I paced up and down the crowded hallway, working hard to keep my temper in check. The nurse wouldn’t let me in the room until the doctor finished examining Cheyenne.
Fucking ridiculous! I was her boyfriend.
She didn’t say much in the ambulance. I wanted to ask her the question that consumed my thoughts. The one that had burned on the tip of my tongue since the moment I broke down the door and found that animal on top of her. But I didn’t want to upset her. And I was afraid of the answer. She still had her panties on. I must’ve arrived in time to save her. Just barely though. If he raped her, I would be spending the rest of my life in a Canadian prison.
What was I thinking when I left her alone? I knew someone was stalking her after the incident at Cavendish Beach. I had started to connect the incidents that went all the way back to Saskatchewan. But I let my anger and frustration surrounding our job situations and the future of our relationship cloud my judgement.
I glanced at my watch. Craig and his mother were on their way. I called them the minute we arrived at the hospital. But it was a twelve-hour drive from Vermont. Craig planned to drive straight through, but they wouldn’t arrive until morning.
I looked up when the doctor emerged from Cheyenne’s room. “Yes. I’m Abe. Cheyenne’s boyfriend. Is she okay?”
She smiled kindly. “Let’s go talk in here,” she suggested, gesturing to a cubicle behind the nurse’s station. I followed her, her high heels clicking on the concrete floor. She looked like she was ready for a night on the town, not a shift in a crowded emergency room. “I’m Dr. Cassidy.”
“Is Cheyenne okay?” I didn’t give a shit what the doctor’s name was. If someone asked me later to describe her, or pick her out of a lineup, I wouldn’t have a clue.
“Have a seat, Abe.”
I sat on the cold metal chair, clenching my fists as rage bubbled up into my throat.
“Cheyenne gave me permission to share her personal health information with you.”
“Good,” I said curtly, my patience wearing thin. “Please share.”
“She was drugged with a low dose of chloroform. Not enough to do any permanent damage. She’ll be fine once the drug clears out of her system.”
“What about her face? That bastard hit her.”
“She has some bruising and a small laceration. Nothing major.”
“Okay. Good.” I took a deep breath. I had to know. “Did he rape her?”
“She says not. And she refused to let me examine her or do a rape kit. She was unconscious for a short time, and woke up wearing only her underwear and bra. But she was adamant there was no sexual penetration. Denies any soreness or anything like that.”
I scrubbed my hands over my face. “Can I see her?”
Cheyenne was lying on her side in the fetal position when we walked into her room. She looked so tiny and helpless. Guilt washed over me. My beautiful girl should have never gone through that. It was my job to protect her, and I failed miserably.
“Hey, sweetheart,” I whispered, pulling a chair next to the bed.
“Hi,” she said, smiling sadly, her voice weak.
I leaned over, pressing my lips to her forehead. “How are you feeling?”
“You don’t have to pretend with me, Cheyenne. I’m your boyfriend. I love you. You can tell me the truth.” Her lower lip trembled, two tiny tears sliding down her cheek. “Oh, honey, come here.”
I sat on the side of the bed, pulling her into my arms. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Let it out.” I rubbed her back while she sobbed in my arms.
“I’m sorry,” she said, sniffling as she pulled back.
“Hey,” I whispered, lifting her chin with my thumb. “You have nothing to be sorry for. I’m the one who owes you an apology. I knew someone was watching us and stealing your things, and I left you alone.”
“He watched us make love at Cavendish Beach.”
I nodded. “I figured that after your clothes went missing.”
“He was going to rape me,” she whispered, her voice trembling.
“But he didn’t get a chance, right?” I held my breath as I waited for her response.
“No. But he-.” She paused and stared down at her hands.
I sucked in a big gulp of air, bracing myself for what was coming.
“He touched me.”
She lifted her head, profound sadness pouring from her beautiful cornflower blue eyes. “Between my legs. On the outside of my underwear. That’s when I kneed him in the balls.”
“What happened after that?” I asked, trying to get the image out of my head. The one with that monster touching my girl.
“I tried to open the door. But it was locked. He grabbed me and punched me in the face. I fell backwards onto the bed. Then he undid his pants and climbed on top of me. I thought I was done for. There was no way I could fight him off. Then you came, and I don’t remember much after that.”
“I’m so glad I got there when I did.”
“Me too,” she said, pulling my head down and pressing her lips against mine with a soft kiss. “You saved my life, Abe.”
