For disclaimers see part one
Thanks to one of her colleagues who had taken over from her, it had taken less than twenty minutes for Rachel Kendrick to finish the paperwork on her patients and to make sure her last patient, a man with a bleeding stomach ulcer, would be transferred to one of the floors as soon as there was a bed available. Now, her shift had ended and after having quickly changed out of her scrubs, she hurried through the hallway, heading for the elevator. Impatiently drumming her fingers on her thigh she waited for the carriage to come down and the doors to open. Nothing happened. The elevator was notoriously slow, especially on busy days when it had to stop on every floor, due to visitors who were constantly coming and going.
"Figures," Rachel mumbled, letting out an exasperated sigh. "Time for a workout, I guess."
Turning on her heels, Rachel took a few steps to the left and opened the door that would lead her to the staircase. She would have to climb four floors, but knew it would probably be a lot faster than waiting for the elevator.
Taking two steps at the time, Rachel climbed the stairs, quickly realizing she was hopelessly out of shape.
"Back to the treadmill, Kendrick," she mumbled, feeling the muscles in her calf protest against the sudden strain. "I'm getting too old for this."
Involuntarily, Rachel smiled. If Hannah could hear her now, she would be laughing at her. Her eyes would display a twinkle that had attracted Rachel from the first time she saw her. The sight of it still made her heart miss a beat, Rachel realized.
"Great, halfway," she muttered after a little while, trying not to pant.
Just as she was about to start a new flight of stairs, Rachel's ears picked up a sound that seemed too loud in the quiet staircase. Standing still, she cocked her head and listened intently. For a brief moment, Rachel thought she had imagined the sounds. But just as she was about to put her foot on the first step, she heard it again. It came from below her, a muffled sound, like somebody speaking with a hand over their mouth and the sound of scuffling feet. With a small frown, Rachel leaned over the railing and looked down, wondering if she could see something. While she peered down, she suddenly saw two pairs of shoes; a pair of shiny dress-shoes and a pair of tennis shoes. The latter pair looked vaguely familiar, but it was only when Rachel's eyes noticed the color of the scrub pants she realized who was making their way towards the basement. Her heart stood still and for a brief moment she felt like she would pass out from sheer agony.
"Hannah," she whispered.
Quickly grabbing her cell phone from her pocket she flipped it open, only to realize that in the concrete encased stairwell she did not have a signal.
Without thinking twice, Rachel turned around and started her descent. She tried to keep the noise level down, hoping she could catch up with the blonde. She knew for certain that the owner of the shiny dress-shoes was her cousin, Nathan, and that thought made her blood boil.
"A security guard doing rounds would be nice right now," she thought, hoping somebody, anybody, would enter the staircase, something she knew would not be very likely. It was a fact that most people took the elevator.
Rachel had to force herself notto call out Hannah's name. She knew that, eventually, Nathan would hear her coming after them, but she would try and postpone that moment as long as she could, in the meantime frantically trying to come up with a plan.
"Please, let me be able to get her away from him," she thought, fighting the urge to scream in frustration. "Please, please, please."
Apparently, Hannah was putting up a fight, because Rachel could hear Nathan curse and inwardly she cheered.
"That's my girl. Don't give up, Hannah, I'm on my way."
Rachel was catching up on them, but she knew they would probably reach the basement before she would. Increasing her speed, she threw all caution in the wind and bolted down the stairs, hoping to catch Nathan before he took Hannah into the belly of the hospital; a maze of scarcely lit hallways and rooms.
"What the hell?" she heard Nathan's voice, full of surprise and annoyance. "Who is there?"
Rachel did not answer, knowing she was only one more flight of stairs away from him and Hannah. She kept up her speed and groaned when she heard a door being opened.
"I...am...not...going...in...there," she heard Hannah's voice, full of anger and fear. "Let me go, Nathan."
There was the sound of a slap and a muffled sob. With rage coursing through her veins, Rachel rounded the last corner, ran halfway down the stairs and before Nathan knew what was happening, she had launched herself through the air, straight at him. Their bodies impacted with a thud and the momentum threw Nathan backwards where he collided with a solid steel door, while Rachel fell sideways, hitting the wall.
"You freaking bitch," he spat, feeling the pain shoot through his arm and shoulder.
