Chapter Thirty-One Part One ~Maddie~

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It's really happening.

The helicopter will be here soon, it'll pick us up and we'll be gone, away from this place forever. No more running; no more looking over my shoulder, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. We'll get on that helicopter and leave all of this behind for good.

Finally.

I push myself up and onto the countertop next to Danielle, and she looks over at me with a huge grin plastered across her face. "Can you believe it?! We're actually gonna get the hell out of here!" she squeals, and I can't help but laugh.

"We are," I reply with a smile. We really are. And I almost can't believe it, but it's really, truly happening.

Excitement begins to buzz through me, a ball of energy in the pit of my stomach that spreads slowly, through my chest, down my legs and out my arms, through the tips of my fingers. I grip the edge of the counter tightly, looking down at the floor as I suck in a deep, calming breath. Because it's not only excitement that I feel. I'm also nervous, anxious...terrified.

I close my eyes and squeeze the counter harder. All of my hope lies here, in these moments, in our faith that this plan will work. So if it doesn't... I'm not sure I could ever find that hope again. I release a shaky breath just as I feel Travis step in between my legs. He lifts my chin, and I open my eyes, looking deeply into his own, searching for the calm that they bring me. His thumb strokes my cheekbone, and he leans in, pressing a soft kiss to my lips.

Slowly, he pulls away, both of his palms now resting against the sides of my face, his fingers curled around the back of my head, and he lowers himself, bending at the knees to level his stare at me. And he doesn't even have to say anything, because in his eyes I see only confidence, and promise.

And I know, we will be okay.

I bite my lip, a slow smile forming between my teeth.

"There's my girl," he says quietly, smiling back at me.

Danielle's laughter breaks through the fog my mind has been lost in, and I follow her gaze to Sanders, who's doing some kind of dance across the kitchen. He slides across the floor and spins, muttering something under his breath, but I can't hear what it is.

Travis turns around, his back resting against my chest as he watches Sanders too. His hands slide up my calves, settling on my thighs with a squeeze.

Sanders swoops in next to us and reaches for Danielle, grabbing her hand and pulling her off the counter. She laughs as he twirls her around and around the room, and I catch just the slightest hint of what he's been saying as they glide past us. Something about taking a ride on a jet plane and going somewhere far, far away. And I can't help but smile, Travis too. I even notice the corners of Becca's mouth turning up slightly as she sits at the table and watches them.

Turning my face, I rest my cheek against Travis's back as Danielle and Sanders continue to dance across the room. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and feel myself sink into him.

I can't believe I made it this far. I can't believe I'm here, almost at the end of it all, and I'm still in one piece.

And for Travis to be here with me too...

How did I get that lucky?

Another deep inhale, and his scent invades. I soak it in, relaxing into him further. He smells like summer; like sun and sand, and warmth, and home. I wrap my arms around his chest and squeeze him closer, promising myself to never let go of this feeling, of him. He's sacrificed so much for me, too much, and I'll never let a single day go by without letting him know how much that means to me, how much he means to me.

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