I pulled away and turned toward the door. The female cop who I gave my statement to at the scene stood in the doorway, her tall muscular frame filling the entire space. I definitely wouldn’t want to mess with her. Red hair, pulled up into a tight bun, and flashing green eyes combined with an all business attitude.
“Are you up to giving a statement, Miss Carson?”
“Yes,” Cheyenne sighed. “Let’s get this over with, so I can put the whole thing out of my mind.”
I started to climb off the bed but Cheyenne grabbed my arm. “Don’t go. I need you.”
“Okay, baby. I’m right here.” I slid my arm around her waist and pressed a kiss to her temple.
“I’m Officer Emily Glaston,” she said, extending a hand to Cheyenne. “I responded to your boyfriend’s 911 call earlier this evening. Can you tell me what happened?”
Cheyenne took a deep breath and cleared her throat. “Abe went for a walk. I went outside to clean the grill before I started supper. I heard a noise. But before I could turn around, he grabbed me from behind and put a rag over my face. The next thing I knew, I was lying on a bed in my underwear. I was really dizzy. Then I saw him. It was the creepy, hairy guy from The Calgary Stampede.”
“What guy?” I asked.
“Abe, please let me ask the questions,” Officer Glaston said.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
“You’d seen this man before, Cheyenne?”
“Yes. We were watching the parade. I turned around and he was staring at me. I’ll never forget those eyes as long as I live.”
“Did you ever see him again? Before tonight?”
“Yes. At Bracebridge, Ontario. But he had sunglasses on, so I didn’t know it was the same guy at the time. I should’ve known. I got the same creepy feeling.”
“I understand you had personal items go missing?”
“Yes. A pillowcase, some underwear, and he had one of my lipsticks. How did he get into our RV without us knowing? It was always locked.”
“He’s a locksmith,” she replied. “He’s a master at picking locks without detection.”
“Nice,” I grumbled.
“What happened after you woke up?”
“He confessed to stalking me since Calgary. He broke into the RV and took things. And he caused an explosion at the nudist park in Manitoba. He wanted to take Abe out and kidnap me. But we got moved to a different campsite, and the poor guy that got our original site, he was injured when he went to hook up to the electrical source that the guy had tampered with.”
Officer Glaston jotted something on her pad. “Mr. Palmer admitted to rigging an explosion?”
“Yes,” Cheyenne said. “At Jaybird, in Manitoba.”
She nodded. “I’ll make a call to the authorities in Manitoba. Did Mr. Palmer give you any reason why he went to such lengths to stalk you and abduct you?”
“He made it very clear what he wanted,” she replied quietly.
“What did he want, Cheyenne?”
“Seriously?” I snapped. “This is too upsetting for her. You already know what he wanted.”
“I have to hear it from Cheyenne if she plans to press charges,” she said, narrowing her eyes at me. “If it’s too difficult for you to hear, you’re welcome to wait in the hall.”
“I’m not leaving her,” I said, rubbing my girl’s shoulder.
“Then please let her answer the questions.”
I sat quietly while Cheyenne relayed the rest of the story, using every ounce of restraint I had to refrain from charging down the hall to find the creep that tried to rape my girlfriend.
“Where is he?” I asked when the cop finished with Cheyenne.
“He’s here, being treated for a concussion and laceration to his scalp,” she replied. “He’s in police custody. He has a guard.”
“Good to know.”
“Thank you for your time, Cheyenne,” she said, patting her hand. “I can imagine how difficult that was for you.”
“You look tired, honey,” I said after the cop left.
“I am. The doctor said the drug is still in my system.”
“Lie down and sleep. I’ll be right here.”
“Will you hold me?”
“Absolutely.” I kicked off my shoes and slid in behind her, my hands resting on her stomach. “I love you, Cheyenne. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you.”
“How did you find me?”
“I tracked your fit watch with your phone.”
“Wow. That was pretty quick thinking.”
“I’m just glad I got there in time.”
I closed my eyes, listening to the quiet hum of her breathing as she drifted off to sleep. The image of that guy on top of Cheyenne refused to leave my mind. His hands all over her, his body pressing into her before I cracked him on the head with the large branch. Thank God I grabbed it on my way through the woods. The sound of her screams as I approached the camper, echoed through my brain. Sometime just before dawn, I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke with a start, my instincts telling me we weren’t alone. I bolted upright, ready to fight to the death to protect the woman I loved. Instead of a hairy, tattooed rapist named Vince Palmer, I came face to face with Cheyenne’s brother and mother.
