And so she needed to keep close watch and monitor the news and any other information about Walt’s pursuit, both privately and in the media. It was the private pursuit that scared her the most. Not that both avenues weren’t frightening. But it was the lengths to which a man like Walt would go outside the law that sent chills snaking down her spine and gripped her throat in a paralyzing hold that took her breath.
She tensed, shaken from her chilling thoughts by the sound of a vehicle just outside the trailer door. Sweat broke out on her forehead, and her gaze flew to Cammie, who was still sleeping on the couch.
Oh God. What if he was here? What if he’d found her? There was nowhere for her to run. No escape. She had no vehicle. The one she’d bought with nearly all of her cash reserves—under a false name—from a seedy car lot that charged her three times what the piece of crap was worth had broken down outside Dover.
She and Travis and Cammie had abandoned it, knowing they had no money or means to repair it, and they’d walked. It was how they’d come to stay in Dover. Necessity. Not choice.
With the last of their available cash, Eve had rented the trailer and paid the necessary deposits to have the utilities turned on.
Until she was able to work and stock up enough money to fund their escape to the next place, they were solidly stuck here.
She rushed to the couch, galvanized into action by the sound of a closing door. She curled her arms underneath Cammie and flew into the bedroom. Cammie stirred, a sleepy protest forming on her lips.
“Shhhh, Cammie,” Eve soothed. “Be very quiet, darling. Someone’s here.”
Cammie went instantly still, rigid in Eve’s arms. Eve damned the fact that Cammie was well acquainted with the need to hide. To be quiet. On constant alert.
“Crawl under the bed,” Eve whispered, setting her on the floor even as she issued the command. “Don’t come out, Cammie. No matter what you may hear. You stay here and hide. Don’t make a single sound. Promise me.”
“I promise,” Cammie whispered back.
Eve all but pushed the small child under the double bed and then arranged the faded, worn bed skirt to hide the evidence that someone was hiding underneath. If anything happened to Eve—if Walt had found her—perhaps she could convince them that Travis and Cammie weren’t with her. That she’d left them somewhere else. Separating them so that if Eve was arrested, or worse, discovered by Walt himself, maybe, just maybe, Cammie would remain hidden and undiscovered until Travis arrived.
A knock sounded in the distance and Eve’s heart pounded harder. She whispered an urgent prayer as she shakily rose from her perch. Please, please don’t let it be the police. Or worse, Walt. It was a testament to just how much she feared her stepfather that she’d actually prefer to be confronted by the police than by Walt himself.
For a moment she considered ignoring the knock. There wasn’t a vehicle parked outside to indicate anyone was at home. She knew no one here. It was certainly in the realm of possibility given the time of day that one could assume whoever lived here was at work.
Unless they knew better. Unless they knew very well she was here. That this was where she’d fled and hid even now.
Another knock sounded. Harder this time. A knock that told her whoever it was wasn’t going away.
Bracing her shoulders, determined not to let anyone see her fear, she walked slowly to the door. There wasn’t a window in the door. She was fortunate to have a door at all with the condition of the rest of the trailer. No way to see who was on the other side without revealing herself by looking out the small window in the living room.
But she peeked anyway, wanting to know at least what she was up against. If there were police cars outside.
Frowning, she took in the same truck that had been there just the day before. Donovan Kelly. He’d come with Rusty Kelly, the young woman who’d hired Travis. What could he want?
Feeling only a margin of relief, she went to the door and cracked it cautiously, even though it was ridiculous, because if the man wanted in, there was little she could do about it. Even she could break through this door.
Donovan’s soft inquiry slid over her ears, pricking her nape. Her pulse sped up as she met his gaze.
“It’s Donovan Kelly. We met yesterday,” he said unnecessarily.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She was still dealing with the overwhelming fear she’d experienced when she’d heard the vehicle drive up. She breathed deeply through her nostrils, willing her pulse to slow from its rapid thudding at her temples. It wouldn’t surprise her if he were able to see her heart beat against her thin T-shirt.
“Can I come in?”
She gripped the door harder and stared at him, taking in the plastic grocery bags dangling from both hands.
“Why are you here?” she finally managed to get out. “It’s not a good time.”
“I brought some things that you, Cammie and Travis needed,” he said, dipping his head toward the stuffed bags.
She stared in bewilderment at him, unsettled by the unexpected visit, but more so by the determination she saw in his eyes.
“Eve, I’m here to help you,” he said gently. “Let me in so I can unload the groceries.”
It was voiced quietly enough, but there was a definite thread of command in his tone. Her grip eased on the door, and then she remembered Cammie. Hiding under the bed in the other room. How would it look if Donovan saw?
“Cammie’s sleeping,” she blurted. “I don’t want to disturb her.”
Donovan nodded even as he pushed forward, giving her no choice but to let go of the door. As he walked in, his gaze went to the couch where Cammie had been resting just moments earlier. The fan was still humming and panic scuttled up Eve’s spine.
“She must have gone to the bathroom. I’ll just go check on her while you . . .” She broke off, gesturing toward the bags he held.
“Take your time,” Donovan said in an easy voice. “I can make my way around your kitchen just fine.”
Eve bolted toward the bedroom, shutting the door firmly behind her. Just in case he had any crazy ideas of following her. She hurried to the bed and knelt, lifting the tattered bed skirt to peer underneath.
“Cammie,” she called softly. “Come out, darling. I need you to hurry.”
