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IN THIS LIFE
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“Fast paced, well-written…amazing”
(read Chapter 1 here)
The line went dead.
I studied the phone in my hand then looked at David.
“Who was it?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” Though some part of me, deep down and far out of reach, felt as if maybe I should have known. It wasn’t so much the voice that was familiar but a feeling, like a buried emotional memory trying to claw its way to the surface. “But I think he knew me, David.”
David stilled. “He?”
A vague image of a man with a deep voice eased in, enveloping me in that rich, spiced scent again. It lingered, reminding me of my dream, and I inhaled deeply to savor it, to hold onto it, until it drifted away. Its absence felt wrong, as if I’d lost something extraordinary and intense. Yet I couldn’t explain why.
“Why do you think he knew you?” David asked.
I’d been too wrapped up in the dream to notice David was talking until I realized he had gone silent. With a deep inhalation I refocused and told David about the call.
“I don’t know whether to be worried or to write this off as a prank,” I said when I finished.
David’s gaze swept from me to my phone. Prank calls were typically made from an immature need for attention and threats were usually a manifestation of mental disturbance. But what happened a few minutes ago was neither.
“You sure you didn’t recognize the voice?” he asked.
“Positive,” I said, shrugging off some lingering doubt. “Something about the caller reminded me of my dream last night. That’s all.”
David took the phone and cycled through the call history. “No caller ID.” He pressed redial and seconds later the bedroom cordless rang.
We both looked at each other as I answered, finding David on the other end of the line.
“How is this possible?” I asked into the receiver.
David took the time to think about it. “Someone either has access to your account or knows how to maneuver around the system.” He disconnected the cell phone, took the cordless from my hands and set it back into its charger on the nightstand, and settled down next to me. It felt comforting having him beside me, protective, even if I didn’t always need it.
I needed it now.
“So how does he know about my dream?” I asked.
I shuddered and sank further into the bed.
David squeezed my hand in a way that was meant to comfort and tell me that everything was just fine, and dialed another number on my cell.
“Neil, it’s David. I need a favor from you.” He explained about the call and the redial back to our house. “I want to know who did it and how this happened. See what you can find out and get back to me ASAP.”
David disconnected. “Neil is one of my contacts at the phone company. If anyone can get a lead, he can.”
This came as no surprise. Ex–Marine turned contract soldier for Professional Recruitment and Operations, a global military corporation known as PROs, David had contacts everywhere.
“Should we call the police?” I asked as he returned to the windows.
He shook his head, a response I pretty much expected. I didn’t think the police could do a lot for me either. Give me a troubled teenager, an angry divorcee, or an obsessive–compulsive and I was in my element. But this made me feel vulnerable and exposed. It was as if the dream and the call and the voice unraveled something deep inside.
“David, what happens if Neil doesn’t find anything?”
“One step at a time, Lottie.” David’s voice sounded firm but I heard his doubt, too. Like me, he wanted to write this off as an oddity but neither of us would be able to do that until we found all the answers.
My cell phone rang again. David studied it in his palm, as if he’d forgotten it was there, and checked the display for a caller ID. When he frowned I assumed there was none.
“Want me to do the honors?” he asked.
I shook my head. If I was going to take any kind of control, I had to take the call myself.
The phone rang a third time.
“If it’s the guy who called before,” David said, handing it over, “don’t give him the power. Answer it, but keep him on your turf. Don’t let him manipulate you, Lottie.”
I sat up and nodded, but was having trouble digesting his instructions. Logically they made sense, but what was happening didn’t feel logical. I grabbed the phone, steadied myself, and answered. Paul Cavanaugh, a good friend and colleague from Amrose Counseling Center, was on the other end.
David sat down next to me and whispered. “Who is it?”
I mouthed the answer.
David’s jaw clenched. He and Paul tolerated each other at best, and only because of me.
“There’s a problem with Logan,” Paul said.
“What happened?” I sat up, too quickly, and braced through another surge of dizziness.
David steadied me with a strong hand and sent a stern look.
I ignored it.
