Cabin Fever

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Chapter Seven

With shaky hands while she cried, she called home, catching Noah just as he was leaving for work. He could hear the distress in her voice as she told him what happened. Immediately, he and Aleah left to come to her assistance.

Two hours later, her sister and father arrived at the hospital and Riley was ready to leave, against doctor’s orders. She pulled out the IV and held a tissue against the puncture hole until it stopped bleeding. Wearing only the hospital gown, she walked from the room, her family still trying to change her mind about leaving the hospital. But they both knew they wouldn’t be able to stop her.

Laying in the back of Noah’s car, she slept the entire trip to Crystal Falls, still feeling the effects of the anesthesia. They helped her into the house and she laid on the couch. Noah left to go to work, rather late, after the long, round trip. Aleah took the day off to stay with Riley and help her with whatever she needed. Riley hadn’t yet realized the baby was gone, but she wondered about it, knowing where she had been stabbed and realizing the bleeding from between her legs.

Laying on the couch all day, she replayed the events in her mind that left her thoughts disrupted. She was relieved that Chuck, too, was now dead. Now that her agenda was complete, she felt like she could finally start to heal. She told Aleah about all the incidents she had caused and the deaths she was responsible for. Aleah feared that she would go to jail for a long time.

It was nearly six in the evening, after Noah had returned from work. Hearing a knock on the door, Noah answered it to see Scott standing in the doorway, holding his badge and not realizing the relationship between them, that Riley never yet mentioned.

“I’m looking for Riley, is this the right address?”

“Yes, but I think she’s probably answered enough questions at the hospital. Now she needs her rest. Please come back some other time.” Noah said as he began to shut the door.

“Please, you don’t understand, I really need to see her.” Scott pleaded, holding the door open with his hand.

Hearing his voice, Riley pulled herself off the couch and slowly walked towards the door, holding her wounded stomach. Looking past Noah, Scott seen Riley and walked around him, into the house. Instantly he went to Riley and wrapped his arms around her. Noah and Aleah looked at each other in shock.

“Riley, what are you doing, you should be in the hospital.” Scott asked her.

“I’m sorry, Scott. I had to come home, get away from that place.” She said and returned the embrace.

Noah and Aleah were still shocked by his presence as Scott slowly walked her to the couch and helped her sit. Then he sat beside her as Noah and Aleah followed them and sat in the chairs on either side of the couch.

“I’m sorry, who are you again?” Noah asked the strange man who showed intense interest in his daughter.

Scott stood up and held his hand out to Noah for a handshake as he introduced himself. “I am Scott. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Noah.” He answered as he shook Scott’s hand, still confused.

“I’m Aleah.” She said as he turned to shake her hand too.

“I’m sorry, but who are you again, exactly?” Noah asked, still confused.

Riley spoke up first. “I’ve kinda been dating Scott for the last few weeks. I’m sorry I never mentioned him to you before, I didn’t realize our relationship was so serious. Until this past week.” Riley looked at Scott and he leaned down to kiss her.

“What exactly are you intentions with my sister?” Aleah asked him, with Riley’s confession in her mind.

“I’m in love with your sister. And I’m hoping she will marry me someday.” Aleah and Noah were shocked by his comment, but not as surprised as Riley. She hadn’t realized that the thought had crossed his mind.

“Ok, I think it’s time that Aleah and I go get everyone dinner.” Noah said as he stood up, motioning for Aleah to follow him.

Hearing the door close and knowing they were alone, Scott knelt down on the floor before Riley and hugged her before speaking. “Riley. I think you owe me an explanation.”

“What do you mean, Scott?”

He drew in a deep breath. “I ran your rape kit samples against the data base again. It came up with two out of three matches. I think you clearly know who they are.”

Looking into his eyes, she realized her secret had been revealed. “I’m sorry, Scott. I am so sorry that I lied to you.”

“The names that came up were Aaron Fielding and David Doran. I’m pretty sure the last will match Charles Vanderlin Jr. Riley, please tell me what happened.”

The pain in her stomach increased as she began to sob uncontrollably. “I can’t, Scott. Please don’t make me relive the worst thing in my life.”

“Riley, you need to tell me everything so I can help you. Chuck’s death is a justifiable homicide, but the other two. Do you know how this looks, Riley?” He grabbed her shoulders with a force that almost shook her.