Rachel's reckless attack had made him drop the knife he had been holding and, with a murderous look, he glared at the Doctor, who had pulled Hannah away from him and was standing between him and the blonde. Nathan's knife was lying at Rachel's feet, taunting him. He knew he would not be able to get to it. Not with Rachel standing over it. Nathan was about the same height as his cousin and even though he probably could take her down, he knew that with Hannah there, he would not stand a chance.
A pair of light-brown eyes shone with hate when they looked at Rachel, who answered his glare without blinking. The Doctor's skin was flushed and she was panting, but her eyes showed so much anger, Nathan knew his opportunity was lost.
"The next round will be mine," he snarled, before quickly opening the door of the basement and disappearing out of sight.
Even though Rachel would have loved to hand her cousin over to the police, she did not want to follow him into the basement and leave Hannah by herself. The blonde was leaning against the wall, staring at Rachel with a mixture of disbelief, joy and anxiety. Her face was pale and sported a fiery red mark where Nathan had hit her and to Rachel's horror and fury, she noticed the blonde's hands were tied.
"Oh, honey," she breathed, stepping towards Hannah and pulling her into a warm embrace.
"Rachel," Hannah whispered with a sob. "Please untie me"
"Yes, sweetie, of course, just a second," Rachel answered, swallowing hard. Reluctantly, she let go of the blonde and bent down to pick up the knife Nathan had dropped. Carefully not to hurt Hannah, she slit the rope that bound the blonde's hands together. Even before the rope had hit the floor, Hannah had thrown herself into Rachel's arms, softly crying. The Doctor pressed her face in the blonde's hair and held her close, while realization slowly set in; Hannah was safely in her arms. Nathan had not succeeded in taking her away.
"We need to go back upstairs and call Jack Wilson," Hannah whispered after a few quiet moments.
"Yes, we do," Rachel agreed, wishing she did not had to let go of the woman in her arms. "Are you up to it? Walking up, I mean?"
"Are you going to carry me if I'm not?" Hannah asked with a tired smile.
"Yes," Rachel nodded.
"You would too, wouldn't you?" Hannah sighed, grabbing Rachel's hand and pressing it against her heart. "But I can walk, honey, I promise. Let's go."
In unspoken agreement to postpone talking about what had happened until they had called the police, both women slowly climbed the stairs to the ground floor. Hannah knew there was a public telephone just around the corner and she silently led the way. The noise in the lobby contrasted starkly with the silence in the stairwell and Rachel felt like she had just entered a totally different world.
"What was his number again?" Hannah asked softly.
"Here, let me," Rachel answered, taking the telephone from Hannah and quickly dialing the number from memory. She could have tried to call with her cell phone, but she did not want to run the risk of dropping the call, something that was not unlikely while calling from inside the hospital.
As soon as Jack Wilson answered the phone, Rachel quickly told him what had happened and promised to wait in the hospital to give him a detailed story.
"You'll find us in the cafeteria," she promised, looking up when Hannah pulled her arm and shook her head. "Not the cafeteria?" she asked.
"My floor," Hannah answered, needing to go back up and check up on Abel Jacobs. "He hurt one of my patients."
Rachel repeated what Hannah had told her and promised Jack Wilson not to leave the hospital until he had spoken to them.
"What happened?" she asked the blonde, who was already on her way to the elevator.
"I'm not sure," Hannah answered, "He was..Nathan was waiting for me in the room of one of my patients and...I...there was blood on the floor and..."
"I don't understand why nobody has checked up on you yet," Rachel frowned. "I mean, how long do you have to be in a patient's room, before you get any help?"
"Welcome to the world of nursing," Hannah replied with a wry smile. "We're all very busy, ho...Rachel," she corrected herself, realizing they weren't alone. "Besides, this one patient usually takes a lot of time to help. He's been very sick. It's not unusual for me to be in his room for thirty minutes or more."
Rachel cast a look at her watch and to her amazement she saw that only forty minutes had passed since her phone call with Hannah. It felt like it had been so much longer!
"Wow," she muttered, following Hannah into the elevator.
A few minutes later, they entered the floor where Hannah worked and as soon as they rounded the corner, they were met by the sight of frantic activity. People were walking in and out of Abel Jacob's room and two security guards were apparently checking each and every door.
"I guess they're looking for you," Rachel remarked in a tired voice.
"Seems that way," Hannah mumbled, hoping Nathan had not seriously hurt Abel Jacobs.
