Monday, December 31, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Last Chapter

(Not Professionally Edited)


Chapter 29

Sam had never heard a sweeter voice than his. Though she couldn’t make out his face, the light behind him making him a giant black blob, she knew his voice. Pulling herself up to her feet, she hopped toward him.

“Oh, Samantha. What has he done to you?” He cupped her face in his hands, resting his brow on hers. “I thought I lost you.”

All she could do was mumble and bounce, but she was damn glad to see him. She’d been saved.

“I need to remove this, but it’s going to hurt.” She nodded then drew in a deep breath as he picked at the edges of the tape. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

She closed her eyes and tipped her face up, and waited.

“Quickly, all right?”

She nodded, and braced herself. He ripped the tape from her mouth, igniting a fire as the skin was pulled and scored. She cried out, couldn’t help herself.

“Oh god, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that hurt you.” He pulled her into his arms and Sam wished she too could hold him.

“My hands.” She twisted so he could see they were bound.

“I could kill that bastard!” Moving in behind her, he knelt down, taking her bound hands in his.

She fully expected him to cut her free, but not the kiss he placed to her wrists. The sentiment of that gesture brought tears to her eyes.

She heard a click, and then felt him tugging at the tape. “How did you know I was here? How did you find me?” She winced as he pried the tape from her skin.

“Almost done, baby, almost done.” He kissed her wrists again, then continued working the tape. “Your father knew where to find you. I drove him out here. There we go, all done.”

The instant her hands were free, she threw them around his body, taking comfort in the simple feel of him. “I didn’t think I would ever see you again.”

“I feared the same. It is so good to feel you.” He kissed her with a force that nearly knocked them both over. Laughing, he released her, and then his eyes went wide.

“Her name is Alexis and she was killed by Daniel Bennett,” she explained, knowing what it was he saw. “He’s here, somewhere. You have to find him.”

Cupping her face in his hands, he kissed Sam’s panic away. “You’re safe. He’s in custody. How do you know who she is?”

She couldn’t tell him, not now at least. “I just do. Can we get out of here now?” The shadows outside the door caught her attention, and looking up, she saw her father race down the steps.

“Oh, Sammy girl. Thank god!” Running to his daughter, grabbing her from Ethan, he nearly smothered her when he pulled her into his arms. “Let’s get you out of here.”

“In a minute. There’s something I need to do first.” Though she knew Ethan was standing right behind her, she had to do what was needed. Turning to Alexis, she knelt down as she spoke softly. “It’s time now. You can go home.”

The spirit of the child looked up, and smiled. “Thank you, Samantha.” A brilliant light began to form around her like tiny crystal shards, sparkling as she ascended to her final resting place.

Turning, Sam nodded to her father then eagerly took Ethan's hand. “I’m ready to go now.”

***

The instant she arrived back at her place her family surrounded her, fawning over her and it drove her crazy. But Sam sat patiently while her mother stroked her hair and tended to her wounds, while her sister brought her one blanket after another and her brother fluffed the pillow behind her head half a dozen times. She knew they loved her, and so she let them take care of her. She’d refused to go to the hospital, but had allowed the paramedics that had come to the church to fix her up as best they could. And even when they argued with her to get her head wound checked out in the hospital, she’d refused. She didn’t want to spend the night in a sterile hospital room, having some nurse check on her every few hours, or a doctor poking at her. She wanted to be home, where she knew she was safe and loved. So they’d stitched her up and reluctantly let her go.

She’d driven back to the city with Ethan, her father in the back seat, and both men had continually asked her if she was all right. Though she’d reassured them both she was, she knew they didn’t believe her. And now that she was home, sitting on her own sofa, neither man had said a word to her. It worried her that maybe Ethan was having second thoughts about being with her after seeing her speak to a corpse. And she worried her father was disappointed in her for being with Ethan.

“It’s time we went home.”

Sam looked up when her father spoke and her heart ached. He didn’t even want to be near her.

“But, C.J., Sam needs us.”

“She’ll be fine, Jessica.”

“We can’t just leave her alone, Dad,” Colleen pleaded.

“She won’t be alone. Go to the car, I’ll be right there.”

“If you need anything, Sam, just call.”

The kiss her mother placed on her cheek warmed her heart. “I will, Mom. Thanks for everything.”

With shiny eyes, her mother left her with another kiss to the head.

“Same goes for me,” Andrew piped in, putting his cheek on her head.

“And me.” Colleen took her hand, giving it a little squeeze.

She really did have great siblings. “I’ll be fine. But I’ll call if I need anything,” she reassured them, waving as they left her house. The instant the door closed, she looked up at her father, full of worry. “Dad—”

He turned to Ethan with a pointed finger. “I’m trusting you to look after her and take care of her. That doesn’t mean I like what the two of you are doing, but I know better than to stand in the way of love,” he lowered his voice so only Ethan could hear, but Sam heard it clear as day. “Hurt her, and you’ll be very very sorry.”

Ethan gave a curt nod. “I promise you I will never hurt her.”

“Make sure you don’t.” He turned to Sam now and she feared what he might say. “Don’t be stubborn. Take something when the pain gets to be too much.”

“Yes, Daddy.”

He touched her cheek, and Sam rejoiced in the love she saw in his eyes. “I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

She leaned into his hand, feeling so much better now. “You are. I love you, Dad.”

He smiled then kissed her cheek. “I love you, too.” She watched him leave, knowing it was hard for him to do so, and loving him even more for it.

“Do you need anything?”

 “Only you.” She held her hand out to him, waiting for Ethan to come to her. When he took her hand in his, it felt so right to be with him, to have him hold her. If only it could be this way forever. “Have I thanked you yet for saving me?”

“Why don’t you show me?” Lifting her chin carefully and just as gently he touched his lips to hers.

She sighed, letting the kiss wash away all the ugliness she’d been part of for the past day. She was utterly relieved to know he still wanted her. And when he released her, she wanted nothing more than to have him kiss her again.

“I never thought I would ever feel love for someone again. As a matter of fact, I swore I would never open my heart like that again.”

“Ethan—”

“I love you,” he exhaled it. “I love you, Samantha, and I think I’ve loved you from the very first moment I saw you.” He stroked her raw face gently, the passion and sympathy she saw in his eyes was staggering.  “You are a strange woman, and I hardly know you, but I know how I feel. I can’t breathe without you. You are constantly on my mind and I long for every moment I can share with you. And I promise you now, with all my heart, I will be free from my ties by the end of the week. I love you,” he repeated. “And I’m never going to let you go.” He took her mouth now a little more firmly. He kissed her with passion, and she felt it sink right into her core. Then he blew her mind when he kissed the bruises on her face and hands, soothing the pain she felt inside.

