Better

By: Melanie Jayne

Book 2 in The Change Series




Chapter One


“Damn it, Nora, slow down.” I had a death grip on the car’s “oh shit handle” above the door as my crazy aunt made a tight right turn into the National Bank’s parking garage, barely missing the back end of a pickup truck. Thank God the tallest building in Indianapolis’s parking garage only had five floors.

“I don’t want to be late. Willie had to pull strings to get us this appointment,” Nora said, turning her head to look at me.

“Watch it!”

She barely missed clipping a sedan that was trying to pull out. My aunt, who was near sixty, had an even older boyfriend, Willard Stearns, whose name she’d turned into a cutesy pet name by adding an “ie” to the end.

I let out a loud sigh.

“Shit, we could have gotten his spot.” Nora accelerated. “I’ll just zip around and get it.”

“Just take one of the empty spots along the far wall,” I said, gritting my teeth. “It’s not that long of a walk.” Plus, I needed to get out of her car before I hurled.

“Don’t take that tone with me, Marley. I, for one, care about what’s happening to you.”

Thankfully, she pulled into a spot, and the ride from hell ended. I briefly closed my eyes and counted to five. “I know you do, Aunt Nora, and I appreciate it. It’s just…this is a big deal, and it’s going to cost a lot of money.” I couldn’t help the pleading tone in my voice. Hiring a private investigator was a big deal, and the people that worked at Forde Limited didn’t mess around. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do something, but I hated that I was dependent on my Aunt, again.

Nora adjusted the rearview mirror so she could check her make-up. Appearances were very important to her. She made annual trips to a spa in Chicago and came back with fuller lips and tighter skin. Norma plumped her chin length auburn bob. The hair color was outlandish for her age, but when you took in her yellow peasant blouse and bright blue, tiered maxi skirt, plus the turquoise necklaces that she had wrapped around her neck, well somehow it all worked. She had a big personality, and her fashion choices worked for her. “The cops aren’t doing anything to help. Willie says that Lucas Forde can put an end to this. He’ll find out which one of them hurt you and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

That was the problem. We all knew the recent attack on my friend Zoe and I was somehow tied to my husband’s murder. For the thousandth time, I wished I could wake up from this nightmare.

Just six months ago, I’d watched a man shoot my husband by our front door. In that moment, I became a widow, a witness, and a born-again realist.

Nora sighed. “Marlena, let’s go. We don’t have all day.”

I gave myself a mental shake, and my aunt, a stilted smile then opened the car door. I obediently followed Nora. I was still so caught up in the memories of that awful night I didn’t notice that we’d taken the elevator down to the building’s lobby. There, we exited and walked to another bank of interior elevators.

“I’ll do the talking,” Nora said, straightening her shoulders. “I know how these types of men are. You sit, and if I need you to add anything, I’ll ask you.”

“I don’t know about that. I mean I don’t want to look stupid,” I mumbled as we exited the elevator on fifth floor. Or weak, I wanted to add. I needed to pay attention or Nora would paint a picture of me not only being a victim but an idiot. There were only two offices listed on the marquee: one a law firm and the other our destination, Forde Limited. I followed Nora into a nicely appointed office. The walls were cream with dark cherry wood furnishings, and the carpet was thick. The entire package screamed expensive. I fought the urge to tuck my pleather shoulder bag behind my back. The receptionist behind the enormous, polished desk was a striking blonde who was tapping on a tablet. So busy, she didn’t look up as we entered. My brain tried to estimate how much the furniture alone cost; it had to be more than I made in a year.

We stood at the desk for a few moments. Nora dropped her clutch purse in the shape of a cat’s face onto the desk. I hoped that the button that made up the feline’s nose didn’t leave a mark on the glossy finish.

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