The sun was bright for the Spring Massachusetts day, what some call a bluebird sky. She paused and looked over her shoulder, a habit she couldn’t quit. The terror that gripped her stomach went away as there was no one behind her. Her step turned light, she was safe. Three months had passed and as each day went by, she felt a part of her old life fade away. The night terrors, waking up in a sweat now only happened periodically when in the beginning it was every night.
“I’m getting stronger. I am where I belong,” she said to herself as she crossed her arms over her breasts looking up and down the pier. No one was noticing her, no one was approaching her, she was safe. For now.
He was so powerful and she was so weak. He told her she belonged to him, that once they were married it was till death do they part. And he meant it. She looked down at the tan line where her engagement ring used to be wishing that reminder would go away.
“Savannah, you have no where to go. I’m the only one that can take care of you. I love you and want to take care of you,” he told her as he pushed her tangled hair from her face, the tears from her eyes. “We both know you need direction, you make silly decisions that have consequences. Come on, let’s go to bed.”
And she was weak, she got up off the floor, pushed her hair back and followed him into the bedroom. The new silk dressed was ripped already so she just let him rip it more. She told him the things he wanted to hear as he told her he was sorry. And when he was done, she asked if she could go get water. When he said yes, she went into the kitchen and cried.
That was six months ago, since she gained her freedom. She saw it clearly as she started walking the boardwalk again. She walked through their building in New York City with large black sunglasses. Not being able to see, she tripped into the hands of her favorite doorman, Sturgill. The glasses fell off of her face and his sharp intake of breath made her scramble to put them on.
“Savannah, my God what happened?” The scratches on her face matched the scratches on her body. The bruises were a lighter yellow as her wolf energy healed quickly.
She was prepared to say, “car accident,” or “robbery,” but all she did was shrug.
“Did you call the police child?” Sturgill asked quietly.
“You know his relationship with the police, how much money he gives them,” She whispered, “I have to turn off the security system in the next 3 minutes otherwise he will be upset.”
She hurried and left Sturgill standing there with his mouth hanging open. The doorman’s face then got mad as he went back to his desk. He saw the security on 26B go off and looked at his watch, good, she was right on time.
Savannah was broken, she was stuck. She thought he was going to kill her. He’d accused her of having a hidden phone, one that she was using to text other men. She tried reason, he knew exactly where she was all the time, how could she? He’d slapped her and started tearing through her clothes and drawers looking for the phone.
“I know it’s fucking here. Just give up Savannah, just give me the phone and everything will be OK,” he said, his voice low but a menace in his eyes.
Savannah was already in her pajamas as Shane had worked late, “Shane, I swear there’s no phone. You can take the only other one I have, here.” She held out her cell phone, she’d be completely isolated.
He slapped the phone out of her hand and grabbed her dark kinky hair. She dissolved as he started dragging her over to the closet knowing he was going to lock her in. Shane’s hands were empty. His eyes narrowed, “Oh are we going to play it this way?”
He dissolved and Savannah was taught her lesson, a very hard lesson. He’d told her to not lose control to the wolf, he’d taught her that lesson before. This one was more brutal because she made the stupid decision again. When he was done and she was battered, he picked her up and put her in the bed, crawled in next to her and pulled her to him. She controlled the shudder that went through her, partially from the touch of his skin to hers and then his whisper, “You do not change Savannah. You always have to be in control.” He kissed the back of her neck, “Control. You know it’s important to me. Don’t make me hurt you again.” He rolled her onto her back, her muscles sore, her skin raw, “You always bring out the worst in me. I’m sorry baby.”
The fight before breakfast the next morning was again over the phone. Things that slightly healed from the night before were spared. This time he went for her face, a quick backhand as he said, “If that phone is not sitting on the kitchen counter when I get home from work, you’ll regret it. I will find it.”
Savannah knew if she stayed, he’d probably kill her looking for the phantom phone. After Shane left with a kiss on the cheek, she ran through the condo and threw what she could into a large backpack. She checked her watch, his call would come soon. She raided the safe for what cash was on hand. She left her engagement ring on the dresser.
She was standing at the safe when the call came through, “Hello Shane.” She kept her voice feline soft. The only calls she received were from him.
There was a sigh on the other end of the phone, “You affect me Savannah because you know I love you.”
