When Caitlin finally pulled away from Shanna, she had a beaming smile on her face…until her eyes moved to the door of her hospital room. It was her mother, Anne, and her stepfather, Stanley, standing in the doorway that made the smile turn to a grimace. But it was the sight of her stepbrother, Billy, standing behind them, that made the blood drain from her face.
Caitlin hadn’t seen Billy since the day she left home for college. She had suffered over three years of psychological torture and sexual molestation at the hands of her older stepbrother. His threats to break apart the family and ruin Caitlin’s reputation forced her into a silent, private hell. She was unable to tell anyone, even her best friend Shanna, who was Billy’s older sister. Shanna had already left home for college when the abuse began, and had no idea what kind of a twisted sadist lurked in her baby brother.
Now, five years later, Billy had changed little. Always a bit overweight, with an unattractive face and muddy brown eyes, Billy had not been blessed with good looks. It seemed that everything he lacked in looks and social skills had been poured into his considerable intelligence. With an I.Q. well above the “genius” level cut-off, he lived a lonely, unhappy life dreaming of being successful at something other than math and science. Caitlin believed that Shanna’s presence had kept him somewhat human, and when Shanna left home for college when Billy was sixteen and Caitlin was fifteen, Billy lost any kind of moral compass he’d had. He began visiting Caitlin’s room at night and exposed the dark demon that hid inside of him.
Caitlin knew that she was about to put on the best performance of her life: acting as if she was happy to see her deeply dysfunctional family. Lowering her head, she slowly exhaled, imagining that she was expelling every negative interaction she had ever had with her family. Forcing a bright smile onto her face, she raised her eyes to meet her family as they hesitated uncertainly in the doorway.
“Mother, Stanley, it’s so nice of you to come!” Caitlin cried. “But honestly, you didn’t have to travel all this way, I’m fine!” Her smile hurt her face, but she kept it glued on.
Anne rolled her eyes and smirked at her husband. “See, Stanley, I told you she was fine. That long flight for nothing!” she sighed dramatically.
Stanley moved quickly to Caitlin’s bedside, putting his hand on Shanna’s shoulder as he peered down at Caitlin. “I wouldn’t dream of letting you stay overnight in the hospital alone, thousands of miles away,” he confided to her, giving her a lingering kiss on the cheek that made her skin crawl.
Billy remained standing in the doorway, and Caitlin knew she had to acknowledge his presence in order to avoid suspicion. “Hello, Billy,” she said, unable to keep a hint of icy coolness out of her voice.
“Hi, Caitlin,” he said in his whiny voice, moving to her bedside. When he leaned down to give her a kiss on her cheek, she felt like she was going to throw up. ‘I can’t do this, I can’t act normal around him,’ the young teenage girl inside of her moaned in misery. ‘Yes, you can!’ the college graduate trained in self-defense shouted.
Her false smile painted on, she forced herself to ask Stanley how life was back in California. Anne was ignoring them, leaning out the doorway to keep a lookout for cute doctors that she could fuck in the men’s bathroom.
“Oh, things are going fine,” Stanley answered. “Billy is doing well with his internet company, working from our home.”
Turning to Billy, she struggled to keep her voice from tightening. “That’s great news, Billy,” she said in a light tone.
His smile was snakelike. “Yes, Caitlin, I’m quite happy. Of course, I was deeply concerned when I heard about your accident. It fills me with joy to discover that you’re alright,” he replied.
She cringed inside at his words. His formal way of speaking was something that seemed to have developed with his I.Q., and it only reminded her of the way he used to speak to her when he visited her room at night.
Stanley patted her arm. “But we should be asking about you! What kinds of things have you seen and done on this trip? You know, I’m so supportive that you’re exploring the country like this, and I admire the efforts you’ve made to be safe about it.” His tone was smug as he subtly insulted Anne, who had refused to even discuss Caitlin’s travel plans.
As Caitlin started to answer, she noticed that Anne had wandered out into the hallway. ‘Typical,’ she thought to herself. ‘She must have found a candidate for a quickie.’
“Well,” she answered Stanley, “it’s so hard to say. I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
“Then at least tell me what you were doing in Pennsylvania,” he smiled, leaning uncomfortably close to her.
As Caitlin opened her mouth, she noticed Anne come back into the room with a bright red, embarrassed expression. ‘Huh?’ she thought. Then she realized that Jack was right behind her mother.
Jack rushed down illegal bahis the hospital hall, anxious to see if Caitlin was alright after her grueling day of tests. Suddenly, he was stopped by an attractive redhead who reached out to grab his arm.
