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"Caiden, baby, I'm here. I'm right here. It's OK," Zoe whispers as she grabs my flailing arms. I'm panting heavily, with perspiration dripping off my skin. Frantically, I look around and realize I'm in our hotel suite. I have had another nightmare. Zoe is caressing my cheek, reminding me it is just a bad dream and that everything is fine.
"Do you remember anything this time?" Zoe asks. All I remember are flashes of being submerged in water, unable to reach the surface. A young child stands at the water's edge and watches as I drown. I have been having these dreams or night terrors for the past three weeks. Zoe insists I see my therapist once we return home from New York. I'm reluctant, but perhaps I need help in putting these random flashes together.
We've been in New York for the past three days, arriving from Portland, where we have concluded our honeymoon. Zoe has been meeting with shareholders, and I have come along for the ride. It's been fifteen years since I've been in Manhattan. While I am here, it's a good time to deliberate selling my studio apartment. I never use it, and it holds memories I can't explain. I am nervous about the thought of seeing it again. Zoe is getting dressed and explains she has a meeting, which shouldn't last more than three hours. I check the time, and it is nine o'clock in the morning. Our flight leaves at four o'clock this afternoon, so I have free time on my hands. Maybe I'll swing by my old apartment and say goodbye.
Zoe has already contacted the concierge to have our luggage delivered to the airport, and breakfast is on its way up. I smile at the thought of how well she takes care of me. I sit thinking how lucky I am to have such a beautiful and loving wife. I twirl my wedding ring around my finger, smiling in disbelief that it has been eight months since we have been married. I still haven't adjusted to the idea we are "husbian" and wife.
Startled by a knock at the door, I hop out of bed and throw on a robe, greeting the young woman delivering our breakfast with a warm hello. I call to Zoe to come and eat before her long day. In the bathroom finishing her makeup, she calls back to say that I may start without her; she's not sure she has time. I remind her she is the acting CEO in her father's absence and that she isn't leaving without sitting down for breakfast.
I smile when she comes around the corner dressed in black pumps, a pencil skirt, and a white blouse. I comment how I love the messy bun. She smiles, handing me the pearl necklace I had given her as part of her wedding present to place around her neck; clasping it, I inhale her Chanel perfume. Aroused, I pull her body close to mine and begin kissing her neck and caressing her breasts. She moans, turning to face me, and plants a kiss on my lips asking, "Are you trying to seduce me?"
I ask, "Is it working?" I feel her hand move down to my crotch as she firmly palms my Venus, arousing me. Zoe offers she'd love to stay and play, but has to get going. I throw a minitantrum and insist she at least sit down for breakfast. She checks the time and smiles at me, agreeing.
We are quietly enjoying our breakfast. I'm off in my thoughts about my dreams, and Zoe is reading the New York Times. She interrupts me, asking if I remember the news story on the missing senator from Texas, Victor Young. I think back for a moment and nod yes. She recaps the article, explaining that the remains found on the capitol grounds in Austin, Texas, a few weeks ago, have been positively identified, as belonging to Senator Young. The article also states that the cause of death was due to blunt force trauma to the head. It reports that other injuries, have been found on the remains, which suggest the victim may have been tortured. I'm shocked by the news, wondering if this will finally bring closure to his heirs, especially Trace. She has never believed her father abandoned her and her family.
Zoe kisses me on the cheek and reminds me to schedule an appointment with my psychiatrist, Dr. Marissa De Vries, as she heads off to her meeting. I haven't seen Dr. De Vries in over fifteen years. I wonder if she still practices. After the incident with her son, Michael, I wonder if she will agree to treat me again. I put off contacting the good doctor to have a soothing hot shower.
While the shower fills with steam and the pulsating hot water bounces off my skin, I begin cogitating on my nightmares. They are sporadic, shifting from deeply sensual to chaos to peace. I can't visualize faces, but I am able to determine a familiarity present. Why would a child watch me drown? Why am I making love to another woman? Where is my intense violence and rage derived from? Nothing makes sense. I can't sleep or function, and it's starting to wear on me and Zoe. I know she is trying to be understanding, but I can feel her frustration.
I turn the faucet off and exit the shower, now in despair at my own thoughts. I grab my cell from the bathroom sink and call Marissa. I leave a voice mail to set up an appointment for Friday, August 26. This should appease Zoe and buy me a couple of weeks to sort things out myself.
I throw on a pair of black moto jeans, New Rock boots, and a T-shirt, grabbing my leather jacket as I leave to go visit my apartment. My driver, Romi, is waiting patiently outside of the hotel lobby. "Where to, Mr. Westphal?" she asks. I instruct her to drop me off in midtown near Forty-Fourth Street. I begin to feel anxiety as we approach our destination. Flashbacks begin to surface, causing my chest to tighten, as the limo draws near to my apartment building.
"How are you doing today?" Romi asks, looking in her rearview mirror at me.
"I'm fine, Romi," I reply.
"'You sure? You look a little pale," she comments. I half-smile, explaining I'm not feeling my best today.
