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Back To You
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Leap of Faith Publishing
He waved a hand in front of her face, but she didn’t blink. The lights are on, but no one’s home.
“Carly, my angel,” he whispered and cupped her cheek into his palm. He revealed in the silkiness and warmth of her skin. Still, she didn’t react. She was almost…a zombie.
His own body jerked in reaction to the fear she was emanating. She was clearly sleepwalking and in the throes of one hell of a nightmare, yet she didn’t cry out any longer. It was all now playing out inside her mind.
“Charlotte, see me,” he implored.
Her lips twitched at the mention of her real name.
“See me,” he repeated.
Suddenly, her body gave way and she collapsed. Catching her, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bed. As he laid her down, her breathing became ragged. He placed a hand over her heart as it raced, and passed healing calmness through his hand, feeling the energy pulsate against her skin. Beneath his hand, he would feel her heartbeat slow to a normal rhythm.
“Daniel?” Her voice was mere caress.
“I’m here, my angel. You’re having a nightmare. You’re frightened. It’s okay now, I’m here, and I will never leave you,” he promised.
“Everyone leaves, Daniel. You can’t understand, you can’t…” Her body started to tremble.
He climbed onto the bed and straddled her body. Leaning close to her face, he said, “Carly, let go of your fear. I can take it. Let go and see me,” he commanded.
Her breath came out in a whoosh, and a wall of fear and resistance hit him like a blow from above. It wasn’t exactly painful, more startling than anything else.
His vision flip-flopped, and he could see an image from inside her mind of two souls forever entwined as the result of one act. It made perfect sense. She was reliving the day their souls became one. The day of the fire.
He then saw black, suffocating water. She was reliving her own death, as well.
As the visions left him, he was consumed with the mishmash of fear, loneliness, and resistance within her.
He had to make her understand that it was over. “I will never leave you, Carly. That is my promise to you,” he insisted.
A flicker of life ignited in her eyes. Her hands came up to his face, and to Daniel’s surprise, tears bubbled from his own eyes. He was releasing the pain and fear he had absorbed from his beloved.
“I’m so sorry, Daniel, so sorry,” she murmured.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for, my love. It’s over. It’s time to move forward now.”
“You don’t understand what I am, Daniel.”
“I do understand, Carly. I am what you are. See me for what I am.”
In his mind, he could see the moving clockwork gears of her thoughts once again as she tried to process what he was telling her to be true.
“Just accept it, and let’s move forward.”
She drew his face to hers and her lips parted beneath his. Time blurred and he drank in the essence of his Carly. Her soft, barely covered curves molded themselves against his the hard planes of his body. Her hands were under his t-shirt, her fingers stroking him.
If he pressed on, he knew she wouldn’t refuse him. But in her vulnerable state, he wouldn’t let anything progress further that night. Carly needed time to process everything that happened. There was plenty of time to pursue a physical relationship. They weren’t going any where…he hoped.
Back To You
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When he heard her, he came to her, took her into his arms, and kissed her. It was a comfort that he wasn’t regretting their lovemaking. She didn’t think she could handle being rejected by him twice in her lifetime.
“Do you have to leave soon?” she asked.
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to, but I have to.” He went to the stove and prepared her a cup of coffee. “I think we should start planning our wedding. We could be married at Christmas.”
She was taken aback. Is this his proposal ? This was supposed to be so romantic and memorable, not talk about planning a Christmas wedding while he stirred a cup of coffee.
“Do you even want to get married?” She took the coffee mug he offered. “I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that you told me you weren’t sure you ever wanted to be married again. You said you didn’t see fatherhood in your future, and Nick, I want a baby…more than one. I grew up as an only child and I was so alone. I don’t want my child to have to experience that.”
“Well, I didn’t use a condom last night. You could be pregnant right now,” was his reply.
Heaviness descended upon her heart. This was so not how she wanted this morning to be, and certainly not the marriage proposal she had dreamed of. “I’m on the Pill—I won’t get pregnant if that’s all you’re worried about.”
“I’m sorry, that’s not the only reason we should get married.”
“Then why?” she asked suspiciously.
