Sneak Peeks




Chapter 1

 Wednesday, June 1, 2:45 PM

Proverb: Those who ca'an  dance blame it on the music.
Meaning: It is easier to blame other people than to take responsibility for our actions.

Xavier has a damn nerve. He bloody well knows I don’t belong here.

Annette studied her nails before she continued scanning the room.

The cobalt-blue blinds hid the afternoon sun from her eyes and sealed her in a cozy space dominated by a mahogany desk, plush furniture and a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf crammed with reference books.

She studied the rings on her left hand. So many memories were contained in those pieces of platinum and baguette diamonds. How Xavier expected her to just move on after seventeen years of marriage, she didn’t know. He’d taken twenty years of her life and left her to start over with that bitch and the bastard they had spawned between them.

Movement from the other side of the desk reminded Annette she wasn’t in the room alone. Marjorie Dacres watched her. Having to see a therapist was laughable, not to mention humiliating. She was a social worker herself and not just any social worker. The human psyche was her area of specialization; the path she’d chosen for her career. She almost had a Master's, for heaven’s sake.

Pity you didn’t do such a great job with your family.

She banished that thought. Studying had eaten up most of her adult life, but the results were worth the sacrifices she’d made. She was one of Jamaica’s eminent consultants in the Social Services, her specialty being children and family life. The irony of being inside the office of a family life minister as a patient didn’t escape her.

Annette’s skin crawled again, and a tide of heat crept from her chest to scald her face. The only reason she was here was because Xavier insisted he’d press charges if she didn’t see a therapist. Never mind the fact that she’d explained why she cut him and that she hadn’t meant to do it.

The only good thing that came out of that disaster was that her daughter Kelleigh was now coming around. The nervous looks she sometimes threw at Annette disturbed her, but they’d been at odds for so long it was no wonder her fifteen year old couldn’t appreciate the mother-daughter bond that was a natural part of life.

The therapist shifted and folded her hands on the desk. "Mrs. McKellop, why are you here?"

Annette made the dumpy woman wait while she thought about what to say. Her blue-white hair was at odds with her unlined face and plump body. She looked more like forty than the sixty-odd-year-old grandmother Annette knew her to be.

Miss Dacres cleared her throat and then prompted Annette. "Mrs. McKellop?"

Glancing at her watch, Annette sat erect in the seat that was more sofa than patient’s chair. She smoothed the skirt of her business suit and looked to the woman’s left, latching on to the pearl earring that clung to her earlobe.

"My husband insisted that I come." She studied the toes of her leather pumps. "There was an incident."

"So you came under duress."

Gritting her teeth, Annette answered, "Yes."

A smile entered the woman’s voice. "As you know, there shouldn’t be any embarrassment about seeing a therapist, but as professionals, we know there’s a stigma attached."

Her chair squeaked and she moved something on the desk. "It’s clear you’re feeling some resistance, but if you’re going to be seeing me, it makes sense for us not to waste each other’s time. Can we start with the incident that brought you here?"

Annette stared at the woman. Who the hell did she think she was to believe that a pep talk was what she needed and that she was so weak-minded, she’d spill her guts at the first invitation? She probably knew more about the human mind and therapy than the old dinosaur across the desk.

Her anger stirred again. She didn’t understand what Xavier thought would come out of his ridiculous stipulation that she go into therapy, but she knew one thing. Divorced from her or not, he wouldn’t have a moment’s happiness with that bitch and the bastard child he’d gotten during their marriage.

Damn cheat!

While Annette twisted the rings on her finger, her gaze fell on a globe depicting a scene outside a country house. A strong desire to hurl it across the room overcame her. Wrecking the glass figurine would satisfy the anger twisting and tumbling in her belly. If only for the moment.

She skimmed the office with her eyes, working out what to say to satisfy the woman in front of her and occupy the half hour that stretched before them. She traced the stitches on the leather case in her lap, while her thoughts wrapped around Xavier.  If he believed he could leave her and their daughter behind like old newspaper, he could just think again.




Corra

One final lap and she'd quit.

Corra cut through the water, savoring the warmth left over from a day's worth of the sun's brilliance.

She braced her legs against the wall and spun over on her back to admire the tapestry above. A thousand stars winked an invitation to forget she was earthbound.

Xantrope's reputation for breathtaking beauty made her vacation choice easy this year. The land boasted brilliant flora, and the citizens were friendly. Though the island lay close to home, she'd never taken the hundred-mile trip. Two days in, and Xantrope still lived up to her expectations.

Corra sighed, closed her eyes and let the water buoy her.  She'd face Jamaica and her problems in a couple of weeks.

A small splash disturbed the velvety liquid, but she was loathe to lift her lids. Probably someone who also had insomnia and needed a swim to tire them to the point of sleep.  She raised her head. Nobody in sight. Perhaps she was mistaken.

The tangle of trees and shrubs, designed to simulate the wild, blocked most of the light from the adjoining path. If she let her thoughts run free, the vegetation easily took on the appearance of a pack of zombies, poised to pounce and devour her flesh. 

The secluded pool, which had seemed so inviting when she discovered it, now made her uneasy by its stillness. She rolled her eyes at her thoughts and let reality assert itself. Yards away, other vacationers lounged in their rooms, sated from dinner at the seafood buffet. She ought to stop watching so many horror movies and reading those blood-and-gore books.

The surface of the water broke around the outline of a man.

What the heck?

She prepared to voice her outrage, but before she uttered a word, he clamped her ankles, and flung her to the side in an attempt to keel her over. 