She had never felt so much love before in her life. He undressed her with such care it melted her heart. His hands, as they stroked over her body, making her quiver, were not hard or rushed, but gentle and caring. His kisses weren’t greedy, but a whisper of soft flesh that gave her goose bumps. He loved her, and God help her, she loved him back.

Would they ever be able to be together as a normal couple? She believed they would. Eventually. But right now, at this moment, she took what was offered, and gave without question. If all she had was the here and now with Ethan, then she would live it to its fullest. Pulling him to her, their naked bodies joining, Sam took his face in her hands as she melted into the kiss. While their bodies rocked, slick naked flesh ripe with desire, their hearts joined as one.

“I love you, Samantha,” Ethan whispered as he held her in his arms.

“I love you, Ethan.” Her eyes heavy, Sam drifted off to sleep.

***

Sam knew she was in one of her hypnotic dreams simply because everything looked choppy, like she’d been drugged and wasn’t seeing things normally, as it always did in her dream-like state. The only reason she had dreams of this caliber were when the dead came to call. She really didn’t want another spirit haunting her sleep. Not after the ordeal she’d just been through with Bennett and the children. All she wanted was some peace and quiet for a while. Some time to be with her…lover, to enjoy life. Yet Sam knew all the begging in the world would not make it go away.

Resigned to the dream, Sam gave in and let it lead the way.

Might as well figure out why I’m here.

Soft classical music played from somewhere she couldn’t determine, and it sounded like it was in water. Sounds were always a little distorted in her dream state. She stood in what looked like a grand foyer of some mansion and as she looked up, she was in awe of the gorgeous crystal chandelier that hung high above her head. It had to be at least ten feet up and three tears long. Man, she would hate to have to clean that puppy.

She felt like she was moving in jelly when she turned and saw the grand spiral staircase to her left. Was that marble flooring on the steps? Holy shit, it was! And get a load of the paintings on the wall. Oh my God! That was a frikin Matisse hanging along the stairwell. And look at that vase by the wall. Was that a Ming? Sweet God it was!

Man, whoever lived here had to be filthy rich. The place reeked with money

Confused as to why she was here, Sam turned around, and saw the lower torso of a female body lying on the floor.

Ah, now I get it, she thought as she moved toward the room the body lay in. “Why do the dead always have to be so damn cryptic?” But as she stepped into the room, her entire body froze.

Crouched over the woman, was Ethan.

“Dear God, Gwen!”

“Ethan!” Sam called out, but she knew it was no use. He wouldn’t hear her because she really wasn’t there. And then she felt it. Her body was pulled from the dream, sucked back into reality like a vacuum. Despite her attempt to fight it, she was dragged back.

And woke with a start.

Ethan was not beside her.

 
THE END


 Well, I hope you all enjoyed the first book in my Haunted series. As you can see the end is not the end for Sam and Ethan. Several things have yet to be tied up. Will Sam tell Ethan about her gift? Did Ethan finally end his problem by killing Gwen? So many loose ends. But fear not, there is a second book. I just haven't finished going over it to clean it up yet.
In the mean time, stay tuned because my next free book will be posted right after the new year.
Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Chapter 28


(Not Professionally Edited)
Chapter 28

The instant C.J. told Ethan where to drive he’d been inundated with questions. Not wanting to tell him everything, including the part where Sam communicated with the dead, C.J did his best to work around it.

            “So you’re telling me that Samantha has been investigating missing children and through this investigation she came upon this Bennett fellow. Why exactly was she investigating these missing children?”

C.J. wished the man would drive faster and talk less. “If you knew Samantha you would know she has a very inquisitive mind and having grown up with two investigators, she’s inherited the knack. She read about the missing children in the paper and felt compelled to help. It’s just who she is.”

“I’m sure the cops are doing everything in their power to find the man responsible.”

C.J. tapped his knee restlessly. “They are, but that doesn’t stop Sam. She’s a determined woman and because of her tenacity, she happened upon Bennett as he was lighting his paddock on fire. When the police and fire arrived, Bennett accused Sam of setting the fire. Sam tried to attack Bennett and in doing so, a lighter fell from her pocket which, given the circumstances, made her look guilty. She was immediately taken into custody.”

Ethan signaled and turned left on the highway leading out of the city as C.J. had instructed. “But she was released.”

“Yes and since then the discovery of the missing children’s bodies has put the focus on Bennett. Unfortunately, he’s vanished.”

“And you think Samantha has gone to his farm to see if he’s there? Why would she do something so stupid?”

“Watch who you’re calling stupid, buddy,” C.J. warned evenly.

“I wasn't referring to her as stupid but her actions. Why wouldn’t she just let the police deal with it?”

“Because she’s Sam. If you knew her you would know this is what she does.”

“I understand that you disapprove of me, but can we leave the animosity out of it until after we find Samantha. She could be in real danger if this Bennett character finds her.”

C.J. bit his tongue. Now was not the time for a verbal fighting match. “The farm is up ahead to your right and you don’t have to tell me about her being in danger.

Ethan came to a stop by the house.

“Damn it! Her car isn’t here.”

“He could have ditched it somewhere. We should go inside and check if she’s here.”

She isn’t here, Dad. Alexis isn’t here. C.J. remembered the way Sam had been so distraught that the little girl hadn’t been with the other missing children. She wouldn’t come here because Alexis wasn't here. The bells are so loud. Sam had mentioned Church bells. Of course! “She isn’t here. Head back onto the highway and to the church down the road.” Sam had to have gone there to look for Alexis.

“A church? Why a church?” Ethan asked as he turned the car around and headed back onto the highway.

“Bennett worked at the church. She may be thinking that he’s hiding out there.”

“We should call the police.”

“Let’s make sure she’s there first. Might be no reason to involve the cops.” He prayed to god he was right. “Right here,” C.J. instructed, pointing to his right.

 “That’s Sam’s car.” Ethan pulled into the church parking lot, stopping beside Sam’s Malibu.

There was another car parked beside hers. Was it Bennett’s, C.J. wondered as he hurried from the car, Ethan right behind him. He came up short at the hood of Sam’s car. “Damn it!”

“What?” Ethan stopped and, following C.J.’s gaze, gasped. “Is that…blood?”

C.J. knelt down to get a closer look. It was blood, and fresh. His heart raced and he prayed for his daughters’ safety.

“It is blood. Oh my God, Samantha!”

C.J. stood, took a deep breath, and turned to Ethan. “We won’t do her any good if we get upset.”  He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Bob. After giving the details, and was reassured the police were on their way, he hung up and headed for the front doors of the church.

“Where are you going?” Ethan asked when C.J. started for the church doors.