With tears streaming down her face, she began to tell him everything, almost. “You already know most of it. The weekend it happened, was the weekend my mother passed away. My car broke down just north of the rest area. I couldn’t get cell phone service so I walked to the rest area to make a call but still couldn’t reach them. I began walking and hitchhiking in the worst snow storm of the season, only to be picked up by Aaron, David and Chuck. At that point, they kidnapped me and took me to that damned cabin. They kept me naked and taped to a bed most of the weekend while they raped me whenever they felt the urge. They beat me, taped me outside, naked to a tree for an hour, then took me back in the cabin to rape and beat me again. And Sunday, when they left, they tried to kill me. I only remember the baseball bat as they beat me unconscious and left me naked in the snow two miles from the cabin, expecting me to die. But I didn’t. I crawled my way to the road where I was rescued by some woman who dropped me off at the hospital.”

“And the cabin fire?” He asked.

“Yes, I burned it to the ground. That was me. I tried to leave my memory in the ashes, but they didn’t stay there, they’ve haunted me since. And I’m not the only one that they took to the cabin.”

“What do you mean?” He asked for her explanation.

“There were two others that they did the same thing to. One of them has been missing for two years. I believe her remains are somewhere in those woods.”

“How do you know this?”

“I found two other drivers licenses in the dresser drawer and kept them. After I escaped certain death, I investigated some and discovered that Charlotte, a sixteen year old, was still missing. Her car was found at the same rest area but her body has never been recovered.”

Scott drew in a deep breath and rubbed his hand hard across his forehead and over his hair as he tried to soak in the reality. “Oh my God, Riley. And their deaths? Please tell me you didn‘t.”

“No, Scott. I didn’t do it. And no one can prove it.”

Scott was infuriated with her previous lies and hoped she wasn’t still lying. Trying to soak in the reality of her situation, he wrapped his arms around her as she cried harder. “I love you, Riley and I’m scared for you right now. Do you understand that this makes you a prime suspect in their murders?”

“Yes, but like I said, I didn’t kill them, even though I wanted to.”

Scott held her for long moments, not wanting to let her go. It suddenly put things into perspective and answered some of his questions. “Riley, you need to tell me everything you know about both of the girls. Who is the other girl from the cabin?”

“She lives in Pendleton and went to school with them. She experienced events similar to mine but they didn’t try to kill her. They did, however, tell her that if she told anyone, they would kill her. Please don’t make me tell you who she is because she doesn’t want any involvement.”

“Riley, you have to tell me. It could help you.”

“No, Scott, I cannot breach her trust or confidentiality. I won’t tell you.”

Realizing she wasn‘t going to offer the information, he changed the subject. “Why did you just leave the hospital like that? You left me too, you know.”

“I’m sorry, Scott. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But you have to understand how I’m feeling right now. I had to come to the security of home. I have yet another significant occurrence to overcome and I needed time to recover.”

“Did you even speak with the doctor before you left the hospital?”

“No, he hadn’t come in my room yet. Why, what does that matter?”

“Riley, as a result of the stabbing, your baby was severely injured and you had a miscarriage. You lost the baby.”

“Oh my God, Scott.” She said and rubbed her belly. She was relieved but at the same time saddened. She wasn’t sure of her final opinion of losing the baby.

“Riley, I want you to come home with me. I want you by my side and I feel the need to protect you.”

“I’m not sure if I will return. I certainly can never go back to my apartment. I don’t know what I want to do.”

“Move in with me, Riley. My house is big enough for the both of us. And Cosmo. Please, I couldn’t bare for you to stay here. Please?”

She was in a heightened state of confusion. About everything. “I don’t know, Scott. I need time to think about it.”

“You’ve already admitted to me that you’re in love with me. Please, don’t throw that away. I’ve spent my whole life looking for you, not someone like you. I’ll do anything I can do to keep you. Please don’t make me have to let you go. I love you too much and that will completely destroy me. Please come home with me?” Reaching down, he grasped her hands tightly, never wanting to let go.

Looking into his eyes, she seen the devastation written on his face and it tugged at her heart strings. She did truly love him and knew she wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her. But her mind was cloudy and she couldn’t think clearly. Leaning towards him, she placed her cheek against his and whispered in his ear.

