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Guardian Angel


Red Ranger 1

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Well, I promised this one a month or so ago and, while I'm still not finding a lot of time to work on it, my deck's a bit more clear so I'll start posting and hopefully manage to get the updates coming regularly! Enjoy.

Story Title: Guardian Angel
Type of story: Short/Medium fic
Main Characters: Maddy, Kyle and others
BTTB rating: T/A
Genre: Drama
Does story include spoilers: No
Any warnings: Mild to moderate violence and sexual content
Summary: Years after they were both in Summer Bay, Maddy encounters Kyle again when he is admitted to the hospital where she works as a patient.But there's a reason why Kyle is there and soon the only people they can trust are each other.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Maddy finished pulling on her uniform before looking at herself in the staff room mirror.The long-sleeved navy blue scrubs mostly covered up her prosthetic arm, although the artificial hand was very obvious on close inspection.She tied back her hair one-handed, something that had been hard to manage at first but which she’d become better practised at over the last three years.She pinned the name tag to the front of her nurse’s uniform and was good to go.

  Her friend Fiona entered behind her.She was around the same age as Maddy and had joined the hospital around the same time, so they’d gravitated to each other by default.She gave a smile.“Ready for another day of mayhem?”

  Maddy smiled ruefully.“As much as I ever am.”

  “What are you doing after work?”

  Maddy thought for a moment.Her plans didn’t really evolve beyond takeaway and relaxing in front of the telly.“Not sure yet.”

  “Well, if you feel like a drink at the end of the shift, let me know and you can buy me one.”

  Before Maddy could respond to the cheek, their superior, Cassandra, stuck her head round the door. “Trauma case en route from the prison.ETA eight minutes.”

  “The prison?”Fiona repeated,“Do we know what happened?”

  “Just that he’s been beaten up.Get yourselves prepped and meet me at the ambulance bay.”

***

Maddy had worked a few trauma cases since she’d started work at the hospital.It had been a somewhat erratic path into nursing.Her education at Northern Districts had been interrupted by the accident in which she’d lost her arm, but she’d carried on studying during her recovery and during her travels and had eventually qualified at the start of the year.Given her disability, she hadn’t expected to be allowed to work in the emergency department but staff shortage was always an issue and it had quickly been agreed that she could help out there as long as she had proper supervision.

  Fiona had been working the emergency department for a year, long enough to become jaded.To be fair, it was an attitude that Maddy had a hard time shaking herself.“I thought we might at least get a stabbing,” Fiona complained.

  Maddy gave her a wry look.“Yeah, because they’re always fun.”

  “Well, except for the guy being stabbed, I guess.But at least they’re interesting.”

  “Maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll have been impaled on something.”

  Their banter was halted by the sound of a gurney being wheeled up the corridor towards them.Both of them instantly became serious.“Here it comes,”Fiona noted.

  A collection of paramedics and doctors appeared pushing the patient between them.Maddy and Fiona fell into step either side and Maddy looked down at the patient’s features.It was then that she got a shock. “Kyle?”

  “Kyle Braxton, 29,”the paramedic confirmed,“Multiple bruising and contusions, suspected cracked ribs, suspected dislocated shoulder.GCS of 7, vitals stable.”

  Maddy had a million questions running through her head but kept them to herself for now.She followed them through, taking the drip and hooking it up one-handed as the doctor did a preliminary survey.She noticed Fiona giving her a quizzical look but shook her head.They’d talk later.

***

It was some hours before Maddy had a chance to check on Kyle.He was sleeping peacefully, or at least so it seemed.How much of it was natural sleep and how much was unconsciousness wasn’t entirely clear. Maddy stood there looking at him, at a reminder of her old life.Beyond phone conversations with Roo or Alf once a month or so and occasional exchanges of e-mail, she’d had no contact with anyone in Summer Bay for a long time.

  Fiona showed her ID to the guard on the door and entered the room, before giving Maddy a challenging look.“You know him then?”

  Maddy nodded.“He used to live in the same town as me.I think everyone knew everyone there.He was my boss for a bit when I was doing some waitressing.”

  “Do you know why he’s in jail?”

  “Armed robbery.Some people thought he didn’t do it, that he was covering for someone.I never really got the full story.”Something occurred to Maddy.“He’s got two brothers, has anyone called them?”

  “I dunno, I guess the prison or admin will be dealing with it.Do you know them?”

  “About as well as I knew him.Some of my friends knew them better but I think they all lost touch years ago.”

  “Do you want to stay or do you want to get that drink?”

  Maddy took a step back from the bed.“No, I’ll come with you.”She tried to dismiss the guilt she felt at leaving him alone.He had a family and friends.Just because they both came from Summer Bay, it didn’t mean she needed to be there keeping vigil over him.She just couldn’t quite shake the feeling that she was probably the closest thing to a friend he had at that moment.

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CHAPTER TWO

As soon as Maddy got in the next morning, she headed straight for Kyle’s room.She had a quick chat to the night staff, who confirmed he had slept through the night.The guards let her into his private room with only a brief check and then she set about checking his obs.It was while she was in the middle of checking his pulse, timing it against the clock on the wall since she tended to keep her watch on her real arm, that he opened his eyes.

