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~~~~~~~~~~

“Olivia? Are you in there?” a female voice sounded, bringing Alexander back to the present. “Libby?”

Alexander stood up and saw Kiera walking into the kitchen. “Oh, Alex. I’m sorry. Where’s Libby?” Alexander just stared at her, his eyes swollen and sunken from crying. “What happened? Is something wrong?” Kiera asked.

“You could say that,” Alexander replied, his voice an empty shell. “She left, Kiera. She ran. I don’t know where she is.” He sounded so lost. He just stared out the windows, still processing everything that happened.

“What do you mean she left?” Kiera asked, the panic sounding in her voice. “When will she be back?”

“I don’t think she will.” He looked back at the clock in the kitchen and saw that it was past nine at night. He had been sitting there for nearly four hours. Four hours he could have been looking for her. He started to do the math in his head. She probably had about an eight-hour head start on him. That was such a long time. She could be anywhere.

“I need to go, Kiera,” he said, snapping back to it. “I need to find her.”

“Alex, wait. She’s done this before. And, well, she just doesn’t want to be found. Give her time. She will come back. I went through this with her right after she graduated from college. She will come back. I know it. But if you try to find her, you might just push her even further away.”

“How do you know she’ll come back?” he asked, his eyes filling with tears once more. “She told me to move on and I just don’t think I can do that, Kiera.”

“I know, Alex. I know. But she will come back. She always does. It may not be tomorrow or next week or next month or next year.”

“Why? I don’t understand,” Alexander said, trying to subdue the knot in his throat.

“Running away is the only thing she knows how to do when she’s scared. When she was growing up, everyone who said they would always be there for her, left. So she pushes everyone away.”

“But, I love her. I’ll never leave her. I need to find her…”

~~~~~~~~~~

Around three in the afternoon the following day, Olivia pulled her Audi in front of a beach house. She found the rental when she stopped for gas the previous night and immediately agreed to pay for six months up front, sight unseen.

“It’s perfect,” Olivia said.

She grabbed Nepenthe out of the back seat, thankful that he didn’t mind car rides all that much.

“You must be Miss Adler,” an older gentleman said, walking down the front deck to meet Olivia.

“Yes. Mr. Robinson?”

“That’s me.”

Olivia grabbed the envelope with the cash for the beach rental and handed it over to Mr. Robinson. He gave her the keys and left Olivia to take in her surroundings.

Amelia Island, Florida. It was perfect. Small and quaint. Not overrun with tourist traps that plague most Florida beaches. And she found a great three-bedroom house on the north end of the island right on the water. It was exactly what she needed to help clear her mind and move on. A little sun and sand could do wonders for the soul.

Then why was the only thing on her mind Alexander? She wondered how he had reacted when he got her letter, if he even found it. She felt guilty for leaving town without telling Kiera and Mo, but it was necessary. It had to be done.

She unpacked the few things that she brought with her, setting up Nepenthe’s food bowls and pouring him some fresh food and water. He ran over and began to eat, purring in appreciation. She collapsed on the couch in the large open living room, exhausted from her long drive. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast the day before, but she had no appetite.

“If this is what a broken heart feels like, I did the right thing, didn’t I, Nepenthe?”

The cat looked up from his bowl, a scowl across his face from his meal being interrupted. She grabbed a blanket off the back of the couch, thankful that she found a fully furnished rental, and pulled it over her. She fell asleep, listening to the crash of the waves from the Atlantic Ocean, thinking to herself how that was her worst birthday yet.

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