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Regan Miller followed her daughter Kelsey up the dormitory stairwell, their footsteps thudding on the cement. Clangs, shouts and squeals echoed around them, the acoustics making it difficult to tell where the sounds originated. Regan gripped the handrail to keep herself from putting a hand on her daughter's back to urge her upward.
When they reached the third floor, Kelsey flashed a grin over her shoulder. "This is it."
Regan managed to smile back, but noted that someone had propped open the stairwell door with a folded piece of paper. She toed the paper out and let the door close, then nudged it with her fingertips. It drifted open again. Great. The latch didn't work.
"Don't use the stairs when you're by yourself, Kelsey."
"I know, Mom."
Regan could almost hear the eye roll. At least she'd kept the sarcasm out of her voice. "What's your room number again?"
"Three ten." Kelsey stopped halfway down the hall, distant from both elevator and stairwells. Some of Regan's tension eased.
The door to room 310 was locked, and Kelsey gleefully used her key to open it. Regan suppressed a sigh. Until the full-tuition scholarship had come through, she hadn't been willing to consider letting Kelsey go away to college. Even afterward she'd been reluctant, since the scholarship had an anonymous backer. But Kelsey had pitched a fit over her mother's insane cautiononly the third time she'd ever rebelledand Regan had finally let her win one. Watching her joy now, Regan was glad.
The suite's center room held four built-in desks. Twin beds showed through the small gaps in the slightly open sliding wooden doors on either side of the room. Regan went straight ahead to the large window that looked out over the grounds behind the building rather than the parking lot. Kelsey wouldn't be able to see who was coming in the main entrance, but she'd be less vulnerable on this side.
"There's a tree out here, Kels." She glanced behind her. Her daughter had gone into the left bedroom. "It's close to the window." She slid it open, grimacing against the late-August heat, and flipped up one of the hooks holding the screen in place. "You can shove this out and climb out onto the limb, and then"
"Mom, let it rest, will you?" Kelsey came up behind her and gently pushed the window closed. "You've trained me to recognize all this stuff, but when have we ever needed to use it?"
Regan hesitated, then stroked her hand down Kelsey's long brown hair. "You're right. We haven't." Not that Kelsey could remember, which made Regan both damned grateful and more afraid every day. "I just"
"I know what you just. You don't have to explain."
Regan could see she meant it and swallowed the guilt. She never had explained, not fully. She hadn't wanted to frighten her daughter with the story of her attempted kidnapping. Kelsey deserved to know about it, and how it connected to her father's death before she was born, but Regan didn't know how to tell her. Why would an eighteen-year-old care about a five-minute event that occurred so long ago? How could she understand why Regan had let a few words dictate every decision she'd made for her daughter's entire life.