  He stared at her for several seconds, as though trying to process the sight of a familiar face that he really hadn’t expected to see.“Maddy?”

  Maddy smiled at him.“Hey, Kyle.”

  Kyle looked around him, taking in his surroundings.“I’m in hospital.”

  “That’s right.Do you remember what happened?”

  She saw him thinking again before the truth hit him.“I got set upon in the general area.Am I..?”

  “Battered and bruised but there wasn’t any internal bleeding.You just need time to recover.”Maddy noticed Kyle’s gaze drift across to the hand of her artificial arm.“Yeah, there’s a bit less of me than there was the last time we met.”

  “Ricky told me about the accident,”Kyle confirmed,“I’m sorry.I was sorry to hear about Oscar as well.”

  Maddy nodded.“Me too.He deserved a lot better than he got.Some say you did as well.”

  “Well, I guess a lot of us can say that.”

  Cassandra suddenly appeared in the doorway.“Maddy?When you’ve finished in there, I need a hand in bay two.”

  “Okay, just coming.”Maddy turned back to Kyle.“I’ll be back to see you later.”

***

Maddy’s interest in their latest patient attracted a lot of questions from Fiona.“I just didn’t think you’d be friends with someone like that,”her friend noted at one point.

  “We weren’t friends,”Maddy argued, knowing she was splitting hairs,“We just kind of all accepted him and his family.They weren’t perfect but they helped me and other people out sometimes.Anyway, I wasn’t exactly perfect either.”

  Fiona seemed to let it drop after that but she was obviously still curious.So was Maddy for that matter. Kyle being left to lie on his own in a hospital bed didn’t seem right somehow.

  It was near the end of the shift when she finally got a chance to talk to him alone.“Aren’t your brothers coming?”she asked.

  “I said not to call them.”

  “Why?”

  “Can you imagine Brax and Heath coming in here?They’d kick up a fuss straightaway and I’d like to avoid that.”

  Maddy could understand that but it still didn’t seem right him being here on his own.“Isn’t there anyone else?Matt mentioned some girl called Isla you were involved with…”

  Kyle winced.“Let’s just say I haven’t seen her in a while.”

  Maddy knew when it was best to drop a subject.This was one of those times.“Well, I guess it’s up to you.”She still had questions though.“Kyle, what happened?Off the record.”

  Kyle looked at her long and hard for a moment then he decided to trust her.“Someone was dealing drugs in jail.I turned a blind eye for a while but then some kid overdosed.He was only eighteen.I guess I thought someone should take a stand so I reported him.”

  “And he did this to you?”

  “Some of his friends did.He’s in solitary but he’s still got a long reach.”

  “And if you go back..?”

  “They might want to finish the job.”

  Maddy found herself more than a little concerned about the prospect but did her best to look on the bright side.“At least you’re safe in here.”She saw the pained look on Kyle’s face.“Aren’t you?”

  “The report I made against Milligan was meant to be confidential.I was in a common area when I was attacked but there were no guards there.At the moment…I’m not sure if I can trust anyone.”

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CHAPTER THREE

Maddy shouldn’t have been thinking about Kyle’s predicament as much as she was.She knew that.At the end of the day, whatever their past acquaintance, he was just another patient, to be treated and shipped out.The fact that he was being shipped back to prison, quite possibly to receive more of the same, shouldn’t come into it.

  That wasn’t true of course.If there was a way to stop him coming back in again, she should do it.The problem was, after all he’d told her, there wasn’t much she could do.

  “Been to see your old friend again?”asked Fiona when Maddy arrived back in the staff kitchen.

  Maddy grimaced at the accusatory tone.“Is that a problem?”

  “I’m starting to wonder.You seem a bit too keen to help him.”

  “Because he’s in prison he doesn’t deserve help?”

  Fiona looked as serious as Maddy had ever seen her.Too serious to be fobbed off.“That’s not what I mean and you know it.But there’s help you shouldn’t be giving him.”

  “I’m not going to organise a jail break, if that’s what you mean.”Maddy snapped.Suddenly she didn’t feel like staying there.“I think I’ll have lunch in the canteen today.”

***

The canteen wasn’t particularly hospitable, mainly because nurses weren’t encouraged to take too many breaks.Maddy bought a sandwich, just enough to keep her strength up, and sat down at a table to eat it. Just as she was sinking her teeth into her second bite, her ears suddenly pricked up at the conversation going on at reception.

  “Kyle Braxton,”said an impatient male voice.

  Maddy turned round to look at the speaker.Two men were in conversation with the receptionist.For a moment she wondered if they were some dodgy Mangrove River acquaintances of the Braxtons, but while they certainly looked dodgy, they also looked a lot more well-off than members of a surfer gang, being dressed in smart clothes.

  The receptionist was looking through the computer records.“Well, if he’s here then there’ll be a record somewhere.”

  “The one that came in from the prison,”the man explained, sounding even more impatient.

  The receptionist looked at him curiously.“Do you have permission from the prison to visit?”

  “Look, just tell us what floor he’s on and we’ll take it from there.”

  Maddy knew she shouldn’t worry.There was no reason to assume the men meant any harm, there was no reason to suppose they could actually get close to Kyle.But somehow she felt the need to check.She bounded for the stairs, hurrying to get there before the two men actually found out where they had to go.

