Cabin Fever

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Chapter Eleven

The alarm woke both of them in the morning. Riley dragged herself out of bed, dreading her decision to turn herself in. She was scared, nauseated and her hands were shaking as she climbed out of the shower and dressed. Scott made her some breakfast and she had to force herself to eat, feeling nauseated.

Looking around the house, she said goodbye to Cosmo as they walked out the door. She remained quiet and cried the entire trip to the police station. Scott tried to console her, telling her the lawyer was going to meet them there. She also knew her father would be there too.

Pulling up beside the building, Scott parked the car and got out. Opening her door, he had to coax her out. Her body felt numb as she walked through the door. He led her directly to an interrogation room, Luke approaching him. He just told Luke to stand behind the one way glass and listen to their conversation.

Sitting her down at the table in the plain, blank room, he gave her a piece of blank paper and told her to write her confession out, starting with the day she was kidnapped. Just as she had told him about it, in separate times. Managing to control her tears, she began her confession on paper. Just as she was finishing, writing about throwing the tire iron in the woods, an older man, whom she had never seen before, walked into the room with Scott.

“Riley, this is Mr. Lenard, the attorney I told you about. He is here to review your case, including your confession, and explain to you what is going to happen next.”

She reached her hand out, pushing the paper towards Mr. Lenard. He picked it up and read it over. “First thing, we take this confession before the judge. That’s where we set bail. We’ll see what we can do to get you out as soon as possible.”

Riley stood and shook the attorney’s hand before he left the room. Scott did all he could do to keep her in that room, without having to put her behind bars, but knew eventually, that’s where she would end up. Noah and Aleah were escorted to the room where she was being detained. Seeing them walk in the room, she jumped up and hugged Noah as the tears poured down her face again.

After the hours she waited in that room, Scott left, then returned, bringing her some food. He knew she was starving. At the end of the day, the attorney finally returned. He explained to them that the prosecution wanted to push her bail to one million dollars, but he argued that at over four months pregnant, she was not a flight risk. And the fact that she had willingly turned herself in. The prosecution still argued that through the initial investigation, she had lied, holding firm that she was not guilty of the crimes. He was able to reduce it to five hundred thousand dollars.

Riley turned to her father to see a look of disappointment on his face. “Daddy, it’s fifty thousand dollars. You do have that, don’t you?” Riley asked him.

“No, Riley. I just bought a house and paid, in part, for your extravagant wedding. It may take me a few days to gather the entire amount.”

Riley raised her hands to cover her face as she leaned her head back. The tears began to fall again and she didn’t want to have to wait a few days to be bailed out. “How much can you come up with right now?” Scott asked him.

“Probably about thirty five thousand.” Noah answered him.

Scott nodded as he pulled out his cell phone. Calling his mother, he briefly explained the situation to her and asked if she had fifteen thousand they could borrow for bail. There was a long pause on the phone as his mother tried to soak in the information about her new daughter in law. Eventually, she agreed to loan him the money. Hanging up the phone, Scott knew his mother would arrive soon to help.

Without having to actually be behind bars, Riley’s family gathered to raise the money she needed. By seven PM, she drew in a deep breath of relief as she was released and able to go home with Scott. Scott’s mother followed them home, expecting answers. Scott had merely told her that Riley had been arrested for two murders.

Noah and Aleah also went to Scott and Riley’s house, after they stopped to grab dinner for everyone. Scott told Riley she was going to have to explain her situation to his mother once they got home, knowing she was following them, wanting answers.

Riley had never been so relieved to be home as Sharon followed them in the house and waited on the couch until Riley used the bathroom, she had been holding it all day and it was becoming painful to her. Returning to the couch, she sat down and faced Sharon. Scott sat beside Riley, knowing she would need his support in this difficult thing.

