Jenna stopped the Jeep outside Zane’s apartment building and killed the engine. She took a deep breath, her hands still firmly gripping the steering wheel. She’d had an overwhelming feeling settle on her shoulders around midday that she hadn’t been able to shake. She’d called and texted Zane and had no response. That wasn’t unusual. Since the holdup at the bank, he hadn’t been himself and would go for days at a time without answering his phone, but today was different. She couldn’t explain it, but she could feel it.

She pushed open the car door and stepped out onto the road. Nerves flitted in the pit of her stomach. She’d probably roll her eyes if any of her friends told her they sensed that something was wrong with their sibling, but she did. It hadn’t happened often, but enough times that she trusted her gut when it came to her twin. If she thought he was in trouble or needed her, she would be there for him.

She hurried through the front doors of the apartment building and up the two flights of stairs to apartment 2E. Zane had lived here for three years, Lucy for part of that time. Jenna shook her head. She still found it hard to believe that Lucy had left now, of all times. Zane needed her, and she’d chosen the worst time in his life to trample his heart.

She knocked loudly on Zane’s door and waited only a few seconds before reaching into her bag and extracting a key. If he wasn’t answering his phone, it was unlikely he’d answer his door. She unlocked the door and hurried down the hallway to the open-plan kitchen and living area. Silence surrounded her. She moved from room to room, quickly confirming the apartment was empty. She returned to the kitchen. A bowl sat on the countertop with Zane’s phone, keys, and wallet in it.

“Zane?” Jenna called her brother’s name, feeling silly as she did. He wasn’t home. She already knew that. But the contents of the bowl suggested he should be.

She was about to turn and leave when a slight rustling from behind the couch caught her attention. She hurried over to the space between the couch and the window and gasped. Zane was curled up in the fetal position, a blanket wrapped around him, as he shook and tears poured down his cheeks.

Zane willed himself to pull it together and sit up, but he couldn’t. He had no idea how long he’d been behind the couch, but with the light beginning to fade outside, he knew it must be several hours.

“Zane?” Jenna crouched beside him, resting a hand on his arm. “Are you okay?”

Did he look okay? He shook his head, doing his best to pull the blanket up over his face. What was she doing here? Couldn’t he have a breakdown in private? Was it too much to ask?

“Hey,” Jenna said. “Let’s get you up onto the couch. You can’t lie here all night.”

He allowed her to help him up to his feet and quickly sank onto the couch. The shaking stopped, and numbness settled over him.

Jenna didn’t speak. Instead, she walked over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of wine. She returned to the couch with two glasses and the bottle. She sat down next to Zane and poured them each a drink. He took one from her gratefully.

Jenna took a large gulp from her glass before turning to face Zane. “What can I do to help?”

Zane stared at his sister. He must be freaking her out if that was her approach. Jenna usually controlled everything around her. He’d expect her to walk in and tell him exactly what he should be doing, not ask what she could do to help. “Am I that bad?”

She reached across and took his hand and squeezed it. “You’ve had a traumatic experience. Probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. I don’t know how to help, other than to say you can’t stay here alone like this.”

“Not much choice now that Lucy’s gone.” Not that he could blame her. She’d done her best to get him to open up and try to help him, but nothing had worked. He just wanted to be left alone. He relived the events at the bank multiple times a day, and talking about it did nothing to help.

“Have you been seeing the therapist still?”

“Not this week. I don’t want to leave the house.” Zane waited for his sister to tell him he was ridiculous. That he’d have to leave the house at some stage, and he couldn’t let something like this control his life. But she didn’t.

“You know, if I’d been through what you have, I wouldn’t leave the house either. I think I’d be terrified that wherever I went there could be another holdup. I’m sorry you went through that. Have you heard from your job?”

Zane nodded. “They’ve given me a few weeks off to recover. But I’m not sure I can go back there. In all honesty, I never want to set foot in a bank again.”

“Then don’t,” Jenna said.

Zane mustered a weary smile for Jenna. “Don’t? Aren’t you supposed to be telling me not to let them win, to make sure I get back out there and all of that? Get back on the horse or whatever that stupid saying is. A saying made up by someone who never fell off a horse.”

“If our situations were reversed, I’d hope you wouldn’t be telling me that,” Jenna said. “But I do want to help.”

Zane sighed. “I’m not sure what to do. It’s permanently etched in my mind.” He shuddered. “The fear, the gunshots. It was horrific.”

Jenna sipped her wine, studying him intently. “You look terrible. When did you last eat?”

“I don’t know. Yesterday, I guess.”

“Are you sleeping?”

“For a couple of hours. But then I have nightmares that wake me. I’m living with it around the clock.”

Jenna put her wine glass down on the coffee table and stood. “Okay, time to pack a bag.”

“Why?”

“You’re coming to stay with me tonight, and then we’re going to come back here tomorrow and pack up your things.”

“Pack them up?”

“Yes. You need to get out of here. I’m taking you back to the Ridge on Friday. I’ll call in sick for the next two days. Tomorrow we pack. Friday we drive.”

Zane shook his head. “I can’t stay with Mom and Dad. They don’t even know what happened.”

“That’s a good thing,” Jenna said. “No one in Hope’s Ridge knows. You can go back and spend a few weeks there and recover. You can’t keep going on like this, Zane.”

“I’m doing better than I was.”

Jenna raised an eyebrow. “I’d like to believe that, but when I find you curled up in the fetal position behind your couch, shaking and crying, I’m not sure I believe you. Now, this is what we’re going to do.”

Zane half listened as his sister outlined her plans. They would return to the Ridge under the guise that Zane was exhausted and needed a break. Jenna was going to contact Daniel Varrs, a psychologist in nearby Drayson’s Landing, and book Zane in, and they would go from there.

Zane closed his eyes.

“I know you can hear me,” Jenna said. “And if you can’t take care of yourself right now, I’m going to do it for you.”

The next day passed in a blur as Zane moved around his apartment like a zombie. He packed boxes at Jenna’s insistence and prepared to leave the apartment. Friday morning arrived, and Jenna woke him early and ushered him into her Jeep. How had he let her push him into this? She’d seemed so reasonable when she first turned up, asking how she could help him. And now he was in her vehicle traveling at great speed toward his parents and hometown. He wanted to turn to Jenna and demand that she stop the car, turn around, and take him back home. But he didn’t have the energy. Instead, he lay his head against the window, trying his best to block out everything.

 

To read more of Finding Hope’s Ridge and to see how Zane’s return to his hometown pans out, click here. If you’ve read this story, you might like to check out the other titles available in the Hope’s Ridge series. Click here for more information.

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In Finding Hope’s Ridge, Zane Larsen is forced, by his sister Jenna, to move back to Hope’s Ridge. What happened to force Jenna into action and make this drastic move for her brother?

Bonus Scene #2