Authors: Juliana Stone
Not even if there was a baby.
The road that led from the Simon home was steep and narrow, lined with trees that stood as silent as soldiers. It was eerie, being out here alone at this time in the morning, but there was also a kind of peace as well.
When she reached the top, Donovan paused, slightly out of breath, and glanced to the right and then to the left. If she went left, she’d end up near the main road. The main road meant people, and she sure as hell didn’t want to deal with people. Tugging the brim of her ball cap lower, she took a swig of water and headed to the right.
She followed the road for about an hour before she came to a fork. By this time, the sun was much higher in the sky, and she slipped off her hoodie, tying it around her waist as she continued on her way, opting to head into the trees than toward the water.
She walked for a couple hours and then stopped to rest, eating her granola bar and nearly finishing her water. She would have stayed put a bit longer, but the bugs were horrible and she went on her way.
She hiked through the bush for hours it seemed and when the stitch in her side became sharp, she paused, glancing around. Okay. She was going to take a guess and say that she was lost. When was the last time she’d seen a house? Or the water? The path she’d been on no longer looked well used. In fact it looked nothing like the footpath she’d started out on.
Unease made her gut churn and Donovan reached for her water again, careful to take only enough to quench her thirst. It was hot, even here beneath the canopy of evergreens, and she realized that as well as being lost, she had no idea what time it was either.
“Shit,” she murmured, turning in a full circle. Did she follow the path back? But hadn’t she branched off from the original road at some point?
A snap in the forest had her heart pounding, and she froze. She was pretty sure bears inhabited these woods and that thought brought with it a few hot, stinging tears.
She was lost and now she was going to be some bear’s dinner. Just like Donovan to get herself into a pickle. If her mama was here, she’d be wagging her forefinger and shaking her head in that way that made Donovan feel as if she hadn’t passed the third grade.
“I bet a third grader wouldn’t have gotten lost,” she muttered, patting the pocket of her jacket. But there was no cell phone there. You know, because that would have been the smart thing to do.
Damn. Wiping sweat from her brow, she exhaled, eyes narrowed, as she peered past the silent trees.
“Screw it,” she mumbled, swallowing her fear. There wasn’t anything to do but keep going. The path had to lead somewhere right? Because if it didn’t? Well, then she would be totally screwed.
Donovan had always been the sort to believe in the impossible. A few years back when ‘The Secret’ had been on everyone’s reading list (way before that Fifty Shades book), she’d picked up a copy and read it in one sitting. Her mother had thought it was nothing but a bunch of baloney, but Donovan had eaten up every word and she was a believer. The secret to success was visualization. Believe it and it would happen.
She visualized her success. Her songs and career. She visualized what she wanted and wasn’t surprised when it happened. Of course she’d never applied that philosophy to her personal situation, but right now she was of the opinion that a little bit of that mojo just might be in order.
So she kept on and tried not to think about bears or being lost. Tried not to think about how hungry she was or how little water she had left. She didn’t dwell on the fact that a good part of her bare arm was blotchy from mosquito and horse fly bites. And she sure as hell didn’t think about that pregnancy stick back at the house. Nope. She would worry about that later.
She kept walking. Tried to hum a few songs but wasn’t in the mood. And when she finally spied water through the trees, she gave a yell and began to run. Ignoring the pain in her right ankle, the result of twisting it earlier, she half slid, half ran down a steep incline and landed at the bottom on her ass.
Donovan spied a small cottage about fifty yards ahead and to the right of it, a boathouse and dock. The relief was huge, and she rolled over, dusted herself off and limped up to the house. She banged on the door, smoothing her hair a bit because she was pretty sure she looked like a crazy lady. Her braid had come undone, and she’d lost her ball cap when she’d tumbled down the incline.
The instant euphoria she’d felt when she spied the home faded as she continued to knock, but there was no answer. Close to tears, Donovan peeked inside, but saw nothing. No movement. No sign that anyone had been there recently.