“Sharon, It was in January. Friday, the thirteenth, to be exact. My mother was in the bad car accident. I was trying to get home to her when my car broke down on the side of the freeway. Not able to reach my family, I started walking. I warmed up at the rest area and tried to call them again. But I still couldn’t reach them. I started walking again, hitchhiking, desperate to get home to her. I was picked up by three teenage boys. Football players from Pendleton High. They kidnapped me for the entire weekend, raped me, beat me and left me for dead in the cold. Against their wishes, I survived the attack, but had deep rooted anger and pain from it. I still do. They prevented me from being by my mothers side when she died. I refused to let them get away with it. So I killed them. At least two of them. The third came to my apartment and attacked me. I killed him too, but he almost killed me, again. It was their actions that led up to my actions. I’m not a murder, I’m just a pissed off victim.”

“Oh my God, Riley. I had no idea this happened to you. I really can’t blame you, I think I would have done the same thing if it happened to me. And this happened just before you met Scott?”

“Yes. About a week. I think I still had the bruises on my face the day he first showed up on my doorstep. I think at that moment, I began to see light at the end of my tunnel. He has done so much to help me and I’m very grateful for him.”

“I was very disturbed when Scott called me and told me you had been arrested for a double murder. I didn’t know what to think. Especially right after he took you as his wife. I am afraid for you right now. What do you have as a defense?”

Scott spoke up to answer her question. “Well, come to find out, she was not the only victim. There is another young girl, from Pendleton, that they went to school with. She is a victim from a year ago. But she never told anyone, including her parents, until Riley came forward with her investigations. And there was another girl who was missing for two years. Because of Riley, her remains were recovered at the cabin and her family finally got closure. She was not their first victim, but she was their last. I had the pictures from the hospital in Chesterfield after that weekend, but I had to turn them in for evidence.”

Riley looked at Scott, not realizing there were pictures of her. “Scott, why didn’t you show them to me?”

“Because they were explicit and they would’ve upset you.” He answered her.

“Do you still have the picture of, what’s his name, Hank?” She asked him.

“No, why?”

“I think we should have shown it to Aleah so she knows what he looks like. She didn’t see him at the wedding.” Riley answered.

“Wait a minute, who’s Hank?” Sharon asked.

Riley looked at Scott as he answered her. “Hank is the brother to one of her attackers. The one that attacked her in her apartment. He’s been threatening her that if she doesn’t turn herself in, there would be consequences. I spoke with him yesterday morning, but I don’t trust him. I think Riley’s life is in danger, mom.”

Sharon saw the look on Scott’s face and knew he was sincere in his worry. “What else can I do to help?” She offered.

“I’m not sure there’s anything you can do that you haven’t done already.” Riley answered her. “Thank you so much for trusting me enough to give up that amount of money to bail me out.” Riley squeezed Sharon’s hand.

“Well, you are like the daughter we’ve never had. I know how deeply Scott cares for you and I’m happy that I am able to help. In any way. But now I have to wonder how strong your defense is. You did give them your confession, right?”

“Mom, she has been diagnosed with a severe form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her emotional state has been very severe. In fact, she tried to commit suicide on our honeymoon. Although I mostly hold myself responsible for that.”

“What? Riley?” Sharon commented.

“I’m sorry.” Riley said then leaned her head back and closed her eyes as she drew in a deep breath, again trying not to cry.

“It was the morning after we arrived at the hotel. She opened up and told me everything. I freaked out and left the hotel. After being gone for twenty one hours, she didn’t think I was coming back to her. I found her in the tub with a slit in one wrist, but she had already lost enough blood to be incoherent. I don’t even think she knew I was there. I still hold a lot of guilt because of that day.”

Sharon looked at Riley and seen she was crying. Holding her arms out, she held her tight, understanding her tribulations and sorrow. She had no idea there was such a dark cloud hanging over Riley’s head and she was sympathetic for her.

“So, because of her recent suicide attempt, it only further confirms her mental state. She has been seeing a therapist for it though. Besides the mental approach, she has absolutely no past record, not even a speeding ticket. They never found any evidence against her. She has proof of the vicious attack and she has testimony from another victim, and she has substantial evidence from another victim who was murdered at that cabin. They have no evidence against her but what we have proves that she sustained a life changing event that gave her the want to seek revenge. I don’t think she’s been in her right mind since that weekend.” Scott looked at Riley as she was still crying.

“It sounds like she may have a chance.”

“You remember Randy, Randall Lenard?”