"Hannah! Hannah's here," Jada's voice sounded and for a moment all activity ceased. The security guards were the first ones to recover from the surprise and immediately headed for the blonde, who let out a sigh and stepped away from Rachel's comforting presence. She knew if she would have stayed where she was, the temptation to bury herself in Rachel's arms would be too great to resist and the last thing she wanted was to make a spectacle of herself and the Doctor.
"Hannah, are you alright?" Yolanda's worried voice sounded and when the blonde looked up it was in a pair of dark, anxious eyes.
"I am now," she sighed.
"Was he here?" Yolanda asked sharply, muttering a curse when the nurse nodded. "Did he hurt you?"
"No, not really," Hannah answered. "Just some pushing, shoving and slapping."
And a vicious blow against my ribs. I'm sure that's a nice looking bruise.
"How is Abel Jacobs?" she asked in a small voice, feeling sick to her stomach when she realized Nathan could easily have killed the sweet, old man.
"He's got a nasty cut on his head, but other than that he seems to be fine. They're on their way to take him to get a CT scan done. Just to make sure his head is alright." Yolanda let out a frustrated sigh and rolled her eyes. "Administration is already up my butt. This is every hospital's nightmare; a patient being attacked in his hospital room. I think in the last five minutes, I've heard the word 'lawsuit' at least ten times."
"I'm sorry," Hannah whispered, immediately feeling Rachel's hand descend on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Don't be sorry, Hannah," Yolanda responded. "This is not your fault. You're as much a victim as Abel Jacobs. How did you get away from him?" she added with barely veiled curiosity.
"Somehow, Rachel came to the rescue. She came flying down the stairs and almost knocked Nathan senseless," Hannah answered with so much love and pride in her voice, Yolanda smiled. Yup, there was definitely something between the Doctor and the nurse. How romantic!
"Ma'am, are you alright?" a serious looking security guard asked Hannah, frowning when he saw the angry, red mark on her cheek. When the blonde nodded he pursed his lips and grabbed his walkie-talkie. "Where is he?"
"He ran into the basement," Rachel answered. "The police are on their way."
"Thank you, ma'am," the security guard nodded. "I advise you to stay here, until we have a chance to talk to you later."
"Sure, we will," Rachel sighed. "Get in line," she added under her breath.
"Thank you," the guard nodded, before running towards the elevator, with his companion right behind him.
"Okay, you two, get into the office here, I'll bring you something to drink. Tea, coffee?" Yolanda suggested, pointing towards an office room, that was being used for staff-meetings and more private conversations with patients and their families.
"I need a strong cup of coffee," Hannah sighed, raking her hand through her hair, trying not to wince when she felt a lump where Nathan had hit her with the hilt of his knife.
"Same for me," Rachel nodded. "Thank you."
They quietly entered the small room and, as soon as Rachel had closed the door behind her, she found her arms full of trembling blonde.
"Do you want to sit down?" she asked softly, pulling Hannah closer and gently rubbing her back in soothing circles.
"No, I want you to hold me," was the muffled answer.
"That I can do," Rachel smiled, dropping a kiss on Hannah's head. "For as long as you'd like," she added in a whisper.
"Which will be for as long as we're not disturbed, which won't be that long," Hannah sighed with regret. "How did you know where I was?"
"I didn't," Rachel confessed. "I was tired of waiting for the elevator and decided to take the stairs. As I was going up, I heard this sound and when I looked over the railing, I recognized your shoes and scrubs. I just knew it was you. Like I knew the other shoes I saw belonged to Nathan." Rachel pressed her lips against Hannah's forehead and held her even closer, knowing too well how lucky they had been. "I got my phone out to call for help, but I didn't have a signal. That's when I decided to come after you myself."
"My hero," Hannah smiled against Rachel's shoulder.
"How did he get to you?" Rachel asked, wondering how Nathan could have entered Hannah's floor without being seen.
