He pushed past her, casting pleasantries aside. “How is she?” he demanded as he turned to face her.
Mrs. Johnson wrung her hands. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what’s wrong. She…” She shook her head.
The woman pointed the way.
Jack followed a corridor to a small bedroom. Pink walls, pink spread. Caitlyn had thrown a red blanket over the window to block out the light. He saw a huddled form beneath the bedspread, reached out and threw back the fabric.
He sat down to get a look at her. Caitlyn rocked, wet tracks down her face. She must’ve been crying. Her eyes were shut tight and her hair was wild. She wore a pair of lavender sweats, and was pretty much unresponsive to his touch. He checked for marks on her arms and wrists, but found nothing. So she hadn’t tried to hurt herself.
He suspected what was happening, but could only try to pull her from the nightmare. It was too easy for someone who had been traumatized like she had to revert to a catatonic state and he wished that hell on no one.
“Caitlyn? Caitlyn, it’s Jack. Jack Thomas, remember?”
A small sound came behind him, and he glanced back to see her mother cover her mouth. It didn’t matter right now. It couldn’t.
“Come on. Come back to me. Caitlyn, can you hear me? It’s going to be okay. I’ll help you get through this,” he vowed, and almost choked on the words. He pushed through the panicked flutter in his chest, gathering her into his arms.
“Caitlyn, I won’t let them hurt you anymore, okay? No one will. It’s just you and me. You. And me. I’m going to take care of you, I swear,” he said with his lips pressed to her temple. “Come back to me, sweetheart. Come on.”
He tried once more, unaware what words spilled out of him. Desperation alone drove his actions. As he cradled her to his chest, a fruity scent drifted into his nostrils. Strawberries, he thought. He felt the strangest combination of rightness and deep concern. “The world needs you, darling. Don’t hide away. Come back to us. Please.”
After a few moments, a shudder went through her and a small voice whispered, “Jack?”
“That’s right. I’m here, honey.”
Tears filmed her eyes. “I, I was back there again. In the cellar.”
“Shh…I know. I’m so sorry. But you’re here now. You’re safe in this house, and with me. You just go ahead and cry it out, hmm? Then you can sleep.”
She sobbed hard as he held her tight. Soon, she quieted to the occasional sigh and he pulled back to look at her. Her face was flushed and wet from her tears. He caressed her cheek. “How ya doing?”
She shook her head.
“All right. That’s fine. It’s a hard road, but I know you can do it. I’ll help you.”
“You really mean it,” she whispered, her tone incredulous.
He nodded. “Yeah, I do.”
Her skin was so soft beneath his hand and he had to stop himself from stroking further. “How are you sleeping?”
She didn’t answer.
“That’s what I thought.” He looked at her mother. “Mrs. Johnson? Could you get her sleeping pills?”
The woman slipped out of the room.
“What about your antibiotic? The pain medicine? Have you been taking those?”
“Yes. They make me a little nauseous.”
“Sorry to hear that, sweetie, but they are necessary. And if you do use the sleeping pills, don’t try to drive, okay?” She murmured an agreement.
When her mother returned with the pill bottle and some water, Jack measured out a tablet, then watched as Caitlyn took it, eyeing her throat. “Good, that’s good. I’ll stay till you get to sleep, but we need to talk this out soon. All right?”
Satisfied, he held her against his shoulder, the minutes passing, until she went limp and her breaths evened out. It shook him that he could’ve held her forever, and he wouldn’t have had a problem with it. He checked her eyelids to be sure she slept before he covered her up with the bed’s blanket and spread, and cleared out of the room.
Mrs. Johnson followed him. “What was that? What’s going on?”
“Your daughter almost went into a catatonic state. What happened was too traumatic for her.”
She sat down on the sofa abruptly as if she’d lost the strength to stand. “But…I assumed I could handle her. I thought she would be okay.”
“This is more than anyone can handle alone. And she won’t be all right for some time.”
Blurb for Directions of the Heart:
Embark on a remarkable journey of drama, romance, and passion…
In all of these amazing stories, there’s one burning question…is love worth the risk?
Reece and Jenna are two childhood friends separated by time and distance. Can they find a way to heal their bond, or perhaps forge a new one?
Spurred by her friend’s close call, Victoria decides to take a risk and prove the lifestyle she led was her downfall. But as Tory sinks deeper into the tumultuous abyss of desire with the mysterious Rick, can she climb back out before it’s too late? Or does she even want to?
Struggling to run her family’s farm on her own, Sadie takes on a hired hand, Matt. As they grow closer, so does the danger. Someone wants her legacy. Can they combat this new threat, as well as the demons of the past, before Sadie loses everything, including her life?
A Touch of Dawn
Caitlyn thought she’d be in the dark forever. But with the light came Jack, the police consultant who found her. Can they take a journey of healing together, or will Caitlyn retreat into the darkness of her mind, where she lived for so long?
(CONTENT WARNING: With an abuse awareness theme in this collection, there may be triggers here for past trauma sufferers. However, HEAs are guaranteed.)
Tags: Contemporary Romance, Dramatic Fiction, PTSD Awareness, Anthologies and Collections
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