“Yes. I think.”

“I called him the night I sat on the beach all night. I spilled my guts to him about the situation and asked for his advice. He opened my eyes to suggestions and encouraged me to turn her in.”

“Now, let me give you some advice.” Sharon started, talking to both of them. “It will not help if you spend your time fretting over this. It will only wear you out and put strain on your marriage. It will take some time for this to go through the court system, so enjoy your time together.” She looked directly at Riley and laid her hand on Riley’s belly. “You definitely don’t need to worry about this in your condition. I think you’ve already been through enough. Just try to relax.”

Just as she got the words out of her mouth, Noah and Aleah came through the door. Sharon stood up. “I’m going to go now, so you can spend time with your family. But don’t forget what I said.” She hugged them both, then greeted Noah and Aleah as she walked out the door.

Over dinner, Aleah talked to Noah about her job and desire to move to Newport. He agreed to help in whatever way he could. She was happy about his decision to support her. It was the following day, just after Scott left for work, Riley drove Aleah home to help her gather what items she was to move. Riley felt helpless as Aleah would not allow her to assist.

It seemed almost immediately, they plastered the news of her confession on all television and radio stations. Riley knew Hank should have seen her on the news and now knows she kept her word. Scott and Riley grew used to having Aleah around and Aleah got used to being there. It was only for just after a month, until Aleah did find her small one bedroom apartment. Being only a few blocks away, Riley was glad to have her sister close. And visa versa.

Riley went back to see Dr. Watson, this time telling her about the confession. She asked if she could testify on her behalf. Dr. Watson was also surprised by her confession. She had not seen any indication in Riley that would have suspected her, or that she was capable, for that matter. She agreed to testify for her.

The summer seemed to drag by, but Riley appreciated its slow progression, knowing fall would bring in her court date and unknown fate. But eventually, fall blew in late, like a gust of cold air. The leaves were just beginning to turn color. With everything happening, Riley decided to postpone her last year of college, at least for now. However, Aleah enrolled for her first year. Working at the veterinary clinic had opened her eyes and she finally decided on a career for veterinary technician.

It was the first week of September when Scott felt the baby moving for the first time. Riley put the finishing touches on the nursery so she knew it would be ready regardless of when she gave birth. Stocking it with clothes, diapers and other necessities completed the room. She decorated the room for either gender.

It was two months before her court hearing and she was almost seven months pregnant. Scott was able to attend her ultrasound with her, seeing the fetus and hearing the heartbeat for the first time. They had decided to wait to discover the baby’s gender, wanting to wait until the last minute to capture the element of surprise. Her belly had been steadily growing until she was unable to wear any of her normal clothes. Her appetite increased and she felt healthy and happy. Although deep inside her, she was still scared to death. About jail, and about Hank.

It was just after Scott left for work when she heard Cosmo barking. Having just fallen asleep again, she wasn’t sure if it were a dream. Then she heard a gunshot that sat her straight up in bed. Repositioning herself, she sat on her knees and looked out the back window, just above the headboard. She could no longer hear, or see Cosmo.

Climbing out of bed, she threw her robe over her shoulders and walked carefully down the steps. Looking out the back door, she saw Cosmo laying just beyond the door. It appeared he had been shot. “Oh my God, Cosmo, no.” She cried.

Just as she reached to open the door, she heard Hank’s voice from behind her. “I don’t really like the way this is going.” She turned around to face him, fear washing over her. He was merely an arm’s length away as he continued. “I think that if you go through court and you still get away with it, someone is going to have to die. And you wont see it coming. Come to think of it, you and your sister look just like twins but ya know, there really only needs to be one of you.” He said as he lunged at her, grabbing her. “Maybe now I should rape you, just to see what my brother was talking about.” He said as he grabbed her waistband and pulled on it. Then he suddenly stopped. “Or, maybe I wont. You do have a nice body, even when you’re pregnant, but I’m not leaving my DNA in you.” Violently throwing her to the floor, he snuck out the door and was gone.

Riley sat on the kitchen floor, crying. She was angry and scared, but relieved he didn’t rape her. Feeling the soreness in her hip, she pulled herself to her feet and reached for the phone, dialing Scott’s number.

