In His Keeping eBook: Page2
Maya Banks (2015)
She laughingly told him that she had everything she could possibly ever want. A husband she loved and a daughter she adored. No sacrifice was too great for her if it meant keeping her family.
Seeing Ginger so happy for these last months had given Gavin a sense of purpose he’d never before experienced. After so much sorrow and loss, the woman he loved sparkled with life, love and laughter. Every day she delighted in discovering something new about motherhood and their precious baby girl.
Gavin knew in his heart that there was nothing he wouldn’t do to protect them both. No price was too high to pay. No, he hadn’t done it cleanly or by the book. He should have notified the police and social services. And pursued adoption through the proper channels.
But he only had to look into his wife’s eyes as she stared at that tiny baby girl and he knew he could never risk losing their daughter by doing things the “right” way. He could live with his conscience and even live with his soul forever being damned just as long as Ginger was happy. He’d brave the fires of hell and the devil himself before ever being the cause of her eyes losing their shine.
She looked at him as though he was a hero—her hero—when in fact he’d broken so many laws that years in prison spread ominously before him were it ever discovered all he’d done. And he’d made damn sure that Ginger was in no way touched by the decisions he’d made. That if it were ever discovered what he’d done, Ginger—and Ari—would be free.
Ginger laced her fingers through his, clenching them anxiously as she adjusted the fabric baby carrier that held Ari so she faced Ginger and was nestled against her mother’s chest. They disembarked the small jet, Gavin being extremely careful that she not stumble or fall as they hurried toward the waiting car.
When he slid into the backseat beside her, she turned to look at him, her brow creased with tension.
“I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” Ginger said in a shaky, apologetic voice. “I trust you, Gavin. Please don’t think I don’t. It’s just that for the last five months we’ve seemingly lived a world away from reality. Like we had our own little bubble where time stopped and no one but us existed. And now that we have to return to the real world, I’m so scared. I’m scared this has all been a dream and when I wake up tomorrow Ari will be gone.”
Gavin curled his arm around her shoulders and pulled her and Ari into his embrace. He brushed the top of her head with his lips. He hated that she worried, that she feared the unknown, but he understood it. Knew it was impossible to completely allay her fears, or his own, for that matter.
Theirs would be a lifetime of always worrying about discovery. Of having their child torn from them. Maybe as more time passed their fears would ease, but right now with their move back to resume their lives as before, they were both understandably afraid of the worst.
“I will never let that happen,” Gavin said in a grave tone.
He glanced out the window of the nondescript vehicle that had picked them up at the private landing strip.
“Will you be happy here?” he asked Ginger, voicing just one of his many fears. His wife’s happiness overrode any other priority in his life.
He’d scaled back his many business ventures to just the one oil company that was headquartered in Houston, Texas. It was a city he was familiar with. In his past life, he’d done “business” with Franklin Devereaux and even planned to renew their acquaintance, because Franklin still had his fingers into the life Gavin formerly led, and he could be useful in aiding Gavin in his quest for complete anonymity and the birth of a completely new life.
It was a decision he’d grappled with, because by contacting Franklin, he risked a breach in the security he’d gone to great lengths to establish. But Franklin had connections that Gavin no longer had, so in the end, he’d decided to assume the risk. Even if he considered Franklin a fool for risking his greatest treasures.
Franklin had what Gavin—and Ginger—both craved. Or rather had craved in the past. A family. But now Gavin no longer felt envy when thinking of the Devereauxs. Because of Ari and the fact that she had completed him and Ginger, had solidified their relationship and had made a couple a family instead.
Ari awoke from her doze nestled against her mother’s chest and lifted her head, gifting her father with a toothless smile that never failed to make his heart do a complete flip-flop.
“Well, hello, little one,” Ginger said, extending her finger for Ari to clutch her fist around.
As usual, anything that touched Ari’s hand went straight to her mouth and she grinned and gurgled as she gnawed on her mother’s finger.
“How long before we get there?” Ginger asked. “She needs a diaper change and she’s going to be hungry now that she’s awake.”
“Ten minutes at the most,” Gavin reassured.
“She’ll be good until then,” Ginger said, smiling and cooing nonsense at Ari.
Then she glanced up at Gavin, her eyes full of love and warmth.
“We’re really a family,” she whispered in awe. “This is real.”
Gavin smiled and leaned over to kiss the top of Ari’s downy curls, inhaling her sweet baby scent. Then he captured his wife’s lips and kissed her thoroughly, savoring the private moment with his wife and child.
“Yes, sweetheart. This is our life now and it’s real. No one will ever take it from us.”