He pinned her from behind, chafing her skin. Then he grabbed a fistful of her hair and forced her face down. Foamy bubbles escaped on both sides of her head. The water, which had always represented a source of life to Corra, now carried the possibility of death.

She kicked at her attacker and flailed her arms, desperate for air.  Her limbs dragged, weakened by the earlier exercise and their struggle. A flurry of bubbles left her nostrils, but she dared not inhale.  He dragged her head back and submerged it again.  Water flooded her nose and rushed down her throat.

In a do or die attempt, she heaved her butt out of the water and tried to swing her body around.

It was a waste of energy. 

This man intended to kill her.

Damn this headfull of hair! Please!

Her lungs gave out, activating a sea of froth, which added to the frenzied churning created by their thrashing limbs. She gulped and her throat closed, cutting off her breath.  A frantic rhythm pulsed in her ears and pain spread in her chest.

Her heart or lungs would stop in seconds.

Her eyes closed and she drifted to where the darkness waited. 

Someone shouted.

Once.

Twice.

She floated free of the restraining pressure.

Maybe someone will save me if I'm...





Tuesday, June 15, 6:45 p.m.  
Justine

Proverb: A nuh same day leaf drop a water bottom it rotten.
Meaning: The consequences of one’s actions don’t come immediately.

They coiled together like serpents spent by their mating ritual. Justine's lashes lowered once, twice, and she shifted to stay awake. Behind her, Xavier stirred and his hand covered her breast. She groaned low in her throat, hungry for him again.
 

At the touch of her fingers, his body responded, filling her hand. He pressed soft kisses between her neck and shoulder, his locks trailing a velvety path over her skin. Xavier gripped her hips and a whimper left her throat. He moved her into position atop a pillow and straddled her from behind. His pace was unhurried, yet heat spread throughout her body, driving her toward the place where she forgot everything but them.

He murmured in her ear, a reminder to muffle her cries. She grabbed a handful of the cotton sheets and focused on the intensity building between her thighs. Heart thudding, she shuddered and squeezed her eyes shut. “Xavier!”

He answered with a groan, which fuelled her climax. A kaleidoscope burst behind her eyelids and she fell from the pinnacle they always climbed together.

Then remorse came flooding back. Their separate responsibilities lay beyond their cocoon, within the warm Jamaican night.

It was time to face that reality.

Xavier stroked her side, his leg thrown over hers. She held back a sigh while he caressed her skin, his hand moving in lazy circuits. Then he patted her shoulder. Without a word exchanged between them, he guessed her thoughts.  Another reason she adored him.

They communicated the way an old couple did, instinctively aware of what the other needed. Hard to imagine she knew him for a year before they spoke. In every way, they were now used to each other, except for the fire that burned between them. It was a living thing, like the sparks from summertime bushfires that threatened everything in their path.

All consuming and dangerous.
 
She flinched when her cellular rang. He flipped onto his back, allowing her to lunge for her bag and get the phone. The call was from home, which forced her heart rate upward. What if there was an emergency?
 
Everything's okay, she told herself before she answered.
 
Yolanda's high-pitched voice hit her ear. "Mommy, you on the way home yet?"

 Yolanda sounded normal.

Justine let her shoulders drop, and inhaled deeply. Nothing had gone wrong. "No, baby. Soon. You had dinner already?"

"Yup. Me and Miss Pauline eat together."

"You need to stop talking like her. It's Miss Pauline and I—"

Yolanda giggled. "I know, Mommy. Will you call me when you're close by?"

"Yes, love. See you in a bit. Where's Daddy?"

"He's not home yet."

Par for the course.

She would have been surprised if Milton had gotten home before her. Not that his absence excused what she was doing.

 "Okay. Tell Miss Pauline I'll be there in a while."

Yolanda drew a noisy breath to signal her distress. "Okay."

"Love you, baby."

"Love you too, Mommy."

She pressed the end button and then laid the phone on her belly, staring across the room. Xavier propped himself up on one elbow and nuzzled her cheek. "Time to face the world again, huh?"

She puckered her mouth and nodded. "You go first."

While he stood by the bed, she admired the smooth russet of his skin and the play of light and shadow over his body. At thirty-nine, Xavier wasn't perfect, but still a pleasure to look at. The muscles on his arms bunched as he tied his locks with the leather band retrieved from the bedside table. He turned his head and their eyes met. One side of his mouth lifted before he padded to the shower. She read his smile as another attempt to ease her mind. Such a caring and considerate man.

"Love you, Xave," she whispered to the silent room.

She turned on her side, hands folded under her cheek. In the glow of the lamplight, she scanned the surface of each piece of furniture. The housekeeping staff would be scandalized if they ever found condom wrappers in the room reserved for the manager on duty. It was bad enough that she had used the room tonight. That hadn't happened since one of their early encounters.  

She shrugged aside the weight on her spirit and let her gaze slide to Xavier, who lathered himself behind the fiberglass. The moment he emerged from the shower, she rose from the bed.
After showering, she slipped into the suit she had worn to work. He sat watching her, hands splayed on the bed. Their eyes met in the mirror and he rose to encircle her in his arms.

They made a striking pair. At 6'6”, he stood above most men, and she stood taller than most women she knew. Next to him, she basked in her femininity, but in female company she sometimes felt clumsy.

He stared into her eyes, twirling a lock of her hair as he hovered over her shoulder. She turned to hug him, and pressed a kiss to his throat. Their lips met in chaste contact, a promise of more to come at their next meeting. 

If there was one, she reminded herself.

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