Read a book excerpt from "Loving Natalee: A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith" by Beth Holloway, the mother of Natalee Holloway.

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Natalee had never had a boyfriend per se, as in going steady, or "going out," as it's referred to these days. But she had plenty of "friendboys," as we called boys who were just friends. At Mountain Brook High School it seemed most of the boys and girls were part of big groups. Only a very few had actually paired up as couples. Natalee and I always talked very openly with each other about sexual matters. She confided to me that she was a virgin. And I let her know that I was very glad about that. I continued my lecture and explained that some men might try to engage her. "People who go on these exotic trips are generally there to have fun, but there are others who may have another agenda. You could be a target. They might try to get you drunk and take advantage of the situation. You need to be on your guard at all times and stay with people you know." It would be very difficult to identify a time when Natalee was not with her friends. She was always with her group. We joked about how they all traveled in a pack. She promised to be careful. And I had absolutely no reason not to believe her.

Parents teach children about the dangers of the world not to make them live in fear, but because it's just not safe anywhere any more. It might not be safe in your own home on the Internet in a chat room, and it might not be safe on an exotic island trip with a hundred friends. I made sure Natalee heard me when I warned her to guard her personal safety.

A former Mountain Brook student had returned from his senior trip to Aruba two years prior and told about an experience he had in the popular nightspot there called Carlos 'n Charlie's. Some locals were trying to get a couple of his female classmates to leave with them when this young man stepped in. He said he believed that he had helped abort a potentially dangerous situation.

My recollection of his chilling account of this experience gave me my first feeling of apprehension about the trip. Natalee and I discussed what happened to this former student, and I felt better after reminding her about the possible dangers she could face. She had proven to be very responsible all of her life. I trusted her to be able to take care of herself. As the countdown to graduation and her senior trip ticked down, the time moved very fast. On Friday night Natalee danced at the senior prom. The following Tuesday night she walked across the stage and accepted her high-school diploma. Two days after that she left for Aruba. And by the next Monday morning she was missing.

On Thursday, May 26, 2005, Natalee came into my bedroom at three o'clock in the morning to tell me it was almost time to go. Everyone was gathering at a friend's house for the ride to the airport. My job was to pick everyone up at the airport when they returned on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2005.

While Natalee was going to be out of town, Jug was going to his lake house to visit with his family and friends. In our marriage, the second for both of us, we rarely vacationed together. My son, Matt, had made his own plans with friends for the weekend, so it was the perfect time for me to take a much-needed, overdue trip to my family's lake house in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I had not been there in a very long time. Birmingham is about nine hours away, so it was just too long a drive since moving here to make the trip on a regular basis. I was very much looking forward to visiting with my family. Everyone's plans were made.

In the wee hours on this Thursday morning Natalee and I loaded her things in the back of the car and headed off to her friend's house. It was very dark at that hour, and we were both only half awake. But we did talk some. Small talk. We reviewed what she had packed, going through a mental checklist of passport, cash, camera, sunscreen, and the like. When we arrived at her friend's house, she came to life. The adventure she had been excitedly awaiting for months was finally about to begin. She jumped out of the car and bounced to the back to get her bag. I got out and walked around the car to help her. She gathered her things and looked up long enough for me to kiss her on the cheek.
"I love you! Have a great time!" I told her.

She replied, "Bye, Mom! Love you!" and slung her purple duffel bag over her shoulder. The bag made her walk slightly bent to its opposite side. I got back in the car as she made her way up the long walkway to the front door. Turning the car around to leave, I stopped and looked back over my shoulder to see her go inside. The front door of the house opened just wide enough for her to slip in. I saw her silhouette in the beam of light that shone from inside. The light narrowed as the door closed, then disappeared completely. It was pitch-black again. I drove away not knowing that would be the last time I would ever see Natalee.

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Excerpted from "Loving Natalee: A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith." Copyright © 2007 by Beth Holloway. Reprinted by permission of HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.