A psychologist paralyzed by fear. A mother propelled by love. A stalker bent on destruction. Psychology professor Dr. Denilyn Rossi contends that the past is either a shadow that haunts us or a force that propels us. The choice is ours, she tells her students. What she doesn’t tell them is that her own past is a shadow she can’t seem to shake. Fear has immobilized her and is taking a costly toll. Adelia Sanchez, however, has embraced Dr. Rossi’s teaching. She is ready to confront fear and render it powerless—using the trauma of her past to propel her to entrap the man who stalked and brutally attacked her. As Denilyn’s past and Adelia’s present converge at the Kaweah River, a dangerous man bent on destruction threatens them both. Will he uncover the secret Deni and Adelia have fought so hard to protect?
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Ginny Yttrup is the award-winning author of Words, Lost and Found, Invisible, and Flames. She writes contemporary women's fiction and enjoys exploring the issues everyday women face. Publishers Weekly dubbed Ginny's work "as inspiring as it is entertaining." When not writing, Ginny coaches writers, critiques manuscripts, and makes vintage-style jewelry for her Esty shop, Storied Jewelry (etsy.com/shop/StoriedJewelry). She loves dining with friends, hanging out with her adult sons, or spending a day in her pajamas reading a great novel. Ginny lives in northern California with Bear, her entitled Pomeranian. To learn more about Ginny and her work, visit ginnyyttrup.com.
Read an Excerpt
Denilyn January 9, 2017
I inhale, filling my lungs with cold air. I exhale, counting as I do. One, two, three, four. I inhale again, the air thick, damp. My chest rises as my lungs expand then fall as I exhale. One, two, three, four.
Rain beats a disjointed rhythm on the windshield and roof of the parked car. My hands rest on the steering wheel at the ten and twelve o'clock positions — the leather polished to a sheen with wear, firm and cold under my palms.
The interior of the SUV is icy, but warmth still radiates through me following a hard morning workout and a hot shower, yet goose bumps prickle my arms anyway.
"I'm in my car, in my driveway," I whisper. "It's Monday, January 9th, 2017, first day of the spring semester. I am going to work. Max has water. The house is secured. The alarm set." I inhale. "My family is safe." I exhale. Then I glance at the digital numerals on the dash — 6:24 a.m. The numbers glow, casting a blue sheen in the dark interior of the SUV.
I intentionally inhale and exhale one more breath. The engine purrs. I back away from the garage and turn the car toward the gate at the front of the property. Gravel crunches under my wheels as I follow the narrow drive lit by landscape lanterns placed two feet apart along both sides of the drive. When I pull up in front of the smooth redwood-paneled gate nearly hidden in the redwood-paneled wall surrounding the property, I repeat my mantra.
"It's Monday, January 9th,"
The gate yawns open.
* * *
My wipers screech across the windshield, smearing spatters of rain, making the road ahead nearly indistinguishable. I tighten my grip on the steering wheel and slow. When was the last time I replaced the wipers? Before the drought — five, six years maybe? Could it really have been that long?
Like a child hiding in the folds of her mother's skirt, the morning sun shrinks behind dark, billowing clouds, seeming to have forgotten its own power.
I focus on the terrain sheathed in hues of gray. As I maneuver the SUV through the turns in the road, light from my headlamps bounces off the embankment where rivulets of water and mud cascade onto the roadway. Somewhere below, the river roils and rushes, I imagine. But I don't dare look.
California's drought, daunting and devastating, has finally come to an end. Or, at the least, we're offered a reprieve. The snowpack, well above average with several more months of potential snow in store, will yield water throughout California's summer months. Plenty of water. Which translates into, among other things, raging rivers. White water. I can almost hear the owners of local rafting companies sighing with relief.
Water is good for the economy. It's good for the psyche too.
