“My ex-husband.” Jade bit her lip and glanced at Jacob. She couldn’t share everything here in front of a man she didn’t know. “Aiden, I’ll tell you everything once we get back to the ship. I owe you that.” After all, she’d put him in danger, hadn’t she?
The radio crackled. “Coast Guard. Come in. Over.”
Aiden fished the device from his jacket pocket. “We’re here. Are you close?” More static. “Come again.”
“We’re at the entrance digging you out. No signs of hostile forces.”
“Good news. Our guide has regained consciousness but was hit in the head.” Aiden moved to the mouth of the cave.
“EMS is waiting here. See you soon. Over.”
Jade let out a breath, her shoulders releasing from their tightened position. The news of their rescue and the disappearance of whoever caused the avalanche brought hope to their dreary situation. All they needed to do was sit and wait for the workers to clear the debris.
And pray Zorro wouldn’t return.
~ ~ ~
After a few harrowing hours, Jade buttoned her sweater as she sat on a lounge chair on the deck of The Enchanted. The sun began to set, casting a radiant display of pinks and oranges on the horizon. Didn’t she start the day in this exact same spot? And what a day it turned out to be. The Coast Guard was true to their word and rescued them without incident. EMS successfully bandaged Jacob’s head and transported him to the nearest hospital. Aiden escorted Jade back to the ship and hadn’t let her out of his sight. They’d chosen to have a quick meal and end the evening sitting out in the peacefulness to watch the sun meet the moon.
Aiden lounged beside her. He rested his head back, eyes closed. The day had taxed him. She studied his profile. A five o’clock shadow had taken over his chin, but she didn’t mind. The rugged handsome look fit him. How did this man wheedle his way into her heart so quickly? The girl who trusted no one. Yet, Aiden Mitchell managed to do just that.
He grabbed her hand. “What are you thinking?”
She returned her gaze to the setting sun. “Why you’re so easy to trust.”
“I have that special quality.” He chuckled.
“Seriously. I don’t put my faith in too many men. Not any more.”
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
She sighed. Might as well get it over with. “I was young and foolish. Met a handsome man who swept me off my feet. He was a board member of my employer. Perfect gentleman. Showered me with gifts, took me out for lavish dinners, and promised me a future. Said I would never have to work again if I married him. He’d be the perfect husband.” She shifted in her chair. Memories flooded. Angst pounded her chest. She withdrew her hand from Aiden’s and rubbed her neck. Could she go on?
Aiden sat up, turned, and faced her. “It’s okay. He’s not here. He can’t hurt you.”
She forced a smile. “I should have known then something wasn’t right. No one can promise anything to be perfect.” The sun’s pink hues deepened as it descended. The lighting on the deck had darkened with dusk. “Nathanial came home late one night about a year after we were married. I’d made a mess of the meal because he wasn’t home when he said he would be. That was the first evening he hit me. After he did it, he apologized. Said he was sorry, but that he expected more of me.”
Aiden clenched his fists. “Coward. No man should ever treat a woman like that.”
She huffed. “That was just the beginning. I couldn’t do anything right. I didn’t fold the laundry his way, put his jeans in the wrong drawer, wore the wrong dress to a company function. You name it. He accused me of it. Each blow got worse.”
“Did you file a restraining order?”
“Yes. That’s what landed me in the hospital with a concussion, cracked ribs, and a broken arm.” She hugged herself as if that would ward off any further attacks.
“A policeman questioned me after the doctor called them. He didn’t believe my story. Anyway, Nathanial landed in jail for a bit, but his bigwig lawyer got him out. Told me if I tried anything more he’d kill me.” She pushed her hair back on her forehead, exposing a scar. “I vowed then and there I’d run away and escape his evil clutches.”
Aiden caressed the scar. “I’m sorry he did this to you.” He kissed her forehead. “I wish I could undo everything he did.”
His touch soothed her skin, sending tingles down her spine. “Me too.”
“Is that why you’re here? To run away?”
“Something like that.”
“What do you—” His cell interrupted his question. He swiped at the screen, and frowned. “I’m so sorry. It’s my boss. I’ve been expecting his call.” He stood. “News on a case. I have to take this.”
“I’ll just be over there by the railing.”
She nodded and sunk deeper into the lounger. The sun disappeared over the horizon, allowing the moon residence among the twinkling stars. The brilliant display reflected across the vast ocean. Such a beautiful night.
Couples dispersed from the dining lounge and strolled onto the deck, hand-in-hand. They laughed and chatted among themselves.
She eyed Aiden as he leaned against the railing. Oh how she’d love to be able to do that with him. After this cruise.
Would never happen. Not now.
“Excuse me, a gentleman asked me to give you this.” The balding man handed her an envelope.
“Thank you.” Jade glanced around the deck, but didn’t see anyone watching. Weird.
Her name was handwritten on the front. With shaky fingers, she eased the tab open.
YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE. TOMORROW I WILL CLAIM YOU.
. . . to be continued
Click here to go to Part 11 – Death and Life.
This first appeared in Christian Life in London.