Read an Excerpt
"Why can't I see my sister?" Sonya looked past Curtis's towering frame.
"Because she's busy," he answered, irritated.
"Move out of my way, Curtis."
Curtis grinned. "Perhaps you should go home, Sonya. I'll have Laura call you later."
Sonya's gaze locked with that of her demented brother-inlaw. She matched his eye-warning with one of her own. She hated this man. What her sister saw in him, she'd never know. True, he had good looks, but he also had the devil's eyes and personality. She felt sure his midnight complexion and flashy white teeth sent plenty of hearts fluttering, including her sister's.
"Let me pass, Curtis. Or do you prefer I call the police?"
Curtis only smiled at her weak threat. "And what will you tell them? That your brother-in-law refuses to let you talk to your sister? That ought to send them flying over here. Take my advice and go home, Sonya."
Sonya ignored his warning and threw her entire weight into him, knocking him off guard and enabling her to get past. As she passed the overturned furniture leading the way into the living room, she feared what she might find. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood at attention. Her breathing became shallow as she saw small drops of blood throughout the hallway.
"Laura Laura?" Sonya's voice trembled with fear. When she finally saw her sister crouched on the floor, her heart broke.
"My God, Laura, what did he do to you?"
Laura continued picking up the broken furniture from the floor, ignoring her sister. Sonya stood there. No words came. Laura looked as if she had been in a war, with the many cuts and bruises across her arms and legs. Her shirt was ripped so badly that it seemed to stay on by a thin thread.
Sonya couldn't make out her sister's face, so she called to her weakly. "Laura Laura, honey, please look at me."
Laura's hands stopped. She hesitated for a moment, then looked up at Sonya with tear-soaked eyes.
Sonya gasped at Laura's bruised face and swollen lips. She ran to comfort her sister.
Curtis entered the room to see the two sisters huddled together in the middle of the floor. He made an undistinguishable sound, then left them alone, slamming the front door.
Sonya gently eased Laura out of her arms, then searched her face for answers to the questions she feared to ask.
"Please Please don't, Sonya. I already know what you're going to say," Laura whispered.
Sonya let out a frustrated sigh, then the room grew loud with the silence.
Laura pushed herself up, a painful expression crossing her features.
This was all Sonya needed to witness before she exploded with built-up emotions. "When are you going to learn? He's going to seriously hurt you one of these days. Pretty soon you're not going to be able to hide your black eyes and broken noses. What are you going to do then?"
"Don't 'Sonya, please' me. This is serious. No man should ever raise his hand to a woman. You were not put on this earth to be his punching bag!"
"Look, Curtis is just going through some things, that's all. He doesn't know who he can trust anymore."
Sonya threw her hands up. But she couldn't let it end like this. "Laura, I love you. You know that. But I'll be damned if I'm going to let that man continue to pound on you to vent out his frustrations. All the trouble that he's in right now is his fault. Not yours. And if there's any justice in this world, the judge will put him away and throw away the damn key!"
"Stop it, Sonya! You just don't understand. He's trying really hard to to make this marriage work. He just needs some time to get his head together, and everything will be fine. I just know it."
"That's bull, and you damn well know it. You've only been married eight months, and before all his troubles started he was pounding on you. What was his excuse then?"
"That's a lie!"
"Come on, Laura. This is me you're talking to. I knew what was going on. Everybody knew what was going on. Mama used to pull these same excuses you are. She had an accident, or she fell down the stairs. Didn't you learn from her that this behavior is unacceptable?"
"You don't know about men, Sonya. They don't hit you unless you've done something to provoke them. All men are that way."
"The more you talk, the more nauseated I get. Who told you that? Curtis?"
"I knew you wouldn't understand. Curtis loves me. Can't you at least see things from his point of view?"
"You're serious aren't you? He has you completely brainwashed. Love, true love, shouldn't hurt. Not physically, anyway. And a man should respect you enough to never raise his fist to you. He should"
"Oh, please, Sonya. You're spinning Cinderella tales. People don't live happily ever after anymore. This is the real world with real problems, and I have to stand by my man through thick and thin. I know that this looks bad. But trust me, all this will blow over. I know Curtis."
"Are you asking me to stand by and watch him kill you? I know you love Curtis. That's not the question. The question is, does Curtis love you? I can't continue to save you."
Laura turned angry eyes toward Sonya. "I don't remember anyone asking you to save me, Sonya. You stand there casting judgment on the world. Youwith your Harvard degree. Youwith your own advertising company." Laura's voice thickened with bitterness.
"No one ever passes inspection with you. Well, I might not have your education and fancy job, but at least I have a man. When you leave your big office at night, who do you go home to? Who's there to share your so-called success? No one! You go home to that big empty house with no one to love. I married Curtis for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health."
"Till death do you part? Laura, you need help. Take a good look around you. I might not have a man right now, but that's because I refuse to take whatever is just handed to me. When I settle down, it will be with someone who wants to be with me for me. Someone who respects my mind as well as my body. That doesn't make this a fairy tale. It's just common sense. This whole relationship revolves around Curtis's needs. What about your needs? Don't you count?"
Laura began to cry again. "Oh, Sonya. I just don't know what to do. I mean I'm scared. He'll never let me leave him."
"Finally, the truth. Did Curtis threaten you if you left him?"
"He said that he'd kill me if I ever leave him."
"Then we'll go to the police. We can have some kind of restraining order filed against him. I won't let him harm you, Laura. Come home with me. I'll protect you."
