Andi lay awake for a good portion of the night. Every little noise jerked her awake. Wide-eyed, she scanned her room, expecting to see one of Henderson’s hired thugs peeking in through her balcony window or slipping into her room.
She shivered, then yawned when the noise faded. Finally, in spite of a stomachache from worry and a headache from thinking too much, she fell into a restless sleep . . .
There was no escaping their evil gazes, and Andi was close to panic. Their voices mocked her, threatened her, and terrified her. She ran as fast as she could, but they were closing in behind her. She tripped and fell, sprawling on the rough ground. One of her pursuers reached out and shouted her name, grabbing her by the shoulder—
“No!” Andi sat up and found herself in her own bed. The horror of her recent nightmare faded in the light of day.
Melinda jumped back, a startled expression on her face. “I didn’t mean to frighten you,” she apologized. “But you’ve been called a couple of times now for breakfast, and Mother sent me up to see if you were ill.”
She looked around the sunny room. “Justin’s about ready to leave for town, and you’re not even up. Is everything all right?”
“Yes.” Andi tossed aside her bed coverings and stepped onto the floor. She gave Melinda a small smile. “Tell everybody I’ll be right down.”
As soon as Melinda left the room, Andi hurried over to the basin to wash up and get dressed. She stared at herself in the mirror as she brushed out and braided her hair. I look terrible.
Dark circles formed under her eyes, and one cheek sported the beginnings of what would surely turn into a purple bruise by the end of the day, just like she’d feared. Great. Mother will know in an instant that something’s wrong. What am I going to do?
Taking a deep breath, and fixing her lips into something that resembled her normal, happy self, Andi threw her covers over her bed and raced out of the room.
“Sorry I’m late,” she offered breathlessly as she slid into her chair and helped herself to a generous portion of hash browns and eggs.
“Why are you late?” Elizabeth asked. “Long night?”
“Sort of. I couldn’t fall asleep.” She held back a yawn, wondering how she could possibly make it through this day without falling asleep. She forced down her tasteless breakfast, cleaned up, and left for the buggy without another word.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Mitch held up her books and lunch pail.
Andi smiled and retrieved them from her brother’s hands. “Thanks.”
“You okay?” he asked, concern filling his voice.
“Never better,” came her hasty reply. “See you at supper.”
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Justin asked when Andi stifled another yawn.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Andi asked shortly. How well her family knew her! It was a scary thought. How was she going to keep her terrible secret for longer than a few days?
“We’re just concerned about you. Last night at supper you acted so strangely, then this morning—”
“I’m fine. Really, I am.” She met Justin’s serious face with a forced grin. “See? I’m happy. I’m smiling.”
“Yes.” Justin gave the horse another slap with the reins. “I see all too well.”
Andi watched Justin urge the horse along. Fear for his safety welled up unexpectedly in her heart when she thought about what it would mean if she told him what was troubling her. Never mind that Mr. Henderson had threatened her. She didn’t want anything to happen to her oldest brother, whom she dearly loved.
“Justin,” she said suddenly.
“If I asked you to do me a big favor, would you?”
“Depends on the favor.”
“Would you take me somewhere?”
“Uh . . . to San Francisco? To visit Aunt Rebecca?”
Justin pulled up on the reins. “What? You hate going there. Why the sudden interest?”
Andi shrugged. “I just thought it’d be a good idea.”
“I’m sure you and Melinda could go any time you wanted. You know Aunt Rebecca would be delighted to—”
“No. I want you to take me. We could stay a month, maybe even longer.”
“A month?” Justin laughed. “Andi, don’t be silly. I couldn’t leave my practice for a whole month. Especially with Phil being killed. That leaves an empty gap for the Henderson trial coming up next month. I’m sure they’ll be looking for a temporary DA. I’m going to ask the judge if I can have the position. I’m just itching to finish what Phil began against Marvin Henderson.”
He slapped the reins, and the horse jumped forward.
Andi stared straight ahead for the remainder of the trip to town.
Justin’s eyebrows went up when she clutched and unclutched her book strap. “You nervous about something?” he asked when he drew the horse and buggy in front of his law office. “Big test today?”
“Something like that,” Andi muttered and let Justin help her out of the buggy.
“It’s early still,” he said. “I think a nice walk to the schoolhouse might just be what you need to gather your wits about you.”
“All right. Good-bye,” Andi answered unenthusiastically. She sighed and watched Justin enter his office. Then she turned and started down the boardwalk. She hadn’t gone more than two blocks when a shadow fell in behind her.
A soft voice spoke in her ear. “Turn down this side street.”
Andi started and whirled. The man named Gordon gave her a dark look. Then he prodded her roughly in the back.
When they were out of sight of the main street, Gordon confronted her. “I don’t like what I’m seeing this morning, Andrea. You look ghastly. I would venture to say that your family’s not going to believe you when you tell them you’re fine if you keep looking so scared.”
Andi closed her eyes. “Go away and leave me alone.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Gordon replied, shaking his head.
“I said I wouldn’t tell.”
“You’re saying a lot just by the look on your face. Your fear is visible.”
“That’s your fault.”
“But it’s your problem. Mr. Henderson will not be pleased when I tell him.”
“Don’t tell him!” Andi begged suddenly. “I’ll try to act better. Give me a chance!”
Gordon nodded. “We’ll see.” He turned abruptly and left Andi in the alley, where she crouched behind a stack of barrels and sobbed.
When Andi had finally gotten her tears under control, she took a deep breath and made her way out to the boardwalk once again. She knew she’d have to run to make it to school before the tardy bell rang. Mr. Foster, the schoolmaster, did not tolerate tardiness.
“Andrea Carter!” Mrs. Evans loud voice stopped her in her tracks
Andi turned around impatiently, wondering what the old busybody wanted now. “Excuse me, Mrs. Evans, but I’ve got to run. I’m late for school.”
“I dare say you’re late for school, young lady.” Mrs. Evans frowned her concern. “I would be very interested to know what business you have with a scoundrel. I saw you turn aside a few minutes ago and follow that man into the alleyway. It bodes no good, I tell you.”
She planted her fists on her hips and waited for Andi’s explanation.
Andi’s heart skipped, and her breath grew short.
“Well, Andrea,” Mrs. Evans demanded. “Speak up. I’m waiting. He surely couldn’t be a friend of your family. He’s a rough-looking character. You know, the kind this town’s saloons are full of. What possible business could such a one have with—”
“Mrs. Evans,” Andi burst out, “I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about, so if you’ll excuse me?” She turned away from the older woman and ran toward the school house as fast as she could. If she tells Mother about this, I will simply die.
Violet Evans stood stock still, staring at the girl in astonishment. “Why, my land!” she said. “I never thought I would see the day when one of Elizabeth Carter’s children would be so ill-bred to lie boldly to my face like trashy guttersnipe with no manners. My goodness! Never have I been so offended.” She shook her head. “Elizabeth will hear of this at my earliest opportunity.”
READ CHAPTER 9
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