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Authors: Lauren Linwood

Leave Yesterday Behind

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LEAVE YESTERDAY BEHIND

LAUREN LINWOOD

SOUL MATE PUBLISHING

New York

LEAVE YESTERDAY BEHIND

Copyright©2015

LAUREN LINWOOD

Cover Design by Leah Suttle

This book is a work of fiction.  The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.  The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.  Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Published in the United States of America by

Soul Mate Publishing

P.O. Box 24

Macedon, New York, 14502

ISBN: 978-1-61935-
803-4

www.SoulMatePublishing.com

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

For My SS Ladies

Donnette, Jennifer, Karen, Kathy, & Rita.

Though we’ve all headed in new directions,

whenever we are together,

it’s as if we’ve never been apart.

Prologue

The realization came to him instantly. He’d had enough practice. He looked over at the girl, her eyes large with fear as she watched him cross the room and remove a can of beer from the mini-fridge. It hissed gently as he popped the top and took a swig. Then another. The cold brew slid down his throat, burning as it went.

Practice made you perfect. That was the rule. His mother became the perfect whore thanks to all her years of practice, men traipsing in and out of their ever-changing address. She died because of all those men—the never-ending line—and the booze that she used to make herself forget that same, endless parade.

And, of course, the one man that bashed her face in until there wasn’t a face left. That had been the kicker.

When no suspect surfaced, the authorities blamed him, an angry teen with a string of petty thefts and no good role model to influence him. Six years in the detention center and he’d learned, through trial and error, to be the model prisoner. He knew what to say to make them think he felt remorse over a crime he’d never committed—even though he wished he would have. He kept his nose clean and didn’t associate with anyone. A spotless record that couldn’t be beat.

And they let him out a year ago because he’d trained himself to fit in with a society that had never wanted him. Never acknowledged him. He still fit in, going to his boring job in the automotive store in Brooklyn every day, cheerfully working overtime, a smile pasted on his features, despite customer complaints over the smallest of issues. Visiting his P.O. every week, then every two weeks, and now only once a month—all because he was judged to be a reformed man. He pretended to enjoy the visits. Rehearsed what he would say so the underpaid idiot with a worthless degree in social work would think him normal.

But he’d practiced on what was important all along.

The girl tied spread-eagle to the table in the corner was proof of his due diligence.

He stood and slowly walked toward her, his eye roving up and down her naked body. She was young and ripe.

And blond.

They always had to be blond. Or else it wouldn’t count.

Like a proud father, he took in how this one favored Jessica so much. He always tried to come close, but her resemblance to Jessica was quite remarkable. Why, given a chance, she might have been the next rising TV star herself. At least that’s what he’d told her in the bar last night, and she’d beamed at the compliment as she downed the tequila shots he paid for.

Although no one could truly hold a candle to his Jessica.

He tilted the beer above her slightly, allowing a small amount to spill onto her flat stomach. She flinched as the cold liquid hit its target. He leaned down and licked it from her bellybutton, dragging his tongue around it in circles that grew wider and wider.

She began to whimper behind the gag.

“Shush,” he told her, as he brushed his palm across her forehead, pushing the hair back that had fallen into her eyes. She cringed at his touch.

That angered him.

He backhanded her across the cheek, a move quick in speed and fluidity that showed the hours he’d invested in the martial arts. That, along with other skills perfected through repetition, gave him the confidence it would take to accomplish his mission.

Both of them, actually.

He poured more beer across the trembling girl’s breasts and watched as silent tears leaked from her eyes. As he bent, he pretended they were drips from an ice cream cone and licked them away.

He removed the knife from his pants pocket and laid it between her breasts as he drained the can and tossed it aside, the empty
cling
echoing in the small, windowless room.

“Now I need to put something on you,” he explained. He did this every time. It was part of the ritual. The ritual soothed him. He knew when the time came and it really counted, he wouldn’t have the privacy he had become accustomed to. Jessica was never alone. She was older and would never want to come with him as all the others had before. No, when her time came, it would have to be different from the others he practiced with.

But the end result would be the same.

He removed a tube of lipstick from his shirt pocket and opened it, rotating the bottom until the color peeked above the gold rim.