  She hurried down the corridor, all the time telling herself that it was fine, that at worst the guards would stop them if they meant harm.Finally, the outside of Kyle’s room was in sight.

  There were no guards.

  “Oh no,”Maddy murmured.She had no time to think of anything else.She dashed into the room.“You need to get out of here.”

  Kyle stared back at her in astonishment.“That’s not allowed, remember?”

  “The guards have gone and there’s two men on the way up here.”Maddy grabbed Kyle’s clothes from a locker and ran over to his bed.And that was when it hit her.There were no guards…but Kyle was still handcuffed to the bed, the cuff firmly fastened around his left wrist.She stared at it dumbfounded.“I don’t have the key,”she said, feeling stupid even as she said it.

  Kyle had grasped the situation and was thinking quickly.“I need something long and thin, preferably metal.”

  Maddy glanced around and saw a packet of hypodermics.She quickly opened it and pulled one out.“Will this do?”

  “Perfect.”Kyle took it from her and started trying to pick the lock of the cuff.

  Maddy’s gaze went back and forth between him and the door, wondering what would open first…

***

The two men walked out of the lift and headed towards the room that they had finally been given directions to.As he pushed open the door, the lead of the two took a flip knife out of his pocket and flicked out the blade…

  But the only sight that greeted them was an empty bed with an open handcuff dangling from the railing.

  The two men dashed out of the room and down the corridor.

  Maddy waited until they’d gone before sticking her head out of the store cupboard.She turned back to Kyle, who was only just managing to stay upright, his hand clutching the spot where the largest of his bruises was.He was still wearing the hospital gown…which might give them an advantage.

  Maddy hurried to the nurses’ station and grabbed a wheelchair, then gestured for Kyle to sit in it.“Come on, let’s go,”she said, pushing him towards the exit.

  She was struck with the irony that only an hour ago she’d been telling Fiona she wasn’t going to organise a jail break.But it seemed she was committed.

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CHAPTER FOUR

The upper floor of the hospital was in chaos.Policemen were interviewing the two rather sheepish looking guards, whose basic plan for handling the interrogation was to appear as incompetent as possible to avoid charges of corruption.“Shouldn’t one of you have been on guard?”a policeman asked them.

  “Well…he was handcuffed,”one of the pair offered.

  “And we didn’t know he could move,”added the other.

  The policeman rounded on a doctor.“Could he move?”

  “Well, he wasn’t fully recovered but it’s possible.”

  The policeman seemed to pick up on this.“But someone could have helped him?Are any of your staff missing?”

  “Not so that I’d notice…”

  The senior nurse, Cassandra, chose that minute to speak up.“One of my nurses knew him.I’m not sure how well but she recognised him when he was first brought in.Ah, Fiona?”

  Fiona had been trying to remain in the background but suddenly that became impossible.“Yes, Cassandra?”

  “Maddy knew Mr.Braxton, didn’t she?”

  “Not very well, I think,”Fiona attempted loyally.

  The policeman was already focusing on the detail though.“Maddy?”

  “Madeleine Osborne,”Cassandra explained,“She’s one of the registered nurses here.”

  “And where is she now?”

  “Here she is,”Fiona offered quickly.

  Maddy had been expecting to find the police there on her return.As with the hapless guards, she was trying to look as innocent as possible.“What’s going on?”

  “Your friend Mr.Braxton’s escaped,”Cassandra said with a hint of accusation.

  “Kyle?”

  “How well do you know him?”the policeman asked.

  “Not that well.He was a neighbour, I knew him to talk to but we didn’t go for nights out together or anything.”

  “Can you think of anyone that might have helped him escape?”

  “Well, there’s his family but I don’t think anyone contacted them.”Maddy was hit by a sudden inspiration.“Actually, I saw two men in reception while I was on my break.They were asking after him.” She noticed with satisfaction that the two guards cringed.

  The policeman had a new focus suddenly.“Can you describe them?”

  “Well, I didn’t look that closely.They were smartly dressed.One of them was tall, the other was about your height, dark hair, clean shaven…”

  The policeman turned to Cassandra.“Have you got CCTV in reception?”

  “I believe so.”

  “I need to have a look.”

***

Kyle was sitting in a room in the nursing quarters.He still wore the hospital gown, which would have made him feel self-conscious if there had been anyone there to see him.Instead, he’d just sat there on his own since Maddy had taken him there, not sure what else to do.

  It was typical, Kyle thought, that he’d got into trouble for trying to do the right thing.Of course, he usually got into trouble when he did the wrong thing as well.His life seemed to consist of lurching from one calamity to another with very little support.Which was probably why he found himself doing what Maddy had asked instead of trying to go it on his own.She was the first person in a long while who’d stuck her neck out for him.Given that they’d not exactly been best friends, he was extremely grateful that she’d cared.

  Kyle tensed as the door handle moved but it was Maddy who slipped in.She was carrying a carrier bag that she passed to him.“Here, put these on.You’ll look less conspicuous.”

  Kyle was surprised to find the bag full of men’s clothes.“Where did you get these from, patient locker?”

  “Charity shop.”