“To look for her.” Racing up the steps, C.J. pushed the large wooden doors open and stepped into the church. He felt it the instant he entered. Death was present. Spotting a priest near the confessionals, C.J. called out to him. “Excuse me, Father,” These places never made him comfortable, so many dead voices calling out to him, even on holy ground they called. “Could we have a moment of your time?”

“Yes, of course. How may I be of service?”

The instant the man turned, C.J. recognized him from the police photo. He was the killer. It was Bennett. But then the waves of the dead swirled over him. Out of the corner of his eye, C.J. spotted the gentleman as he stepped out from behind Bennett.

“He isn’t what he seems,” the dead man spoke, his voice weak from the slice across his throat.

“I know,” C.J. reassured the spirit.

“Excuse me?” Bennett asked with confusion.

“You have to stop him,” the spirit insisted.

“I will,” C.J. promised and it was then that he realized whose blood was outside and whose car was parked by Sam’s. The man who stood behind Bennett, dressed in a priests garb bled through the wound across his throat.

“What the hell are you babbling about?” Ethan asked C.J., giving him a baffled look.

I think you gentleman need to leave,” Bennett insisted.

“Where is she?” C.J. stepped closer to the man dressed in a priests outfit, knowing he was not. “Where is my daughter?”

“Excuse me? You have me a bit confused.”

“He has a knife, behind his back.”

C.J. acknowledged the deceases warning. “I think you know perfectly well what I’m talking about. Where have you put my daughter, you bastard?” C.J. was quick on his feet, which was a good thing because if he hadn’t been, the knife that grazed his arm would have sunk into his gut.

Jesus.” C.J. fell backwards into Ethan, sending them both stumbling into one of the pews. “What the hell is going on?” Ethan demanded, pulling C.J. to his feet.

“Don’t let him get away. He’s the killer and he has Sam.”  C.J looked down at his arm, frowning at the blood. It wasn't deep, thankfully, but still…

Without hesitation, Ethan barreled after the priest, knocking him down, the knife falling onto the floor beside them. There was a struggle but Ethan managed to get control, which C.J. admired. The man could hold his own.

“How the hell do you know he has her?” Bennett struggled as Ethan brought him to his feet, shoving his arms high up to his back as he held him in place.

“Just trust me.” C.J. turned to the apparition. “Where is she?”

“I can’t see clearly. My vision is…it’s so bright.”

Damn it! Now wasn’t the time for the priest to be called up. “I need your help, please, tell me where she is.”

“I think you’ve lost your mind. Did you hit your head or something?” Ethan asked as he struggling to hold Bennett in his grasp.

“She’s here... I must go now.”

No,” C.J. cried out. He needed the priest just a bit longer. But it was too late, the priest vanished. “Damn it.”

“What is going on?”  Ethan looked at C.J. as if he were insane.

Ignoring Ethan, C.J. turned to Bennett. “Tell me where you have her or I will beat it out of you.”

“Fuck you,” Bennett spat out, tugging his arms, but having no success.

It was enough to send C.J. over the edge. Lifting his fist, he smashed it into Bennett’s face. “You bastard, where is she?”

Ethan held Bennett up, shifting him when he’d slumped from the blow.

“You’ll never find her.” Daniel laughed, blood trickling down his lip.

Now it was Ethan’s turn to get aggressive. Spinning the man, he slammed him into the wall, pinning his neck with his forearm. “If you killed her I’ll—”

“She’s alive,” C.J. reassured Ethan. The sound of approaching cars couldn’t have pleased him more. The cops had finally arrived. About damn time. Any more of this action and C.J. was sure he’d end up in the bloody hospital again hooked up to the damn machines.

“How do you know she’s alive?” Ethan wanted to know, still pinning Bennett to the wall.

“Just trust me.” He’d be the first to know if she were dead.  And that gave him reassurance. “In here, officers,” C.J. called out. “We’ve got your man.”

“What the hell is going on, C.J.?”  As Bob entered the church, he pulled out his handcuffs, officer’s right at his side, and rushed to Bennett. “Jesus, how did you find him?”

“I’ll fill you in later.” C.J. sneered at Bennett as his hands were cuffed. “He has Sam, Bob. That’s her Malibu out front. She has to be here, but he won’t tell us anything. Help me find her,” C.J. pleaded. Sam was alive now, but he feared if they didn’t find her soon…They had to find her. Now!

“Call for back up,” Bob ordered his men then turned to C.J.. “You’re bleeding. Do you need an ambulance?”

C.J. shook his head as he glanced at his arm. It wasn't so bad now. “I’m fine, or I will be after we find Sam.”

Bob nodded then turned to Ethan. “And you are…?”

“Ethan Montgomery. A friend of Samantha’s.”

Acknowledging him, Bob turned back to C.J. “We’ll find her. You need to get that checked out.” He pointed to his arm.

“I’ll be fine,” C.J. insisted.

“If Jess finds out I did nothing for you, she’ll have my hide.”

C.J. laughed, knowing it was absolutely the truth. “If you save her daughter, this will only be an after-thought.” He held up his arm.

“All right. Let’s cover the perimeter, boys,” Bob instructed his men.

“Bob.” C.J. stopped him. “The priest is here somewhere. Bennett got to him.”

Bob nodded then turned to one of the officers. “Do a search for the priest. Let’s roll, people.”

“I’m helping,” Ethan insisted. “And don’t argue, it will only waste time.” He strode off, his head held high.

“I’m with him.” Holding his bleeding arm, C.J. headed out to search for his daughter.

***

Coming awake, Sam blinked her eyes, trying to focus. The darkness still surrounded her, like a veil over her eyes. She felt the cool damp ground beneath her and focused on it, trying to keep herself awake. Bennett had gone and she had no idea if he would return.  She prayed he didn’t. Disoriented, she had no idea where the door was.

And somewhere in this dark room the remains of a little girl sat staring back at her. It had been well over eight months since Alexis had lost her life, lost everything she had held dear. Sam felt horrible at letting the little girl and all the others down, because she hadn’t been able to give them what they wanted most. Justice.

Because she’d been stupid and had run off without telling anyone where she was going, not only would she lose her life, but eight children’s lives would forever hang in the balance, their killer roaming free to do it again. She was a failure, pure and simply.

Closing her eyes on a sigh, Sam felt the presence before she saw her. “I’m sorry,” she thought. She didn’t jump when the hand touched her arm, and slowly opened her eyes. Before her was not that of a dead child, but one that looked as real as Sam herself. But she knew better. “I tried to help you, but I was foolish. I am so sorry,” she thought, hoping Alexis could hear her. She wished her mouth wasn't taped up.

Alexis knelt down to her, touching not just Sam’s arm but her heart as well.  She shook her head as she looked down at Sam with wide blue eyes. “You didn’t fail.”

