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A Death That Lingers

A Death That Lingers

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A Death That Lingers

Länge:
299 Seiten
4 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Nov 21, 2011
ISBN:
9781937325107
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

A wife leaves her abusive husband, but soon realizes nothing will keep him away. Not even death.

Josie Collins is the wife of a world famous rock star and the envy of nearly every woman in the country. But the horrific truth is her husband wants nothing more than to see her dead.

Josie finally summons the courage to leave her famous, abusive husband and returns to her hometown among the winter wheat of Kansas. When her husband is killed in a fiery car accident while on his way to find her, she thinks she has escaped him at last, but she's wrong. It quickly becomes clear that even in death he has no intention of letting her go.

As Josie develops a rapport with sexy police chief, Paul Stark, trouble begins to brew. There's something special about the tall, mysterious officer with the long jagged scar down his face. But Josie soon learns that he's haunted by a nightmarish past.

Sparks fly in their small, Midwestern town, and as their attraction grows, so does a dead husband's fury. In order to smother this dark, sinister spirit, and perhaps find true and lasting happiness with each other, the living must learn to let go, give in, and leave their ghosts in the past.

Content Warning: Contains sensual sex and some explicit language

Freigegeben:
Nov 21, 2011
ISBN:
9781937325107
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor


Buchvorschau

A Death That Lingers - Kaylie Newell

A Death That Lingers

by

Kaylie Newell

A Death That Lingers

Copyright © 2011, Kaylie Newell

ISBN:  9781937325107

Publisher: Beachwalk Press, Inc.

Electronic Publication: November, 2011

Editor: Pamela Tyner

Cover: LFD Designs

eBooks are not transferable. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Back Cover Copy

A wife leaves her abusive husband, but soon realizes nothing will keep him away. Not even death.

Josie Collins is the wife of a world famous rock star and the envy of nearly every woman in the country. But the horrific truth is her husband wants nothing more than to see her dead.

Josie finally summons the courage to leave her famous, abusive husband and returns to her hometown among the winter wheat of Kansas. When her husband is killed in a fiery car accident while on his way to find her, she thinks she has escaped him at last, but she’s wrong. It quickly becomes clear that even in death he has no intention of letting her go.

As Josie develops a rapport with sexy police chief, Paul Stark, trouble begins to brew. There’s something special about the tall, mysterious officer with the long jagged scar down his face. But Josie soon learns that he’s haunted by a nightmarish past.

Sparks fly in their small, Midwestern town, and as their attraction grows, so does a dead husband’s fury. In order to smother this dark, sinister spirit, and perhaps find true and lasting happiness with each other, the living must learn to let go, give in, and leave their ghosts in the past.

Content Warning: Contains sensual sex and some explicit language

Dedication

For my parents, who always believed I could.

Acknowledgements

My mom says she likes to think that behind every book is a teacher who believed in their student. I definitely have a few of those. As well as many friends and family members without whom I don’t think this book would have been written.

First off, thank you to the officers at the Talent Police Department, who answered countless questions on police procedure with a smile and managed to keep the teasing to a minimum.

Thank you to my critique partners, Amy and Nola, who are always there with a virtual hug when I need it. You guys are the best of the best.

My deepest gratitude to my amazing editor, Pamela Tyner, who took this manuscript and made it sparkle.

To my big brother, who guided me along the uncertain path of blogging, Twitter, and Facebook. Thank you, bro. Love you.

Thank you to my best friend and beta reader, Amy, who promised me a glass of wine for every rejection slip. And who makes me laugh until I cry on a daily basis. Couldn’t have done it without you.

To the two sweetest little girls in the world who reluctantly let Mommy go write on the weekends, and my wonderful husband who stayed home with them when I did. I’d be lost without you.

Thank you to my sister and parents who are my biggest cheerleaders. I promise I’ll let you read the naughty parts next time!

And finally, although the town of Adeline, Kansas is fictional, in my mind it was modeled after a real town called Clay Center, which will always have a very special place in my heart.

Chapter 1

Josie had to hurry. Her husband would be home by six.

Her heart flopped in her chest as she peered up at the closet. Pushing aside his Armani luggage, she spotted her mother’s old suitcase hidden in the back. She hauled it down and placed it on the bed, running her hands over the worn, avocado green fabric. A flowery perfume wafted through the air as she unzipped it. Her mom had been gone all this time, but Josie was sure she’d be proud of this. She felt it.

She could barely think straight. Trying to take a deep breath, she walked back and forth from her dresser to the suitcase, and shoved in t-shirts, jeans, and a few sweaters, knowing Kansas would be chilly in early spring. Her hands shook and she rubbed them on her pants, trying to rid her palms of the sticky nervousness that resided there.

