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Authors: Elisabeth Naughton

Repressed (Deadly Secrets) (21 page)

BOOK: Repressed (Deadly Secrets)
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She snapped her seat belt. “What are you doing?”

“Calling my dad.” He hit “Dial” and pressed the phone to his ear. “Telling him not to come over tonight.”

“What? No.” She plucked the phone from his hand and clicked “End.” “Don’t do that.”

“We don’t need to do this tonight, Samantha.”

“Ethan, I’m fine. Your father already made plans.”

“He’s not going to care.” And the last thing she needed after everything she’d been through was a trip through her own living nightmare.

“No.” She slipped the phone under her far leg so he couldn’t reach it. “You talked me into this. We’re doing it tonight.”

“Samantha, listen—”

“No. You listen.” She turned toward him, but this time her eyes weren’t soft and weary. They were insistent and a little bit wild. And for the first time since he’d seen her bruised and battered face, he knew she wasn’t nearly as fine as she’d tried to make him believe. “I don’t want to wait. I want to get it over with. I think Kenny may have killed Margaret. And I think it has something to do with me. He said I knew too much, that I saw something. I don’t have a clue what he was talking about, and I can’t ask him now because he’s dead, but I have a feeling it has something to do with my nightmare and that cabin. And I’m not going to let it go on any longer because I just want it to be over. If you don’t want to help me, I’ll call your father and—”

“Okay.” He gently placed a hand on her arm and rubbed. “We’ll do whatever you want.”

“Don’t placate me.”

“I’m not. Trust me, I’m not. But I don’t want to fight with you either. You scared the crap out of me earlier, Samantha. I’d give you just about anything you asked for right now.”

Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?”

“Don’t be nice to me when I’m irrational and inflexible.”

His heart pinched. He couldn’t help it. He loved her. He’d realized it as soon as he’d heard she was hurt. He loved her, and he couldn’t fathom the thought of anything happening to her.

But he knew she wasn’t ready to hear that yet. Didn’t want to do anything to spook her into running. Carefully, so he didn’t hurt her, he slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his chest. And told himself . . . soon. Soon he’d tell her. He just hoped by then she felt the same way. “Come here.”

He held her close, drawing in the sweet scent of her skin and savoring the way her silky hair tickled his face. But mostly he focused on the strong, steady beat of her heart mingling with his, the two thumping together in a way that chased away the chill and warmed him all the way down to his toes. “I happen to like irrational and inflexible.”

She huffed out a sound that was half laugh, half groan. “Then I guess you got lucky. Because I am the queen of irrational inflexibility.”

“I did get lucky. The day I met you. When I was completely spellbound and you looked down your nose at me because of my profession.”

She drew back and looked up. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry. You’re not like any other shrink I’ve ever met.”

“I’m not?”

She shook her head, and her gaze dropped to his lips. “You’re so much more. And I was spellbound too. I was just too afraid to let you see. But I’m not afraid now.”

Heat brewed in the depths of her dark eyes. Heat and the same need he always felt around her. And when she pressed her lips against his, every nerve ending in his body tingled with awareness and hope.

Whatever was happening in this town, whatever its link to her, they could get through it. As long as they were together, they could get through anything. He just hoped she still believed that after he told her the truth.

Sam tossed the magazine onto the coffee table, unable to concentrate on the words or pictures she’d been staring at for the last twenty minutes. Clenching her toes around the soft threads of the carpet, she leaned forward and brushed the loose hairs back from her face, then blew out a slow breath.

A shower had helped her feel human again, and the fire was warm, but she still couldn’t shake the chill. The severity of the attack hadn’t hit her until Ethan had taken her home to grab some clothes. The minute she’d seen the busted-in front door and the mess that used to be her kitchen, it all came crashing in.

She was trying to hold it together for Ethan’s sake. She’d seen how rattled he was at the hospital. But every time she closed her eyes, she smelled the blood, she heard the gunshot, and she saw a montage of Kenny’s dead body lying next to Margaret’s and the remains she and Ethan had found in the woods.

Pushing to her feet, she paced to the dark windows and back again, breathing slowly through her nose. In. Out. One breath at a time. The shower stopped upstairs, and she glanced toward the ceiling and thought about going up to let Ethan’s hands and lips and body chase away the rest of her anxiety, but she knew she wouldn’t do it. He was already touching her as if she were a china doll about to break. Even if she begged him to make love to her now, she was pretty sure he’d say no.

