Read Love Lies Bleeding Online

Authors: Jess Mcconkey

Tags: #Mystery, #Contemporary, #Adult

Love Lies Bleeding (9 page)

BOOK: Love Lies Bleeding
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Another small win. If she could only gain Sam’s trust . . . Not only would it please Lawrence Moore, but it would allow her to really help this woman. The smile vanished as Anne’s lips pursed. The damage was more severe than she’d imagined. Her hands paused, and as they did, Sam’s eyes opened.

“Something wrong?” Sam asked, raising her head.

“No, no,” Anne replied quickly, her fingers digging into the muscle.

Sam’s head fell back against the chaise. “How long is this going to take?”

“Not long. I want to loosen the muscles before we begin the exercises.”

Sam’s eyebrow arched. “
We?
You’re going to do them with me?”

“Nope,” Anne answered with a grin. “You’re going to be the one doing the sweating.”

“That’s what I figured.” She rested her hands on her stomach and closed her eyes. “I don’t care. As long as it works, I’ll sweat buckets.” Her eyes shot open and drilled into Anne’s. “This is going to work, isn’t it?”

Anne’s fingers played over the damaged muscle again. Would the therapy work? It depended on what her expectations were. After feeling the extent of the deterioration in Sam’s leg, she doubted Sam would ever walk without a limp, slight as it might be. She remembered the photos Lawrence Moore had shown her. Specifically the one of Sam flying down the ski slopes. That would never happen again. Would Sam or her father accept less than a one hundred percent recovery? She dug into the muscle with her thumbs, making Sam wince.

“Sorry. Your fiancé told me you were an artist,” she said, not answering Sam’s question. “Do you have any supplies with you? The scenery up here is fantastic and—”

“Humph,” Sam replied with a soft snort, and closed her eyes. “I haven’t painted in years.”

“It might be a good distraction for you. Give you a focus outside of your therapy, and a mental break. Maybe you want to—”

“No,” Sam said curtly, shifting uneasily on the chaise. “Your job is to work on my leg, not my head.”

Frowning, Anne grabbed a towel and wiped the oil from her hands. Fine; Sam was right. She was a physical therapist, not a psychologist, but it didn’t take a doctor to see Samantha Moore had more issues than just a damaged leg. Not her problem, though. Her job was to help Sam build the strength in her leg. Moving to the end of the chaise, she pulled the leg of Sam’s sweatpants down, and lifting Sam’s ankle with one hand, she placed the palm of her other hand on the arch of the girl’s foot.

“I want you to push against my hand with your foot, hold it for five seconds, then release. We’ll do it—”

Sudden footfalls coming around the corner of the house stopped her. Sam jerked her foot away and sat up in alarm. Together she and Anne turned as a man strolled across the deck toward them.

Wonderful. Fritz Thorpe. Anne had wondered how long it would take for him to show up. Today he was dressed immaculately in white linen pants and a navy polo shirt and his silver hair peeked out from beneath his captain’s hat. Stifling a groan, Anne looked down at Sam to gauge her reaction to Fritz’s sudden appearance.

Distrust shadowed Sam’s eyes as they darted from Anne to Fritz and back again. Her muscles tensed.

Noticing Sam’s reaction, Fritz held up a hand and stepped back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Pointing over his shoulder, he smiled at them. “I knocked, but no one answered. Anne can attest to the fact that I’m perfectly harmless.”

Anne leaned forward and pressed a firm hand on Sam’s arm. “Sam, this is Fritz Thorpe,” she said, her voice calm. “He lives right across the lake.”

“What Anne didn’t add is that some consider me an old busybody who has to check out all the new residents in our little community,” he replied with a chuckle as he pulled out a chair and sat. “Personally, I see myself as the unofficial welcoming committee of Elk Horn Lake.”

Sam’s fingers stole to her hair and plucked at the short strands. “Ah,” she said stiffly, “I’m Samantha Moore.”

“Lovely to meet you, Samantha,” Fritz replied with a broad smile. “How long are you going to be staying with us?”

“Not long,” Sam answered, swinging her legs off the chaise. “Anne, I’m tired.” She rose awkwardly to her feet. “I’m going back to bed.” With a nod toward Fritz, she limped across the deck and disappeared into the cabin.

Anne watched her leave with reluctance. Now that Sam was back to hibernating in her bedroom, she felt the small victories won this morning slip away.

