Extra content for Penelope’s Paths

So, let me first remind you a bit of where this next branch of story comes from…
As the above Map illustrates…
Do you remember when Penelope got home late after running from Mitch at the nightclub? She heard a sound and went inside…
And then there was this… (The blue text is what was in the published version. The black text beyond that is the deleted portion, or, part one of it. Just like the book – there will be a choice, as you probably noted from the map.)
[Also, Please note and accept my apologies. The original version of the entire book was written in the 2nd person (you) and because it was not professionally edited, there may still be some small errors. Working hard to get them all corrected – if you find any error – don’t hesitate to reach out.]

I decide to throw caution to the wind and live more adventurously. Besides, I might like hiking with a guy, a handsome guy like Craig, more than with Shannon.

I put an enthusiastic smile on my face and tell Craig with a sort of fake excitement, “I’d love to go hiking.”
A huge smile hits Craig’s face. “Excellent. We should get an early start. Before it gets too hot. Would eight be okay? How does Dart Island sound? I love the Bear Hill Trail. Never seen a bear there though,” he assures me. When I don’t answer right away, more because he’d just said a lot and I was trying to process it all, he adds, “We can meet there.”

“Eight sounds perfect,” I say, kicking myself. Eight o’clock on a Sunday morning isn’t my idea of a good time, but my idea of a lonely day isn’t exactly what I’m looking for either. ‘Doing the same thing will always get you the same results,’ I remind myself. At the very least, it’ll help me forget about a certain trumpet player.

“And, uh, I’ll bring the energy bars,” he says with a glance at the box he’d just put on the shelf.

To that remark, laughing gently, I say, “I should probably put some of these other things away, too,” earning another one of his brilliant, mega-watt smiles.

His phone pings from the front basket of his cart, and he glances down. “I gotta get a move on. Have a client in Greenwich in an hour.”

We exchange phone numbers, and say goodbye. I watch as he heads down the aisle toward the registers. Wow! He has one hell of a backside. Broad, strong shoulders. A trim waist. And his butt looks amazing in his workout shorts. I’m getting more and more excited about our day of hiking tomorrow.

Begrudgingly, I put back all the junk food, and make some better choices—since I’ll be hiking tomorrow and tell myself that it’s ultimately for the best.

After I get home and have unpacked my groceries, I call Shannon.

“Hey,” she says answering the call. “How was the club last night,” she asks, barely containing a snicker.

“A disaster,” I admit on an exhale. “This guy, while gorgeous, and a professional classical musician, was just way too handsy, and I came home early.”

“My offer still stands to set you up with William.”

“Actually, I kinda met someone today,” I tell her.

“Really? Do tell!”

“At the grocery store,” I say, giggling and shaking my head.

“Lemme guess,” she says while starting to cackle with laughter. “He asked you about melons?”

“No!” I protest, even though I want to laugh with her. “We were actually in the granola bar section, if you must know.”

“Oh, how romantic,” she teases.

“But listen, he’s taking me hiking tomorrow.”

“Seriously? You? Hiking?” She must well remember all the moaning I did when we went.

“Yup,” I chirp, ignoring her disbelief. “Which is actually why I’m calling. Can I borrow your hiking boots and backpack?”

“Sure. I’ll have Nate drag them up from the basement. But are you sure? You hate hiking.”

“I don’t hate it,” I insist.

“Okay,” she says, dismissively. “So, what else do you know about this guy? Where is he taking you?”

“He’s a personal trainer. Goes to clients homes. One of his clients is in Greenwich. He’s even trained at the Club occasionally. He’s taking me to Dart Bear Hill, or something like that?”

“Dart Island. Bear Hill trail,” she corrects. “Tough hike for someone who hasn’t been out in a while. You sure you’re up to it?” she asks.

“I’m sure.”

I tell her I’ll be at her place in a couple hours to pick up the gear, and plan to get all the work I was going to do tomorrow done today.

