“That fucking bitch!” She’d been watching Richie’s house, hoping for even a glimpse of him. But after she left her little present, there were always guards around. Someone else even walked the dog now. “It’s all her doing. I know it! She’s keeping him away from me!”
She paced the room several times before stopping in front of the mirror. Her eyes narrowed and her lips twisted into a snarl. “But I’ll take care of her. She’ll regret ever trying to stand in my way. He’s mine and I will have him! The bitch is going to get what she deserves!”
Things had been quiet around the Sambora house for the last few days. They’d showed Rob and the police the doll and note and had filed an official report. But the police didn’t have the manpower to monitor their house, so Rob had called in a security company he knew.
Tori was trying very hard not to get overly frustrated at basically being held prisoner in her own home. She couldn’t step out without a security guard with her. The only thing that kept her temper from exploding was the fact that it was all to keep her children safe. The funny thing was that before this she’d often sent several days in a row at home, busy with her family, and never thought twice about it. But being told she had to was driving her nuts.
Richie watched his wife wander around the back yard and his heart went out to her. He knew the stress of knowing Jasmine was still out there, wanting her out of the way, was taking its toll on her. She was trying to put up a brave, and slightly angry, front, but he knew underneath it was more than a fragment of fear. He just wished he knew some way to help her. But the only thing that would make her feel better would be to find Jasmine and make sure she could never hurt them again. Come on Mike, hurry up and find the crazy bitch!
A plaintive cry behind him, urged him to open the door. “Angel! Zachary’s hungry!”
Lifting her head, Tori waved to show she heard him and started for the house.
After lunch, Tori looked at her watch, then at Rob. “Zachary and Lauren have doctors’ appointments in an hour.”
Rob nodded. “I’ll grab the coats.”
Rob caught Lauren as she came running into the Doctor’s waiting room. “Whoa there kiddo. Wait for Mommy.”
“Thanks.” Tori puffed as she rushed to catch up, Zachary in his carrier, in one hand, diaper bag in the other. Stevie had stayed home with Richie.
“Yes Sweetpea, we’re going home now.”
Rob picked the little girl up and escorted all of them out to the car, his watchful gaze scanning the area. When he noticed Tori watching him, he smiled reassuringly. “No out of control cars cruising the parking lot.”
Tori snorted, but smiled back and fastened Zachary’s carrier into its base. When Lauren was buckled in, she climbed behind the wheel and glanced at her bodyguard. “What do you think about taking the long way home and going by the beach?”
“Need a little fresh air and open spaces?” Rob guessed.
She just shrugged.
He’d spent enough time around her now to have an idea how much she resented the restrictions she was being forced to live with, so he was happy to be able to agree to her request. “That sounds nice.”
There wasn’t much traffic on the coastal road she chose so she slowed down and opened the windows, enjoying the breeze that brought the scents of sand and sea inside. At a flat, open spot, she pulled over and stopped. Closing her eyes, she let go of every thought and just focussed on the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore.
Rob watched her take deep breaths. With the release of each one, the lines of stress around her eyes and mouth eased. Yes, this little cruise was just what she needed. “You like the beach, don’t you.”
Tori smiled and answered even though his tone was more of a statement than a question. “Yes. It’s my favourite part of living here. When the kids get older I’d like to talk to Richie about moving to Malibu so I can see and hear the ocean. I find the sound of the waves very soothing.” She sighed. “But we’d better get home before Richie starts to worry. Plus it’s just about nap time.”
Pulling out, she pointed the car towards home. The road she turned onto had a hilly section so she slowed down a little. On a particularly steep descent, she touched the brake.
Frowning, she pushed harder. Her foot went right to the floor with no resistance. As the car’s speed increased, so did her anxiety. “There’s something wrong with the brakes!”
Rob had been watching the buildings and people they’d been passing on the tree lined street, but at her words, his head spun towards her. “What do you mean?”
“They’re not working!” She pumped them several times, all with no effect. “Nothing!”
The car continued to accelerate. And so did her panic. She didn’t wonder how or why, all she could think about were her children in the back seat and prayed they wouldn’t get hurt.
