My hands were shaking as I hurriedly buckled Henry into his car seat. I kept glancing over my shoulder back at the house. Blood dripped off of my forehead onto Henry's shirt and I jerked away, frantically wiping at the wound with my sleeve.
"Mommy, I'm tired. It's bed time. Where are we going?" he yawned.
"We're just going on a little trip, sweetie," I whispered. "You can sleep in the car."
"Is Daddy coming?"
"Not this time."
I shut the door and ran around to the driver's seat. My heart was still pounding even after I'd started the car and made it down the street. I didn't know where I was going, just that I had to get out of there. Tears stung at my eyes as I drove and drove until I was too tired to keep going. And that's when I saw the sign for a bed and breakfast. Without thinking, I just turned up the driveway and parked in front of the house. Henry was still awake but fading fast. I unstrapped him from his car seat and carried him in with me.
It was late at night so I was relieved to see that someone was at the desk in the entryway.
"I realize it's late and kind of last minute notice, but I really need a room," I stammered breathlessly.
"Of course," the man said.
He opened a book on the desk and passed me a pen. I shifted Henry to my other arm and shakily signed my name. It occurred to me belatedly that I should've signed a fake name in case Neal came looking for us.
"You're bleeding, are you all right?" the man asked with a frown.
I flinched and nodded, snatching the key from his outstretched hand and making a break for the stairs.
"Wait, let me show you to your room!"
"I'm fine!" I snapped.
I clutched Henry tighter as I ran up the stairs and headed for the door marked "5". I used the key on the door, ducked inside, and shut the door tightly behind me. I laid Henry on the queen-sized bed and stepped back, taking a deep breath. There was a soft knock on the door and I nearly jumped out of my skin.
"Who is it?" I asked, pressing my ear to the door.
"My name is Killian Jones. The man from the front desk."
I opened the door a crack and looked at him.
"That cut on your head looks pretty serious, so I brought you a first aid kit."
"I don't need any help," I said firmly.
"Please, I used to be a nurse. I can stitch you up."
I looked at him with wide eyes trying to think through my options. He was probably right about my head. Head wounds could be serious, especially because it was still bleeding. I opened the door another inch.
"All right, but try to be quiet. My son is sleeping," I said, nodding towards the bed.
I opened the door wide enough for him to step through and then stood there looking at him warily.
"Why don't you sit down?" he said, gesturing to a chair.
I perched on the edge of the seat and clenched my hands anxiously.
"Relax," Killian said. "I'm not going to murder you."
"Give me one reason why I should trust you," I said.
"Well I am helping you patch up your head," he shrugged. "Are you going to tell me what happened to you?"
He looked at me skeptically. Then he opened up the box and got to work. It took him maybe fifteen minutes to stitch it up and pack up all his supplies again.
"Well have a good night's rest," he said, moving towards the door. "I guess I might see you tomorrow."
I didn't respond, instead shutting the door behind him. I laid down next to Henry on the bed and fell asleep shortly with him curled up in my arms.
"Mommy, Mommy!" Henry woke me up by bouncing on the bed. "Daddy's here!"
I bolted upright and gazed in horror at the open door.
"I let him in!" Henry declared joyfully. "Now our whole family can go on vacation."
"That's right, Henry," Neal said with a smirk. "Except we can't go on a vacation quite yet. We're going home."
I was frozen with fear as Neal crossed the room and loomed over me. He grabbed my arm roughly and jerked me off the bed.
"Come on, Emma," he said. "You've had enough freedom for a lifetime."
I tripped a little as he jerked me out of the room. Henry came running after. I paused briefly to scoop him up before Neal pulled me along again. Killian was lounging at the front desk reading the newspaper when we descended the stairs.
"Have a great day!" Neal said with forced cheerfulness as he dragged me out the front door.
I cast a helpless look over my shoulder and tried not to panic too much as I was pushed roughly into the car and Henry was snatched from my arms. Neal settled him in the backseat and then we were on our way, roaring down the street. All I could do was gaze out the window and try to tune out Neal's scolding.
Henry was still tired from his late night before so as soon as we got home, he crawled into bed and fell fast asleep. I was grateful that he wasn't conscious for what followed. It wasn't anything that a kid should have to witness. Our living room was in shambles and Neal's voice was hoarse from yelling by the time he was finished. I lay stunned on the floor as he stumbled upstairs for his mid-morning nap. Blood was seeping from several cuts and staining the carpet, but I couldn't find the strength to move.