Chas's Fervor(2)

By: Chiah Wilder

After he’d gone, Lizzie leapt up and rushed over to the kitchen sink to wash her hands. Her racing mind told her to go to the police, but Ian’s words haunted her. He was right—her finger and footprints were everywhere. The only thing she could do was run. Run far and fast.

* * *

Another knock on the door brought Lizzie back to the present.

“Open up, we have to talk.”

Dreading the sight of him, she dried her hands and turned the doorknob. Ian stood just outside the door, a scowl on his lean, smooth face. As he grabbed her arm, she yanked it away and brushed past him, walking to the floor-to-ceiling windows which gave a beautiful view of the Chicago cityscape.

When he came behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, she shrugged them off.

“We need to talk,” he said in a low voice.

“Do we?”

“Don’t be like that. Why don’t you get dressed in something nice and we can go out to La Petite Maison—your favorite restaurant. We can talk there. Does that sound good?” He placed his thin, cold lips on her neck, making her shudder. “I have a quick errand I have to run, but I’ll be back in less than two hours. Be ready.” A thin thread of danger weaved through his voice.

Nodding curtly, Lizzie leaned her head on the cool window and looked out at Lake Michigan. From the penthouse, the sunbathers, joggers, and sailboats looked like mere dots in a vast landscape painting.

The ends of Ian’s shoes tip-tapped against the marble floors as he walked out. After she heard the front door close, she waited fifteen minutes, staring at the dots below, not daring to move. When he didn’t return, she dashed to the closet and took out her suitcases. Lizzie threw only the necessities in them then pocketed the wad of cash Ian had in the wall safe. With suitcases, cash, purse, and keys, she left her penthouse condominium. Having no clue where she was going, she decided to grab a cab and take a train out of the city. She’d have to reinvent herself, but she didn’t have any idea how to do that. The only two things she knew for certain were that she wasn’t going to go to prison for something she didn’t do, and she had to flee from Ian.

Ian, the man she loved and married two years before, for better or for worse, was a paid assassin, and blood money bought everything they owned—the cars, the condo, her clothes, everything.

Looking out of the cab as the city streets whizzed by, she made a decision—Lizzie Quinn would disappear forever.

Chapter One

Two years later—Pinewood Springs, CO

Looking at the clock on the wall, Addie fumed as she saw the hands read five o’clock. The eight-year-old boy seated next to her at the reading table tried to act as though he didn’t care that his mother was forty-five minutes late picking him up.

It had been a few weeks since Jack had joined the pilot reading group. Addie had liked him instantly. The young boy was so eager to learn and in just the short time he’d been in the program, he’d shown some marked improvements. Addie had five students in her after-school program at the library. As head librarian, she’d been able to put the program together, and if she could prove its success to the city board, she could obtain funding for future sessions.

Jack’s big, brown eyes looked down at his hands as he rubbed them over and over. A slight tremble made his lower lip shake, and his dark brown bangs fell down past his forehead into his eyes. Picking up the phone, Addie called Jack’s mother for the umpteenth time, and again, the call went straight to voicemail. Addie left a much curter message than her previous ones on the mother’s answering machine.

“I don’t think my mom’s coming,” Jack mumbled as he looked down at his hands.

In a soft voice, Addie said, “Oh, I’m sure she just got tied up. She’s probably rushing to get here, but in case she’s running very late, I should call your father and see if he can pick you up instead.”

A smile cracked over Jack’s face. “Yeah, he’ll come get me.”

As she began to dial the number she had in Jack’s file, a jangle of chains and the loud clack of footsteps on the linoleum floor made her look up from her task. Coming toward the reading table was a tall, lean, muscular man. Dark brown hair fell in long layers a little bit past his collar bone, and his black eyes shone like well-polished quartz. A strong jaw and high cheekbones were covered in his five o’clock shadow. His legs were powerful, every corded muscle emphasized by the tight denim covering them, and his fitted black t-shirt showed off a finely sculpted chest. Staring at him, she was rendered speechless, and his commanding presence and good looks mesmerized her. After glancing briefly at her, he rushed over to Jack, bent down, and ran his hand through Jack’s dark hair. Jack looked up at him, smiling, while tears brimmed in his eyes.

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