Ignoring the warning signs Amber embarks on a journey led by the sensual and dark Jack Hale that test the limits of who she is and who she will become...
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By Colleen Green
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Colleen Green
All rights reserved.
Love is a powerful emotion. Loving Jack was the essence of my happiness. Now, my heart was breaking, destroying all my hopes for the future. I entered the bathroom with a bottle of wine and a glass. I put them on the floor next to the bathtub. Turning the faucet, hot water filled the tub. Lavender candles were next to the sink. Lighting them, the fragrance reminded me of Mother's perfume. I closed my eyes and wished she was here to tell me everything was going to be alright. I dimmed the lights so the flames of the candles illuminated the room. The steam fogged the mirror. I wiped it away and saw the misery in my eyes. A single tear rolled down my cheek. Consumed with despair, I desperately wanted the bath to help me relax. The sound of the rushing water filling the tub was inviting. Maybe the soothing water will help me put the past behind me.
Stepping into the tub, I sat down and leaned back finding a comfortable position. The warm water was therapeutic. Yet, memories of my love for Jack haunted me. Jack and I were once soul mates. Now our relationship had deteriorated. It was shredded like a sweater snagged and pulled until the yarn was nothing but a pile of useless cotton. In the deepest moment of despair, my existence was expendable.
The razor on the bathtub edge glistened in the candlelight. I looked at it in a way I had never imagined before. The overwhelming urge to run the razor up my wrist was somehow revolting, yet satisfying.
Eyes closing, I visualized the cold metal slashing flesh wide open. I pictured blood flowing from my soon to be lifeless body, turning the bath red. I contemplated dropping the razor of death into the hot water. The oils once meant to relax stinging tender wrist as my limp body sank into the crimson water. Tears and blood gushing out like a leaking faucet ready to burst. I imagined begging God to make the intolerable pain end. Death needed to be quick instead of the throbbing blood oozing out of mutilated veins.
Caught up in the moment, I gasped for breath. The struggle for air jolted my senses back to reality. Looking into the clear bath confirmed suicide had been a nightmare. Inebriation had made the wish to end the misery more intense. Inhibitions were crumbling as my heart was breaking.
Lifting my hand, the engagement ring sparkled in the candlelight symbolizing Jack's broken promises. Tonight, New Year's Eve, we planned to be married at the stroke of midnight. Leaving 1999 behind and embracing the new millennium as husband and wife would be a once in a lifetime romantic experience. Now instead of becoming Mrs. Jack Hale, a dream I had chased for years, I was determined to commit suicide. The wristwatch on the vanity showed fifteen more minutes to live. At midnight, I will end all the pain. I slid the ring off.
"Why did you let them come between us? You could have stayed with me. We could have had everything we dreamed about, all of it," I said, throwing the ring on the floor.
My stomach growled. I hadn't eaten in hours and had too much burgundy and not enough food. Jack loved my cooking. Extraordinary food and wine had brought our hearts together. If his father's wine business were not a part of my stepfather's restaurant, then we would never have met. It had been fate.
Trying to get comfortable, I slouched down into the hot water up to my chin. Relaxing, memories of admiring Jack from afar came flooding back. He was a dashing businessman who had captured my heart the moment he walked into Hale's View, my stepfather's restaurant. In the middle of a lunch rush, the other chefs ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, as I stood transfixed. The commotion of workers went by like a blur as I focused only on him. His intoxicating presence made his movements become like slow motion. Soaking up every enchanting move, coworkers brushed past me.
Shortly after, I learned he was ten years older and much more advanced in his career, I had serious doubts he would find a younger, less worldly person desirable. Doubt was replaced with love after months of admiration. We could look into each other's eyes for hours. His gaze always seemed intense as if he was looking into my soul. I felt at peace with him, completely satisfied by knowing that I was cherished. Goosebumps formed as the bath cooled. I had been staring into the water for several minutes.
Refilling the tub with hot water, the devastating depression was too much to handle. I wanted my life to end, but needed to be drunk to complete the task. Tears blurred my vision as I filled the glass with wine.
