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Authors: Karen Michelle Nutt

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BOOK: Shattered Illusions
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Chapter Four

Brona clasped the torch and flipped it on.
Her hands shook as she swung it in front of her. The beam of light
bounced off the walls in frightening arrays of fragmented streams,
causing the shadows to loom like monsters ready to pounce. "Who's
there?" she demanded over her choking beating heart.

Brona sensed movement and she swung the torch
toward the shadow. The lights overhead came on and she caught a
glimpse of someone fleeing toward her bedroom. The person was too
tall to be Tara.

She grabbed for the phone, sitting on the
desk, bringing the receiver to her ear. There was no dial tone.
Bloomin' perfect! The storm must have knocked out the lines. With
shaking hands, she placed the phone back in its cradle.

She stared down the hall, listening, watching
and waiting for the intruder to make a move. If I go now, I could
make it down the stairs. I could be out of the house before the
intruder realizes I'm even here. For a second, she almost took her
advice, but the niggling guilt overrode her fear. What am I
thinking? I can't leave without Tara. She had to find her
sister.

Her hand slipped into her pocket and pulled
out the letter opener before she stuffed the torch in its place for
safekeeping. She didn't want to be vulnerable if the lights
happened to go out again. She reopened the drawer and grabbed a few
batteries.

She crept down the hall. Her heart moved to
her throat, making it difficult to breathe. As she neared, she
heard voices again, a woman's soft timbre and a man's rumbling deep
tone. The murmurings grew clearer as she inched closer. She
couldn't make out the words, but she recognized the woman's voice
as Tara's. Her sister didn't sound scared. Her voice was a smooth
and calm murmur not the frantic high pitch of vowels, indicating
something was wrong. Did she know the intruder? Or was her sister
trying to keep the intruder calm so he wouldn't harm her?

Brona hugged the wall, slowly moving closer,
hoping she could hear what they were saying.

She stopped cold when the man spoke. She
recognized the man's voice, too. It was a deep sound, reassuring
and smooth, like rich Irish cream.

"Liam?" When had he arrived home? Maybe that
was why Tara had screamed. He wasn't supposed to be home yet. He'd
told her he wouldn't be able to break away until the end of the
week. She chuckled softly. That was it. Liam had come home and
startled Tara. Now she did feel silly. She had frightened herself,
and for nothing.

Brona reached for the doorknob and opened the
bedroom door, ready to reprimand her sister and her husband for
giving her such a scare, but the words died in her throat. Total
darkness greeted her. She flipped the light switch, blinking back
the brightness until she could see clearly again.

Her mouth fell open as she stared.

"I know I saw someone walk into my bedroom,
and I heard Liam and Tara conversing."

So where were they? How could they have
gotten past her? There were no other doors to the bedroom other
than the one she'd entered.

A blast of cold air hit her and she wrapped
her arms against her chest. She was still wet from her walk. Her
hair lay plastered to her head as water dripped down her face. She
didn't care. A haunted suspicion gnawed at her, making her
determined to find out what was going on. "People don't disappear
into thin air. It's not possible." Blood splattered on the floor
shouldn't disappear either, but it had. Was she losing her
mind?

"Brona?" Liam's voice rumbled out of the
darkness from the hall. "Is it you, Brona?"

She whirled around. "Aye, Liam. I'm in the
bedroom." She ran to the door and peered into the hall. "Liam,
where are you?"

Silence greeted her for a few heartbeats of
time before Liam spoke again. "Brona, I miss you." His voice
bounced off the walls like an echo, teasing and taunting, making it
difficult to know where he was.

"Liam, where are you?"

He didn't answer. Only the wind and rain
reached her ears. She hesitated to leave the security of her
bedroom. She gnawed on a ragged thumbnail, wondering why she didn't
feel safe.

Her nerves danced in her stomach, making her
anxious and nauseous at the same time. Everything felt off kilter
and if she moved, she would fall.

She took a ragged breath. Liam had to be
here. He called to her. The storm was playing tricks on her
hearing, making Liam's voice carry from somewhere else in the
house.