But I did,” Sam continued, glad the ghostly girl could read her. “We’re both stuck here and your killer is out there, free.” The tears stung her eyes as she stared at the little girl before her. She was so adorable, so sweet and it tore at her heart to know the horrors this poor young girl had endured before her death.

“It’s not over for you. Fight!”

How can I fight? I’m bound and gagged.”

“You can fight because you are a fighter. That’s why I came to you.” Alexis smiled showing off her missing tooth. “You’re as strong as my mommy and I knew you wouldn’t give up easily. Don’t give up now.”

Sam closed her eyes again and could almost hear her father saying the same thing. Don’t give up, Sammy girl. Fight. And she knew they were both right. She needed to fight. Samantha Dowling did not give up.

She opened her eyes and nodded to Alexis. “I wish I had known you before…before,” she said at last.

What she needed was to remove the tape from her hands and mouth, then she could crawl around in search of the door, screaming for help. So she struggled, wiggled her hands behind her back, shifting until the skin burned like fire and the tears stung her eyes. The tape on her mouth tugged and burnt. Twisting her fingers, Sam continued desperately to pry the tape from her wrists.

***

She wasn’t inside. He and the officers had practically turned the place upside. He would have wrung the neck of the bastard that took her if the cops hadn’t pulled him free. And still the creep refused to tell them where he had Samantha.

Needing fresh air, feeling utterly hopeless, Ethan walked around the building, his heart aching something fierce. He was not going to lose her. He couldn’t lose Samantha now. For the first time in a very long time he felt whole and he knew it was because of Samantha. He loved her. C.J. was right, he didn’t really know Samantha, but he desperately wanted to. He had no idea she’d been investigating these missing children. Quite frankly, he’d had no idea about the missing children to begin with. She had such a kind heart, was it any wonder she would want to do more for the families who were missing their children. Though he hadn’t known her that long, he wished she would have felt comfortable enough to tell him about her investigations. He might have liked helping her.

With a heavy sigh, he walked around the building. He’d made such a mess of his life and now that he had finally found someone he felt a deep connection to, she might very well be snatched away from him. Why was life so cruel? 

Then the broken brush up ahead caught his attention. Rushing to them, he saw the cellar door and the footprints leading to and from it. His heart sped up as he pulled the door open.

“Samantha? Samantha, are you in here?” His heart raced as the light shone down on her, kneeling on the dirt, tape on her mouth.

“I’ve found her,” Ethan called out as loud as he could while he darted down the rickety wooden steps to the cellar.  “I’m here, love. I’m here now.”

 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost. Chapter 27


(Not Professionally Edited)
Chapter 27

Sam pulled her car to a stop in the church parking lot. The clouds that had brought on the rain the day before were gone.  In its place the sun began to rise with an explosion of brilliant colors of reds, orange and yellow. It shone down on the dew the night’s rain had produced to create an illusion of tiny diamonds on the ground. Her feet sloshed in the puddles as she ran, as she hurried toward the church. Racing to the front and up the stairs to the door, she huffed when she found it locked. Darting back down the steps, she hurried around the building to the back door. And found that locked as well.

Cursing under her breath, Sam began to walk around the church. Weren’t they supposed to be open for those who might be in need of a prayer or confession? Scanning the church, Sam called out. “I know you’re here, Alexis, lead me to you.”

She shut her eyes, closing off her surroundings and thought only of Alexis.

And felt her calling to her from the ground.

The ground. Beneath the church.

A basement?

Of course! Every time she’d been taken to Alexis, it had been dark. Pitch black dark. There was no light because there were no windows to shed light into the area she was held. There would be no windows in the basement section of the church.

Racing around the building in search of a cellar door, Sam grew frustrated when she didn’t find one. The ground rumbled beneath her feet as she approached a rather ratty looking bush at the side of the church. As she moved toward it, the rumbled grew stronger. Sam spread the branches in her search, snapping twigs that got in her way, ripping the flesh on her hands with no regard to the pain.

Behind the skimpy bush was a door.

The cellar door.

“Damn it!” Spotting the padlock on the door, she let out a long hard breath.

Alexis was here, she knew she was here, she could feel her, and if breaking into a church was what she needed to do to find her, then so be it. She’d deal with the repercussions of that later.

Standing up, Sam looked around for something to break the lock open. She had to get inside to save the little girl. Spotting a large rock near the bush, she grabbed it and began to pound on the lock. Metal sang against rock creating tiny sparks as they connected. Each time she swung at the lock she hoped this time it would give.

The ground rumbled.

“I’m trying, Alexis.” It seemed to take forever and her hands and arms sang with pain as she slammed the rock down on the metal padlock. When it finally gave, she tossed the rock aside and let out a jubilant cheer.

Pulling the broken lock away, Sam grabbed the door. She was surprised at its weight, but managed to yank it open. Taking a deep breath, she started down the old worn-out wooden steps, the darkness making her uneasy. Pushing on, calling to her, Sam took the steps that led down to the cellar. “I’m coming, Alexis.”

The blow to her head had an explosion of stars erupting before her eyes. And as she fell down onto the musty dirt floor, she looked up into the eyes of a killer.

Then it all went black.

***

The time had come to put an end to this scam of Gwen’s and Ethan was not leaving until things were resolved. Because he didn’t want her to have reason to call the police, he didn’t just barge in as he wanted, but rang the bell instead. It utterly surprised him when she answered the door herself.

“Answering the door yourself now?”

“It’s the helps day off. What are you doing here?” she demanded, blocking the doorway.

“Putting this sham to an end.”

“You want to break my other wrist while you’re at it?” She held her arm up, pulling the sleeve of her robe back to show off the cast.

He glanced briefly at it before looking back up at her. “We both know I didn’t cause that.”

“Say’s the abuser,” she mocked.

“Enough!” He moved past her and into his own house. His house! God how he missed it!

“I’m calling the police,” Gwen spat in a feral tone.

“That’s fine.” He tossed the folder on the coffee table and it slid along the glossy smoked glass. “They can arrest you for extortion, blackmail, and embezzlement.”

“What are babbling about?” she asked with an arrogant flip of her hair as she walked past him.

“This is the end, Gwen. This is a far as you go. You really should have taken the original settlement. But you always were greedy. Let’s see where that greed gets you now.”

Settling down on the sofa, draping her arms across the back and crossing her legs perfectly to reveal a slim bare leg, she laughed. “Who do you think the courts will believe? All the evidence points to you, Ethan dear.”

“Why would I want to steal from my own company? What would I gain by it? As long as my company does well, I do well. I’m in charge, what more could I want than that. There are no grounds for embezzlement and the courts will see that.”

“You think that’s all the evidence I have against you?” She laughed again, tilting her head back. “You always were blind.” She stood up now and looked him squarely in the eyes. “This,” She held up her fractured arm. “This is only the beginning.”