“Hey there, handsome, you meeting anyone?” she purred, a look of seduction in her eyes.
He shifted uncomfortably, looking around at the room numbers nearby.
“Yes, I’m just looking for 217,” he said distractedly, trying to move away from her.
A look of shock came over the woman’s face. “217?” she repeated.
Confused and more than a little annoyed, he replied, “Yes, 217, what room is this?”
Her face bright red, the woman muttered, “I suppose you’re the man who put my daughter in the hospital.”
Realization dawned on him. Dear god, this was Caitlin’s mother? Caitlin’s mother had just hit on him?! Meeting her gaze coolly, he answered, “I am the man who brought your daughter to the hospital when she was hurt, yes. I’m Jack, pleasure to meet you.” He shook her hand formally.
She gave his hand a limp shake, her face still red. “I’m Anne. She’s in here.”
As they walked into the room, he saw Caitlin stare at them with a look of distress on her face. He hesitated, uncertain about how to greet her in front of her family. ‘How much has Shanna told them?’ he wondered. Erring on the side of caution, he nodded to her.
“Caitlin, I’m glad to see you’re looking better,” he said a bit stiffly. Caitlin looked confused. Jack was at a loss as to what to do, so he moved to the bedside and introduced himself to the three people gathered around Caitlin’s bed.
“I’m Stanley, Caitlin’s stepfather,” an older man standing next to the bed explained.
“I’m Shanna,” a young, pretty, blonde woman smiled, with a very subtle wink.
“And I’m Billy,” a chubby, unattractive young man added in a whiny voice.
Jack felt his heart drop. Billy? Billy was here? And Jack wasn’t allowed to kill him with his bare hands? Caitlin had a warning look in her eyes, and he knew he needed to act normally and be polite…or at least, non-homicidal.
“Nice to meet you all,” he said with a fake smile, choosing to focus on Shanna because he was genuinely happy to meet Caitlin’s best friend and stepsister.
“So, Jack, you’re the Good Samaritan who was giving my dear Caitlin a ride?” Stanley asked. His smile was still bright, but his eyes were dark with suspicion.
“Yes, well, I’m a police officer. I’d rather not leave a young woman out on the highway where she could meet someone dangerous,” he said without thinking. Caitlin’s green eyes flashed with anger, and he realized belatedly that he had overtly questioned her judgment. “I mean, I just wanted to help,” he tried to explain lamely.
“Yes, I’m sure you did,” Stanley said in a cool voice.
Anne was anxiously tugging on Stanley’s arm. “It’s getting late, we should let Caitlin get some rest,” she whined, still thoroughly embarrassed from hitting on the man who seemed so drawn to her daughter.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Stanley said quickly. “I’m sorry, dear Caitlin, I’m sure you’re exhausted after such a tough day.”
“Well, I could use some rest,” Caitlin agreed, barely daring to hope that they would be leaving so soon.
“Absolutely. We’ll be back first thing in the morning,” Stanley said firmly.
“Oh, Stanley, I’m fine, you could go back to California,” Caitlin protested.
“If we catch a redeye, you could get some sleep,” Anne suggested to Stanley with hope in her voice.
“No way,” he frowned. “Not under any circumstances. We’re staying in a hotel, Anne, and that’s that. I want to be there for Caitlin.”
Caitlin bit her lip, knowing that there was no arguing with him at this point.
Billy and Stanley leaned over to hug Caitlin briefly, and she gave silent thanks that they were leaving. She didn’t know if she could have taken another minute with this huge, false smile on her face.
Anne came over to the bed and patted Caitlin’s curls awkwardly. “Feel better, dear,” she said, her voice tight with discomfort.
As they said their goodbyes, Stanley was glaring at Jack to imply that he had better leave, too. Jack leaned over and touched Caitlin’s hand lightly. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he said in a quiet voice. Stanley was right behind him, and he knew that he couldn’t say any more. It killed him to see the hurt look in Caitlin’s eyes.
“Of course, Jack. Thank you for taking me to the hospital,” she murmured. Her mind was racing. Was this an act? Or had he lost interest in her after meeting her family? Her heart was aching and she didn’t know what to think.
Shanna threw her arms around her sister and whispered in her ear, “I’ll be back.” Caitlin nodded subtly, hugging her back as she fought off tears, wondering if Shanna was the only person in the world who truly loved her no matter what.
