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In His Keeping


Page 15




Ari had very recognizable features and would most certainly be identified because not only were the local news and media in a frenzy over the anonymous video but the rest of the country as well. It was only after her mother had threatened to go alone to shop for her baby that her father had grudgingly capitulated, because there was no way in hell he was allowing his wife-or his daughter-to go anywhere without him.
Oddly enough, her mother was perfectly content to allow her husband to pick out her clothing. She'd said more than once over the years that her husband knew what looked good on her better than she did and he loved spoiling his wife. Wearing clothes chosen by him seemed to represent a tangible sign to him of his possession.
When it came to Ari, however, her mom was adamant about shopping for her baby. It was something special she liked to do for her daughter. And it was her way of spoiling Ari since her husband shamelessly spoiled them both.
But why weren't they back yet? Why hadn't she heard from them? In her heart she knew that something terrible had to have happened for them to stay gone so long and for them not to contact her. She was sick with worry, the possibilities endless as to why they hadn't returned, and she was torturing herself with every single one of them.
It was now long past time stores stayed open and she knew her father would have hurried her mother through the process and be anxious to return home to Ari, where he could be assured of both his wife's and daughter's safety.


Her father-or her mother-would never cause Ari stress or fear. She knew that for the absolute truth it was. And they wouldn't have wanted to be gone long from her. Especially her father, because he was most at ease when he could see his "girls" and know they were safe.
So something terrible had to have happened. It was the only reasonable explanation and she was utterly paralyzed by terror and grief because she couldn't lose them. She couldn't! They were her lifeline. Her support system. Her anchor, her rock.
It might seem ridiculous for a twenty-four-year-old woman to still be so dependent on her parents, but it was what they wanted-what she wanted. In an uncertain world and living every day in fear of discovery, her parents were her only sanctuary.
Yes, she'd spread her wings, gone out on her own after graduating with her teaching degree. She even had her own apartment, though it was in her father's building. She shopped for herself, went to her favorite restaurants and constructed a façade of an ordinary day-to-day life.
She was highly intelligent, excelling in her studies. She had a photographic memory and could store data in her brain much like a computer did. And yet with her superior intelligence and her psychic powers that she hadn't truly tested to see just how powerful she was, she was still fragile and vulnerable. She knew it.
She hated it. But she accepted it, because it was who she was and she couldn't change it no matter how much she wanted to.
She wanted to be strong. She wanted to live life without forever looking over her shoulder and suppressing her true self. It was no way to live even if her parents surrounded her with their love, always protecting her. At some point she had to step from her parents' shadow and take on the world herself.
She sighed, closing her eyes after checking her watch for the hundredth time.
The two hours her father had assured her they'd be back in had turned into three and then four and five until every minute seemed an eternity. At first Ari hadn't been concerned, because above all else her father was lethal and fiercely protective of her mother. He'd never allow harm to come to either his wife or his daughter.
He'd left a security detail with Ari, surrounding her, the house. She didn't see them but she sensed their presence. Their watchful eyes.
It should have reassured her, but with every passing hour that her parents remained gone, her anxiety mounted until she was literally paralyzed with fear. And indecision.
She was exhausted, unable to sleep with her parents gone and her not knowing if they were dead or alive. Now dawn crept across the sky, bathing her room in pale shades of lavender. She'd tried to call her father countless times. Her mother too. And each time both attempts had gone straight to voice mail.
She knew she had to do something. But what? She didn't even know where her father had taken her mother to shop, so tracing their route was impossible.
What if they'd been in an accident? Wouldn't someone at least check their cell phones, see all the missed calls and at least contact her to let her know if they were in the hospital? Or . . . dead?
Frigid cold gripped her insides. Her chest tightened to the point of pain, and she struggled to squeeze air into her burning lungs.
They couldn't be dead. And if they'd been in an accident, one of them would have called her. Unless they were incapable of making a call. Unconscious. Fighting for their lives?
Her knotted fist went to her mouth, her teeth sinking into her knuckles. Oh God. She couldn't imagine her world without her parents in it. They had to be okay. They had to.
She couldn't stand it another minute. She'd go find one of the men keeping silent watch over her. Her father had brought two of his detail with him and her mother. Wouldn't the men have known if something awful had happened? And if they knew, then why the hell hadn't they informed her and, better yet, taken her to wherever her parents were?
She dressed hurriedly, packing a light bag in case she needed to immediately rush to her parents' side. She took only what was absolutely necessary and threw everything into an oversized tote before slinging the strap over her shoulder.






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