“Shit,” she whispered, walking the length of the porch and gazing out over the water. This part of the lake looked wild, probably as untamed as her hair. There was no beach, only a rocky shoreline that led straight into the water.
Her ankle was killing her and slowly she made her way over to the boathouse but again, there was no one there. Sure she found several orange gas cans, and that would have been great, except
there was no boat
. A few fishing rods hung from the walls along with an overly large nude calendar that appeared to be decades old.
Standing there in the middle of that boathouse, Donovan felt like the last person on the planet. The silence was scary, and for the first time, real fear punched her in the gut. This wasn’t just about bears anymore. This was about being lost with no phone or food or fresh water.
“Jesus, Jack. Where are you?”
She wandered out onto the dock and gazed across the lake. There was a large residence perched atop a cliff on the other side, but it was so far away, there was no way for her to contact anyone.
Dejected she dropped to her knees and pulled them up close as she stared out at the water. Visualize, dammit. Visualize Jack.
She closed her eyes and saw his face, the ache inside her something fierce. “God, Jack, what have I done,” she whispered, rubbing her cheek along her forearm and wiping away the few tears that fell.
Donovan unwrapped her legs and tossed her hoodie onto the dock, scrunching it into a sad looking pillow. She was so tired. So warm. She laid down, stretching out along the dock and burrowing her head into the bunched up hoodie. She heard the drone of a plane overhead and listened to it until it was no more. With heavy eyelids, she eventually fell asleep.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been out but when she opened her eyes, the sky was dark and ominous clouds had rolled in. Thunder cracked and lightening followed, both so loud and close that she sat up, momentarily dizzy because she’d moved too fast.
She heard music and the sound of a motor.
Help had come!
Big drops of rain splashed onto her face and Donovan stumbled to her feet, swiping at the rain to clear her eyes. She waved frantically, yelling for help, hobbling around on a foot that was now swollen to twice its size.
She yelled until she was hoarse, eyes on the distance and a boat making its way across the choppy lake.
“Please come,” she whispered, shivering and wet and miserable. “Please.”
She bit her lip and tried to shout one more time, but it was no use. Her vocal chords were done for.
And just when she thought help had passed her by, the boat turned and headed for her. She was so beside herself that when it pulled up alongside the dock, at first she couldn’t answer any of their questions.
Are you okay?
Who are you?
Do you need help?
“Maybe we need to take her to the hospital,” one of them said.
It was enough to snap her out of her funk. No hospital. She just needed to be with Jack.
“No,” she shook her head. “Can you take me to Jack?” Donovan managed to say. Her teeth were chattering so hard that she wasn’t sure the woman understood.
“Jack? Is that your husband?”
“Jack Simon. Do you know him?”
The woman shook her head. “No. I’m sorry. Do you know where he’s at?”
“No,” Donovan whispered, fighting back tears. “I went for walk and got lost.”
“It’s a big lake but you couldn’t have wandered that far,” she said.
Think, Donnie, think.
“Brett Campbell. He’s Jack’s neighbor. Do you know him?”
Again the woman shook her head, but this time she yelled out to her companions. “Anyone know a Brett Campbell? What about a Jack Simon?”
“Simon? The American guy? His brother’s an actor or something?” That was from the guy behind the wheel.
Donovan nodded. “Yes. Jack.”
“I know where that place is. Down on millionaire alley.” He hit full throttle and less than twenty minutes later ,they pulled up alongside Jack’s dock. By now the rain was falling steady and after thanking her rescuers, Donovan made her way toward the house. The going was slow because her ankle was killing her and by the time she reached the porch, she was drenched.
Her hand was on the doorknob when it was wrenched from her grasp, her fingers flailing in the air and coming into contact with a hard male chest. She glanced up, throat closed so tight that she couldn’t swallow.
“Where the hell have you been? Jesus Christ, Donnie,” Jack said, his voice low and deadly. “I’ve been going fucking crazy. Do you know that? Do you get that Donovan?”
He shook her and her head snapped back but her body was shaking so badly that she couldn’t answer. And dammit, she was going to cry.