“I love you… Yes. I will.”

In his pocket, he held a small box that he had carried for a few days, waiting to lift his courage high enough. He knew it was the time as he reached in his pocket to pull it out. Leaning back to look into her eyes again, he opened it and presented the ring to her.

“Riley, I know we haven’t known each other very long, but I’m already positive you’re the one I want to spend my life with. I’ve never felt anything close to how you make me feel. Will you marry me?”

She cried harder knowing what she had done will eventually destroy both of them. Reaching up, she closed the box, leaving it in his hand. “I can’t, Scott.” She whispered and slowly shook her head as she watched his expression turn to devastation.

“Why, Riley. Don’t you want to spend you life with me too?”

“Scott, I will come home and move in with you, but I’m not ready to take that step yet. Please, again, give me patience.”

Placing the box back into his pocket, he kissed her. “Yes, Riley. I am willing to wait as long as it takes.” He said and kissed her again.

At that moment, the front door opened and in walked Noah and Aleah, carrying bags of hot food. Placing them on the coffee table, Aleah went to get plates and silverware as Scott sat on the couch beside Riley, holding her hand.

Noah observed the two as he dished out Chinese food for all of them. Although surprised by the relationship, he felt peacefully content, knowing that Riley had found someone she could fully trust and to care for her. “I hope you were planning on staying for dinner because I got enough for all of us.” Noah said and smiled at the stranger who was suddenly not a stranger any longer.

“Yes. I will, thank you.” Scott stood up as he assisted Noah with the preparations.

Noah and Scott stayed in the living room, talking and getting to know one another as Riley slowly walked to the kitchen behind Aleah to help clean the dishes. “Oh my God, Riley, when did this happen?”

Riley knew Aleah was referring to her relationship with Scott. “Well, he came to my door one afternoon to ask my why my cell phone was at the scene of the cabin fire. I refused to go out with him, so he sent me flowers everyday at school until I finally agreed. Since then, he’s just been there. Both in person and in my mind. I felt something with him that I had never felt before, along with a strong sense of trust.”

“How sweet. He’s really cute… Are you in love with him?” Aleah pried.

“Yes. I am.” Riley admitted.

“Why didn’t you say anything to us about him before?”

“Honestly, I didn’t think it was important. I didn’t think it was this serious. Until I just realized my feelings for him. He asked me to marry him.”

“Oh my God, already? What did you say?”

“I told him I wasn’t ready to take that step. But I am moving in with him. Tonight.”

“Riley, what does he know about your past and what you’ve done. He’s a cop for God’s sake.”

“He knows about the cabin but I denied having anything to do with their deaths. I can’t bring myself to tell him the truth. I’m scared.”

“I seen the way he looks at you and I know he’s in love with you. Don’t you think you should tell him. You’re only lying to him if you don’t. And what about the baby? Does he even know about that?”

“He did. But there is no baby anymore. Chuck killed it when he stabbed me. I lost it at the hospital.” Aleah merely nodded her head, knowing how she felt about the pregnancy in the first place. “And if I tell him the truth, he would have to put me in jail. I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t think they’ll find any evidence against me, I’ve taken measures to eliminate all the evidence.” Riley said quietly so Scott couldn’t hear her. “I’m just going to ride this thing out, for now.”

Aleah hugged her. “I’m so happy for you, that you found a good man. I’m just worried about you. And I always will.”

Riley smiled at her sister as she turned out the kitchen light and they returned to the living room with Scott and Noah. They seemed to be getting along just fine and liking each others company. Noah was satisfied with the man who he assumed, may eventually take her away from him. They continued to talk as Riley painfully climbed the stairs to gather some items from her room so she wouldn’t have to go back to that apartment right away.

Scott shook hands with both Noah and Aleah then escorted Riley out the door and to the car. Riley was quiet as she sat, cuddled up to Scott for the long ride back. He was just happy to have her at his side. Although he knew she should be in the hospital he took her home, to his house, anyways. Being late at night, they both went straight up to bed.

Taking the week off from classes, Riley asked them to send her assignments to her via email. She lounged around the house the entire week, recuperating from her injuries. Waiting until the weekend, and through Riley’s dread, they went to her apartment to gather her things. The apartment came furnished so it was only her personal effects.