Downing the alcohol, I wondered what it would be like to beg for God's forgiveness. The possibility of him condemning my soul to eternal hell sent shivers down my spine. Hell must be horrifying, but it couldn't be worse than the suffering I had endured the past several months. The web of treachery was elaborate. Others had schemed against me causing my anguish. The only way to avoid being surrounded by evil was to become manipulative, the characteristic I hated the most in them. Sinking to their level of conduct filled me with remorse and shame. The whole process of gaining independence was insufferable and yet I had a hard time believing hell could be any worse. If I ended my life would I be sent there for eternity? I had endured enough and only wanted happiness and peace.
Heaven was where I wanted to end up after I took my last breath. So, I would need forgiveness for suicide to get there. I wanted to die and be in paradise with God, and then I could be with loved ones I had lost. Some of the people I had loved the most had either deceased or vanished. Either way, their absence was heartbreaking, making it almost impossible to believe in anyone again, to love again. Life isn't worth living when you can't hold on to love.
I was reminded of that fact as the candlelight illuminated an old picture of something I had failed to hold on to, my parents. In the picture, I was six years old, standing in front of our house with an arm around both of them. Dad wore a designer suit since he had just returned home from a business trip. Mom was dressed casually in jeans and a tee shirt. My clothes were dirty from running around playing tag with my sister, Isadora. I remembered Isadora taking the picture to celebrate the family's completion of the landscape project in the front yard. In the background, was the garden where Mom and I had carefully planted each seed. The flowers were in full bloom, a rainbow of colors outlining the pathway to the front door. Dad and Isadora had created that pathway with beige bricks. I was smiling a mile wide grin, unaware we were only one year away from our family falling apart. Back then everything seemed perfect. Isadora and I thought Mom and Dad would be together forever, an innocent time when we seemed able to hold on to love. The picture was like a ray of light, reminding me I once was truly happy.
Now, times were so different. I was no longer naive and trusting of others. Innocence was gone, replaced by abandonment and betrayal.
Like Mom, I believed happiness came from having a loving family. She only had that sparkle in her eyes when Dad adored her. If only Jack and I had married and started a loving family, then I would have found everlasting happiness.
The gloom beckoned me to end the misery.
It was as if I could hear the razor whispering, "Do it, Amber. Do it."
I was willing to use the blade. Unfortunately, sleepy eyes strained to focus.
A light California breeze from the open window danced a slow waltz with the candlelight. The flame swayed back and forth in a hypnotic pattern. Each flicker made my eyes grow heavier.
The razor on the bathtub edge beckoned me to stay awake. My heart ached to beat no longer. I was unworthy to live. A smile crept over my face; the thought of dying was comforting.
I glanced at the watch. "Ten minutes, just ten minutes, maybe one more drink."
Each second before midnight felt like eternity. With an unsteady hand, I picked up the almost empty bottle and started filling the glass.
Once it was half full, the bottle slid from my wet hand. "NOOO!" The last of the alcohol poured across the floor. "Screw it, who needs wine when you're dead anyways."
Did I have the guts to kill myself? Not just proclaim the words, but to take the necessary actions? I was unsure if I could kill myself. Did I have the strength and nerve to use the razor?
Postponing the decision that would determine my fate, I sipped the precious remains of wine. A trickle rolled down my chin, as I drank. The same type of drip that almost ruined a jumpsuit meant to capture Jack's attention. Memories of the first meal I had enjoyed burgundy with Jack came rushing back. Before I blacked out, each scene of our love affair played out in my mind ...
I wiped away the wine traveling towards my cleavage threatening to blemish the low cut jumpsuit. Along the same path, I misted Jack's favorite perfume. He had mentioned he liked the scent the last time we met at the cafe, Your Daily Grind, for our weekly Monday breakfast. We had become fond of each other after numerous meetings to discuss the finances of Hale's View. Seth, my stepfather, and Jack's father were co-owners of that restaurant. Seth would arrange it so I could pass the quarterly reports to Jack. Jack was in charge of overseeing his father's investment in the restaurant.
We had been on several movie dates. I had worked up the nerve to ask him over for dinner. Our chemistry was growing and I was ready to take our romance to the next threshold. If tonight were a success, the next wet sensation down my neck would be his roaming tongue.
