“Until now,” Jay challenged.
“Until now,” he agreed, ignoring the accusation in Jay’s words. “I’m sorry, Violet. If there was any chance, any chance at all, that I thought someone might come after you, I would never have kept this to myself. As it is, only a handful of men are even working on this aspect of the case.”
“So then why Violet? How would this…person… know that Violet was involved?” Now it was Kathryn Ambrose who was criticizing her husband.
He shrugged. “That’s just it…. I have no idea. It could just be a coincidence, but I doubt it. And if it’s not, if somehow he knows about Violet, then we need to find him. Fast.” He sounded resolute now.
When the doctor came in with Violet’s discharge orders, he explained that a bad sprain like hers could take weeks, even months, to heal properly, and that she would need to stay off her foot as much as possible. One of the nurses expertly wrapped the Ace bandage to the point that Violet thought her toes might not be getting enough blood circulation. Her parents were handed a prescription for some painkillers and heavy-duty-strength ibuprofen for the swelling. And Violet was fitted for crutches, which always sound like fun when you’re little, but in reality chafe your underarms and make your muscles burn from the constant strain.
Her uncle was on his cell phone, ordering a round-the-clock police presence at Violet’s house. And Violet could feel the walls closing in on her. Between her current inability to walk on her own, and the suffocating notion of being watched 24-7…and not just by the cops, she thought, as she glanced at the worried faces of her already overprotective parents, she could sense her world shrinking. She had just barely escaped being on lockdown, and now she was going to be in maximum-security solitary confinement.
Jay smiled at her encouragingly, taking in the ashen look of horror on her face, and she could practically read his mind as he imagined the two of them locked up together until this maniac who had hunted her in the woods was finally caught.
She supposed that, if she had to be in isolation, isolation with Jay might not be so bad after all.
DESPITE LISTENING TO THE REASSURING WORDS repeated by her parents, and by her uncle and even Jay, Violet was having a hard time trusting that she was safe. They tried to assure her that there was no way the man in the woods could have known that she’d had any part in locating his victims—or in the capture of his partner. That he’d come across her the same way he had all of those other girls, by simple, random chance. And that she’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The extra safety measures were simply to prevent him from coming back for her.
So she convinced herself that they were right, mostly because it made it easier for her to get through each day. Having Jay around helped too.
The weekend passed peacefully, and after everything that had happened, Violet welcomed the reprieve.
The day after the incident in the woods was a Friday, and Violet stayed home, keeping her ankle elevated and iced. Jay reluctantly went to school, but only because his mother made him, so Violet was left on her own. Well, alone with her mom, and an armed police officer who was stationed out in front of her house.
She had meant to use the time to catch up on some reading. She had several books she’d been wanting to read, but instead she sprawled out on the couch surrounded by pillows and blankets, and spent the hours flipping channels between Judge Judy, The People’s Court, Maury, and Jerry Springer, and rounded out her afternoon with Dr. Phil and Oprah. All in all, it was a complete waste of a day. At least until school got out.
Jay showed up after school with a bouquet of flowers and an armful of DVDs, although Violet couldn’t have cared less about either…he was all she wanted. She couldn’t help the electric thrill of excitement she felt when he came strolling in, grinning at her foolishly as if he hadn’t seen her in weeks rather than hours. He scooped her up from the couch and dropped her onto his lap as he sat down where she had been just a moment before. He was careful to arrange her ankle on a neatly stacked pile of pillows beside him.
He stubbornly refused to hide his affection for her, and if Violet hadn’t known better she would have sworn that he was going out of his way to make her self-conscious in her own home. Fortunately her parents were giving them some space for the time being, and they were left by themselves most of the time.
“Did you miss me?” he asked arrogantly as he gently brushed his lips over hers, not bothering to wait for an answer.
She smiled while she kissed him back, loving the topsy-turvy feeling that her stomach always got when he was so close to her. She wound her arms around his neck, forgetting that she was in the middle of the family room and not hidden away in the privacy of her bedroom.
He pulled away from her, suddenly serious. “You know, we didn’t get much time alone yesterday. And I didn’t get a chance to tell you…”
Violet was mesmerized by the thick timbre of his deep voice. She barely heard his words but rather concentrated on the fluid masculinity of his tone.
“I feel like I’ve waited too long to finally have you, and then yesterday…when…” He stopped, seemingly at a loss, and then he tried another approach. His hand stroked her cheek, igniting a response from deep within her. “I can’t imagine living without you,” he said, tenderly kissing her forehead, his warm breath fanning her brow. He paused thoughtfully for a moment before speaking again. “I love you, Violet. More than I ever could have imagined. And I don’t want to lose you…. I can’t lose you.”