In the weeks that passed, the snow had begun to fade as the temperatures gradually warmed up. They settled nicely into their temporary house as the investigation of his house came to a close. Scott hired contractors to tear down and remove the remnants of the charred house. Then hired contractors to begin to rebuild the new one. The insurance money had been paid and it would take approximately two months before they were able to move in.
They discovered the fingerprint on the lighter from the explosion, belonged to Aaron’s father, Dan. He was arrested for arson and Riley was relieved. She knew it was his revenge for burning down his cabin, and getting away with it as Scott never revealed her secret to his superiors. With the thorough investigation they conducted on Riley, they never found any evidence to incriminate her, other than motive. It was not enough to convict.
Their lives together in the new house seemed peaceful and they grew closer together. Riley continued with class and her grades were back to normal although she seemed to constantly be incredibly fatigued along with occasional mild nausea. Not taking notice, she concentrated on her studies as the end of the year grew closer.
She was happy to hear that her father had bought a new house only twenty miles from Newport. He had retired merely two weeks after he closed on the house. The first time Riley stepped foot into his new house, she felt calm and relaxed. It did actually feel like home and she was happy they were closer to her.
Riley and Scott spent the weekend helping him and Aleah move and had just enough time to get him settled before his retirement party. Aleah had no choice but to quit her job, feeling the need to follow her father and move closer to Riley. She knew she could find another once they were settled.
It was the weekend of his retirement party. Riley’s classes ended on Friday afternoon and she waited for Scott to return home from work. Feeling hungry, she went towards the kitchen to find something to hold her over until he returned home as they had plans of going out for dinner. Standing with the refrigerator door open, she searched and found a block of cheese.
Shutting the door, she grabbed a sharp knife from the butchers block then turned to sit at the table. Suddenly, a weakness came over her and she seen stars as she reached for the table. The room turned black as she landed on the floor, the knife stuck into her leg. She woke up feeling the pain instantly and sat up, to find the knife that impaled her.
She grabbed it and pulled it out, watching the blood pour out her leg. Lucky to be just within reach of the phone, she grabbed it and called for an ambulance, knowing it was a serious wound. Grabbing a towel off the counter, she covered her leg as she talked to the woman on the other end of the phone.
Her head was still spinning and the weakness remained as the paramedics opened the door and came into the house. Quickly, they attended to her wound as they helped her on the gurney. Rushing her to the hospital, she was still bleeding profusely and was starting to feel nauseated and weak again. Arriving at the hospital, they rushed her into a room and helped her transfer beds.
The doctor wasted no time coming to her aid. She had nearly passed out from blood loss by the time he began to suture the wound. They ran routine blood tests while she was disoriented and confused. They had given her local anesthesia for the procedure but it felt like they gave her a general anesthesia as she just wanted to sleep.
Scott pulled in the driveway and seeing her car, expected to see her there. The house was quiet and noticed Cosmo was still in the kennel as he walked in the house. He called her name but heard no response. Walking through the house, he came into the kitchen and looked down to see the blood on the floor. He was instantly scared as his heart felt as if it were beating right out of his chest. With one phone call, he learned there had been an ambulance sent to his house for a stab wound. That scared him even more as he rushed out of the house and to the hospital.
Riley was merely coherent as the doctor returned to her room. She struggled to stay alert as she talked with him. Looking at her chart, he asked her if she was aware that she was pregnant. Shock overcame her and she could barely answer him. Flipping the page, he informed her that she was approximately nine weeks pregnant.
She argued with him, thinking it had been nine weeks since her miscarriage, but he explained to her that due to her hormones, she was extremely fertile at that time. He gave her some ointment for her wound before he left the room but would not release her until he was sure she had a ride.
Riley lay in the bed, painfully alert now and thinking that she wasn’t ready for this. Thoughts raced through her mind but she ultimately found herself happy about the news. The more she thought about it, the more excited she became but the more nervous she also became, knowing she had to tell Scott. She just didn’t know when or how and she was worried of his reaction.
Laying in bed comparing her symptoms to her last pregnancy, they were not as prominent this time, especially for nine weeks gestation. She had mixed feelings about the pregnancy but was sure she was smiling when Scott burst into the room, startling her. He ran to her and threw his arms around her.
“Riley, are you alright? What happened?” He seemed frantic.
“Relax, Scott. I’m fine. I tripped and stabbed myself with the knife when I fell on it.”
