Eilea dried off, donned shorts and top, dabbing at her wet hair as the teens took another turn. The crowd laughed and jeered from the sideline whooping as another boat motored by with a skier in tow exceedingly adept at tricks.
Paul wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. “Not bad for a first attempt, champ.”
“I could get hooked.”
“I noticed the light in your eyes.”
“Oh look, there’s Cliff. Wow, I didn’t know he’d participated before. He’s doing well.”
The day passed all too quickly and following a late lunch, the Owen and Janine decided it was time to leave as they had a couple stops to make along the way. Farewells exchanged they watched the Theresa, Cliff and Brandon waved through the windows chanting, “Christina don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” followed by hilarious laughter.
Officer Deans and the others returned to their regular duties since there were fewer people to guard and Paul could take care of the family.
They waited until the following day to head back to Paul’s. Everyone could relax or play games comfortably or roam the beach. The kids were in agreement since staying here without their friends put a damper on the mood.
When they arrived late the following afternoon, they found Paul’s friend attending to the horses. Following a quick introduction, he saddled two horses and headed out for a romp with Andrew.
“Well, my lovely, alone at last!” Paul tugged Eilea into his arms and commenced ravishing her lips.
“While I’m enjoying the interlude, we’ll have company soon. You might want to slow the jets there, handsome.”
“I know, but it’s been too long since we’ve been alone.”
“Technically we’re not alone. Christina is in her bedroom.”
They joked and kidded one another as they unloaded their food and equipment. By the time they’d finished, the others had returned and Paul offered Harold a beer and they retired to the living room while Andrew went in search of games to play.
Dinner finished, they relaxed in the media room watching movies. The kids seemed relaxed if resigned to finishing their holiday without their friends.
When the evening cooled Paul and Eilea wandered the beach. Hand in hand criss-crossing steps, jostling one another, playing relaxed. An hour later they returned to find the kids lounging, playing chess. Paul added some music and they sat alongside the kids, Paul adding his two cents as they strategically moved their pieces.
It was two am when Christina woke. She wasn’t sure why. Tip-toeing to her window she looked out and saw the blaze. Without stopping to think, she raced through the back door toward the barn to unlock the door. Frantic horses neighed and pawed the air. Quickly manouvering to the side she smacked one then another on the hind quarter and they took off out of the barn for the pasture. Showgirl was cornered on the far side of the flames which were rising higher and higher. Doubling in half, she squeezed by the flames and grabbed the horse’s halter and led her out the closest door to safety.
As she stood coughing and hacking, Paul raced to her side, “Christina . . . are you alright?” Eilea and Andrew were right behind as Eilea pulled her daughter into her arms.
“Oh my god, Christina!”
Between coughing bouts she explained what she’d seen. Paul and Andrew quickly dragged a hose over and from a safe distance doused the flames. It could have been worse. If Christina hadn’t spotted the fire when she did, the horses would have perished.
Paul called to report the incident and within minutes two cop cars pulled in. They’d called the fire department and the driveway was suddenly full of people.
Eilea guided the kids back to the house and while Christina showered, got the story from Andrew. He’d awakened when he heard frantic running footsteps and followed. At first he wasn’t sure where Christina had gone but when he opened the back door saw what was going on but before he could get to her, she’d already moved the horses out so he’d run back to get Paul. Eilea had heard the commotion and raced after Paul.
Eilea made a pot of coffee while Paul filled out reports for both fire and police. By the time he’d returned, it was three am. He thanked her for the coffee as she handed it across and as she looked through the front window noticed the vehicles leaving.
Seeing the look in her eye he said, “Arson. They’ve taken samples to see what the accelerant was. Whoever did this, brought it with them. My gas is under lock and key.”
Eilea was worried. “You don’t think it’s him, do you?”
“Can’t say without question but I’m certain it was. I’ve never had any problems with vandalism, theft or arson before. I’d say he followed us from Long Beach. Looks like he’s here.”
“We’re back on alert. We don’t know what vehicle he’s using or what he looks like, but he was careless. The guys got clear footprints along the paddock straight to the barn.”
Eilea was immobile listening. She moved directly to him and took him in her arms. Andrew took note and smiled. Christina joined them at this point and her mother handed her a mug of coffee. “You alright? Any afteraffects, you breathing ok?”
“Yeah. I figured I might be in trouble, but I didn’t stop to think. They were trapped. I just went in and did what came naturally.”
Paul walked to her, “Can I have a hug?” Christina looked questioningly into his eyes,” I need one if you don’t.” She walked to him and he wrapped her up in a bear hug and twirled her around. “That was an incredibly brave thing you did. Then with your allergies on top of it all, I can’t imagine what could have happened to you. I don’t mind telling you, it scared the hell out of me seeing you come out that door after the horses.”
Christina looked up into his face, “It’s ok Paul, you’d have done the same if the position was reversed.”
Gently touching her face he continued, “Yeah, but I’m trained. You aren’t and you did so without consideration to yourself or your health and safety. You thought only of the horses. I can’t thank you enough.” Giving her a quick shake he added, “Next time, just call me, ok? I don’t want you putting yourself in danger.”
Christina exchanged smiles with Andrew. “Man, there better not be a next time.” Andrew walked up and ruffled her hair. “Love you, Christina. Pretty dang brave thing you did.”