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The Lighthouse Baby: Flight to Freedom Series Book 2:
By Laura Thomas
Life on the run is all Bella King knows.
But after letting down her guard and opening her heart in a charming small town along the Oregon Coast, a chilling revelation forces her to make desperate decisions.
Local architect, Adam Lexington, longs to protect Bella and secure their future together, but he’s hiding a tragic secret of his own.
The draw of a lighthouse, the dream of a family, and the determination to unlock the shocking reality of Bella’s heartbreaking past leads them both into grave danger. Will the truth set Bella free before time runs out?
Bella King’s heart clenched. What was I thinking? Overcome with panic, all logic fragmented like the grains of sand beneath her pounding feet, as she surrendered to her familiar motion of survival. Faster. A quick over-the-shoulder check confirmed a decent head start, and not a solitary soul to witness the chase. Maybe he would choose not to follow.
He’ll come after me. Of course, he will.
The ocean breeze lashed long strands of blonde hair across her face, her vision obscured through a blur of tears. Escape, run—it was the only thing she knew. Bella stifled sobs and pressed on. She couldn’t stop now, even as the evening sun blinded her and the sounds of crashing surf thrummed in her skull. Both feet sank, hopeless, with each step in the silky sand, until she discarded her sandals and sprinted freely across the wide stretch of desolate beach.
Sand flicked, wind whipped. Salty air filled her nostrils as she sucked in each breath. Seagulls screamed overhead—a savage cry, as if they sensed despair. She found a decent stride and with the cadence of each footfall, she chanted, “No, no, no.” But deep down, her soul longed to stop running, just this once, and cry, “Yes!”
Beach left in the dust, Bella continued her grueling sprint uphill to the only place she felt safe. She dared not glance behind again, that would be far too dangerous—looking back spelled disaster. Besides, even if she spotted his form outlined against the spectacular vista of great boulders rising like ancient tombstones from beneath the ocean, it would only slow her down. And derail her courage.
Must keep moving.
Her bare feet stung as they pounded a mix of gravel and dirt on the familiar path up from Cape Cove. Why hadn’t she thought this through? How far could she get without shoes? Far enough. Sea air mingled with whiffs of earthy, lush vegetation as coastal rainforest melded with beach.
Blackberry bushes and brambles claimed their pound of flesh as she brushed against them. She bit her lip in an attempt to ignore the trickling sensation on her ankles. Her long, flowing skirt caught on a branch and Bella winced as the fabric tore. If only the skirt was the only thing ripped apart tonight. Why had he ruined everything?
At this elevation, biting wind dried the wetness from her cheeks while perspiration trickled down her back. Feverishly hot and deathly cold. Her chest heaved as she mustered every ounce of strength for the final stretch up the steep hill. The familiar rhythmic crash of wave against rock—so like the constant barrage of fears preventing her life from ever changing—started to fade. She was close.
Rounding a corner, the Cape Cove Bed and Breakfast caught her eye. The old lightkeeper’s cottage stood like a statement of all that was good and true back in the days of simple living on the Pacific Coast. The gleaming white siding and red roof welcomed visitors from far and near, its white picket fence and striped flag blustering in the wind screamed The American Dream. How many times had she sat on the bench and dreamed of a simple life? How naive. How foolish.
Just a little farther.
Taking the path used by lightkeepers of old, Bella ran on, the ocean slamming against rocks on her left, the sprawling woods silent on her right.
Through watery eyes, her gaze fell upon her ultimate refuge, and she slowed her steps. Breath caught in her throat, as it always did when she reached this pinnacle and looked out upon a horizon that stretched to forever.
Frantic found familiar.
The lighthouse—her haven. Solid, stoic, still.
Always bold as a saving bright symbol amidst monstrous darkness.
On quivering legs, Bella continued to the far side of the structure, where she collapsed on a patch of prickly, dry grass.
Will I ever stop running?
She leaned back against the coolness of textured concrete and attempted to slow her hammering heart and laboring lungs. With desperate hands, she stretched out to either side and touched the lighthouse behind her. She was grounded. It was there. It was real. Not some outlandish nightmare. Her sanctuary of light.
Breathe. Exhale. Pray.
With only the old lighthouse to absorb her apology, she sighed. “I’m sorry.”
Her whispered words caught in great gusts of wind. Nausea rose from the pit of her stomach and without warning, sobs took over. Great, uncontrollable cries that racked her petite frame without mercy. I’m going to break his heart. Hurt so deeply by others, now it was she, the lost soul with a tragic story, who inflicted anguish.
She glanced around. At least there were no spectators to observe her mammoth meltdown. With the lighthouse tours done for the day, tourists would be enjoying a seafood dinner somewhere pleasant. Experiencing a regular life. A normal life.
This charade she was forced to play was like a sick Ferris wheel—a sham. Get on, ride it for a while, enjoy the view, and pretend everything was peachy and prosaic, until it reached the bottom again only to be dragged through a tunnel of heartache and loneliness and fear…
She swiped at her drenched cheeks and blew out a steady stream of air. This had been the hardest run yet. She cringed at the crunch of his footsteps as he rounded the lighthouse. Why did he have to follow? Bella bit her lip and buried her head in trembling hands. This could not be happening. She had always been so careful, protected herself all these years. How had she not seen this coming?
She inhaled and gazed up at him—a blur of handsome and hurt. His eyes, those windows of love now misted with tears, pinned her to the lighthouse. There were no words. What could she say to take away his pain when he stood before her as a crushed man—his fingers clasped around a diamond ring?
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