"He'll come after me, Sonya. I know it. He'll never let me go."
"Don't you trust me?"
"Then come with me. I've always taken care of you before, haven't I?"
She nodded again.
"Then come with me."
"She's not going anywhere!" Curtis bellowed from behind them.
Both Laura and Sonya jumped at the sound of Curtis's thundering voice.
Sonya turned to confront Curtis, who stood at the entrance of the living room with a bouquet of flowers in his hands.
"Laura, baby. I came back to apologize. You know I didn't mean to hurt you. You know this, right?" Curtis began his routine exercise.
Sonya opened her mouth to say something, but her sister immediately flew into her husband's outstretched arms, forgiving him once again. Sonya watched helplessly as husband and wife hugged each other. She held Curtis's look of triumph and knew she had lost another round to him.
Snatching up her purse, Sonya stormed out of the house. She could hear her sister apologizing profusely to her husband. In her heart she knew Curtis would continue what he started before the night was through.
Sonya stepped out of the house and into the rain, grateful that it would hide the tears that flowed down her cheeks. Why can't I get her to see reason? What kind of hold does Curtis have over her?
Sonya walked to her car slowly. She didn't care about her jade silk suit plastering against her body. She didn't care about her matching pumps filling with water. She opened the door to her black Lexus and slipped into the firm leather seat.
Hurt and confused, she continued to stare at the house while huge pellets of rain drummed against the windshield. Only when she felt her bottom lip tremble from the cold and wet clothes that clung to her body did she start up the car and head for home.
She fought against a series of emotions during the long drive. She swore never to speak to her sister again, then began planning ways to kidnap Laura from her husband. There has to be some way I can help her.
Sonya entered through the gate and drove up the long, curving driveway to her eight-bedroom estate that sat in the middle of ten acres.
She parked the car right in front. It would save her time in the morning from going all the way to the east wing of the house to the garage. Right now, she wanted to get out of her wet clothes.
She pushed open the bronze-and-glass framed door, relieved to be home. She rushed across the granite-marbled floor, stripping out of her clothes as she climbed the long spiral staircase. Her sister's words seemed to echo loudly throughout the house: Who do you go home to? The words hurt her more than she cared to admit. It didn't matter that she owned this large home. Her family meant the world to her, though all she had left was her sister and mother.
She opened her bedroom door to see her three walls of ceiling-high windows dark and cloud-filled. She watched as the rain poured down over her bedroom windows.
A flash of lightning brightened her room for a moment, then it fell dark again.
Stripping the rest of her wet clothes from her body, Sonya threw them on her cold floor. She felt drained. She needed to relax and then think over the situation with Laura.
She walked naked to her accompanying dual granite and marble bath. She ran a hot bath and poured in more than a generous amount of scented oils to soothe her tired body. When she finally stepped into the hot caressing water, the anxieties of the day drained out of her.
She refused to think about all the discouraging reports lying on her desk at work. She absently twirled the gold coin necklace. It was a gift from Laura on her birthday. An extraordinary mint, she mused. I wonder where she found such a beautiful coin. She closed her eyes and refused to think about the chaotic scene she had just left at her sister's house. She tried to concentrate on relaxing.
Sonya woke up shivering. The bubbles had vanished from the tub and the water was cold. I must have dozed off. She heard it again. The phone's ringing. Splashing her way out of the tub, Sonya hurried to the phone.
"Hello?" Sonya answered, trying to get her towel wrapped around herself.
"Son-Sonya?" came the trembling voice from the other end.
"Laura? Laura, honey, is this you?" Sonya felt a strong sense of dread creeping through her bones.
"Oh, Sonya I "
"Laura, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
"Sonya, I need you to come over. Please, I need you." Laura's voice cracked.
"Why, what's wrong?"
"It's Curtis. I I think I killed him."
Sonya hung up from Laura after she promised to get there as fast as she could. Her hands shook uncontrollably while she searched through her dresser for something to put on. She jerked on the first pair of pants and shirt she came across. There was no time to do anything to her frizzy hair. It really didn't matter since she was about to run back into the rain, she reasoned. She grabbed her purse from the floor as she ran out of the room. Halfway down the staircase, she realized she didn't have any shoes on and ran back, taking the stairs two at a time.
She flew through her bedroom door and into her walk-in closet where she frantically tore through massive pairs of shoes. She picked a pair of tennis shoes and wiggled her feet into them. She wore no socks but didn't care. Again she ran out of her room and down the stairs.
Sonya dashed to her car, cursing at the hard pelting rain that drenched her instantly. "Damn, where are my keys?" Sonya muttered, fumbling through her small purse. She went through her purse twice before she found them. She jumped into her car and started the engine almost in the same motion. "Calm down, Sonya," she told herself. But it was easier said than done. Laura killed Curtis? This has to be some kind of cruel joke. Laura couldn't have hurt anyone.
Sonya sped out of the long driveway and onto the dark road. Laura had said that she was too terrified to call the police and begged Sonya to hurry. Her thoughts were being pulled in a hundred different directions as various scenarios played across her mindeach one worse than the last.
Sonya turned on her high beams. The rain made it impossible to see. However, her foot continued to nail the accelerator to the floor.
Sonya's headlights shadowed something lying in the middle of the road. She swerved to her left, then screamed at seeing an approaching car. She tried to swing back into the right lane. Yet it was too late; her car began to hydroplane across the wet asphalt.