WIP: If It Feels Off…It Is

Sometimes there’s a damn good reason to leave – a bad situation, a bad person, a bad memory. You want to put it all in your rear view. It rarely feels good, but you do it, if, like Laurel, you want to move on, to be happy. As is typically the case, once our poor beleaguered heroine dips just a toe back into an old pool, a rogue wave comes up out of nowhere and threatens to drown her. Yes, I know none of this makes sense, but once you read the book, it will. In this unedited snippet, Laurel realizes that some things – some people – refuse to go gently. And all she can think of is Sam…sweet, hard loving, protective Sam…

It felt good to be out taking pictures in the city again. No matter how many times she came downtown or walked along Michigan Avenue, there was always something new, something different that caught her eye.

She attributed her jumpiness to latent stress. Seeing Peter had been traumatic, the physical embodiment of all her worst dreams made real. And for him to try and attack her again – even though she fought back and won – she was still a little shaky. Racy4

Since it happened she woke up each night at least once, startled from her sleep by strange dreams. Not quite nightmares, she didn’t know what to make of them. She could process fear, anxiety, and a tight feeling of being watched. She’d managed not to wake Sam each time, and the one time she had, he’d kissed and held her until she fell asleep, whispering that he was there, that everything would be alright. It helped.

But today, the city felt different. It felt vaguely unfriendly. She kept bumping into people. Granted it was more crowded, it was the holiday, and people were naturally more irritable with the pressures of the season, not to mention the uber competitiveness brought on by extreme sales – or at least the advertising of such – but everyone seemed extra unfriendly that afternoon.

“Why are you so jumpy?” Char asked.

“I keep feeling like someone’s staring at me.”

“Like, because you’re beautiful?”

Laurel rolled her eyes. “No. this feels mean, like somebody’s giving me the evil eye.”

“Like who? You got enemies?” Char teased.

Yes, Laurel wanted to answer, but she didn’t. She did scan her environment thoroughly, but there were no familiar faces. She thought about calling her Gran, asking her if Peter knew that she lived in Chicago. But she didn’t want to seem paranoid, and he probably did. She’d told more than one person at the party. It could easily have gotten back to him. But he wouldn’t come here. Would he?

All of a sudden she remembered college. How he’d deliberately chosen the same school she planned to attend. Had bragged to her that once she was out of Savannah she belonged to him. No. She was just jumpy. Her period was due, and she was a little on edge. She’d eat a big salad for dinner take some vitamins and go to bed early. She’d be fine.

After a successful shopping trip, Laurel did exactly that, but she slept fitfully, waking up in the middle of the night frightened, her heart beating fast and sweat on her brow.

“Bad dream?”

“No,” she told a sleepy Sam. “I’m going to get some water. You want a glass?”

“Yeah,” he answered, already half asleep again.

She fetched the water, set his on his nightstand since he was already sleeping, and went to look out of the window. The street was peaceful at this hour. Few noises filtered up this high. She drank her water and watched the waves rolling gently into the shore off the lake until she got sleepy. Then she peed, washed up and got back in bed.

Sam didn’t wake up, but he did reach for her, pulling her close with a soft sigh. It eased her more than anything else could have, and Laurel slept the rest of the night comfortably.

But the next day when she was out and about, the feeling returned. She was walking to the gym, and the feeling of being watched was stronger than ever. The back of her neck was practically tingling, and her chest felt tight with worry.

Sam called as she was leaving.

“Wanna go out to eat tonight?”

“Yes, Lord,” she said, and he laughed.

“I take it you don’t feel like cooking?”

“Nope. What are we eating? Thai?”

“Thai.” He agreed. “You walking home from the gym?”

“Yup. See you in a few.” She waved at one of her work out buddies, and turned toward home. The gym was only a 10-15 minute walk from the apartment. She didn’t stroll today. She wanted to get home to Sam where she felt safe.

“Hello, Laurel.”

She spun around, a hand at her throat. Why hadn’t she listened to her gut? She’d known something was wrong.

“Peter,” she whispered. “What are you doing here?”

He smiled coldly. He was standing far too close. She could feel the heat from his body, smell his slightly acidic scent. He was sweating, like he was excited. She immediately backed away, but he grabbed her upper arm, yanking it so hard she cried out.

“I came to see you,” he said, in a strange happy voice. Then he punched her in the face and the world went black.

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