  It was another reminder of her basic honesty(although he did remember Phoebe mentioning once that she’d helped Maddy hide some clothes bought with a credit card fraud).It didn’t exactly make her the best co-conspirator but it made her a good person to have around.He began attempting to put on the clothes without having to strip off in front of her.It involved quite a few contortions.“What’s going on out there?”

  “The police have been called.I told them about the men that were looking for you.I think they’re the main suspects in helping you escape for the moment.Did you know them?”

  “No, but I’d guess Milligan sent them.”

  “The drug dealer you annoyed?”

  Kyle caught a faint whiff of disapproval in Maddy’s voice.He guessed she was used to hanging out with a different type of person than that.“Yeah, that’s the one.I guess he wants to finish what he started.”

  “So, you’ve got the police after you and a drug dealer after you and you’re hiding in a room that probably isn’t going to stay unused for long.I don’t suppose you’ve got a plan as to what happens next?”

  Kyle sighed.“I was rather hoping you had.”

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CHAPTER FIVE

Maddy shot a glance back towards her parked car where Kyle was waiting for her to finish sorting things. It was harder than she’d hoped.It seemed she had got out of practise with lying because she found that she didn’t seem to be very good at it.“The room’s for my friend.”

  The motel receptionist, an older woman with a permanently stern expression, didn’t seem terribly convinced.“Is there a reason he can’t come here and get the key himself?”

  “He’s”-Maddy struggled for a way of putting it that didn’t sound bad-“he’s had an accident recently.He can’t walk very well.”

  The receptionist’s eyes narrowed.“He’s not going to drop dead in his room, is he?”

  “No, no,”Maddy assured her hastily,“He just needs somewhere to rest and recuperate.He’ll be in his room most of the time, you probably won’t see him at all.I’ll be visiting him and bringing him whatever he needs.”

  “You’re not staying with him?Because if you are, that’s extra.”

  “I wouldn’t dream of it,”Maddy replied in her best innocent voice.

  The receptionist harumphed and gave her a key.“Room 112 on the corner there.”

***

Kyle could just about walk by himself but it was still a lot easier for Maddy to help him as he manoeuvred his way into the motel room.Maddy had her one good arm holding him tightly, with a bag slung across her other shoulder.She helped him into a seat then unzipped the bag.“Lift up your top.”

  Kyle looked at her in confusion.“What?”

  “Your dressing needs changing.”

  Kyle felt slightly embarrassed at what he’d actually been thinking.He pulled his newly acquired jumper up to reveal the bandaging keeping his ribs in place.Maddy stripped it away, using medical supplies from the bag to clean the bruising and redress him.“Ideally, this should be looked at by a doctor.”

  “I trust you.”

  “I’ll remind you of that when you puncture a lung.”She finished taping the new dressing down.“Well, you’re probably not going to die of that.Any idea what we do now?”

  “You can leave if you want.I mean, you’ve made sure I’ve survived this long and I thank you for that. But if you think this is too much…”Kyle meant the offer but somehow he knew Maddy wouldn’t take it, a fact that made him simultaneously guilty and grateful.

  He wasn’t to be disappointed.“I’ve come this far,”Maddy said simply.Then she was businesslike.“All right, so we need help.I suppose there’s no chance of you going to the police?”

  Kyle shook his head.“I told you, someone blabbed to Milligan.I don’t know who we can trust.”

  “That’s what I thought.Is this not a good time to ring your brothers?”

  “I don’t want Brax and Heath taking over either.”Kyle considered the issue.He knew that his two older brothers could be useful, and would do anything they could to help him, but they also had a tendency to charge in without thinking.If only there was a middle ground…“But maybe I’ll give them a call, see what they can do.”

  “Is there anyone else that can help?Ash?”

  “Last I heard he was in Cyprus with VJ.”

  “Yeah, I heard about VJ and his sister,”Maddy mused,“I think that was just starting when I left town but I didn’t really see anyone those last few weeks.”

  “He was good for her from what I hear.”Kyle had a brief pang of regret as he remembered his own ill-considered fling with Billie and how she’d actually become a good friend.He dismissed the memories. Time for that later.“I never had much to do with the River Boys.Maybe Brax could call them but…”

  “Maybe not the best idea,”Maddy agreed,“And if I call Roo or Mr.Stewart, they’d just tell us to go to the police.”

  “Pretty much everyone in Summer Bay would.”

  Maddy gave a sigh of resignation.“So we’re on our own then?”

  “Looks that way.”

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CHAPTER SIX

Kyle hadn’t really wanted to make the phone call but sadly it had got to the point where it was unavoidable.“Brax, I really just need you to stay where you are.And Heath too.Definitely Heath too.”

  “But, mate, if you’re in trouble,”Brax protested.

  “Look, they’ll probably be watching you.If you make a move, you could lead them straight to me.”

  He heard the silence on the other end as Brax seemed to mull it over before finally accepting the truth of what Kyle had said.“Maybe we could send someone else?”

  “I’ve got help here already,”Kyle pointed out.

  “Maddy?”Brax’s tone was sceptical.If he was honest, Kyle understood why.

  “She hasn’t let me down yet.”Kyle was surprised to realise how true the words were.

  Brax let out a frustrated noise but didn’t argue.“Okay but you call me, okay?If you need anything.Even if you don’t.”

  “I’ll let you know,”Kyle agreed,“Just keep your ear to the ground, all right?If you hear anything, let me know.”