“I just got a call from Amrose.” Paul’s lingering pause meant he had bad news. “Logan’s missing. His mother found a suicide note this morning that had been left in his bedroom, but she doesn’t know where he is. She couldn’t find your number and called Amrose directly, and someone patched her through to Stuart Hanley because you’ve been out sick. Then Hanley called me.”
Hanley served as the director at Sunrise Recovery where Logan, my client, was undergoing drug rehab.
Memories of a teenage client’s suicide last year resurfaced, weighing me down with regret and blame. I forgot about my stomach flu and the strange dream and the phone call. All I could see was Deborah’s coffin and her distraught mother at the funeral, dressed in black and unable to stand without help because she’d been so heavily sedated.
“Logan’s mom wants to meet with you this morning at Amrose,” Paul went on. “When I told her you were out sick, she completely lost it. So I called you to see if you could—”
“Of course I’ll meet her. I can be there this morning”
David’s gaze cut to mine and I mentally prepared for battle.
“I planned to stay home another day, Paul, but I won’t do that to Mrs. Reynolds. I can meet her this morning.” A quick glance at the digital clock on David’s nightstand showed it was just shy of eight–thirty.
“You’re not going in,” David said.
I waved my hand to shush him and hoped Paul didn’t hear. “Can you reschedule my other appointments for today, and let her know that I’ll meet her around ten–thirty?”
I waved David off again and his shoulders tensed, a warning sign that I might not want to try that again.
“Once she and I are finished,” I went on, “I’ll head back home.” I said the last more to David than to Paul, hoping it was enough to ease the growing tension between us.
“You sure?” Paul asked.
“Great. I’ll let Mrs. Reynolds know.”
We disconnected and I pushed off the covers so I could get out of bed. David grabbed my arm, stopping me halfway. He said nothing but he didn’t have to. His thoughts were more than evident on his face.
“I have to do this,” I told him.
“No, you don’t.”
“I’m not going to let this happen again,” I said. “I lost one client already to suicide. I won’t lose another.” And though hours of my own therapy helped me understand that Deborah’s death wasn’t my fault, a part of me still had trouble accepting it.
“Can’t you have someone else handle Mrs. Reynolds for you?”
“It’s not that simple, David,” I said. “And please don’t order me around and expect me to do something just because you said so.”
“I’m not looking to argue about this, Lottie.”
“Neither am I but I’m still going.”
“You’re not well.”
“Neither is Mrs. Reynolds!” My voice sounded harsher and louder than I intended, and it startled the both of us.
David looked away, probably balancing his desire to protect me with the need to let me go. He was one of the best people I knew but he also had an edge. It was what made him successful at his job and respected by his men, and occasionally annoying to me.
“This is the least I can do for Mrs. Reynolds,” I told him. “Logan is her son and my client and I owe them both.”
I stood up, and the minute I got to my feet the room swayed again. David looked at me and sighed out loud, but this time he didn’t try to stop me.
I saw his worry just the same. “I’m very well aware that I’m not one hundred percent yet, David, and I promise to be careful.”
“I’m working very hard here, you know. I still think this is a mistake.”
“I know.” And I appreciated it.
David’s bright green eyes met mine and the fleeting anger and impatience I felt with him melted away, replaced with something that warmed my heart and filled my soul. He was trying his hardest. The least I could do was to return the favor. So I searched for a compromise and found one.
“Drive me there,” I said. “Hang around the office while I meet with Mrs. Reynolds and then drive me back home. This way, if I need help, you’ll be there.”
He considered me and shook his head, but acceptance only came when he said, “Fine.”
I sent him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
He didn’t look convinced.
“You can remind me of all the things you disagree with after you bring me back home,” I said, leaning down to give him a kiss.
With fingertips to my chin, he gently angled my head so that I was forced to kiss his cheek instead. “I love you, Lottie,” he said as he pulled away, “but not your germs.”
I made a chicken sound, and David gave me a wide, playful grin.
I slipped out from his hold and, on shaky legs, headed for the bathroom to get ready.
IN THIS LIFE
Available April 22!
read Chapter 1 here
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