The buildings on either side of the street became blurs of grey and beige with the odd splash of red and black. If there were people on the sidewalks, she couldn’t see them.
As they approached an intersection, Tori held her breath and laid on the horn, warning drivers and pedestrians alike to stay out of her way. The next one was a stop light – thankfully green for her. But she knew that her luck couldn’t hold out forever. “Rob?”
“Stay calm Tori, you’re doing great. Just a couple more streets. We’re almost at the bottom, then the car will slow down on its own.”
Tori nodded and tightened her grip on the wheel, praying he was right. The next light was also green, and she was beginning to think they’d make it. Please, please, please....FUCK!
Just as they reached the last intersection – and the bottom of the hill – a lady pushing a stroller stepped out onto the road. Tori had no time to think. She reacted instinctively, seeking to cause the least amount of harm possible. “Hang on!”
She jerked the wheel to the side, sending the SUV careening off the pavement, over the curb and sidewalk, finally coming to an abrupt halt when it met a tree. Her last thought was for the safety of her children, then her world went black.
Tori opened her eyes and blinked at the bright sunlight coming through the window. A quick glance around the room told her she was in a hospital, but the reason why didn’t immediately come to her.
“Angel? Are you awake?” Richie anxiously leaned over the bed.
She turned towards the familiar voice. As she stared into dark worried eyes, it all came back to her. She grabbed his hand, tried to sit up and gasped at the pain the movement caused. “The kids? Rob?”
“Easy angel, relax. Everyone’s okay. In fact, they’re in better shape than you are.” He stroked her hair back from her forehead. “How do you feel?”
“Like I ran into a tree.” She shifted trying to find a more comfortable position. “What’s the damage?”
“You’ve got bruises from your seatbelt and the airbag, and a cracked rib and strained ankle from the impact with the tree.” He blew out a breath. “It could have been a lot worse.” He wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her or himself.
“Well, that explains a lot.” She squeezed his hand. “But Zachary and Lauren are okay? They weren’t hurt?”
“They’re just fine.” Rob assured her as he entered the room, Lauren in one arm, Zachary in the other. “I brought them in so you could see them before I took them home.”
“Thank you. Are you alright?” Tori pushed the button to raise the bed and held her arms out for the children.
“Yes, I’m fine. A few scratches, but nothing serious.” He set Lauren down beside her mother and held the carrier while Richie took Zachary out and put him in her arms. He gave Richie an awed look. “Your wife’s a hell of a driver!”
“Thank God!” Tori hugged the kids close, but her eyes locked with Rob’s, ignoring his comment about her driving skills. “Have you had a chance to check the car over and figure out what happened?”
Rob hesitated, not wanting to scare her further, but he couldn’t keep it a secret from them. “It looks like the brake lines were cut.” He looked at Richie. “With a knife or some other sharp implement.”
Richie glanced at his wife, then back to Rob. “Jasmine?”
Rob shrugged. “I can’t say for sure, but...”
“But how? When?” Tori frowned. “The car’s always in the garage. She can’t get at it.”
“Except when you go out.” Rob pointed out. “If she’s following you, she’d just wait until you parked somewhere and left the car.”
Tori thought about her schedule the last few days. “Like the doctor’s office this afternoon?”
“Yeah.” Rob nodded. “Probably.”
Tori’s eyes filled with tears of frustration. “When will this end? Will someone please stop her!”
“The police will be by soon to take your statement.” Richie rubbed her back, trying to comfort her.
She snorted. “For all the good it will do.” She looked at Rob again. “Is Mike getting anywhere with finding her?”
“He’s working on it. After what happened today, he’s calling in more help to try and speed things up.”
Two hours later, in New Jersey, Jon hung up the phone after being assured his sister and the kids were okay. Fighting the urge to punch a wall, he growled and picked up the phone again.
“Mike? It’s Jon. I want this bitch’s address.”
“We’re getting closer. I’ve got all my men on it and have called in favours. It won’t be long now. Especially since we know she’s still in the LA area. We’ll find her.”
“When you do, I want you to call me with the address.....and then get your people out of the area.”
Mike’s curiosity urged him to ask what Jon had planned, but his saner self warned him that it was probably better that he not know. “Understood. Will do.”