|2| A MEASURE OF TRUST |:|
Kyle’s heart started pounding in his chest when Kate’s low voice startled him from his thoughts. It was just after sunrise, his usual rising hour, but he wasn’t expecting anyone else to be awake.
“I was going to wake the kids up soon so we can be on our way.”
She put the newspaper she was reading on the coffee table and pushed up from the lumpy, warn couch.
He shivered. For all intents and purposes it was cold in the cabin at that hour. He was barefoot, which was how he liked it, but the wooden floors chilled his feet.
“Let them rest.” She said, making her way to the kitchen. He was still standing at the bottom of the stairs like a deer caught in headlights. He watched her grab a mug from a cabinet by the stove and pour water in the cup. “I don’t really drink coffee.”
“Any caffeine will work.”
She smirked over her shoulder at him and his chest tightened. That was the girl he remembered, well, she was surely a woman now. “I’ve got Irish black tea.”
She worked on his drink and placed it on the island counter in front of him.
“No. Thank you.”
She joined him at the island and leaned across from him her attention focused on the content of her mug. “I-I’m sorry you heard us talkin’ last night.”
He shrugged. “It makes sense. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t blame you for wanting me gone.”
“I made some calls this morning after talking some more with Jonathan.”
“I’m going to help you.”
He shook his head. “It’s too dangerous.”
“It’s for the kids.”
Their eyes met for a long moment in the cool crisp morning air and he saw in her emerald eyes concern, empathy.
She cleared her throat and took a sip of her tea. “A friend I served with in the marines is already on her way to come pick up the kids and take them to a safe location.”
He frowned. “You mean, separate us?”
She nodded. “Jonathan said you wouldn’t like it, and I understand, but there’s only a couple weeks until the hearing. The Kuznetsov family will pull out all stops to silence you. With the kids gone you won’t have to worry about their safety.”
“H-how will I know if someone gets to them. H-how can I assure their safety--” He broke off the panic rising in his throat started to settle back into his belly when he felt Kate’s warm hand cover hers.
“It’s a lot to ask you. To trust me, especially after last night. I know, but I’m in now. We’ll get through this.” Her bold green eyes calmed him and for some reason he knew everything would be okay. He hadn’t thought about his hearing date in a long time. It felt like it would never come. Constant chain of rescheduling and cancellations. He thought it would never end, at least not with him alive.
He started when he heard a car door slam. Kate was already on the other side of the counter. She approached the window with a firearm in her hand. Had she been holding it the entire time? Had it been sitting on the counter?
“It’s okay. It’s just Jade.” She lowered the weapon and holstered it around her waist before opening the door.
A tall dark skinned woman stepping through the aperture and removed her shades before shaking hands with Kate.
“Quaint.” The woman’s heavy voice seemed to fill the space.
“Certainly not a battlefield.”
The woman entered the space looking around. Kyle noticed a slight limp to her otherwise strong, commanding stroll. She was near six feet tall, and built like a tank.
“We should get on the road as soon as we can. My contact will be waiting at the border.”
The woman turned her attention to Kyle and he took a step back. She was terrifying to say the least. “The less you know the better.”
He frowned as reality started to settle in. “Y-you mean not to tell me where they are--” Kate put her hand on his arm and ushered him toward the stairs. “You aren’t taking my kids out of the country!”
“Kyle!” His irate eyes met steady green ones. “Get the kids up and dressed.”
“Kate there’s no way--”
“Please! I’ll be up in a minute.”
He took a deep breath and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He looked at his arm where her hand was stroking his. Shivers started through his body at the contact. He hadn’t felt anything like that in a long while. Besides fear he wasn’t sure what other emotions felt like.
“Dress them warm. There are extra sweaters in my closet.”
He climbed the stairs, but he still strained to hear the conversation over the pounding of his own heart. Could he let some woman, some stranger take his kids? It would be the first time he’d been away from them since this whole nightmare began. What if, what if he never saw them again? What if something happened to them, what if someone got to the kids that they thought they were escaping, but really they were just waiting for them to be split up.
“Daddy!” His son exclaimed near fifteen minutes later his bright blue eyes looked well-rested for the first time in years. He threw his arms around his father and pounced on his grumbling sister.
“Get off me! God dad, it’s cold.”
“I smell bacon!” The boy shouted.
“Bathroom, teeth, cloths, then we’ll worry about your belly.” The little boy grumbled while he made his way to the bathroom stracting his butt.
“I need a shower.” Courtney said pulling back the covers. “How does a six year old snore? Seriously, he sounded like a warthog.”
“You always blame your brother, but I think you were the culprit last night.”
She smacked her dad on the arm. “Lies! I think it was you!”
He laughed at the snoring noises she made to emphasise her point.
“You are the original midnight warthog.”
Kyle didn’t think about until he was recovering from his laughter that he couldn’t remember when he’d laughed last.
Kirby walked into the room with a sheepish look on his face that made Kyle raise an eyebrow.
“What’d you do?”
He glanced over. “Might have made a little mess.”
Kyle frowned. “Did you clean it up?”
A soft knock on the door brought his attention to Kate leaning on the heavy wood frame.
“There’s bacon and biscuits downstairs.”
“Good ‘cause I’m starved.” Courtney took her brother’s hand and lead him out the room.
“I know you’re upset--”
“No,” He crossed his arms. “Just worried.” He set on the ottoman after pushing aside some sweaters Courtney picked out from Kate’s closet. He wiped his face and rotated his shoulders. “I’m always wondering if I made the right decision. If splitting up is the best option. What will happen if I do? What might happen if I don’t? Should I just go to the cops? Do they own the cops? What danger am I putting you in for helping me?” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly his attention focused on the knots in the wooden floor. He looked over at Kate when she took a seat next to him.
He inhaled her earthen scent almost like hay and spring water. She met his eyes. “I can’t answer those questions, but I do know Jonathan brought you here for help.” She rested her hand on top of his, that was resting on his knee. “Jade will keep your children safe. That I know for a fact.”
He let his head fall to the side analyzing her face. She was so pretty in a natural unpretentious way. He cleared his throat and looked at the ground. “You must be real good friends.”
Kate made a sound that could be interpreted as a laugh. “Honestly, I hated her and she me a few years ago.” She stood. “Now, however, I’d entrust my life to her as she’s already saved it once before. She’s more than capable and frankly, I’m lucky to have had her when I did.” She paused at the door. “You should eat too.”
Kyle set there for a moment. The longer he set there the more clear it became to him that trusting Kate was his best bet. There were too many variables, and though he didn’t trust his own ability to make a good choice, he trusted hers and that was what he had to go with.
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****This is an unedited draft which means there will be mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage ETC. I post these drafts for feed back and to gauge interest in the story line and characters. ****Ye've been warned!****
Copyright © 2020 by Alexandria Ashcroft
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