She surveyed the spacious bathroom. All she really cared about was her makeup bag and hairdryer, which she plopped on top of the messy pile of clothes. She pressed everything down with one hand and coaxed the elderly zipper shut.

Josie carried the suitcase to the front door, setting it down next to her canvas bag full of art supplies. Tumbleweed! she called over her shoulder, her voice laced with urgency. Kitty, Kitty!

Walking back to the bedroom, she stole a glance at the towering grandfather clock which counted the seconds off in an eerie tick-tock voice.

Tumbleweed, come on! She dragged the kitty carrier out from the closet and tossed in a towel as a bed. She stood looking at it for a moment and smiled, the effort sending a shooting pain through her cracked and bruised lips. Nope. Not nearly soft enough.

She retrieved one of her husband’s best dress shirts from the closet. It was his favorite—a delicate blue pinstripe running through a luxurious silken fabric. Remembering he wore it to one of the Grammy after parties last year, she wadded it up in a comfy ball and placed it on top of the towel.

There. That should be nice and cozy. Her cantankerous cat had a sensitive stomach and she found herself hoping he might be prone to car sickness. Better grab a few more shirts, just in case.

Tumbleweed, where are you? Josie sank down next to the bed and lifted the spread to peer underneath. There, in the corner among dust bunnies and a few stray socks, was her straw colored cat, who glared at her through yellow eyes.

Josie sighed. No vet this time. Promise.

He continued to stare, making it clear he wasn’t going to budge.

It’s okay, honey. It really is. We’re going to be okay, Tumbleweed. She reached in and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. He growled and stiffened as she pulled him out, his legs poking from his body as if in the final stages of rigor mortis.

Shhh. Josie thrust him into the carrier with practiced quickness, slamming the door before he could bolt. His long, oily fur stuck out in sparse tufts all over his arched back. He looked thoroughly ticked off.

I know, I know, she said, picking up the carrier and setting it down next to her things.

From the hallway came the muffled sound of an elevator ding. She froze, staring at the door. He should still be on the road, but it wasn’t unusual for him to show up early. He liked to maintain the element of surprise.

The sound of footsteps grew louder. They thumped in her ears, distorted and exaggerated, until every nerve ending in her body quivered. Keys jingled in someone’s hand. Her knees were no longer sturdy joints, but two gelatinous masses threatening to collapse at any moment. If he found her like this…

Whoever it was walked right by her front door, and then past, their footsteps growing softer again in the hallway. Then the sound of keys opening the door to the neighbor’s apartment, followed by the delighted squeal of a young voice. Daddy!

Josie swallowed hard. She needed to leave. Now.

Her stomach turned as she took one more look at the lavishly decorated living room of the high-rise apartment. None of the things that adorned the walls were her taste. It was all too much. She wouldn’t miss it. Any of it.

Grabbing her jacket from across the end table, her hand brushed a small wedding photo in the corner. Her eyes settled on the silver-framed image as she reached down to pick it up. The woman smiling back was nothing but a stranger to her. That woman looked happy and safe and in love. That woman looked beautiful, her dark hair swept up in a loose bun beneath a lacy white veil, her eyes radiating joy.

Josie gazed beyond the photograph to her image reflected in the glass. Her green eyes were no longer full of vitality. Instead, they were haggard, the delicate skin surrounding them puffy and swollen. Her nose was slightly crooked where Liam had broken it months before, and her lips were cut and bruised from last night’s stormy encounter.

No, she definitely wouldn’t miss this. He could go straight to hell. And she believed he would.

Tucking the cat carrier underneath one arm, she picked up the rest of her things. Her grandmother had told her once that she would know when it was time to leave.

How? she’d cried like a child. Her eye had been blackened that time and a rib nearly broken.

You will, honey. It just has to be right. And when it is, you’ll know. Gran’s worry and heartbreak had been audible over the phone. Her grandparents had raised her. They knew her better than anyone else on the face of the earth, and they had known she’d lacked the strength to leave him. They had also known she would find it eventually. They told her over and over, they would be waiting with open arms when that day came.

Without looking back again, she marched through the front door of the apartment and slammed it behind her. The day had come.

* * * *

The cold mid-western rain slapped carelessly at the windshield of Josie’s Honda. The wipers brushed back and forth with a soft swoosh, swoosh that she found comforting. Liam had always hated her modest little car. He was embarrassed by it, which she figured was reason enough to keep driving it.

The heater blew gamely against her cheeks as she looked over at Tumbleweed in his carrier. He had meowed for the first twenty-five miles and was now dozing with a resigned look on his face. Josie stuck her finger in the wire door and rubbed behind his ear. Leaning into it, he began to purr with the hoarse, squeaky voice he’d had since kittenhood.