“Hey, sweetheart, what are you doing up?”

“Scott…” He heard her voice, sounding like she was crying. “He was here again. He shot Cosmo, Cosmo is dead.” She sobbed to him.

“Oh my God, Riley, are you alright, did he hurt you?” Scott was instantly concerned.

“No. I’m fine.”

“I’ll be right there.” He said and hung up the phone.

Riley sat on the couch, trying to control herself, waiting for Scott. With Hank’s words running through her mind, she found herself fearing for Aleah’s life. Although she knew Aleah was already at school, she dialed her number anyways. She left a message to call her as soon as she returns from school.

Hearing his car pull into the driveway, she met Scott at the door as he came in. Immediately, he hugged her, relieved she was truly ok. “Tell me exactly what he said to you.”

“He said that if I go through court and I still get away with it, someone is going to die. Then he referred to how Aleah and I look alike, saying there really only needs to be one of me. I’m scared he’s going to go after Aleah.”

“Where’s Cosmo?”

“In the back yard.”

As soon as she answered him, he was through the house to the back door. Swinging it open, he saw Cosmo laying on the back porch. Discovering that the dog was indeed, dead, he stroked Cosmo’s hair and shed a few tears for his beloved dog. She could tell he was extremely angry as he grabbed the shovel out of the shed and began to dig a hole to bury the dog in.

Coming back into the house, he went upstairs to clean up and change his clothes that were covered with blood and dirt. “Riley, I want you to go to your father’s house for the day until I return home. I don’t want you to be alone.” He said as he was in the bathroom, washing his hands.

“Ok, Scott. I promise I will.” She agreed while she threw some clothes on.

As they left at the same time, Riley headed for her fathers as Scott drove directly over to Hank’s house. Pounding on the door, Hank’s father answered. “Where is Hank?” Scott asked before the man had a chance to say anything.

“I’m Hank, how can I help you?”

“Um, no. It’s your son I’m looking for.”

“He’s not here. He left last night with a suitcase and I haven’t heard from him since.”

Scott’s eyes narrowed as he nodded his head. “Do you mind if I look around for a minute?” Scott asked with the feeling he was lying.

“I don’t care, but like I said, he’s not here.” The man said and let Scott come inside.

Walking through the house, he searched every room, then checked the back yard. Hank was nowhere to be found. “Do you know where I may be able to find him?” Scott asked as he walked back towards the door.

“Not really, I try to stay out of his life, socially. I don’t know his friends.”

“Thank you.” Scott said and held his hand out for a handshake. “If you hear from him, please let him know Detective Goldman is looking for him. He’ll know who I am.”

Scott walked away from the house and sat in his car, thinking of where to look next. But he didn’t know. Driving back to his office, he grabbed the file on Hank to see if it held any valuable information. As an emergency contact, he found the name of his aunt and her address. Taking the file with him, he was out the door.

As soon as she reached her fathers house, she used her key to get in as her father was not home. Picking up the phone, she called the College. Feeling as if this was something that couldn’t wait, she asked to speak with Aleah, apologizing for the call.

“Hello?” Aleah answered after a ten minute wait.

“Aleah, it’s Riley. I’m sorry for calling you during class, but this is important. Hank came to visit me again today, and by what he said, I’m afraid he’ll come after you. Make sure you keep your eyes open and lock your doors.”

“Riley, what did he say?”

“The fact that we look alike, he said there only needs to be one of me. I’m scared, Aleah. Please promise me you’ll be careful.”

“Yes, Riley, I’ll be careful. I have to go now, to get back to class. I love you, Riley, don’t forget.”

“I love you too, Aleah. Remember, be careful. Call me if you have any problems. Right now I’m at dad’s. Scott didn’t want me to be alone, so he made me come here.”

“Good, that’s good, I’m glad. Give dad my love.”

“I will. Call me when you get home from work.”

“Ok.” Aleah said then they hung up the phone.

Scott drove the fifty mile trip out of town, in the other direction from Noah’s house, searching for the address listed on Hank’s file. Scott knocked on the door and waited for an answer. It was an older lady who answered the door.

