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In His Keeping


Page 13




"Dad, you have to come see," she said, wringing her hands in agitation. "I can replay it with the DVR. It's bad. I don't know how we can fix this now."
"We saw," her father said quietly. "We leave as soon as we can get a bag packed. Tonight. We're going to another of our residences here as a precaution since Doctor Winstead was just here just earlier. We can't afford to be hasty in our decision, but neither do I want you exposed to the media feeding frenzy that will surely ensue. They identified you by name, and the school employees, students-past and recent-will be flooded with questions and requests for interviews by the media and even the police. Administration is going to be all over you and, honey, you need to prepare for the worst-case scenario."
"They'll fire me," Ari whispered. "I messed up. I'm so sorry, Dad. And you too, Mama. This will ruin your summer trip. It will change all our lives."
Her mom's eyes filled with such staggering love that tears welled in Ari's and she had to swallow back the knot of emotion nearly choking her. Then her mom gently wrapped her arms around her, pulling her head down to her breast as she stroked her hair as she'd done when Ari was just a little girl.
"Baby, you are our life. You've always been the heart and soul of us both. Since the day you entered our lives. Never apologize for who you are. You did what you had to do. If I had been there, that little bastard would be dead right now instead of dealing with a headache," she muttered.


Her father tried to suppress his grin as he looked at his wife and daughter, love shining like a beacon in his eyes.
Then he said to her mother, "Honey, go pack her a bag. She's in no shape to do so. She's shaking like a leaf and she took her medicine not long ago. We need to go. I'll take care of what you and I need. Let Ari sit here and you go get her things together."
Her father waited until his wife left the room and then he slid out of bed, pulling on a T-shirt he'd discarded by the bed. Then he sat next to Ari on the edge of the bed and pulled her into his arms.
"I know you're scared, baby, but one thing you need to understand is that you and your mother are the two most important people in my world. The only people who exist in my world as far as I'm concerned and there is nothing, nothing that I won't do to protect either of you."
He tipped up her chin so she looked him in the eye and could see the utter sincerity radiating from his expression.
"We've always known this was a possibility. We tried to protect you your entire life from just this sort of thing, but it was inevitable at some point because it's who you are. And I can only imagine how hard it's been for you to suppress something so integral to who you are out of fear. Fear of discovery and fear of somehow disappointing me and your mother. Let me correct something right here before this goes any further. We could not be prouder of you and who you are. And there is nothing you could ever do to disappoint us or make us love you any less.
You are our only child. A blessing when we thought we'd never have a child, much less one as loving, kind and special and beautiful inside and out, as you are. So trust me to do what's best not only for you but for me and your mother. Because you two come first with me. Always. And that will never change."
"I love you, Dad," she whispered.
He brushed a kiss over her forehead and gave her a gentle squeeze. "And I love you, baby girl. Now let me pack your mother and I a quick bag. We can always get what else we need later."
SIX
BEAU Devereaux hit the pause button for the television after he'd replayed the evening news segment from the night before for his brother, Caleb, and the assembled members of their security specialist team.
They'd lost good men to a madman who'd put Caleb and his now wife, Ramie, through hell, and they realized they needed better than what they'd considered the best in the beginning.
After a thorough vetting, more men had been hired, and the new recruits had gone through extensive training headed by Dane Elliot, their head of security. He was a former Navy SEAL and all-around tough-as-nails warrior. He was partnered with Eliza Cummings, a badass in her own right. The two had been instrumental in hunting down the fucker who had tormented Ramie, though it had been Caleb who'd taken the bastard down for good.
Zack was perhaps their most interesting addition. Beau had been drawn to him because he and Zack were alike in many ways. Quiet. Cynical. They were both content to sit back and observe, taking in their surroundings, studying quietly all the while gaining information. And neither were glory seekers. They simply got the job done.
He wasn't the typical recruit. Most of their men were ex-military or former government agents. FBI, DEA and a few organizations that didn't officially exist. When they were first getting off the ground in the hasty year following their sister's abduction and subsequent rescue, he and Caleb had done the best they could to hire capable security experts. They were in fact working trial by fire. But in the aftermath of losing men, Caleb's wife's near death and Caleb's own, they'd knuckled down, learned from their past mistakes and spared no expense in getting the best. Only the best. If the old adage was true and you got what you paid for, then they were getting top-notch operatives because they did not come cheap.
Zack, however, was a different story. Superstar college football player on a full ride. Drafted by the NFL in the first round as a starting quarterback. But after only two years, an injury had taken him out of football forever. For most people this would have been a setback they never recovered from. He'd shrugged it off, did his rehab and then followed in his father's footsteps and entered law enforcement, excelling and quickly moving up the ranks.






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