She glanced at the digital clock on the dash which glowed neon red. 9:07. Liam would be looking for her by now, and he’d be furious. It wouldn’t take him long to figure out she’d headed to Adeline. He knew where her grandparents lived and had even been there once at the beginning of their marriage. That was before he started to change. After that, she refused to go back home with him, not wanting to see herself through her grandfather’s cloudy brown eyes, or see the look of sadness register on her grandmother’s face. And quite honestly, they probably would have killed Liam if they had witnessed how he treated her firsthand. They kept a loaded shotgun in the closet and knew how to use it.

So, Josie had gone home alone a handful of times when he was away on various gigs. It was always like stepping into the warmth of the sun after sitting on a gradually sinking iceberg for months. She would rock on her grandparents’ porch swing with a glass of tart lemonade, feeling like she was on the cover of a Norman Rockwell calendar. In the evenings, she’d go to the market with Gran and get the makings for dinner, while Poppy watched a baseball game on their rabbit-eared TV.

They always begged her to stay and she always said the same thing. He promised. This time, it’ll be different. And it never was.

She shifted in the seat, trying to find a comfortable position. Darkness engulfed the car as it made its way down the mostly deserted stretch of highway. Dimly lit farms in the distance were like beacons in the night, showing her the way through rising and falling seas of winter wheat. She loved the long drive in the daylight. But now, she found herself thinking of things she would rather forget.

With her eyes fixed on the road, she dug in her purse until she found her phone. She flipped it open, illuminating the inside of the car in blue. The screen showed eleven calls, with as many voicemails. She didn’t have to listen to know what they said. Pressing her thumb to the delete button, she stopped short. Should probably keep them, just in case.

Her stomach was growling, and she’d barely noticed. Suddenly feeling tired and weak, she decided to stop for a cup of coffee. The gas tank was getting low, anyway.

She punched the number on her speed dial that read Adeline.

Hello?

Gran? It’s me.

Josie, thank God. Where are you?

I don’t know exactly. Somewhere in Missouri. I’m going to drive all the way through.

Thank God, her grandmother repeated softly.

How is he?

There was a brief pause before her grandmother answered. He’s better, honey. We’re very lucky, it could have been much worse.

This was Poppy’s second stroke. Josie couldn’t stand the thought of it, but Gran was right. It could have been worse.

He’s just so happy you’re coming home. We both are.

Tears welled in Josie’s eyes. She’d missed them. I’m happy too, Gran.

Has he tried to contact you yet?

Yes. She swallowed. Don’t worry. I called the police in Chicago this afternoon and told them I was leaving. I’m sure he’s called by now to report me missing.

And they know? Her grandmother sounded small on the other end of the line. About last night?

They know, but I doubt they care very much. The officer I talked to told me he had one of Liam’s CDs in his car. I think he was more interested in getting his autograph than anything else.

Gran sniffed. Yes, well. Josie could tell she wanted to say more, but wasn’t going to.

I’ll see you soon. I’ll try not to wake you when I come in.

Nonsense. We’ll be waiting. We’ll have chocolate chip pancakes on the stove.

Josie’s heart lurched. Her favorite childhood breakfast.

I love you, Gran, she said. Thank you for letting me come home again.

Josie, we would have come and gotten you a thousand times over, but we knew you weren’t ready. Your coming home is an answer to our prayers.

A tear rolled down Josie’s cheek and she wiped it away, wondering again if going back to Adeline was the right thing to do. Chances were Liam would follow her. She’d gone over and over it, but always ended up at the same conclusion. She needed her family. And they needed her. It was as simple as that. The days of him standing between her and the ones she loved the most were over.

I’ll see you soon, she said again.

We’ll be here.

Josie snapped the phone shut and put it back in her purse, watching the headlights from the car stretch into the night, like arrows pointing the way home.

She wondered if Liam had indeed called the police, imagining the look of rage on his face as some nice officer explained that no, his wife was not missing. That she had in fact called the precinct this afternoon to let them know she was leaving her abusive husband. That she was headed out of state and just wanted to give them a heads-up in case he filed a report. And oh, by the way…if anything happens to her, they’ll know where to look.

She saw his pale blue eyes darkening the way they had so many times before, the obsidian-like pupils swallowing the irises whole. It made her shudder. She was absolutely positive he would come for her. But she’d be ready. She wasn’t going back this time.

The rain had eased to a mist and she turned the wipers down to a lazy sweep. She passed a sign that read Food, Gas, Next Exit, and her stomach tumbled. She could barely wait for a hot cup of coffee and something to eat.

A minute later, she pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of a little café. The tires of the Honda crunched on the glistening gravel as she came to a stop next to a lifted pickup truck.

I’ll only be a few minutes, Tumbleweed.

The cat regarded her with thinly veiled contempt and closed his eyes again. Despite the grouchiness, he was turning out to be a good traveler. No car sickness yet. Except for being wrinkled and a little hairy, Liam’s silk shirt was still pretty clean. She smiled wearily. Oh well, there’s still time.