The timer on the oven beeped as the duck finished cooking. Jack would be arriving soon to enjoy the feast. I grabbed stiletto heels and scurried downstairs. On the second step from the top, I nearly tripped over the long carwash pants of my jumpsuit. I gripped the stair rail. Slow down before you kill yourself! I took hold of the pleats lifting them up as if they were part of a ballroom gown and carefully proceeded down. The doorbell rang and my heart jumped causing me to take a half step backwards. Calm down! Anticipation of the date caused stomach muscles to tighten. By the second ring, I was heading towards the kitchen and could hear my sister talking outside the front door.
"Hold on," I yelled, turning the oven setting to warm.
The doorbell rang again.
"I'm coming!" I put shoes on and quickly opened the door.
Hugging me, Isadora said, "You look beautiful."
"I just hope Jack thinks this jumpsuit is as wonderful as you do."
"Of course, he will," she said, nudging her husband, Phillip. "Won't he?"
"You worry too much," he said. "Besides, the way to a man's heart is his stomach. He'll be impressed with your cooking not just your outfit."
"Thanks, would you two care for a glass of burgundy to start off the night?"
"We'll wait on Jack," she said. "You haven't started already, have you?"
"Maybe just a bit to calm my nerves."
We heard a car door shut.
Phillip said, "We'll be in the dining room." She followed him.
Looking through the storm door, I saw Jack approaching.
As I opened it, he said, "Hello gorgeous. You look radiant."
"Thank you, may I take off your jacket? I mean, take your jacket?"
Handing it over our fingers met. Clinging onto the fabric and each other's hands, I caught his admiring gaze traveling from the top of the thin gold necklace to the center of the citrine pendant. Quickly he scanned the rest of my hourglass figure and reversed his eyes back up. His eyes seemed drunk with passion and lust. Mine reflected the same intensity. Our interlacing fingers gradually let go so we were no longer holding hands. I hung his jacket in the hall closet.
"You might want to check the right pocket before you close the door," he said.
I pulled out a bag of ground eggnog coffee from Your Daily Grind.
"How thoughtful. I'll get it brewing so we can have some after dinner."
Tracing the outline of my cheek and grazing my lips with his fingers, he said, "Sorry, I missed last Monday's breakfast and spending the holidays with you."
Kissing his fingers, I said, "I missed you, too."
"Maybe after dinner, I can make it up to you. We could have our own belated Christmas."
His captivating blue eyes locked with mine. A vibe of pure sexuality radiated between us. I wanted to pounce on him giving into the raw passion, but I held back.
"Isadora and Phillip are waiting for us in the dining room," I said, trying to calm my animal instincts.
"Just one more ..." He barely kissed my lips fueling the fire. "minute. Now we can go."
His touch was an adrenaline rush leaving me paralyzed, unable to go anywhere. Only true love can have this power. He held my hand.
"Amber, they're waiting," he said, like a hypnotist saying the right words to bring the subject back to reality.
We walked hand in hand into the room. "Jack, you remember Isadora and Phillip."
"Of course," he said.
"Make yourself at home. I'll get this coffee started and be back with dinner."
"You're such a splendid chef," Jack said, scooping more scalloped potatoes onto his plate. "Everything has been delicious and your table arrangement is elegant. You have a wonderful sense of style with the fine china, the floral centerpiece, and the monogrammed cloth napkins that you had folded like swans. I'm quite impressed and deeply touched that you've done all of this just to entertain us," he said, reaching for my hand underneath the table.
"It was my pleasure," I said, gently squeezing his hand.
"One of these days I'll be lucky enough to witness you create a spectacular restaurant of your own. You certainly have enough talent to pull it off."
"Thanks, I do plan on opening a restaurant someday. Seth invested in a treasury bond for me when I graduated high school. It will mature in a few years and could be used to help finance one."
"Sounds like a wonderful plan," Jack said.
"She'll turn out to be successful like our stepfather, there's no doubt about it," Isadora said, buttering her roll.
"So how's the nursing business, Isadora? Amber tells me that the hospital has been keeping you busy."