A look of relief covered his face as he learned the simple truth. “Oh my God, Riley, I thought you… I didn’t know what to think when I walked into the house and saw the blood. Then I called and found out the ambulance responded to a stab wound. I was so scared, Riley.”
“I understand, I would be scared too if I were in your shoes.”
The doctor entered the room and introduced himself to Scott, inquiring about her safe return home. Scott informed him that he would take her home as soon as she was released. The doctor nodded and left the room. Moments later, the nurse came in with the release papers for her to sign.
Relieved that her secret remained, they left the hospital. Scott took her home to change her blood soaked, torn clothes before they went to dinner. He cleaned the blood from the tile floor while she changed. Her mind was invaded by the news of the pregnancy and she could think of nothing else.
Seated by the window again, she stared out through it, waiting for the waitress. Scott observed her, noticing her distance and reached his hand across the table to grasp hers. She looked at him and he seen a new spark in her eye as she smiled at him.
“What’s going on with you tonight? You’re acting differently.” He finally asked.
“I don’t know. Just thinking about things.” She answered him.
“Things like… what?”
“You know, just things.” She continued.
“Things that I should be concerned about?” He questioned her further.
“Yes.” She offered no more.
Scott glanced around the room then returned his gaze to her. “If I should be concerned about them, then you should tell me.”
“Well, they concern you, but you shouldn’t necessarily be concerned.” She clarified.
He nodded his head as his gaze remained on her. She smiled again, knowing he was curious. But she wasn’t ready to tell him the news. She knew she had some time before it became obvious. But she would definitely tell him before then. Maybe she wanted to enjoy the secret before she learns his unpredictable reaction.
Afraid of her eyes revealing something, she turned her head but it was already too late, he had already seen it. Knowing she wasn’t going to reveal her thoughts, he drew in a deep breath and tried to forget about it.
“So, how many people will be at the retirement party tomorrow night?” He asked, changing the subject.
“I think around fifty or sixty. I’m not exactly sure.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be up to it?” He asked her.
“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Just making sure.” He shrugged his shoulders.
After eating, Scott paid the bill as Riley exited the building. She stood in the darkness with the early spring breeze blowing through her long hair, waving it like a flag. She drew in a deep breath of the scent of the season and seemed to feel lightheaded again. Scott waked up behind her and put his arms around her as he gently encouraged her towards the car, unaware of her dizziness.
She stumbled as she stepped off the curb and nearly twisted her ankle. Scott caught her as she was falling and lifted her back to her feet. Shaking off the dizziness, she began waking towards the car. He pulled on the sleeve of her sweater and turned her towards him.
“Riley…” He whispered and looked over her face in the dim light of the parking lot. “There is something you’re not telling me.” She looked back at him, wanting to tell him but afraid to do so. “What is it?” He continued to pry.
She just took his hand without answering and led him to the car. They got in and he started it then looked at her again. Through the darkness, he could see the tears falling down her face and he grew more concerned. Reaching over to take her hand, he interlaced his fingers with hers as he drove away from the parking lot.
The three mile trip home seemed to him, to take an hour as he was antagonized by her silence. Pulling into the driveway, she got out and walked to the door to unlock it. He was behind her and followed her into the house. Turning on the light, he took her by the arm and turned her towards him.
“Riley, I know you’re keeping something from me. I haven’t figured out yet if it’s good or bad but it’s killing me inside. You have to tell me, please?”
Without hesitation, she told him just above a whisper. “I’m pregnant, Scott.”
“What! Really? Are you sure?” He appeared overjoyed as a smile covered his face.
“Yes. I just found out, at the hospital. I’m nine weeks.”
“Nine Weeks? Oh my God! I’m going to be a daddy!” He grabbed her by the shoulders and looked at her for a second before he practically threw her against him and closed his arms around her. “I can’t believe it.” He pulled back to look into her eyes. “Riley, you don’t know how excited I am.”
She smiled and cried at his reaction, seeing how happy he was. It was the moment she realized she was ready to become his wife. In his excitement, he picked her up and swung her around in his arms. Setting her back to her feet, he looked into her eyes and knew she was happy about it too.
“I can’t believe this, oh my God, Riley.” He said again, his voice softer. Stroking her hair back, he leaned down to kiss her then followed with a tight hug. Pulling back away from her some, he took her hands in his for a moment. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out the small black box as he lowered himself to one knee.
