Twenty-NinthMature

TWENTY-NINTH

Alex met Tessa in her office. By the time he got there it was well after midnight, but she was waiting for him with a cup of coffee and a small smile.

“I might just decide to keep you after all,” he said as he took the coffee. “How is Ava?”

“She’s okay,” Tessa murmured into his chest as he hugged her. “I told her you’d come by, but she fell asleep so I guess it’s okay that you didn’t show.”

“I was with Ari. She’s pretty banged up.”

Tessa frowned. “Do you know who did it?”

“Not a fucking clue. It pisses me off. Who would want to hurt her? All she does is keep to herself. She doesn’t bother anyone.”

“Apparently someone thought she was in the way,” Tessa said, raising an eyebrow. “I can’t believe I’m even thinking that, I’m sorry.”

Alex set his coffee down and held her at arm’s length, staring into her face, his green eyes narrowed. “What are you thinking, babe?”

She bit her lip. She didn’t want to say what she had been considering for awhile now, because it sounded absolutely ridiculous and would only make him paranoid.

Before she could say anything, however, her office door flew open and Emma stood there. She was out of breath, her eyes wide.

“Tessa, it’s Ava.”

Blue eyes grew large as she stepped away from Alex. “What happened?”

“I don’t know where she is,” Emma said quietly as they went out into the hall. Before Tessa could glare at her, she continued, “I went to check on all of them and Ava wasn’t in her room. I didn’t know where else to go. I’m sorry.”

“Maybe she went to visit Ari,” Alex said from behind them. He shut the office door, locked it, and handed Tessa her keys.

“I checked,” Emma said, shaking her head. “She’s not there, either.”

“Okay, okay,” Tessa said, running a hand down her face tiredly. “Where didn’t you look yet?”

“Everywhere but the basement.”

Tessa and Alex exchanged looks.

“Excuse me, Dr. Hadley.” It was the nurse, coming toward them, looking a little worried. “Are you talking about Miss. Delong?”

“Yes,” Tessa said, nodding. “Do you know where she is?”

The older woman bit her lip. “She left the treatment center, ma’am. With a boy.”

The End

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