Thursday, 27 May 2010

Excerpt Day - Root of All Evil © Mary Eason


Because I loved Jezzie with all my heart, I forced aside the paralyzing fear that’d continued to challenge the small amount of confidence I’d managed to build over the past year.

It was all due to Bev’s disturbing call. It sent me back into the darkness I’d struggled to put behind me.

Since Aaron’s death, I’d worked hard to overcome the agoraphobia that my shrink told me was just a form of misdirected grief. Leaving D.C. and all the memories of Aaron’s tragic murder helped in the beginning.

I’d packed up everything that reminded me of the good things I loved about my husband and left the bad.

My first stop had been Manhattan. I’d wanted to be close to my big sister, with good cause. Bev had been more of a mother to me than our own. She’d fussed over me like a hen protecting her chick. So going home to the comfort of my second mother seemed as natural as breathing. I thought having family close would help me deal with the excruciating loneliness nothing could have prepared me for.

Watching Bev and Ed’s normal, day-to-day life only served as an agonizing reminder of all the things I’d never have again. Although both my marriage and my life with Aaron hadn’t been anything close to normal.

I’d lasted just shy of six months in New York. Then I’d packed up everything I owned, along with Jezzie, and moved south again.

My small, two-bedroom beach house had come fully furnished. I’d turned the smallest bedroom into a work area where I played at designing my own line of clothes. Big dreams. Different dreams. Safe dreams.

All the rooms of my new home were small and cozy because small spaces made me feel safe.

For almost a year now, I’d managed to get myself dressed, bravely walk out my front door, and pretend to function normally. Jezzie was the only one close enough to me to know what a complete phony I’d become.

Sometimes, in the dark, the memories of that night would slip into my dreams, unwelcome. No matter how hard I fought to keep them away during the daylight hours, at night, while sleeping and vulnerable, they came for me.

So you see, I knew. Long before Bev’s call. I knew something was coming. Something from my past would find me again. It was inevitable.

All that evil had to leave its mark somewhere.

Jezzie’s wet nose nuzzled my leg. She stared up at me with those huge baleful eyes. Jezzie’s way of reminding me she’d been waiting very patiently while I had my meltdown. It was now time to come back to the real world.

I had no idea how long I’d been sitting curled up into a tiny ball on my couch. As if by doing so, I could somehow make myself invisible.

“I’m sorry, baby. I’m okay. Really, I am. Don’t worry.” The dog crawled onto my lap and curled into her favorite spot in the crook of my arm.

Some days, Jezzie was the only thing keeping me from losing it.

I got to my feet, grabbed Jezzie’s leash from its drawer, snapped it into place, and searched for my house key, which was right where I’d left it earlier.

Because I loved Jessie and owed her so much more than I could ever repay, I stepped out into the cold world once more instead of retreating into that little spot in my closet where I spent far too much time during those first few months, hiding in a cramped corner where I felt safe.

The storm outside had passed. The one within me would never end.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico churned with renewed power, thrashing wave after wave against the beach and belching up the contents of the ocean’s floor.

Jezzie yelped as if her tiny voice could somehow still the crashing waters.

“It’s okay, girl. It’ll settle down in time.” If only that were true of my own restlessness. I doubted there’d ever be a time when I could say with confidence I’d found stillness in my soul.

Somehow, I managed to corral Jezzie after only a short romp down the beachfront. She loved me, but she loved being outside as well and she hated having to leave her fun.

“This weekend we’ll spend as much time as you like out here, I promise.” Brave words. I’d have Bev here with me as a buffer against the phobia that lurked beneath my surface.

Even knowing the house was secure, it was still hard to walk into an empty place. Aaron’s murder had taught me you never knew what evil might be waiting for you. He’d gone into an empty building and confronted his worst nightmare.

“Don’t think of that now.” Something dark and unwelcome was trying to reach out to me, but I couldn’t open that door. Couldn’t let that nightmare back in.

It took a couple of deep breaths before I was able to close that door. And all the while Jezzie stood patiently waiting for me to unhook her leash.

“I’m sorry, baby.” I ruffled her ears then gave her new chew toy a squeeze, instantly capturing her attention.

With Jezzie happily doing battle with the squeaky shoe, I went about my nightly routine of securing locks and windows. I’d check them once, then one more time so that I could sleep at night.

Tonight, for reasons I couldn’t begin to explain to myself, I deviated slightly from the routine by pushing aside the thick drapes covering my living room window. The window faced out onto my quiet street. It was then that I spotted it. A car parked across the street, lights off. I quickly released the drape and ducked out of the line of sight, a learned trick from the past, as the world around me spun out of control. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. I dropped to my knees on the floor and tried to force air into my lungs.

Vaguely I was aware of things taking place around me. Jezzie’s bark. Her wet nose nudging at my arm. A car engine starting.

When I could breathe again over the pounding in my chest, it was a battle to keep from losing my threadbare hold on realty. I couldn’t fall apart. Not now. Not with Jezzie depending on me.

“It’s okay, baby. I’m okay,” I managed to say with some amount of normality for Jezzie’s sake.

I scooped my baby into my arms and slowly got to my feet, then forced myself to glance out the window, being careful to keep out of the line of sight of anyone looking in. The street was now empty. The car gone. Had it even been there or was it just another part of my delusion?

Even after I assured myself everything was secured, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that had been tailing me for hours. Since Bev’s call. If I were being honest, since Aaron’s death.

Unfinished business, it screamed. Unfinished business.

Copyright © MARY EASON, 2009


Root of All Evil
Mary Eason

Publisher: Ellora's Cave Publishing


Burdened with guilt and sorrow, fearing for her life…her sanity, Anna Sorenson walked away from everything to gain redemption. A year earlier, Anna buried her husband Aaron. A week later, she lost the child she’d longed for. Anna’s only thought was to put the tragedy of the past behind her and find a way to survive in a post-Aaron world. But the evil she escaped is hunting her down.

Agent John Delaney buried more than just his partner that rainy day one year earlier. He’d shoved aside his feelings, ignored the wrong he and Aaron did in the name of justice, and hoped the past would stay dead. It didn’t. With Aaron’s death and the arrest of his killer, the Bureau considered the case solved. No one had a clue the wrong man confessed to the killings. Until the real killer returned to claim his glory—and his next victim, Anna.

Now he’s after the woman John still loves and he must choose between keeping his partner’s secrets and losing Anna again. This time forever.

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