“I would like you to wear this. It’s Jessica’s favorite.”

The girl’s confusion didn’t matter. Only the ritual did.

“Now be very still and quiet. I’ll put it on, and you’ll be very pretty. Even beautiful.” He shook his head sadly. “But not as beautiful as Jessica, I’m afraid.”

His knife cut through the cloth handkerchief that had kept her fairly silent after the Rohypnol wore off. He pulled it away, taking time to dab her lips with it before he dropped it to the floor. He hoped the knife atop her was intimidation enough. She shouldn’t speak through this part. Silence was important.

He brought the lipstick to her mouth and concentrated as he brushed it across one side of her upper lip, then the other. As he began to trace her lower one with the vibrant color, she gagged.

“Be still,” he warned. “It has to be perfect in order for me to release you.” He always tried to give them a glimmer of hope.

But the blond choked until a spew of vomit roared from her and landed directly onto his shirt. His favorite shirt.

He glanced down and studied the trail running down him, the smell of last night’s tequila overwhelming. With lightning speed, he took the knife and plunged it into her stomach. The comforting, tinny scent of blood assaulted him.

He knew he would be all right.

Yanking the blade from her, he repeated the action several times until her gasps subsided. Until the blood bubbled up and spilled out around her. Until the look of horror was frozen in place for all time.

He frowned. “You ruined my last practice session, bitch,” he complained to the college coed who had only wanted a few free drinks served along with a dash of compliments on the side.

Still, he took the knife and cut a large lock of hair from her head. He would add it to his growing collection.

He sighed. He was ready.

Jessica would be his.

Soon . . .

Chapter 1

At thirty-two, Jessica Filch Karris Richmond Faulkner Montgomery Dalton had been married six times. Five if you counted one husband married twice in a row. She’d divorced a foreign race car driver; an egotistical actor; a temperamental chef; and a stodgy banker. She was now the recent widow of a renowned art dealer more than double her age that she swore was the love of her life.

Like all the rest had been.

Callie Chennault had given up trying to understand Jessica. After ten years, she was tired . . . and beginning not to care.

“Callie? Hustle, girl! You’re late again. Marvin is shitting bricks.”

She pushed her shades up to rest atop her head and grinned wickedly at Sandra, her favorite make-up artist. Sandra grabbed her arm and pulled her along the narrow corridor to her dressing room. She passed husband number three and blew him a kiss. Ricardo was about to marry an heiress that was secretly conducting an affair with her son’s best friend. Jessica knew all about it and was going to tell Ricardo later today.

That is, if she could pull herself together enough to do so.

Sandra removed Callie’s sunglasses and pulled her navy T-shirt over her head and gave her a push. Callie landed in a chair. Sandra immediately grabbed Callie’s yoga bag from her shoulder and tossed it and her purse onto the sofa. Margaret, their best hairdresser, began to comb her long, honeyed locks with a brisk motion, twisting sections and clipping them atop her head.

“Hey, take it easy,” she complained good-naturedly.

Margaret made eye contact with her in the mirror. “If you’d been here half an hour ago, things might be different, hon.”

Sandra already had her palette in front of her and began slathering on the thick foundation that the TV cameras required. Callie knew she was in good hands. She closed her eyes, thinking about how Jessica would approach Ricardo today with her news about his heiress and her illicit affair, one which could land the woman in jail, considering the age of her young lover.

Jessica had never quite gotten over Ricardo. She’d even shared a one-night fling with her ex-husband during her marriage to the boring banker. Callie thought their chemistry was too good to limit the affair to a single session of fierce lovemaking, but the actor who portrayed Ricardo came down with walking pneumonia and looked like hell for six weeks. Why would Jessica be interested in a man who resembled death warmed over when she could have any man in Sumner Falls?

Still, Callie understood why Jessica felt the need to share such sizzling news with her former husband and lover. The naughty heiress was about to lose all her money to the IRS, and Ricardo needed a lot of cash to keep his new restaurant afloat. Without his new wife’s fortune, the moody chef would have no need of her. He was much too good-looking to be stuck with her when she had money, let alone if she were broke and jail-bound.