Cammie immediately scrambled toward Eve, and Eve enfolded her in her arms, picking her up to hurry in the direction of the bathroom so that at least if Donovan did barge in, it would appear as though Cammie had indeed just gone to the bathroom.
Cammie’s eyes were huge in her small face, a face that was frozen with fear.
“It’s all right, Cammie. It’s just Donovan Kelly. You remember him, don’t you? He came with the woman who hired Travis yesterday. He was nice. He said he wanted to be your friend.”
Cammie slowly nodded, but she still wore a wary, guarded look that made Eve’s chest ache.
Eve carried her into the living room and eased her onto the couch so the fan would blow over her flushed skin. To her surprise, Donovan appeared beside Eve, his expression worried as he took in Cammie’s appearance.
Cammie shrank back, her eyes widening in fear. Eve wished she could control it, but what four-year-old could? It was a dead giveaway. Anyone with eyes could see the child had much to be afraid of.
Donovan took a cautious step back but turned to Eve, his expression grave—and determined. She felt as if she’d just stepped into a mire by allowing him access to her trailer, but then could she have really kept him out? He didn’t look like a man who took no for an answer. Ever.
“She’s not better,” he said grimly. “Is she still running a fever?”
Eve nodded, her shoulders sagging. She automatically reached for Cammie, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder and squeezing as if to tell her it would be okay. That Eve would die before allowing anyone to hurt her.
“She needs a doctor,” Donovan said bluntly. “She likely needs to be in the hospital. How long has she been ill?”
Eve hit the panic button again. “I can’t afford a doctor. Or a hospital.” Not to mention the exposure caused by a hospital stay. “I’ve been giving her fluids and medication around the clock. She’s been keeping it down. Well, after that first day.”
“Come into the kitchen with me,” Donovan murmured. “Reassure Cammie you won’t be going far. We should discuss this away from her.”
Eve’s eyes widened at his perception. Then she glanced down at Cammie, racked by indecision.
“Eve,” Donovan prompted.
Eve closed her eyes and then leaned down to brush a kiss across Cammie’s brow. “I’m just going to the kitchen. Donovan brought food. Wouldn’t you like a special treat?”
Slowly Cammie nodded, but she kept casting her gaze sideways at Donovan, shadows haunting her young eyes.
Eve turned and made sure Donovan went ahead of her so that she was between him and Cammie at all times. He’d made quick work of putting away the groceries, though he’d left several items out on the small countertop. Sprite. Soups. A loaf of bread. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen as well as several bottles of Pedialyte, a fluid designed to correct electrolyte imbalance.
It would appear he’d thought of everything.
“I can’t afford a doctor,” she whispered fiercely. “She’ll be okay. I’m staying with her and monitoring her fever at all times.”
Donovan put his hand over hers where she’d rested it on the countertop. A warm shock raced up her arm. Soothing. It baffled her, because she had everything to fear from this man, and yet something so simple as his touch calmed some of the rising panic and hysteria rampaging through her mind.
“I have a friend—a very close friend—who is a doctor. You’d like her. Her name is Maren. She’s married to another very good friend of mine. She’s been on maternity leave and is just now starting to get back into the swing of her practice. She routinely makes house calls, and she also sees disadvantaged patients free of charge. And Eve, you are in need. Cammie is in need. I’d like to bring her over tomorrow to check on Cammie. I’m concerned. She appears to be a very sick little girl, and while I’m sure you’re doing the absolute best you can, sometimes it’s not enough.”
She sagged, her head lowering because he was right. It wasn’t something she could very well hide. One only had to look at her—at where she lived—to know that she was in desperate need. And Cammie did need a doctor. Eve had been up with her all night, worried, sick with indecision over whether she should risk taking her into the emergency room. But how would she have gotten there? She was basically trapped here. No access to anything that wasn’t in walking distance.
Donovan lifted her hand, curling his fingers gently around hers. She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. His grasp wasn’t painful. Not at all. He wasn’t trying to hurt her, but neither did he let her go.
“We aren’t going to harm you, Eve. Nobody is. I’ll bring Maren out first thing in the morning so she can do an assessment on Cammie. She likely needs more than the over-the-counter medications you’ve been giving her.”
She closed her eyes, bringing her free hand to her throbbing temple. More medications. Prescription medications. No insurance. No way to pay for them. And antibiotics weren’t cheap!
“Eve,” Donovan said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Look at me.”
Eve lifted her gaze and in his eyes she saw—felt—warmth. Kindness. And something else entirely that she couldn’t quite figure out. He looked at her oddly. Like she was someone who mattered. To him.
“I’m going to get you the help you need. Help that Cammie and Travis need.”
Eve’s knees went weak and nearly gave out. She stumbled and braced her free hand on the countertop while Donovan’s grasp tightened on her other hand as if to steady her.
What if he reported her to child protective services? In his place, Eve certainly would. This was no place for a child, and it was equally obvious that Eve wasn’t providing for Cammie. He would be well within his rights to report his findings to the authorities, and then they’d sweep in and take Cammie—and Travis—away from her. And eventually return them to their father when it was discovered who they were. And Eve? She’d be punished for what she’d done. For taking desperate measures to protect her family. She simply couldn’t be separated from them and leave them at Walt’s mercy. It didn’t bear thinking about.
“Whatever the hell you’re thinking, stop,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what’s going through your head right now, but Eve, you can trust me. I realize that you don’t trust anyone. That much is evident. It’s also equally evident that you’re in some kind of trouble. You have nothing to fear from me. Or from Maren. We only want to help.”