Safe by the Marshals Side | Chapter 28 of 34

Author: Shirlee McCoy | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1550 Views | Add a Review

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TWENTY

Obviously, it isn’t a straight shot to forever, Annie thought as a doctor stitched the deep gash in her cheek.

She’d thought they’d go to Hunter’s house, grab their things and head out. Hunter had insisted they go straight to the hospital.

She was glad. Her parents were both there, playing with Sophia. Seeing them with her was bittersweet. They’d have to say goodbye again, be separated again, but she had to trust that eventually God would bring them back together.

“So, you have to leave us again, huh?” her father, Bill Stanley, said for what seemed like the hundredth time. “You’re sure it isn’t safe to stick around here?”

“I wish it were, Dad. I’ve really missed you guys.”

“We’ve missed you, too, but we’d rather have you alive and out of reach than gone forever.”

“I know.” Annie winced as the doctor jabbed at her cheek.

“I wish we could go with you, honey,” her mother said, a wistfulness in her voice that Annie had never heard before.

“You love it in St. Louis. When I was a kid, you said that you never wanted to leave.” She tried to turn her head to see her mother’s expression, but the doctor frowned. An on-call plastic surgeon, he’d insisted that he could make sure that Annie’s scar was almost unnoticeable.

“Try to hold still. You don’t want to have a jagged scar when this heals,” he said sternly.

She honestly didn’t care. She’d been through a lot of pain and a lot of trial, but she’d survived. A scar on her cheek seemed a fitting reminder of that.

She held still anyway.

“Because you were here,” her mother continued. “St. Louis just doesn’t seem like home when you’re not around.”

“You know, Sandy,” Bill said. “I can take early retirement. If the marshals would help, maybe we could start over with Annie and Sophia.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Sandy gushed. “We could be a family again!”

It sounded more than wonderful. It sounded like all the dreams Annie had been afraid to hope for during the past year.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Come in,” Annie called.

The door opened, and Hunter walked in. He looked rugged, handsome and so wonderful that her heart jumped with happiness.

“How are you doing?” he asked, crossing the room in three long strides.

“Better now that you’re here.”

He smiled and lifted her hand, turning so that he was looking at her family. “I’m sorry this happened to your daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley. I take full responsibility.”

“I told you that I’m taking responsibility,” Burke said as Serena wheeled him into the room. He was pale, his head bandaged, his T-shirt pulled tight over his bandaged shoulder. “If I’d parked in the driveway, this wouldn’t have happened. I’m a failure as a marshal. I need to resign.”

“It’s getting awfully crowded in here,” the doctor sighed as he applied a bandage to the wound. “You’re all set. I’ll have the nurse come in with aftercare instructions.” He glanced around the room, sighed again and walked out.

“Like I was saying,” Burke continued, his words slurring slightly. “I’m going to hand in my resignation as soon as I get back to the office.”

“You’re still loopy from the drugs they gave you, Burke. So shut up and stop having your pity party,” Serena said, but she pulled a blanket up a little higher on his lap and patted his uninjured shoulder.

“I’m not—”

“You can’t resign. I’m taking extended leave beginning tomorrow,” Hunter cut in. “I’m not sure when or if I’ll be back.”

“Why not just take a vacation?” Josh walked into the room, skirting by Serena and the wheelchair. “You haven’t had one in years.”

“Because I really don’t think I’m coming back.” Hunter squeezed Annie’s hand, looked down into her eyes. She didn’t want him to give up his job for her, but she wanted him happy, and right then, she could see all the joy on his face.

He felt good about his decision. Right about it.

She couldn’t feel any other way.

The group of marshals looked stunned.

“Did you hire that Colton Philips guy?” Burke asked, a scowl etching deep lines on his face. “Because it sounds like we’re going to need him.”

“I spoke to him a couple of times, but I think he’s too brash for our team. The three of you will do fine until a replacement can be found. Bud Hollingsworth said he’ll do whatever he can during the transition.”

Serena sighed. “Daniel’s gone. You’re leaving. The office is going to be empty.”

“Not empty. Josh will be there, and so will I. I obviously can’t resign until we get someone to take Hunter’s place,” Burke griped, but he looked relieved rather than upset.

“It’s not like I’ll be out of contact,” Hunter assured the team. “I’ll be as close as a phone call if you need to consult with me. We still have to find out who was leaking information to Don Saunders.”

“Or to his boss,” Annie said without thinking.

The room went completely silent. Even Sophia stopped babbling and squealing.

“What do you mean?” Hunter asked quietly.

“He made a phone call to someone he called ‘boss.’ He told him that I wouldn’t tell anyone anything ever again.” She explained the rest quickly.

When she was done, Josh let out a long low whistle. “It sounds like your husband knew something that he didn’t share with you. We’re going to have to do some more digging to find out what.”