Walking in the door, she seen the blood on the floor and her mind instantly flashed back to that middle of the night incident. Standing and staring at the floor, Scott stepped in front of her, changing her view. “Riley, just don’t look at it. We’ll get your stuff and you’ll never have to come back here, ever again.

Focusing her eyes on him, she nodded her head, knowing he was right. Shoving items into boxes, duffel bags and trash bags, she and Scott hurried to gather all her belongings. Loading it all into his car and a closed box trailer they had rented, she closed the door for the last time and dropped her keys off at the office, not caring that she had broken the lease.

Pulling out of the parking lot, she felt the sense that that horrible part of her life had come to a close. With them all dead, she could move on with her life, not having to constantly look over her shoulder any longer. She drew in a deep breath and exhaled the memory of the second attempt on her life.

In the weeks that followed, she had grown used to his house and his body beside her in bed every night. Scott had no choice but to report her attack to his captain. She quickly became a strong suspect in their murders. Subsequently, her name and face became plastered on the news as a suspect in the murders of Aaron and David. She was interrogated but offered no confession. As she suspected, they searched her car, Scott’s house and the apartment she had just moved from. They had no evidence against her. And had no choice but to release her, although the investigation remained open.

Because of Riley’s suspicions, the Chesterfield police searched the entire premises of the cabin and did find other remains. Although they could not gain DNA information from the remains, forensics proved it was the skeletal remains of a female approximately sixteen years of age who had been dead for some time. Matching her dental records, they identified the body to be that of Charlotte’s. Because of her suspicions, they were able to close the case and Charlotte’s family was able to get closure after two long years.

Scott continuously tried to gain information about the other girl who owned the other drivers license she had found, but Riley refused to give it to him, trying to respect Hannah’s privacy and decision. They discovered the DNA from the baby proved it was Chuck’s child.

Scott decided it was past time for her to meet his parents and she was surprised to learn they lived in Pendleton. It was a Saturday night when they all agreed to meet for dinner at a restaurant in Pendleton. Riley no longer felt nervous being in the town, knowing she would not encounter someone from that dark past that now lay dormant inside her.

His parents had already arrived when Riley and Scott got there. Finding their table, Scott introduced them before sitting down. Riley saw that he mostly favored his father in appearance. And his mother was beautiful. She sat down between Scott and his mother without an ounce of nervousness. From the corner of her eye, she seen the waitress and looked up to see Hannah, to her surprise.

“Hannah.” She thought out loud.

“Hi, Riley. How have you been?” Hannah said as she passed out menus.

“I’m better now.” She smiled up at the younger girl.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Hannah said and left the table.

“You know her?” Scott asked Riley.

Trying to keep Hannah’s secret from emerging, she had to come up with something. “Yeah… I… volunteered to tutor local high school students, and the college paired me up with her.”

“Oh, that’s great.” Scott smiled and dropped the subject, leaving Riley relieved.

As they waited for dinner and ate, his parents drilled her with the obvious, expected questions. It was at that point that his father realized the seriousness of the relationship between Scott and Riley. His mother learned when Scott asked for her advice when picking out the engagement ring.

They learned about Riley’s lifestyle and where she was from. She learned about Scott’s upbringing and a few notes of his past. His father too, was a police officer which now, was retired, but working to keep busy. Staying long after dinner, continuing to converse, his parents seemed to be as happy with her, as her family was with him.

As Hannah brought the bill, she handed Riley a piece of paper with her phone number on it. “Riley, please call me. I really would like to talk to you.” Hannah said and left the table for the last time.

Scott’s parents both gave her a tight hug, glad to meet her and happy that they were happy together. Waiting until Scott was in the shower later that evening, she took the piece of paper from her purse that contained Hannah’s number. She picked up the phone, hoping that Hannah was, by then, out of work and at home.

Hearing the voice answering the phone, Riley knew it was Hannah. “This is Riley. You wanted me to call you?”

“Yes. I wanted to tell you thank you.” Hannah said.

“For…?”

“Because, Riley, when you buried your old ghosts, you also buried mine too.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t do anything.”