“Can I help you?” She asked.

Scott showed her his badge. “I’m looking for Hank Vanderlin. Is he here?”

“No, I haven’t seen him in about two years. There is no reason why he would be here. Why, what’s he done now?”

“Do you mind if I come in and ask you a few questions?”

“I’m just getting ready to go to work, but as long as it wont take long, I guess.” She opened the door and let him in.

“So you haven’t seen him in two years, I take it you’re not very close?”

“No. I put Hank in jail the last time I seen him, he beat the hell out of me over a stupid misunderstanding.”

“So you’re saying that he is a violent person?”

“Yes, the whole family is. His brother was just killed when he broke into a woman’s apartment and attacked her in the middle of the night.”

“Yes, that was my wife, before she was my wife. The truth is, he’s been threatening my wife and I’m not taking kindly to it. I need to find him before he hurts her, or her sister.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help. I don’t know anything about where he may be. I just know he’s not welcome here.”

“Ok. Can you think of anywhere that he may be?”

“No. I have no idea.”

Scott handed her his card and shook her hand before leaving. Pulling away, he was upset that he was just as empty handed as he was when he came. Scott searched all day for him, producing no results. As soon as he got home, he called Riley at her fathers house. She left and came home where he had dinner ready for her.

Approximately four weeks went by without a word or sight from Hank. Thinking she needed a change, she hesitated before she walked through the door. “Wow. Your hair is nearly down to your knees. How beautiful. Are you here for a cut?”

“Yes.” She said and sat in the chair the woman stood behind.

“How would you feel about donating some of this hair?” The woman asked her.

“I think that is a great idea.” Riley agreed.

“How much did you want taken off?”

“Take it up to my shoulders.” Riley said, then closed her eyes as the woman began to cut. When Scott returned home, he seemed surprised and somewhat disappointed that she had cut it. But soon became used to it and liked it.

Now at thirty six weeks pregnant, Riley was excited as she drove to Aleah’s house for a baby shower Aleah had thrown for her. Riley thought she would show up early and help her with decorations and food preparation.

“I’ve been waiting for you. I have someone I want you to meet.” Aleah said, clearly excited.

“What are you talking about? Did you finally meet someone?” Riley asked, excited also.

“Yes. I’ve been busy with school and work, but since I met him, I’ve been spending all my free time with him.”

“Really. I’m happy for you, Aleah. How long have you been dating?”

“Three weeks.”

“What! Why didn’t you tell me.”

“He wasn’t ready to meet my family yet, said he wanted to keep me all to himself. Besides, you didn’t tell me about Scott until the first day he proposed to you.’

“Ok, fair enough.” Riley shook her head. “So what’s his name?” Riley said just as she seen him walking out of the bedroom. “Hank!” She said and started to shake.

“No, Steve.” Aleah said as Hank walked up beside Aleah and kissed her.

“Don’t worry, you’re my favorite sister.” Hank whispered in Aleah’s ear. She looked up at him, then back at Riley.

Aleah watched as all the blood drained from Riley’s face, leaving her pale. Riley’s anger overruled her fear as she stood to her feet and went towards Hank. “Who the hell do you think you are?” Riley said as she clenched her fists and swung at him, connecting with his jaw.

“Riley! What are you doing?” Aleah yelled at her.

“Steve, you told her your name was Steve?” Riley swung and punched him again.

Hank punched Riley in the stomach then threw her to the floor. Aleah jumped out of her chair and knelt down beside her sister who was holding her stomach and crying. Aleah looked up at Hank as he walked out her door.

“Call Scott.” Riley said to Aleah.

Still confused over the confrontation, Aleah picked up the phone without hesitation and called their house. It was a Saturday and Scott had the day off but allowed her to go alone, thinking she would be safe.

“Riley, do I need to call an ambulance?” Aleah said as the phone was ringing.

“No, just tell Scott to come.” She said, grunting as her stomach cramped.

Scott knew it was Aleah’s phone number calling as he answered it, thinking it was Riley. “Hey, sweetheart, how’s it going?”

