Chapter Nine

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"she's in hampton." phillip kept his eyes on Seth as he relayed the information. He watched Cam lay a hand on the boy's rigid shoulder, an unspoken sign of protection. "She was picked up by the police—drunk and disorderly, possession."

"She's in jail." Seth's face was white as bone. "They can keep her in jail."

"She's there now." How long she would stay there, Phillip thought, was another matter. "She probably has enough money to post bond."

"You mean she can pay them money and they'll let her go?" Beneath Cam's hand, Seth began to tremble. "No matter what?"

"I don't know. But for now we know exactly where she is. I'm going down to talk to her."

"Don't! Don't go there."

"Seth, we've talked about this." Cam massaged the shaking shoulder as he turned Seth to face him. "The only way we're going to fix this for good is to deal with her."

"I won't go back." It was said in a whisper, but a furious one. "I'll never go back."

"You won't go back." Ethan unhitched his tool belt, laid it on the workbench. "You can stay with Grace until Anna gets home." He looked at Phillip and Cam. "We'll go to Hampton."

"What if the cops say I have to? What if they come while you're gone and—"

"Seth." Phillip interrupted the rising desperation. He crouched, took Seth's arms firmly. "You have to trust us."

Seth stared back at him with Ray Quinn's eyes, and those eyes were glazed with tears and terror. For the first time, Phillip looked into them and felt no shadowy resentment, no doubts.

"You belong with us," he said quietly. "Nothing's going to change that."

On a long, shuddering breath Seth nodded. He had no choice, could do nothing but hope. And fear.

"We'll take my car," Phillip stated.

"grace and anna will calm him down." Cam shifted restlessly in the passenger seat of Phillip's Jeep.

"It's hell being that scared." From the backseat, Ethan glanced at the speedometer and noted that Phillip was pushing eighty. "Not being able to do anything but wait and see."

"She's fucked herself," Phillip said flatly. "Getting arrested isn't going to help her custody case, if she tries to make one."

"She doesn't want the kid."

Phillip spared a brief glance at Cam. "No, she wants money. She isn't going to bleed any out of us. But we're going to get some answers. We're going to end it."

She'd lie, Phillip thought. He had no doubt that she would lie and wheedle and maneuver. But she was wrong, dead wrong, if she thought she could get past the three of them to Seth.

You'll handle what comes next, Ray had said.

Phillip's hands tightened on the wheel. He kept his eyes on the road. He'd handle it, all right. One way or the other.

with her head throbbing, her stomach rolling, Sybill walked into the small county police station. Gloria had called her, weeping and desperate, begging her to send money for bail.

For bail, Sybill thought now, fighting off a shudder.

Gloria said it was a mistake, she reminded herself, a terrible misunderstanding. Of course, what else could it have been? She'd nearly wired the money. She still wasn't sure what had stopped her, what had pushed her to get into her car and drive.

To help, of course, she told herself. She only wanted to help.

"I'm here for Gloria DeLauter," she told the uniformed officer who sat behind a narrow, cluttered counter. "I'd like to see her, if possible."

"Your name?"

"Griffin. Dr. Sybill Griffin. I'm her sister. I'll post her bond, but I'd… I'd like to see her."

"Can I see some ID?"

"Oh, yes." She fumbled in her purse for her wallet. Her hands were damp and shaky, but the cop simply watched her with cool eyes until she offered identification.

"Why don't you have a seat?" he suggested, then scraped back his own chair and slipped into an adjoining room.

Her throat was dry and desperate for water. She wandered the small waiting area with its grouping of hard plastic chairs in industrial beige until she found a water fountain. But the water hit her tortured stomach like frigid balls of lead.

Had they put her in a cell? Oh, God, had they actually put her sister in a cell? Is that where she would have to see Gloria?

But under the sorrow, her mind was working coolly, pragmatically. How had Gloria known where to reach her? What was she doing so close to St. Christopher's? Why was she accused of having drugs?

That was why she hadn't wired the money, she admitted now. She wanted the answers first.

"Dr. Griffin."

She jolted, turned to the officer with her eyes wide as a doe's caught in headlights. "Yes. Can I see her now?"

"I'll need to take your purse. I'll give you a receipt."

"All right."

She handed it over to him, signed the log where he indicated, accepted the receipt for her belongings.

"This way."

He gestured toward a side door, then opened it into a narrow corridor. On the left was a small room furnished only with a single table and a few chairs. Gloria sat at one, her right wrist cuffed to a bolt.

Sybill's first thought was that they'd made a mistake. This wasn't her sister. They'd brought the wrong woman into the room. This one looked far too old, far too hard, with her bony body, the shoulders like points of wings, the contrast of breasts pressing against a tiny, snug sweater so hard that the nipples stood out in arrogant relief.

Her frizzed mass of straw-colored hair had a dark streak shooting up the center, deep lines dug in around her mouth, and the calculation in her eyes was as sharp as those shoulders.

Then those eyes filled, that mouth trembled.

"Syb." Her voice cracked as she held out an imploring hand. "Thank God you've come."

"Gloria." She stepped forward quickly, took that shaking hand in her own. "What happened?"

"I don't know. I don't understand any of it. I'm so scared." She laid her head on the table and began to weep in loud, racking sobs.

"Please." Instinctively Sybill sat and draped her arm around her sister as she looked over at the cop. "Can we be alone?"

"I'll be right outside." He looked back at Gloria. If he thought what a change this was from the screaming, cursing woman who'd been pulled in a few hours ago, his face revealed nothing.

He stepped out, shut the door, and left them alone.

"Let me get you some water."

Sybill rose, hurried over to the water jug in the corner, and filled a thin triangle of paper. She cupped her hands around her sister's, holding it steady.

"Did you pay the bail? Why can't we just go? I don't want to stay here."

"I'll take care of it. Tell me what happened."

"I said I don't know. I was with this guy. I was lonely." She sniffed, accepting the tissue that Sybill passed her. "We were just talking for a while. We were going to go out to lunch, then the cops came up. He ran away and they grabbed me. It all happened so fast."

She buried her face in her hands. "They found drugs in my purse. He must have put them there. I just wanted someone to talk to."

"All right. I'm sure we'll straighten it all out." Sybill wanted to believe, to accept, and she hated herself because she couldn't. Not quite. "What was his name?"

"John. John Barlow. He seemed so sweet, Sybill. So understanding. I was feeling really low. Because of Seth." She lowered her hands and her eyes were tragic. "I miss my little boy so much."

"Were you coming to St. Christopher's?"

Gloria lowered her gaze. "I thought, if I just had a chance to see him."

"Is that what the lawyer suggested?"

"The—oh…" The hesitation was brief, but it set off warning bells in Sybill's head. "No, but lawyers don't understand. They just keep asking for money."

"What's your lawyer's name? I'll call him. He may be able to help straighten this out."

"He's not from around here. Look, Sybill, I just want to get out of h

ere. You can't believe how horrible it is. That cop out there?" She nodded toward the door. "He put his hands on me."

Sybill's stomach began to pitch again. "What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean." The first hint of annoyance sliced through. "He felt me up, and he said he'd be back later for more. He's going to rape me."

Sybill shut her eyes, pressed her fingers to them. When they were teenagers, Gloria had accused more than a dozen boys and men of molesting her, including her high school counselor and principal. Even their own father.

"Gloria, don't do this. I said I would help you."

"I'm telling you that bastard put his hands all over me. As soon as I'm out of here, I'm filing charges." She crumpled the paper cup, heaved it. "I don't give a damn if you believe me or not. I know what happened."

"All right, but let's deal with now. How did you know where to find me?"

Tags: Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay Saga Romance