Sara’s emotionally abusive husband dies unexpectedly. She’s struggling to reclaim the intelligent, independent person she was before she married. She vows never to let a man take over her life again. Now she’s part of a special team, training to help other women.
Mac is has been responsible for training women in special ops techniques so they are prepared when they are challenged to save other women. When he meets Sara sparks fly between them. He wants her to quit the training and let him take care of her.
Sara graduates and now she and her team have to save Sara’s daughter from a serial killer. Can Mac step back and trust her in a dangerous situation? Can Sara and Mac resolve their issues, or will they go in opposite directions?
A shard of light seeped through a crack in the curtains and slid across Julie Ann’s face. She absently brushed her hand over her cheek, to get rid of the sensation. It didn’t work. She struggled to open her eyes. She focused on the ceiling. Her mind spun in circles. She didn’t recognize the room. Nothing looked familiar. Where was she? How did she get here?
The sounds of garbage cans smashed against trucks and pavement. Water sloshed against curbs. The sounds permeating the room brought back familiar memories. The water was to clean the streets after last night’s revelry. She was back in New Orleans, in the French Quarter. She didn’t know of anyplace else where they cleaned the streets every morning.
Reality crushed around her. Her mother was dead. She’d been shot.
The garbage truck moved ahead, and more cans banged.
Her mother had occasionally got up early and took Julie Ann for a walk through the streets to get fresh beignets from Café Du Monde. They’d strolled past those street cleaners and jumped over water to avoid getting wet from the hoses spraying the gutters.
Her mother had gripped Julie Ann’s hand tightly and made up stories about what might have happened the night before. The stories included voodoo queens and ghosts who might have walked through the streets.
The memory caused a severe ache in her chest. She reached for that warm spot she’d found last night. This morning it was cold. She wrapped her arms around herself, holding in the heartache. She’d forgotten about those times. Love for her mother flooded over her. Mom and the French Quarter had provided her with so many wonderful memories.
She’d buried them when she’d left New Orleans. She’d got caught up in the rush and development of a successful business in the city of New York. She should have come home before this. She’d forgotten how much she’d loved New Orleans, but it was coming back.
The events of the last two days flooded over her like a tsunami; Mom’s death, the flight to New Orleans, the yellow tape and Deputy Sheriff O’Reilly – Connor.
She closed her eyes and pulled the covers over her head to block out the bad memories, but the heaviness sitting on her chest didn’t go away. An overwhelming sadness filled her whole body, but she didn’t cry. She’d dried up.
The person she loved most in her life was gone and she couldn’t even cry for her anymore. Her throat squeezed shut and blocked the tears that pushed against the barricade like water against a dam. The pain was excruciating; even swallowing didn’t relieve the pain. She moved her hand across the sheet again, but no one squeezed back this morning.
Julie Ann threw the covers back and pushed her feet to the floor. She had to get showered and ready for Deputy… Connor. A ghost of a smile flashed across her lips as she thought about the linebacker-sized policeman with kind, amazing Irish green eyes, who’d carried her to her room and ordered food because she hadn’t eaten. He said he’d pick her up at ten. He looked like the punctual type.
She started toward the bathroom and stopped. Her smile dissipated. Her stomach clenched.
In the corner of one of the chairs sat a small voodoo doll, with blonde hair and a small hole with a drop of red surrounding the heart area.
How had it got there? How had anyone slid into the room? Why did someone leave it for her?
She hurried to the door. It was locked. So was the window. She reached for the hotel phone and lifted the receiver. She replaced it. Deputy Sheriff Conner would be here soon, probably already on his way. Besides, if someone got into her room, the hotel staff might be involved.
She hadn’t been hurt – yet. Was the doll a warning? It was obviously meant for her. Did they expect her to run back to New York?
Anger flared and she grabbed the damn doll and slammed it against the wall. A vision flashed before her when she touched the doll. It was a group, not one person. They were blurry. She didn’t recognize anyone.
She stared down at the doll. She recalled her mother taking her to a small shop. The woman had them join hands. She’d lit a flame, passed their hands over it and recited some kind of spell. Perrine had said something about a vision or passing on a vision. The memory was foggy, and Julie Ann had no idea what her mother meant.
Was this it? She’d had flashes occasionally but brushed them away. They were usually about her or someone she knew. If she ever mentioned them in New York, people raised their eyebrows and made some comment about seeing a psychiatrist. So, she tried to bury the visions, or at least not mention them.
Julie Ann picked up the doll and held it. She closed her eyes. Again, there was a flash of a man and behind him several people. They were so blurred it was hard to make out any features, even if they were male or female. The one in front was definitely male. She’d never seen him before.
The images faded. She only felt emptiness.
Setting the story against the dark side of New Orleans gives an ambience to the mystery right away!
The presence of the voodoo doll is definitely creepy. I’d be concerned if I were her.
What an eerie beginning. Who brought the doll?
Intriguing excerpt. Now what’s the deal with the doll? Thanks for sharing.