(I've shortened the chapter for easier reading.)
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~ Chapter Eleven ~
He watched in confusion as several identical cars pulled up to the front of the hospital. It dawned on him pretty quick what was up. They were going to pull a switcheroo. Anger pulsed through him. So her dad was going to double-cross him? He’d see about that. He flopped down behind the bush hiding him from view.
A few minutes later, he smiled in triumph. He’d seen which car she’d gotten into. He would follow it and take her back.
Arianna felt tired to her bones. Just moving around made her eyes droop, so this was definitely getting to her.
After a hasty ceremony with a judge Justin knew from church, they’d enlisted the help of one of the nurse’s aides to wear Arianna’s clothes and be a decoy for her. At first Arianna refused to go along with it because the girl might be in danger, but when Justin explained she would be out in public and only a moment away from a 911 call, she’d finally agreed. She just wanted this all to be over. She wanted to live a normal life. And she wanted Chance. The now-familiar ache flooded through her, but she pushed it aside. She had every confidence Justin would get him back for her.
She was amazed how quickly he’d gained her trust, especially with what she’d been through. But trust him she did; with her life, and Chances.
She settled against the seat and drifted into uneasy slumber.
Justin sat in the backseat with Arianna, praying the whole way. He needed her to be safe, and he needed his hastily construed plan to work.
He grinned when he remembered the look on Mary Jo Oslo’s face when he’d asked her to accompany them as Arianna’s private nurse. She’d been surprised at first, and then flattered.
Justin had looked at her and said, “We’ll pay you whatever the going rate is for a private nurse. I’m sure it’ll be much more than what you get here.”
“Hmmph. You got that right. Of course I’ll do it,” She’d smiled.
Justin held up his hands to stay her easy answer. “It might be dangerous, you know that right?”
“Yes son. I got that. But somebody has to look after her, and at this point, who else would it be?”
Justin nodded his head. “Exactly.”
She grinned from ear to ear. “So I’ll do it. And who knows, if you find the baby you might need a live-in nurse to help with him.”
Justin nodded even harder. He really liked Mary Jo. “Exactly, and that’s a great idea. What do you think Arianna?”
But there was no answer. She was fast asleep.
“Don’t worry, son. She’s been through a lot and it’s her body’s way of healing. I can’t imagine the horror…”
He stopped her. “I know, I can’t either, but let’s not speak about it in front of her. Let’s concentrate on getting the supplies we need and heading up to the lake.”
Mary Jo nodded. “Yep. Agree.”
Justin smiled and asked, “What all will we need?”
Mary Jo pulled a small green notepad from her purse and began making a list. She looked up and said, “Should I add things for the baby, or do you just want me to wait in case…?”
“No, add for the baby. I fully intend on finding him. I can’t wait on the cops, either. They seem ill-equipped to help.”
Mary Jo snorted. “They are. I think they mean well, but they’re not the brightest apples in the barrel.”
Justin leaned over; confident he could trust their newly hired private nurse. She leaned toward him. “Do you think she’ll be okay without the hospital?”
The nurse nodded, the certainty in her eyes comforting Justin. “Yes, she’ll be fine physically. She’s young and strong, even in her emaciated state. But listen son, emotionally, it might be a different story. She may never heal.”
Sorrow filled him at the thought. “I know.”
The rest of the trip was completed in silence until they pulled into the parking lot of a popular chain-store almost fifty miles from the city.
Justin opened the door and slid one foot out. He looked back at Mary Jo and Arianna. “Are you two coming?”
Mary Jo shook her head. “She’s too tired, son. She can barely stay awake.”
Justin examined his new bride. Worry coursed through him at her pallor and limber body. “Is she okay?”
“Yes I think so. Her vitals are good. It’s probably just a combination of everything that’s happened, and then everything now happening. Her body is refusing to play along. Like I said, she’s strong. She’ll pull out of it. But hey, grab a couple packs of Ensure, too. Maybe that’ll put some weight back on her.”
Justin pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and added Mary Jo’s request. “Okay, got it.” He started to walk away, but turned around. “And Mary Jo?”
She gave him a quizzical look. “Yes?”
The older woman beamed. “You’re welcome.”
Justin went into the store and picked up everything he could think of they might need for the next few days.
Thirty minutes later his buddy Jack from church pulled the sleek black Continental out of the parking lot and entered the interstate toward shadow Lake.
Justin reached over and loosely clasped Arianna’s hand in his. For better or worse, they were in this together.