Read Love Lies Bleeding Online

Authors: Jess Mcconkey

Tags: #Mystery, #Contemporary, #Adult

Love Lies Bleeding (5 page)

BOOK: Love Lies Bleeding
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She ripped open the top drawer with enough force to pull it off its rollers. The end tipped downward, dumping washcloths and hand towels onto the tiled floor.

“What are you doing?”

Sam shot a glance over her shoulder to see Jackson standing in the doorway, watching her.

Grabbing the edge of the sink for balance, she squatted down and began to pick up the towels. “I couldn’t find my brush.”

With two steps, he was beside her. He grabbed her upper arm and hoisted her to her feet. “There’s no need to turn the place upside down trying to find it,” he said. “Maybe you left it in the bedroom.”

She shook her head. “No, I
know
I left it in the cabinet.” Turning toward him, she saw the expression on his face.
Sam’s losing it.
“Okay, I’ll go look.”

With uneven steps, she went into the bedroom and began searching. Jackson followed and stood in the doorway watching her. With a sigh, he turned and left, only to return a moment later.

“Is this it?” he asked, waving the brush at her.

She grabbed it out of his hand. “Where did you find it?”

His lips tightened in a frown. “On the second shelf in the medicine cabinet.”

“But . . . but,” she stammered as her fingers gripped the smooth wooden handle. “I looked . . . I swear, it wasn’t—”

A loud knock on the front door of the cabin interrupted her.

“It doesn’t matter, Sam,” Jackson said with a glance over his shoulder. “Your parents are here. Hurry up and get dressed. Brunch will be ready soon.”

Alone, Sam sank down on the bed and stared at the brush in her hand. She didn’t care what Jackson said, the brush hadn’t been on the shelf. She would’ve seen it. Tipping her head back, she stared at the ceiling.
Unless her eyesight was beginning to betray her, too.

“Let it go,” she murmured to herself, “and calm down.”

Leaving the brush on the bed, she stood and crossed to the closet. If she wanted to convince her father and Jackson that she would be okay staying alone, she didn’t need to be acting hysterical over a missing brush. She pulled out a pair of jeans and took a moment picking out the right shirt. Something flattering. Appearances had always been important to her parents. If she looked more like her old self, they’d be more likely to listen to her.

Makeup might help, she thought, touching the side of her face. In her past life, she would’ve never considered going without it, but now it had been so long since she’d worn any, her skills at achieving that flawless look were rusty.

She dressed as quickly as she could. As she slid her feet into a pair of black flats, her heel hit something lying at the edge of the dust ruffle. Bending over, she picked it up. The book Jackson had been reading last night. She remembered knocking it to the floor. Turning it over, she studied the title:
The Minnesota Guide to Haunted Locations.

Puzzled, she stared at the cover.
What is this? Jackson’s taste has never run to the paranormal
.

“Never mind,” she whispered to herself. “You have more important issues than pondering Jackson’s reading material.”

With a sigh, she placed the book on the nightstand and went back into the bathroom. Jackson had already cleaned up the mess she’d made. Grabbing her makeup bag, she quickly brushed on mascara, a little eye shadow, and concealer to cover the dark circles under her eyes. Stepping back, she gave herself the once-over in the mirror. Not as good as she once looked, but it would have to do. At this point, she really didn’t have much to work with. Her eyes strayed to the chunk of hair sticking out. She grabbed the can of hair spray and tried smoothing it down. It popped right back out. Hopeless.

Setting the hair spray down, she braced her hands on the edge of the sink and stared into her own eyes in the mirror.

“You can do this,” she whispered to herself. “Be calm . . . be in control.”

With a nod, she turned and slowly walked out of the bathroom and down the hall to face her parents.

They were gathered in the living room, holding mimosas, her mother’s favorite beverage.

Her parents made a handsome couple. Dressed in navy slacks and a white starched shirt with the sleeves rolled back, Lawrence Moore managed to look as distinguished in the living room of a lakeside cabin as he did in a boardroom. His silver hair waved back from his high forehead and his green eyes were as sharp as a broken bottle. With his military-straight posture, he could intimidate by the sheer force of his presence.

Her steps faltered. He wasn’t going to intimidate her. She stiffened her spine. Not today.