“When did you guys get here?” I whispered, not wanting to wake Cheyenne.
“About ten minutes ago,” Craig replied, his mouth set in a firm line as he scowled at me.
I climbed off the bed, running my fingers through my messy hair. “Hello, Mrs. Carson.”
“Is my daughter okay?” she asked, a disapproving frown on her mouth. I guess no mother wants to find her daughter in bed with her boyfriend, regardless of the circumstances.
“She will be in time,” I replied quietly.
“Where the hell were you!” Craig yelled. “You promised me you’d take care of her!”
“I screwed up, man. Big time.” I paced back and forth across the small hospital room. “Cheyenne got a job offer. A one-year paid internship with some famous pastry chef in Vegas. I went for a walk to try to clear my head and figure how your sister and I can be together when we’re on opposite sides of the country. That’s when he grabbed her.”
“I don’t see how that’s your fault, Abraham,” Mrs. Carson said. “Cheyenne is a grown woman. She doesn’t need a babysitter.”
“That’s just it, Mrs. Carson. I knew someone was stalking her, that she needed protection. And I let myself get distracted from that.”
“What are you talking about?” Craig asked. “You didn’t really say much on the phone last night. Why did that guy kidnap my sister?”
I closed my eyes briefly, wishing I didn’t have to tell my girlfriend’s mother and brother that a sexual predator drugged her and almost raped her. They listened intently while I relayed the story, leaving out the part about him watching us have sex.
When I finished, Mrs. Carson pulled me into her arms. “Thank you for saving my daughter. I get the feeling that you care for her very much.”
“I love your daughter.”
She smiled and patted my cheek. “I knew that the minute I walked in this room and saw how you were holding her.”
“I promise to take care of her. I’ll never let anything like this happen again. I’m gonna go to Vegas with her.”
“What about your job in New York?” Craig asked.
“I’m not gonna take it. I don’t think my heart was ever really into it anyway.”
I glanced at the door, finding Officer Glaston standing there. “Abraham, can I speak to you for a moment?”
“Sure. This is Cheyenne’s mother and brother.”
She nodded. “How is Cheyenne this morning?”
“Out cold. The doctor said it would take a while for her to sleep off the drug.”
“Let’s go talk in the hall,” she suggested.
“Sure.” I followed her to an empty waiting room.
“Mr. Palmer is pressing charges.”
“He is filing assault charges against you.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding!”
She shook her head. “I’m afraid not.”
“How can he do that? He kidnapped my girlfriend, drugged her, and sexually assaulted her! And I’m being charged? What kind of fucking legal system do you have here?”
“The judge will likely dismiss the charges on the grounds of self-defence. But you can’t leave the country until the issue has been resolved.”
“How long is that going to take?”
“It could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Abraham. I need you to come down to the station and surrender your passport.”
All the pent-up rage from the last twelve hours exploded from my body. I pushed my chair back so hard it toppled backwards before I smashed my fist against the wall. The cop waited patiently while a litany of profanities spilled from my mouth.
“Is everything okay?” Craig asked from the doorway.
“No! That fucking prick is pressing charges against me! And I can’t leave this fucking, fucked up country until some judge decides I didn’t do anything wrong. Me! That mother fucker broke into our RV and stole stuff, tried to kill me, slashed your tires, stalked us, drugged my girlfriend and tried to rape her, and I’m the one getting charged!”
“That is so beyond fucked up,” he muttered.
“When do you need me to come down to the station?” I asked the officer.
“Now,” she replied quietly.
“Can I have a few minutes to talk to Cheyenne?”
“She’s awake,” Craig said. “That’s why I came looking for you. The doctor came in and said she’s going to be released this morning.”
“She’s not gonna want to leave without me,” I said. “You need to take her home and put her on a plane to Vegas. This opportunity is too important. She needs to be out there by Monday.”
“We’ll make sure she gets there. One of us will go with her and stay until she’s settled.”
Craig took his mom to get coffee, giving me a few moments alone with Cheyenne. I pulled a chair next to the bed and took her hand in mine. “How are you feeling, sweetheart?”
“I’m fine,” she replied with a weak smile. “I just wanna get out of here and go home. I’ll feel a lot safer when I’m back in the States where he can’t get me. Is he still here?”
I nodded my head slowly. “He is. I cracked him over the head pretty good.”