"There was a call from Abel Jacobs' room and when I went in there, he wasn't in his bed. I thought that was odd, because he's not well enough to go to the bathroom by himself. I knocked on the door and didn't get an answer, so I went in and found him sitting on the stool. He looked like he was unconscious and when I looked closer, I saw blood on the floor." Hannah swallowed hard and remembered that moment as if it had just happened. She had been so afraid the old man had died. "I wanted to call for assistance, but before I could pull the cord, Nathan was there to stop me. He had a knife and threatened to...to...stab Abel if I didn't come with him, I...had no choice, so I did. He walked behind me when we left the room and held the knife against my back. Abel's room is at the back and the staircase is right next to it. That's how he could take me off the floor without anybody noticing it. As soon as we were in the staircase, he tied my hands and made me walk down. At first I refused, but he kept hitting me and he said he'd push me down if I refused to walk. I believed him," Hannah added slowly. "I was trying to stall as much as I could, because I hoped somebody would take the stairs and run into us." Hannah let out a humorless laugh and looked up at Rachel. "I guess most people take the elevator. Except you."
"I would have, if I hadn't been in such a hurry to get to you," Rachel confessed. "But I'm glad I took the stairs."
"So am I," Hannah smiled, letting her hands slip behind Rachel's neck, so she could pull the other woman's face closer. "Kiss me," she whispered.
Even though Rachel knew they were in a room where other people could enter at any time, she gladly obeyed and lowered her head to capture Hannah's lips in a slow and tender kiss. Hannah's body molded against her own and she soaked up the warmth and comfort the blonde's closeness provided. Only ten minutes ago, she had feared for the safety of the woman in her arms and she could not express how grateful she was to have pulled her out of Nathan's clutches. Not in words.
"Like that?" she gently asked when they finally broke apart.
"Like that," Hannah smiled, cupping Rachel's cheeks and kissing the tip of her nose. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Rachel answered softly.
There was a modest knock on the door and reluctantly they released each other. Hannah immediately felt cold and she wished she could crawl back into Rachel's arms. And stay there for a very long time. Instead, she walked towards one of the uncomfortable looking chairs and sat down, while Rachel opened the door to let in Yolanda, who was carrying two cups of coffee.
"Oh, real coffee," Rachel's eyes lit up at the sight of the familiar green logo that was printed on the cream colored cup. "Did you get this at the gift shop?"
"That's the only place around here where they sell Starbucks," Yolanda chuckled. "That's why it took me so long. I'm sorry about that."
"I...um...that's okay," Hannah mumbled. "I appreciate the gesture."
"You're welcome," Yolanda smiled. "Even though I have the distinct feeling you two have not really missed me."
The supervisor laughed when Hannah blushed and Rachel cast an uncomfortable look at her shoes.
"I'm just teasing, girls, I'm sorry. What's going on between you two is none of my business, really. Although, I must say, it's very obvious."
Hannah looked up and when her eyes met Rachel's she suppressed a grin because the expression on the Doctor's face was one of surprised shock. A small frown appeared in Rachel's forehead when she noticed the twinkle in Hannah's eyes, but then she visibly relaxed and let out an amused chuckle.
"Very obvious even, huh?" she said with a wry smile.
Yolanda nodded and smiled at the dark-haired woman.
"Don't worry about it. As long as you're not caught in any compromising situation, nobody can say anything about it. And that same rule applies to everybody else," she added in emphasis. "So, no kissing in the hallway," she winked.
"Of course not," Rachel responded, while Hanna mumbled: 'I'll try not to."
"Why don't you take a seat and try to relax, Doctor Kendrick," Yolanda continued. "The two of you are quite safe here, because there's a security guard posted outside the door. Courtesy of one Jack Wilson, who also told me to let you know that, at this time, Maureen Rivers is on her way."
Yolanda disappeared, closing the door behind her, leaving Hannah and Rachel staring at each other with worried eyes.
"What now?" the blonde finally asked.
"I've no idea," Rachel answered with a sigh. "But I know I'll be calling Melissa right now. I've no idea if that lunatic knows about Nicky or not, but I don't want to take any chances."
It was hours later when Rachel silently steered her car through the busy downtown traffic, carefully keeping an eye on her speedometer.
"Honey, they're not going to give you a speeding ticket, believe me," Hannah dryly replied from the passenger seat.
"I'm not so sure about that," Rachel answered, glancing in the rearview mirror. "Did you see that guy? He looked like he would arrest his own grandmother for jaywalking."
"He's here to protect us," Hannah chuckled, amused by Rachel's grumpiness. She reached out and put her hand on the Doctor's thigh, giving it a loving pat.
"I bet Nathan is miles away from here, coward that he is," Rachel muttered. "I just wish I could have grabbed his scrawny ass and handed him over to the police."