When I finally pull into the faculty parking lot of Pacific Covenant University, situated cliffside along the northern fork of the upper American River, my neck and shoulders ache. I park and then grab the insulated mug in my cup holder and swallow the last of my coffee. I tuck the mug into the outside pocket of my briefcase. It's definitely a two-, maybe three-mug morning.
I reach for the door handle then hesitate. Sheets of water curtain the windows. Raindrops ricochet off the car's roof. Locks on the doors keep the world at bay. Reluctantly, I pull the handle and push the door open, get out, and spring the umbrella. I duck under its cover, a poor substitute for the protective cocoon of the car.
Keys in hand, I sling my briefcase over my shoulder, tuck my hair into the collar of my coat, then slosh my way through the parking lot and follow one of the pathways through the verdant, tree-studded campus to the wide steps leading up to the psychology building. The brick building is the oldest on the campus, the original structure when PCU acquired the site.
I run up the steps and, once undercover, shake the umbrella until water puddles at my feet. I enter the building and make my way up the stairs to the second floor then down the quiet, dimly lit hallway. The scent of chalk dust, ground into every corner and crevice of the building, tickles my nose. Chalkboards were replaced with whiteboards more than a decade ago, so the lingering scent is more likely association than actuality. But the building, having been closed over the winter break, is indeed musty. I stop in front of one of the offices that line the hall and fumble with my keys until I find the right one.
I jump, and my keys jangle as they drop to the floor. I turn from the door toward the voice, heart thumping against the cage of my chest. "Willow ..."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
"No, it's just ... I didn't see you. Hi." I bend to retrieve my keys, hands trembling. "Did you enjoy your break?" I slip my hands into the pockets of my coat.
Willow, a sophomore whose slender, graceful frame lives up to her name, shrugs. "It was okay. Family drama. The usual holiday stuff."
"Ah ... Makes dorm life look good, huh?"
"Were you waiting to see me?"
"No. Dr. Alister." She gestures to the office next to mine. "I'm meeting with him. I'm his TA this semester."
I point down the hallway. "Dr. Alister's office is —"
The door of the office next to mine swings open, and Ryan Alister steps into the hallway. "Thought I heard voices out here. Willow" — he glances at his watch — "you're prompt. Thank you." He turns to me, his smile warm.
Ryan looks back at his office then to me. "Over the break, remember?"
"Oh ... Right." Did we talk about the move? I don't remember. We must have — Ryan wouldn't take that type of liberty. "You're lucky to have Willow this semester, Dr. Alister. She's an excellent student. She'll make a great assistant."
He raises one eyebrow and looks back to Willow. "A recommendation from the esteemed Dr. Denilyn Rossi, department chair? Impressive."
As Willow's milky complexion blooms, Ryan looks at me and winks.
"It was good to see you, Willow." I pull my keys from my pocket as Willow follows Ryan into his office. Caught in a snare of confusion, I stare at the linoleum as I try to bring up the details of Ryan's move, but they're lost to me. Throat tight, I swallow. I'm slipping. Forgetting things. Letting the stress get to me.
Stress? It's more than that. My mind is betraying me, and it stings like the betrayal of a trusted friend.
I turn back to my office. The murmur of Ryan's and Willow's voices drift out Ryan's open door. I'm grateful for the company in the still nearly empty building — actually, I'm grateful the empty office is occupied again. It was vacated midsemester when Dr. McPhee took early retirement due to ongoing medical issues. That I do remember. I find the key on my ring again and unlock and open my office door.
Before entering, I reach around the doorjamb and flip on the light switch. I stand in the doorway and take stock. Everything appears as I left it. Desktop empty except for my computer monitor and inbox. Beside the window that frames my desk, diplomas and designations hang. Shelves line another wall, stocked with books and a few decorative items, mostly mementos from students. Nothing personal.
I hold the office door ajar, take a few steps inside, and then lean in and peek around the edge of the desk. I lean back, exhaling as I do. Nothing amiss.