He jumped when she screamed, then stepped back in shock as she flung herself onto the glass coffee table, shattering it.

“Stop it, Ethan. Please. Don’t hurt me,” she cried out, loud enough to make him jump.

“What the hell are you doing?” He halted himself before reaching out to help her to her feet. Though he could see the tiny smidge of blood forming beneath the white cloth, he wasn't about to give her fuel for her fire.

“Setting the scene, stupid.” Getting to her feet, her knees bleeding from shattered glass, she walked to the vase that sat by the window, then sent it crashing to the floor. “Ethan, please, please just leave me alone.”

He threw his hands in the air. “You’ve lost your mind.”

She only smiled before running headlong into the wall.

“Gwen?” He ran to her as she staggered and fell backwards onto the floor. He wasn’t fast enough though, to brace her fall and she dropped down hard, bouncing once before rolling to her side. “Sweet God!” Her head was bruised and bleeding. She had blood spots all over her legs, arms and torso. She was more than just a gold-digger. She was bloody insane.

“Help,” she sputtered, her eyes cloudy. “Someone help me please.”

“You’ve truly lost your mind. I should have you committed.”

“Who do you think the courts will believe now, Ethan?” she slurred, her lips lifting ever so slightly in a sneer. “Will your precious Samantha still be there for you while you rot in jail?”

He grabbed her by the shoulders, then common sense prevailed and he released her and stood. “I’ve had enough of this.”

The last thing he heard as he walked away was her evil laughter.

***

Ethan didn’t go back to the office. Instead, he went straight to Samantha’s house. He needed to warn her about Gwen, warn her that things were about to turn very ugly. He was damn sure Gwen was going to call the police and make them believe he’d roughed her up. He’d told his lawyer as much when he’d called him after leaving Gwen. After listening to Brandon scream at him for ten minutes about going to see Gwen in the first place, he agreed as soon as he found Sam he would head to the law office and discuss what to do next. It was time he filled his lawyer in on everything.

When he arrived at Samantha’s house, he was more than a little disappointed to find her gone. Where the devil could she be?

She’d looked so terrified. He’d tried calling her several times, but had always got her answering service. He’d continued calling right up until he’d reached his home to talk to Gwen. And now that he was here, at Sam’s house and she wasn't here, he was even more worried.

Then he saw her father walking toward him. He recognized him instantly, having seen him on the television enough times and from his book jacket. He wasn’t sure he was ready for this confrontation, not after having just been in one with his insane wife.

Then again, he might know where Samantha was. “Mr. Dowling.”

“Do I know you?”

“Ethan Montgomery.” He held his hand out in a friendly gesture and the look on C.J.’s face said it all. He was not happy to see him. “You wouldn’t happen to know where Samantha might be?”

 “I was just about to go see her.”

“She’s not home. Do you know where else I might find her?” He put his hands in his pockets and when C.J. narrowed his eyes, Ethan knew just what to expect now.

“My daughter is a grown woman, but that doesn’t mean I have to like every choice she makes in her life. You’re one of those choices I’m not sure I like.”

Okay, so he’d expected something a little more in the lines of yelling at him and threatening him to stay away from Samantha. “I can only tell you that I would never do anything deliberately to hurt your daughter. That’s why I’m here now. I need to prepare her.”

C.J.’s  eyebrows lifted as he spoke in a low dark tone. “Prepare her for what?”

“My life is about to get very complicated—”

“What with a pesky wife and all?”

Ethan kept his cool despite the sharp sarcastic tone.  “I think it would be for the best if we didn’t go further with this discussion. I’m worried about her. She had a nightmare last night and ran from my house in quite a state.”

“She spent the night—” C.J. closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, which Ethan was mighty glad for. “What kind of nightmare?” he asked slowly.

He hadn’t expected that, not after telling the father of the woman he was seeing that they’d spent the night together. “She didn’t say what it was about. Only that someone named Alexis needed her.”

“Oh, damn it.”

“What’s wrong? Who is Alexis?” He raced after C.J. when the man scrambled to his car. “What is going on?”

“I think I know where she might be. Damn it, Sam. I told you to stay away.” He pulled out the cell phone from his front seat and Ethan stood back impatiently waiting. “Answer!”

“I already tried calling her. She didn’t answer.”

“Did you try her cell?”

“No.” He didn’t have her cell phone number. “Is she in trouble?” His heart was pounding something fierce with just the thought of that.

“Why aren’t you answering, Sammy girl?”

“You’re really starting to worry me now. What is going on, Mr. Dowling?”

He tucked his phone in his shirt pocket as he turned to Ethan. “I don’t know. I need to go.”

“If you’re going to wherever you think Samantha might be, then I’m going along.” His lawyer could wait. Everything could wait. Samantha was what was important now.

“I don’t think so.”

He got into his car, slamming the door and Ethan stood on the sidewalk, furious.

 

 

Chapter 28


      Sam woke to the chattering of her own teeth and her head pounding with a thunderous drum roll. Feeling something trickle down her face, she lifted her hand and felt dampness on her fingertips. She remembered the conk to her head and figured it had been hard enough to cut her head open. Explained the throbbing bitch of a headache she had.

The musty smell of dirt clogged her nose, the scent of death making her nauseous. It was pitch black and she couldn’t see a damn thing. Groping for something, anything to lead her out, Sam dug her fingers into the dirt as she tried to pull herself up. The throbbing in her head intensified and she grew dizzy. It was an odd feeling, not being able to see a thing yet knowing everything was spinning around you. She fell to her knees, lowering her head, taking several deep breaths and waited out the dizziness.

Deciding staying down was for best, Sam began to crawl her way along the dirt floor. She needed to find a way out of the cellar. Moving forward, her hand bumped into something solid. The keys in her pocket jingled and she remembered the pen light

she’d attached to it. Sitting back, she reached into her pocket and drew it out. Pressing the tiny button, the light came on.

And Sam screamed.

Propped up against the wall was the little girl she’d seen so many times in her dreams. Decay had rotted most of the flesh away, leaving a shell of what had once been a lovely vital young girl.

Sam recoiled, disgusted by what she saw, repulsed by it. Nausea rolled in her belly, inching up to her chest. She’d finally found Alexis, and she couldn’t even look at her. She was disgusted with herself as much as she was with the scene before her.

The sudden slice of bright light that shot into the darkness made her flinch. Shielding her eyes as she looked toward the cellar door as it opened, she could only make out a figure, but she wasn't sure who it was.

Thank god, someone had finally found her.

“I’m over here. I need help. I’ve been—” The words dried in her throat as she saw who it was.

It was him. It was, D.B..

 He’d killed Alexis and seven other children and now he came to kill her.

