This prologue won't be seen in the released version of my next romantic suspense novel, RIPTIDE, so I thought it'd be fun to share here. Enjoy. Feel free to comment below.
It didn’t seem real, couldn’t be real… She choked back a sob and covered her eyes with a hand roped in blood. His blood, her blood, dog blood...she didn’t know or care. She hugged a dead cocker spaniel against her chest and struggled to focus.
Strangers in uniform asked questions, but the answers lodged unspoken in her throat. Static filled her brain. She rocked back and forth as if a pendulum had replaced her spine.
The front door stood open, allowing a view of the driveway. Police cars, two ambulances and an increasing amount of media cluttered the lawn. Red lights danced through the night. She stared at their reflection against the hardwood floor at her feet and shuddered. Coldness assaulted her bones like a million daggers.
“Instead of reporting the news,” she heard someone whisper, “Lauren Biltmore will be the lead story, eh, Joe?”
Tears distorted her vision, yet she blinked them away. She had ignored the threatening letters and phone calls…had imagined herself untouchable. A shiver quaked through her veins.
“My fault,” she whispered, the words squeezing through the rawness of her throat. “All of this is my fault.”
A petite brunette dropped to her knees in front of her. “Lauren, honey, please look at me.” The woman shook her hard. “Do you hear me? Can you understand?”
She focused on the woman holding her hand. Recognition burrowed through the static to pierce her consciousness. Janet, her news director and best friend.
“I killed him,” she said.
“I know.” Janet frowned. “I know you did.”
“He tried to kill me. He killed Pete.” Her fingers burrowed into puppy fur.
“I’m sorry, baby.”
“Kevin. All along it’d been Kevin.”
“You couldn’t have known. None of us—”
“It’s going to be okay now. It will. I—”
“No. Nothing can be okay.” She squeezed her eyes closed and willed the numbness to return. “It’s all over now, all over, all over…”
Janet lifted a strand of golden hair away from Lauren’s eyes and winced at the blood staining her fingertips. “My God, Lauren, what did he do to you?”
“He’s dead.” She struggled to concentrate on Janet’s face as it blurred and shimmied in front of her eyes. All the voices in the room faded away. “I’m dead.”
“No.” Janet smoothed more hair from her face and leaned close. “You’re alive. You survived.”
“Dead.” Burying her face into Pete’s fur, she hummed a melody remembered from childhood, one that had once chased away the nightmares. And she rocked and rocked and rocked…the nightmare remained.
“Ms. Biltmore, we need to get you into the ambulance,” a paramedic said.
“I’ll take care of Pete. You’re hurt.” Janet pried the dog from her arms. “You need to go with them.”
Too weak to protest, she surrendered to the paramedics who lifted her onto the stretcher. Strangers’ hands examined her body. An oxygen mask covered her mouth and nose. She stared at the flashing lights and felt nothing.
Dizziness rolled through her like ocean swells. Ice replaced her blood. Teeth chattered.
Police cars parked on the grass of her front yard. An ambulance backed toward the front door. Several familiar reporters froze at the sight of her. A helicopter with a spotlight flew low over the house.
What are they looking for? Kevin Lahey is dead.
Spasms rattled through her muscles. A paramedic loomed above her in the confines of the ambulance. Again he asked her…something. His mouth moved in slow motion. Words echoed and whispered in her mind, distant and garbled. Panic shuddered in her heart. She fought against the darkness that narrowed her vision.
“It’s all over now. All over…” Words faded with her strength.
* * * *
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