“Maybe visiting Fiske wasn’t a waste of time after all,” Hunter added. “He mentioned a boss, too. Some guy he called Mr. Big. I thought he made it up, but maybe the guy really exists. The officers who booked Saunders called me a few minutes ago. They said he hasn’t stopped talking. He insists he has information that we need.”

“What kind of information?” Josh asked.

“Something about a baby-smuggling ring.” His gaze shot to Sophia.

“Are you saying that the men who murdered Joe were trying to snatch my daughter?” Had Joe been protecting Sophia? Was that why he’d died?

“We don’t have all the information yet, but we’re keeping the arrest quiet. We don’t want any information leaked out. If he’s right, the less information Mr. Big has, the better it will be for the investigation.”

“But—” She wanted to ask a million more questions, try to wrap her mind around the new information, but Josh cut her off.

“I think I’ll pay Fiske a visit tomorrow, see if I can get any more information out of him,” he said.

“Keep me posted, okay?” Hunter responded. “I may be taking a leave of absence, but I want to know what’s going on.”

“That being the case, you’ve been careful with information regarding where she’s relocating to, right?” Serena said, shooting a look at Annie’s parents.

“Very,” Hunter responded.

“Glad to hear it. We’ve gotten them this far. I don’t want anything to happen to them now that the trial is over. Come on, Burke. I’m supposed to get you home and make sure you don’t kill yourself climbing into bed.”

“I’d better head out, too. I want to go over the Delacorte files, see if there’s anything in there we missed.” Josh followed Serena out of the room.

“I thought this was over,” Bill said, taking Annie’s hand and squeezing gently. “I thought you were finally going to be safe.”

“She will be,” Hunter assured him. “I’m going to make sure of it.”

“What can we do to help?” Sandy carried Sophia over.

“Pray and wait for an opportunity to join your daughter and granddaughter.” He took Sophia from her arms, and Annie’s heart swelled with love as she looked at the two of them together. They looked comfortable together, happy together.

They looked like a family together.

“So, you think that might be a possibility? Because I really don’t want to go the rest of my life without seeing my daughter and granddaughter again.” Sandy’s eyes welled with tears.

“I already have it in the works. As soon as you’re ready—”

“We’re ready,” Annie’s father cut in.

“The marshals will arrange everything, then. You should be able to join us in a few weeks.”

Us? So, there’s going to be a wedding?” Bill asked, his brow furrowed into a million lines.

“Dad!” Annie cut in quickly. “I’m going to have my own place. Hunter will be...?” What would he be doing?

She met his eyes, and he smiled. “I’ll find a place to rent for a while.”

“Oh. Okay, then.” Bill nodded. “Glad to hear it. Now it seems to me, the best thing for my daughter and granddaughter would be to get them out of town quickly.”

“That’s what I intend to do.”

“Then we’ll say goodbye. Hopefully, it won’t be for long,” Bill said, kissing Annie’s uninjured cheek and pulling her in for a bear hug. She swallowed back tears, pasting a smile on her face as she said goodbye. Again.

“You okay?” Hunter asked after her parents walked out of the room.

“I think so.” She ran a hand over her hair, pulling out pins that were barely holding it into place. “It’s just really hard to say goodbye again.”

“It’ll only be for a few months.” He put Sophia down, ruffling her hair as he gazed straight into Annie’s eyes.

“I know.”

“Then why do you look so sad?”

“Because I’ve missed them, and they’ve already missed so much of Sophia’s life.”

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, slipping his arms around her waist, his lips grazing her forehead, so lightly, so tenderly, tears filled her eyes.

“It’s not your fault. It’s all because of Joe. Everything that happened is because he—”

“May have saved her, Annie. If what Saunders told the police is true, he probably did,” Hunter said gently, his hand cupping her jaw, his eyes warm and brown and filled with promises. “Let’s make sure we tell her that when she’s older. I want her to have good feelings about her first father.”

“First?”

“Sure. I kind of liked your father’s suggestion about having a wedding. I was hoping that, in a few months, there might just be one.”

“You know what?” she said, placing her hand over the one he’d rested against her waist. “I think I like that idea.”

“Think?” he asked with a small laugh. “I’d rather you be sure.”

“I am,” she whispered, leaning forward and sealing the words with a kiss that she felt to the depth of her soul. “You’re everything I was afraid to hope for after Joe died.”

“And you’re everything I didn’t know I needed but do. I love you, Annie.”

“I love you, too,” she murmured against his lips.

“I loves you, Hunter! I loves you!” Sophia cried.

Hunter broke away, laughing as he scooped Sophia into his arms.

“I’m glad to hear it, munchkin, because I plan to stick around for a long time. Come on.” He slipped his free arm around Annie’s waist. “Let’s go back to my place and pack. I’m ready for our forever to begin.”

“So am I, Hunter,” Annie said, her heart nearly bursting with joy as they stepped out into the hall and walked into their future together.

* * * * *

Keep reading for an excerpt from The Baby Rescue by Margaret Daly.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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