  “Will do.”Brax seemed to hesitate a bit longer before adding,“Good luck, mate.”

  Kyle ended the call, wondering idly how much the motel would add onto the bill for it.He knew that keeping his family out of it was for the best but it did leave him somewhat isolated.He checked his watch. Maddy would still be at work.Oddly, he was looking forward to seeing her again.

***

Maddy stepped onto the ward and tried her best to make looking around seem as casual as possible.She didn’t see anyone in a uniform that didn’t belong to hospital staff, nor did she see anyone suspicious-looking in suits and dark glasses.

  She noticed Fiona and made a beeline for her.Here at least was someone she could talk to without raising suspicions.“Are the police still here?”

  Fiona shook her head.“Interviews are finished.What happened to you last night anyway?I didn’t hear you come back.”

  “I got back late,”Maddy replied,“Drove out to the harbour and just walked around a bit.I needed to clear my head.”

  “Yeah, it was a bit mad yesterday, wasn’t it?”Fiona agreed.

  “Maddy!”called a strident voice from down the corridor.

  Maddy did her best to smile as the owner of the voice came marching towards her.“Yes, Cassandra, what can I do for you?”

  “Bed 4 needs obs doing and Bed 6 needs a wash.Have you remembered anything more about yesterday?”

  It took Maddy a moment to process the change of subject.“No, nothing.Did the police track down those two men I saw?”

  “If they have, they haven’t told me.They certainly didn’t visit anyone else on the ward so maybe you were onto something.”She paused for a moment before adding,“Beds 4 and 6?”

  Maddy nodded.“I’m right on it.”

***

Kyle flinched slightly at the knock on the door, only relaxing when Maddy said,“It’s me.”

  Kyle hobbled over and unlatched the door.Maddy held up a bag.“I brought medical supplies.”

  “You spoil me.”Kyle let her in and sank back into a chair.

  Maddy closed the door behind her.“Have you eaten today?”

  “I had a pizza delivered.It took half the money you left me.”

  Maddy took a packaged sandwich out of her bag.“Have this.”While he tucked into it, she rolled up his jumper and examined the injuries.“You’re lucky, the bones all seem to have knitted together.It should heal on its own, given time.”

  “Be nice if we could have some of that, wouldn’t it?How are things at the hospital?”

  “The police have moved on.I pointed them in the direction of those two hitmen so maybe they’ll catch up with them.And as they don’t know where you are…”

  “Only you know that.”

  Maddy felt suddenly uncomfortable.“Right.”

  But Kyle was looking at her fondly.“I don’t think anyone’s ever helped me as much as you have without there being something in it for them.”

  Maddy did her best not to meet his gaze.“I couldn’t really do anything else, could I?”

  “You’re amazing.”Maddy looked at him then, saw that he meant it.“Can I kiss you?”he asked.She hesitated and saw him look concerned, worried that he’d overstepped the mark.“I tried once and you didn’t want me to, so if you…”

  “I don’t mind,”Maddy said quietly.

  She leaned into it as he kissed her, softly, tenderly.The kiss broke and she helped him to his feet, their eyes locked on each other’s.“Do you have to go anywhere?”he asked.

  “No,”she said quietly.

  She led him to the bed and they lay down, continuing to kiss and caress…

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Waking up alone was an experience that Kyle had become accustomed to.It wasn’t as if it was the first time in his life and, with it having been his normal for several years, he’d almost learned not to expect anything else.It was just one more aspect of prison life that he’d had to accept.

  But this time he didn’t wake up alone.Maddy was snuggled up close to him, his arm round her shoulder. He felt the stump of her arm, which had been removed during the prelude to their love making, and gently ran his fingers through her hair.

  Maddy finally stirred and he relaxed his grip on her slightly, letting her pull away from him.She held the sheets around her somewhat self-consciously before shooting him a nervous look.“Morning.”

  “Morning,”he answered,“Are you all right?”

  “Shouldn’t I be?”There was a slightly defensive tone to her response.

  “I don’t know.”He tried to think of a response that wouldn’t sound insulting and eventually settled for self-deprecation.“It’s been a while for me.”

  Maddy seemed to relax slightly.“Me too.”

  “Really?”Kyle was genuinely surprised.“I’d have thought, well, lots of guys would be interested in you.”

  “I’ve been busy.”Her gaze flicked down to her missing arm.“And I guess I was nervous about too many people seeing me like this.”

  “You look fine to me.”

  She gave a slight smile.“Thanks.So, I don’t know it this was gratitude or loneliness…”

  “Hang on,”Kyle interrupted quickly,“I didn’t sleep with you out of gratitude or loneliness.”He paused, unsure how far to go.He eventually settled on,“I slept with you because I like you.”

  Maddy’s smile got wider.“Thank you.”

  “So why did you sleep with me?”

  Maddy gave him a glare.“Oh, after a compliment now, are you?”She thought for a moment before saying,“I guess I like you too.These last few days, we’ve kind of got close.Bonded.”She picked up her watch from beside the bed and checked in.“Which doesn’t mean I’m not going to be late for work.”