“Please, Riley, tell me you’ve changed you mind. With this news, I can’t wait any longer. Please marry me…”
She lowered herself to her knees to be at his level before speaking. Although she had not yet finished school, she felt she didn‘t want to wait any longer to begin her life with him. “Scott, you have been there for me when I needed you. When my world was at it coldest and darkest, you lit my candle and warmed me. You taught me how to trust, how to love. I want to be by your side for the rest of my life, and raise our child together. Yes, I’m ready to marry you.” She said with a tear in her eye.
Scott smiled and removed the ring from the box. Throwing the box to the side, he slipped the ring onto her finger. It was a perfect fit. She examined the ring for a moment, thinking it was the most beautiful engagement ring she had ever seen. Scott brushed his hand across her face before pulling her against him to kiss her softly. She wrapped her arms around him and they held each other, kissing for long moments on their knees.
“Thank you, Riley. You’ve made my life complete.” He said as he looked into her eyes.
“No, Thank you, Scott, you gave me back my life. And added to it. After the worst experience of my life, you came along and now, I have been so blessed.”
He gently tugged on her arm as he stood to his feet. “Come on, it’s early but let’s go to bed. Right now, I want for nothing but to hold you in my arms. Make love to you. All night long, if you’d let me.”
She took his hand and stood, following him to the bedroom. In the dim light, he slowly pulled off her shirt as he kissed her. With his arms around her, he reached and unhooked her bra as she unbuttoned his shirt and slid it over his shoulders, watching it fall to the floor. She ran her hands across his chest and up to his neck, pulling him closer for another kiss. Sliding her hands down, she reached to unbutton and unzip his pants, pushing them over his hips. Then she slipped her hands beneath the cloth of his boxer briefs and squeezed his buttocks. Moving her hands around, she pulled his briefs down until they fell to the floor.
Once he had removed her jeans and underwear, he picked her up, their naked bodies pressed together, and laid her on the bed. The sun was just setting as they finished, with long shadows cast across the room. Lifting her hand up into the shady sunlight, she looked at the ring. She thought about everything that happened between her and Scott and how rapidly their love blossomed. She suddenly felt as if she had acquired all the things she had wished for as a child. In her ecstatic state of mind, she felt as if she were dreaming.
“I love you, Riley.” Scott broke through the silence.
“I love you too, Scott.” She said and tucked herself closer to him.
They did make love all night long, stopping in between just long enough to rest, use the bathroom, or snack on something. It was just before sunrise when exhaustion overtook both of them and they fell asleep, not waking until noon.
Scott was in the shower when she opened her eyes. She looked at her ring and smiled, knowing it wasn’t all just a dream. Stretching, she smiled again, feeling happy and content. She felt a small degree of nausea and was thankful it wasn’t as severe as it was with her last pregnancy. Pulling herself out of bed, she threw his long shirt on and buttoned it.
Wearing only the shirt, she went downstairs to find something for breakfast. The bacon and eggs were frying in the pan as he walked into the kitchen. Looking her over, he smiled, seeing her in his shirt and walked towards her. From behind, he wrapped his arms around her and brushed his lips across her neck.
“Riley, I think we have some announcements to make. To Noah and Aleah, as well as my parents.”
“Why don’t you invite your parents to the retirement party. We can make the announcement there, to everyone all at once.”
“That sounds like a great idea.” He said as he pulled away and went to the phone.
She listened as he talked to his mother, inviting them without revealing any of the news. He strongly encouraged them to come, then told them explicit directions to Noah’s new house. Hanging up the phone, he informed her they would be there. She smiled at him as she dished out plates for both of them. After eating, Riley took a shower then they both got ready to go help decorate for the party, each bringing an outfit to wear for the party.
Thirty minutes was all the drive consisted of to reach Noah and Aleah’s house. As they scurried around, preparing for the party, it didn’t take long for Aleah to notice the ring on Riley’s finger. The pregnancy she could still hide, but the ring was much more obvious. Aleah pulled Riley aside, into the kitchen pantry and shut the door.
“Riley, is there something you haven’t told us yet?” Aleah asked, holding Riley’s hand up.
Riley smiled. “I wanted to wait until the party for the announcement, but I guess it’s hard to hide until then. I‘m not about to take it off.”
“Riley, oh my God, you finally said yes.” Aleah hugged her sister. “Congratulations. Dad won’t be home until just before the party so he won’t know.”
“Aleah, that’s not all the news I have, but you have to promise me you won’t tell dad.”