“Scott,” Aleah began, “you need to come here, right away. Riley was just punched in the stomach.”

“What! What do you mean?” His voice changed.

“My boyfriend, Riley called him Hank.”

“Oh my God, Is she ok?” He said as he grabbed his keys.

“I don’t know, she told me not to call an ambulance.”

“Well, do it anyways. I’ll meet them there.” He said and hung up the phone without saying goodbye.

“Riley, what the hell is going on?” Aleah said as she hung up the phone and dialed 9-1-1.

“I’m sorry, Aleah, that was Hank. Please tell me you weren’t getting serious about him. Please tell me you didn’t sleep with him.” Riley cried as she spoke.

Aleah paused her conversation with Riley long enough to talk to the woman on the other end of the phone. She told the woman her address and what happened. The woman asked Aleah if Riley was bleeding or losing any fluid. Aleah checked her sister over and answered ‘no’. Aleah asked Riley if she was in severe pain or if she could get up. Riley said ‘no’ as she pushed herself up to a sitting position.

“I’m fine, Aleah.” Riley assured her.

“Well, Scott told me to call.” She simply informed Riley.

Riley sat with her back against the couch, leaning her head back on a cushion, as the throbbing ache slowly faded. Riley rubbed her stomach and felt the baby moving and knew it was alright. Aleah began to cry as she hung up the phone.

“Riley, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. I feel so stupid right now. How dare him do that to me. To you.” Suddenly Aleah felt as if she had been violated by the man who was threatening her sister.

Riley held her arms open for Aleah as Aleah sat beside her and returned the embrace. They cried together, Riley angry and hurt, and Aleah angry and betrayed. Without knocking, Scott burst through the door with his gun pulled.

“Is he gone?” He asked.

“Yes.” They both answered.

Scott put his gun away and waved at the paramedics who were waiting just outside. Aleah got up and out of the way as the paramedics and their equipment flooded the room. Against the paramedics advice and Scott’s wishes, Riley refused to go to the hospital. All the guests would arrive before she returned from the hospital and she wasn’t going to miss her own party.

The paramedics were walking out the door just as Sharon walked in. “I came early to help with the party, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know yet.” Scott answered his mother then turned to Aleah. “What is going on? Why was Hank here?”

Aleah started crying again as she began to speak. “I’m sorry, he told me his name was Steve. I didn’t know it was ‘him’. I can’t believe this, I’m so stupid.” She cried harder.

Scott went to Aleah and put his arms around her, just to comfort her. Then he pulled her away to look in her eyes. “Aleah, you have to tell me everything you know about him. Where does he live, what does he drive… Everything.”

Sharon went over and sat on the couch beside Riley, who was still sitting on the floor, crying. Sharon rubbed her back softly, trying to comfort her and not knowing what had happened. They all listened as Aleah talked to Scott about the man she had only known as Steve.

“I don’t know where he lives, he would never take me to his house. I know he drives a small blue car, like a teal blue, I don’t know the make and model, but I know he works at Zander’s Garage. He’s a mechanic. He’s Riley’s age and I’ve never met any of his family but I know they live somewhere in Pendleton.”

“Zander’s Garage?” Scott asked to clarify the fact.

“Yes.” Aleah answered.

Scott turned to Riley. “Are you sure you’re alright, the baby is alright?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” She nodded at him as she pushed herself up and scooted onto the couch.

“Ok. Please call me if anything happens.” He said as he hugged Riley.

She agreed to his request then watched him walk out the door. Aleah went straight to Riley and put her arms around her. “I’m so sorry.” She cried to her.

“Aleah, please, it’s not your fault. How could you have known?… Come on, we have a party to get ready for.” Riley said and wiped the tears from her sister’s face.

“Not until you tell me what happened.” Sharon stepped in.

Riley explained the situation to Sharon as Aleah cleaned up the mess that had crashed down when Hank threw Riley to the floor. Sharon recognized the name of the man who had been threatening Riley and was angered over his audacity, taking advantage of Aleah to get to Riley.

Scott went to Zander’s Garage and asked to speak with the manager. “I’m Detective Goldman,” He showed his badge, “I’m looking for Hank Vanderlin.”

