“Come on then.” Mark said, standing and grabbing the ratty backpack that looked like it may have been pink at one point but he wasn’t sure.
Isabel grabbed Elias’ hand and they followed behind him. Elia hid behind her mother the whole way out to his black dodge charger.
“The car seat is on the passenger side.” Mark informed Isabel as he took the bag around to the trunk.
It was shocking to Mark that Elia’s fear of him cut so deep. He in no way blamed the child, but he wished he could hold her and tell her she was safe now. That he would never hurt her and more than that he would protect her the way a father is supposed to.
Mark climbed in then took a deep breath, as Isabel slid into the passenger seat. He knew he was doing God’s will. With every fiber in his being he knew God had planned this all out, and he was meant to help Isabel and Elia through this. Whatever this was.
They drove in silence for a few minutes before Mark spoke. “There’s ibuprofen in the glove compartment if you want some. It’ll help with your throat.”
“Oh.” She started shocked then cleared her throat again. “I’m sorry. I’m fine really.”
She reached up covering the bruises with her right hand. It was much smaller than the hand that had wrapped so tightly there before, she couldn’t cover them. Realizing this she attempted to pull her jacket higher.
“Why are you sorry?” He asked, feigning confusion. In reality he had seen this far too many times to be in the least bit surprised.
Isabel just bit her lip wrapping her arms around herself and looked out the window quietly.
“You shouldn’t be sorry, whoever did that to you should be.” Mark said after a short silence.
“He’s not.” Isabel said so quietly he barely heard her.
She couldn’t believe she had acknowledged that he existed to another adult. Her whole plan had been deny deny deny, but here she was.
Mark’s hands gripped the steering wheel and he prayed silently for guidance.
What kind of man abused his own family and chased them away?
He was determined to help keep them safe. At least until Isabel got back onto her feet.
As he pulled into the driveway and stopped at the gate Mark noticed Isabel’s eyes widened slightly before her eyebrows pulled together forming a worried v between them.
“Open up Ed.” Mark said calmly into the intercom.
Isabel tried to control her anxiety as the gate closed behind them. On one hand nobody could get in, but on the other what if they couldn’t get out.
By the time they parked in front of the large two story house and attached garage Isabel had decided that the gate was probably more a blessing then something to be afraid of.
“Beautiful place…” Isabel said nervously.
Though better at hiding it then her daughter Isabel was still obviously uncomfortable around Mark. That realization had him second guessing himself, the last thing he wanted was to make her feel threatened.
“Thanks, my dad left it to me. He was in business, good at it too.” Mark said, smiling politely as he turned off the car.
“A guarded gate?” While she tried to make her voice sound only mildly curious, she was just as aware as he was that the slightly higher octave betrayed her anxiety.
“Yeah, my job tends to draw some attention from some shady characters. My dad had it put in during the second round of death threats. He died a couple years ago.” Mark explained calmly.
“What’s your job?” She asked then when he didn’t respond immediately added, “I’m sorry it’s none of my business.”
She reached for the door knob suddenly uncomfortable with the small enclosed space they were in.
“I’m in law enforcement, and I don’t mind you asking questions.” Mark looked over to see Isabel frozen and staring at him wide eyed.
“You’re a police officer?” She choked out.
“I’m an FBI detective, working in the Los Angeles division.” He responded slowly, monitoring her reaction carefully.
“This was a bad idea. We need to go, I-I...” She froze, unable to think of what to say next, as he wondered at her obvious fear.
“Why?” He asked, frowning. This wasn’t at all the reaction he had expected.
She just sat there chewing on her lip nervously not seeming to know what to think.
“Listen, you are in no danger here. I won’t hurt you or your daughter and Ed won’t let anyone else in without express permission, except a select few. You are both safe here until you are ready to leave, but I suggest you stay until you are really ready. I don’t want to see you guys getting hurt.” Mark explained carefully.
He waited quietly as she thought it though.
“If you really don’t want to stay I could take you to a shelter across town.” He said smoothly after a minute of silence. He was afraid of making her feel trapped.
“No!” She shook her head adamantly.
“Why not?” He asked slowly.
She hesitated, before shaking her head again.
As time passed he started thinking about other places she might be able to afford. Her options were very limited.
“Okay,” She finally whispered, her voice breaking again. “How much is the rent?”
“Sliding scale.” Mark smiled relieved.
“I don’t want charity, and I don’t want to owe anybody anything.” She snapped, crossing her arms stubbornly.
Mark smirked pleasantly, surprised she was willing to stand up to him.
“Three hundred a month, paid the month after.” Mark asked and Isabel nodded in one quick jerky movement.
They both climbed out and Isabel opened the back door where Elia was sleeping soundly.
“I can carry her if you want to get the bags.” Mark offered before realizing that wasn’t likely to happen. This wasn’t Susan and Melody.
“No, she would freak out.” Isabel’s voice was forceful as she shook her head, eyes wide again.
Mark was surprised yet again at the intensity of the emerald green of her eyes. It was absolutely stunning.
“She would get scared if she woke up with you holding her.” She explained, a blush spreading across her cheeks.
Mark nodded somewhat stunned, she was so beautiful despite everything.
He grabbed the bags then slowly led the way around to the back of the garage and into the small two bedroom apartment that had been his home for years.
“Here.” He said quietly, leading them back to the smallest bedroom.
He smiled warmly as he watched Isabel lay Elia down on the bed before leaning down to kiss her daughter’s forehead. Isabel then walked out the door and he swung it quietly shut behind her.
“The washer and dryer are stacked in this closet, here’s the other bedroom, and the bathroom is through that door.” He said as they walked back down the hall back to the main room which was half a living area and half a kitchen dining area. “Let me know if there’s any problems or anything you need.’
“Thank you but three hundred is too little for this place.” She sighed frowning slightly.
“Nope, it was already decided. Also you don’t owe me anything, it’s called hospitality.” He smirked.
“It’s called pity.” She groaned under her breath.
He shook his head, chuckling amused.
Isabel glared at him half heartedly, but after a moment even that was too difficult and she felt herself grin shyly, before quickly biting it back.
“Well I’ll let you get settled. Make a list of anything you lady’s need and we can go by a store after work today.” Mark said as he headed back to the main house.