Chapter Seventy One
Rita caught the intensity of his gaze. She felt herself leaning toward him, wanting to be close but not sure. Suddenly his arms were around her in embrace. She felt her arms move up around him in response. They stood there for an eternity it seemed, locked in tight hug. The world sat still for them.
Ted moved first. He put his big hands softly around her pretty face, pulling up her chin and lips to meet his own. Rita found herself responding to his embrace with an eagerness she didn’t fully understand. She stood on one foot, tip toed, to reach his lips. Her other foot slowly rose as she surrendered to his embrace and melted into his arms.
Moments passed. Rita recognized the wild look pass from his eyes. Instead she felt drawn into his bottomless bark brown eyes.
The spell broke. Instinctively her hands reached out over his big hands around her face. Twining her fingers through his, she pulled his hands down and back around her. Not a word now, none needed. Stepping closer again into crushing embrace, her long hair spilled over his shoulders, masking the tears flowing down her face.
Feeling the first sob of her joy and relief shudder through her body, Ted pulled himself back to look into her face. With as gentle touch as he could manage, Ted pulled the long wet strands of her hair away. His big fingers moved against her check, picking up each tear. “There now.”
Hand in hand, they turned as one to walk up the path back to the lobby. The heavy wall clock seemed to stare at them, telling them that they’d been gone for three and a half hours.
The lobby showed a business atmosphere as other customers checked out. The guys stood along the back, putting their backpacks together. Unwilling to let each other go, Ted and Rita stood together in front of their friends.
The look in Rita’ eyes and her tear stained face were hard to miss. A sharp look at each other and nod, a raised eyebrow or two, and the group accepted the change and moved on.
Glad to be back in the gang and accepted, they reluctantly let each other go to get their gear. After a quick breakfast they all wanted to get back on the road. Group dynamics were the same but different. Ted as natural leader hung back, next to Rita. Gordy took the lead. Seemed a natural fit. Ted and Rita didn’t notice as much of the trip now.
Rita kept glancing at Ted, admitting her feelings for him. That embrace. I wanted to stay there forever, secure in his loving arms.
Ted glanced over, more sure now than ever of their new direction. Wow, that was somethin’. Why didn’t I recognize what was between us, days…, no, months ago?
The closer they rode back toward the little white church on the bluff, the more unsettled Ted became…, again…
During a necessary break later in the morning, Rita noticed the worried look. Stepping closer to Ted, she looked into his eyes. “I know that look! Ted, look at me. That’s the same look you had ‘that’ Saturday night.”
The guys stepped closer, concern openly showing. Looking around at their anxious looks, Ted realized again for a moment that he was here and safe, surrounded by the greatest friends a guy could have. “Guys, I feel like I’m supposed to be careful of something or someone. Someone is out to do us wrong, big time!”
Then it clicked in his mind. He hesitated, finding his feeling draw up into full pictures, way more than he could share. “Now I’m sure of it. Just like I knew ’bout Mitch and Russ. I think that someone we knew before is going to show up again.”
Tim stood away from his bike and stepped closer to Ted and looked into the fear. “That could mean a lot of people from a lot of places. How will we know who it is?”
Gordy walked up next to Tim. “Oh, I think we’ll know all right. Remember that weekend? I don’t know how, but we all knew, didn’t we?”
Nods around the group.
Ted still looked upset. “No guys. This is different. Someone is after us. Like you and me, real personal!”
Rita showed her fright by reached for Ted in alarm. “The idea of an attack on one or all of us is just wrong.” Oh no God, not now, not to my Ted. Please God, we…, we’re just getting started together. Her hand reached up and twisted her lips.
Ted waited to collect his thoughts. “I think when we get back we all have a job to do. I’d rather be the hunter than the hunted.”