I leave the door open and hang the umbrella, along with my coat, on the rack in the office. I pull a nubby cardigan off the rack and drape it across the back of my desk chair, then tuck my briefcase under the desk. Once seated, I power on the computer and wait as it loads. I knead a knot in my shoulder.
The calendar app beckons, but I open my email instead. A perusal of the contents reveals faculty updates, what look like a few emails from students — the number of which will grow exponentially as the semester progresses — and junk. Nothing unusual.
The time posted in the upper right-hand corner of the monitor indicates I have less than an hour until my first class. I shift my gaze to the calendar icon at the bottom of the screen, but again I ignore it and begin working through the emails, deleting and responding.
But the calendar pesters.
No, I tell myself. But finally I give in. I open the app, click ahead to the first of the month branded on my mind, and begin counting back to today's date. The number of remaining days isn't a surprise. With each setting of the sun, I mentally tick off another day. Though, I admit, the date is a guesstimate, at best.
I worked hard to put the time frame out of my mind and focus elsewhere during the break. To stay present. Live the moments. I recognize the fixation I'm developing isn't helpful. Isn't healthy.
With the calendar still open, I click back to email and type a quick note to my therapist to confirm my appointment for later this week. I haven't seen her in almost a month.
I press SEND, close the email server, then swivel my chair away from the monitor. My gaze lands on the bookshelves and the spines of my published works — my doctoral dissertation and the book that followed. I turn back to the desk, reach into my inbox, and pull out the file containing the publishing contract and emails from my agent I'd printed before the holidays. The contract is another thing I worked hard to forget over the break.
My publisher has suggested another book. My first, Beating the Bullies: Turning Shame into Gain was based on research I completed for my dissertation.
But so much has changed since that first book. Because of that first book. What I hoped would offer others encouragement and empowerment robbed me of almost everything I held dear, including my marriage. Had I known what the book would lead to, would I still have written it?
Perhaps that's a selfish answer, but it is the only answer I have.
The book hit the New York Times bestseller list the week it released and stayed there for more than a year, catapulting me onto the public stage. The stage where I crumbled and my marriage disintegrated.
I never finished the second and third contracted books. I broke the contract. My agent assured me at the time that I'd likely never receive another offer from any publisher.
But now, nearly eight years later, they've sought me out and offered another contract. A young actor, one of Hollywood's hottest, was arrested recently after he was tied to the death of a young woman he'd dated. Following their breakup, he ridiculed her repeatedly, publicly, and without mercy. His vicious verbal attacks are well documented in both the media and online.
Allegedly, he bullied her to death. She committed suicide.
Based on the publicity the case is receiving, the topic of bullying is center stage again, as it should be. In a fast turnaround, my publisher is repackaging and rereleasing my first book, and they're revisiting the second and third books I was originally contracted to write.
I open my desk drawer and reach for the pen I keep in a tray at the front of the drawer — a silver Cross pen engraved with my name — a gift from my dad when I received my PhD. He'd taken me to lunch and given it to me. He used to do that — take me to lunch. Just the two of us. But that was the last time. Just before he died.
The pen is one of the only personal items I keep in the office. I want to make a few notes as I go through the contract again. But when my hand doesn't land on the pen, I scoot back from the desk and search the drawer. I open another drawer then another.
The pen isn't there.
I reach for my briefcase, then dig through the contents. But it isn't there either. Why would it be? I never take it home. It's always in my desk drawer.
Or ... did I take it home?
I get up, leaving the file on my desk, and turn to the window. Rain beats on the glass and slides down the panes. The light inside makes it difficult to see out through the window, so dark is the day. Instead, an obscured image of the interior of the office and of myself, front and center, reflect on the glass. My eyes, light green against the dim backdrop, stand out.
"Open your eyes, Denilyn. Open your pretty eyes."
Memories unspool and images play on the glass, accompanied by the soundtrack I can't tune out. At least not permanently. Trembling, I take a step back and turn away from the window before the haunting images project on the pane again.