“Yes, I do,” she pushed away the nauseous feeling in her stomach.
“I will make it up to you. You know what, we don’t need that phone if you promise to be faithful,” Shane said sweetly.
A shudder went through her as she looked at the backpack of possessions and her plan of running away. She made her voice soft, “I promise Shane, always and forever.”
“Till death do us part,” Shane said, “I’m sending over something for you Savannah, kind of like a promise/makeup present.”
Savannah panicked what would happen if the deliver person came and she wasn’t there. “You know how much I love gifts just from you. I like watching your pleasure as I open them in front of you.” She started praying, praying hard. She could lose everything with this phone call.
There was silence on the other end, “Yes, I like that too. I’ll bring it home with me.”
Savannah almost fainted from relief, “Well now I have something to look forward to.”
“I’ll see you tonight. Let’s dress up, oh wait,” he thought about her bruises, “We’ll order in from Marios and have a romantic date night.”
“That sounds wonderful,” she hung up the phone and hugged herself. She needed to be as far away from the condominium before he even gets close to the building. She ran to her closet, everything still all over the floor, spots of blood around it. She looked at the thousands and thousands of dollars of dresses and other items then turned to the bottom drawer of her dresser. Clothes she wore when she was home alone. She stuffed the blue jeans that Shane hated, a few t-shirts from her past. She took a small black skirt, two silky blouses and a few other odds and ends. She left most of what Shane had bought her over the years for him. She didn’t want anything to do with it.
Sturgill met her at the cargo bay of the building, a car waiting for her in the alley. He saw the bruises around her neck and gave her what little cash he had, kissed her on the cheek and sent her over to the train station.
Savannah used the cash to purchase her ticket, then she went to another window and purchased a ticket in the opposite direction in case he sent the police to ask about her at the terminal. She threw her cell phone out of the car on the way to the station. She got on the train, sat in her seat and looked around at the other passengers. None seemed to notice her. She heard sirens in the distance, her heart started hammering as her throat went dry and she slipped down further into the seat. For the first time two years, a sense of freedom filled her as the train departed the station. She slept without looking over her shoulder. The train left New York and Savannah didn’t stir until it stopped in Boston. Moving through that station to she purchased another ticket to Maine. She had the desire to stay in the North East. She purchased another ticket to California just in case. She rode through the countryside, watching out the window at the beautiful scenery. Such a difference from the cold hard lines of her life Something made her get up with her bag and backpack and depart several stops before the end of the line. She stood on the platform wondering what to do next. Her stomach growled and took her to a small coffee shop. She ordered a large lunch, picked up a paper and started the search for a place to live.
“Well now, what do we have here? You look lonely. Lunch date?” An elderly lady stood next to her.
Savannah looked up, immediately on edge, “What?” She looked harmless but she was still fresh from people bringing her back to Shane. People always calling and telling him where she was. She’d run away once, but didn’t make it to the coffee shop before the police were out front and he was stepping out of a cop car.
The old woman smiled, “Child, I’m harmless. I just hate eating by myself. Even if it is train food.” She held up some paper bags, “I finished shopping have you?” Before Savannah could protest she set her coffee and paper bag with a muffin on the table in front of her. “What’s wrong with a couple of girls having lunch together?”
Savannah was taken aback, her eyes traveled around the train stop looking for the police or anyone that would recognize her. Finally she shrugged, “Sure.”
The woman sat and opened her bag bringing out a muffin, she ate quietly looking at Savannah until the point where it got uncomfortable. Savannah looked up from her lunch, “What?”
“I hate train station food and you look lost. How about a big pot of collard greens and a real coffee. You are safe with me, do you need a place to stay?” The woman’s face was still as she asked.
Savannah looked at the elderly woman. She was probably not even five feet tall, her black curly hair tinged with grey, her dark skin full of wrinkles. She wore a house dress, her feet in sturdy hiking boots with funny pink socks. Her smile to her was wise, her eyes non judging her mouth thin, her teeth white. For some reason she felt a piece of her give, she felt a connection with the woman. She picked up her coffee and took a sip to keep herself from weeping. “Collard greens? I’ve never had collard greens.”