Besides, Jessica was a meddler. She thrived on manipulating the lives of those around her, just like Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. That part Callie deeply understood. She herself grew up in a small town, where everyone knew everybody’s business. She’d gotten involved in the personal lives and loves of too many people in Aurora, so she could empathize with Jessica’s need to stick her nose into the brewing storm.

“Finished, doll,” Sandra said, patting her shoulder.

Callie opened her eyes and studied her image in the mirror. Her honeyed mane was swept up into a chic chignon, her skin dewy, her mouth a sinful red. She smiled and stood.

She was almost Jessica.

She slipped off her soccer sandals and yoga pants. Sandra spritzed her with Jessica’s signature fragrance while Margaret fastened a pearl necklace around her neck. She eased into a royal purple silk blouse and slim black cigarette pants. Sandra fastened the faux diamond bracelet around her wrist as Margaret held out the three-inch black stilettos that would put her at six feet, even.

She looked into the mirror again and smiled.

Now
she was Jessica.

She took her time walking down the hall. Jessica wouldn’t mind keeping people waiting. She ran on her own schedule, which was frequently interrupted by unscheduled romps of wild sex. She was fickle and flirty and a bit snobbish at times.

In other words, Jessica was the total opposite of Callie.

Callie favored jeans and sneakers, a light gloss or lip stain as her only make-up, and was friendly and outgoing and always on time. She’d been in only two serious relationships in her twenties, but nothing came of either. She hadn’t had sex in almost two years, making her thirties tame. Her friends considered her too finicky when it came to her taste in men. Besides, Callie wouldn’t know how to flirt if her life depended upon it.

But Jessica did. Sometimes Callie thought of her alter ego as
“The Evil Twin.”
Yet soap fans loved the bad girl who sometimes showed glimpses of vulnerability. At any rate, the role kept Callie in a steady job for just over a decade. But she’d finally hit the point where portraying Jessica had her bored stiff. She yearned for more of a challenge. She thought Jessica needed to grow up finally. Change. Develop some lasting relationships with her family and one man.

Nope. Not according to the head writer of
Sumner Falls.
Jessica was much too interesting as she was, flitting from bed to bed, meddling in everyone’s business. Even
Soap Scope
agreed, naming Jessica the most watchable character in daytime television for seven years in a row. Why would Callie want to mess with a good thing?

Jessica arrived on the set. A quiet descended. The gentle buzz of a moment ago stopped abruptly at her entrance. It was funny how even the cast and crew had come to think that she
was
Jessica. They spoke to her in a different way when she was ordinary Callie Chennault in no make-up, her hair in its customary ponytail. They would tease with her, joke with her, and even tell her about their families.

But whenever she came out all done-up in the Jessica duds, things changed. Confidences were no longer shared. From the gaffer to the cameraman, everyone gave her a wide berth.

And she was tired of it. She wondered if she had it in her to play another role after being identified so long with one character. Many actors left daytime with a dream to work in prime time or even film. Most came crawling back within a year or two, broke and scared. Sometimes fans accepted their return; other times, they became has-beens, waiting tables or modeling shoes in industrial films, their brush with fame gone.

She didn’t care. She missed the live theater of her high school and college days. She would love the chance to tackle a small, meaty role in some indie film. Anything, as long as it was far-removed from Jessica Filch Karris Richmond Faulkner Montgomery Dalton.

Her contract was up in another month. She’d put her agent off regarding renegotiations. Harry assumed she would be bucking for a hefty raise and told her she would get it. He promised he’d pull off a sweetheart deal, where she’d work for a few days a week when involved in a major storyline and then get a stretch of weeks off in which to vacation or even pursue another acting job.

If she could find one. She didn’t want to be typecast as Jessica 2.0 for the rest of her career.

“You could think about made for cable movies, like Lifetime. Even something off-Broadway. You could step into a long-running show for a limited run. When
All My Children
was on the air, the famed La Lucci did other things. She even had a nightclub act and did some spots with Regis.” Her agent had eyed her appraisingly. “You don’t sing, do ya?”

She assured him she didn’t unless it was in the shower and her dog Wolf was her audience of one.