“Come on, Riley. I know it was you. I see it in your eyes when you were at my house that day. I just want to tell you that I’ve gathered the courage to tell my parents about it. But because of their deaths, they didn’t report it to the police. I want you to know that I will be there for you if you need my help in court.”

“I won’t be going to court, because they’ll never find anything to incriminate me.”

“Well, like I said, I’m offering my help, if you need it.”

“Thank you, Hannah. I will keep that in mind.” Riley said and hung up the phone just as Scott was climbing out of the shower, oblivious to the phone call she had made.

It was the following day, on a Thursday, when Riley stopped at the grocery store for a few items before returning home. She always arrived home before Scott did. While she carried a few bags towards the house, she searched for the house key. Opening the screen door, she seen the door had been forced open just as a large explosion shook the house. The force had pushed her through the air and she landed twenty feet from the door, knocking her out.

The explosion rocked the entire neighborhood and the neighbors called the fire department. Scott heard his address on the scanner and dropped what he was doing to rush home. Riley opened her eyes and looked up at the sky just as she heard the sirens getting louder, then stop as they pulled up to the curb. The ambulance was behind the fire trucks and Scott was behind the ambulance.

As the firemen jumped out of the truck and prepared to fight the fire that had encompassed the house, the paramedics rushed over to Riley. Scott running close behind. Riley was disoriented and did not know what happened as they examined her and asked her questions. Standing over her and the paramedics, Scott watched helplessly as his house was burning to the ground.

Due to the force of the explosion slamming her body against the ground, Riley could hardly move as she tried to sit up. With a hand gently on her shoulder, the paramedics advised her to lay still while they assessed her. Although she had not sustained any serious injuries, they tried to persuade her to go to the hospital, but she refused.

After the paramedics did what they could for her, they left the scene. Riley found her cell phone in her purse and immediately called her father and cried uncontrollably as she told him what happened. He told her he would be there as soon as he could. Hanging up the phone, she stood beside Scott, feeling horrified. The sight of his house burning down brought the memory of the cabin back to the front of her mind.

In the passing hours as they fought to contain the fire, they extinguished the flames just as Noah was pulling up behind the fire trucks that still blocked the road. The sun had just set and the street lights were coming on. She seen him and ran to him, throwing her arms around her father and crying harder again. Walking with her to where Scott stood, Noah shook his hand, then pulled Scott in for a hug.

“I’m so sorry about your house. Do you have insurance?” Noah asked Scott.

“Yes. It’s fully covered. I’m just concerned about what we will do until it’s rebuilt.” Scott answered him.

“I’m sure you can find a place to rent until then.” Noah hugged Riley again as she wiped the tears from her eyes. Deep in her mind she had a bad feeling about the cause of the explosion that could have killed her.

For a moment, they stood and overlooked the firemen as they made certain that the fire was completely extinguished. As the firemen were cleaning up and putting their equipment away, Scott joined the other investigators who began to walk through the rubble to find the cause. Riley was overly upset but she was so hungry, she began to get nauseated and knew she needed to eat.

Calling out Scott’s name, she asked if he wanted to go to dinner with them. He declined, stating he wanted to join in the investigation so he knows what happened. Riley gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then turned to leave with her father. Aleah had not returned home from work before Noah left so she was unable to come.

Noah took her to the same restaurant where her and Scott first ate dinner together, unknowing the coincidence. Sitting at a table in the middle of the room, they engaged in simple conversation. Without thinking, she revealed to him that Scott had proposed to her while he visited their Crystal Falls home. Her father took her by complete surprise when he informed Riley that Scott had came back to Crystal Falls to talk with her father and ask him for her hand in marriage. It left Riley in tears as she had a smile on her face.

Although with the terror of the explosion hanging closely over her head, she felt giddy and felt as if her heart were full. “What did you tell him?” She asked, excited.

“I told him that he has my blessing.”

She jumped out of her chair and nearly knocked over his, as she hugged him. “I love him dad, I really do. But I’m not sure I’m ready yet.” She said as she returned to her chair.

“Riley, you are my daughter and I love you. If you love him, I will accept him into this family. I can see that you are happy with him and I think that he worships you. But you have to follow your heart and don’t jump into it just because he has my blessing. You decide only when you’re ready to receive him as your husband. I believe he will wait as long as it takes.”