Beulah, a Watcher for the Aether could sense the girl’s distress. She could also sense the wolf that never had freedom. It was her job as a Watcher to help the wolves, to help the lost. “Girl, you haven’t tried heaven until you’ve had my collard greens. Let’s go, I’m just walking distance from the train stop. You can travel on from there if you want.”
Savannah held back a sob. She wasn’t used to people being nice to her. She got up with her backpack full of clothes, 365 dollars to her name and followed Beulah to her house. She immediately felt at ease in the house, the kitchen smelled of fried food and collard greens. Beulah put her at the table, a cup of coffee in front of her as she went and got the fried chicken out of refrigerator, mashed potatoes and put them in the microwave to reheat. She poured herself a cup of coffee, “You look like you need a little nudge girl, what can I do to help?”
She reminded Savannah so much of Sturgill who helped her leave New York. She spilled part of her story, “I’m on my own now. I’m looking for a place to land, you know, a job a place to stay. I’m not sure why I’m here but I got off the train at the Revere station.”
Beulah mused this, the girl was being drawn to her tribe. She was a Lost One. It was her job to help. She wasn’t Aether, but as a Watcher she helped Alpha’s find their tribes, the Lost Ones find their way. “Well now, isn’t that interesting. You’re lost and I’ve had my upstairs Tennant move out. Coincidence?”
Savannah smiled, her first real smile in a long time. “Now I’m wondering.”
Beulah made a plate for Savannah and despite eating lunch, she dug into the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and collard greens. “Holy cow, I’ve never had anything like this,” she said as she ate the collard greens.
Beulah laughed, “Then you’ve never been South. Child, there’s nothing like collard greens cooking all day. Fill up. I can rent you the upstairs of my house. It’s a bedroom and a landing, not much else.” She paused looking at her, “What type of job are you thinking of?”
Savannah looked lost again. She’d never went to collage, when Shane found her in the diner he told her she was a dirty waitress, that he could make her life better. She heard his voice in her head, Most waitresses are just a step up from whore. Let me give you a better life. She shivered thinking of the life he gave her. “I know how to wait tables, I can find something.”
Beulah felt the confidence slid away from the child, her heart went out to her, “Child, my friend owns a restaurant, let me see what I can do.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Savannah whispered. She wasn’t used to good things coming her way.
“Just say yes dear,” Beulah said and went back to add more collard greens to her plate.
The collard greens turned into a rental that didn’t deplete all the cash she had on hand. It landed her a job at Roylston’s the local steak house along with the extra job of keeping up with the books and ordering what was needed. Ronnie Roylston, the owner, reminded Savannah of a bear, a towering man with slick black hair, a nice beer belly with a great belly laugh. Beulah took her in to meet him and he grabbed all 5 foot 4 inches of her off her feet and swung her around. They discussed a job for Savannah over steaks, potatoes and green beans. Shane always had caviar and carpaccio but this simple dinner eaten in the kitchen with Beulah and Ronnie meant more to her than anything.
The sun sneaked behind a cloud and Savannah put her arms out wide, pulling the energy she felt in the air. She was free, she was starting to heal and finally, she was home.
He sat behind his desk, looking at the different pictures of her. He should take them down, just let her go but Shane Morrison couldn’t. How did she just disappear? She belonged to him. He’d find her and forgive her and take her back. After he taught her a lesson. Shane took care of everything for Savannah, there’s no way she’ll make it on her own. It took some time but he groomed her to fit right into his lifestyle. How could she leave everything he gave her?
He found her the last time she’d run away. What was different? How could she get away? She didn’t know anyone to help her but somehow she disappeared.
“You can’t leave me,” he yelled in his office. She’s a whore. She was when I met her now she’s with some man, I know it.
They’d met when she worked at the diner, she was so sweet and pretty and shy. Shane fell in love with her instantly. He went back to that diner on a daily basis, determined to woo her. He sighed as he remembered her reluctance to him. He was so different from her, she was so plain. He brought her gifts. He took her to places that were way above her pay grade but she made him laugh with stories of what was happening in the kitchen of the the diner. His friends told him he had a gem as they went out together, her in the dresses he bought for her, the jewelry that winked on her ears and her throat. He taught her the things to say, how to look the right way for the society pictures in the paper. He taught her everything. His fist slammed onto his desk upsetting a few of the pictures. He righted them.
“Savannah, what made you think you could wear that? We’re not trying to be a whore, this is a hospital benefit,” he said as he pushed her back against the kitchen counter.