Tonight probably wasn’t the best night to try to tackle the whole hypnosis thing, but if she didn’t figure out what she’d repressed, she was afraid she’d go mad. Kenny had mentioned the cabin. If he hadn’t, she might have thought he was just ranting, but Ethan was the only person who knew about her nightmare. And ever since Kenny had brought it up, Sam hadn’t been able to stop wondering if his voice was one of the voices she heard nightly in her dream.

The doorbell rang, jolting her out of her jumbled thoughts. From his spot on the blankets near the fire, Grimly groaned.

Sam waited several moments for Ethan to come down, but he didn’t. And knowing she couldn’t let his father stand out in the cold, she headed for the entry.

She pulled the door open and faltered. An attractive man with dark hair slightly gray at the temples and a woman with a sleek auburn bob stood on the porch looking back at her.

“You must be Samantha.” The man extended his hand. Fine lines fanned out from light-brown eyes, warming a face that was angular and strong. “I’m Michael McClane, and this is my wife, Hannah.”

Shit.
Sam’s nerves kicked into high gear. He’d brought Ethan’s mother. Her gaze skipped to Hannah’s smooth skin, whiskey-colored eyes, and pleasant smile. This wasn’t supposed to be a meet-the-parents kind of thing. It was supposed to be work. Or therapy. Or . . . crap . . . she didn’t know what it really was.

“Um, hi.” Sam shook Michael’s hand, followed by Hannah’s, and pulled the door wider for them to enter. “Ethan’s in the shower.” Dammit, that sounded like they’d just had sex. “I mean, he had a basketball game earlier, I think. With Alec.” Great. Now she sounded like an idiot. Closing the door quickly, she added, “He should be down any minute.”

He’d better be. Or he was in serious trouble.

She turned back to face them, and gasped as Hannah caught her in a quick hug.

“It’s great to finally meet you,” Hannah said. “Ethan’s told us so much about you.”

Wonderful. She’d have to quiz Ethan on just what he’d shared.

Michael slipped off his coat and took Hannah’s when she let go of Sam, then hung them in the closet. “Basketball with Alec, huh? I’m sure that was a physical game.”

Sam darted a look between the couple. “Do they not get along?”

Hannah waved her hand, then looped her arm through Sam’s and turned her toward the hall that opened to the back of the house. “They’re boys. And brothers. And they like to pound on each other when they’re frustrated. Besides which, knowing Ethan, he could be awhile yet. When he was a teenager he used to take thirty-minute showers and use up all the hot water. Kelsey used to throw a fit. Michael had to finally install a timer on the hot water heater.”

Michael chuckled. “First time the timer went off and he got a blast of cold water, I thought he’d come through the wall.”

Hannah smiled. “I didn’t realize my boy knew such colorful language until that day.”

“Clearly picked it up on the streets,” Michael said, behind them. “Or from Alec. Because he definitely didn’t get those words from me.”

Hannah laughed and glanced over her shoulder. “Right. Because you are Saint Michael. As the swear jar in my kitchen clearly states.”

To Sam, Hannah said, “So, how are you feeling?”

Sam’s stomach tightened as they stepped into the great room with its soaring ceiling, flickering fire, and wide windows that looked out into darkness. “Um . . . ” She didn’t know how much Ethan had told them. “Fine.”

Hannah let go of her. “Did they give you pain meds at the hospital?”

“No. Ibuprofen seems to be doing the trick right now.” Michael moved up on Hannah’s side, and as Sam glanced between the two, she decided not to avoid the elephant in the room. “I guess Ethan told you about today.”

“Yeah, he called earlier.” Michael wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders. “I’m with him on this one. I think tonight might not be the best night for this.”

Hannah turned toward her husband. “Why don’t you go turn some cold water on your son and get him out of that shower?”

Michael smiled. “Good idea. If he goes through the wall, it’ll be his Sheetrock he’s destroying, not mine.”

As Michael moved up the stairs, Hannah stepped into the adjoining kitchen and pulled two sparkling waters from the refrigerator. “How many stitches?”

“Four.” Sam reached for the drink. “It looks worse than it is.”

“Four or forty, still had to be a scary experience.”

Sam’s fingers tightened around the plastic bottle. She really didn’t want to remember what had happened, or talk about it. Not yet. “I’m okay. Really. You’re not going to give me the look too, are you?”