He let out an exaggerated sigh. “Lynsey, I don’t have time to get into this with you right now. What do you want me to say in the five minutes I have before I leave for work?”
She couldn’t believe his glib attitude. “How about saying something to me like…‘I love you, Lynsey, and I made a tremendous mistake by not marrying you twenty years ago?’ That would take you less than thirty seconds to say, and you could have easily gotten to your precious job on time.”
Suddenly his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. “I didn’t make a mistake by not marrying you twenty years ago! I let you go to become a success in life—and you did. I can’t regret that!”
“So, what I thought all these years was correct. I was nothing to you but a quick and easy way to shed your virginity.” Just saying the words was devastating.
“That’s not it at all,” he vehemently insisted. “You were always so intelligent. I mean, you were a sixteen-year-old senior in high school! Just how many grades did you skip over, anyway?”
“Two,” she answered in a low voice.
“Do you know what would have happened if I hadn’t married Kelly?” He didn’t wait for her reply. “I’ll tell you what. You and I would have been ostracized by everyone in this town! We would have had to be married right away, and we would have had to live with your mother, because I had no money.”
“My mother loved you. She would have been happy to have us live with her,” she interjected.
“And we were so naïve, Lynsey. You would have graduated high school with either a big belly, or a baby in your arms…if you had graduated at all.”
She crossed her arms over her breasts and looked at the floor. She was too afraid that if she looked at him she would break down. “Some of the girls in school were married. A few of them had babies.”
He lifted her chin and forced her to make eye contact with him. “And you were too smart to be stuck in this town, and just another housewife. You would have become bored and resentful.”
“I wouldn’t have known the difference,” she countered.
“I had serious doubts then. I still have doubts now,” he admitted.
Her dark lashes flew upward. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“I believe that you will become bored and restless in Unity and will want to go back to Florida or maybe California. I have a job and a family here, Lynsey. I don’t ever want to give that up. I’m afraid that we’ll have a child, and you’ll take my baby and leave. I can not allow that to happen.”
She couldn’t believe what he was saying. Nothing was further from the truth. “Do you think I would have sunk so much of my savings into that house just to abandon it? I would never, ever do what you’re saying. But if circumstances changed, I would expect you to support what was best for our family. Couples who are committed make sacrifices for each other!”
It was becoming clearer and clearer that things were rapidly falling apart between them.
“Lynsey, didn’t what happened between us last night mean anything to you?” he asked.
She chuckled unpleasantly. “I suppose that with us living in such close proximity, last night was inevitable. But don’t worry about it happening again, Nick. When you get home this evening, I won’t be here.”
“Where are you going to be?”
She wanted to hurt Nick like she was now hurting. “I’m sure that Caleb wouldn’t mind me bunking down at his house for a week or two.”
“Over my dead body,” he seethed. “I will drag you away from him kicking and screaming if it comes to it. I’ll handcuff you to my bed if need be. Believe me, Lynsey, I’ll do it!” He flopped down into a kitchen chair and buried his face in his hands.
“I have to go now, Nick. I’m meeting your sister for breakfast. Listen to me. You need to pull yourself together. In your line of work, bad things happen when you lose your concentration.”
When he didn’t reply, she let out a sigh of resignation and headed for the door. At the last minute she turned to him. “Thanks for almost making it happen between us.”
Change of Address
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When she arrived at the foot of the stairs, the front door rattled. Fear, cold and stark, rose up in her throat and choked her as she heard the lock snap and watched, rooted to the floor, the creaky old door jiggle in its frame. The anticipation mingled with fright, produced a potent, sick feeling churning inside her like the bad horror movie she’d recently viewed on late-night cable television.
After what seemed an eternity, the door flung open. The first thought entering her brain was a ghost had entered her home. A younger, blonder visage of Morgan stood in the threshold. Before she could utter his name, a second, more coherent thought followed; a ghost wouldn’t use a key.
The man in the doorway took one step inside and stopped abruptly, clenched his jaw, and stared. The familiar stranger invading her new home could only be one person.
“My goodness, you’re Ben! You’re Morgan’s son!” she exclaimed.