“But, I thought…” she started gasping as he ripped the black dress off of her.
“That’s your problem, you think,” he growled out as he slapped her then pulled her to him.
Savannah didn’t say anything, ticked off in her mind the three other dresses he liked at he took her there in the kitchen. This would put him in a better mood for the evening she told herself. She left him as he righted his tuxedo and picked the pale blue dress, he always smiled at that one. His nod made her relax in his presence as he said, “The car is waiting.”
She wore the clothes he picked out, ate what he ordered at restaurants. He even setup the antique shop for her because he thought it was a good fit and it gave her something to do.
Savannah was the perfect fit for him. In return for him providing a good life for her, she kept him happy. How could she just walk away from all of that? Savannah was the perfect fiancee for him, everything between them seemed to fit together especially after he proposed. She never argued with him, she never questioned him. Sure he lost his temper with her here and there but it usually was her fault, she just needed to communicate better with him and they wouldn’t have their fights. He knew what was best for them.
Shane made it a point that their wolves didn’t connect. If he gave her the freedom to explore hers he would lose part of his control. And he liked the tall, lithe, black kinky haired woman who stood at his side and made him look good. He ran at night while she waited at the condo. He didn’t connect with a tribe because they would lend her strength. He liked having her all to himself.
She didn’t have any friends, just him. Her friends were his friends. They all commented how they were the power couple. She helped him with his business, went to all the different receptions and played the perfect fiancé. She smiled when he wanted her to smile, nodded when he looked over to her during a conversation. She was even perfect in bed, sensing what he wanted.
He had to have her back.
At 35 years old, Shane Morrison was considered quite a catch in society of New York. He knew most of the right people, made sure he was seen with the right people. He stood 6 feet tall, lanky from spending a lot of time sitting at a desk managing different businesses along with an organized workout schedule. His brown hair was straight and cut short, his brown eyes sharp as he negotiated different contracts.
With life going so well, how did she disappear? There was an undercurrent among his friends as Savannah didn’t show up at events, the excuse of helping a friend with cancer starting to wear thin. He had to have her back. He had to find her.
Shane called in a favor from one of his business contacts for a detective agency to aid in the search for Savannah. Bert Durham, a master detective, started with surveillance videos of all the subways, buses and trains. He picked up on a girl that looked like the photos sent to him on a train out of New York City. Moving meticulously he found her again in Boston, moving to the train line to Salem. Not able to leave the city, he picked up the phone called in another favor, a friend Jack Lowry.
Jack Lowry had been in the business going on 10 years. He was part of the Swampscott tribe and lived on the border between Revere and Swampscott. He was a tall burly man. At 6 foot 3, he was tanned with bright grey eyes. His hair was cropped short, his teeth a bright white. Willow, his Alpha had tried matching him with Fiona but Jack wasn’t interested. He liked his life simple, he liked his job of finding people and helping people. It wasn’t meant to be because Fiona had her eyes on Carson, another of the tribe which was apparent to everyone but Carson.
“So, I’m emailing a picture of a woman I’m searching for and the last video of her was taking the Salem train. He’s paying a pretty penny so run the different stops and see if it is her?” Bert’s voice was curt on the phone.
Jack owned his own local detective agency. Most of his clients were messy divorces but he did have experience in missing persons. “Sure thing. I’ll see if I can find out any information on her and get it back to you.”
“Good man, here comes the email. Call me if you find any information.”
Jack read through the information as he looked at a picture of a pretty girl with black hair and big brown eyes. Her smile was small as she looked at the camera. As if she didn’t want the picture taken. Her face was small and heart shaped, her features defined, her nose small, lips full with a hint of dimples if she really smiled. Her brown eyes were evenly spaced, the makeup she wore in the picture expertly applied. Her hair was pulled back, Jack noted that it would poof out if let down. She wore a tight black dress that showed off her curves, tall spike heels that showed off beautiful calves. He moved onto three other pictures, one of her in jeans and a t-shirt, noting the lace of the bra she wore. She made a t-shirt look elegant, he thought. The final picture was in shorts with a t-shirt. In all the pictures she looked wary, her smile not open for the camera.
“OK, Savannah Jeffries, let’s see if we can find you,” Jack said putting his cell phone next to his computer.