That had to be it. The house sometimes echoed
sounds. Liam must be downstairs. He was probably looking for her
and wondering where she was in the house, too.

"Liam?" she called.

She stepped into the hallway, only to jump
back at the sight of someone standing there. With her heart
pounding and her legs shaking, it took a full second more to
realize it had only been her reflection in the full-length mirror
mounted on the wall. She took a deep breath, feeling foolish for
scaring herself yet again.

She strode over to the mirror and ran her
fingers over the delicate wood-carved rim. She loved that mirror.
She and Liam had purchased the ornate piece at an antique shop in
Dublin. They had taken a trip there to visit her grandmother. They
took in the sights, visiting Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's
Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and Ha'penny Bridge. They even
took a tour of St. Michan's Church, going below to the crypt and
seeing where its mummies lay for their eternal rest. What a holiday
get away it had been.

She especially enjoyed their stroll through
Merrion Square Park where the Oscar Wilde statue is located. The
artist captured Mr. Wilde's personality perfectly with an
amused-as-hell smile, curving his lips.

Later, to escape the rain, they had slipped
into the Back in Time Antique Shop. The mirror was mounted on the
wall over a gaudy piece of furniture. Liam thought she was crazy to
buy such a heavy piece and expect it to arrive back home still
intact. However, he gave into her whim and whipped out the credit
card. They had it shipped home and were pleased it arrived
unscathed.

Chapter Five

She glanced at her reflection and frowned. "I
look a dreadful sight." Her skin was ghostly pale and her gray eyes
stared back at her with a frightened expression. She ran her hand
through her dark strands in a detached motion. "I'd scare the
dead." Her blood chilled like ice and she shivered at what her
words had conjured in her mind. Her hand dropped away from the
mirror and she stepped back before turning away and glancing down
the hallway.

Darkness loomed in front of her like an
endless sea. Glancing to the right of her, she strode the few steps
to where she knew the railing would be. She gripped it tight, using
it like an anchor to steady her. Looking over the railing gave her
a view of her living room below. Her brows drew together. The
living room was bathed in darkness, but she distinctly remembered
turning on the light as she came into the house. Had the storm
caused a fuse to blow?

She took out the torch and scanned the living
room. The light shone on her brown and green couch, the cherry wood
end table, and finally on the Chippendale chairs, which stood
against the far wall. She didn't see anyone lurking in the corners.
All was quiet, too damn quiet when she knew her sister and husband
were here.

"Liam? Tara?" she called out. "Come on you
two, this isn't funny. Where are you?" Why would they play a prank
on her? Her sister hated to scare people. She wouldn't even watch a
horror flick, claiming she'd have nightmares for months if she
did.

Liam was a kind soul, her knight in shining
armor. He always worried for her safety. Even if he wanted to play
a prank, he wouldn't try to scare her—never like this. He did
things to make her laugh.

A memory touched her. He liked magic. He had
one trick in particular he loved to do. He would say, "What's that,
pretty lass, behind your ear?" He would reach behind her ear and
pretend to find a wildflower growing there. Her lips twitched into
a smile at the thought of his sweet surprises.

A light glowed to the right of the living
room, drawing her attention. "Someone's in the kitchen." Brona
raced down the stairs, coming to a sliding halt when she caught
sight of the shadows of two people—Liam and Tara. Her sister
stepped into Liam's embrace, her fingers spearing into her
husband's thick strands as she pressed her lips to his.

Brona froze, her heart rigid and fragile as
hand-blown glass. One move, one breath, and it would splinter and
break into a million pieces. A prisoner of her own doing, she was
forced to watch, transfixed as if a movie played out before
her.

Liam pushed Tara away. "We shouldn't. We
can't. I can't do this to Brona." Her husband's tortured voice
floated back to her.

"How long will you deny yourself?" her sister
asked. She sounded hurt and frustrated.

What were they talking about? He can't do
what to her? Had her husband and sister been contemplating an
affair behind her back? No, they couldn't be. She couldn't believe
that.

Brona wanted to cover her ears and close her
eyes to shut out the truth, but she was unable to turn away. She
remained like a deer caught in the headlights. She knew if she
stayed her life as she knew it would be doomed, but she couldn't
make her feet move to save herself.