His dark eyes widened as he angled his head for a better look. “What the…” he muttered, his touch gentle as he palmed her cheek. “What happened?”
She winced and managed a few words. “I fell.”
Jack swore and slammed the door shut behind them. Her legs were like limp spaghetti, and if not for his arms around her, she would have fallen. As it was, she whimpered when she took a step, and he cursed again, hands on her face and pulling her up so that there was nowhere to look other than into his eyes.
She noticed that his hair was wet and so were his clothes.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, and then because she was weak and pathetic, she started to cry.
“Goddammit, Donovan. I have the police looking for you. I just got back myself. I thought… Jesus Christ I thought…”
But he never finished his sentence and with a growl, he pulled her close, so that she was tucked under his chin. And for Donovan, it felt like coming home. Like the safest place in the world.
“I’m sorry,” she said again, her voice hoarse. “I got lost.”
She squeezed her eyes shut when he kissed the top of her head. “You’re freezing.”
Teeth chattering, she nodded but couldn’t answer because a fresh batch of tears had her choked up.
“It’s okay,” he said, voice gruff. “I’ve got you.”
Hearing those three words nearly did her in, and she clutched at his shirt, unable to articulate how grateful she was. Even though she was wet and cold and miserable, she was here with him, and right now, it was all that mattered.
Jack scooped her into his arms and headed for the stairs.
Jack Simon could handle a lot of things. He was used to juggling more than one ball, and he was used to dealing with circumstances that weren’t ideal. He’d learned early on in the political arena that when shit happened, you let it happen because most times, there was no way to stop it. You let the chaos ensue and then you put a plan in place to fix it.
He was a fixer. Had the ability to think outside the box. It’s why he was good at his job.
But it was one thing to apply that code to a work day situation. When it came to something up close and personal, it was a hell of a lot harder to keep some kind of perspective. To keep from freaking the hell out.
He’d lost his shit today. More than once. When he realized that Donovan was missing, he’d barely kept it together. Him. The guy they called Stone Cold Simon.
Jack gave his head a shake.
Right now, he had Donovan where she needed to be. In his place. In his arms.
He fucking had her.
He strode across the landing and headed for his bedroom. Once inside, he kicked open the door to the bathroom and gently set her down on the counter. She was shaking so hard that he grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her.
Her eyes were closed, and a bruise on her cheek was looking nasty. His gut tightened, and he slid his palm over her cheek. Donovan leaned into him, and Jack felt as if he was coming apart. Never had he felt this helpless.
“Hey, I’ll be right back,” he said roughly.
She opened her eyes and damn but those tears lingering in the corners got to him. He wiped one away and dropped a kiss on her head before turning on the shower and heading into his room for a moment.
He grabbed his cell out of his pocket and sent a quick text to Sabrina so that she wouldn’t worry and then he called the police, leaving a message with the desk sergeant that Donovan was home and that she was safe.
He started to tug his shirt over his head and paused—shit—Maverick would have his ass if he didn’t give him an update. He’d called him earlier, thinking that maybe Donovan had been in contact, but his cousin hadn’t heard shit from her and had proceeded to give Jack an earful.
Most of it deserved, which was the only reason Jack hadn’t given it right back to him.
Jack sent Rick a text and headed back to the bathroom, stripping off the rest of his wet clothes before reaching for her.
Donovan’s eyes looked huge, and they never left his as he carefully peeled away the towel and her wet clothes. Her arms were scratched up, and she had more than her fair share of bug bites, but he wasn’t overly concerned until he got a peek at her ankle. It was starting to purple and he was pretty sure it was sprained.
Carefully he lifted her and stepped into the hot shower. Jack held her for several long minutes, letting the hot spray wash over both of them. Eventually her body relaxed and the shivering stopped.
“Babe, I’m going to have you stand, but you need to watch your foot, okay?”
She nodded, but remained silent. Donovan wasn’t the silent type. She was the kind of woman who yelled and cursed when things got rough. This silent shit scared the crap out of him.