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“Yes,” she quivered. “It’s just hard to see her like this. That’s all.”
He nodded his head in understanding. “Can I get you anything?”
She met his eyes and shook her head. “No. I just need to go powder my nose.”
“Okay.” He followed her down the hallway.
“I’ll be fine on my own.”
“I don’t doubt that, but I’ll lose my job if I don’t escort you wherever you need to go.”
Olivia opened her mouth to protest, but didn’t want Carter to become suspicious. Stopping in front of the door to the ladies’ room, she looked at him. “I’ll just be a few minutes.”
He sent her a reassuring smile. “Take your time. I’ll be right outside.”
A twinge of guilt washed over her for deceiving Carter when he had only been watching out for her, but she had no other option. At least in the privacy of the restroom, she could try to come up with a way to get out of the hospital unnoticed.
Taking several deep, steadying breaths, she tried to formulate a plan as she paced back and forth in frustration. A familiar voice sounded in the hallway, asking Carter where she was, and her heart sank even further into her stomach. Not only did she have to get past Carter’s protective eyes, but now she also had to sneak by Alexander.
She had all but given up any hope and contemplated telling Alexander and Carter exactly what was going on when the bathroom door swung wide open, six chipper cheerleaders swarming the room.
“I can’t believe that asshole dropped her!” one of them said.
“She’ll be out for the season now. And at our first competition, too!”
Olivia surveyed them, her eyes settling on a girl who appeared to be the same size as her. “Hey,” she said, addressing the group before lowering her voice. “Do you all want to make a quick hundred dollars?” She raised her eyebrows. “I need your help.”
“WHERE IS SHE?” ALEXANDER asked Carter as he hurriedly ran up to him in the hospital corridor.
“She’s using the restroom, sir. She seemed pretty upset and just needed a minute.” He gestured with his head to the door of the bathroom. “Is everything okay?”
“I don’t know,” Alexander replied, watching as a group of cheerleaders walked past them and into the bathroom. “I don’t know what the hell to think anymore.”
Carter simply nodded. “Well, I’m here to keep an eye on her, sir. She’s in good hands.”
Alexander met his eyes. “Thank you.”
Several anxious minutes passed as the two men waited for Olivia to emerge from the bathroom. Finally, the door swung open and they looked in its direction, their hopeful expressions falling when the group of cheerleaders filtered out.
“Oh-Em-GEE!” one of them squealed, running up to Alexander. “You’re Alexander Burnham, aren’t you? Macey! Look! It’s really him!”
Alexander stood back in shock, Carter glancing over their heads as another girl in a cheerleading jacket walked out of the bathroom in the opposite direction, obviously completely uninterested in the local celebrity. “Ladies,” he said. “This is a hospital. Please leave Mr. Burnham alone.”
“Just one picture, please?” the short redhead begged, placing her hands together in a pleading manner.
Carter looked to his boss to see what he wanted to do.
Sighing, Alexander nodded his head. “Okay. One picture.” He beamed his brilliant smile as the group of teenagers piled around him, and Carter snapped the photo.
“I’ll never get used to that,” he said a few minutes later after saying good-bye to the excited cheerleaders.
“I imagine it must be difficult. It would certainly irritate me.”
Alexander shrugged. “Yeah. But my public relations rep says the more positive publicity the better. And if that means taking pictures with a few teenage cheerleaders, I’m happy to do it.” He glanced at the bathroom door, wondering what was keeping Olivia. “She’s been in there for a while, hasn’t she?”
“She has,” Carter responded, looking at his watch. “It’s been over ten minutes. I know she was upset, but…”
Alexander strode over to the door, pushing it slightly ajar. “Olivia? Are you okay?”
He listened for a response. Nothing.
Pushing the door open, his heart sank in his chest when the bathroom was empty.
“SHIT!” he screamed, running down the hallway.
“Sir!” Carter bellowed out.
“You stay here! Question everyone, including those goddamn cheerleaders!”
Alexander continued running frantically down the hospital corridors, looking for any sign of his Olivia. “FUCK!” he shouted when he noticed a cheerleader’s jacket stuffed in the garbage canister in the lobby. Grabbing his cell phone, he tried calling her. After the fifth time that she didn’t pick up, he become even more concerned.
“Marshall!” he shouted into his cell. “It’s Olivia. She’s missing from the hospital. Track her phone!”
“Yes, sir.” Marshall hung up and returned to the desk, booting up the tracking software on her computer. She punched in Olivia’s cell phone number and, within moments, found her location.
“Sir, it’s me,” she spoke softly into another cell phone. “Burnham called. He knows she’s gone. Better tell Lucas to hurry up. He’s running out of time. I’ll stall as long as I can.”
“Thank you, Cheryl.”
“Make it quick. I can only give you a few minutes.”
A BETTER PLACE
OLIVIA RACED TOWARD THE Charles River, her eyes searching through the torrential downpour for the enormous boathouse. Running along the riverbank, it seemed as if it got further away with each step. Finally reaching her destination, she took a deep breath and slowly opened the door, water dripping down her body.
“Hello?” she called out. “Is anyone here?”
Cautiously, she walked up an aisle of rowing boats stacked on beams, listening for some sort of clue as to where she should be headed.
A scream sounded and Olivia slowly followed the source through the warehouse-sized place, her stomach churning when she saw Melanie standing in the far corner, her wrists bound in front of her.