Nancy Moore was the exact opposite of her husband. All soft with rounded edges. Blond with delicate blue eyes, she was a perfect counterpoint to her husband’s hardness. And while her dad attacked things head-on, her mother would take the roundabout way in dealing with unpleasantness. The end result was the same—they both managed to always get what they wanted.

“Jackson,” she overheard her father say, “you’re a doctor. Prescribe—”

Her mother’s delighted shriek interrupted him.

“Samantha!” Her mother placed her glass on the table and quickly crossed the room to gather Sam in a hug. Stepping back, she looked Sam up and down.

“My, don’t you look . . .” Her voice trailed away as her eyes focused on the errant hank of hair. “ . . . nice.”

Self-consciously, Sam tugged on her cowlick. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Would you like a mimosa?” she asked.

“She can’t, Nancy,” Jackson said swiftly. “The meds, you know. No alcohol. She’ll have straight orange juice.”

“Hey, Princess, don’t you have a hug for your old dad?” her father’s voice boomed out, drowning her mother’s response.

With a smile, Sam wrapped her arms around her father. He smelled of starch, cigar smoke, and English Leather. She closed her eyes and let the scent carry her back to her childhood when she was “Daddy’s little girl.” Oh, to be seven years old again and have her only fear be the monster lurking in the closet of her bedroom. A monster her dad always banished.

But he hadn’t vanquished them eight months ago and she was no longer a child. She had to convince him to quit treating her like one. Releasing him, she moved back and gave her father a tentative smile.

With one hand resting lightly on her shoulder, the fingers of his other hand stole to the side of her head. As he touched the strands stiff with hair spray, a frown crossed his face. “You should’ve let Renaldo,” he said, referring to her mother’s hairstylist, “fix that.”

Sam brushed his hand away. “It looks better than it did. At least I don’t have a bald spot anymore,” she replied, trying to keep her voice light.

“Nancy,” her father said, his attention shifting quickly to her mother. “When we get back to the Cities, call Renaldo. Get him up here.” His eyes returned to Sam’s head. “He can fix it so it’s not . . .” He paused, searching for the right word. “ . . . noticeable.”

“Lawrence,” her mother said, “he won’t want to drive two hours for one haircut.”

“Humph,” he snorted, “he will.”

“Dad,” Sam said, crossing to the couch, “it’s okay. It’s growing out.”

She eased down onto the couch as Jackson handed her a glass of orange juice. Taking a sip to wet her suddenly dry throat, she stared up at her father, now towering over her.

“Dad,” she began.

He held up a hand, stopping her. “Samantha, the three of us,” he said, motioning toward her mother and Jackson, “have discussed this and we think it best if someone stays with you during the week. We’ve hired a woman named Anne Weaver. She’s a physical therapy assistant. She’ll not only assist you day to day, she’ll help you with your therapy,” he announced. “Jackson is also prescribing a different medication for you to take before bed to help you sleep better. You can start tomorrow.”

Sam shot a look at Jackson. As he caught her eye, his chin dropped and he stared at a spot on the polished tile floor. Without asking him, she knew he’d told her parents about her latest nightmare. Annoyed, she rubbed her palms on her pants. Why hadn’t he talked to her before blabbing to her parents?

“Anne will,” her father said, “be here—”

Sam held up a hand, stopping him. “No.”

“What do you mean, ‘no’?” he said, taking a step back in surprise.

“I’m tired of all the pills and I’m tired of everyone hovering over me.” She paused and cleared her throat. “No meds . . . no babysitter,” she finished firmly.

Her father crossed his arms and glared down at her. “Samantha, you listen to me—”

“No, you listen. The meds aren’t working and I’m tired of feeling drugged all the time. And as far as having a keeper, I don’t need one.”

“But your therapy? What are you going to do about that?”

“I can still drive. Without the medications, I won’t be restricted.” She turned toward Jackson, hoping for support, but he remained silent. “They surely have therapists at the hospital in Pardo. I’ll go there,” she continued.

“That’s unacceptable,” her father said, pivoting and striding over to the table. He mixed another mimosa and gulped it down before speaking further. “We’re not going to leave you up here alone.”

“Fine,” she fired back. “One of you stay with me. I don’t want a stranger here.”

She looked at her mother, standing by Jackson, nervously twisting her heavy gold wedding band. Her eyes traveled to Jackson. With his eyes focused on her father, it was as if he were waiting for Lawrence to tell him how to respond. With a slight shake of her head, she returned her attention to her father. His lips were clenched and she could see a vein throbbing in the side of his neck. Suddenly his face relaxed, and he smiled tightly.

