Read an Excerpt
Dare to Die LP
A Death on Demand Mystery
Iris Tilford held tight to the Exercycle hand grips, pumped the pedals. She was the last one working out tonight in the mission gym. A cool April breeze eddied through open windows in the ramshackle building. Red, green, and purple flashed in her eyes from the pulsating neon sign above the bar across the street. She tried to block out thrumming guitars and a nasal twang singing of love gone wrong. Iris didn't like country music, but she'd closed down a lot of bars.
Her throat felt suddenly parched. A beer . . .
One day at a time. That's what she had to hold to, one day at a time. She pushed away memories of stuporous nights and drug-induced fantasies. One day at a time . . .
She pumped harder. That's what Kirk told her. When the demons come, push and pound and sweat. You've got seventy-three days. Keep it up, one day at a time. . . .
The gym in its former life had been Murray's Garage with an oil-stained floor, thin wooden walls, and a tin roof. Now the building housed partitioned sleeping areas for men and women, a kitchen and dining area, and a ragtag collection of exercise equipment. Iris wished the mission wasn't across from the bar and the neon flashes that pulled at her, but space was cheap in this seedy Savannah neighborhood where bar signs flickered and music wailed or thumped all through the night.
"Good going, Iris." Kirk's voice was surprisingly soft for such a big man. "Brought you some Gatorade." Kirk's face had the texture of beaten silver, but his brown eyes, eyes that had seen too much, were kind.
Iris felta moment's pride. Beaten silver. She remembered that from an art class she'd taken. . . . She drooped inside. She didn't know when or where she'd been in an art class. There were so many things she didn't remember.
He held out a plastic cup in his left hand. His right arm was a stub that poked from a floppy T-shirt sleeve.
Iris realized she was breathing in short, quick gasps. She felt dizzy. Time to stop. But when she stopped, she felt the pull of the neon. She took the cup, drank greedily.
"You're doing great." His deep voice reminded her of a bear's growl, a sunny Disney bear, not a fearsome north woods bear.
She stared at him, mournful and frightened. "I got to make it better."
"Can't remake the world in a hurry." He spoke slowly, as if there were hours and days and years enough for everything. "One day at a time."
She finished the sweet orange drink, handed him the cup. "I'll ride a little longer. That helps." Iris wiped sweat from her face, pushed back a tendril of damp hair, bent again to the handlebars. As the pedals whirred, she made her decision. Part of getting well was making things right. She couldn't change what had happened at the picnic. But she could go back to the island. Nana was dead. No one there cared about her. That made it easier to return. She couldn't have endured seeing Nana's face lined with grief. She'd broken Nana's heart. At the time, the decision had seemed simple. Leave the island, leave behind her questions and fears and doubts. Instead, she'd carried misery with her, a burden that grew heavier with the passage of time.
Iris's memory was spotty. For years she'd blocked away a picture of that night, Jocelyn hurrying into the fog, a figure slipping after her. Maybe she'd dreamed that moment. There had been so many dreams. Jocelyn's death might have had nothing to do with Iris. Iris wished she could remember the timing. Once she saw one person walk into the fog with Jocelyn. Another time she remembered a different person. Which person came last? And why, this was the terrible aching inescapable question, why hadn't anyone admitted going into the woods with Jocelyn?
Iris wouldn't know until she asked. If her fears were the product of dreams, she would finally rid herself of the deep dark emptiness that accused her. If she didn't go to the island and discover the truth, she would succumb to the insatiable lust for oblivion.
She had to be brave.
One day at a time . . .
Buck Carlisle walked at a deliberate pace to the front hall. He was never eager in the morning to leave for his office. He moved quickly and felt young and alive only during those shining moments in his workshop. Last night he'd almost finished a white pine table with a mosaic inlay. His workshop was as near heaven as he ever expected to come, the smell of wood as he planed, the feel of tools that seemed to fit into his hand as if specially made. Often he shared those moments with Terry. His daughter was the light of his life, her ebony dark hair cut in bangs above a round expressive little girl's face with brown eyes that brimmed with love for her daddy. He and Fran had been closer ever since Terry came, watching in wonder as a toddler became a little girl, so cheerful and kind and caring. Fran was much too restless to spend time in the workshop though she always admired what he made.
He paused in the hallway, reached out for his briefcase. The briefcase was a deep, rich tan, made of finest English leather with his initials in gold. Fran had given it to him for his birthday. As he gripped the handles, he saw himself in the elegant rococo Chippendale mirror. Nothing in Fran's house was anything less than perfect.
Except for him. He stared into puzzled brown eyes. He hadn't changed much since high school. Ten years later and his hair was still a thick, curly brown, his face squarish with a blunt chin, his expression befuddled. In a few minutes, his father would glare at him. "I expected the Addison brief on my desk this morning. For God's sake, Buck, most of the time I think you're half addled." Dare to Die LP
A Death on Demand Mystery
. Copyright (c) by Carolyn Hart . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.