"Oh my yes...."
The desire I had brewing inside was about to erupt like Mount St. Helens. It made it impossible to focus on the conversation. I wanted to run my fingers through Jack's dark thick hair. I longed to kiss his neck and nibble on his earlobes. Yearning to make love with him, I couldn't wait until Isadora and Phillip left. Then I could explore every inch of his heavenly body.
"We should be leaving in a little while," Phillip said, granting my silent wish. "Seth's watching Camille and I don't want to get home too late. I promised I'd tuck her into bed."
"Of course," I said, gathering the dishes. "I'll get dessert and coffee."
"Now you tell us after you let me get seconds," she said, helping to clear the crystal stemware.
"Don't worry, you can always take some home," I said.
Jack took his cloth napkin and wiped his mouth. "What's for dessert?"
I looked at Jack and hoped it would be him.
"Boston cream pie," I said on my way to the kitchen.
Jack smiled with approval. "That sounds delectable."
Isadora followed me into the kitchen. "I'll help."
She put the cream and sugar on the tray. Pouring the coffee, I missed the cup on the first drop or two. "I think you better carry the tray, the wine's kicking in."
"Just don't drink too much," she said, raising one eyebrow. "You want to remember the fireworks later, don't you?"
"Every single intimate moment."
Hoping her prediction was right, we served the dessert and coffee.
The clock chimed eight o'clock, and Isadora and Phillip said their farewells and left. Luckily, Jack didn't.
I was eager for our belated Christmas to start. Jack was the only present I wanted to unwrap.
"Would you care for another glass of wine?" I asked.
Jack sat down on the couch and replied, "Only if you have one too."
"Just one more," I said, pouring us both another glass of burgundy from a crystal dove decanter.
I handed Jack his drink and gracefully sat down next to him. He slowly moved closer.
"Trust me?" he asked.
"Yes, of course."
Jack raised his glass to my lips then I raised mine to his. He carefully lifted the stemware so I could drink, and I raised mine so he could drink. A tiny trickle ran from my lip. I quickly started to wipe it away.
"I'll get that," he said, running his tongue up the corner of my mouth.
My whole body became like a wet noodle in his hands. I fell back onto the couch. He took our glasses and set them on the end table. We kissed slowly as his tongue found every inch of my mouth. His hands began to wander, teasing my breasts.
Excerpted from Last Words by Colleen Green. Copyright © 2013 Colleen Green. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Camille's Wish.................... 13
Lack of Faith.................... 20
Horse's Ashes.................... 34
Twelve Years.................... 41
Culinary Cloak and Dagger.................... 63
Turning Seven.................... 67
Following His Father's Footsteps.................... 75
The End Justifies the Means.................... 88
Pursuit of Control.................... 94
The Art of Mending Broken Hearts.................... 111
Business Arrangements.................... 115
Prosperity of Hale's View.................... 126
Chocolate Almond Pie.................... 144
Rose Petals.................... 151
Forsaking All Others.................... 155
Charity Ball.................... 173
Last Chance.................... 185
Roaring Twenties.................... 211
The Milestone Controversy.................... 220
On Edge.................... 242
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the final novella in the Cage Foster series. It is a very short read at 98 pages, but we get to see more of the Investigator's personal side. Although this is supposedly the last in the series, I certainly hope he is revived at a later date. He is the type of character I would want investigating my situation if I were murdered or harmed. Green writes great characters, twisted and deviant crimes and is a great storyteller. Her writing is easily read, satisfying and a bit disturbing. I would encourage anyone who loves mystery/suspense to read her books!
I don't care for these 'novellas'. She should try to write a real book.
I have loved each and every one of these books. I'm a huge fan of shows like Criminal Minds and this series reminds me of those. I liked the twists and turns in this one and that the author delves into the issue that gay intolerance is still alive in the South and how that mindset can have devastating effects. I highly recommend this entire series.
I love Stacy Green's books especially the Cage Foster ones. Stacy's books have so many twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end of the book. I had a hard time putting the book down because I had to find out what would happen next. I hope there will be more Cage Foster books. Looking forward to Savannah's trilogy.