***

The motel receptionist glared disapprovingly at the car parked outside.She recognised it as belonging to the blonde woman who had brought in the new guest from Room 112.Either she’d paid a very early visit or she’d stayed the night.In which case, there’d need to be a hasty addition to the bill.

  She picked up the morning paper and stopped, staring hard at the headline and the picture.The story referred to a prisoner that had escaped from the hospital.And the picture…

  She picked up the phone.“Police?I need to make a report about Kyle Braxton.”

***

Maddy and Kyle had dressed and Maddy was preparing to leave.“So I’ll be round this evening?”she asked.

  “If you want to,”Kyle replied awkwardly.

  Maddy gave a reassuring smile.“I want to.”She gave him an awkward kiss on the cheek before heading out, unsure what to think about what had just happened.She liked Kyle and she’d liked the previous night, but the situation they were in was incredibly complicated and she wasn’t really sure what she thought about it…

  Her thoughts were banished when she saw a police car pulling into the motel complex.It could be nothing to do with them, of course.But something told them they couldn’t be that lucky.

  She ran back to the motel room and shut the door behind her.“The police are here.”

  Kyle stared at her aghast for a moment, then grabbed her arm.“Quick, get out of here.Maybe we can convince them you’re not with me.”

  “That’s not going to work.And anyway, I can’t just leave you here.You’ll end up back in jail and then…”

  “Well, it’d stop you getting into trouble.”

  “Kyle, come on!”Maddy grabbed his hand and pulled him outside.His strength had increased somewhat during his time out of hospital but he still struggled to keep up with her.Seeing two police officers approaching from the direction of reception, she dragged Kyle in the other direction, in between two other buildings so they were out of sight.She saw the two officers banging on the door of the room they’d just come from and signalled to Kyle that they should circle round.

  “They’ll soon start searching when they find out I’m not there,”he pointed out.

  “My car’s out the front,”Maddy pointed out,“If we can get to it without being seen, then we’re clear.”

  They moved slowly and cautiously round the rears of the buildings until they were nearly at reception. And then they ran, Maddy take the lead, Kyle moving more slowly behind her.She reached the car and unlocked it, climbing in and throwing the passenger door open for Kyle to clamber inside.

  “They’re here, they’re here!”the receptionist shouted.

  The two police officers were running but Maddy and Kyle had too much of a head start.Maddy floored the accelerator and they drove out of the park, hitting the first turn they came across at random, then the next, until they were certain the police car wasn’t following them.“So what now?”Kyle asked.

  Maddy sighed.“We keep driving.”

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Maddy finally pulled the car into the car park of a hotel.It was pretty much the definition of being in the middle of nowhere.It was the first sign of human habitation they’d seen in at least half an hour.Wide open fields stretched in every direction.

  “Let’s hope they don’t get the paper,”Kyle commented.

  “Assuming we’re not plastered all over ABC News by now,”Maddy added.She turned to Kyle, her expression showing how uncertain she was about doing all this.“We could drive on if you want.”

  “Or you could stay here and I could drive on.You could tell them that I tricked you.”

  “Well that’s not going to happen.”Maddy looked him dead in the eye.“Kyle, I’m all in here.”

  Kyle couldn’t help but smile.He still couldn’t quite believe how far she’d gone to help him but he definitely appreciated it.“So what’s the plan?”

  “I think we’ll start by checking in.Can you walk?”

  “I’ll give it a go.”

  Kyle managed to pull himself out of the car and fall into step with Maddy as they headed inside.A youngish female receptionist, of probably around thirty, smiled a greeting at them.“How may I help you?”

  “We’d like to book a room,”Maddy answered.

  “Double?”

  Maddy bit her lip nervously.“Yes.”She saw Kyle give a sharp look in her direction, surprise etched on his features.She did her best to ignore it.

  “And the name?”

  “Madeline Stewart.”

  The receptionist filled in the details.“And how are you going to pay?”

  Maddy knew this was problematic.Anything that required cards or accessing bank accounts would be traced.“How much for the night?”

  “$30.”

  Maddy took some notes from her purse.“How about I pay for that and we see what we’re doing tomorrow?”

  “That would be fine.”

***

Kyle looked out of the window.He had a good view of the car park and the roads leading up to the hotel. There was nothing there.That should have reassured him but somehow it didn’t.“I keep expecting the police to turn up.”

  Maddy was sitting on the bed behind him.“They’ll be looking but they’ll probably start nearer where we’re last seen.We’ll be all right for a bit anyway.”

  “How do you know?”

  “I don’t, I’m just trying to pretend that I do.”

  Kyle had to smile at that.“So how long do we stay here?”

  “For tonight at the very least.For a start, I’ve paid for it.And for another thing we need the rest.”

  “Do you want to turn in?”

  “We probably should.”

  Kyle tried not to look too hard at Maddy and the double bed she was sitting on.“So, am I sleeping on the floor?”

  Maddy got up, went over to him and kissed him.He responded, holding her close as they put their arms round each other.“No,”she said when the kiss finally broke,“I meant what I said before, Kyle.I like you.”

  They resumed kissing, heading towards the bed.“I thought you said we needed to rest,”Kyle reminded her.

  “We can rest afterwards.”

***

They lay in bed longer than they should have done the following morning, neither of them wanting to move as they lay in each other’s arms, an aura of contentment resting over them.But there were other things to think about and they both knew it.