“Funny how things work out.” He closed the door, and the only light that remained was from the lantern he held in his hand. It cast a shadow of eeriness on every wall and sent chills along Sam’s spine.

“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have to hide out down here. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had to torch my barn. So how fitting is it now that you would end up here.” He stepped closer and Sam cringed at the intent in his eyes. “I’m going to enjoy making you pay for ruining my life.”

“Stay away from me.” Sam scrambled to the corner, feeling trapped.

He set the lantern down beside Alexis’s bony arm and crouched down in front of Sam. “You’ve got nowhere to run, little lady. That’s the only exit and unless you’re feeling brave, you’re stuck.”

“You won’t get away with this.” She was not going to be another one of his victims.

“I already have.” He laughed, giving the remains of the young girl he’d killed a pat.

He was beyond sick. He was demented. “My family knows I’m here, they’ll come looking for me.” But she knew that was a lie. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going. She’d run from Ethan’s place without saying a word. And her cell phone was in her car so she couldn’t even call anyone for help.

Dear god, she was going to die.

“No one will think to look down here. That door is the only access and it’s disguised enough that no one will see it. No one knows about this place but me, that’s why it was so perfect to bring her here. The others were fun, quick, but this little one, well, she was special. I’d decided to keep her around for a while, toy with her…so to speak.” He laughed again and made Sam’s stomach roll.  “This was the perfect place.”

“I found it, someone else might too.” She had to believe that, to save her sanity, she had to believe that. “Besides, I’ll scream until someone hears me.”

His laughter crackled in the damp air. “No one heard this little wonder when she cried out for help and no one will hear you either.” Sam cringed when he reached into his back pocket, expecting him to pull out the knife. “But just to be safe. This should do nicely.” He pulled out a roll of tape.

Everything she’d always been told, everything she was came barreling full force. She was a fighter. She would not go down without a fight. Striking out, using hands and feet, Sam fought good and hard, fighting not just for her life, but for the vindication of all the children that had come to her for help.

Lashing out, she clawed and kicked at him with all the power she could muster. Knocking him over, Sam got to her feet, the dizziness swirling around her as she struggled to run for the door.

The air rushed out of her lungs when he grabbed her foot and took her down, hard. She cried out, screamed, kicked, but it did no good. He climbed on top, pinning her down, her face pressed into the dirt. He yanked her arms back so hard it stung her shoulders. She heard what sounded like something tearing, then felt the tape as he wrapped it round her wrists.

“Nice try. You certainly have spunk. I happen to like a woman with a bit of fight in her. And if I didn’t prefer the innocence of youth, I might just give you a try.” He flipped her over and Sam fought the bile that rose in her throat.  “But you’re too easy.” He slapped a wad of tape over her mouth.

“I need to think for a moment.” Leaving her on the floor, he stood, walking the short length of the room. “Got me good.” He rubbed his cheek, where her nails had scrapped. “I was going to head out of here, find some new digs, start over, but you changed that. You had to show up and cause suspicion with the cops. Now they’re on the lookout for me and I can’t make a run for it.”

He rubbed a hand over his chin, pacing. “What I need is a different car and a disguise.” He turned to her now, the light from the lantern making his face look even more demented as he smiled. “You drove here, right? Of course you did, and isn’t that perfect.”

Sam cringed when he knelt down beside her and reached for her waist. When his hand slipped into her pants pockets, she thought she might be sick.

“Where are your key’s? Did you leave them in your car?”

She refused to tell him. Refused to help him.

Lifting the lantern, he turned around in the room, looking down at the dirt. “Ah, here we go.” He stooped down to pick up the keys she’d dropped in her surprise at seeing Alexis. “Now all I need is a disguise. And I think I know the perfect one.”

He knelt down in front of Sam and she was sure it was the end.

“They won’t be looking for a priest now will they?”

His hand snaked out and for the first time in her life, Sam prayed. He grabbed her head and slammed it against the cement wall.

Her vision blurred as he walked away.

***

He knew it was a waste of time to keep trying to turn the engine over. The damn thing wasn't going to go and he had no idea why.

“Problem?”

He didn’t bother to look up at Ethan as he knelt down by the open window. The guy seemed nice enough, but he was still married and he wouldn’t be a good father if he didn’t feel some animosity toward the guy. “I’ve got it covered.”

“Sound to me like it’s not firing. Could be—”

 “Engine problems. Yeah, that’s a no brainer. I’ll call a cab.”

 “I’ll drive you.”

 “Thanks, but I’ll call a cab.”

“Damn it, forget your hatred for me for now and just accept my offer. I’ve been trying to call her for hours, and she hasn’t been answering and now she’s not home. I’m worried about her. I want to find Samantha as much as you do. I love her, and if she’s in trouble I want to help.”

Well that just hit him like a load of bricks, and it was the last thing C.J. wanted to hear. “I swear, if you hurt her—”

“Threaten me all you like while we drive.”

Snarling under his breath, C.J. knew he had no choice. “I’m only agreeing to let you drive me for my daughter’s sake.”

“Of course.”

“I still don’t like you.”

Ethan simply shrugged and walked toward his car.

Shaking his head, C.J. followed.

Why did his daughter have to fall for a married man?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Haunted: Innocence lost Chapter 26

(Not Professionally Edited)
 
Chapter 26

As they pulled up to the Bennett farm, Sam was amazed to see all the police cars filling up the driveway as well as the grass along the driveway. There were police cars, crime scene investigators, arson investigators and of course, fire trucks. And…the vehicles that would carry away the dead. It all seemed so final now, Sam thought, touching her rolling stomach as she and her father headed toward the graves of the children that had called to her for help.

 She watched with a heavy heart as two men carried a black bag off in the distance

Which child is that, she wondered.

“How are you holding up?”

Sam leaned on her father’s shoulder. The weight of what she was witnessed fell heavy on her heart. “It’s not as easy as I thought it would be.” She lifted her head to her father. “They’re finally free from their grave, but not of their torment. That won’t end until their killer is found.”

“They’ll catch him.”

She hoped with all her heart her father was right.

 “C.J.” Both she and her father turned as Captain Lewis approached. “How did you get past the guards at the entrance?”

 “I told them I was a friend of yours. Not very thorough, Bob. They didn’t even question it. If I had been here on business I would have been able to stroll right in and snap any picture I wanted.”

Bob pursed his lips. “Rookies, I’ll have to talk with them.” His eyes met Sam’s, filled with sorrow. “I’m so sorry for what you went through, Sam.”

“I understand, Captain Lewis.” But her mind was too occupied with the activities before her. “I need to get closer.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. Its evidence now and I can’t have civilians mucking it up. We want this guy caught.”

He was right and the last thing she wanted was to do something that would enable the bastard to get away with murder.

 “How did you know?”