Hannah’s eyes brightened, and she tipped her head. “What look would that be?”

“That therapist look. The she’s-too-stupid-to-know-what’s-good-for-her one Ethan’s been giving me all afternoon long.”

Hannah grinned. “He learned that one from his father. I’ve been on the receiving end of it enough times to feel your frustration.” Her amber eyes softened. “You know he’s just worried about you, right?”

“I know.” Sam ran her fingers over the label on the bottle in her hand. “But he doesn’t need to worry. I’m really fine. The police showed up before things got out of hand.”

“You’re not used to people caring, are you?”

The unexpected question brought Sam’s head up.

“Ethan wasn’t either,” Hannah said. “Not for a long time. Getting him to open up to us, to trust us, took a tremendous amount of effort. There was so much he had to work through first. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it does get easier, especially when you’re around people who love you.”

Sam’s pulse quickened. Ethan loved her? She knew he cared about her. Knew he was crazy about her. Knew she was already in love with him. But he hadn’t told her he loved her yet. And while the knowledge sent a burst of excitement through her chest, it also frightened her.

Hannah reached out and clasped Sam’s hand across the island. “Are you okay, Samantha? You look a little pale.”

Of course she was pale. Because suddenly hypnosis wasn’t the most frightening thing she had to look forward to tonight. No, making sure she didn’t say or do anything to mess up the best relationship she’d ever had was now all she could think about.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

“You decent?” Michael’s muffled voice echoed from the open closet door.

Tugging the thin sweater over his head, Ethan called, “In here.”

Footsteps sounded across the floor, and seconds later Michael leaned against the doorjamb of Ethan’s walk-in closet.

His father’s face was cast in shadows, the gray at his temples barely visible in the dim light. Tucking his hands into the pockets of his loose jeans, Michael said, “That the sweater Kelsey picked out?”

Ethan glanced down at the cream-colored knit with two green horizontal stripes across his chest, then bent to pick up his shoes. “Yeah.”

Michael turned as Ethan brushed past him and sat on the end of the bed. “Your sister’s got good taste.”

Ethan pulled on his socks. “You come all the way up here to talk to me about Kelsey and her fashion sense?”

Michael chuckled. “No. We both know she’s got more of that than all of us put together. Your mother banished me from the kitchen.”

Now that made more sense. Ethan tied his shoe. “Girl talk.”

“Any reason you’re up here and she’s down there?”

“I was sweaty.” When Michael lifted his brow, Ethan frowned. “Not what you think.”

Michael nodded and pushed away from the doorjamb to cross toward the window. “How is Alec?”

“Okay.” Ethan tied his other shoe, a small part of him relieved they were chatting about something else for the moment. “He’s taking off on an assignment right after Thanksgiving. Iraq, I think.”

“Dammit.” Michael ran a hand over his hair. “He’s an incredible photojournalist. He could get plenty of work stateside if he wanted.”

Alec could. No one doubted that. He didn’t travel because he needed the work, though. He traveled to run from his memories. And the guilt. “Holidays are tough on him. You know that.”

“I do, which is all the more reason he should stick close to home.”

Ethan moved to the dresser and snapped his watch on his wrist. Compared to Alec’s problems, Ethan’s seemed minor. Samantha was safe. She was a little banged up right now, but she’d heal. Alec, on the other hand, had no idea if his daughter was alive or dead. “He’s been sober for three years. Cut him some slack.”

“You and I both know three years is nothing. Alec could find a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in the middle of the Sahara if he wanted it bad enough. And I seriously doubt there’ll be many redheads in the Middle East to take his mind off the reason he’s burying himself in his work.”

Wasn’t that the truth? “Fine. You talk him out of it when he’s here for dinner next week. I’d love to hear that one.”

Michael frowned. “I will. He does listen to me, contrary to what you all think.”

“Yeah, right. Keep on foolin’ yourself with that line of thinking, old man.”

Michael picked up a book on the small table, glanced at the cover, then lowered it again. “Samantha gonna be here for Thanksgiving dinner?”

Ethan’s shoulders tensed. “I don’t know.” He closed the dresser drawer. “I didn’t ask her yet. Things have been a little strange lately.” And he wasn’t sure how she’d react to a big family dinner. She didn’t like to talk about family, and he didn’t even know if she’d still be around by Thanksgiving.

