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She couldn't believe he had slipped away again.
"Jarod!" she shouted again, more urgently, but with no better results.
He was gone.
She sighed heavily.
As habit started the familiar next steps, her mind wandered back to the past.
Decisions made, roads taken and not taken.
If things had been different…If her decisions had been different…
Well, for one thing, she wouldn't be chasing after HIM.
Five years, now she had been chasing him, always just a step or two behind. In some ways, it seemed like it had been forever.
It had started innocently enough…a stop for gas and cigarettes.
The all important cigarettes.
That was where she first met him.
Blue jeans and flannel shirts…
Who'd of thought she would ever find blue jeans and flannel shirts sexy?
Her…with her designer tastes.
Jarod knew. He had arranged it all.
Sometimes she wondered. If he had known how things would turn out, would he still have done it?
She certainly hoped so.
Her time with Tommy had been the happiest she had been since…
Since her mom had died at the hands of the Centre.
Just like they had tried to take Tommy from her.
She recalled that morning. He had invited her to join him in Oregon. After several days of thinking it over and wrestling with herself, she had decided to take him up on his invitation.
Nervous but excited about the changes in store, she had gone to tell him of her decision. Then came the Centre's stark reminder, written in his blood.
She belonged to them. They wouldn't let a mere handyman take her away.
They had won. Her only solace was in the hunt.
Even her hunt for Jarod took second place to her hunt for Tommy's killer…a hunt that had finally led her to her own stepmother.
But Brigitte's death had not brought the comfort she sought. So it was back to work. Back to the hunt, back to the increasing nastiness of life with the Centre, back to her loving family…Father…dear brother Lyle…and the baby…
Brigitte's baby…her little brother…"Peter", as Jarod liked to call him.
The only one of them worth a damn.
She tried to protect him, but every day she felt more and more trapped.
Then, a few months later, the phone call came.
At first, she thought it was another of Jarod's sick jokes.
But she finally gave in and stepped out on faith, relying on the trust she had once had in him.
And he had come through for her.
And for little P.
"Relax, Parker. He's with me."
She sighed with relief and smiled at the sight of her husband heading towards her, their five-year-old son perched on his shoulders while her little brother followed close on the heels of the man he adored.
"Jarod Thomas Gates. You know better than to run off from me like that," she admonished as she reached up to lift him down.
"Sorry, Mommy. I wanted to see what Daddy and Pete were doing." He returned her embrace for a moment before wiggling down to disappear into the house again.
Before she could follow him, Pete laid a hand on her arm.
"Don't worry, Sis. I'll keep an eye on him."
She flashed him a doubtful look.
"Hey, how much trouble can a couple of kids get into in a cabin out here in the middle of nowhere, Oregon?"
"I shudder to think," she responded with a sparkle in her eye.
He threw her an innocent grin as he followed his nephew inside the secluded cabin.
Parker looked up at her husband.
Only a slight limp and a partial paralysis on his left side remained as a souvenir of the bullet that Brigitte had pumped into his skull. It had been Jarod who had rescued him from the morgue after detecting a very faint pulse, and Jarod who had nursed him through the months long coma that followed. Only after Tommy had regained consciousness had Jarod called her.
And helped to arrange the deaths of her and her brother in a tragic automobile accident when her car tumbled down an embankment into the ocean. The bodies were badly mangled, but DNA testing had positively identified the two Parkers.
"I know Jarod is the one who brought us together, but I can't believe I agreed to name our son after him."
Tommy laughed as his arms snaked around her, pulling her close.
"Don't you know? You're fated to spend the rest of your life chasing Jarod."