I wrap my arms around myself, inhale deeply, and then exhale. "One, two, three, four," I whisper. I take another grounding breath, working to stay present. "I'm in my office. Those are my books on the shelf. The framed quote was a gift from Jen before she graduated." I glance at the monitor on my desk. "It's 7:48 a.m. on Monday. I'm safe. I'm okay."
I am safe. But okay? I'm no longer sure.
When I dare to turn back to the window, I squint to see through the reflection. Oak trees, their branches sharp and spindled, stand against a brooding sky. I swallow the lump in my throat and swipe at the edges of my eyes where tears brim.
The lights in the office flicker as the soundtrack murmurs in my mind again, stilled only by the low growl of thunder in the distance.
I turn away from the window and reach for the sweater hanging on the back of my desk chair. Longing to hide within its folds, I pull it close and shrink behind its thick weave.
* * *
I walk into the classroom and set my mug of fresh coffee on a table at the front of the room. I pull my laptop from my bag and connect it to the projection system. Once that's done, I scan the faces of the few students who've arrived early. As others filter in, I survey each face. It takes another ten minutes for the seats to fill. I'm grateful for the time to gather myself.
At the top of the hour, I get up from a stool where I've perched myself. "Good morning. This is Introduction to Psychology, and I'm Denilyn Rossi. If that's not the information on your schedule, now's your chance to, like Elvis, leave the building."
Eyebrows rise. Others offer blank stares.
" 'Blue Suede Shoes'? 'Blue Christmas'? C'mon, I'm not that old. He died before I was born, but everyone still knows Elvis, right?" The tension in my shoulders eases.
A student standing with a dozen or so others at the top of the room, behind the rows of theater seats, raises his hand.
"Great! A fellow fan." I point, and a hundred or so heads turn toward him.
"Um, no. I ... I just have a question. Dr. Rossi, will you be —"
"Deni." The heads turn back toward me.
"Wha ... What?"
"Call me Deni. We're all adults here. First-name basis. Call me doctor, and I'll think you're referring to my OB/GYN."
Nervous laughter from the gallery punctuates my comment. Ah, freshman. I love them. They're the reason I still teach Intro to Psych. I smile at the young man whose hand is still in the air. "And your name is ...?"
He slowly lowers his hand. "Jason."
"Go ahead, Jason. You had a question?"
"Um, yeah ... Will you be taking adds?"
"The class is full. Overflowing, actually. But check with me again after we go over the syllabus. We'll see how many of those with seats I scare off. Sound good?"
Eyes wide, he nods again, and another nervous titter goes through the class.
"For all of you interested in adding, check with me after class today. I'll put your name on a list, and if you're willing to hang out and do the work for the first couple of weeks, based on the usual drop rate, there's a good chance you'll earn yourself a seat."
About half the students who are standing at the back of the classroom turn and walk out, which I'd expected.
"Now, speaking of the syllabus —" I flip on the projector and then go to click on the file on the desktop of my laptop where I keep a copy of the syllabus and PowerPoint presentations I use with my lessons. But the file isn't there. "Excuse me a minute ..." I search the desktop again, but I still don't see the file — the file that's been on my desktop for years. I click on the search icon and type in the name of the file, but nothing comes up anywhere.
It makes no sense. What could have happened? Did I inadvertently delete the file? It contained years of lesson plans and presentations. I shake my head and look at the students again. "I'm sorry. Technical difficulties."
Who else has had access to my laptop? I had it at home with me over the break. But no one would have deleted the file.
Flustered, I run my hand through my hair, my fingers grazing the ridge of scar tissue on my head. Then it occurs to me that I can log on to the school system and access the syllabus. Within moments it fills the screen at the front of the room.
"Okay ... you'll find the syllabus online, if you haven't already done so."
I walk the students through the syllabus and my requirements for the class on autopilot, all the while another conversation is taking place in my mind. How could I have lost the file? Could I really have deleted it? What is wrong with me — with my mind?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Convergence"
Copyright © 2019 Ginny L. Yttrup.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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