I pull into the parking area of Dart Island State Park just before eight. There are only a couple cars there this early on a Sunday, and I quickly find Craig who is sitting in his grey, Jeep Wrangler. It’s a convertible and the top has been removed exposing the roll bars. It also has giant knobby tires and the vehicle is caked with mud.
Craig spots me and hops out of his car looking more handsome than yesterday, if possible.

I park next to him and get out to meet him. I’m all decked out in spandex, and Shannon’s boots and accessories. His appraising eyes give me a flattering nod of approval.

“Tough time getting here?” I ask, pointing out the mud on his truck.

He chuckles good-naturedly and says, “Nah. The other day, a buddy of mine got stuck in the mud and called me and I pulled him out. Then had to tow the dude home because he’d flooded the engine.”

‘What a great guy!’ I think to myself. His friends get stuck, and can call on a good friend like Craig to help them out. I’m liking this guy more and more.

“Ready for an awesome trail?”

I tell him I am and after a couple notes from Craig, I slip my pack on my back and I follow his lead.
Our conversation is natural and never waivers. Craig is an excellent guide making the trail almost easy. The views along the way are breathtaking: babbling brooks, nearly perfect tunnels made from arching trees, and perches where we can see for miles. He identifies birds, and he even makes the bugs we find along the way seem interesting.

At the top of the trail, Craig lays out a nice little spread of spiced nuts, his homemade energy bars, and plenty of fresh fruit. I enjoy the little break, feeling accomplished and powerful. Craig is very complimentary of my hiking skills and I mentally pat myself on the back.

I pull out my second bottle of water and Craig, chides me a bit for it. “You should have something with electrolytes,” he explains, holding up his bottle of fancy water that says right on the front ‘with electrolytes.’

“Electrolytes. Got it. I’ll bring those next time.”

“No worries. You’ll get the hang of it all. I should have grabbed an extra bottle for you,” he says apologetically. “You can have a sip of mine,” he offers. “I vow to you that I do not have cooties. Or anything else.”

I laugh and take a sip of his. Instantly, I’m transported to my sophomore year in college when I drank way too much at a stupid party and my roommate forced grape-flavored Pedialyte on me. I didn’t mind the grape flavor as much as I gagged on the lingering after taste, similar to Craig’s ‘unflavored’ version. But he was right. A few sips of the electrolyte water and I actually do feel better, and ready to ‘hit the trail’ again.

After the break, we head back down the trail, which, thankfully, is a lot easier than going up, although I’m starting to feel the fatigue in my thighs and lower back, the reason I remember not liking the hiking with Shannon.

Safely back at the cars, Craig grabs and opens a bottle of electrolyte water from a cooler in his trunk and hands it to me. Maybe because it’s colder, it doesn’t taste as bad, or, I’m just thirstier.

Craig is talking about other trails he’d like to take me on, and maybe one day, I’d like to go camping with him.

“Um, yeah. Camping,” I say, fighting a wave of wooziness off.

“Are you okay?” Craig asks with concern.

“A little dizzy is all,” I say, trying to sound untroubled, while I don’t know why I’m feeling so unstable.

“Probably the change in altitudes, and the exercise. The electrolytes will help, like they did up at the top,” Craig assures  me.

Remembering how good I felt after our snack, I agree, and drink more of the bottle looking for the dizziness to go away, but things get blurry… and Craig’s voice sounds weird. He doesn’t seem to notice I’m having difficulties.

Am I allergic to something?

Before I can get the words out to Craig, my world goes BLACK.

I wake to a strong, musty scent. And a headache. Opening my eyes, I find myself in a bed. In a cabin. A legit, one-room log cabin with the bed in one corner, a practical kitchen in the opposite corner. There’s a small sitting area in the corner to my left, and in the corner on my right, a small area like a bathroom with a toilet, a shower head and a small sink. I have no idea where I my. Reflecting on my last memory I’m shocked and frighten to deduce that… I’d been drugged!

Frantically I look around but don’t see Craig.

I’m solidly freaking out and start to get out of the bed but Craig walks into the cabin, acting as if everything is normal and hunky dory.

“Hey, sleepy head!”

“Hey?” I reply carefully, thoroughly confused. “What happened? Where are we?”

