“As I was finishing my jog Hairy saw something and took off after it. I thought it was a squirrel. It must’ve been him.” She tried to quell the hysteria she heard in her words, but failed.
Jedidiah came to her and pulled her into a loose embrace. “I’ll keep you safe, Honey. You and Jessie.”
Janna buried her face in his shirt, inhaling his clean masculine scent. She gave a muffled, “I know.”
Jedidiah rubbed her back in comfort, causing alarm of a different kind to speed up her spine. She took another deep breath and pulled away. “Jedidiah, where is Jessie?”
He dropped onto a bar stool. “He’s at Leisel Wells’ house. She advertised at the store looking for a babysitting position. Don’t get upset. There’s no way he could know about Jessie, or where he’s at right now.”
She dropped onto a stool beside him. “I hope not. This whole parenting thing is hard to get a handle on.”
“If its any consolation to you, I think you’ll make a great mother. Tilly chose well.”
Appreciation for her new waitress welled up inside her. It was good to know someone had some kind of confidence in you. “Thanks Maddy. Do you think you could get Jedidiah the special. I’m pretty sure he’s hungry by now.”
“I am.” He grinned, his shiny white teeth contrasting with his tanned skin.
They laughed and Maddy disappeared in the kitchen. “Are you going to be okay if I leave, or do you want me to stay?” His blue eyes searched hers in earnest. “I hate this. I had no clue the game was going to change like this and I’m unprepared.”
“You’re human. I still trust you Jed,” she whispered.
He reached over and laid his lips on hers.
The sheer gentleness of the kiss caused her heart to skip a beat and then thump against her ribcage. She was caught between not wanting it to end, and not wanting it to go on. His lips were warm and comforting, and she wanted that so bad. No. She pulled away, almost in slow motion. It was hard to make yourself stop something you didn’t want to. “Jed.”
The way she said his name brought tears to her eyes. After so many years of loneliness, she’d fallen in love. How could it happen so fast? She hadn’t seen it coming. The stress of the last few days became too much and she sobbed into her hands.
Maddy ran out of the kitchen. “Are you okay?”
Janna tried to answer, but only sobs came out.
Jedidiah grabbed her hand and smoothed it with his. “It’s going to be okay, Janna. I’ll take care of everything. I won’t let anything happen. I promise.”
“It’s…it’s not that,” she cried. “I know you will. It’s just been so emotional the last few days. My whole life has changed and I feel so out of control.”
“You need to pray and ask God to give you peace. He is faithful to restore your joy,” Maddy said.
“I know. I don’t even know why I’m crying, it just happened.” She grabbed a tissue from her pocket and wiped her nose. “I’ve got to go wash my hands now.” She slid off the stool, trying to smile.
“Yeah, I don’t want snot on my dessert,” Jed said.
“Really? I wasn’t aware you were getting dessert,” Janna replied, trying to put some sass back in the conversation.
“Oh yeah. If I’m going to be part of the family I might as well start collecting on the perks.”
Janna gave an exaggerated gasp. “Whatever.” She headed off to the ladies’ room, her previous fit of emotion already a thing of the past. Thank you for such a good man, dear Lord.
The women’s restroom door was standing open, but she didn’t pay much attention even though it was a pet peeve of hers to make sure they were kept closed. Euphoria swept through her. She couldn’t remember ever having such a crush on a man before. She entered the double-stalled restroom and closed the door behind her. The bright yellow room made her smile even wider. The wicker table beside a full-length mirror held a box of tissues and she pulled one and swiped at her nose. “Get it together, Janna.”
She caught a flash of something in the mirror behind her just before an arm came around and put her in a choke hold. “Yes Janna. Get it together cause daddy’s home.” He cackled while he held a smelly rag over her nose.
Janna awoke with a start. The room was dark and smelled of oil and sawdust. Where was she? Panic swept through her. Where was Jedidiah? He’d promised to take care of her.
She tried to sit up, only realizing she’d been tied when the plastic bit into her wrists. Her heart pounded so loud in her chest she could hear it. Dread filled her with such coldness she couldn’t have moved if she tried.
Cynical laughter filled the darkness.
“You might as well quit fighting it, my love. I’ve had five years to make my plans. You took those years away from me. Now it’s my turn.”
Her blood ran cold once more. He’s going to kill me, dear Lord. Please make sure Jedidiah takes care of Jessie. Silent tears of sorrow and regret trailed down her gritty cheeks. Her life was being cut short. What had she done to deserve this?
“What? Nothing to say?” He cackled. “Oh yeah, you can’t talk.”
She heard shuffling as he moved near. She pulled back from his hands, but he just reached over and pulled the greasy-tasting gag from her mouth. “Sing to me.”
He snorted. “You’re such a snob, my dear. I said sing for me.”
A hand came out and dealt a thundering blow to her face. She heard the cracking of her nose and felt something warm and wet run down her cheek as the pain lulled her into unconsciousness.