Each morning she hustled to her room before Kelly woke, and although he'd argued with her about it, she wasn't going to have the child asking questions neither could answer without creating more. Besides, Richard hadn't said that he wanted this relationship to go further than what it was, and questions from Kelly would prompt that. What was she supposed to say? Are you prepared to make an honest woman out of me? Do you expect me to hide with you? Do you really care about me or do you just see a handy lover and a mother for Kelly? Her throat tightened. She was asking for trouble if she kept thinking like this.
Frowning, he stepped back, and she rolled up the window, then started the engine. It stalled once and she blushed and tried again, throwing it into gear and driving down the long path to the gates. It seemed like she was leaving one world and entering another. Gone from the castle house on the hill, into the land of the serfs, she thought with a reluctant smile.
She glanced and saw him in the rearview mirror. He waved and she returned it, then flipped on the radio. She'd learned so much about him in the last days. Aside that he was an incredible lover, an attentive father, and made her indecently happy. He was also a formidable businessman, too. Although she'd known that he'd owned a couple of computer software companies and ran them from the computers in his suite, she hadn't realized he'd created the software himself. Software for small and large businesses—security programs, antivirus programs, games, search sites, graphics. There was nothing he couldn't create, she'd realized after seeing his work. He'd made boatloads of money and never set foot off this land. No wonder he didn't feel the need to hurry into the public eye.
She and Kelly were pulling into the grocery store parking lot when the music on the radio suddenly stopped. She frowned as the DJ came on with a special news report. The tropical storm off the coast of Honda had just been upgraded to a hurricane. A big one. And it was headed this way.
* * *
Richard snapped back the curtain and glared at the darkness quickly cloaking the land. The wind howled furiously but produced little rain. But it would come, and he wondered what was keeping Laura. They'd been gone too long.
He'd tried the cell phone number, but it kept saying she was out of the area. It was bunk, unless she hopped on the ferry, but cell phones were a piece of technology he couldn't understand. Turn a corner and it wouldn't work. Go into one building and it would. Either way, he was impatient to see them, to make certain they were safe. To hold his girls in his arms.
He dialed the police, but the line was busy, and he knew with the hurricane threatening the coast it would be hours before they could go looking for a missing woman and child. Without a second thought, Richard strode to the closet, tossed on a coat and headed outside. He asked Dewey if he could borrow his truck, and when the man tossed him the keys, Dewey offered to go look. Richard waved him off, unable to sit still any longer, and asked the man to start securing the grounds.
Moments later, he was driving down the main road at a dangerous speed, the rain pounding at the roof and windows as he searched. He flipped on the floodlights mounted on the top of the cab, spinning the handle and sending a million watts of light over the darkened streets. This is likely the only time all this good ol' boy hardware came in handy, he thought, and was grateful for it. Rain washed over the street, creating gullies. Mud and sand had already trapped cars, and he imagined the SUV stuck and the water rushing up the door. He swung the light left and right, creeping slowly down street after street and wishing he could go faster.
Then he spotted them. Relief crashed through him as he pulled up alongside and climbed out. Over the engine and the rain he heard the faint sound of singing as he rushed to the side of the SUV.
Laura rolled down the window and blinked at him. "Richard!"
The shock on her face cut him in half. She hadn't expected him to leave the house for her. It shamed him and he leaned close and kissed her hard. "Thank God."
"Hi, Daddy," Kelly called.
"Are you two okay?" He flung open the car door and sent the window up.
"Yes, the engine stalled and wouldn't start," she said, climbing out and reaching over the seat for Kelly. "Then the cell phone battery died while I was trying to call. I forgot to recharge it."
Richard took Kelly from her, then helped them into the warm truck, before he went to the SUV for the packages. "Good Lord, Laura," he muttered, stuffing the bags around their feet. "Think you have enough?"
"I heard about the hurricane. I wanted us to be prepared."
Us, he thought. Was she already thinking of them as a family, like he was? "We're getting some of it," he said. "Maybe it will scoot up the coast like the last one." Hurricanes were bad if you lived on the coast, horrific if you lived on an island like this. It was the price of solitude and beautiful sunsets, he thought dismally.