Fatal Intimacies (Romantic Suspense)

BOOK: Fatal Intimacies (Romantic Suspense)
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FATAL INTIMACIES

 

 

 

A Romance by

 

 

 

ISABELLE
ALI

 

 

Love is a temporary form of insanity.

 

 


Louis de Bernières

1

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Barlow heard the footsteps behind her in the night, but when she turned no one was there.

The sidewalk glistened from the rain and she could see the Space Needle from here, jutting out in between the buildings like a neon beckon. She glanced around her, but the street was empty. Her apartment wasn’t far.
Another half a block in Seattle’s trendy Queen Anne district. Most of the stores around there were trendy coffee shops and yoga studios and almost all of them were already closed.

As she rounded a corner, she heard the footsteps again and stopped.

“Hello? Is someone there?”

No reply. A canister of mace was hooked to her purse and she pulled it off and held it low. Sh
e wished she’d taken her friend Lisa’s advice and attended that gun safety course so she could get a concealed carry permit. Though she was generally against guns, one sure would make her feel better right now.

The apartment building she walked in front of was four stories of chipping red brick. She knew it well since
Lisa lived in that building. Biting her lip, she decided against ducking in there and telling Lisa that she thought she was being followed. Who would follow her? She had no enemies and nothing of value. She’d only lived in Seattle a few months, and a few months hadn’t been enough time to really piss anybody off. And the neighborhood wasn’t particularly shady.

A crash behind her.

She turned, her heart nearly jumping into her throat. The mace was held in front of her. The street was empty. A car, mercifully, rounded the corner and lit up the entire street. As the car passed, she saw an older woman behin
d the wheel. Feeling stupid, Michelle turned around to head home.

The man put his hand over her mouth. She screamed but it didn’t do any good. Dragging her across the pavement, her feet kicking out like she
was drowning, Michelle bit into his hand. She tasted the metallic warmth of blood and his grip loosened. She clawed at his face, which had a mask over it, and then turned to run.

The arm went around her throat and she couldn’t breathe. The world began growing darker and she realized the mace was still in her hand. Reaching up, she pressed the button and sprayed. Part of the spray hit her, but some of it must’ve hit him too because he let go.

She ran up the steps, half-blind from the mace, and stumbled twice before reaching the door. She opened it and screamed, pounding on doorways. Down the hall, a man opened the door.

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

Emotion and terror gripped her and she couldn’t speak. All she could do was scream as the man rushed over to her, another woman peeking out of the door behind him.

 

 

Michelle sat in the back of a police cruiser. The interview with the detective took almost half an hour. They insisted she come back to the station and she had. It was a cold, gray room and she’d never felt more helpless than when she was back there. But at least she felt safe.

The detective, a man named Mark Curtis, got into the driver’s seat with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled up. He reached back and handed her a coffee in a styrofoam cup with a lid.

“Is there anywhere you can stay tonight? A relative’s or friend
’s?”

She
shook her head. “My friend Lisa, maybe. But she lives in that same building. The one I was attacked in front of. I don’t think I want to go back there.”

“No relatives?”

“I have a sister in Austin and my parents are in Michigan. That’s it.”

“What happened to you, Ms.
Barlow… I mean, you’re very lucky. I don’t think I need to tell you that.”

She wrapped her arms around herself as though trying to get warm. “I think I’d like to just go home, please.”

“Sure thing. I’ll give you lift.”

The drive to her apartment only took
a few minutes and the detective kept a radio station on. Soft jazz played through the speakers and Michelle leaned her head back against the headrest. The moon was out and she stared at it and thought back to her life in Austin.

When the car stopped, she opened the door as the detective did the same. He walked around the car and helped her out.

“You sure you’re going to be okay?” he said.

“I think so.”

“We’ve got people out now in the neighborhood. If we turn anything up we’ll let you know.” He put his hands in his pockets and glanced up to her apartment building. “If you think of anything else, please let us know. Anything he was wearing or what he looked like—”

“It was a blur, like I said. He had that mask. Just plain white mask.”

He nodded and looked to the building again. “Well, if you do think of anything, you have my card.”

“Thank you, Detective. For everything.”

“It’s just Mark. And you’re welcome.”

Michelle turned to her building and walked to the front entrance. She glanced back and Mark was already gone. The building had a
keycode entry and she inputted the code and went inside. The air was warm and had a slight scent of cigarette smoke and marijuana. The building catered to twenty-somethings, most students at the University of Washington.

She ascended the stairs to the third floor. The apartment was small with hardwood floors and old heaters that banged the entire night during the winter months. She dropped her purse on the floor and flopped on the couch. Burying her face in h
er hands, she felt tears and wiped them with her palms.

After a few minutes, her knees were like
Jello-O and she thought she might pass out. Though she’d done nothing terribly exerting, she was thoroughly exhausted.

Michelle rose and went into her bedroom. She turned on the shower and let it steam up as she undressed. She stared at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy and red and her hair was a mess. The paramedics said she was in shock and they had given her a blanket and wanted to take her to the emergency room, but she refused. She had no health insurance and emergency rooms were expensive. Besides, she had no injuries that she could see.