She walked across the set and sat down in a gold brocaded chair. She glanced up and could see her director in the control room. Marvin rarely kept his temper contained, reaming out actors left and right, but he usually exercised caution when Jessica arrived. If she were Callie, she would have apologized to him for her tardiness and explained how her washer flooded her apartment and the one next to it this morning, or she never would have kept the crew waiting like this.

Jessica simply raised her chin a notch and awaited her instructions. Not that Marvin really told her what to do anymore. She’d been Jessica long before he came on board
Sumner Falls
. Besides, the writers understood how she turned a phrase and wrote accordingly for her. Callie knew instinctively when to pause, when to raise a brow, when to turn up the heat, and when to freeze someone out.

She was good. Four Daytime Emmys said so. And Marvin earned three, riding her coattails.

“Let’s go,” the director said, his voice sounding tinny over the ancient P.A. system.

All vestiges of Callie Chennault vanished. Jessica picked up the phone, moistened her lips, and said breathily, “I need to see you, Ricardo. No. It can’t wait. Now. My place.”

Callie dried her face with a fluffy towel and hung it back up. She loosened the tight chignon, which often gave her a headache, and shook out her hair, combing her fingers through it as it fell about her shoulders. She picked up a tinted lip balm and smoothed it over her lips. They were always dry after she scrubbed away
Ravenous Red
, the flaming color that was Jessica’s trademark and available for purchase at finer department stores. She slipped back into her street clothes and grabbed her yoga backpack.

Sandra popped her head into the dressing room. “Tomorrow’s script, Cal. Lotta lines for you, girl. Beth stopped by earlier and highlighted them for you.” She tucked the pages into Callie’s messenger bag. “She said do not, do not, be late to yoga. Or she’ll never forgive you.
Ever.
That is a direct quote.”

She chuckled. Beth got her into yoga three years ago, and they both were totally addicted. Callie lived for the seven o’clock twice-weekly class they attended and did Rodney Yee DVDs in her apartment the other nights. Yoga helped her maintain her sanity in the crazy world of soaps.

“Anything promising? Or did you actually not read ahead for once?”

The make-up artist shrugged. “It’s a scheduled Friday show. You and Ricardo end in a clinch, romance-cover style.”

She grinned. “So on Monday will I eat him up, spit him out, or push him away? I know you know. Dating one of the writers does have some perks.”

Sandra drew a line across her lips and tossed away an imaginary key. “I like it better when you don’t know what’s coming. Besides, it depends upon if you re-sign. Like that wouldn’t happen.” Sandra rolled her eyes. “See you tomorrow, Cal.”

She nodded, picking up her bag and backpack. Good old Callie. Always predictable. The good girl who did what everyone expected and would naturally rollover her contract for another two years, no questions asked. Harry was bucking to set things up for three. She knew it was so he could buy that weekend place on the beach his wife always nagged him about.

Yet why did she feel so unhappy? She was still fairly young. Single. Rich. Beautiful. She had one of the highest
Q
ratings around. What more could she want? Especially today, with so many soap operas biting the dust. Sure, a few tried to make the transition and become web-based shows, but more and more were being canceled for reality programming such as
The View
or
The Chew
, which were more cost-effective.
Sumner Falls,
like
The Young and the Restless,
was one of the few left. It was safe because it was a moneymaker and had a rabid fan base.

So why would she even toy with the idea of not re-upping? For an actor to have a steady gig, much less one so successful and lucrative, was pretty much unheard of. No one in her right mind would opt out for the unknown.

Or would they?

She headed out of the studio. Only three fans awaited her outside tonight. She posed for pictures, signed autographs for everyone, even scrawling her name across a tennis shoe. That was a first. She started down the Midtown Street at a rapid pace. Her class began in less than ten minutes. She couldn’t afford to be late. She needed every minute of that deep breathing to cleanse away all the mess that was Jessica.

“I love you, Jessica,” the man whispered under his breath as he watched her from across the busy lanes of traffic. He fell into step, matching her stride for stride. It was the fifty-ninth time he’d followed her to her yoga class.

He planned for it to be the last.

BOOK: Leave Yesterday Behind
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