Confession - I still haven't decided the exact date I want to publish this - but it'll fall somewhere within the next three weeks. While I battle my indecisiveness, how about a sneak peek?!? Allow me to introduce....Hanna Dobbs.
“Shit, are you sure this is a good idea?” Sadie asked as she watched Hanna whiz around the hotel suite. They’d arrived only the day before yesterday, but somehow both women had managed to have their belongings scattered everywhere.
“No,” Hanna clipped in response. Her mind raced as she frantically packed her bags.
She’d been living out of suitcases for the last four years. She knew how to clear a room of her things in less than five minutes—but the sense of urgency that had her heart racing now was brought on by a danger she’d never faced before. Without bothering to stop and address her best friend politely, she insisted, “It doesn’t matter, Sadie. I don’t have a choice. Not anymore. I can’t live like this. I won’t.”
“Fuck. I know, but—”
“You said it yourself,” she interrupted. She swept her hair behind her ears and zipped her roller bag closed. “If I don’t leave now, it’ll be too late.”
Sadie freed a heavy sigh. Hanna could feel the gust of air that passed between her friend’s lips, as if it were rushing through her insides, bypassing her own lungs and headed straight for her gut. Her stomach twisted into yet another knot, but she didn’t stop moving. Instead, she raced for the bathroom. Her makeup and hair care products were strewn across the vanity. Without even giving it a second thought, she extended her arm and swept it all into the oversized purse that hung from her shoulder.
She didn’t mean to, but in the next instant, her eyes caught sight of her reflection in the gigantic mirror in front of her. For a second, she couldn’t stop herself from pausing to stare at the girl she saw. And that’s exactly what she saw—a girl. Not a twenty-year-old woman, but a frightened, stubborn, willful, and desperate little girl. It wasn’t until she spotted the reflection of a tear trickling down her cheek that she realized it was there. Wiping it away angrily, she shook her head at herself and adjusted the straps of her bag on her shoulder.
“You don’t belong here anymore, Hanna. Stop fucking around and go,” she muttered through clenched teeth at her mirrored image.
As if her words had bounced back to her from against the glass, her heart constricted, knowing she was right. If she was going to make it to the bus station in time to get away, she had to leave immediately.
Sadie’s soft voice pulled Hanna’s attention away from the mirror. Looking over at her best friend, who stood in the bathroom doorway, she had to forcefully shove aside her second thoughts.
The sight of the gorgeous, tall, curvy woman made Hanna want to cry. Sadie’s straight, blonde hair hung all the way down to her waist. The strapless bodycon dress she had on reminded Hanna of all the woman her closest friend was. She’d been gambling with her life just as long as Hanna, but the stakes of the game had always been higher for Sadie. Until now. Now, the tables had turned. Staring into her dark brown eyes, Hanna was certain she couldn’t stay. The risks were now too great, and she wasn’t as recklessly daring as her ally.
It was true she never would have lasted this long in Vegas had it not been for Sadie—but their bond was strong enough to withstand the weight of the thousands of miles Hanna intended to put between them. It would have to be. It was the only way. Hanna was sure of it.
She knows why you’re leaving. She’s never once asked you to stay. Not once. She understands, Hanna—more than anyone else, she understands.
“The bedroom’s all clear,” Sadie murmured softly, reinforcing the validity of Hanna’s thoughts.
Hanna threw herself at her friend. “God, I’m going to miss you,” she whimpered.
Sadie stood an entire head taller than Hanna, permitting Hanna to fit snuggly against her bosom. Resting her cheek on top of Hanna’s head, Sadie held her tight as she sniffled, “I wish you would at least tell me where you’re going.”
Shaking her head, Hanna gently extracted herself from Sadie’s embrace as she reminded her, “You know I can’t. It’s safer for both of us if you don’t know.”
“Yeah, but how will I know you’re safe?”
“I’ll call you. I promise.”
Sadie nodded, allowing her tears to fall unchecked down her face. “You have to go. Now.”
Hanna pulled in a deep breath through her nose before dipping her chin in affirmation. She reached out to squeeze Sadie’s hand, holding it only for an instant before she brushed past her and into the bedroom. She extended the handle of her roller bag and raced from the room without a backwards glance. Her window of opportunity was closing, and she couldn’t risk getting caught. This was the opening she’d been waiting for. It was her only chance at escape.
She whispered a silent prayer to whatever god might hear her as she rode the elevator to the hotel lobby. She hoped no one from their entourage would see her leaving. The last thing she needed was for someone to rat her out to Quinten while she was still in the city. At the very least, she could use the head start. So long as Quinten and Finn were otherwise occupied, she knew she’d be safe. Or, as safe as she’d ever been.
Trying not to draw attention to herself, Hanna didn’t sprint through the lobby, but casually made her exit. As she hailed a cab from the curb, she tried not to think about Finn. Saying goodbye to Sadie had been one thing—but leaving Finn? That was enough to make her physically ill, and she didn’t have time to fall apart. Not yet, anyway.
With the sun having set an hour ago, the intense heat from the day had dissipated. Even still, the warm wind that brushed against Hanna’s skin reminded her of the thin layer of sweat that seeped through her pores. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been this nervous. A part of her was convinced she’d never been this anxious in all her life.
You’ve also never been without Finn in all your life. What the hell do you expect?
Shaking her head clear, she waved her hand once more, catching the attention of a cab driver. He came to a stop in front of her, and she was quick to slip into the backseat with all of her belongings.
“Greyhound Bus Station, please.”
The driver did nothing more than offer her a nod before he took off. Hanna peered out the passenger side window, her heart still racing as the lights from the MGM Grand started to fade into the magnificent backdrop of the obnoxiously lit strip of hotels and casinos. Somehow or another, Sin City had been her home for the last few years—or, as close to home as one could manage while making a living the way she did.
Did, she reminded herself.
Her eyes grew glassy with unshed tears, and she shifted her focus down into her lap. Rubbing her sweaty palms against the top of her jean-covered thighs, she willed herself not to cry. In reality, Vegas had never been home. Somehow, Hanna was cognizant of the fact that she’d never known the true meaning of home. Not really. To her, home was synonymous with safety and security; but Hanna had never had the privilege of either of those things. Rather, all the safety and security she’d been promised, the life she’d been chasing, it had offered little more than the semblance of such things. She would not be fooled any longer.
The ride to the bus station was over before she realized. When the cab driver called back to her, announcing the cost of her fare, she was quick to expel the appropriate amount of cash from her wallet. After climbing out of the vehicle, she freed a sigh, pausing on the curb as she looked up at the Greyhound sign. She’d been planning this trip for a couple of weeks and knew she had days’ worth of traveling in front of her. From Vegas, she’d be riding to Phoenix, Arizona. Once there, she’d catch another bus to Chicago, Illinois. After that, she’d endure the ride to Nashville.
The thought had crossed her mind, more than once, to stay in the city of her birth—but even simply thinking of running into her mother made her core temperature go up a notch. Hanna wanted nothing to do with the woman, and she was certain the feeling was mutual. With that in mind, her final destination was Tullahoma, Tennessee. It had been more than a decade since she’d seen or spoken to her grandmother, but Hanna was sure that was where she lived.
Question is, will she have me?
Her mind made up, Hanna decided it didn’t matter if her grandmother did or didn’t welcome her. She had nowhere else to go. No one, not even Finn, would guess where she was headed, and that’s exactly what she needed. They promised each other they wouldn’t look back. While she was breaking said promise, she could only hope Finn assumed she never would. With enough cash to last her a solid month, she steeled herself for the journey ahead of her and made her way into the bus station.