“This is my little cabin in the woods. Well, our cabin,” he says as if I’ve lost my mind.

“Our cabin? What?”

“Oh, come on, Penelope. You feel it as much as I do,” he says almost condescendingly.

I’m starting to really panic. What in all things holy is he talking about??

He skulks to the bed and takes a seat. Instincts kick in and I recoil.

“Shhh,” he soothes. “It’s okay.”

He touches my hand and I feel like vomiting. Something is incredibly not right here.

“You’re going to be a wonderful mother and make a beautiful, strong, and smart baby.”


Piecing everything together, I start breathing quickly. Too quickly. I’m feeling dizzy again. This isn’t good. I try and tell myself to calm down. I recall when a classmate on my university’s campus had been abducted. The school offered seminars and self-defense classes. They’d also written an article about abductions and it also cited many tips about how to not get kidnapped. But right now, I can’t remember a single tip or strategy.
But suddenly, I can’t think at all because lips are on my hand… my arm… my shoulder.
I’m paralyzed. I can’t move.

“God, I can’t wait to meet our baby, but I guess we’d better make one first, huh?”

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, please help me, I pray silently to a God I’m ashamed to admit I’ve not really gotten to know in my short twenty-seven years.

Craig’s fish lips are now on my neck. I know that in no time at all they’re going to be on my mouth, and then who knows?!

“No!” I scream and push against the wall of muscle that is leaning on me.

“C’mon, Penelope. This is happening. We. Are. Meant to be.”

“We just met!” I try, desperate to gain any space or time.

“Oh, I knew when I first saw you.”

What? First saw you?? At the grocery store?

“You have a great backhand,” he tells me.

“Sorry?” I’m now legitimately shaking with fear. I haven’t played tennis since belonging to the country club with Peter, the club membership he kept.

“At the club. I watched you play a few times. I used to manage the gym.”

“The gym? At the club?”

“The rock climbing wall? My idea.”

I nod even though I have no idea what he’s talking about. I didn’t really ever spend time in the gym.

“You’re a designer, right? Your website… I mean. Wow! Great work. You’re so creative. Great vision. Not so sure about your drinking and your friends though, especially the wild red headed one.”

Suddenly, things are clicking into place. He had been at the bar watching me earlier in the week. While I was having drinks with Shannon and Laura. He’d been at the night club the other night. I saw him there just before I met Mitch.

Has he been stalking me? My stomach rolls at the magnitude of what he’s divulging.

“And when I spotted you yesterday… in the produce section, the way you looked for the apples that didn’t have any bruises, then the bananas… So many shoppers just grab whatever.” I think about the two pieces of fruit that were in my cart and wish I had never put a single piece of anything healthy in it. “You took your time. Then your smile. And in the granola bar aisle. You listened to me when I said you shouldn’t be having those disgusting sugary granola bars. You are reasonable. And smart and I know our babies will be just like you.”

What did he say?? 

Terror rips through my body anew. My scattered thoughts return to the article.

“Help!” I scream. “Help!”

Quickly, he covers my mouth with a strong arm and tight grip, pushing me back on the bed. He shakes his head sadly. “Penelope. Don’t be this way. Besides. No neighbors up here for miles. Didn’t want the baby keeping anyone up. Babies don’t really think about their neighbors. Now… Let’s get the show on the road. No time like the present, I always say.”

I want to scream or kick or something but with the look in his eyes, I don’t seem to be able to do anything. It’s like my brain has shut off and the only thing I can attribute it to is Craig’s glare and his hands.

He releases his hand from my mouth and shoves it into my hair gripping a painful fist full of my ponytail, holding my head steady while he kisses me. His other hand is working its way between my legs.

I’m well aware of his agility and strength from the hike, and the way he’s talking, I’m now also aware that he’s not right in the head.

The hand between my legs moves and is now yanking down my spandex pants. I gasp and try to shout, but his mouth won’t leave mine.

This isn’t happening. I can’t let it.

I bite his lower lip. Hard. I even make out the coppery taste of blood!

