Authors: Donna Marie Rogers
Never Let Me Go
Donna Marie Rogers
Never Let Me Go
Welcome To Redemption Series, Book 7
Sheriff Chase Lowell has never been more scared in his life than when he discovers the diner where Hannah Porter works has been robbed at gunpoint. He’s been in love with her for as long as he can remember, but has kept his feelings in check because she’s his best friend’s little sister.
Hannah has had a crush on Chase since she was in the third grade. He’s kind, compassionate, and as handsome as they come. They’ve known each other forever, which seems to be the problem—he thinks of her more as a kid sister rather than a romantic interest.
But something changes the night he races into the diner and crushes her in his arms. When he makes her safety his personal mission, Hannah decides to make it
mission to get him to see her in a different light.
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen two people more in love than my friends, Joe and Kathrine Rabitoy.
May life’s journey be a long and prosperous one for you both.
Friday night – Closing time
“Hannah, why don’t you take the rest of the strawberry-rhubarb pie home with you? I know it’s your favorite.”
Hannah Porter screwed the metal cap back on the sugar shaker she’d just filled before glancing over her shoulder. A nice big slice of pie and a glass of lemonade sounded like pure heaven after the long, busy day they’d had. “You sure?”
Hutch Hutchinson, owner of Hutch’s Diner, and Hannah’s employer for the past five years, set two glasses of chocolate milk on the counter where his charges, Max and Emma Frazier, both sat, doodling on paper placemats. The older man then slipped the pie tin into a take-home box and slid it across the counter. “Take it. Carrie’s delivering six more tomorrow morning. She says it’s the May weather, but suddenly she can’t bake them fast enough.”
“I think it has more to do with the fact she only bakes strawberry-rhubarb in the spring, so everybody’s buying them to toss in the freezer.”
Hannah smiled at the gruff older man, who was almost as dear to her as her own father. He proceeded to the front of the restaurant to flip the OPEN sign to CLOSED and shut off the red neon
light in the front window.
“Can we take home the rest of the chocolate cake?” Max asked with eleven-year-old exuberance.
Three-year-old Emma clapped her little hands and squealed, “Choc’it cake!”
Their mother, Lauren Frazier, had been good friends with Hutch and his late fiancée, Rosalee Hunter—whose son, Caleb, was now dating Lauren. Hutch adored Lauren and the kids as much as he did Caleb, and was the babysitter of choice on those rare occasions when Caleb could talk the overprotective mom into leaving the house.
Hutch came around the counter and clapped Max on the shoulder before plucking the adorable, blue-eyed munchkin off the stool and into his arms. “’Course you can. Max, you want to go grab one of the take-home boxes for the cake? They’re the large pink boxes on the middle shelf.”
As Max hot-footed into the back room, the diner door opened with a jingle. Hannah glanced up, ready to remind whoever it was that the diner closed at nine. The words died in her throat as two men wearing ski masks rushed in and shoved the door shut behind them.
Hannah gasped and fear skittered up her spine as the shorter of the two proceeded to yank the shades down while the taller one pulled out a gun and pointed it directly at Hutch.
“Drop the kid and have a seat on one of the stools, old man. Keep your hands where I can see ‘em.”
Emma started bawling as Hutch set her on her feet and, with a gentle shove, sent her in Hannah’s direction. Blonde curls bouncing, she ran to Hannah and wrapped her arms around her neck, clutching tight as she sobbed softly against her ear. The heart-wrenching sound was enough to bring tears to Hannah’s own eyes. She swiped them away and waited, praying these two would take the money and leave without anyone getting hurt. Or worse.
The shorter thief rushed behind the counter and grasped the deposit bag as if he’d known exactly where Hutch kept it. There was something oddly familiar about the guy, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“Come on, let’s go,” the other snapped as he snatched a donut off the counter.
Just then, Max strode into the room. He stopped dead when he realized what was going on, his keen brown eyes immediately searching out his little sister. When he started toward her and Hannah, the thief who’d grabbed the deposit bag rushed forward and clubbed him on the back of the head with his fist.
Hannah gasped as Max went down with a soft thud. Hutch shot to his feet with a roar and threw himself at the boy’s attacker, but the taller thief cracked him on the top of the head with the butt of the gun before he could reach him. Hutch crumpled to the floor next to Max.
Emma started to cry in earnest. Hannah clasped the little peanut even tighter, her mind working a mile a minute as she grappled with what to do, what to say to get these two to leave without anyone else getting hurt.
The thief holding the gun strode her way and snarled, “Shut the goddamn brat up, or I’ll really give her something to cry about!”
Hannah soothed Emma as best she could while she held the thief’s gaze in stubborn defiance. She couldn’t even imagine what kind of a scumbag would threaten to harm a little girl.
He must have read the disgust in her eyes because he grabbed her by the upper arm and squeezed painfully.
“Think you’re so high and mighty, don’tcha? I know exactly where you live, bitch,” he warned in a deadly whisper. “Don’t give me a reason to make a late night visit.”
Shock and fear gripped Hannah as the thief’s threat washed over her like acid rain, chasing away any doubt of his propensity for violence. Her hands went numb, and it was all she could do to keep Emma clutched safely in her arms.
