Authors: Lucian Bane
By Lucian Bane
© 2014 by Lucian Bane
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To My Tara. Forever
I’d like to give special thanks to a few people. Jan Kinder and her husband Joe: Why do you guys put up with me, I’m not sure, but I’m glad you do.
Ashley Wheels and Co., thank you for remembering to remember to remind us to do things—invaluable.
and Kristi Collins, thank you for keeping the Kool-aid pitcher full, lol. Both of you rock.
Aden man, my phone died, forgot to tell you, sorry
Heather Dziema, thank you for the resources you provided to me in the creation of this book. I’m sure you never dreamed your mice brain skills would one day be used to
create a paranormal romance. But… oftentimes great things have radical beginnings.
And last but not least, thank you to my beta readers for reading at the very last minute. I owe all of you for dropping everything to help out my tardy ass.
Isadore placed the record player needle on her favorite album at her favorite spot,
Tied To The Whipping Post.
Setting the volume to number five, she nodded and danced her way to the sink then filled her mop bucket with hot water and sang, “I’ve been run down…” She unscrewed the Pine-Sol. “I’ve been lied to…” A deep sniff of her favorite smell then she jerked the mop handle to her mouth. “I don’t know why… I let that mean woman make me a
.” She dunked the mop up and down in the water. “Took all my money…” She rung the mop out, “wrecked my new car…” strutted across the room. “Now she’s with one of my—
… drinking in some cross-town bar.”
She waited for the solo and the second it hit, she threw herself into the arms of betrayal that strained and bled through the song, using long
lamented strokes across the floor, careful to follow the lines just right as she engaged in her obsessive mopping disorder.
She suddenly froze in full swing, and cocked her head, listening. God blankin noises! She leaned the worn
mop handle against the wall and made her way to the other side of the room, stopping to turn down the stereo as she did. That was what, like the third time she heard something that was
. Nose to the screen that covered the entire half wall, she peered out. The light cast by the sole lamppost at the end the pier flickered like a creepy ass horror movie. Really? Geeze. One of these days she’d take the time to go to the stupid little general store and order the specialized bulb the antiquated post required. Seemed like everything at the little shack she’d inherited from her father had to be special ordered. For the first time in her twenty-seven years of sheltered life, “special” translated into “pain in the ass” when it came to keeping up the place she’d made her home.
The water near the light winked in response to the wind stirring its surface. Hurricane season was up soon. Excitement and fear fluttered in her stomach as she wondered if
would be the year she’d experience one of those. Alone. Even if she wasn’t alone, she’d be scared. But it was one of those fears you just wanted to get over with and this would be the third year she
one. Well played Mother Nature, well played.
Isadore studied the darkness beyond the flickering light, searching for any movement that would indicate the noise that kept disturbing her. Couldn’t even describe it to know what sort of animal it might be. A coon, likely. Hopefully. Images of that damn alligator she’d seen hanging around her end of the swamp, crept into her head. It didn’t help that rumors of missing dogs circulated
right at the same time.
“I done saw dat alligator et up a pig!”
Mr. Thibodeaux had told her today.
“Et it clean up. I taught to mahself, meh, dat alligator he wants some bacon!”
Isadore chuckled at the memory of the old man’s toothless, wide mouthed laughter that accompanied his tale. The man always had a tale to tell. Having coffee with him on the way to picking up his grocery list each week had become a
yellow highlighted event on her calendar.
Isadore scanned the darkness for an entire minute more
, but came up empty. Again. She looked at the damn mutt who barked at his shadow, laying on the porch like a snoring drunk. Stupid paranoia. It’d followed her clear from Boston. Yep, the source of it was warranted and the scientist in her had quarantined the bullshit in order to keep the past from controlling her. And yet here she was, contemplating closing the storm shutters on a muggy August night all because she thought she heard a noise that not even her dog—the flea whisperer—could hear. Beyond ridiculous. She was not about to close those storm shutters.