“Son of a bitch! What in the hell did you do that for?” he shouted, spit and/or blood hitting my face. “You like it rough? Is that it?” His left hand swings back over his right shoulder and he backhands me! “Like that? Huh?”
He drops my head and I fall against the musty pillows. He yanks down my pants, his fingernails digging into the skin on my hips. Tears burn at my eyes and I’m shaking. My hands are cold. All of me grows instantly cold. It’s like I’m frozen, both physically and mentally. I can’t feel much of anything.

Suddenly, I’m aware of someone… something… pushing into me. Over and over. Grunting. A smell of sweat. But none of it makes sense.

My face is wet. Why? My eyes burn, but I can’t figure out from what.

It’s like I’m not in my own body…

I feel sleepy. If I just close my eyes…

I wake with discomfort and alarm coursing through my body. I’m relieved that no one is on top of me. No smell of sweat assaults my nose. and a quick scan of the space reveals he’s not around. Straining my ear, I listen for sounds that he’s just outside.

Seems the coast is clear.

I need to run. Get out of here. But as I drop my feet to the floor,  there’s a problem. A metal band has been secured around my right ankle, and that band is attached to a chain which is attached to a pipe along the wall. I stand and take several steps noting that the chain isn’t long enough to allow me to access anything other than the bed and the bathroom area. The pain I’d been feeling when I woke is nothing compared to the rising panic.

Suddenly, hearing a car door close, I dash back to the bed lest Craig sees me walking about. He doesn’t need to make any conclusions about what I was doing.

The front door opens and Craig walks in with a small paper bag. “I’d forgotten to buy prenatal vitamins! Silly me,” he scoffs good naturally, holding up his purchase. He’s smiling brightly at me as if it is just another day in Mayberry.

What the actual fuck?

“By the way, I forgot to ask. Are you on the pill?” he asks.

Dread fills my body and I think I may vomit.

I can’t speak for fear of throwing up and my eyes well with tears.

I shake my head no. No, I’m not on the pill, and no, This can’t be happening!

But this news turns Craig’s smile into a grin. “So exciting!” he says. “Things could happen sooner than later! Would you want a boy or a girl? I’m hoping for a girl.”

This guy is completely off his rails! I can’t think straight and am terrified that what happened earlier might have actually impregnated me.

Fortunately, Craig doesn’t wait for my to reply about gender preference for a baby. He continues to yammer on about my traits he would want a baby to have. Or as he refers to it “our baby.” Every time he utters the word I grow more and more distressed.

With all my effort, I try and think straight. The chain is short enough that it keeps me from open windows to see if anyone is outside to try and flag down help. I do what I can over the next several hours to gain his trust so that he lets me off the chain. It’s my only chance of escape.

All the while, Craig “takes care” of me. Making sure I have plenty of pillows and blankets. Giving me water so that I’m hydrated, although I’m super skeptical of taking any thing he gives me. He reads to me from the book Pride and Prejudice, of all things.

As he makes me dinner that night, he boasts about the all natural, organic, no additives vegan meal he’s preparing. I’ve never been opposed to vegetarian or vegan meals, but I find myself craving steak and chicken or even a glass of milk!

Trying to be as pleasant as I can lest he react violently again, I eat his meal of quinoa, beans, and kale, but are still fearful of it being drugged further.

Unfortunately, no amount of pleasantries convinces him to let me off the restraint. “All for your safety,” he assures me.

Despair threatens to consume me, but I do what I can to hide my fear, not wanting to give him any power. I try and go to bed early, but Craig has other plans.

Less brutally this time, he again rapes me, telling me that now that I’ve had such healthy food, my body is in better condition for conception. And again, I somehow check out of my body and fight any registering that such a violent crime is being done to me.

The next morning, after a bowl of oatmeal with fresh berries, I’m fussing with the band on my ankle.

“Is this really necessary, Craig? It’s really giving me quite a bruise.” Then with a bizarre thought, catering to his equally insane thinking, I add, “If I do get pregnant, you wouldn’t want my body to be in repair mode on my ankle, right?

“Good point,” he replies thoughtfully. He eyes me steadily and asks, “You’re not going to run, are you?”