She turned on the faucet and filled her hands with water before splashing it over her face. The water was cool and sent a slight jolt through her. When she opened her eyes to reach for the hand towel, she saw the face in the mirror. A dull, white mask.

She screamed and tried to sprint out of the bathroom, but he grabbed her by the throat, and flung her to the floor.

2

 

 

 

 

Jessica Barlow finished her jog through the city and checked the
time on an app on her phone. Five miles in just over half an hour. One of the best times she’d had all summer.

Austin was warm but not hot this time of year. Though she’d grown up in Michigan, her family had moved her and her sister Michelle out here when they were ten years old. Her father was a biotech engineer and he’d secured a management position with a start-up early in his career. Jessica couldn’t think of a better city to live in.
Even though her parents couldn’t stand it and moved back to Ann Arbor.

Her home sat on a quarter acre of property, large for this close to the city center, and she opened her
door and went inside. Jacob was sitting on the couch zoning out in front of the television.

“Where’s your sister?” she said.

“Downstairs.”

Jessica debated whether to turn off the television and tell him to go play outside. It was always a delicate balance with foster children. These two kids, only twelve and eight, had been through about as much as she had seen any children go through. Their parents
were both addicted to methamphetamine and had left them locked up in their house without food. The heat and electricity had been turned off. The police and the Department of Family Services were called after Jacob went begging at the neighbor’s house for some food for he and his sister.

“Maybe we could do something else, pal,” Jessica said. “You
wanna go to a museum?”

“What’s that?”

She was silent a moment. “You’re going to love it. Come on, go get dressed. Up up up.”

“Fine.” He clicked off the television. “Can we get hamburgers before?”

“After. And only if you have a good time.”

He smirked. “Alright, I’m
goin’.”

Jessica grinned as he trudged up the stairs to get dressed. He put on the tough front, but she could t
ell he was excited. In the six months they had been placed with her, they’d gone to movies—something neither of them had ever done—to concerts, the symphony, plays, and even a ballet. Which Jacob vehemently denied enjoying but smiled nearly the entire time. Their grades had gone from D’s and F’s to B’s and C’s. Not where Jessica wanted them to be, but almost.

Jessica trotted down the stairs and saw Ruth reading a book
on the couch. She looked up at her and smiled, placing the book down on her lap.

“Did you like running?”

“I did.”

“Can I go with you next time?”

Jessica sat down on the couch next to her. “Sure. We need to get you some running shoes though.”

“Can I get pink ones?”

She smiled. “Yes, you can get pink ones.”

Ruth’s face went serious for a moment. Like she had something she wanted to say but didn’t know how to put it. “Jessica, I don’t want to go back to mom and dad. I want to stay with you forever.”

Jessica was quiet. She looked away to hide the tears welling up in her eyes. When she looked again, Ruth had gone back to her book. Jessica kissed her on the forehead.

“Sweetheart, you can stay with me as long as you want. Now get your shoes on, we’re leaving.”

“Where we going?”

“The museum.”

“The museum! Yea! What’s a museum?”

Jessica laughed. “You’ll love it. Go.”

She jumped up and ran into her room to grab her shoes. Jessica watched her a moment longer before going upstairs. She had an office tucked away near the living room. Though she technically worked for a firm, her law practice consisted of transactional work. Particularly contract drafting. As a junior partner, she’d invoked her privilege to work from home.

As she put the finishing touches on a non-disclosure agreement, her cell phone rang. She answered and said, “Sarah. We’re going to
the museum. Come join us.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now.”

“I was thinking something mor
e adult. Like going for drinks and dancing.”

“I’m almost thirty.”

“So what? Come out with us. Katie’s coming, too.”

“I don’t want to leave the kids tonight.”

“Jacob’s twelve. Just call the sitter.”

Jessica typed out a sentence and then closed the document on her Mac. “They get kind of weird when I leave on the weekends. I think they have some anxiety that I might not come back.”

“Jessica Barlow, are you going to seriously be alone the rest of your life?”


I’m not alone, Sarah. Have fun.”

“You’re a jerk.”

“Bye.”

“Bye, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

 

 

The time at the museum flew by. They spent several hours in the natural history section, staring at the fossils. Jessica wondered what they must’ve looked like to Jacob and Ruth. Did they look like monsters out of their nightmares, or were they fantastical mysteries? Either way, they couldn’t seem to tear themselves away.

Afterward, they had burgers at JCW’s and then headed home. It was late evening and Jessica sent them both to shower and get ready for bed. She sat in her office and closed out a few more documents. She heard the television come on.

“Jacob, nothing scary. Your sister gets nightmares.”

“We won’t watch anything scary.”

Her cell phone rang again. It was a long distance number she didn’t recognize with a 206 area code. She picked up.

“Hello?”

BOOK: Fatal Intimacies (Romantic Suspense)
2.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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