  “We can’t stay here forever,”Kyle said at last.

  “No.”Maddy’s tone was full of disappointment.She disentangled herself from his embrace, sliding out of the bed, and started to get dressed.

  Kyle slid out of the other side and followed suit.“The offer’s still there.If you want to get out of this and go home…”

  “I think we both agreed it was way past that.”

  Kyle nodded.“So what then?”

  “We need to get some help.”

  “Not Brax and Heath,”Kyle checked.

  “Yeah, I got that one,”Maddy confirmed.

  There was something in her tone that caused Kyle to look at her with curiosity.“Have you got an idea?”

  “Just one.I’m not sure if you’re going to like it, but it may just be crazy enough to work.”

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CHAPTER NINE

They had checked out of the hotel first thing the following morning.Their next port of call was a roadside café.Maddy had made a phone call and assured Kyle that someone would meet them there.And so they sat out the front, nursing a cup of coffee each, and waiting.“I wish you’d tell me who this person is,”Kyle sighed.

  “It’s best if I wait until they’re here,”Maddy answered.

  “Why?”

  Maddy gave a sheepish smile.“So you can’t stop them coming.”

  Kyle sighed.“That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.”

  “Oh, this is him now.”Maddy nodded towards a car that had just come into view.

  They both stood up as the car drew near.It slowed to a stop and its occupant got out and smiled broadly. “Never fear, people!Chris is here!”

  Kyle stared hard at the sight of Chris Harrington for a very long time.The main reason for that was that he didn’t actually trust himself to speak.Finally he managed to compose himself long enough to say, “Could you excuse us a moment?”He took Maddy by the arm and escorted her a few yards out of earshot before exploding as quietly as possible.“Seriously?This is the person you think is going to solve all our problems?I’m struggling to think of a worse choice.”

  “Think of all the people you could call for help,”Maddy told him.

  “I am doing.It’s a pretty long list.”

  “Now take off all the people who’s way of helping would be to find someone and beat them up.”

  Kyle did.He had to admit it removed a good portion.

  “Now take of all the people who would tell you to phone the police straightaway.”

  Kyle did so.He looked over at Chris, who waved amiably at the attention.Exactly what they needed: Someone gentle and completely irresponsible, with enough ego to think he could help them.He looked back at Maddy.“I really hate that you’re right.”

  “Me too.”Maddy led the way back over to Chris.

  Chris smiled again at Kyle.“I saw your photo in the paper, man.Hey, no-one else here saw it, did they?”

  “Maybe we should drive somewhere else.”

***

The car had come to a halt in the middle of an overgrown field.It was pretty much the definition of the middle of nowhere.Chris had listened carefully as Kyle and Maddy had explained the situation.Now they leaned against the car as he paced and thought.“So you’re not completely sold on this whole fugitive lifestyle thing?”

  “Trust me, there’s nothing I want more than to serve my time and be a free man,”Kyle confirmed,“I just don’t want to get killed in the process.”

  “So the problem is, if we go to the authorities for help, then you don’t know who to trust.”Chris smiled triumphantly.“Then all we need to do is find someone we can trust!”

  “We kind of thought that was you,”Maddy admitted.

  Chris shook his head.“I’m good but I’m not that good.We need someone with clout.”He looked at their blank faces.“Okay, put it another way.How many police officers came through Summer Bay while we were there?”

  “A few, I guess,”Kyle admitted.

  “But I don’t think we’ve got their phone numbers,”Maddy added.

  Chris smiled again.“Which is why you came to me.Because I, lady and gentleman, have contacts.”

***

Chris sat in the interview room of a city police station.He had given quite specific instructions when he got there and it was taking time for the officers to carry them out.But finally an older man entered the room and looked at him expectantly.Chris smiled at him like they were old friends.“Inspector Emerson! Congratulations on your well deserved promotion, sir.You remember me, right?Chris Harrington, from Summer Bay?I wore a wire for you once, helped clear Nate Cooper?”

  Mike Emerson, formerly senior sergeant of Yabbie Creek Police Station, regarded him with something that wasn’t exactly fondness.“I remember you, Mr.Harrington.”He took his seat opposite Chris.“So what’s all this about?”

  Chris produced a newspaper and placed it on the desk between them.The front page depicted a photo of Kyle.“Someone we both know.”

  “Is that what this is about?”

  Chris spoke carefully.He’d practised.“Suppose, hypothetically, I knew where Kyle Braxton and Maddy Osborne were.”

  Emerson leaned forward.“Then, hypothetically, I would advise you to let me know.”

  “You know what happened with Kyle.”

  “I know that he was attacked in jail.I know that there weren’t any witnesses to the attack among the prison staff, which there should have been.I know that his guards were mysteriously absent from their posts at the time of his escape.And I know that two known criminals, who we haven’t been able to locate, were looking for him shortly beforehand.”Emerson took a deep breath.“None of which changes the fact that he’s a fugitive and it’s my duty to arrest him.”

  Chris smiled.“Well, that being the case, if I knew where they were, and if Kyle Braxton was willing to surrender himself to you…let’s just say there would be certain requests he’d like to make first.”

***

Maddy and Kyle were back at their table at the roadside café.The mood was even darker than it had been before.“Are you sure you want to do this?”Maddy asked.