She smiled at her father as tears fell down her cheeks. “I love you, daddy. Thank you.” She reached out and laid her hand on his.

“I just want you to be happy and free from your painful memories. I am crushed after realizing the hell you went through in one weekend. I cannot even conceive how you felt. But I know Scott helped you pull out of it and he’s part of the reason you are where you are now.”

“You’re right. I deserve to give him my life and know it’s in safe hands. But he doesn’t deserve the baggage I drag behind me. I need to dispose of it first.”

Just as the words came out of her mouth, the waitress brought their dinner to the table. They quietly ate as she thought consistently about all the words her father had said. It made perfect sense and she thought that marrying him felt like the right thing to do. But then she thought about what she had done and it discouraged her.

Again her mind was swirling as they finished eating and left the restaurant. Noah located the local mall and parked in the parking lot. “What are you doing?” She asked as he shut off the car.

“It appears that everything was lost in the fire. You two are going to need new clothes. I’ve got you covered, it’s my contribution to you and Scott.” He said as he got out of the car.

Riley followed him into the store. Spending nearly two hours, and an extreme amount of money, they left the mall just as her cell phone rang. It was Scott, wondering where they had gone off to. She told him they were on their way back to the house. He told her they had discovered the cause of the explosion but he told her he would talk to her when they returned.

Pulling up to the curb, discovering the crowd had diminished, Riley got out of the car and walked towards Scott who was still talking with the other detectives. Seeing her approach, he excused himself and walked towards her. She wrapped her arms around him, still thinking of her fathers words.

“This was arson. Someone broke into our house, turned on all the gas then lit a lighter and set it on the table. That’s what caused the explosion. It just happened to be at the exact time you returned home. Thank God you hadn’t made it into the house. And that Cosmo was outside.”

Riley couldn’t help but get the sudden feeling that someone was still trying to kill her. Scott felt the same way, but didn’t want to tell her that, she had been through enough. Although he knew she should be fully aware if someone was trying to kill her. He also knew he would have to be more vigilant in her protection.

Scott retrieved Cosmo from the back yard just before they got into their separate cars to leave. Noah had offered to put them up in a hotel room for the night, but Scott declined his help, not realizing they had already went shopping for new clothes. Noah still followed behind Riley, who followed Scott, to the hotel room and offered his financial help again. Scott still refused.

Finding the room number, Scott opened the door and walked in, followed by Riley, then Noah. Noah was carrying the bags from the department stores and set them on the bed. Curious, Scott walked up and peeked into the bags. “What’s this?”

“We kinda went shopping after dinner. Dad insisted on buying us new clothes since we lost them all in the fire.” Riley informed him.

Scott pulled out his wallet and fingered through his money. “How much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me anything, Scott. I wanted to help. Put your money away, you’re going to need it to relocate.” Noah insisted.

Scott reached over for a handshake. “Thank you, Noah. That was very nice of you. I’ll want to return the favor someday.”

“You just take good care of my little girl. That’s how you can repay me.” Noah said, leaving Riley feeling embarrassed as they both looked at her.

“You definitely have my word.” Scott smiled at him.

“Well, I know you two are taken care of, at least for the night. I’m going to head home. Just don’t hesitate to call me if you need help.” Noah said as he hugged his daughter.

Scott shut the door after Noah walked through it, then looked at Riley. “I suppose you’re not hungry?”

“Not really, but I guess you are, you haven’t ate yet. I could maybe go for a snack.” She said as she grabbed her purse and walked towards the door.

Scott shut the door as she walked to the car. “Hey, let’s go to this place right across the street.” Scott suggested.

Agreeing, she turned and began walking in the same direction as him. Sitting across from him in a booth by the window, she picked up the menu the waitress had laid in front of her. She wasn’t really feeling hungry but for some reason, she was craving a cheeseburger with bacon. Also, she ordered a side of onion rings and cottage cheese. Then she wondered if her eyes were bigger than her stomach. Looking at all the food as it was placed on the table, she was surprised she finished every bite.