“Are you sure she’s up for this tonight?” Michael asked.

“No. But she’s determined to go ahead with it. I tried to talk her out of it, only, she’s not budging.”

“She looks worn out.”

“I know. It’s more than just today. I don’t think she’s been sleeping much. Whatever this nightmare is she keeps having, I think it’s linked to what’s happening in that town.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. After several heartbeats, he said, “Okay. We’ll take it slow. We can always stop if it gets to be too much.”

“I want to be there when you put her under.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Dad, I’m a professional.”

“I don’t think so, son. I’ve heard the way you talk about her.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you’re attached. And your objectivity is shot.” When Ethan frowned, Michael stepped forward and squeezed his shoulder. “That’s not a bad thing, Ethan.”

They were the same height, roughly the same build. From a distance, most people would never know they weren’t blood related. He’d picked up a lot of his father’s gestures over the years, and he’d lived with the man long enough to know when he was holding back. “Just spit it out.”

“Spit what out?”

“You’re worried. And not about Samantha.”

“I always worry about my kids. That’s no surprise.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t have to worry about me. You know that.”

Michael dropped his hand. “I didn’t agree with your taking this case in Hidden Falls, but I understood why you did. All this other stuff going on with Samantha, though? Yeah, it worries me. You can’t tell me it doesn’t bring up memories for you.”

“Sure it does. But this doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

Michael’s brow lifted. “Are you sure?”

“What are you implying?”

“I’m not implying anything. I’m saying it clearly. Hidden Falls is a small town. You and I have talked about these nightmares of hers. If this turns out to be what we both think, there’s a good chance you may know the people involved. And that worries me. You finally broke free of that town, Ethan. I don’t want to watch you get sucked back in.”

Memories of that dark night eighteen years before flashed in Ethan’s mind. He didn’t want to be sucked back in either. But at this point, it wasn’t his choice anymore.

He drew in a deep breath and met his father’s gaze. “I’m in love with her.”

“I know you are.”

Ethan’s shoulders tightened. “And you’re not happy about that fact.”

Michael was silent for a long moment. Then he said, “It doesn’t matter what I am, son. It only matters that you’re happy.”

Before Ethan could ask what the hell that meant, Michael turned for the door. “Come on. Let’s go save Samantha from your mother.”

“Happy” wasn’t a word Ethan would use to describe his feelings at the moment. “Tired,” “scared,” “desperate,” and “weak” all seemed a heck of a lot more accurate than “happy.”

And in a matter of minutes, he had a sickening feeling he could add “disturbed” to that list.

Man, he needed a cigarette. He really shouldn’t have tossed that last pack.

Tapping his hand against his thigh, he headed for the stairs and the answers trapped in Samantha’s memories.

Feeling more than foolish, Sam slipped her hands into the back pockets of her jeans as she stood in the doorway of Ethan’s home office.

“Have you ever been hypnotized, Samantha?” Michael wheeled Ethan’s office chair around the desk so it sat opposite the leather couch pushed up against the wall.

“Once. In Las Vegas. Didn’t work, but I got free drinks out of it.”

Michael smiled and sat. “This will probably be a little different. Have a seat.”

Sam’s hands were damp as she lowered to the couch and gripped the cushions beneath her. She glanced once toward Ethan where he stood in the doorway watching her closely, then back at Michael. “So, um. You’re not going to probe the deep recesses of my mind or anything, are you?”

“No. Don’t worry.” Michael grinned. “This is very directed. I’m going to talk you into a relaxed state, and if it works, I’ll ask you some questions about your dreams. We’ll try to zero in on what you’re experiencing, nothing more. The first step toward healing is unlocking whatever’s blocking you.” He must have seen the nervous look in her eye, because his tone gentled. “No one’s going to know what you did on your twenty-first birthday, I promise.”

Sam exhaled and leaned back against the cushions. “Good. Because I was told what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Michael laughed and reached for his pen.

Sam glanced toward Ethan, still standing near the door, watching her with that worried expression. “Are you just going to stand there?”

“That’s up to you,” Michael said. “Ethan can stay or go. Whatever makes you more comfortable.”

Nothing could make her comfortable at this point. But her heart did that strange little bump thing again as she gazed at Ethan, calming her in a way nothing else could. “I want him to stay.”

“Okay, then.” Michael flipped on his tape recorder as Ethan sat on the opposite side of the couch. “If at any time you want to stop, just say so.”