The thief held her gaze, waiting for her acquiescence, she assumed. Hannah gave a quick nod as fresh tears pooled in her eyes.
The bastard had the nerve to smile as he released her arm and breezed out the door.
His cohort eyeballed Hannah for a moment before snatching the pie box off the counter and following in his friend’s wake.
As soon as they were out of sight, Hannah set Emma on her feet and raced to the phone to call 9-1-1. Still sobbing, the poor little thing curled up in a ball next to her brother, who groaned softly as he started to come around.
After she hung up, Hannah gently tucked a folded towel beneath the boy’s head, whispering for him to lie still, that the police were on the way. She didn’t see any blood, thankfully, though the goose egg above his ear would have to be taken care ASAP. Hannah’s heart lurched as she quickly did the same for Hutch, who lay pale as death on the cold tiled floor. She grasped his hand and sent up a silent prayer as they waited for the police to arrive.
The wail of sirens could finally be heard, growing in intensity until a squad car skidded to a stop right in front of the diner. When Sheriff Chase Lowell strode through the door with his partner, Officer Mike Donovan, Hannah rose to her feet and blew out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
Chase, one of her older brother’s closest friends, searched her out and rushed over, crushing her in his arms with a muttered “Thank God.” He pulled back and cleared his throat before doing a quick sweep of her from head to toe, his keen hazel eyes taking in everything. “You all right?”
She nodded, grateful for his support, both physically and emotionally. Her knees had gone weak with relief when he’d stepped through the door, but now that the shock had started to wear off, Hannah took a deep breath and stepped out of his embrace, knowing he and Mike had a job to do.
The ambulance arrived, and within seconds Charlie Russell and another paramedic rushed through the door. Charlie headed straight for Max, while his partner, a woman not much older than Hannah herself, dropped to her knees beside Hutch. The dear old man was attempting to sit up, she realized with a sigh of relief.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Chase persisted.
He seemed almost hesitant to leave her side.
She gazed up at him in hopeful confusion before giving herself a mental shake. She’d known Chase Lowell all of her life, so no doubt wishful thinking could be blamed for the overly protective way he seemed to be staring at her. Chase, Charlie, and her older brother Drew had been friends for as long as she could remember, and where most of her brother’s buddies had either teased or ignored her, Chase had always treated her more like a favorite little sister than an annoyance.
“I’m fine, I promise. Just a little shook up. Nothing a hot bath and a glass of wine won’t cure,” she added in an attempt to ease his worry.
“They stole the choc’it cake!” Emma tearfully announced to no one in particular.
If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Hannah would have laughed over the child’s order of priorities. “No, Sweetie, they took the pie. The cake is still under the dome. I’ll make sure and save it for you, okay?”
Emma stuck her thumb in her mouth and gave a solemn nod.
The door opened with a sharp jingle as Caleb and Lauren rushed in. The frantic mother burst into tears as soon as she spotted her son. She knelt beside him and grasped his hand before pulling Emma into her arms. Turning red-rimmed blue eyes to Charlie, Lauren begged him to tell her Max would be okay.
Hannah’s heart ached as Emma tried to comfort her mother by patting her back, both of them watching through tears as Charlie used gentle pressure to assess the extent of Max’s injury. Caleb stood stoically by as the second paramedic bandaged Hutch’s head, the gruff old man insisting he was fine as he swatted the young woman’s hands away.
Charlie cast a quick glance in Hannah’s direction. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s Max and Hutch who got the worst of it. They’re both very brave.”
The EMT gave a quick nod, then turned back to assure Lauren her son had a hard noggin and would be fine; though he recommended a night at the hospital for observation. The paramedic taking care of Hutch asserted that he should be seen as well.
Once Hannah promised him she would lock up, Hutch and Max were loaded into the ambulance while Caleb, Lauren, and Emma all climbed into Caleb’s truck to follow behind.
Chase led Hannah over to one of the booths and gestured for Mike to join them. “We need to get your statement, but you should probably give your father a call first and—”
“I have no intention of calling my father—or Drew. I’m fine. All I’d like to do is head home and settle into a hot bath. Besides, you know how over protective they both are. They’d insist on flying home tonight, which means Lindy’s visit with her parents would be cut short. Not to mention dad would miss his work seminar.”
“Hannah, you know your brother’ll kill me if hears this on the news instead of from one of us. If you’re not going to call him, I will.”
It took all of her self-control not to growl her frustration. She stiffened her spine and nailed him with her most indignant glare. “Chase Lowell, I am twenty three years old, and if I choose not to call and worry my family over this, it’s
business, not yours. Now, if you plan to take my statement, let’s get to it. Otherwise, I’d really like to head home.”
Mike coughed, though it sounded suspiciously more like a laugh.
Chase eyeballed his partner for an uncomfortable moment before clearing his throat and pulling out his notebook. “Fine. Tell us exactly what happened, starting from the moment the suspects entered the building.”
Hannah fiddled with the napkin holder and closed her eyes for a moment. “We were closing up for the night, and Hutch had just told Max and Emma they could take the leftover cake home. Max ran in back to get a box, and that’s when I heard the door open. Two men rushed in, both wearing black ski masks. One of them pulled down the shades while the other pulled out a gun and aimed it at Hutch. He was holding Emma.”