“He deserved it.”
“Yeah, he did. But he still has rights.”
“What are you talking about, Abe?” she asked, panic rising in her voice.
“He’s pressing charges against me.”
“What! How can he do that?”
“I don’t know. It’s fucked up. The cop says the charges won’t stick. But it could take a few weeks to get them dropped.”
“Can you still go to New York and start your job?”
“I’m not going to New York. I called them yesterday when I went for my walk.”
“Oh Abe,” she said, rubbing my cheek. “I want you to come to Vegas, but only if you’re sure this is what you want.”
“I wanna be wherever you are, baby,” I said, kissing her softly as I tried to memorize the taste and feel of her lips. “But I can’t leave the country. I have to go to the police station and surrender my passport.”
“I can’t leave you here, Abe!” she cried.
“You have to, honey,” I whispered, gathering her in my arms. “Be strong. Go grab your dream. You deserve it. It’s what you’ve worked so hard for.”
“You’re my dream,” she sobbed. “I don’t want to go if you aren’t there.”
“Look at me, Cheyenne,” I said, tilting her chin up with my thumb. “It’s only for a little while. As soon as I’m free, I’m coming for you. I promise. I love you, sweetheart.”
“What if it takes months? Years? What if they put you in jail?”
“That’s not gonna happen. And I’ll never stop loving you. Promise me you’ll wait for me?”
She nodded through her tears. “I’ll wait for you forever, Abraham McLean. I promise. My heart belongs to you.”
“Okay, honey. I have to go. Your mom and Craig are gonna take you home. And I’ll see you really soon.” I kissed her hard, our mouths colliding in a frenzy of lip sucking, tongue tangling desperation, oblivious to the audience right outside the open door. When I tried to pull away, she clung to my shoulders. “Bye, baby. Kick some ass in Vegas.”
I stood up and walked to the door, fighting back tears while she sobbed hysterically behind me. Craig patted me on the shoulder as I passed by him and headed down the hall with Officer Glaston.
“Wait!” Cheyenne barrelled down the hall in her hospital gown, bare feet flying over the tile floor.
“Abe!” she cried, jumping into my arms, the drowsy effects of the chloroform clearly gone as she practically knocked me on my ass. She pressed her lips to mine, tugging on my hair so hard I half expected to see a chunk of it in her fist.
“I have to go, baby,” I said, setting her down.
“You can’t keep him here!” she screamed at Officer Glaston. “This is wrong! Let me talk to that man! I’ll make him drop the charges! Where is he!? I’ll kick him in the balls so hard he’ll charge me, too! Then I can stay with Abe!”
“I bet she’s a real pistol in bed,” a deep voice said with a chuckle. “I never got the chance to enjoy that sweet pussy. And I’m gonna make sure you never get to fuck her again either, asshole.”
I whirled around, glaring at the man on the stretcher who’d just come off the elevator. A cop walked next to him as the porter pushed him down the hall. He stared back at me, his black eyes void of any emotion as he taunted me.
Rage flooded my veins, seeping into every tissue in my body. I clenched my fists, sucking air into my lungs as I fought the urge to commit murder. He wanted me to attack him, so he could press more charges.
I glanced at Cheyenne, struggling to get away from her brother. If I wanted any chance of leaving Canada, I had to rein it in. As much as I wanted to cause the creep some serious pain, I wanted a life with Cheyenne more.
“I hate you!” Cheyenne screamed. “I hope you rot in hell, you perverted sicko!”
“I’ll miss you too, honey,” he called out as the porter pushed into a room. “Every time I close my eyes, I’ll think about your titties and your juicy snatch.”
Craig let go of Cheyenne and lunged toward the door. The cop restrained him as he shouted threats. “You’re a dead man! You hear me, Palmer!”
Cheyenne ran toward me, wrapping her arms around my waist. “Please, don’t go!”
“Baby, I have to. I don’t have any choice.” I pulled back and gazed into her eyes as I wiped away some of her tears. “Listen, honey. You’ve gotta go with Craig and your mom. We’ll be together soon. The time will go fast. We’ll have the rest of our lives together. Okay?”
She nodded, but she didn’t let go. I pried her hands from my body as her mother approached and pulled her into her arms.
“C’mon, Cheyenne,” Mrs. Carson said softly, holding her daughter tightly while I walked away, her sobs cutting through my chest like a freshly sharpened dagger.