CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

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Chapter Twenty-One

I thought about running away, but all my escape routes were blocked. The man in the car watched the front of the house. Joe slept in the bedroom impeding my escape out the back.

Maybe that’s why he wanted to sleep there, to keep me from leaving. But my gut instinct didn’t think so. He really thought someone might break in.

Finally, my turbulent thoughts exhausted me and I fell asleep.

When I woke the next morning I thought I was still dreaming. I smelled the delicious aromas of coffee and bacon, only when I sat up and rubbed my eyes, I still smelled it.

Muffy lay on the bed with me, watching the door. Maybe she took her new guard dog role more seriously, although she hadn’t done me any favors running into Joe the night before.

I found Joe in front of the stove. He turned and smiled.

“Good morning. Sleep well?”

“Yeah, what are you doing?”

“Cooking you breakfast.”

“Why?” I blurted out.

He poured a cup of coffee and brought it to me, but he looked like my question didn’t bother him. “Why not? I was hungry and I figured you would be.”

I took the cup and opened the fridge to get creamer. “Where’d you get bacon? I know I didn’t have any bacon.”

“I had some. I went home and got it and pancake mix, too.”

“Pancakes?”

“Have a seat. They’re almost ready. I noticed your kitchen’s pretty bare. Haven’t been to the store in a while, huh?”

I sat down. Joe already had plates and silverware on the table. “Well, you know, I’ve been busy. Plus it’s just me.”

“It's just me at my house and I’m better stocked than you. Planning on taking a trip?”

“No,” I murmured, sipping my coffee.

Joe brought over the pancakes and bacon then sat down next to me. “So, we need a plan.”

I choked on my hot coffee, which hurt like the dickens. “A plan?”

Joe stabbed a couple of pancakes on the stack and dumped them on his plate. He looked up and grinned, like a kid excited about to spend his allowance at the toy store, full of anticipation and glee. “A plan for your list. I checked it over this morning and you still have several things to do.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve kind of given up on my list.”

Joe stopped, his fork in midair. “Why?”

“It’s stupid.” I said with a sigh. “Twenty-four year olds don't go around doin’ stupid things on lists.”

“Why not?”

I shrugged again.

“Well, I’ve been looking forward to it. I hate that I got stuck at work and stood you up last night. I’m really sorry, Rose.” He reached over and picked up my hand, stroking the back with his thumb. When I didn’t respond, he set it back on my lap. “If you like, I can take you there for lunch.”

“Nah, that’s okay.”

“I already have ideas for today but I know how much you hate me telling you what to do, so we can do whatever you want.”

I sighed again, and looked at him. “I think I’d rather just spend the day here. Alone. Thanks, anyway.” I tried to keep the hurt from leaking into my eyes, but the joy dropped out of his as he studied me.

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