She headed back to her mop, and a loud thonk hit the roof. “Shit,” she gasped, freezing in the middle of the room. What the
? Looking to the huge wall of screen, she suddenly wished she’d given in to the blasted paranoia. Swallowing, she ran for her shotgun, hanging next to the wood stove. Another few thonks sounded on the roof and she ran to the loft stairs and looked up. Were the windows shut up there? God.
What would be on the roof? A bob-cat?
She jumped again when barking erupted, like Sam woke up to it. “Goddamn dog!” she whispered, hurrying to the front door and sliding the bolt home with a swift clonk, shooting a glance to the vulnerable wall of screen. There were two areas to watch. Above her in the loft, and the screen. She ran and snatched her shot-gun off its rack and hurried to position herself with the far wall at her back, giving her sight over the entire area.
Heart hammering fiercely, Sam’s barking turned vicious.
Thonk, thonk, thonk,
shot across the roof. Oh God! Footsteps?
Male faces from town sped through
her mind like a bad deck of cards. Several men didn’t like her. Didn’t like her lack of participation in their lady games. Was it just one up there?
Terror had her nearly hyperventilating just as a
hard knock rattled the cedar door. Shit, shit, shit! Sam stopped barking. “Isadore, it’s me. Jared. I got your address from your mom, took me forever to find this place.”
Jared? Jared Plant? Her two-timing ex?
That stole her money and her best friend? Once best friend? She looked around, ready to hide. She crept to the bathroom door on the far wall.
“The crazy nuts in the town said you were home. I really miss you.”
Disbelief dropped her jaw as she opened the bathroom door so very slowly, praying the creak wouldn’t be too loud.
“I heard your music, what happened? Are you okay?”
She smirked and rolled her eyes, walking to the door to unbolt it. Sure enough, it was him. Jared, the two-timing-bastard-dick-for-brains-ass-hat, peering through the screen door all squint-faced and stupid looking. What had she seen in him?
“Wow,” he said
, his eyes registering on her fully. “Hello Jethro’s hot sister with a gun.”
She raised the barrel at him, and his eyes went wide. “You’re here to get shot? That why you came?”
He raised his hands. “Isadore, I’m sorry. I’ve come to say I’m sorry. I made a huge mistake. Vernissa is just a bitch.”
It was hard not to drop the gun in total exasperation with that line. “Really. Well you’re a bastard, so that makes ya’ll the perfect couple, now don’t it?” Maybe using some dumb
swamp talk would scare him off.
He looked around the place, like he didn’t notice
it. “Really nice little home.” He met her gaze, being all sweet. “You like it?”
idea to have coffee with the bastard presented itself, telling Isadore it was high time she got out more. Only problem was, getting out made her a target for all the lonely crazy men out there. She’d made that mistake only once and learned to dress the part of a wretched hag in giant overalls from then on out. “I’m going to be nice and ask you in for a few minutes before you head back up where you
from.” A grin took her at seeing his concerned look and she was suddenly glad she hadn’t washed the day’s work off her body. She was also glad for her hair experiment she’d been doing. Washing it every day was a luxury of time and products she couldn’t afford. She’d gone to every other day, then every third day. What the hell, may as well do it once a week and just keep it up. She was sure it was all clumpy and shiny where it escaped her up-do. The look on his face said his poor sweet Isadore had been swampatized. He never was too bright. Dumb fucker.
Sounds fair enough to me.”
Using the barrel of the shotgun, she opened the screen door, and he eyed her, making her heart skip a beat like it used to when he’d come around. In a hurry, she called up the images of him fucking Vernissa in her dorm room, and
, the stupid reaction brought back the calm calculation of a swamp serial killer.
He walked in and looked around with a light whistle while the idea to shoot and drown him in the swamp niggled
at her trigger finger. He sat at the little kitchen table for two, rattling on about the quazi-chic style of the place while she put water boiling on the single hot plate next to the wood stove.
“You look so fucking hot, Isadora.”
At hearing the nasty
hiss following his words, Isadore set the gun in reach.