“Well, we know who I am. Now who the hell are you, and why are you trespassing in my house?”
“Your house?” she asked with disbelief. “This is my home. Morgan gave it to me!”
“I don’t know who you are, lady, but I suggest you get a move on it. I’ll give you five minutes before I call the police.” He pointed to his platinum-cased wristwatch for emphasis.
“Don’t bother waiting.” She reached into her handbag and removed her cell phone. With shaking fingers, she punched in 911.
The line connected after the second ring. “911, what is your emergency?” asked the female dispatcher.
“My name is Josselyn Adler. I’m the new owner of 22 Little Pine Road. A man has let himself into my home and is now threatening me.” Although she was quaking on the inside, she strove to keep her voice and demeanor strong and confident.
“I have an officer on the way, Ms. Adler. Would you like to stay on the line with me until he arrives?” she offered.
“No, thank you. I’ll be fine,” she assured her.
As she disconnected her phone, Ben’s gaze burned into her. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of showing any fear. While growing up, she had dealt with her share of tormentors. One forty-year-old, blond-haired bully was not going to intimidate her or drive her from a home that was rightfully hers.
“Very nice performance,” he said snidely.
“Excuse me?” She furrowed her brow and made eye contact. Ben Parnell had his father’s glacial, blue eyes.
“Any moment one of Unity’s finest will be arriving to play knight in shining armor and save the poor maiden from the big, bad wolf.”
Before she could utter a word in reply, a black patrol car came to a screeching halt on the street. An officer threw open the car door and made long, quick strides to the house. His uniform and Unity Police Department baseball cap matched the color of his car.
A lump formed in her throat. As she was growing up, a police car in front of the house and an officer at the door meant her father was in some sort of trouble yet again.
“Good evening, Miss. I’m Officer Smith.” He looked to Ben. “It’s certainly been a long time since you’ve been around, Ben.” Not waiting for an answer from him, he turned his attention back to Josselyn. “What seems to be the problem tonight?”
He knew Ben by his first name. They looked to be about the same age, and in this small town, it was likely they knew each other growing up. Although Officer Smith seemed friendly enough, would he side with the hometown boy rather than with the stranger girl?
“This is my house. Morgan Parnell left it to me in his will. Now he...” She paused and pointed at Ben. “He thinks it’s his house.”
“I have a will, too,” Ben loudly interrupted. “And mine is legitimate!”His deep voice vibrated through her, causing her head to ache. Flustered, she pulled an envelope from her handbag. Morgan’s
attorney gave to her a copy of the will a few days earlier. She handed it to Officer Smith. To her dismay, Ben also produced a document from a briefcase.
This is very bad.
She hoped Ben had been bluffing.
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She heard it again.
The same time as last Friday night.
Three taps at her front door.
Lizzie muted the television, tossed the blanket off of her body and scurried out of bed. She slipped her robe over her shoulders and tied it securely, determined to find out who in the world would knock at her door at three in the morning. By the time she had reached the door the week previous, no one was there. The street had been dark and still.
It had to be a mistake. She had only recently closed sale on the long abandoned funeral home, determined to restore it to its once former glory. She had only been living in the upstairs flat for a few weeks.
As she hurried down the staircase, each step beneath her feet creaked in protest. There was no one visible through the peephole. She unchained the door and opened it just enough to peek around it.
No one was there, just like the previous week.
The street was dark and quiet. Not even the whisper of a wind could be detected. Only the cold dampness of the October night raised a chill on her skin.
Who was playing this weekly joke on her? Could it be the ghosts of some departed soul who had passed through the halls of Nichols Funeral Home sometime during the past century? A small smile crossed her lips as she prepared to close and lock the door. She was a third generation Funeral Director. Did she now believe in ghosts?
Before the door could close, a hand poked into the slight space and seized her wrist. A cry rose in her throat and she jerked backward, but the hand held tight and the door flung open.
The man emerged, shrouded in darkness. He was an ethereal creature, tall, and dressed in anonymous black. Only a streetlight glowed behind him.
“I’m home,” he announced.