As Jack followed Caitlin’s family out of the hospital room, Shanna held him back slightly and muttered, “Meet me in the hospital illegal bahis siteleri lobby in half an hour.” Before he could even respond, she had moved ahead with her brother.
“Jack, do you need a ride to a hotel? We rented a car. Or are you going home?” Stanley asked. He clearly wanted to prevent Jack from seeing Caitlin again. Jack decided that it would be a bad idea to tell Stanley that he lived within a half hour of where Caitlin would be attending graduate school in a couple of months.
“I’ll stay in a hotel for tonight, and then find out what is going on with my RV tomorrow,” he answered. “Thank you for offering a ride, but I’ll take a taxi. I don’t want to inconvenience you, and we wouldn’t all fit in one car.”
Stanley frowned. “Yes, you’re right. Well, let me call you a cab, then.”
Jack sighed to himself. This situation was not looking promising.
Caitlin was fighting back the tears, but one or two occasionally slipped from her tightly closed eyelids. ‘He’ll come back, he’ll come back,’ she tried to convince herself. ‘He wouldn’t leave you like this, he just wouldn’t.’
She felt physically ill. This day was wearing on her: first the accident, then the headache that returned every two hours or so, followed by seeing her family and her abhorrent stepbrother, and finally Jack leaving her without so much as a hug. She was physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. Finally stopping the tears, she mentally checked out for awhile, staring into space with miserable eyes that were dull green with pain.
Her heart was crying out for Jack to return. She had never felt so empty and alone. ‘If he can break my heart, then I must love him,’ she thought, feeling sick to her stomach. ‘I love him and I lost him because I had to tell him about the sick and twisted people that are my family. And now he’s had to meet them, and he doesn’t want to be with a girl with so much baggage. He’ll want someone uncomplicated and emotionally stable.’
The minutes crawled by, each longer than the last. The doorway remained empty. She fell into an uneasy doze, exhausted from this day that seemed longer than her entire hitchhiking trip had been.
Jack checked into his hotel room, threw the duffle bag into it, and promptly headed back to the motel lobby to call another cab back to the hospital. He anxiously checked his watch every two minutes or so, worried that if he wasn’t on time, Shanna wouldn’t wait for him. Throwing a twenty at the driver when they arrived at the hospital, he jumped out and raced into the lobby. Panting a little, his heart pounding both from running and from anxiety, his eyes worriedly searched the hospital lobby.
Her bright blonde hair with even lighter highlights stood out in this dismal atmosphere. He approached Shanna, taking the time to study her. He hadn’t been able to pay much attention in Caitlin’s hospital room; he had been so tense and nervous around Caitlin’s parents and stepbrother.
Shanna had soft, wavy blonde hair that fell in layers, perfectly framing her heart-shaped face. Clear bluish-green eyes sparkled with enthusiasm and adventure, and she seemed to project a subtle zest for life that was evident even under these stressful circumstances. Though it was obvious that she put more time into her appearance than Caitlin seemed to, as seen by her meticulously applied makeup and perfectly coordinated outfit, she also had a casual style that somehow seemed elegant on her well-proportioned frame. She had changed from the clothes she had traveled in, and was now wearing white pants with red, high-heeled sandals, and a red, off-the-shoulder top that showed off her well-sculpted neck and collarbone. Silver jewelry gleamed from her ears, wrists, and fingers, indicating careful attention to every detail of her appearance. Though Jack usually disliked women who seemed high-maintenance, Shanna’s love for Caitlin and the perpetually cheerful optimism that exuded from her seemed to counterbalance her attention to her looks. She was a beautiful girl, and he had liked her immediately, but his heart belonged to Caitlin.
Shanna could tell this in the way that Jack assessed her — his gaze was observant, without any lust or attraction. She instantly trusted him, understanding that he was head over heels for her stepsister. She was a very perceptive person, and rarely was her intuition wrong. She gave Jack a warm smile as he walked up to her.
“How did you get away from your parents?” Jack asked.
Shanna winked at him. “I’m a daddy’s girl — he doesn’t question me. I told them I was going out to explore Pennsylvania and find a party. They know me; I love to have a good time.” She grinned.
Uncertain, he asked, “Why did you want to meet me?”
“Well, I didn’t,” she answered. “I mean I did, and I do, but I wanted to come back to see my sister. And I figured you would want to as well.”
He nodded quickly. “I do, very much. Can we head up now?” He was worried about what Caitlin had thought of his quick canlı bahis siteleri departure earlier.