  Kyle nodded.“It’s the only way.What about you?What are you going to do?”

  “I’m going to be here for you.Whatever happens.”

  Kyle smiled and kissed her softly.

  The police car approached.Emerson and Chris got out, accompanied by other officers.Kyle got to his feet and went over to them.

  Emerson stood face to face with Kyle.He didn’t smile.“Kyle Braxton, I am arresting you for absconding from custody.”

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CHAPTER TEN

Maddy and Chris were waiting in the reception area of a city police station.Maddy was fretting.It had been ages since they’d seen Kyle and she had no idea what was happening to him.She just suspected that it wasn’t going to be anything good.“What are they doing?”she complained, quiet enough than only Chris could hear.

  Chris turned to look at her.“Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right.”

  “We shouldn’t have come here.”

  “It’s the best thing.”There was an uncharacteristic sense of conviction in Chris’ voice, so much so that Maddy didn’t even argue with him.

  Emerson appeared.“Kyle’s been processed.There’s a vehicle coming to take him back to prison.”

  “And that’s it?”Maddy protested, horrified,“After everything that’s happened, you’re just going to send him back there?”

  “That’s what happens when people break the law.”

  “You can’t be serious.”Maddy was beyond angry now.“You are going to stop and do something or I swear I’m going to make sure…”

  “It’s only thanks to Mr.Harrington and Mr.Braxton that you’re not facing charges of assisting a fugitive,” Emerson told her sharply,“So if I was you I’d say as little as possible.”

  Maddy subsided but only with great reluctance.“Keep it down, okay, Mads?”Chris said quietly,“Or you’re both going to need files with cakes in.”He looked up at Emerson, who hadn’t quite retreated out of earshot.“You know that was a joke, right?”

  “Didn’t hear a word,”Emerson said sardonically.

  At that moment, two officers brought Kyle through.Maddy was on her feet in an instant, rushing over to him.“Kyle, are you all right?”

  “Keep your distance,”said one of the officers warningly.

  Kyle gave Maddy a smile that didn’t quite come across as reassuring.“It’s okay, Maddy.”

  “You’d better take care of him,”Maddy told the two officers.

  “Hey, we’re only taking him as far as the car park.Prison van’s picking him up.”

  “It’s standard procedure,”Emerson explained.

  Chris gently moved Maddy out of the way as Kyle was led outside.

***

Kyle had sensed things were not going to go well when he had realised that he had the same two guards: The ones that had left him to the mercy of his executioners.They both sat in the front, leaving him locked in the back.He hadn’t been secured apart from that however, and was free to move about, although he had no windows with which to see what was going on outside.He tried to follow the route from the movements of the vehicle but he soon lost track.When they came to a halt however, it felt like they hadn’t gone far enough.

  “Are we there?”he called out.

  “This is as far as you go,”a mocking call came back.

  The rear doors of the vehicle were suddenly pulled open.It wasn’t by the two guards though, but by two suited men.One of them was carrying a gun.He recognised Maddy’s description of the two men from the hospital.The second man grabbed him and dragged him out.

  “Kneel,”the man with the gun ordered.The other man forced him to his knees before he could object. “Frank Milligan sent us to say hello.”

  Kyle turned slightly to look at the two guards, who had got out of the cab but were simply standing some yards away.“Are you not going to do anything?”

  “Nothing we can do,”one of the guards replied casually.

  “How much have you been paid?”

  “Enough.”

  The gunman pointed his weapon at Kyle’s head.“Should have known when to stay quiet.”

  And then they all heard it.Police sirens.From all directions, getting louder and nearer.Two cars came into view from the direction they’d come from, skidding to a halt.Another came from ahead of them and screeched round in a loop as it stopped, blocking the road.Emerson stepped out of the one of the first two cars, as did the rest of the officers in them.

  The gunman didn’t quite seem to know what to do and almost seemed to be making an attempt to hide the gun inside his coat.“Drop the weapon!”shouted one of the officers with Emerson, gun drawn, and he quickly complied.The two hitmen were quickly pushed to the floor and cuffed.

  Emerson helped Kyle to his feet.“You all right, Braxton?”Kyle nodded.“Lucky we had a GPS tracker on the van.We were following from a distance and had cars stationed ready along the route.As soon as we saw you’d deviated down a country road and stopped, we moved in.”

  The guards seemed to be trying to revert to their innocent persona.“Inspector, thank goodness you’re here,”babbled one of them,“These two stopped us, there was nothing we could do.”Before he could go on, he and his partner were pushed up against their own van by the police officers from the third car and handcuffed.

  Emerson removed a small button-like device which had been attached to Kyle’s jacket.“Smile, boys, you’re on camera.”He nodded to his officers.“Read all four of them their rights and take them down the station.”

  Two of the cars departed with their prisoners, leaving Kyle alone with Emerson and one of the other officers.“So what now?”Kyle asked.

  “County have agreed to you being kept in lock-up until we’re sure anyone on Milligan’s payroll has been removed from the prison you were at.”

  Kyle nodded.He hadn’t expected much more than that.“But I am going back there eventually.”

  Emerson gave the closest thing to a smile Kyle had seen him give since he’d been arrested.“Well, that depends on a lot of things.”

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