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Matt picked the story up from there. “I said hello to Hank, and then I hurried to the back of the store to get a bagel and a cup of coffee to go. I’d promised to stop by Aunt Lila’s, and I was already running late. I said something to Amy about the cappuccino. I remember she had her back to the door when the buzzer sounded. By chance, I happened to look up and see the two men enter, and for some reason, I had this feeling something bad was going to happen. Because we were in the back near a stack of oil cases, they didn’t spot us. As soon as the man with the beard pulled the gun on Hank, I grabbed Amy and shoved her into the closet. One of the men made a quick check of the storeroom, but because the closet door is made from the same paneling as the walls, he overlooked the closet. From that point on, we didn’t see anything. We heard plenty of unidentifiable noises and shouting. But we didn’t move.”
“Is there anything you’d like to add to this story?”
“I wish I could have done more to help Hank. But I was afraid that if I entered the store I’d only put him in more danger, and I didn’t want to leave Amy.”
Amy shook her head. While Matt had supplied all the facts, he’d left the heart of the story untold. There was the way he’d held her tightly. The way his moist breath had crawled down her neck. The way his heartbeat had filled the tiny, square closet and had turned the cramped space into a safe refuge. And even more important were the roller-coaster emotions that still traveled on invisible tracks between them.
Turning toward Amy, the officer said, “I need an address and telephone number where I can reach you.”
Amy bit her lip as she was painfully reminded that she was temporarily without a home or a job. Inhaling deeply, she said, “I’ve just arrived in Lexington…this morning…and I don’t have a permanent address yet. But I’m planning to stay at the hotel near the airport until I can find a place. I’m headed over there to check in as soon as we’re finished,” she promised.
“Do you have a work number?”
“I thought I had a job and an apartment, but they both fell through this morning. But that’s another story,” she said, hoping to conceal the embarrassing state of her personal life.
The concerned expression on Matt’s face bothered her. It was almost as if she could see another hare-brained idea percolating in his deep blue eyes. She may have needed his help during the robbery, but only she could put her life back together. No one could help her find her place in the world again or rebuild her relationship with God.
Turning toward Matt, the officer wrote down an address as well as home and work telephone numbers that meant little to Amy. But in another week or so—if she stayed—she’d know her way around Lexington.
Thinking they were free to go, Amy walked into the convenience store, only to come face to face with a crowd of media reporters. With microphones thrust in front of their mouths and bright lights glaring in their eyes, Matt and Amy once again recounted their story. And when Matt got to the part of the story where they were huddled in the storeroom closet, he paused to look at Amy for just a second. It was a moment the reporters missed but a moment Amy would always remember. She had shared something extraordinary with this man that she would never forget. In those closet moments, they’d lived in an unreal world where their fears and hopes had meshed into one.
But this was the real world, Amy told herself. Matt Wynn was a stranger and a man. And she’d learned the hard way that if you trusted a man he would eventually break your heart.
When the media prolonged the interview, Matt gripped Amy’s arms and with a move that caught both the media and Amy off guard, he guided her through the store, out the door and into his car.
After locking the doors, Matt quickly left the parking lot and headed down the highway.
“Now, why did you do that?” Amy demanded.
“I was doing us both a favor,” Matt said. “The media wanted to make a lot more out of this story than there was.”
“You’re talking about the way they focused on us being in the closet together for over an hour.”
“Exactly. They’ll make a mountain out of a molehill.” Matt concentrated on the road, which was still wet, though at least the fog had lifted and the rain had stopped.
“And nothing happened in the closet,” Amy said, wanting to be very clear on this point.
“No, nothing happened. Well, we can’t exactly say that. We shared a very unique experience, but that was all.”
Amy looked out the window. He’d said precisely what she’d wanted to hear, and yet his declaration left her disappointed.
Turning toward him, she asked, “Then why am I in the car with you, and where are you taking me?”
“To Aunt Lila’s,” he said as if his response should make perfect sense.
“To Aunt Lila’s?” she echoed.
“Like I told the police officer, I was on my way to see Aunt Lila before we were detained at the convenience store. The local stations always cut into programming when there’s a crime or emergency in progress, and if Aunt Lila didn’t have her television on, I’m sure someone in the family did and has called her. She won’t be satisfied until she sees both of us in person and she can judge for herself that we’re both fine.”
Amy started to object, but closed her mouth. What choice did she have? She couldn’t exactly jump out of the car. She’d go see his aunt Lila and then she’d take a cab back to the convenience store to pick up her car and her meager possessions, which were stored in the trunk.
Glancing at Matt, she sensed an urgency behind his serious countenance. He was up to something, and she had an uneasy feeling his plans involved her.
Matt turned onto the long, winding drive, which was edged by a white wooden fence. Though he didn’t look at Amy, he felt a huge measure of satisfaction at her awe-inspired gasp. Even though he’d driven this quarter-mile drive thousands of times, he never took its beauty nor its history for granted.
When the main house and stables came into view, Matt couldn’t resist stealing a glance at Amy. With widened eyes, she didn’t miss a single detail of the two-story white antebellum home that had been in his family for five generations. Turning slightly, she shifted her gaze to Aunt Lila’s formal garden, then to the white barns and corrals, all of which were framed by low rolling hills and a lush meadow on the north and east. He purposely kept his back toward the west so the sprawling housing development wouldn’t intrude on the picture-perfect horse farm.