"Scrawny ass?" Hannah mouthed, suppressing a nervous laugh. She was tired and, deep down inside, she was also scared. She had experienced first hand what Nathan was capable of and the intensity of his anger and hatred had rocked her to the core.
Once she had heard the entire story, Rachel had been beyond anger. While Hannah had been talking to Maureen Rivers, and later also to Jack Wilson, Rachel had jumped up and paced the room, trying to find a way to channel her anger and nervous energy. They had expected Nathan to return, but not so soon and certainly not so furiously. After thinking back about all that had happened, she had come to realize that Nathan could have easily hurt Hannah, or even worse. It was hard to accept the fact that Hannah had been kidnapped from her workplace and for the first twenty minutes no one had noticed. Not even Rachel herself.
"Rachel, honey?" Hannah's soft voice penetrated her dark thoughts and startled, the Doctor glanced aside.
"Do you want me to drive?" the blonde asked with concern. "You're obviously not yourself."
"No, I'm fine, thanks," Rachel sighed. "I was just thinking."
"Are you sure that was it? It looked to me like you were beating yourself up. Nothing that has happened is your fault, believe me."
"I put your life in danger," Rachel mumbled.
"No," Hannah forcefully answered. "That wasn't you, that was Nathan."
There was a loaded silence and even though Rachel was concentrating on the road ahead, she could almost feel Hannah's scrutinizing gaze.
"Say it," the blonde encouraged.
"Say what?" the Doctor asked, shooting a quick glance aside.
"What you're thinking. Come on, Rachel, out with it."
The Doctor bit her lip, willing it not to tremble, while she tried to swallow away the lump in her throat. She knew she was tired and her thoughts were irrational, but that did not change the way she felt.
"Okay, if you're not going to say it, I will," Hannah sighed. "You think all of this is your fault because you came back. That's it, isn't it?"
"It's true," Rachel almost whispered. "If I hadn't come back, he would have left you alone. All the time I was away, he didn't bother you and as soon as I show up, wham, there's mister 'If-I-can't-have-her,-you-can't-either'."
"He's a lunatic, Rachel, a complete nutcase. I don't know what happened to him those last few years, but he's absolutely crazy. And we know he'll be back, but next time, we'll be ready for him. We will win this battle, you and I. You need to believe that."
"I'll never forgive myself if something happens to you," Rachel spoke, feeling a tear slide down her cheek. "Or Nicky."
"Then we'll need to stay together, the three of us. We need to do what Jack and Maureen want us to do; disappear for a little while and make Nathan panic. They believe that will smoke him out. Sooner or later, he'll make a mistake." Hannah paused and took a deep breath. "Unless you want to leave again," she added.
The words had been a mere whisper, but to Rachel it felt like they had been shouted out aloud. They affected her like a physical blow and, immediately after their meaning had sank in, she felt sick to her stomach. Hannah's whispered words had been full of pain and agony and they had touched the deepest part of Rachel's soul.
"No," she answered in a voice that was hoarse with emotion. "I won't. I'll never leave you again. Ever."
Rachel's hand covered Hannah's that was still lying on her thigh and she let their fingers intertwine. When she had a solid grip on them, she brought their hands up and kissed the back of Hannah's hand.
"I'll never leave you again," she whispered, squeezing the blonde's hand when she heard her sob. "Were you afraid I was going to?"
"For a few moments, I wasn't sure what to think," Hannah confessed, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her coat. "You seemed to be in a very dark place and that scared me."
"I'm sorry, honey," Rachel replied, her voice full of remorse. "I was trying to come to terms with all the stuff that has happened today and how..." she swallowed hard. "How easy I could have lost you. I wouldn't know..." Rachel's voice wavered. "I wouldn't know how to live without you again. I don't think I could."
"Then let's make sure neither of us will have to find out," Hannah decided in a voice that was soft, but determined. "Let's do what the police tells us to do and make sure we'll get rid of Nathan. Once and for all."
"You're going where?"
"I can't tell you, Gary, so please, don't ask me. It's not that I don't trust you, you know that, it's just that..."
"I know, I know," Gary sighed, leaning back in his chair and nibbling his bottom lip. "Somebody else might find out. Somebody whom I'd love to get my hands on."
"Get in line," Rachel mumbled, able to follow the conversation because Hannah had put the speaker phone on.
"Yes, of course, Rachel would beat me to it, but hey, if you'd leave a piece for me, I'll finish him off, Doc," Gary suggested in a grim voice.
