Authors: Lorelei Confer
Where would she go if she did get away? Joe or Amanda could be waiting right outside the locked door for her. Joe would kill her. She had no reason to doubt his threats, especially now, after she had defied him. She didn’t know whom to trust.
She remembered Wyatt’s gun and the familiar way he handled it. Was he a cop? The mere thought sent a shiver through her.
Drained of physical endurance, her brain fatigued from the mental challenges facing her, she couldn’t afford to be stupid now.
She took a couple small steps backward until her legs were touching the couch and sat down on the end far away from him, all the while watching him. His sharp, don’t-miss-anything eyes drilled into her the entire time. She didn’t have to tell him everything or even anything at all.
He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees with his hands clenched together between them.
She moved farther away from him.
“Well, tell me what’s going on so I can help you.”
He looked at her, brows raised, as if waiting for an answer. She glanced down at her fingers, her shoulders sank, her head dropped forward as wave after wave of sobs tore through her from the deluge of memories, turbulence, and apprehension.
She looked at him, trying to form words, her mouth moving but no words coming out. When she met his eyes, she lost all her thoughts. Her lips quivered, she started breathing rapidly, and her heart pounded. She was afraid to trust him, afraid she couldn’t handle the consequences.
Wyatt waited for a response with patience, one of the things he did best. “Just take a minute and collect yourself. I’m sure whoever’s after you is long gone by now. They probably have warrants out on them, so they aren’t going to stick around.”
He sat back, relaxing on the couch while she shied away from him on the edge of her seat.
“Ar-ar-are you a cop?” she sputtered, her lips trembling.
“Why? Do you want me to call the cops, or are you afraid of cops?”
She giggled. A stifled laugh, soft and snickering, stunned him by the animosity he heard within the sound. “I’m not afraid of them. I just don’t trust them, not even with a stick of chewing gum.”
Now it was his turn to laugh. He hadn’t heard that one before. So she had a sense of humor.
“Well, you can trust me.” Wyatt chuckled, trying to provide her with reassurance.
“How do I know I can trust you? I thought I could trust my friend Amanda too. Look where it got me.”
“Where did it get you?”
She studied her hands, shaking her head, but unwilling to provide any further information.
“Well, let’s try this again from the beginning. My name’s Wyatt Bowman. I own and manage Bowman Industries and Land Development. I’m sure you’ve heard of us. We’re pretty big in this area of the country.”
“No, no, I haven’t heard of you.” Finally she shrugged and whispered, “Isabella, my name’s Isabella Donnelly.”
As her words poured out, tears trickled down her cheeks. She wiped her nose on her hand, and then wiped her wet snotty hand on the leg of her ripped pants.
“That’s a beautiful name,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you, Isabella. You can relax. You’re safe here. As I said, the alarm system’s on. No one can get inside the house to harm you.”
“How did I get inside then? You didn’t even have the deadbolt on and the alarm didn’t go off.”
“I’m not sure why the deadbolt wasn’t locked. But I turned the alarm system on by remote as soon as you entered this room,” he answered with all seriousness.
She stared at him, thinking, remembering. “That’s what you were doing with the remote. I thought you were turning on the TV,” she said with a nervous chuckle.
He laughed quietly shaking his head back in forth.
Wyatt studied her bruised, war-weary face. He understood how she felt. He ran his hand through his hair, ruffled it, raised an eyebrow in question, and expelled a deep breath.
* * * *
So she was safe from her kidnappers. But was she safe from him?
A sickening thought entered her tired, weary mind. Surely she had not been blinded by the dream of freedom from one hellhole only to be thrown into a much worse one. And what could that be?
She looked into Wyatt’s eyes for any sign of deceit, or for any lack of sincerity. But she saw only compassion and kindness. She definitely didn’t want him to report her to the police or take her to the police station, drop her off, forget about her. Law enforcement of any kind would only screw it up, as they always did. Following leads that led nowhere, arresting the wrong person, or not doing anything at all. But what disturbed her more was the thought that he would forget about her. Isn’t that what she wanted after all—to tell the authorities, let them take care of everything? No, she
didn’t want them involved. She didn’t think they would believe her or help her anyway. She didn’t trust them enough to fix a pothole, let alone find out why or who had done this to her. She had to think!
She knew she couldn’t go home. Amanda knew where she lived, had visited her apartment a few times. And since Amanda knew where she lived, Joe probably knew as well. They knew where she worked too so she couldn’t go back to work teaching school where she had spent the last three years.
All her identification, credit cards, cell phone, house and car keys were in her purse which Joe carried to the van the night he “drove her home.” She hadn’t seen her purse or any of her belongings again.
So now she had no proof of who she was or even of how she had gotten here to his house. If the police became involved, they would laugh at her and think she was crazy.
Nowhere to go. No way to get anywhere and no one to talk to about any of this except the staggeringly handsome man on the other end of the couch.
Her thoughts drifted to her mother. They had a great relationship. She could talk to her. Her mother would believe her no matter what she said and would probably even send a cab to pick her up and take her home. Together, they could figure this whole thing out themselves and she could get her life back.
But what if her kidnappers followed her to her mother’s house? Or worse yet, what if they had already contacted her mother, kidnapped her or threatened her? She wondered if her mother had tried to contact her in the last few days. Would her mother go to her apartment to check on her when she didn’t answer? Would she think to call her landlord for him check on her?
She smirked, which made the split in her lip bleed and hurt like crazy.