Sam felt her father squeeze her hand in reassurance. “They came to me and asked for help.” She knew the captain knew all about her father’s abilities. Only thing was, he hadn’t been made aware that she had the same gift.

“Two of you to deal with now? Aren’t we lucky,” he chimed in humorously.

“I didn’t start the fire, Captain Lewis.”

He nodded, tucking his hands in his suit jacket pocket. “You’ve been cleared of any suspicion in regards to the fire. The arson investigator has promised me a preliminary report by morning but he did tell me that there’s enough evidence in and around the property to make us believe Mr. Bennett started the fire.”

“Thank God! So it won’t be on my record or anything like that?”

“Your record is clear.”

That was of great relief to her. “Have you found Bennett yet?”

Lewis let out a long breath as he glanced back at the burial site. “No. We have every man available looking for him. I’ve sent his description out on the airwaves.” He turned back to Sam, resolve in his eyes. “We’ll catch him, sooner or later.”

“Let’s hope its sooner.”

Bob nodded. “You’re going to have to give a statement for the records as to how you came to arrive at Bennett’s farm. That may include divulging your ability.”

“I’m not that comfortable discussing it, Captain.” She just wasn’t ready to tell the world that she communicated with the dead.

“If it were up to me, Sam, I would let it go. But my officers are going to need know how you discovered where the bodies were buried and how you knew where to find them.”

“She’ll give her statement, Bob, not to worry,” her father reassured. “And she’ll do it without divulging her gift.”

“Understood.”

They stood in silence for a moment, watching the officer’s work as they dug up the ground beneath the charred remains of the paddock. Sam could feel their presence, not so much as a complete entity, but as a glimpse that life had once been here.

“How many have you found so far?” her father finally asked.

“Four. Some of them are still pretty much intact, others…well, time wasn’t kind.” He left it at that.

Sam knew all too well what they looked like. She’d been in the ground with them.

“Well, I had better get up there and see how it’s progressing.” The Captain turned to her father.  “You can stay here and observe, but keep back and out of the way.”

“You bet.”

 “By the way, your wife has first crack at the story. That’s quite some woman you married. Her tenacity is definitely something.”

Her father smiled proudly and his love for his wife shone brightly. “You don’t know the half of it. See ya, Bob.” Her father turned to her after the captain walked off. “You want to sit for a while?”

She shook her head. “I’m okay.” Sam watched as the bags were carried off, thinking of the parents who would finally have closure. The families had been so sure their children would be found, alive, but their nightmare was only beginning. Reality was about to give them one hell of a wake-up call that was not going to ease their pain one bit. Now came the grief.

Her father pulled her against his side, rubbing a hand up and down her arm. “I’m not sure this is the best place for you, Sammy girl.”

She didn’t want to be anywhere else. “I have to be here, Dad. I need to see it to the end.”

Four hours passed while Sam and her father stood and watched as they unearthed one body after another. He’d slipped off to grab them coffee at some point and while he was gone, Sam watched while the cars began to pull away and the digging ceased. Something wasn't right.

“She’s not here,” Sam stated when her father returned with the coffee.

“Who?” He handed her a cup.

“Alexis.” She took the cup absently. “She isn’t here with them. He didn’t bury her here.” Why would he bury them all here but one? Why would Alexis lead her here if this wasn’t where she was buried? “Where is she, Dad?”

A sudden cloudburst of rain had people scrambling for shelter. Her father grabbed her by the arm and tugged her toward the car. “What are you doing? I need to find her.” Sam bolted from the car, dropping her cup as she ran for the dig site.  The heavy rain instantly soaked into her, plastering her hair to her face. She had to find her. She had to help her. She couldn’t leave Alexis. Not alone. The poor little girl was scared and needed her help.

“Sam, Sam come back here!” Her father called out, running after her. “Samantha stop!” He grabbed her arm and jerked her into place. “You’ll find her, but not tonight, not now. You need to get in the car and out of the rain. Sam, are you listening?” He gave her a mild shake.

“She’s alone, Dad and she needs me.” If it hadn’t been for Alexis, none of the children would have been found and none of the families would have closure. Sam couldn’t walk away from her after Alexis had pleaded with her to help.

“You won’t do her or anyone any good if you’re flat in bed with pneumonia. Sam, believe me, I know what you’re going through, but you’re not thinking logically right now. We need to get you home.”

She nodded, her face drenched from rain and tears and followed him to his car. Her father did know what she was going through. He’d once run into a burning house to save the dead. Despite nearly losing his life in the process.

Looking back she murmured, “I’ll find you, Alexis. Don’t be afraid. I’ll find you.” And as the heater in the car blew warm air on her cold damp body, Sam watched through the window as the farm began to disappear.

I won’t give up, Alexis, not until you’re free.

***

What he needed was to run off his frustration. Setting the program on his treadmill, Ethan did just that. The folder with the so-called evidence of his embezzlement lay on the table beside him, exactly where he’d tossed it.

He so desperately wanted to march over to Gwen and demand she put an end to this farce. If it wasn’t for Gwen’s false accusation of his abuse and the fact that his temper was on the boiling point he would. He knew better than to stir up more trouble and decided to let it go. For the time being at least.

So he ran.

She’d forged his signature. There was no other explanation for it. He knew damn well he hadn’t signed any of those papers indicating having moved money from the companies account to a separate account under another name. Yet when he’d checked into the account, it was there and the amount tucked away in it was staggering.

Everything tied back to him. And he’d had no clue.

She was smart, but not smart enough. Why would he leave a trail to himself? He wouldn’t, and anyone with half a brain would see that. Gwen screwed up, and he was going to make sure she paid.

When his doorbell rang, he slowed his speed before shutting it down and stepping down. Grabbing the towel he’d slung over the chair, he wrapped it around his neck and answered the door as he mopped his sweaty face.

He was pleasantly surprised to see Samantha smiling back at him.

“Huh, guess I owe you two hundred dollars. Pizza?”

He couldn’t help but smile.  She stood before him wearing a long yellow rain slicker with the hood up and a pizza box in her hand looking rather soggy from the rain. She was a remarkable sight.

“Come in out of the rain before you’re washed away. Will it ever let up?” It had been pouring since mid afternoon. He hadn't been sure if she would come by or not. He’d hoped, but he hadn’t been holding his breath. 

“Doesn’t look like it,” she remarked as she stepped inside.

He shut the door then took a good look at her. “Are you in there somewhere?” He flipped the hood off her head and though her hair looked a little frizzy, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. “Ah, there she is.” He took her lips in a slow sensual kiss that warmed him from head to toe. He could never get enough of her lips. “Hello, beautiful.”

She put the pizza down on the coffee table before looking around the room he’d led her to. “Nice place. Smaller than I expected you to have.”