"Enough with the bloodthirsty stuff," Hannah decided with a sigh. "I just wanted you to know we won't be able to make it to your Christmas party. I'm sorry."
"Don't be, sweetie. We'll postpone the party until you're back. I don't care when that will be. Will you and Rachel...no, don't tell me, I don't want to know. The less I know, the safer you are."
"That's the plan," Hannah agreed, watching Rachel carefully fold some shirts and put them in her suitcase. Nicky was sitting in the middle of the bed, chewing on a piece of bread, while Gertrude brought in a paper sack that suspiciously smelled like freshly baked brownies.
"I've got to go, Gary. Say 'hi' to Jake for me, alright? Hopefully, we'll be back soon," Hannah spoke with an audible quiver in her voice. "I'll miss you."
They could hear Gary take a deep breath and clear his throat before he spoke again. His voice was soft and husky.
"I'll miss you too, Hannah. Please take care of yourself. Hey, Doc!"
"Yes?" Rachel answered, stepping closer to Hannah and wrapping her arms around her.
"Look after my girl, okay? She's the closest thing to a sister I've got."
"Don't worry, Gary. I'll keep an eye on her twenty-four hours a day. I promise."
There was a muffled sniff and a soft cough. Hannah knew Gary was on the verge of tears, which made it so much harder for her not to cry.
"Okay, Doc, I'm gonna hold you to that."
"You may," Rachel promised, tenderly wiping a tear from Hannah's cheek.
"Bye, Gary," the blonde said in a choked voice.
"Bye, sweetie. I love you."
"I love you, too," Hannah answered.
There was a soft click and then the connection was broken. Hannah slowly put down the phone, taking a deep breath and fighting the urge to throw herself on the bed and cry. There was no time for that. Besides, if everything went according to plan, they would be back soon.
"Are you alright?" Rachel's soft voice sounded close to her ear and Hannah shook her head.
"No, not really," she sighed, feeling herself being pulled into a warm hug.
"If all goes well, we'll be back before we know it," Rachel spoke gently. "We need to have faith in Jack and Maureen. I'm sure they know what they're doing."
"They'd better," Hannah sniffed, rubbing her cheek against Rachel's shoulder. "But, no matter what, we'll be together, you, Nicky and me. That's all that matters."
"That's the spirit," Rachel responded with a smile that brought a dimple in her cheek. Hannah could not resist the urge to kiss it and, while she pressed her lips against the soft skin, she could hear her grandmother clear her throat.
"I hate to be a party-pooper, but you two need to finish packing," she urged. "Maureen will be here in ten minutes and you know how cops are..."
"Actually, I don't," Hannah answered, slowly untangling herself from Rachel's arms. There was a twinkle in her eyes that made Rachel smile.
"They could arrest you for obstructing...something," Gertrude dead-panned, chuckling when Rachel started laughing. "That's it, Rachel. We all need to see the positive side of this whole situation. The three of you get to spend a lot of time together. It will be like a vacation." Gertrude saw Hannah take a deep breath, but she raised her hand and continued:" I know, it will be a vacation with police protection, which is something most people will never experience, but still, I'm sure there will be a lot of time to...um...get reacquainted," she added with a wink.
"With the police just outside the door?" Hannah snorted. "I don't think so."
The blonde glanced aside when she heard Rachel let out a deep sigh. The expression on the Doctor's face surprised her.
"Is that a pout?" she asked with a small smile.
"It might be," Rachel answered with a sigh. "I was looking forward to a lot of snuggling time, but if you're not interested, I..."
Hannah grinned when she noticed the twinkle in the Doctor's eyes and she leaned over to give Rachel a quick kiss.
"I guess we'll make the best of it...somehow," she promised with a wink. She brought her mouth closer to the Doctor's ear. "And I am very interested," she spoke, grinning when she heard the small, but sharp intake of breath.
"Are you girls ready to go?" Gertrude asked, taking a seat next to Nicky and smoothing back the toddler's soft, dark hair. The little girl smiled at her with trusting, dark eyes and immediately Gertrude felt a lump in her throat.
Please, keep them safe. They are so precious to me...
" We're ready," Hannah softly replied, walking to her Grandmother and enveloping the older woman in a heartfelt hug. "I'm going to miss you, Granny."