“No!” I answer, emphatically shaking my head. “I can see how important this is to you.” Lying to this man makes me absolutely sick.

However, to my immense relief, he releases my ankle and even tends to the open wound the shackle had left. He even prepares an ice compress for the bruising.

That afternoon, he stands and tells me, “I have to get more firewood. Supposed to be a chilly afternoon and night. We want to keep you all cozy.” He grins and winks and leaves through the only door to the cabin. 

I was hoping that he was going to have to drive somewhere to buy the wood, but peering outside I see him gathering logs from what looks like a felled tree. He sets a log on end and picking up an axe, he strikes at the upended wood, and misses, cursing furiously. With him occupied with his less than lumberjack skills, I quickly start to search the kitchen for a weapon. To my horror, I realize all the drawers, even the cabinets and cupboards are all locked tight. I abandon my mission of looking for something in the kitchen and curl myself on the bed trying to come up with another plan.

When he comes back into the cabin ten minutes later, I’m feeling defeated. He glances at the kitchen and inspects the counter. Not thinking anything of it, I’d moved a dishtowel.

“What were you doing in the kitchen?” he asks, a smile is curled on his lips but his eyes reveal his suspicion.

“I was just looking around. Getting to know my new home,” I lie, plastering what I hope is a believable smile on my face.

He nods slowly, his eyes still accusing me. He drops the firewood next to the wood-burning stove then stalks up to the bed.

“I think we’d better put this back on… for your safety,” he says, a scowl in his voice with a fake smile, picking up the cuff and chain.

“No!” I object sharply. “My ankle. It still hurts,” I plead.

He inspects my ankle and the bandage he’d put on only a few hours ago. Turning sharply, he digs in his bag and produces a pair of handcuffs.

“You really don’t have to do that,” I try again, terror streaking through my body at the thought of being restrained again.

His eyes snap to my face, leaving no room for argument. The rest of the afternoon is silent. He doesn’t say one more word to me, just eyes me warily, distrusting me.

After an awkwardly, nearly silent dinner of some tofu and kale dish and Craig having cleaned the kitchen and dishes, he settles into the chair. He resumes his reading to himself and listening to music with headphones.

Well, at least he’s not making you cook and clean, I tell myself. And he’s left me unrestrained.

Antsy, I start imagining everything I see around me as a weapon. An ottoman. A chair. A pillow to suffocate him. None of those things seem plausible due to his strength and size. And mine.

I wish I’d paid more attention to the self-defense class I took back in college. There has to be something I can do. Bits of information seem to return from the deep recesses of my memory. I only hope I’m remembering everything fully. 

If attacked from behind…stomp on your perpetrator’s foot or thrust an elbow into his gut. Unfortunately, Craig isn’t behind me, and since I’m barefoot, I doubt stomping on his foot would have any impact whatsoever. The instructor informed us that a dressy heel that could deliver as much as 800 pounds of pressure and break any bone in an assailant’s foot, catching him off guard and putting him off balance.

I consider the soft points: neck, eyes, his family jewels. Those might work. If I could get him close enough, but that thought alone—being that close to Craig—makes my stomach roil in disgust. But, difficult times call for difficult measures. If I knee him in the groin hard enough… then punch his throat… and gouge at his eyes? I spot the cast iron skillet he’d made dinner in drying on the counter. Perfect! Now, to find a way to grab it.
I feel adrenaline course through my body. I believe I can pull this off. For the first time in days I feel a ray of hope. Now, to plot the perfect moment to enact my Ninja moves.

Out of nowhere, I hear a buzz and see my bag in the corner! Someone is texting me! My phone is in there! And there’s at least a little battery left! Craig is reading with his iPod playing music through his headphones so thankfully he didn’t hear.

But how much battery do I actually have? Typically my battery doesn’t even last a day! And if I can make the call, will the signal be enough for the call to connect or be clear enough from inside my bag? Or was it not even my phone? Was it Craig’s? Or am I just imagining things?

What should Penelope do? 
Wait and hope she can somehow get to her phone and call for help and hope that someone can rescue her?
Or take matters into her own hands and fight back with everything she’s got?