the hospital when his phone beeped. It was one of his contacts out at the prison. The message read: ‘He’s out and headed your way.’
Jedidiah pulled his shoulders back and set his face in a mask of resolve. Regardless of how Janna felt about him, he knew he would protect her with his life. He dialed a number and brought the phone up to his ear. “Jorge, it’s me. Are we ready?”
“Yes boss, it’s all set.”
“Good. Due to the chaos in the area I want two more men brought in. I’ll be guarding the hospital. You take the main road and set the others up where you see fit.”
“Yes sir, consider it done.”
Jedidiah turned around and walked back inside. Dear Lord, please give me what it takes to keep her and that boy safe. I’m pretty sure they’re my life.