“I promise. What else is there, Riley?” Aleah was curious.
“Really?” Aleah seemed overjoyed and could tell by the look on Riley‘s face that she was also happy about it. “How far along are you? Does Scott know yet?”
“Yes. I found you yesterday at the hospital. I’m nine weeks and I told Scott last night. Then he proposed to me again.”
Taking Riley’s hands in hers, Aleah sort of jumped up and down before hugging her sister. “I’m so happy for you. You deserve this after all you’ve been through.” Pulling back to look Riley in the eyes, Aleah displayed her excitement. “Dad and I really like Scott and think he’s perfect for you. But I can’t help but worry about you still. Are you ever going to tell him what you’ve done?”
“Yes, it’s getting incredibly harder to keep that secret. I will tell him, but only when I think he’s able to accept the truth.”
“You’re so smart, Riley. You did what you felt you needed to do and were able to dispose of any incriminating evidence. I’m proud of you and at the same time, regretful that you may go to jail for it.”
“The classes I’ve been taking in criminal justice have helped me tremendously. I learned how to dispose of the evidence correctly and effectively. They haven’t found anything against me yet, and they wont. Only motive.”
Aleah hugged her again before Riley reached to open the door. Scott was standing two feet away, looking at them as they came out. Riley instantly felt insecure, hoping he hadn’t heard their conversation. “You couldn’t wait, could you?” Scott smiled at her as she came to him.
“No, she seen my engagement ring and started asking questions. I had to tell her. All the news.” Riley told him, relieved he hadn’t heard her darkest secret.
Aleah walked up to Scott and hugged him. “Congratulations, daddy.”
Scott smiled at her as she pulled away. “Thank you.”
“Well, now that we got that out of the way, we have some work to do.” Riley said and took Aleah’s hand, leading her out of the kitchen.
They had just enough time to decorate and prepare everything before their father came home, just before the guests began to arrive. They quickly changed their clothes. Scott was standing in the doorway, greeting the guests when his parents arrived. He hugged them and they sensed a happiness about him. He led them through the people that began to crowd around, to find Riley and greet her too.
Waiting for nearly an hour for all the guests to arrive, Riley pulled her father to the side. “Dad, I know this is your party, but Scott and I have an announcement to make and thought this would be a good time to do it. Do you mind?”
“By all means, yes. I’d like to know too.” Noah smiled at her.
Finding Scott, she took him by the hand and told him it was time. Climbing halfway up the stairs, overlooking the room and the people, she tapped a spoon on the side of his wine glass, trying to get everyone’s attention. Seeing she had the attention of everyone in the room, she began.
“Scott and I have an announcement to make. It seems we shall gather around together like this again in probably about a month or so… for a wedding.” She paused as a cheer fell over the crowd. Scott saw as his parents make their way towards the stairway. Speaking over the hum of the crowd, she revealed the next announcement. “And there is going to be an addition to our family.”
Again, the crowd cheered as Riley looked out over them, with a tear in her eye. She turned to Scott for a warm hug before starting down the stairs to meet his parents at the bottom. Sharon, his mother, was holding her arms out for Riley as she stepped down from the last step.
“Riley, we’re so proud to have you join our family. And to give us a grandchild… you are the best thing that’s ever happened to our son and we can see what a great couple you make, and what great parents you’ll make. I just cannot express how happy we are for you both.”
“Thank you, it means a lot to me.” Riley said as she pulled from their embrace.
“So, when are you due?”
“I don’t know yet. I just found out yesterday, but I’m nine weeks along. So, probably…” She paused to think and do the math. “Sometime around November, I’m guessing. Scott proposed to me again, last night, after I told him about the pregnancy.” Riley said then turned to see her father just to her left. She knew he had heard the conversation with Sharon.
Smiling and holding his arms out, Noah waited for her to hug him. She did, then showed them all her engagement ring. Sharon stated she had already seen it, she helped him pick it out. Riley smiled, realizing Sharon had known all along about his proposal. Feeling one arm slip around her from behind, she seen Scott as he reached his hand towards Noah for a handshake. Then he hugged his mother, and father who was standing just beside Sharon. Aleah came up beside Noah and hugged Scott too. Riley felt content and happy with their families gathered around them as she hugged Scott‘s father, Jim.
Aleah and Sharon, together, threw Riley a bridal shower three weeks before the wedding. She received quite a bit of lingerie in which most of it seemed tight over her belly which has not yet began to grow.