“After next week—should everything go as planned—I’ll have my home back. This is only temporary until Gwen moves out of my house. Can I take your coat?”

 “In a minute. What's with the get up?”

“I was in the middle of a work-out when you rang.”

“I think you look sexy,” she admitted freely, a sly smile lifting her lips.

“You do, huh? Tell me, Samantha, are you the type of woman that finds sweat and muscles attractive?”

“Hey, what can I say, I find it sexy. Okay, I’m just going to come out and say this. I don’t want to hide our relationship anymore so from now on, no sneaking around, no hiding. If you want to be with me, we do it in the open. If that’s going to be a problem for you, for your divorce, then say so now and I’ll walk—”

He cut her words off by clamping his hands on her rain slicker and yanking her to him, kissing her impending statement away. She tasted of something sweet and smelled of rain. And the feel of her sunk right into his soul and he knew it would linger for an eternity.

And then it just happened.

It was that very moment that he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was completely head long in love with her.

He released her and took great pleasure in the hazy look that held her face captive. “I missed you, Samantha.”

“I missed you, too. You are such a good kisser. Makes my mind mush.” She laughed now and took a step back. “I have your tie.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. She smiled slyly then grabbing the front of her slicker, yanked it open.

“Oh my.” Before him stood a radiant beauty dressed in flimsy red silk that showed off all those curves he so enjoyed exploring. She wore nothing but a bra and panties cut to show off every part of her assets.

He was in heaven.

“I went with red to offset the black tie.”

Tie, what tie—ah…yes, there it was, hanging between her breasts. He’d been mesmerized by her bold statement that he’d missed her other statement.

“You’re speechless?” She laughed.

“And then some. Here I am dressed in sweaty work-out attire smelling less than desirable.”

She stepped up to him, and leaning into his neck, took a long sniff. “You smell fine to me. I love your cologne. Here,” She pulled the tie from around her neck and looped it around his. “Better?”

“Much. But this has to go.” Drawing the slicker from her shoulders, he couldn’t resist tasting the tempting feast before him. Her shoulders were round, firm and he found he rather enjoyed nibbling on them.

He memorized her body with his hands and his mouth, tasting each part of her as if she were an exotic fruit he had never savored before. She gave to him and he took.

And he realized then that he was about to take her in his living room. That wasn’t right.

She giggled when he lifted her into his arms and he just couldn’t resist nuzzling into her neck as he carried her to his bedroom.

“Nice room,” she managed when he set her down.

“It pales in comparison. I wish I had some rose petals for you.”  She deserved so much more.

“I don’t need rose petals. All I need is you.”

He could give her that.

He kissed her, not with the greed that he felt, but with the passion she deserved. He moved slowly as he caressed her body, despite his overwhelming desire to take. And when he pressed her down onto the bed, he simple looked.

“You are so beautiful. My Samantha.” And then he took her body on a slow ride to heaven.

With every stroke of his hands, he felt her quiver. With every nibble of his lips her body trembled. When he slipped the barriers away, she opened with anticipation for him.

Taking her lips in his, Ethan slid into her with a slow fluid motion that stirred the inner most recesses of their bodies. Slowly, he pressed inside a little further and she moved with him in perfect rhythm, their mouths caressing, tongues testing. There was no rush here, no need to hurry, just a longing to have for as long as they had.

When the tension built inside, curling like a fireball of need; neither cried out with its victory, but simply clung and let the wave ride its course.

His breath ragged, so many emotions careening inside of him, he looked down at her with a smile. Good God, how could he live without her? He’d never felt this kind of connection to anyone. Not even his wife. He’d been blind once. With Samantha, he could finally see.

Spotting the discarded tie beside them on the bed, he slipped it over her head.  “You look good in my tie.”

Laughing, a bold right from her belly laugh, Sam wiped the damp hair from his face. “Everything goes with black.”

Laughing now himself, Ethan shifted so she lay on top of him. “I may never be able to wear it again without thinking of you like this.”

“That was my goal.”

Capturing her face in his hands, he wanted so much to say those three special words to her.  Instead, he decided to show her. While he caressed every part of her, showing her the love he couldn’t express verbally, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would do whatever it took to keep her here with him.

***

The bells rang so loud she could feel them rattling her bones. In the darkness, she stood, but she was not alone. Through the ringing, through the noise, she heard the whimper, and she knew. Groping in the dark, Sam tried desperately to find her.

“I’m coming, Alexis.”

Then the male voice rumbled in the air.

“It will all be over soon, my child. So very soon.”

Though she couldn’t see him, Sam clawed at the darkness surrounding her hoping to hit her mark. “No, no, leave her alone. Get away from her you bastard.” But as Sam shouted her demand she knew it went on deaf ears. The deed had long been done. But that didn’t stop her from trying.

“I want to go home. I want to see my mommy,” the young girl pleaded.

“Let her go, you bastard.” Sam groped in the dark, her fingers clawing in the damp dirt that seemed to suck her down. “You will go home, my child. Just close your eyes and you’ll be there.”

“I want my mommy…,” Alexis cried.

There was no sound that could compare to the sound of flesh being separated by force. And the gurgled scream that echoed in the air would haunt her forever. Sam didn’t have to see to know he had just sliced the child’s throat. “No! You bastard.”

Her eyes shot open and she saw Ethan leaning over her.

“Samantha, wake up.”

“Make him stop. Dear God, make him stop.”

Ethan wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight to his chest. “Come on, baby. It’s okay. It was just a dream. You’re safe now, I’ve got you.” He stroked her back as he held her.

His voice was all she needed to clear her mind. Her eyes finally focusing, she saw that she wasn’t in the pits of darkness, or in her bedroom, but in Ethan’s instead. “Oh, God.”

“It’s okay, I’ve got you. The dream is over now.” He stroked her hair, kissing her head as he held her.

But it wasn’t over, not yet, and it wouldn't be until Alexis was found. Then it hit her, she knew now without a doubt where the young girl was. “I have to go.” Bolting from the bed, she searched for her clothes. Where the hell had she put them?

“What? It’s barely five a.m.”

Then she remembered all she’d worn had been her bra and panties and a rain slicker. Spotting them lying on the floor, she slipped into her bra and panties as quickly as she could “I need to go, now.” Racing into the living room, she grabbed the rain slicker and, threw it on in a rush.

“I don’t think you’re in any condition to drive, Samantha.” He followed her, bouncing from foot to foot as he slipped into his trousers.

“I’m fine. I need to go. Alexis needs me.”  Sam bolted for the door, slamming it in her wake.

Her mind was racing as fast as she drove. She hurried home, throwing on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt before heading back out.

In the dusky hours of dawn, Sam cruised alone on the highway, her destination only minutes away. Only she would be able to find her and set her free.