After Sam had closed the patio door, Fritz turned to Anne. “Oh dear,” he said with a rueful look, “she is a bit skittish, isn’t she?”

Frowning, Anne picked up the towel and scrubbed it across her hands. “Sam’s wary of strangers. She’s been through a lot.”

Fritz leaned back, steepling his fingers. “Esther Dunlap told me that she’d suffered some type of trauma. What happened?”

“I don’t gossip about my patients,” she replied curtly, tossing the towel into her bag. “If you want to know—”

“What
is
that smell?” Fritz exclaimed, cutting her off.

Glancing over at him, she saw him waving a hand in front of his nose. She picked up the bottle and held it out. “Lavender oil.”

His lips curled in distaste. “Ugh, I never could abide that scent.”

“Sorry,” she answered in a neutral tone, capping the bottle and throwing it on top of the towel. “Most people find it calming.”

Fritz gave his head a quick shake. “Not me.” His attention turned toward the cabin. “Does your patient know about this place?”

“Not you, too,” she said, rolling her eyes.

A hard look stole across his face. “I remember Blanche and Harley quite well and I was here that last summer. Blanche poisoned everything she touched.” Tugging on his bottom lip, he shook his head. “It was a sorry day when Harley brought her here. All the lives she destroyed.” He shook his head again. “It wouldn’t surprise me if her evil lingers on.”

Anne snorted. “Oh, come on. They left the lake years ago. Whatever happened back then is old news.”

His eyes narrowed. “Tell that to Edward Dunlap.” His face suddenly relaxed and he leaned forward. “Since my attempt at welcoming Ms. Moore fell flat, while I’m here, let me broach another subject with you.”

Anne tilted her head and studied him suspiciously. “What?”

He gave her a charming smile. “I’m putting together a little quartet for the annual Fourth of July celebration and I’d like Caleb to join us.”

She stood quickly, grabbing her bag. “He’s busy working and getting ready for school this fall.”

Fritz chuckled softly. “He told me you’d say that.”

“You’ve already talked to him?”

“Yes,” he said, rising. “Caleb is a very talented young man. He should be encouraged to develop his gift.”

“He’s going to make something of his life.” She turned on her heel and headed for the French doors. “He’s going to college.”

“That’s what you want . . .” Fritz paused. “What does he want?”

Anne whirled. “He’s my son, not yours. It’s up to me to guide him, not you.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Guide or force?”

“My son is none of your business,” she replied in a curt voice. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

With two angry strides, she left him standing on the deck alone.

Chapter Eight

W
hat was she doing here? Sam thought as she paused in the doorway of Alice’s Beauty Barn. This wasn’t part of her therapy—just another situation in which she’d been prodded into complying. She passed a hand over her eyes. Honestly, she was so tired of being forced into things. The same hand then strayed to her chopped-off hair. What difference did it make how she looked? Why couldn’t everyone leave her
alone
? If she had the strength, she’d get the hell out of here and walk back to the damn cabin.

Anne, as if sensing Sam’s thoughts, suddenly took her arm and led her over to one of the cushioned chairs in the tiny waiting area.

Two of the chairs were occupied by women—a mother and daughter possibly. They reminded Sam of her mother’s friends—glossy and smooth with an unmistakable air of wealth and privilege. When their eyes met Sam’s, the older woman leaned close and whispered something to her companion. They were talking about her, Sam thought as a wave of panic hit.

Anne’s grip on Sam’s arm tightened for an instant as she glanced over at them. “Irene, Kimberly,” she said with a quick smile as she guided Sam into the chair.

Murmuring “Hello, Anne,” the women returned her smile then resumed their whispers.

Unfazed by their cool response, Anne released Sam and picked up a magazine, shoving it in her lap.

“Here. Read this,” Anne said, then turned and marched over to the receptionist’s desk. She leaned forward and, in a hushed voice, began to talk to the young woman standing behind the desk.

A thin veil of envy settled over Sam as she watched Anne. She took in her long, tan legs, the well-muscled forearms and biceps, the long blond braid snaking down her back. Anne wore her strength and beauty without artifice. Sam slumped in her chair. With her damaged leg and her bag-of-bones body, she felt nondescript and insignificant compared to Anne. Tilting her head down, she glanced out of the corner of her eye at the two women next to her. Their voices were so hushed that she couldn’t make out the words. Were they measuring her against Anne? Her grip on the arms of the chair tightened. Were all the women in the shop doing the same?

