After her mother’s apparent suicide, Lily receives a terrible warning: leave California or run the risk of death. Afraid for her life, she flees. Her only hope for safety lies with her father, a man who abandoned her when she was five. But while she searches for him, she discovers love and safety in the arms of James Prescott.
James is a man tormented by his mother’s unsolved murder. More than anything he wants to see her killer lifeless, lying in a shallow grave. When Lily enters his life, he realizes that he hasn’t been living. Lily shines for him, a light that finally pierces the darkness. For the first time in years, he feels hope. Their relationship blossoms and Lily discovers that she is worthy of love. However, she soon realizes that the safety she craves and the love she’s found may be short lived.
The past James carries and the life Lily left behind collide, throwing the couple into the path of the murderer. Secrets long buried come to surface and threaten to destroy everything. Will they face their demons together or will they let the past tear them apart?
Julianne Kelsch is an author and freelance writer who picked up the pen after the birth of her second child. A mother of four, she believes words have a special kind of magic all their own. With a word you can open the heart or break the soul; you can breathe life into love or distinguish the final flame. For her, reading is a place to experience worlds unseen and lives never lived; writing is the place to create them.
I sat quietly on the couch for about five minutes, long enough for me to realize that if I sat there alone with nothing but my thoughts, I was going to go crazy. In an effort to distract myself I pulled a book out of Jim’s extensive library and tried to read. I focused on the words, reading them slowly, digesting each one, defining it, seeing how it played in with the paragraph. But my exercise was pointless. My mind kept turning back to James. Where was he now? What was he doing? Had he found the driver? Would he find him? If he did, would he kill him? Worse, would he get himself killed?
The questions bounced around in my head, driving deeper and deeper in to my brain, but the answers wouldn’t follow.
I couldn’t read. I couldn’t even remember the name of the title let alone what had happened in the last paragraph. I dropped the book on the couch and wandered to the window, wrapping my arms tightly around my chest. It was still raining. I could hardly see through the torrential downpour. I wished James was with me, where I knew he was safe, where I felt safe. In this big house all alone, apprehension filled my gut. Was somebody lurking around the next corner, waiting to slaughter me?
As if in line with my thoughts, the door from the garage slammed shut, echoing in the silence. I spun toward the sound, my heart pounding.
“James?” I called.
“Jim?” I tried.
Again, no answer.
My throat was suddenly as dry as cotton. I forced myself to swallow. Somebody was there, somebody that didn’t want me to know who they were.
A moment after the door slammed I heard soggy footsteps walk across the floor, toward the living room.
I instinctively backed away, inching toward the small room off the living room that housed the piano. The piano room was dark. I wouldn’t be visible in there.
All the nerve endings in my body were taut. I couldn’t feel my legs but somehow – I didn’t know how – they kept moving. As I slipped quietly toward the piano room a tentative escape plan began forming in my head, slowly emerging through the thoughts of terror.
A moment after I slid into the room I heard the footsteps turn the corner into the living room. They didn’t pause to investigate; it was obvious I wasn’t in there. They just started toward the room where I was hiding.
That was enough for me. Whoever was here knew where I was. Silence was futile at this point. Adrenaline rushed through my veins and I turned and bolted across the room. I would jump through one of the windows to escape. It would hurt, but it probably wouldn’t kill me. I ran toward the window, preparing to launch myself through it.
“Stop!” A male voice cried. I didn’t stop. I jumped.
So did he.
His body slammed against mine, knocking me to the floor. My head cracked against the window sill. I tried to scream but he cupped a hand over my mouth, smothering the scream. “Be quiet,” he hissed in my ear. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He lay on top of me, his chest against my back, a big, sweaty hand covering my mouth, burly arm wrapped around my chest.
It was impossible to breathe with him on top of me. I struggled, fighting for air. He seemed to sense what I was doing and moved his hand long enough for me to take a gasping breath before smothering my voice again.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” he demanded. “Where’s Jim?”
He couldn’t see my face and I couldn’t talk so I shook my head, fighting not to be overwhelmed by fear and panic. He finally let go of my mouth.
“I don’t know,” I gasped. “I don’t know.”
“Why did he leave you here alone? Damn fool.”
“I don’t know,” I whimpered.
“Listen to me,” he hissed. “It’s not safe for any of you, anywhere. Do you understand me? It’s not safe!”
I tried to turn my head, to get a better glimpse of the man, but he shoved my face down into the carpet. “Don’t,” he growled.
I nodded, barely containing my fear.
“You have to get out. Find your boyfriend, find Jim, and get the hell out of here. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I croaked.
“Good.” He stood, yanking me to my feet. “Don’t turn around,” he ordered. He kept his arms around my chest, pulling me with him through the living room.
“Where are you taking me?” I blurted, not expecting an answer, but hysteria was taking over. I had to have some focus.
His laugh was sinister but mangled. “I’m not taking you anywhere. I’m not the one trying to kill you.” He flipped off the lights in the living room, plunging the place in darkness before letting me go.
I didn’t see him leave the room. It was too dark. But I heard the door slam behind him as he left the way he came.
I groped for the wall, searching in panic for the light switch. I didn’t do well in the dark, not anymore. Too many dark things rose up in the blackness. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I found the switch and flipped it on. The room was empty, as I logically knew it would be, but my emotional state suggested otherwise.
I fell against the wall, my legs too weak to support me anymore, and let my body slide to the floor. I huddled there, knees pulled to my chin, forcing myself to breathe slowly while my bones rattled on.
It was a long time before I managed to pull myself to my feet and drag my limp body to the couch. I needed a phone. I needed to call James, Jim, anybody. I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t remember where it was. After a few minutes I gave up and dropped onto the couch, trying to keep the panic at bay.