“You know we can’t do that, Samantha,” he said as if he were talking to a five-year-old. “We all have obligations in the city. I can’t leave the agency; Jackson has his patients; and your mother has her social—”

“Right,” Sam said bitterly. “We’d hate for Mom to miss one of her charity benefits.”

“Samantha,” he said harshly, “you’re being cruel. You know how important—”

She surged to her feet, taking a moment to get her balance. “Me, cruel? What do you call shoving me off on a stranger like I’m some unwanted burden?”

Her mother reached out to her. “Sam, dear, don’t—”

“Don’t what, Mom?” she asked, her eyes filling with tears. “Argue? Sorry. I can’t help it.” She dashed away a tear trickling down her cheek. A spasm suddenly shook her left leg and she sat down hard on the couch.

Her mother gave a little gasp, but stayed rooted at Jackson’s side.

“Are you happy now?” her father demanded. “You’ve upset your mother.”

A surge of anger stopped Sam’s tears. “What about me? Are you concerned that I might be upset? That you’ve made these decisions without talking to me? I should have a say about what happens in my life.”

Lawrence’s chest puffed out as he took a deep breath. “I don’t mean to be unkind, but the brutal truth is that since your accident—”

“Attack, Dad,” she broke in, “I was attacked.”

“Accident,”
he continued with emphasis, “we don’t believe you’re capable of knowing what’s best for you.” He took a long pause before resuming, his eyes wandering to the side of her head before returning to her face. “You’ve been making poor choices beginning with that day.” He shook his head. “We can’t allow them to continue.”

Sam’s forehead creased in a deep frown. “I don’t understand. What do you mean ‘that day’?”

A heavy silence fell in the room while the clock ticked away the seconds. Finally her father spoke. “You should’ve never stayed late at the agency. After Dan’s car was broken into and everything of value stolen, both Jackson and I cautioned you about being alone in the parking garage, but you didn’t listen.”

At her father’s words, Sam felt the tears gathering again.
No, she wasn’t going to cry
. Slowly she rose to her feet. “Have you always blamed me for what happened, Dad?” she asked in a flat voice.

Her mother rushed to her side and threw an arm around her shoulder. “Oh, Sam, your father doesn’t blame you.” Her eyes shot to Lawrence. “Do you, dear?”

He didn’t answer.

“That’s what I thought,” Sam said, shaking off her mother’s arm and limping toward the hallway.

“Wait, Sam, don’t leave,” her mother called out. “Let’s forget this unpleasantness. Let’s sit down and have a nice meal . . . We’ll talk about this later.”

As she reached the door to the bedroom, she heard her father.

“Let her go, Nancy.”

Turning, she called over her shoulder, “Yeah, Mom, let it go. Have another mimosa,” she said, slamming the bedroom door.

Leaning against it, she let the tears fall. How long had her father blamed her for her attack? He was right—they had warned her about staying late, but she’d been working on a presentation for a difficult client at Lawrence’s request. Was he right? Was she responsible? Should she have run faster, screamed louder, fought harder?

Her hand strayed to the chunk of hair on the side of her head and she tugged at it nervously. She noticed her manicure bag lying on the dresser. Stumbling over to it, she removed the pair of scissors.

He didn’t like the way my hair looked, huh?
She lifted a lock of hair and snipped off the end. Then another and another. Soon the dresser was covered with a mass of auburn hair.

The bedroom door suddenly flew open. Her hand paused as she saw Jackson’s horrified reflection in the mirror.

“What are you doing!”

Chapter Five

A
t the sound of Jackson’s cry, both her father and mother came rushing down the hallway. Three shocked faces stared back at her in the mirror. Her father’s mouth tightened in a grim line and her mother’s eyes filled with tears as she began to cry softly. Jackson simply looked sad.

Her father placed a comforting hand on her mother’s shoulder. “Nancy, I’ll handle this. You and Jackson go ahead and start brunch. Samantha and I will join you in a little bit.” He turned his attention to Sam. “Let’s go out on the deck. I want to talk to you.”

Tossing the scissors back into the bag, Sam took one last look at herself in the mirror. Her hair now stood out in spikes all over her head.
Well,
she thought defiantly,
no more cowlick.

BOOK: Love Lies Bleeding
8.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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