Shanna led him to the elevators and they stepped in. Caitlin was on the second floor, so they didn’t even have a chance to speak before the doors were opening again. As they walked down the hall, Jack glanced over at her, and said quietly, “Thank you.”
Glancing back, she said seriously, “I think you love my sister. And that makes you a great guy in my book.”
Embarrassed, Jack didn’t know what to say. He could only nod.
“No matter how old you are,” she added with a teasing grin. He chuckled.
They had reached Caitlin’s door. Shanna studied the look in Jack’s eyes as he gazed at Caitlin’s door, and then offered, “You first.”
Grateful, he smiled at her. “Thanks.”
Movement in her doorway snapped Caitlin out of her doze. Looking up sleepily, her eyes still red from crying, she saw Jack. Tears immediately filled her eyes again and slipped in quick rivers down her cheeks.
A look of horror crossed Jack’s face as he rushed to her side, taking her into his arms. “Caitlin, honey, please don’t cry, I am so sorry,” he whispered, stroking her fiery red curls, holding her in a tight embrace.
She shook with sobs, but made no move to hug him back. Pulling away, he grabbed a tissue from the nightstand next to the hospital bed and hurriedly wiped away her tears, his face wrought with worry. “Please, Caitlin, forgive me. I didn’t know what to do, what to say. I didn’t know how you wanted me to act in front of your family. I would never leave you like that, you know that. Please believe me. I came back as soon as I could.”
Her tears slowing, Caitlin raised her eyes to his. The fear was written all over his face — fear of losing her, of having hurt her. She felt the ache in her heart begin to ease as she understood how wrongly she had judged him. Shaking her head, she whispered, “Jack…I was wrong to even think you would do that to me. It’s my fault, I’m sorry.”
A look of relief washed over his face even as he argued with her, “No, I’m sorry, baby,” and he took her into his arms again. She felt warmth spread through her as she thought about how much he cared about her. She suddenly felt so stupid, so foolish, so much…like a girl.
“I don’t know why I would think that,” she murmured. “I should have known better, I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, laughing softly. “We’re both sorry, let’s leave it at that. And as for why you thought that — think about everything you’ve been through today. It would be overwhelming for anyone; it’s perfectly understandable to feel out of sorts right now.”
She smiled at him gratefully, thankful that he understood and wasn’t angry with her for questioning his feelings. Leaning forward, she gave him a very slow, very tender kiss, teasing her tongue with his and slipping her arms up his back. “I missed you,” she sighed, settling into his arms comfortably.
He gave a soft groan as their kiss ended, and buried his hands in her hair. “You don’t know how badly I wish we were alone in the RV right now,” he said huskily, arousal awakening within him.
She giggled, loving the way he made her feel so sexy. “Jack, you naughty man,” she teased.
He grinned sheepishly. “I just can’t help myself when it comes to you, baby.”
A loud knock on the open hospital door interrupted them as Shanna walked in.
“Shanna!” Caitlin squealed.
Shanna ran over and hugged her stepsister. “I had to see you again tonight,” she said, smiling. “And I wanted to see your reunion with Jack,” she added honestly, winking at her.
Caitlin laughed. “What do you think of him, dear sister? Do you approve?” she joked.
Shanna gave a warm smile to Jack. “I do,” she said in a soft voice.
For the next hour or so, Caitlin entertained them with stories of things she’d seen, people she’d met, and places she’d gone on her trip. As Shanna had usually only gotten the basic details in her updates from her sister, both she and Jack were greatly amused by her tales. The three of them instantly felt relaxed and comfortable together.
When a nurse finally interrupted them to let them know that visiting hours were over, Shanna gave her sister a hug goodbye and a kiss on the cheek.
“I love you, little sister. I’m so happy for you,” she whispered in Caitlin’s ear.
Caitlin smiled. She thought she had never been so happy in her entire life. “I love you, too, big sister. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me,” she answered.
“I’ll let you two say goodbye alone,” Shanna added, grinning at Jack. “I’ll see you both tomorrow.”
Jack gave her an appreciative smile. “Thanks, Shanna. Be safe getting home.”
With a wave, she was gone, and Jack turned to Caitlin. “I’m staying here tonight,” he said seriously.
Caitlin’s eyes widened. “Jack, we can’t make love in a hospital,” she hissed.
He burst into laughter. “No! Caitlin, not for that. Well, not that I wouldn’t…but I’m staying because I can’t bear the thought of sleeping away from you tonight. I need to be able to see your beautiful face if I wake up in the night, and kiss your soft lips just before I drift off…I’ve been away from you all day long, and I refuse to leave again.”