His was a quiet vow, but determined all the same. Nothing or no one would ever take from him what was his. And he would forever shield his wife and daughter from the harsh realities of life. No matter the cost.
FOUR MONTHS LATER . . .
GAVIN squealed to a halt outside his home and left his steel-reinforced, bulletproof Mercedes before his driver had come to a full stop. His gun was in his hand, fear pounding a vicious cadence in his head. Ginger had been hysterical. Had told him to come home immediately, that something was wrong.
It took all his strength not to ram through the door and burst inside, laying waste to whatever threat there was to his wife and child. Instead he reached over from the side of the door and flipped the handle, allowing the door to ease open and give him an unimpeded view into the living room.
Ginger was pacing the living room, distress radiating from her like a beacon. As if sensing his presence, her gaze flew to the door and she called out, “Gav? Is that you? Are you home?”
Gavin relaxed, the terror slowly subsiding. He managed to put a shaky hand out to ward off his personal security men who’d converged the moment Gavin had called them. Even his driver was behind Gavin, gun up and drawn.
Not in a hurry, Gavin tucked his gun into his shoulder harness and slowly pushed himself to his feet, hoping he didn’t humiliate himself by face-planting on his own doorstep.
Never had he been as afraid as he’d been for the last fifteen minutes when his wife’s terrified voice had pleaded with him to come home.
Gavin didn’t often leave his wife and child. Once a week, however, he left them both, a veritable army guarding their estate, and he went into downtown Houston to take care of business or items that required his attention. After today he was wondering if he’d ever be able to leave Ginger and Ari again.
The door flew further open and Ginger stood there, eyes huge with fright, her face pale and her entire body trembling. While she might be all right, Ari’s safety was still in question, and if his daughter was okay, then what the hell had frightened his wife so badly?
“Gavin, you have to come!”
Then she took in the men in position and Gavin could see her grapple with what he’d been through. But her face didn’t soften in apology or regret. Her cold hand slid over his and pulled him inside, quickly shutting the door behind him, cutting him off from his security.
“Something or someone has been in Ari’s room,” Ginger said, her breath hitching as she hurried up the stairs, dragging Gavin with her.
He went rigid and once more drew his weapon.
“There’s no one there now,” Ginger said in
Reluctantly, he re-holstered his weapon and as soon as they were inside Ari’s room and he could see her adorable little diapered behind pooched up with her knees tucked underneath her, thumb inside her mouth, he was finally able to breathe again.
“What the hell is going on, Ginger?” Gavin demanded, a bite to his voice.
She flinched and looked startled by his anger.
“You took fifteen years off my life. Never do that again.”
“But someone has been in her room,” Ginger hissed. “I am not crazy, Gav. The first couple of times I thought it was my forgetfulness. That I just hadn’t remembered leaving the two stuffed animals in her crib. But then I started paying meticulous attention to where I put them when I put her down for a nap or for the night.”
Gavin frowned because it wasn’t at all like Ginger to be careless when it came to leaving a choking hazard in their daughter’s crib. He didn’t buy that she’d forgotten anything for a minute.
Ginger crept over to the crib and then thrust her fist in her mouth to silence her cry. She held up a shaking hand to point. “Gavin, I took them out fifteen minutes ago. When I called you. I put them on top of the chest of drawers. And now they’re back. Someone is coming in here.”
Gavin pulled Ginger into his arms and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Shhh, darling. I’ll take care of it immediately. It’s quite simple, really. From now on her crib will be in our bedroom instead of the adjoining bedroom and when she naps, put her in her portable bassinet and make sure she’s wherever you are. We’ll get to the bottom of this. I can pull surveillance footage, because if anyone was in here, I’ll know it.”
Gavin stared at the video footage of his daughter’s bedroom still unsure of what exactly he was seeing. It wasn’t possible. And yet he had tangible proof that said otherwise. There wasn’t someone in his daughter’s room but rather something.
No matter how many times he replayed the footage, it remained the same. The two lovies, as Ginger called their daughter’s favorite cuddle toys—and the only reminder of how Ari had come into their lives, a secret tribute to the woman who’d left her baby on their doorstep—would move from wherever Ginger had left them and float across the room before dropping into Ari’s crib.
Logic was something embedded in Gavin. He simply couldn’t wrap his mind around something so . . . illogical.
And directly behind the realization that logic clearly wasn’t prevailing, was fear that chilled him to the bone. Was something evil shadowing their daughter? He’d never believed in spirits or ghosts. They didn’t fit into his logical, well-ordered worldview. But something was causing those toys to float across the room and land in his daughter’s crib.
