“What happened? Do you need a doctor?”

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. I want to go home.”

His face grimaced, smiling in a way that broke my heart, and pulled me to him again. “Of course, baby. Let’s go.”

His strong arms. They lifted underneath my thighs and hugged my wet body to his. Unnecessary, not needed for the five steps to his car, yet he carried me. His neck smelled of sweat and cologne, the sharp rub of his jaw telling me that he had shaved. For the wedding. My heart broke for a brief moment. Then, we bent as one and he settled me, soft as a baby, into the passenger seat, his mouth brushing over my lips gently. Dark brown eyes, wetter than I’ve ever seen them, vulnerability mixed with a shot of relief, doused with love, met mine, and we did nothing but stare at each other for a moment. Then he shut the door softly, and I watched him, through tinted glass, take a few steps back into the yard, speaking to the woman with the red hair. He pulled out his wallet, they had a few minutes of discussion, then he handed her something. I leaned back in the seat, reclining it slightly, and closed my eyes.

I had barely taken a breath when he was in the car, his hand sweeping over my face, my eyes opening to find his concerned gaze on me. “Is everything okay? Your eyes just closed. I’m calling a doctor.”

I laughed weakly. “I’m tired. Please drive. I want to get the hell outta here.”

He obliged, putting the car into drive and holding my hand gently. “Just relax, baby.”

I did, closing my eyes, and felt instantly drugged, my entire body sinking, the hum of the car hypnotic, my entire self happy to surrender to his care.


Brad called Martha as he drove, trying his best not to jostle Julia’s sleeping body as he navigated home. She answered on the first ring.

“It’s me. I have her. She looks bad, like she hasn’t eaten in days. Can you fix her a plate, and have someone prepare the bedroom? I can’t remember much of the last twenty-four hours, but feel like I may have broken a few things up there.” He glanced over, studying Julia’s profile, wanting to wake her up just so he could look into her eyes.

Martha’s voice calmed him, her strength giving him something to hold on to. He answered her questions as best he could, the lack of information difficult to accept on both their parts. He ended the call with a promise to be home soon, and asked her to call Julia’s parents and to get a doctor over to the house.

He caressed the hand he held, it’s limp grip reminding him of all the possibilities that could have occurred. The fact that she was here. The fact that she had returned in one piece, a miracle. He vowed to spend the rest of his life earning it.

Chapter 71

Movement. Jostling. Brad’s arms. Once again being carried. My eyes opened to find him watching me. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t want to wake you.”

“It’s okay.”

He carried me through the bedroom door, moving toward the bed, which had been turned down, extra pillows added. I stopped him with a hand. “Don’t put me on the bed.”

“What? You’re exhausted.”

“I’m also disgusting. And I want, more than anything, a shower.” I grinned weakly at him and he turned, carrying me into the bathroom and setting me gently on my feet. I fought a wince when my feet hit the floor, his eyes catching the tell anyway, focusing on my feet, his face flaring with concern.

“What is that from?”

“My feet are a little raw ... they got scraped up a bit.”

He said nothing, a tic in his jaw giving away his anger, and he moved to the shower, turning knobs and pressing buttons until the bathroom started to fill with hot steam. He stripped, my eyes traveling over his gorgeous body, loving the curve and bend of muscles as he moved, his dick hanging between his thighs, sexual even when relaxed.

He studied my clothes, then opened a drawer, pulling out a set of scissors. “Hands out,” he instructed.

I obeyed without asking, too tired to put up a fight. He moved carefully, sliding the scissors open and cutting my tee-shirt off, his eyes examining my bare chest, an eyebrow raising.

“I didn’t have a bra on when I was taken,” I said quietly, aware of his thought process.

He nodded, kneeling before me, gently cutting fabric until my sweats and panties fell away.

“I didn’t want to try and pull your clothes over your feet or your head.” he said softly, offering his hand and leading me to the shower.

He stopped, just before the entrance, his hand tightening on my arm, a pained question in his eyes. “I don’t want to ruin evidence.” He said tightly. “Did anyone... did they—”

I stopped him quickly, with a firm shake of my head, seeing where his question was going, the raw fear in his eyes. “No. Nothing like that.”

I could see the relief, it poured through every muscle in his body as he exhaled, his hands gently pulling me closer and brushing his lips against my forehead. Then he let me move, and I stepped in delicately, moving quicker when I felt the hot water, the gentle rhythm massaging my skin as it cleansed. I moaned at the sensation, Brad running a loofah gently over me, creating a path of bubbles that disappeared quickly beneath the torrent of water, suds of soap pooling at my feet. I stood limp, letting him wash me, his hands gentle as they ran over and across my body. He examined my shoulder bandage, leaving it alone and washing around it. Then he turned off the water, wrapping me in two hot towels and carrying me to the bedroom. Someone had laid out my robe, a monogrammed piece Brad had given to me for Christmas, and I slid into the fluffiness of it, climbing carefully into bed and settling back into the stacks of pillows.

He sat on the bed next to me, his brown eyes full of concern. “Martha has been cooking all day, hoping you’d return. Do you feel up to eating something?”

I grinned at the thought of food. “I’m starving. Is she still up? What’s she got?”

“What do I got?” A loud voice came from the direction of the door, no delicate or dainty treatment in her voice, and I turned to see Martha, wiping her hands on her apron, her full face smiling broadly. “Girl, you had me worried sick!” She maneuvered through the door, meeting my eyes with a face-splitting grin. “I got chicken and rice soup, or pot roast, or chicken salad, or lasagna. If none of those sound good, I’m happy to make you something else.” She moved to the side of the bed, her wide hips easily bumping Brad out of the way, her arms wrapping around me in a hug that made me wince.

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