Like a slow, warm wind, the end of spring blew in, bringing with it the rush of planning a wedding and the reality of the life growing inside her. They had enjoyed their temporary house and realized it held many good memories for them. But they were relieved when they were able to move into their newly rebuilt three bedroom house one month before the wedding they had planned for June twelfth, just after school ended for the summer.
One week before the wedding, Riley sat home alone as Luke took Scott away for his bachelor party. Eating a late night snack while sitting on the couch and watching the news, she waited for Scott but not expecting him until late. Hearing the phone ring, she looked at the clock as she reached for the phone. It was fifteen after eleven.
“Yes, who’s this?”
“You don’t know me, but you will. Let’s just say I’m related to one of the young men you killed.”
A rush of fear and anger came over her as she thought it was already over. “I don’t know you or what you’re talking about but if you ever call me again, I’ll have you arrested.”
“You think you’re going to get away with those murders. While my brother lays in his grave, you move on with your life, getting married and having a baby. I won’t allow you to get away with it. You were really good at what you’ve done, not having any shred of evidence against you. But I know your secret. And when Scott gets home from his bachelor party, you’re not going to tell him about me, you’re going to tell him about you. If you don’t, there will be consequences. And if you tell him about this phone call, there will be consequences.” She heard the phone click and knew he hung up.
Riley was in shock as fear encompassed her, not understanding how he knew about the engagement, or especially the baby. How did he know their phone number. The thing that scared her most was that he knew Scott’s current whereabouts. She worried if he knew where they lived. Not sure what to think, she was at a loss. With the phone still in her hand, she threw it across the room, smashing it into pieces.
Grabbing the small pillow from the corner of the couch, she covered her face and screamed, then broke down and cried into the pillow. Feeling faint, she removed the pillow from her face to get some fresh air. The fear and anger almost matched what she felt at the cabin as it brought back the memories. Instantly feeling ill, she ran towards the bathroom and fell to her knees before the toilet. All the vomiting and heaving left her feeling weak and lightheaded as she laid on the cool bathroom floor and closed her eyes.
Scott was fairly intoxicated as he quietly stumbled in the front door. Looking around, he didn’t see her but noticed the TV was still on. It was just after midnight and he thought she had went to bed and left the lights on for him. Not realizing she was in the bathroom downstairs, he climbed the stairs while he stripped off his jacket and shirt.
Walking into the dark bedroom and to the bed, he felt around for her. Realizing she wasn’t there, he turned on the light and began to search for her. Walking back down the stairs, he went back into the living room. She was nowhere to be seen so he turned off the TV.
“Riley?” He called for her. Walking towards the bathroom, he saw the light on as he walked around the corner and found her, still laying on the bathroom floor. Nearly jumping to his knees before her, he put his hand on her head. She was asleep. “Riley?” He spoke her name again.
She opened her eyes and looked up at him. Scott drew in a sigh of relief, knowing she was alright as he helped her sit up. “Are you alright? Why are you laying on the bathroom floor?”
“I don’t feel well, Scott. Can you help me to bed?” She said in a weak voice, exhausted from the sudden stress and exertion from vomiting.
Standing to his feet, he picked her up and shut off the light as he exited the bathroom. Carrying her up the stairs, she wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. He stumbled some but his buzz had mostly disintegrated when he found her on the floor. Laying her on the bed, he laid beside her for a moment. He seen the look on her face and it concerned him. He hadn’t seen that look in a while.
“Riley? What happened? Are you alright?”
She knew he could see it on her face by the look on his. But she couldn’t tell him about the phone call. She also couldn’t bring herself to tell him the truth. She felt torn in two. She just closed her eyes as a single tear escaped. “I just don’t feel well. Maybe I just need some sleep.” She said as she rolled over onto her side with her back to him.
“Ok.” He responded, but knew there was something more. Pulling her hair back, he kissed her cheek, then stood up to turn the lights off and lock the door. Although she tried to appear to Scott to be sleeping, she laid awake for hours, thinking and worrying about the phone call. Finally, around four AM, she fell asleep. Scott was concerned when it was noon and he had difficulty waking her.
Opening her eyes and looking at him, the thought of the phone call rushed right back to the front of her mind. Trying to push it back, she pulled the covers off and got out of bed, once again feeling hungry and nauseated at the same time. Knowing she had survived the horrible roller coaster ride once, she could survive this one.