What the hell was he supposed to tell Ginger without scaring her to death? He’d go to the ends of the earth to protect his wife and their daughter. If he could shield her from any fear, any hurt, then he’d damn well do it and suffer no remorse whatsoever.
He quietly gave the order to his head of security to move Ari’s crib into his and Ginger’s bedroom but instructed him to leave everything else untouched in the nursery.
THE NEXT MORNING
Gavin was roused from sleep the instant he heard Ginger’s startled exclamation. He hurried from bed to where Ginger stood at Ari’s crib, a baffled expression on her face.
The two lovies were in the crib with Ari and she was awake, one of the lovies in her chubby little fists as she gnawed on the ear. She smiled up at her parents, her legs waving and kicking as if to say she was wide awake and ready to be out of her crib.
Gavin’s sharp gaze went to the door to their bedroom, the door he’d made certain was not only closed, but locked before they’d gone to bed. It was now ajar and the two lovies that had been left behind in the nursery were in Ari’s crib, much to Ari’s obvious delight.
He knew in that moment that he couldn’t hide the video footage from Ginger. There was something seriously wrong here.
Ginger reached down to pick Ari up, the lovie falling from his daughter’s grasp. The loss elicited an instant wail of displeasure and only when Ginger picked up the stuffed animal and allowed Ari to reach for it did the cry finally cease.
There were tears of genuine fear in his wife’s eyes as she turned her pleading expression to him. She was wordlessly asking him to make everything okay. To make whatever was happening go away. And it gutted him, because he was utterly clueless, with no idea of what to do.
He’d never failed to supply his wife or daughter with anything they needed or wanted. His only purpose was to protect his family, to ensure their safety, happiness and well-being. And yet he didn’t have the answer for the inexplicable.
“Feed and change her and then meet me in the video surveillance room,” Gavin said in a low voice, keeping it calm and steady so Ari didn’t pick up either his or Ginger’s distress.
“What’s happening, Gav?” Ginger whispered.
“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “But I intend to find out. Take care of Ari and then we’ll sort this out.”
Ginger silently walked from the bedroom but tension emanated from her in a nearly tangible wave. He hated that she was scared. Damn it, he was scared. Nothing in his life had prepared him for something like this. How did you defend the indefensible?
He wasn’t a spiritual man, but in this moment he found himself whispering a prayer to God to remove whatever evil spirit had invaded their home.
Gavin went to the door after Ginger disappeared down the stairs en route to the kitchen, where she fed Ari. Carefully he examined the lock, looking for any sign of forced entry. To his discerning eye, there were none. No scratches, nothing at all to mar the paint, the bolt or the door handle itself. How the hell had the door been opened and the two stuffed toys end up in his daughter’s crib without his knowledge?
He was a light sleeper. Always had been. But after Ari, he slept even lighter than ever, trained to hear any noise, any cry, any sign that something was wrong. And yet he’d slept the entire night, his arms wrapped securely around his wife, while Ari had slept in her crib mere feet from the bed. He’d purposely placed her crib against the far wall so his and Ginger’s bed was between the crib and the door.
Shaking his head, he descended the stairs to see Ari in her high chair gurgling happily, clutching one of her lovies while Ginger prepared a bottle. He dropped a kiss on top of Ari’s silky curls and was rewarded by a smile that never failed to melt his insides to molten lava.
What had their lives been like before Ari had come to them at a time when they’d thought a child would forever be lost to them? He couldn’t remember. He and Ginger had been happy. He had the woman he loved more than life itself and thought himself complete.
Ari was a true gift from the angels. She’d made him believe in the spirit of Christmas, of giving. And with her arrival, there was no more misery for Ginger to endure. No more doubts of whether Gavin would ever leave her for a woman who could give him something he didn’t even want unless Ginger provided it.
Ginger finished prepping Ari’s bottle but set it down on the counter when Gavin wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. Her kisses would never grow old. Would never lose their magic to make him completely forget himself and the world around him.
Ari, obviously impatient, dropped her lovie and made a banging noise on the tray of her high chair and said, “Mamamama!” An obvious demand for her mother.
Ginger laughed softly as she broke away from Gavin’s kiss.
“I think our daughter is hungry. I’ll feed her in the video surveillance room. You did say you had something to show me?”
He hated the fear in her voice and her attempt at making light of it and the façade that she wasn’t worried when he knew damn well she was.
“Gavin!” she said in a choked whisper. “Look!”
