Endless Trails(4)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Even though she was facing away from there it was a logical assumption, she just couldn’t go back. She shook her head, her curls fluffing around her face and attacking her eyelashes. She puffed them away from her mouth. “I’m not going back to Dillon. I can’t. If you’re going along here, can I tag along until you can’t take me any further?”

Chewing on the skin on the inside of her cheek, she widened her eyes in her most ardent attempt at pleading. She wasn’t a beggar and the action didn’t come naturally.

He looked back at his truck and then down the highway in the direction the vehicles faced. Ryland returned his gaze toward her and considered her proposition. “I’ll take you as far as Jefferson City, does that sound alright? Or I can drop you in Butte, if you want to stay on I90.”

That was a whole thirty miles further than she’d planned on escaping! She nodded excitedly. “Yes, thank you so much, mister.”

“Sure, it’s Ryland, though. Grab your things and let’s get going. I’m kind of on a schedule, myself.” He winked at her, reaching up to tilt his hat in her direction. “What’s your name?”

“Amy, my name’s Amy.” She smiled and held his gaze for a moment longer.

The sound of a baby crying froze the smooth smile on Ryland’s face. He glanced toward the rear seat of the car and then back at her face. “You have a baby?”

“Yeah, is that okay?” She didn’t care if it was okay or not. She needed out of there and he had promised to take her. She’d blackmail him or knock him out and steal his truck, if she had to, but she wasn’t leaving without her son.

He nodded tightly. “Hurry up. It’s too hot out here for a baby. I’ve got some water in the truck, in case he’s thirsty. You, too.”

His amusement changed to concern and he waited by the back door while she retrieved her two bags of meager belongings and the most important diaper bag. He took them from her before she could even place them on the ground to grab.

“I’ve got these. You grab that young’un.” He headed toward the truck, tossing her two bags in the back and carefully transferring the diaper bag into the front seat. He started up the engine and a trickle of fear mixed with Amy’s reassurances. Would he leave with everything she had?

But he didn’t move, just waited patiently for her as she unhooked the car seat from its base and then unbuckled the base from the seat.

Cody, her six-week-old boy, blinked tiredly at her from his sweaty car seat. She cooed at him as she carried him and the base to the truck. “It’s okay, sweets, we’re getting out of here. No more hot. Okay? Momma fix it. I promise.”

She climbed into the seat of the truck and Ryland took the base without asking and buckled it in the right way. “Snap him in and we’ll test it to see, if it’s in right.” They attached the seat in the right position and Ryland adjusted the straps to make it fit. “Let’s go.”

Amy closed her door, buckling herself as she peeked at Ryland out of the corner of her eye. She reached down surreptitiously and felt for the soft rustle of overly touched waterproof vinyl under the edge of her bra.

The envelope held all the money she’d managed to squirrel away from Buck and his thieving fingers. The man stole from her cookie jar any chance he got and she’d learned to put a small amount in there to train him to not to suspect any other place held her cash – like the bottom of the bathroom can, underneath the garbage bag.

She took the trash out. He didn’t. It was the only safe place in the house.

Ryland pulled the truck out carefully onto the highway headed east and for the first time Amy allowed a little bit of the tension in her shoulders to fade. Buck would never look for her in a truck with another man. Not immediately anyway.

She could rest. Someone else had the wheel. Literally.

But not for long. She only had until Jefferson City. Once there, she’d have to figure out how to make the expensive formula stretch while keeping her son healthy and happy.

When would she catch a break?

She glanced at Ryland. Maybe she’d finally gotten an inkling of favor from the Man Upstairs.

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