Running from the mercenaries who killed her parents.
Running from a scheming redhead intent on making her life miserable.
Running from painful memories that sabotage her dreams of happiness.
With two very tempting men competing for her attention, she hopes she'll finally have someone to run to, but can she trust either of them? When secrets from her past threaten her family, Cassidy decides to stop running and fight for her future.
*********************I inched down another stair, hoping the soft creaks wouldn’t give me away to whoever was arguing in my living room. My dad was visiting me this week, gathering medical supplies for another one of his projects. I’d been gracious and allowed him to host his meetings in my living room. The support from the medical community in our little corner of Northern Utah was actually impressive, but did one of the doctors have to show up in the middle of the night?
I was in that luscious almost-asleep phase when I heard the banging on my front door and crawled out of bed. Irritation turned to fear as I listened to the conversation. The man threatening Dad wasn’t one of his supporters.
“You interfered with the wrong shipment this time.”
“Shipment?” Dad asked. “These are human beings, not some profit margin.”
I reached the bottom step and peeked around the wall. My dad stood near the fireplace with a mixture of shock and revulsion on his sunburned face.
Just inside the front door, a man peeked out from the shadow of a hooded sweatshirt. He yanked out a wicked-looking blade. I covered my mouth to stifle the scream. My stomach knotted. My legs felt like ice. I didn’t know if I could move, let alone help.
The knife sailed through the air. My father darted to the side. The blade jabbed into his upper arm. Dad yelped. The pain in his face lodged in my own gut. He grabbed at his arm and yanked the knife out, spraying the wall with blood. My dad’s blood. Help. I had to do something.
The hooded figure closed the distance and wrenched the weapon from dad’s fingers, lifting it above his head.
“No!” I leapt from my hiding spot, grabbed a heavy picture frame off the end table, and smacked the man with it.
“Cassidy!” Dad inhaled quickly, hazel eyes widening.
The attacker knocked the picture frame out of my hands and pointed the bloody knife my direction. Dark eyes swept over the skin not covered by my t-shirt and cut-off sweats. I squirmed, his look scaring me as much as his knife. I backed up a step, eyes focused on the blade.
My dad planted himself between me and the man.
The man’s white teeth flashed against leathery skin. “She’s beautiful, Doc.” His tongue darted across his lower lip. “The dark hair and pretty brown eyes. Looks just like her mom.”
Dad held up his uninjured arm and shoved me behind him, his breath coming in ragged gulps. “Leave her out of this, Panetti.”
Panetti cocked his head to the side. “I’m supposed to kill you, but I could bring her in alive for some extra compensation. How old are you, sweetheart?”
I glared at him over my dad’s shoulder. “Twenty-one and going nowhere with you. Get out of my house before I call the police.” It was a lame threat since I was visibly shaking and had no clue where my phone was.
The man threw back his head and laughed. “I like her, a bit of attitude. Ramirez and I will both enjoy her.”
I swallowed the sickening taste of his threat. Sweat trickled down my spine. I clung to my injured dad, who was currently no match for this psycho. How could I protect either of us?
“You’ll never touch her.” Dad pushed me toward the kitchen doorway. “I can’t believe you would betray the children for Ramirez.”
“Not for Ramirez. I betrayed the children for lots and lots of money.” Panetti revealed his perfect teeth again.
Dad looked back at me. “Run,” he whispered.
I swallowed, trying to catch my breath. No matter how scared I was I couldn’t leave him.
“Run, Cassie!” He shoved me and faced the madman.
Panetti let out a warrior cry and lunged with the knife. Dad ducked. The blade sliced air instead of flesh, throwing Panetti off balance. Dad plowed into the man’s abdomen, knocking him into the front door. I screamed, running towards them to try to help.
“Get out of here,” Dad yelled.
Stumbling away from the fight, I slammed into the wall. A yell of pain from my dad forced me to keep moving. I ran into the kitchen and nearly collapsed with relief when I saw my phone. Placing all my hopes and prayers on three numbers, I stilled my trembling hands enough to dial: 9-1-1.
The call connected. “A guy is trying to kill my dad!” Grunts and the sound of bodies slamming into furniture reassured me Dad was still alive. I told the dispatcher my address, but then she started asking more questions.
“I’ve got to help my dad.”
“Officers are en route.”
“Good!” I clung to the phone but stopped listening as I sprinted back into the living room. Dad was on top of Panetti. The knife was on the floor, Panetti reaching for it. I covered the last couple of feet, kicked the knife farther away, and stomped on his hand with my bare foot. Pain radiated up through my leg but I heard a crunch that hopefully meant I did some damage. How awful that I really wanted to hurt him.
I held up my phone. “The police will be here any second.”
Dad strained to keep Panetti pinned. “Go back to the kitchen.”
“I am not going to the kitchen while you fight for your life.”
“Cassidy,” Dad groaned. “For once in your life listen to me.”
Panetti shoved Dad off of him. Dad banged his injured arm against the sofa, blood mingling with the leather finish as he yelped in pain. Panetti leaped to his feet, pushed me out of the way, and ran for the front door. Dad struggled to stand up. I regained my footing and hurried after Panetti, but Dad grabbed my arm before I got outside, allowing Panetti to disappear into the darkness.
“We should go after him,” I said.
“Not tonight.” Dad shut the front door and slid to the floor, clutching his bleeding arm. “I’ll find him.” The sheer determination in his eyes made me glad I wasn’t Panetti.
“That guy wasn’t one of your Mexican orphanage supporters.”
Dad laughed, patting the floor next to him.
I clenched my hands together to stop the shaking. A few more deep breaths and I might feel like I wasn’t going to pass out. “You need something for the blood.”
He reached up a hand to me. “I’ll be okay. It’s you I’m worried about.” I sank next to him and threw my arms around his neck. My entire body was trembling now. Dad patted my back and whispered that I was safe. It was exactly what I needed to hear, but still had a hard time believing. Several minutes later I could hear sirens approaching the house. I wiped at my nose and bit my lip to hold back more tears. “Someday you’re going to tell me what that was all about.”
Dad shook his head. “Hopefully you’ll never know.”
About Cami: Cami Checketts is an idealist who dreams of helping children around the world but can't keep up with the four in her own home. Cami lives in a beautiful valley in Northern Utah where she enjoys running, biking, and swimming during the two months of the year it isn't snowing. A portion of the proceeds from Cami's books will be donated to The Child & Family Support Center. For more information on this worthy cause, please go to www.cachecfsc.org
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