“It’s beautiful,” Amy said. Leaving the car, she completed a slow three-hundred-sixty-degree turn. “Do you live here?”
Matt shook his head. “It belongs to my aunt. However, I oversee the upkeep for her, so I spend a lot of time here. Plus, she boards my horses.”
“You have horses?” Amy asked.
Matt nodded. “Do you ride?”
“Oh, no,” Amy said, shaking her head for emphasis. “But I once had dreams of owning a horse until my father explained that a collie puppy would make me just as happy.”
“Well, if you’re going to live in Lexington, you’ll have to learn to ride.”
Amy shook her head again. “Maybe later. I’m going to be pretty busy for the next few weeks.”
Matt looked toward the grassy meadow while he silently debated whether it was wise to even consider his plan. After all, what did he really know about this woman? One quick glance at her intent eyes squelched his doubts. He’d held this woman in his arms for an hour, and while he might not know much about her life, he knew enough about her heart and spirit to believe he wasn’t making a mistake. And if Aunt Lila felt she could trust the woman, too, then that would confirm his instincts.
“You told the officer you were between jobs,” he said.
“Yeah,” she answered, obviously unwilling to volunteer any more information than necessary.
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
Amy looked at the ground, then let her gaze roam the green vista. In that moment, he wanted to view the Wynn land through her eyes. Did she see the same beauty he did, or did she just see another wide-open space ripe for development?
When Amy finally met his gaze, he sensed a hesitation that grew from embarrassment. “Actually, I’m looking to change fields and I’m not certain what I’m going to do. I’m thinking of going back to school. If I do, I’ll need something that will pay the rent, yet be flexible enough to accommodate my class schedule.”
Matt read more into the response than he believed Amy wanted him to. Guessing her age to be mid-twenties, he further assumed she’d never really decided what she wanted to do with her life. It was a feeling he understood too well. He had worked several dead-end jobs after college before settling down in a career as an accountant. But it was his hobbies—the horses and the Wynn family land—that truly satisfied his heart. He chose to work as an accountant in order to make a living for the family he one day hoped to support, but he was most content and fulfilled when he was riding or caring for his horses or walking on the land where his great-grandfather and grandfather had walked before him.
“So, you’d be open to a variety of positions,” Matt clarified. When Amy hesitated before answering, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to get her to go along with his idea. But then maybe he was pushing too hard to keep her in his life. Still, he was convinced Amy and his aunt Lila were a perfect match. While his plan served his desire to keep Amy in his life, it also greatly benefited his aunt. And Aunt Lila’s health and well-being were major concerns of his, as well as the rest of the Wynn family.
“At this point, I can’t be picky,” Amy finally admitted.
“Well, maybe I can help,” Matt said, deciding to leave it at that until Amy and Aunt Lila had had a chance to meet.
Silently, he sent a prayer heavenward. Dear Lord, if it’s Your will for Amy to stay here, let Aunt Lila and Amy both see how much they need each other. It was out of his hands for now. It was in the care of someone who saw the bigger picture.
The front door of the stately house flew open, and Aunt Lila stepped onto the wide veranda. A month ago, she would have run across the yard with both arms flung wide, eager to hug him and feel for herself that he was okay. But recent surgery had slowed the sixty-year-old woman down, and for the first time Matt was worried about the aunt he adored. Then he saw her bright, youthful smile, and fifteen years melted from her countenance.
Taking off at a jog, Matt rushed toward her. She hugged him tightly, then sandwiching his chin between her agile hands, she looked him over.
“I’ve been watching the live coverage on TV. You had me worried,” she said, a glimmer of tears in her eyes. Though she’d never had children of her own, it hadn’t stopped her from spoiling Matt as if he were hers. “You don’t know how glad I am to see you.”
“To tell the truth, I was a little worried, too,”
Peering around Matt, Aunt Lila said, “And you must be Amy Jenkins.”
The older woman extended her hand, and Amy gracefully accepted the warm welcome.
“I’m pleased to meet you. I owe your nephew my life.”
“I suspect you had to depend on each other in order to survive,” Aunt Lila said matter-of-factly. “And after such an ordeal, you must be starving. I set out an early lunch. You can tell me everything while we eat.” Pointing a finger at Matt, she said, “Don’t leave out a single detail.”
“Aunt Lila,” Matt protested. “You shouldn’t have. You know the doctor released you from the hospital on the promise you’d take it easy.”
Looking beyond Matt, Aunt Lila spoke to Amy. “You understand, dear. There’s nothing like puttering in the kitchen to soothe the nerves. Besides, my sister, Louise, brought a roast and deviled eggs yesterday. I just set them on the counter. You’ll have to help yourselves.”
Amy smiled with understanding, and Matt felt a glimmer of hope.
The lush pastures, the magnificent home and Aunt Lila’s feisty spirit were too much for Amy to take in at once. Several times she’d lost track of the conversation and hadn’t realized Aunt Lila had spoken to her as her gaze roamed the spacious kitchen, admiring the unique collection of antiques or enjoying the view through the large window. At first, she worried that she’d offended the woman with her wandering mind, but she soon realized Aunt Lila was pleased to find Amy entranced with the home she dearly loved.
To her surprise, she answered Aunt Lila’s questions when she’d been reluctant to share personal information with Matt. For some reason she couldn’t fully identify, Aunt Lila put her at ease. She felt comfortable in this house, and after the unsettling morning, she wasn’t in a hurry to leave the older woman’s nest.
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