Shattered King(10)By: Sherilee Gray
“He and Van have that P.I business now. They could help you, keep you safe. I don’t know what happened between you and Hunter, but I do know he’s a good man, prison or not. I never believed he did what they said. He loved you, Lulu. He loved you like John loved me. And, bunny, that kind of love only comes around once in a lifetime.”
I’d never told her why I ran, just that it had something to do with Pierce, and she’d stopped asking. I guess she hoped I’d tell her on my own when I was ready. I’d never tell her. She didn’t need to live with the horror of my past as well. I didn’t want her getting caught up in my shit, more than she already was. She’d find a way to blame herself, when no one could have stopped what happened to Hunter or me. And she sure as hell didn’t need that kind of danger at her door.
“Hunter can’t know about Josh.” I took her hand. “Van can’t know either. Promise me, Sara. Promise me you won’t tell them.”
My aunt stared at me, wanting more, but knowing she wouldn’t get it. In the end, she gave in. “All right. If you think that’s best.”
“It is.” Hunter could never find us, could never know about Josh.
Could never learn the truth.
Hunter would be out of prison now, and I knew he’d come looking for me eventually. I had no doubt. I’d screwed him over. Lied. Hunter hated liars, hated secrets, and I’d done both.
I’d had three years. Three years to make a new life for myself, to make sure my baby was safe. It turns out three years hadn’t been long enough. Not by a long shot.
Sara glanced at the delicate, gold watch on her wrist. “You have to meet Carol in about an hour.”
Carol, my aunt’s friend, was going to meet me and I wanted to be there early, just in case. “I better go.”
My aunt stood, came around the table, and pulled me into her arms. “I’ll wait up.”
There was no point telling her not to. She’d worry until I got home. “Okay,” I whispered into her hair.
She gave me one last squeeze then let me go.
I didn’t park in the hospital parking lot, but a little ways down the street. Since I wasn’t sure what was wrong with my car, I didn’t want to risk breaking down out in the open. That would be extremely bad. And if I allowed myself to think about the cost of getting it fixed, my head would explode. We needed to get back on the road before morning. Staying in New York was too much of a risk. I’d just have to pray to the car gods, beg them to keep my car sputtering and smoking forward until I hit the next town or city, and that it wouldn’t use up all the money I’d put aside.
I’d managed to scrimp and save just over six hundred dollars. It’d taken two years. Money for a new permanent life in a safe place. I’d already used some to get home, and more would go toward an apartment, wherever we ended up.
But what choice did I have? All I could do was keep running, keep moving forward.
I’d dressed light. Carol was going to give me a set of nurse’s scrubs so I could move about unnoticed, since I wasn’t on the visitor schedule. I’d thrown on black cotton shorts and the first tank I’d found in my duffel. It was white and had “Hooters” stretched across the chest. I’d worked at the restaurant right after I ran away.
When I left the prison, after my visit with Hunter, I’d had no plan. I’d just driven until I ran out of gas. I ended up in Bloomington. I’d never been to Minnesota and it was as good a place as any to stop for a while. But my time as a Hooters waitress hadn’t lasted long. Van, Hunter’s older brother, showed up two weeks after I started. He walked in, expression hard as stone, and I ran before he saw me. After that, I made sure the jobs I got didn’t require more than my name, or the name I chose to give them.
I shoved my hands in my pockets. All my efforts not to think about why I was here fell away as I neared the hospital’s entrance. What was I going to say when I saw her? I had no idea. I hadn’t allowed myself to think about that either.
The doors slid open and I scoped out where I needed to go. Head down, I strode toward the cafeteria.