the living room, and even the bathroom and the spare bedroom. Then
he climbed the stairs, worry blooming under his breastbone with each step into the upper darkness of the house. A quick look
in all the rooms proved them to be empty, but the disarray of the fussy embroidered pillows and the quilted coverlet of the
one in the back told him that it might have been her mother who had gone in the ambulance.
He was positive she had not gone with it. The car was in town with her aunt and uncle. That meant she had to be here somewhere.
In the front bedroom, where a single suitcase lay on the floor, its contents as orderly and neat as a shop window, he glanced
out at the view. The moon had come up, and by its light he saw a small, dark figure march across the road in the direction
of the river.
In just that way—grimly, a woman on a mission—she had walked away from him across the field, and mayhem had been the result.
“Oh, no,” he breathed. “Lord, what is she doing? Help me get there first, dear Father.”
He took the stairs three at a time and burst out the front door without bothering to close it behind him. He made a few seconds’
time on the asphalt of the road, but the trees that stood between him and the river, though sparse and thin, held him up.
The tussocky grass and the uneven banks where the river had changed direction deceived and tripped him.
He was still fifty yards away when, in the hard, silver moonlight, he saw her kick off her ugly, low-heeled shoes and toss
her barn jacket on the sandbar.
“No, Lord. Don’t let her. Please don’t let her do it.”
His breath scraped in his chest like shards of ice, and he heaved and gasped as he staggered toward the sandbar. He wasn’t
going to make it in time.
The rushing of the river drowned out his voice, and she waded in without glancing back, totally focused on whatever dreadful
thoughts were in her mind.
The water burst around her knees and then her thighs, pulling relentlessly on her dress. She could hardly keep her footing.
Then she spread her arms wide and dropped into the current as gracefully and inevitably as a tree falling.
There was no room in his head for a thought of his own danger. Matthew dragged in as much air as his lungs could hold, and
plunged in after her.
DINAH HAD A split second to hope that her head would hit a big rock right away before the underwater roar of the river filled her ears
and somersaulted her like a rag doll. Something whacked her ankle, hard, and she fought the temptation to curl into a ball
to minimize the damage.
It didn’t matter what happened to her body. Should she breathe in, was the question. She was holding her breath by instinct,
but that defeated the whole point.
Ouch! Her shoulder scraped the gravel on the bottom and she felt a sudden freedom that meant the sleeve had given way. Her
skirts had reversed up over her head.
Can’t breathe. Need air.
No. Breathe water. It will be over soon.
Something grabbed the fabric wrapped around her neck and jerked violently. Oh, good. A snag would hold her down.
Whatever was holding onto her was alive. Animal?
She pushed at it and it pushed back, and suddenly her head broke the surface, but fabric was pasted to her face like a mask.
With a groan, she tried to drag in a breath and got a mouthful of wet material instead.
“Dinah! Stop it!” somebody said, and suddenly she was upended face down, her cheek mashed into cold gravel. The sopping mask
was torn away and she gasped and coughed, heaving on the ground, sucking in sand and pine needles with every breath.
She coughed and spat out a mouthful of water.
“Are you all right? Can you speak?”
A burst of anger so hot it was like a blood transfusion rocketed through her, and she pushed herself up on both hands. On
all fours like an animal, she glared at him.
“What did you do that for?” She’d meant to scream, but it came