Her Last Goodbye Page 39

According to the doctor, her body was still in flight mode. They’d offered her a sedative, but she’d said no. Why would she want to be drugged and helpless again?

She shivered, tugging the heated blanket up to her chin. Would she ever be warm again?

Her entire body ached, from her torn-up feet to her beaten face. Her eyeballs hurt if she moved them too quickly. There wasn’t an inch of her that wasn’t cut, bruised, abraded, or exhausted.

But she was here.

Alive.

She’d won.

A sound in the doorway made her jump.

Tim.

Her heart stuttered at the sight of him. She hadn’t thought she’d ever see him again.

He walked into the room. As much as he tried not to stare, she felt his shock at her appearance. She hadn’t seen her face in a mirror, but she knew she looked awful. Her lip was split, both eyes blackened, her nose broken. She was dehydrated and hypothermic. Her skin felt raw and tight, as if it belonged to someone else.

At the foot of the bed, a nurse wrote on a chart and talked in a soothing monotone. “It’s going to rain tonight.”

Tim shuffled into her room. He stopped, as if afraid to approach her. As if he didn’t want to frighten her. “Hey, Chels. It’s me.”

Emotions choked Chelsea. She didn’t know what to feel first. Love. Relief. Gratitude.

She’d wanted to live—to see her husband and her children again—and she had.

Now what?

The nurse hung the chart from a hook and moved to Chelsea’s side to take her pulse. “I was just telling your wife how happy everyone is to see her.”

The artificial pleasantness of the nurse annoyed Chelsea. She swallowed, her throat dry.

“Tim.” Her voice was a croak.

He let out an audible breath.

How did he feel? He must have thought she was dead.

“I’ll give you a few minutes alone.” The nurse handed Tim a plastic cup of water. “I’ll be right outside if you need me.” With a reassuring nod, the nurse left the room.

Tim put the straw between Chelsea’s lips. She closed them around it and winced as a scab cracked. How could she even react to a pain so slight after what she’d been through? But her body seemed overly sensitized. Could a person use up her supply of grit?

“I want to hug you, but I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.” Tim’s eyes shone. Was he crying?

“It’s OK,” she said, the words slurring through her swollen lips.

He leaned over the bed and studied her face. “I want to kiss you, but I don’t know where.”

A tear slipped from her eye and ran down her temple. She took her arm out from under the covers. Tim took her hand, the warmth radiating between them familiar and comforting. She held on.

This is what she’d prayed for.

Tim wiped a hand across his eyes. “I don’t have the words for how I feel right now. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

She squeezed his fingers. “Same here.”

“I love you.” Tim looked into her eyes. “You are the strongest person I know.”

His words warmed her from the inside out. “I love you too. The whole time I was . . . there, all I could think about was getting home to you and the kids.”

“Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“Just be here?” Her next breath shook her to the core. From the scattered, panicked emotions flitting through her mind, she knew that her psychological recovery was going to be harder than her physical healing.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Tim perched on the edge of the bed.

She almost couldn’t believe she’d made it.

A knock startled them both. Chelsea recoiled, a reflex she couldn’t control.

In the doorway, the sheriff cleared his throat. “Mrs. Clark. I’d like to talk with you for a few moments.”

“It’s OK, honey.” Tim shot the sheriff a look of warning. “This is Sheriff King.”

Tim nodded toward a plastic chair against the wall. “Why don’t you sit down, Sheriff?”

The sheriff turned the chair to face Chelsea’s bed and sank into it. Then he pulled a notebook out of his pocket. “Do you remember what happened last Friday night?”

Chelsea inhaled, a hitched and unsteady sound that reminded her of William as he came down from a crying jag. She shook her head. “Not exactly. I have flashbacks.” She squeezed her eyes shut for a few seconds, memories crowding, intimidating, terrifying her. She pushed them aside. The sheriff would want to find the man who’d kidnapped her. She had to dig deep for courage to help him. “I think he was in the back seat when I got into the car.”

He’d been waiting for her in her own driveway.

“He told me to drive to Grey’s Hollow. After we passed the train station, he made me stop the car and drink something. I was in and out of it for days.”

The doctor had said that the drug had likely affected her memory.

The sheriff frowned. “What’s the first thing you remember after Friday night?”

Chelsea remembered waking in the storage container. Her body began to tremble.

Tim stroked her arm. “It’s OK. You’re safe now.”

She shook her head. Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “He. He. He.” She couldn’t get the words out between gasps for air. She inhaled and held her breath for a few seconds, then exhaled. “He chained me.”

The infected sore on her ankle throbbed.

“Can you describe him?” the sheriff asked.

Chelsea clung to Tim’s hand as she shook her head, feeling weak and helpless and pathetic. No one was going to find him if she couldn’t even answer a few simple questions. She forced her lips to form the words. “He wore a mask.”

The sheriff frowned. “Anything you can tell us will help.”

Tim raised his voice. “My wife—”

“No, please, Tim. The sheriff is trying to help. I want him caught.” Chelsea tugged on Tim’s hand. “I don’t want him still out there.”

Above all, she wanted him to be the one who was imprisoned and her to be the one who was free.

“All right, but tell me if it’s too much,” Tim said.

She released his hand and picked up her water, taking a slow sip. The water slid down her throat, cool and soothing. She could do this. She lifted her chin and met the sheriff’s gaze. “He wore a ski mask. But he was about six feet tall, maybe a little taller, and strong.”

“What about his voice?” the sheriff asked. “Was it familiar in any way?”

“I don’t think so.”

“No accent?”

“No.”

“What about the place you were held?” the sheriff asked.

“It was an old shipping container in the woods.” Chelsea described the inside of the container then detailed how she’d gotten out through a rust hole in the ceiling. “There was a cabin or small house about a hundred feet away.”

As she talked, her voice grew weaker, her pauses for breath longer. She was physically and emotionally depleted, but she wanted to give the sheriff as much information as she could. “He chased me.” The last three words quivered. “But I just ran. I ran as fast as I could. When I had to stop and catch my breath, I didn’t hear him behind me anymore. I rolled in the dirt. The dress was such a bright yellow. I was afraid he’d see the fabric.”

Probably why he’d chosen such a bright color, she realized with a cold knot in her belly. Maybe a sedative wasn’t a bad idea.

She sipped more water. “The trees are so bare and gray this time of year. After that, I just kept moving. I don’t know how far I went, but I knew that if I stopped, I’d stiffen up. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get going again.”

“Smart,” the sheriff said.

“Plus, it was getting colder, and all I had was that blanket.” Chelsea’s hands—and the rest of her body—shook violently.

The sheriff wrote notes. “Did you see a vehicle?”

“No.” Chelsea pictured the cabin and container in the clearing. “There should have been, though. He must have had transportation.”

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