She refused to let someone else decide her fate.

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Chapter 27

A spark of the old rebellious Ruth rose out of desperation, and the taste of escape washed over her at the dorm window.

I won’t be locked in this room while someone else decides my fate. I have to save Ella.                                                                                                                               

A delivery truck pulled down the long driveway in front of the school and disappeared around the back. The night delivery! My one and only chance. Let’s see if they lock the windows at this school. The wood framed pane lifted easily and slid all the way to the top. The only problem—she was two stories high.

A quick glance at the grounds and a plan formed. She swung a leg out the window, grabbed the largest branch of the sycamore tree next to the building, and eased out. Once settled in the tree, she carefully shimmied to the ground.

The shadows obscured her presence while she tiptoed around the corner. Detroit Laundry was printed on the side panel of the truck. I’m in luck! They are delivering the weekly linen supply, and I know they will return to the city tonight. It’s my fault Ella was taken. Eric Horton did this. I just know it.

Ruth peeked around the corner of the administration building and waited for a chance to climb into the back of the laundry truck. It’s the only way to get back to the city. I have to find Eric Horton. He hired someone to kidnap me. Poor Ella, I never meant for this to happen. Only I can make it right.

The deliverymen carried the fresh linens into the back door, and Ruth saw her opportunity. Just as she stepped onto the graveled drive, a hand clamped her forearm.

“What are you doing, Ruthie, trying to run away again?”

Ruth jumped, ready to strike the assailant. “Father! You scared me to death. I thought it was the kidnapper. What are you doing here?” She pulled him back into the shadows.

Robert Squire wrapped both arms around her. “I came to see about you. This is a dangerous situation, and you shouldn’t have to deal with it alone.”

“They locked me in my room. I can’t go through that again. Ella is in danger, and it is my fault. I am trying to find a way back to the city to help her.” She glanced back at the truck and saw the one opening slip away. The drivers were back and closing the bay door.

“Well, I agree, you shouldn’t be locked up. Tell you what. I will drive you back, but you must promise me to break this habit of running away. Your mother and I can’t take it anymore.” He smiled and chucked her under the chin.

“Oh Father, would you? I promise it’s the very last time.”

“Let’s go, the motorcar is over there.” He pointed toward the tree-lined drive. “Don’t you think you should tell someone you are leaving?”

Ruth grabbed his hand and raced toward the auto. “No one will miss me. I am going to find Ella. They will only try to stop me.”

After a mad scramble across the lawn, they piled into the vehicle.

“I feel like a school boy again, skipping class. What would Mother say?” He laughed and steered away from the campus. “Now, why don’t you tell me how you got in this mess and why poor Ella figures into the picture?”

The hour and a half ride back home passed quickly. Ruth related the entire story as the trees and houses passed by the windows like a silent movie. Father nodded and commented on each point, but fell quiet when the story turned to Ella.

“I know it was wrong to lure her to the gardener’s shack, Father. Honestly, I only wanted to talk to her. The fact is you don’t realize how she ties to our family.” Ruth faced forward, unwillingly to witness the shock that would register on his face. “Her father is Captain Alexander Adams.”

The steering wheel jerked to the left, and the auto lurched.

Ruth braved a glance at her father. “So, you do know him.”

Mr. Squire’s mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out.

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

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