Maybe her mother would file a missing persons report?
How long is the wait now, twenty-four or forty-eight hours?
Since Isabella didn’t talk to her mother every day once she began teaching, each taking care of their own homes, hobbies, and charities had consumed much of their time. Her mother wouldn’t have any reason to check on her yet, she didn’t think. Hopefully, she hadn’t realized Isabella’s absence. Her mother didn’t need to worry about her.
She hadn’t realized how self-absorbed she had become in her own confusing thoughts until she heard Wyatt saying something about a drink. Did she want a drink? All the hair stood straight up on the back of her neck like a blinking red light.
Wasn’t a drink of water how all this started, ending up here in this too-confusing situation in the first place?
“Do you have water in a sealed unopened bottle?”
Wyatt’s look questioned her reason for asking but he nodded as he walked to the small refrigerator in the corner of the room, reached in, and grabbed two bottles of water. He handed one to her to open.
She looked the bottle over making sure it hadn’t been opened before. There were no signs of sabotage, so she screwed off the tight lid, breaking the seal. She took a sip, then a few big gulps.
She couldn’t remember the last time she had a cold drink of water from a bottle. It tasted so good. She glanced up at Wyatt, who had remained standing.
He stared across the room as if in deep thought, one hand in his pocket jingling his change, which reminded her of her father. She studied him. He was muscular, with broad shoulders, an attractive silhouette, and a shapely butt. He appeared to be someone willing to listen to her, but could she trust him? What harm could there be in telling him some of what happened to her? What more do they want from her? She relaxed.
“They took me,” she finally blurted out.
“What? Who? Those two?” Wyatt asked, startled at first, when she began to speak. He jerked his head and pointed toward the backyard.
“Who are they?”
“I only know them by their first names, Joe and Amanda. I became friends with Amanda when I met her at the gym we both attended.”
“Where do you live and work?”
“I live on
Cameron Lake Drive
. I’m a second-grade teacher at Lakes Elementary. If you could call me a cab, I’ll be on my way. Maybe I can figure this out after a good night’s rest in my own bed?”
“Where does your friend Amanda live?”
“She never told me her address. I followed her scrawled directions to what I thought was her condo for a girls’ night out. We were going to have pizza and drinks. There wasn’t an address on the directions. I looked, because at one point, I thought I was lost and would have to stop and ask directions.”
When she saw him raise a questioning eyebrow, she continued. “As I said I met Amanda at the gym near the school where I teach. We hit it off and became friends. You know, we went out to lunch, shopping a few times, and saw a couple movies—that sort of thing.”
As she explained all this to Wyatt, she realized that Amanda had never talked about herself. She didn’t even know Amanda’s last name, her address, or even how to contact her. Amanda always called her, or they made plans when they met at the gym. She couldn’t remember giving Amanda her phone number or address, but she must have at some time during one of their conversations because Amanda knew it. Amanda also seemed to know when she visited her mother and when or if she and her mother had argued, because Amanda would ask her about it.
Isabella finally pushed back on the couch while contemplating this new revelation. She knew nothing that could help her, absolutely nothing about the people who abducted her including where they held her or even where she was now. And worse, but more importantly, they knew everything about her!
Wyatt interrupted her thoughts. “Tell me exactly what happened to you. Tell me from the beginning. How did they take you? Where were you held? Was it a house or an apartment?”
“You’re not going to believe me, I just know it. I can hardly belief it myself. I don’t know how I could have been so stupid,” Isabella said, chastising herself.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes, big ones, too. Try starting from the beginning and let me determine if you’re telling the truth or not.”
“Oh, I’ll be telling you the truth. It’s just so bizarre it’s hard to believe.”
“Try me,” Wyatt said with an overabundance of patience.
“Well...” Isabella began as she retold her story.
“Had you been to her house before?” Wyatt interrupted her.
“No! She always met me somewhere or came to my place.”
“What happened then?”
“I followed her directions to her condo.”
“And you didn’t look at the address or the street signs?” Wyatt asked with disbelief.
“I had some reservations since I had never been in that neighborhood before.”
“What happened next?”
“Do we really have to go through all this now? I’m exhausted. I just want to go home. I’m worried about my mother. If you would simply call me a cab, I can pay you for it when I get home. No wait, that won’t work. They know where I live. Damn!”
“Do you want me to help you or not?”
“Yes, okay, okay. Once I got to Amanda’s place, she started acting weird and that worried me.”
“Weird how? What did she do?”
“Amanda left me alone, went into a bedroom and shut the door to ‘order pizza.’ And no other girls showed up for our fancy ‘girls’ night out.’ I got tired of waiting so I confronted her. Amanda joined me when I threatened to leave, but she insisted I stay since she had already ordered the pizza. Anyway, this guy Joe shows up with the pizza.”
“A friend of hers, I guess.”
“Okay, what happened next?”
“I took a slice of pizza, and Amanda brought me a glass of water. I got really tired and drowsy. Also, I could hardly walk. Joe offered to drive me home and Amanda insisted, so I let him. And then I ended up in some hellhole of a house on the other side of town, forced to drink soda, eat Pop-Tarts and granola bars…until I escaped today.”
“How far away from here is the place where they held you?”
“I don’t know. I’m not very good with distance. I know I ran the whole way here through woods and brush from a park to get away from them. It took most of the day I think.”
When she mentioned the park, he raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. He rubbed his chin with his fingers, and then ran his hand through his hair. Finally, he summed it up.