Clouds of hair spray and the smell of ammonia, along with other chemicals, seemed to drift toward Sam while she tried to focus on something other than the two women. Part of her wanted to scoot closer and hear what they were presumably saying about her, but another part of her wanted to run and not look back. She shifted uneasily in her chair, causing the magazine to slide across her lap. Grabbing it, she began swiftly thumbing through the pages while she tried to calm her thoughts.

Think about the last couple of weeks,
she told herself. She
had
promised to cooperate with Anne, but her therapy had started to feel like boot camp. Nurse Ratched, as she now thought of Anne, had worked her butt off. Every time Sam had tried to let things slide, Anne called her on it. With her no-nonsense approach, Anne had driven her, pushed her. Her eyes moved from the magazine to her left leg.

You don’t like her methods, but they are working,
said a voice in her head. Her leg was stronger—not a lot, but a little. The sessions with Anne had brought more results than the months of therapy in the Cities. She wouldn’t admit it to Anne, but she was pleased even though she’d fallen into bed each night exhausted, so exhausted that half the time she’d forgotten to take the new medication Jackson had prescribed. The only bonus of her negligence had been a lack of nightmares—she was too tired to dream, she supposed.

Forgetting the magazine, she let her gaze roam around the small beauty shop. A couple of elderly ladies with their hair tightly twisted on minuscule rollers sat under hair dryers perusing the latest scandal sheet. Two stylists were busy working at their stations. At one, a little girl sat perched high in a chair as the stylist snipped her bangs. At the other, an older woman’s blue-gray hair was being styled. That stylist, her own bleached locks giving a new definition to the term
big hair,
kept up a steady stream of chatter while she plucked and picked at the top of her client’s head. Behind her, littering the counter in front of the big mirror, were small figurines of poodles. Big ones, small ones, and not only at the woman’s station, but on the receptionist’s desk and on the shelves displaying haircare products as well. Pictures of the dogs lined the wall. Everywhere Sam looked she saw poodles.

The words
oodles and oodles of poodles
sprang into Sam’s mind as she felt her anxiety spike. It was too much. Too many poodles; too many women; too many whispers. In her mind’s ear, they became louder and louder until the sound seemed to ricochet around in her skull. She didn’t belong here with all these women getting cut and curled. She needed to be back in the safety of her cabin. Gripping the arms of her chair, she began to rise until she saw the receptionist and the bleached-blond stylist staring at her. Instantly she plopped down, squirming at the unwanted attention. A moment later, Anne joined her.

“Alice,” Anne said with a jerk of her head toward the stylist, “is going to take care of you as soon as she finishes with Mrs. Albright.”

“Whatever,” Sam mumbled in response while, out of the corner of her eye, she watched the stylist called Alice.

With a flourish, the blonde whipped the plastic cape off her customer’s shoulders. “There you go, Mrs. Albright,” she said, smiling. “I’ll see you next week.” Expectantly, she faced Sam and Anne, her smile still firmly in place.

“Come on,” Anne said, taking Sam’s arm.

Sam jerked away and crossed slowly to the waiting stylist.

“Alice,” Anne said, making introductions, “Samantha Moore.”

“Nice to meet you,” Alice answered with a bob of her head, and motioned toward the sink. “Let’s get you fixed up, shall we?”

Shall we?
Sam thought. It would take more than a haircut to fix her up, but she bit back the sarcastic remark and followed Alice to the waiting chair. Moments after settling in, she felt warm water cascading over her head and smelled the soothing scent of herbal shampoo while Alice’s expert fingers massaged her scalp. It felt wonderful. Sam’s eyes slowly closed, and her tight muscles relaxed. The panic that had been nibbling at her since she’d entered the shop faded away.

“Say, honey, that’s quite a scar—what happened?” Alice suddenly asked.

Sam’s eyelids popped open as she slid lower in the chair. “Um—well—I,” she stumbled.

Alice wiped a hand on a towel and grasped Sam’s arm, pulling her upward. “That’s okay, honey. None of my business.” Her fingers continued rubbing Sam’s head. “You have nice thick hair. I know just how to cut it so the scar won’t show.”

Having finished shampooing, she escorted Sam to her station. When she removed the towel, Sam got a good look at herself in the mirror.

BOOK: Love Lies Bleeding
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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