"I can't wait anymore, Liam. It hurts too
much to be near you. I'll pack up my things and leave today." Her
sister took a step back, but Liam's hand snaked out and grabbed
her. He pulled her toward him again so that she lay against his
chest.

"No, don't leave."

Brona couldn't miss the desperation she heard
in Liam's voice as he pleaded for Tara not to go.

"Please don't leave."

Brona watched in horror as her husband's head
lowered to kiss her sister.

Brona covered her mouth with her hand to
stifle the scream threatening to break free. Tears burned her eyes.
She backed up against the curio cabinet that held the precious
knickknacks Liam and she had collected throughout the years.

She turned to look at it. There were castles,
knights on horses, and wood fairies. One knickknack in particular
caught her eye. She choked back a sob as she opened the door. The
glass rattled in the frame. She reached in and gently touched the
wings of the redheaded fairy with the green and gold dress. Liam
had bought her the fairy for her last birthday.

"I love you, my sweet lass," he had told
her.

"Liar!" In a blind rage, she grabbed the
fairy and hurled it against the far wall.

"What was that?" Tara asked from the kitchen
entrance.

Brona gasped in horror. She wasn't ready to
face her husband and sister and the terrible secret they kept. She
raced back upstairs. They had to know she was here. It was pouring
rain outside. Surely they didn't believe she was still on her walk.
How did they think they could keep their affair a secret when they
were so blatantly displaying it? She ran into the bathroom,
slamming the door and locking it. She leaned against the wall and
sank to the floor. She let the tears fall freely. The two people
she loved most in her life had betrayed her.

"This is a nightmare," she said between sobs
of despair.

One of them tapped on the door, and then
rattled the knob.

"Go away!" Brona cried, a warning lacing her
words.

"It's locked," Tara said from the other side
of the door.

"Of course it's locked, you bloody cheat!"
Brona shouted and wiped away angry tears. "Just go away."

"I'll get something to open it," Liam said.
She heard the two lovers walk away, their footsteps receding as
they headed back downstairs.

Brona came to her feet. She wanted to get out
of there before they came back up and witnessed her complete melt
down. Why couldn't they leave her alone? She gripped the sink for
support and looked in the mirror. Wild, bloodshot eyes added to her
frightening appearance.

"Well Brona, how did you expect to look after
finding out your husband is shagging your sister?" Tears welled in
her eyes again. "Damn." She yanked a few tissues from the flowered
tissue box. Foam green and peach were the colors of the bathroom.
Seashells and beach scenes adorned the walls and a mermaid shower
curtain hung over the tub.

She blew her nose. She took a deep breath,
reminding herself she didn't want Tara and Liam to see her like
this. She tossed the tissues into the wastebasket. She opened the
door and poked her head out into the hall. She caught sight of Liam
and Tara coming up the stairs. She hurried out, intending to head
to the bedroom. The lock on that door would be harder to pick.

Chapter Six

The lights flickered overhead before they
were thrown into darkness again. She heard Liam stumble and curse.
Good. She hoped he fell and took Tara with him down the stairs.
Wouldn't that be poetic justice? Lovers tumble to their death …
news at eleven.

Brona fumbled to turn on the torch. Out of
the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a movement down the
hall. She swung the torch, blasting the intruder with light. Since
she knew Tara and Liam were behind her, the person in front of her
was…

"Oh my God." There was someone else in the
house after all. "I have a weapon," she warned. "I'll use it if I
have to."

"Who's there?" Liam called, his voice booming
with authority.

"I don't know," Brona yelled back to her
husband. She hated that for a split second she felt safer since he
was there with her.

"Stay back," Liam said.

However, Brona wasn't sure if he was talking
to Tara or to her. Brona decided she wasn't going to stay where she
was. Liam wasn't going to tell her what to do ever again. She
gripped the letter opener and ran toward the intruder as the
intruder ran toward her. She stopped cold and choked back a cry.
The person had a weapon raised against her. "Who are you? What do
you want?" she demanded.

BOOK: Shattered Illusions
6.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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