Loving ColtBy: C.A. Harms
(Southern Boys Book 3)
“Mommy, I’m hungry,” Maddison spoke from behind me. The sound of her sweet little voice only made my heart ache more intensely.
“I know, baby. Mommy will find you something real soon. I promise.” I slowed the car to a stop and reached for the bag in the passenger seat beside me. Digging around, I pulled out the package of crackers I had taken from our last stop.
Turning around, looking back at my sweet little girl, I forced a smile. The last thing I wanted her to see was how unsettled I felt inside. She looked so tired, and seeing that in her eyes made me feel like a worthless mother.
Tearing the package open, I handed her the two crackers. “Here, sweet pea, eat these for now. I know it’s not much, but I’ll get ya something else real soon, okay?”
Maddison nodded her head and took the crackers from me. “Do you still have juice left in your cup?” I asked, and she nodded her sleepy little head once again. “Good, we’ll be stopping real soon.”
Turning back to face forward, I took in a deep breath and began looking around. I had passed a sign that read “Welcome to Brooklet” about a mile back. As I looked around, I found myself wondering if there was even a hotel here in this small town. It was definitely a big change from San Diego.
With only a little over two hundred dollars left to my name, I knew I had to make it last. The thought of not being able to take care of Maddison made me sick to my stomach.
I had no choice; I couldn’t go back. I had to leave, had to hide out. He had crossed a line that could never be fixed. A life like we were living had to stop. I couldn’t go on in fear any longer; we deserved so much more than that.
I knew I was taking a chance by going back home to Palm Beach, but I needed my family more than ever. I knew it would be the first place he would look, but it was the only place I could go.
Keeping Maddi safe came first. It was my job, and for the last six months, I had failed her and the memory of her daddy, Troy.
So the choice to leave in the middle of the night, when Seth least expected it, was an easy one to make. A choice I would never regret, no matter how much I had to sacrifice.
Maddi needed stability and security. When she had that, my needs would come, but not until then.
“I need to potty, Mommy,” Maddison announced from the backseat.
The decision had just been made; it looked like we would stop in Brooklet for now, at least for tonight.
Looking around for a place to stop, I pulled into the parking lot of a small restaurant. It was just after seven at night, and the lot appeared deserted. Two vehicles were parked up close to the entrance. The rest of it was empty.
Holding Maddison’s hand securely in mine, we walked side by side toward the entrance.
The smell of grease engulfed me when I opened the door, and it smelled amazing. It had been hours since I had last eaten anything.
“Is it just the two of you?” an older woman with a genuine smile asked. I nodded my head as she led us to a small booth in the back.
“Do you have a restroom my little girl could use?” I asked as I looked around the small dining area.
“Just down that hall, to your left. Can I get anything started for the two of you?” she questioned.
“Yeah, um, a grilled cheese and chocolate milk if ya got it?” I replied as I led Maddi toward the bathroom.
“What are you having darlin’?” she hollered after me.
“Nothing thanks. I’m not hungry,” I said over my shoulder as I nudged Maddi along. I forced a smile as I hurried toward the bathroom.
“Mommy, your tummy is growling.” Maddi looked up at me as I continued to guide her toward the back.
“No, baby. Mommy ate this morning. I’m good,” I assured her.
I had decided when we left San Diego that I would only allow myself one meal a day. Even though I would kill for a juicy burger and fries, I had to use my head. The money had to last until I found a source of income.
When we made our way back to our table, I thought for a moment we were at the wrong one.
There was a large salad at one side, and on the other a bowl of applesauce. A large soda with a cup of chocolate milk sat in the center.
I stood looking around in confusion, just as the lady who greeted us put a plate of fries on the table.