Sam nodded and tried to focus on Michael’s warm brown eyes. Ethan was close, but not close enough, and she wanted to reach for him but didn’t know if she should. “Will I remember any of this?”

“Yes. You’ll be completely aware of everything that’s happening.”

She breathed easier. “Okay.”

“I want you to sit back, close your eyes. Just listen to the sound of my voice.”

Sam’s eyes drifted shut. The relaxation exercises took a long time—longer than she’d thought—and twice she giggled because the whole thing seemed so serious and silly at the same time. But each time she broke focus, Michael would coax her back using imagery with his gentle voice, and soon she found her mind drifting. To thoughts of Ethan and what he’d been like as a kid. To how Michael hadn’t just helped him but saved his life.

Ethan was that to her, though he didn’t know it. His calming presence saved her every day. Kept her sane. Made her feel safe. And thinking about him at night, when she was alone, saved her from getting lost in her nightmares all over again.

She reached a hand across the couch cushions, searching for him. His warm, solid fingers closed over hers, relaxing her even more. Squeezing his hand, she held on, knowing that as long as he was with her everything would be okay.

“How do you feel, Samantha?” Michael asked softly.

Sam exhaled, relaxing her muscles one by one. “Tired.”

“I want you to imagine you’re lying down. Weariness is tugging at you. Your eyes are heavy. A soft pillow cradles your head. Your mind relaxes with every breath. In and out. One breath at a time. That’s good. Keep breathing like that.”

Sam’s body melted into the couch as she floated along with Michael’s voice.

“You’re doing well,” he said. “Now I want you to focus on your dream. To the start of your dream. What’s the first thing you see, Samantha? Do you know where you are?”

“My bedroom.”

“That’s good. Is your bedroom quiet? Is anyone else with you?”

“Yes, it’s quiet. I’m alone.”

“Do you feel safe there?”

She nodded.

“Safe is good. I want you to think about how you feel right now, safe, warm, no fears. If you start to feel anxious, I want you to think back to this bedroom, okay?”

She nodded again.

“Good, now what does your bedroom look like?”

“Purple walls. A pink bedspread. My dolls are all over the floor. Mommy gets so upset when I don’t pick up my toys.”

“What time is it, Samantha? Can you tell?”

“Late. I’m supposed to be asleep. But they’re fighting again.”

“Who?”

“Mommy and Daddy. They don’t think I can hear them.”

“What are they arguing about?”

“That woman, the one who used to be at the school. Mommy doesn’t like her.”

“Why not?”

“Because she teases the boys. And because she’s back.”

“Back from where?”

“I don’t know, but she’s back.” Her eyes tightened. “I don’t want to listen to them fight anymore.”

“No, you don’t have to. What are you going to do instead?”

“I opened my bedroom window and climbed down the tree.”

“There’s a tree?”

“Yes. A great big oak. It’s perfect for sneaking in and out.”

“Do you sneak out through the window a lot, Samantha?”

“No. But sometimes.”

“Is it warm or cold outside?”

“Cold.” She shivered. “My sweatshirt’s too thin. It rained today.”

“Where are you going?”

“Into the woods. Rebecca’s waiting for me.”

“Who’s Rebecca?”

“My doll. She doesn’t like the dark. I have to get her.”

“Did you leave her somewhere?”

Sam bit her lip and nodded. “In the clubhouse. I don’t want the boys to find her. They pull her hair and throw her around. They’re not nice to her.”

“Are the boys at the clubhouse now, Samantha?”

She shook her head. “No. It’s too late now.”

“Do they always go to the clubhouse with you?”

“No. They climb trees and play war in the woods. Sometimes they go to the waterfall to swim. But it’s too cold for that tonight.”

Her brow wrinkled, and she tipped her head to the side.

“What’s wrong, Samantha?”

“There’s . . . there’s someone in the clubhouse.”

“How do you know?”

“There’s a light. And I can hear voices.”

“How many voices. Can you tell?”

“I don’t know. Three? Maybe more.”

“Tell me what the voices are saying, Samantha.”

“I . . . I can’t hear them. I’m too far away.”

“Can you move closer?”

“I can’t. I . . . ” Her vision sharpened until the forest was all around her, and she jerked back. “Oh no.”

And as Sam looked through the dark trees toward the glow coming from the small cabin, she covered her ears with her hands and screamed.

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