She grabbed her purse and locked the car, the damp night breeze making her shiver. Hugging herself, she weaved between vehicles toward the café.

Inside, a friendly waitress with a stiff up-do ushered her to a seat next to the window.

Where ya from, honey? she asked, pulling out a pen.

Josie smiled. Chicago.

Chicago, huh? Kind of far from home tonight. What’ll you have?

Josie skimmed the paper menu before tucking it back between the napkin holder and ketchup bottle. Just a cup of coffee and a bagel, please.

One midnight snack, coming up.

From the kitchen came the sound of meat sizzling on the grill. Utensils clicked and scraped on glass plates as the people around her ate and talked in soft tones.

She looked outside. A light rain was falling again. Next to her car, the lifted truck sat idling. Its oversized engine rumbled, billowing silver exhaust into the night air. Josie narrowed her eyes and rubbed the foggy window with her sleeve. A woman sat in the passenger’s seat and two men leaned against the front bumper, laughing and smoking cigarettes. Their shaggy hair dripped onto damp jackets. They reminded her of wet dogs, and something about that made her skin crawl.

The woman in the truck appeared to be crying. Her shoulders were hunched forward and she rocked back and forth like a small child.

Here’s your midnight special, honey.

Josie startled at the waitress’s voice.

I’m sorry! Did I scare you?

Oh…no. She smiled, embarrassed. That woman out there— She pointed in the direction of the truck. She seems so upset. I was just…looking.

Yeah, well, she’s not a very happy person, honey.

Oh. You know her then?

The waitress set the coffee down. I know her.

Josie paused, well aware she was sticking her nose in where it didn’t belong. You think she’s okay?

The waitress scribbled something on the check before putting it on the table. She leaned down and looked through the window. She’s all right. For now.

Josie turned, staring at the truck. Something about the way the woman was rocking was familiar to her. She had rocked herself to sleep like that, on more than one occasion.

For now? She turned back, but the waitress had already moved on to another table. Apparently the scene outside was a common one and there were burgers up.

Josie took a sip of coffee which stung her cracked lip. Flinching, she set it down with a slosh. She ran her fingertips over her mouth. Liam had once loved her lips. He’d lingered over them with his kisses, reluctant to move on to her neck.

She pressed down, until the soreness brought tears to her eyes. He’d bloodied her mouth so many times she’d nearly lost count. But the night two weeks ago had been the worst by far. The memory was thick behind her eyes, as if it had happened yesterday. She let herself slip back, welcoming the pain. And the new-found resolve that came with it.

He’d walked up to her slowly, deliberately, his breath pungent with alcohol. Where do you think you’re going? It had practically been a whisper.

She’d taken an instinctive step back, knowing what to expect when he’d been drinking.

To my opening. I told you about it yesterday, remember?

People are actually coming to see that shit you call art?

He was mean sober. But drunk, he was a devil. The words felt like a punch in the gut.

Liam, please don’t.

And all dressed up like this? He reached out and touched the delicate lace collar of her dress like it was poison. His lips curled into a sneer as his pale eyes settled on her face. "Look at you. Pathetic. You look like a slut." He pressed his thumb to her lips, until she whimpered in pain. He pushed it to the side of her mouth and up her cheek, smearing her deep russet lipstick.

Her throat began to ache. Not today, she remembered thinking. Please, not today. She had worked so hard on her sketches. She finally had her own showing and was ridiculously excited. There were a dozen roses on the mantel from her grandparents, and she felt like a homecoming queen.

I know you’re seeing some guy. Admit it. There’s no way you could manage a show on your own. Who is he?

Anger flashed behind her eyes. It was white hot and left a glowing imprint, like looking directly at the sun. It always comes to this, doesn’t it, Liam?

You sleeping around?

You’re crazy. Get out of my way. She pushed at his chest, but he leaned into her with all his drunken weight.

I told you, you’re not going anywhere.

She looked up into the face she’d once thought beautiful, his blue-green eyes his most striking feature. They were the color of the inside of a snow cave. Liam had lured her in with his looks and talent. He could play the piano as if he’d sold his soul to Lucifer, which she guessed he had. But more than anything else, she thought he’d loved her. It hadn’t taken long to see that he was frigid and completely empty inside.

He hadn’t shaved in days. He’d slept in his wrinkled white dress shirt which gaped open at the neck. His eyes were red-rimmed and glassy, and he continued to stare down at her through their narrowed slits.

She reached up and wiped the lipstick from her cheek. If you don’t get out of my way, I’m going to call the police. And then I’m going to call every tabloid I can think of and tell them Liam Collins is a wife beater.

Like hell you are.

Watch me. Gritting her teeth, she pushed him with all

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