"I'll miss you too, baby. But I know you all will be safe and that matters the most to me. Is everything taken care of?"
Although Hannah had not even told her Grandmother where they would be going, she knew Gertrude had a pretty good idea what their destination would be.
"Everything is ready," she nodded.
"Just to reassure this old woman, tell me, do you have means to defend yourselves?" Gertrude softly asked, sending Hannah a watery smile when the blonde nodded.
"Yes, but I just hope I won't have to use it."
"I hope that too, but...just be prepared," Gertrude advised with a sigh.
"I will be, Granny, I promise," Hannah whispered, slowly letting go of her grandmother and immediately feeling the comfort of Rachel's hand against her back.
"We'll be back the minute all of this is over," the blonde promised through her tears.
"I know you will," Gertrude nodded. "I'll have the brownies ready."
" I love you, Granny," Hannah said, kissing her Grandmother's cheek.
"I love you, too. I love all three of you," Gertrude answered. "Now, go, before you turn this old woman in a sobbing puddle. And police protection or not, keep your eyes open and trust your instincts."
"We will," Rachel promised, bending down to kiss the older woman. "Say 'bye, Granny'," she encouraged Nicky.
"Bye, Gwanny," Nicky obediently repeated, lifting her arms to her mother, who picked her up and held her close.
"Ma'am, Doctor," a young man with a crew-cut spoke, sticking his head around the door. "Your ride is here."
"Okay, let's go," Hannah responded with a quivering voice. She picked up her suitcase and her eyes met Gertrude's.
"Be strong," the elderly woman encouraged and Hannah nodded, aware of the tears that were streaming down her face. They followed the police man out of the room and the last thing Gertrude heard was Nicky's voice calling out.
"Bye, sweetpea," Gertrude whispered, finally giving in to the tears she had managed to blink away for such a long time. Grabbing a pillow from Hannah's bed, she pressed it against her chest and buried her face in the smooth, soft cotton. Her heart cried out in pain, while the tears were rolling down her cheeks, creating a slowly growing patch of wetness on the pillow in her arms.
Under the cover of darkness, Hannah, Rachel and Nicky were loaded into a white van with blue lettering on the sides. Making sure to keep their heads down, they were transported to a nearby company whose owner had been so kind to lend the police one of his vans. The car was driven into one of the garages, where the passengers were loaded in a waiting Ford Expedition. Not even two minutes after arriving, they were on the way again, followed by a similar looking car that took a left turn when their driver took a right one. It was only after having driven another ten miles that the person on the passenger side turned around and sent them a small smile.
"It's okay to sit up now," Maureen Rivers encouraged. "We're not being followed."
"Good," Rachel groaned, rubbing her stiff and painful neck. "Are you doing okay?" she asked the blonde, who quietly straightened in her seat.
"I'm alright," Hannah sighed. "How is Nicky doing?"
"Sleeping like a baby," Rachel smiled, casting a glance at her daughter who was asleep in her car seat.
"I'm jealous," Hannah mumbled. "It will be hours before we can get comfortable enough to stretch out and have a good sleep."
"I'm sorry, baby," Rachel quietly answered.
"Don't worry about it," Hannah answered, already regretting her complaint. "I'm sure I'll live. Besides, we'll have plenty of time to sleep once we reach our destination."
"Not with this energetic little bundle around," Rachel warned, but there was a smile in her voice.
"I guess we'll have to think of things to wear her out then," Hannah chuckled. "I need some serious sleep."
"We can always ask Maureen to babysit," Rachel suggested in a teasing voice.
The tall redhead in the front softly snorted and half-turned to look at the Doctor.
"I hate to say this, Doc, but I'm not very good with kids."
"Sounds like she needs the practice," the driver remarked and both Rachel and Hannah laughed.
"Oh, ladies, I'm sorry, I forgot my manners," Maureen Rivers spoke. "Our driver, who is also my partner during this case, is Special Agent Lauren DarkWolf. She can be a total pain in the butt, but I trust her with my life."
"That's good enough for me," Rachel answered. "Nice to meet you SpecialAgent DarkWolf."
"Oh, my goodness, please, call me Lauren," was the immediate answer and Maureen Rivers grinned. "The rest is too long."
"Do you know Nathan, Lauren?" Hannah asked.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I do," was the calm answer. "He and I go back a long time and believe me, nobody wants to nail his butt more than I do ."
To be continued in part 12
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