Extreme caution slid into the defense mechanism in her brain, locked and loaded. She rinsed the drip pot and readied it for fresh coffee grounds, muttering, “The weather is always hot. I sweat like a pig daily. Smell like one too.
I like playing in the swamp, it relaxes me. I conserve water and bathe once a week. It helps.”
Oh wow.” He sounded entirely undeterred, eyeing her with more erotic innuendo. “Is it shower day today?”
“Why would you come all this way Jared?”
nearly slipped. Would be the one single time a phone would not have been regretted. “Are you in some kind of trouble? I hope you realize I have no money, the only thing I inherited is what you see here and a whole lot of headache from the swamp folk around here who don’t much care for city folk.”
He gave a shocked gasp like he was hurt by the accusation. “Despite what I did, Isadore, I do love you. No, don’t look at me like that, it’s true. I realize what I’ve done and it was a mistake. I’m here to beg you to forgive me. We can start over. I can take care of you the way you need me to.”
His tone held something that added anger to that defense mechanism in her brain that suddenly cocked. “Need you to?” She turned boldly and gestured around her. “Does it look like I need anything from you? How long have I been here, not needing you?” She jerked the kettle off the hot plate and turned to fill it with water then set it back with a bang.
“I talked to Tim.”
Time stopped and her brain sputtered with erratic panic. She slowly turned, gripped in fear at what she might find. He’d just whispered the name of her nightmares with a near
“Yeah.” The burning in his eyes struck terror in her as he nodded
with a humorless grin. “Turns out you lied to me.”
The shock of his words caused a misfire in her brain, and the defense mechanism turned
on her. Staring at him, she locked onto the puzzle of what he meant. What did she lie about? That was suddenly the all important question keeping her from doing what she should do. Run. Instead she wondered if the answer to that
you lied to me
puzzle could be discovered with knowing why Jared would be angry.
The synaptic emergencies of solving a puzzle and dealing with a physical threat froze her like a fatal internal error
. Past trauma overrode practical logic and demanded she avoid the trauma that would shut her down. Even as he slowly stood like a towering wild bear, ready to kill, she could only think
how had she lied?
“You told me he forced you.” He shook his head slowly, his eyes fixed on hers. “But he had a much, much, different story. Izzy.”
Leave. You need to leave. The words shouted in her head but wouldn’t make the connection with her tongue. She backed up and hit the stove, knocking the gun down. Even then she couldn’t take her eyes from him. Go. Please. Leave me. Didn’t he see the command in her eyes, on her face? The shake of her head
“No?” he said. “No
, that’s not true?” He slid the back of his fingers over her cheek and she clenched her eyes shut as images of Tim came to suffocate her. “He said you liked it. Said you fucked around with him the entire time we dated. ”
The fury in his quiet voice shook her loose from her inability to act and she bolted
. Bolted for the door. Fingers bit into her hair and she screamed as he yanked and slammed her to the floor, blasting the wind from her. She choked for air and struggled beneath his body, fighting to get his forearm off her neck, again wondering over the wrong things. Why? Why did she have to suffer this? Why?
Survival flared in her brain
sporadically and she obeyed the command when it did, thrashing like a mad animal. Finding a weakness in his hold, she broke free and scrambled across the floor then ran for loft stairs. Halfway up, she realized the trap she ran to. Her mind puzzled over the stupidity and she screamed and kicked at the iron fingers clamping her ankle. The upstairs window. She could escape there.
Focusing on her escape, she aimed her kicks and connected her heel to
his nose. He grunted with a roar and let go. Isadore shot up into her bedroom, wishing more than ever she’d installed that planned hatch door. Eyes on her escape, she ran to the far end of the room, hands reaching ahead of her. The rarely opened window refused to budge and she screamed, looking back at Jared’s bloody face coming through the hole in her floor. She yanked wildly on the un-oiled lever, her every procrastination screaming as Jared’s reflection in the window raced for her.
The window flew open with her screaming sob and
she fought to make it into the darkness even as his cruel fingers bit into her leg and hair. “Come…
he jerked her with a vicious force and shoved her toward the bed.