It was just past eleven when they returned to the room. Both feeling stressed and exhausted, they decided to just go to bed. Just after falling into a deep sleep, she began to dream. There was smoke surrounding her and as she looked through it, she realized she was in Scott’s house. On the bed in his bedroom, she tried to move and learned she was taped to the bed. Through the smoke, she saw their faces as Aaron, David and Chuck walked towards her. That familiar fear washed over her and she screamed just as they all reached down to touch her. Opening her eyes, she sat straight up in bed, causing Scott to nearly jump out of bed.

“Riley?” He said and sat up beside her. “Are you alright?”

“Damnit, Scott, I’ve done everything I can do to try to shake this. It just won’t leave me alone.” She said, starting to cry and leaned into him.

He wrapped his arm around her and held her tightly. Drawing in a deep breath, she exhaled slowly as she laid back down. He also laid down and closed his arms around her, cuddling her and knowing she was still haunted by her past.

“I’m right here, you don’t have to worry.” He said, kissing the top of her head.

Running his fingers through her long hair, he felt her relax. He smiled slightly and tightened his arms around her. It was morning when Scott opened his eyes first. Softly and slowly, he snuck out of bed without waking her. She was still asleep when he got out of the shower and got dressed. Sitting on the side of the bed, he stroked her hair and watched her open her eyes.

She stretched and smiled at him. “What time is it?”

“It’s seven thirty. I figured I’d better wake you up so you can get ready for class.”

“I’m not going today. I have to take the day off to find us a place to live.” She responded.

Scott nodded his head. “Ok. But I, on the other hand, need to go to work. Do you want to go catch breakfast with me before I go?”

“Yeah, let me get dressed real quick.” She said and moved to get up. Suddenly she realized how sore her entire body was from the explosion throwing her against the ground. She moaned as she tried to slowly move.

As they sat and ate, Riley thought about her fathers words. And the fact that Scott had asked him for her hand. She thought that was the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for her and she smiled. She wasn’t going to tell Scott that her father had told her about it, perhaps he didn’t want her to know right now.

Crossing the street, they walked back towards the hotel and to their cars. Standing beside his car, he kissed her goodbye before he left for the day. Instead of going inside the hotel, she got into her car and drove to the closest store for a local newspaper. Sitting in her car, looking through the classifieds, she found four houses for rent in town. Calling all of them, she made appointments to go see them.

Killing time before the first appointment, she went to the store for items she knew they would need, such as toiletries, nick knacks, and other items. The first house she looked at, was completely uninteresting to her and she waited for the next appointment. It was the third house that totally captivated her. It had a large back yard where Cosmos kennel could go, two bedrooms, it was furnished, not far from campus and accepted pets.

While still inside the house, she called Scott, asking him to come and look at it. He said he could take a few minutes, but the decision was essentially up to her. Seeing her car in the driveway, he had found the right address. Riley met him at the door and opened it for him. He could see the excitement in her face and knew she liked the house. Perhaps she had already made up her mind.

Scott liked the house as well and was satisfied with the neighborhood and location. After a quick discussion between the two of them, he pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check to cover first and last months rent as well as the security deposit. The landlord enjoyed the fact that he was a detective and assumed they would cause no trouble. Handing Riley the keys, the landlord welcomed them before he left.

She had already checked out of the hotel and had their clothes put away by the time he appeared after work. Together, they went to the store to pick up a few last minute items and shopped for food to fill their cupboards and refrigerator. By the time they had finished putting things away and rearranging others, they were both exhausted and went to the room they had decided would be their bedroom.

Laying on the bed together, they laid awake for awhile, trying to get accustomed to the old houses creeks and noises. It was a strange new place to both of them but it felt comfortable and safe as they drifted off to sleep together.

With the sun shining in her eyes, she opened them and looked around the strange room. Then she looked at Scott who was still asleep. Staring at his peaceful face, she thought about her decision to accept his proposal. Knowing she still wasn’t ready, she hoped he wouldn’t ask her again anytime soon. She was still studying his face when he drew in a deep breath and opened his eyes. Looking directly at her, he smiled and stretched then his arms found their way around her again.

Just looking at her for a minute, he reached up and stroked her hair back before he kissed her. Pulling him closer, the kiss intensified as his hand began to roam over her body, rising the goose bumps on her skin. Feeling the tingling begin, she knew she was getting aroused as his lips moved down her neck and across her chest, licking and nibbling here and there along the way. She was calm and relaxed as they made love for the first time in their new, temporary house.

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