To both their astonishment, the fully prepared bottle simply lifted into the air and floated gently
Neither moved. Neither breathed. They merely stared in disbelief as Ari grasped the bottle with both hands, attempting to angle it enough that she could suck the nipple.
“Did that just happen?” Ginger whispered, her entire body trembling against Gavin’s.
He was so shaken that he didn’t—couldn’t—form a response. First the stuffed animals that had inherently found their way to Ari despite a locked door. And now this?
For the first time he began to suspect that Ari was making these things happen. But she was a child—a baby! It was mind-boggling to even consider she had the ability to move things she wanted into close proximity.
Jolted into action, Ginger hurried to the high chair where she always left Ari while she prepared her bottle and gently pried the bottle from Ari’s grasp. Ari made a sound of displeasure and to Gavin’s further shock, it appeared as though Ginger was in a tug-of-war as the bottle strained and tried to pull itself from her grasp.
Gavin immediately hurried over and slid back the tray before picking Ari up in an attempt to soothe her. As soon as Ginger handed him the bottle, Ari immediately settled and began sucking contentedly while cradled in her father’s arms.
He lifted his gaze to Ginger, who was deathly pale, fear evident in her enormous eyes.
“What’s happening, Gav?” she asked anxiously. “Is it possible she was the one who moved the stuffed animals? We can’t refute what we just saw, no matter how illogical it may seem. We didn’t both imagine it. How could we?”
Gavin wrapped his free arm around his wife, drawing her close so that his daughter and wife were next to him.
“It would seem that our daughter has some very unique abilities,” Gavin murmured.
“What are we going to do?” Ginger asked, desperation creeping into her voice. “The very last thing we need is for anyone to find out. What if her birth parents come forward the instant it’s revealed that she has . . . ?”
She closed her eyes a moment and laid her head against Gavin’s chest, so close to Ari’s forehead.
“What does she have, Gavin? I don’t understand it, much less know whatever ability she has is called.”
“The evidence points to telekinesis, but she’s so young, just a baby. This may merely be the tip of her abilities. We have to prepare for anything. It’s more important than ever that we never expose her to the public eye. She won’t be able to attend school. At least not until we determine the depth of her powers and she learns to control them.”
“That isn’t the life I wanted for her,” Ginger said brokenly.
Gavin could feel the warmth of her tears soaking through his thin T-shirt and his heart clenched. He squeezed her to him and kissed the top of her head.
“She’ll have a good life,” he assured. A vow. One he fully intended to see through. “She may not be able to do all the things normal kids her age do, but she will have a full and rich life. You and I will ensure it. Once she’s old enough to understand the consequences of using her powers then she’ll know never to do anything that draws unwanted attention to herself.”
Ginger drew away, her smile trembling but a smile nonetheless. “I always knew she was special. A gift from God when I needed it most. Perhaps it was meant to be. We have the means to protect her, to give her an education and provide her with the necessary guidance and tools that she’ll need as she grows up.”
She hesitated a moment, biting her lip in consternation.
“I suppose my biggest fear, from the moment she appeared in our lives, is that someday someone may come looking for her and want her back.”
Gavin slipped the bottle from Ari’s grasp and then hoisted her to his shoulder so he could burp her. He looked Ginger squarely in the eye, because he wanted her to know he meant every single word he was about to say.
“Nothing or no one will ever take our daughter from us. As far as most of the world knows we’ve dropped off the map entirely. I made it known we had moved to Europe and even now reside there. This house can’t be traced to me. The business I maintain here is owned by a handful of dummy corporations all belonging to me. It would take a lot of digging, a hell of a lot of red tape to wade through and a hefty dose of luck to ever link me to anything in the United States.”
“I don’t doubt you, Gav. Please don’t think I do or that I don’t have faith in you. But I suppose I’ll always live with the fear of having her taken from me. Maybe in time it will diminish. Maybe one day I’ll truly relax, but the mother in me realizes that I’ll always worry for my baby girl no matter how old she is.”
Gavin was utterly sincere in his response. “Me and you both, honey.”
This time it came as no surprise when Ari’s lovie floated from the floor where it had been dropped and hovered directly over Ari. Gavin plucked it from the air and turned Ari so she could take her stuffed animal.
“I guess she’s ready for a nap already,” Ginger said ruefully. “I don’t suppose there’s any point in keeping her lovies from her any longer.”
Gavin’s expression and tone were wry as he imagined the years ahead. “I think, my darling, that you and I are in for quite an adventure in raising our daughter.”
TWENTY-TWO YEARS LATER . . .
ARIAL Rochester sighed as she walked through the gate of the private academy
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