“Well, he didn’t show up for work this morning, again, so if you find him, tell him he’s fired.”

Scott nodded. “I’m investing a case and I need to know a current address and phone number.”

“Yeah, let me get his folder.” The manager said and walked back into the office.

Taking a notepad and pen out of his pocket, he wrote down the address and phone number as the manager gave it to him. Then he gave him a business card and asked him to call if he had anymore information or if he were to show up, to call him immediately.

Speeding to the address, he jumped out of the car and ran towards the door, although he didn’t see the blue car in the driveway. After no one answered the door, he busted in, not giving care or regard to protocol. With is gun drawn, he slowly searched every room in the house. It appeared to be ransacked as if he packed his things and left in a hurry.

Pulling his cell phone out, he called the phone number but it rang at the house in which he was standing. Aggravated and angered, he knew it was a dead end. Again, he looked through the rooms, this time for any indication on where he might have went. He found nothing.

Riley, Aleah and Sharon stood in the living room, looking at the decorations and food table. Drawing a deep breath, they smiled knowing they had everything ready for the shower. Riley and Aleah hugged each other.

“Thank you, Aleah, for having this for me. For us. I promise, from this moment on, I will have a great time.”

“Thank you, Riley.” Aleah said as she looked at her.

Then they both hugged Sharon and thanked her for her help. Hugging them both back at the same time, she thanked them for the opportunity to help. As Sharon and Aleah found a spot on the couch, Riley prematurely raided the snacks just as the guests started to arrive.

With the shower underway, the guests were playing a game when Scott walked in the door. All the guests looked up at him and clapped, calling him ‘daddy’. He smiled, trying to get used to it. Then he went to Riley and pulled her into an empty room.

“He’s gone, Riley. I’ve checked his job and his house. Nothing. I think he’s evaded me again… I think Aleah should come stay with us again. At least until I catch him. For her safety as well as yours.”

Riley shook her head. “You’re right, Scott. I’ll talk to her.” She agreed and stood up on her toes to kiss and hug him. Then she led him back out to the party. “Do you want something to eat? We have plenty.”

“I’ll look to see what you have here.” He smiled at her.

As the party progressed, Scott decided to stay, playing games with the other guests. Sitting beside her on the couch, they both shared in the opening of gifts. They didn’t really need much, Riley had already shopped for everything she thought she would possibly need. But they did receive a lot of diapers and such things that would constantly need replaced.

By the time the guests had all left, Scott, Riley and Sharon stayed to help Aleah clean up. After Sharon left, Scott and Riley sat down to talk with Aleah about their earlier discussion. Aleah quickly agreed for two reasons, she was suddenly afraid to be alone in the apartment, and she feared for Riley’s safety, although she knew that between classes and work, she wouldn’t be there for Riley anyways. Gathering a few things, she followed Riley, who followed Scott back home.

Scott carried Aleah’s bags in and put them in the guest bedroom, insisting on her using it. Exhausted from the long day, Riley lay on the couch to watch TV. Pulling up her shirt to scratch her belly, she seen the large bruise in the shape of a fist that Hank had left. Scott walked up beside the couch and seeing the bruise, leaned down to kiss it.

“I’m sorry, Riley, that I wasn’t there for you today.” He felt guilty after her confrontation with him. “I swore I’d always protect you and I feel like I failed.” He said as he got down on his knees beside the couch.

“Scott, don’t say that, please. You didn’t have any idea this would happen. I mean, who would have ever expected him to pull something like that. I know you do everything in your power to keep me safe. I don’t blame you in the least bit. Don’t blame yourself either.”

Leaning over her, he pushed his arms beneath her and hugged her tightly. “I love you and it kills me to see you get hurt. It kills me to see our baby get hurt.”

“We’re fine, Scott. Don’t forget the baby is surrounded by fluid to protect it. It’ll take more than that to harm it.” She assured him.

“You’re right, Riley.” He said as he pulled up and kissed her.

“Now, will you please go get your baby something to eat.” She smiled at him.

He smiled back at her. “On the double.” He said and went towards the kitchen.

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