I exit the limo and enter into the building, stopping at the arched door to my unit. My hands are trembling as I reach for my keys with sweaty palms. I shout, "Damn it!" as the keys drop to the floor. A neighbor, Mrs. Sheila Eubanks, opens her front door, peeking into the hallway. Once she recognizes me, she smiles and approaches. She has aged gracefully, looking as lovely as she did fifteen years ago. Her hair is now completely silver, and her green eyes are full of life. I bend down and give her a warm hug. She seems happy to see me, inquiring why it has taken so long for me to return.
She asks about Rose, and I bear the bad news of my mother's passing. She politely offers her condolences as she squeezes my hands gently. The mention of Rose's name brings me instant sadness. Mrs. Eubanks, a widower, has been overseeing my apartment. She has no family that I'm aware of. She and Rose were acquaintances, which is how I ended up with this apartment. She graciously sold it to my mother so I'd have a safe place while away from home. She and her partner looked after me during my time in New York. "Caiden, honey, you look a bit anxious. Come over to my place, and I'll fix us a cup of tea," she insists.
I take a seat on her floral-printed armchair and wait while she brews our tea. I mention that her place hasn't changed a bit — still warm and inviting as when I first came to New York. I am scanning the room when my eyes stop at a portrait of her and her deceased wife, Katarina. They made a beautiful couple. I chuckle upon remembering how fondly she spoke of Katarina. Kat, as she insisted I call her, used to teach me the finer points of being a "gentlemyn." She was like a father figure to me, never afraid to put me in my place when I got out of hand. She was firm but fair and honest to a fault, and she adored Sheila. I always wanted the type of love they shared.
As I wait, a scrawny, wild-haired young girl enters into the apartment. She seems surprised to see me but greets me with a pleasant hello. I smile, greeting her back. She asks, "Where is Nana?" Assuming she means Sheila, I point in the direction of the kitchen. The young woman scurries past me, heading to the kitchen. I'm puzzled as to who she is as I hear mumblings coming from the other room.
A few moments later, Sheila returns with two cups of cinnamon spice tea. She sits in the chair across from me, placing the cups of tea on the table. We exchange pleasantries, and I comment how beautiful her granddaughter is. She chuckles and tells me she is her foster daughter. She asks if we met, and I tell her briefly about it. Sheila calls the young woman back into the living room. I hear deep sighs and stomping as the young woman enters. Sheila looks at her as she sips her tea, asking, "Is that the proper way to introduce yourself to our guest?"
The young girl rolls her eyes out of sight of Sheila while huffing and puffing as she stares at me. She hesitates as I stand, extend my hand, and introduce myself. She eyes me closely, reluctant to shake my hand. After a few more sighs, she extends her hand to me, saying, "Hello, I'm Dathan P. Kyhle. It's a pleasure to meet you."
I reply, "The pleasure is all mine, Ms. Kyhle."
She narrows her eyes at me replying, "Mister."
Confused, I ask, "I beg your pardon?"
She says again, "It's Mr. Kyhle, not Ms. Kyhle." Sheila interjects, telling Dathan she should mind her manners. I take a seat, explaining to Sheila it's perfectly fine. Dathan asks for permission to be excused, then leaves the apartment.
Sheila and I reminisce for about an hour. She comments she barely recognizes me and teases me about my man bun.
I glance at my phone, noticing I missed a text from Zoe informing me she is out of her meeting. I reply I'll send Romi to pick her up and bring her here. We still have several hours before we need to be at the airport. Since this is now half her property, we should make this decision together.
Sheila seems tired, so I excuse myself, and head back into the hallway toward my apartment. I see Dathan sitting on the floor outside my door, seemingly lost in thought. Looking into her almond-shaped brown eyes, I sense a sadness living inside them. I ask if she is OK. She replies bluntly, "I'll be fine. I don't need your pity."
I take a deep breath, remembering I'm talking to a child, and offer, "You seem to have a lot on your mind. 'Care to come in and talk about it?" She rises from the floor and follows me into the apartment. I toss the keys on the kitchen counter and tell her to make herself at home.
She looks around the two-story apartment in amazement, remarking, "Wow! This beats the old folk's home I live in. Look at this place. It is huge. And that spiral staircase, holy shit."
Caught off guard by her swearing, I find myself scolding her. I express she should be grateful for what she has. Kids these days have lost all respect, I think.
Dathan continues to scope the place out while I wander off upstairs to inspect the rest of the apartment. The remodel I had done a couple of years ago looks fantastic. I had an elevator installed for Rose in the event she visited to relieve the stress on her knees. I had granite flooring installed and remodeled the deck to look like an island paradise with palm trees and a cabana. Leaning over the stairwell, I tell Dathan not to touch the walls. I don't want the hand-painted silk wallpaper disturbed.
I am sitting on the king bed in the master suite when flashes of memories start to pour in. My head is pounding, and my heart is racing. What is wrong with me? I wonder. I grab my head in agony and outstretch across the bed, sweating profusely and unable to catch air. I'm crying from the pain and unable to escape the horrific thoughts of suffering I'm envisioning.
I wake to Zoe sitting on the side of the bed. Her piercing blue eyes are full of sorrow. "How long have I been asleep?" I ask.
"Over two hours. You were sleeping soundly, and I didn't want to disturb you. It's the first time I've seen you resting in weeks," she replies.
I watch as Zoe canvasses the bedroom, commenting how much she adores the apartment. She asked why we didn't stay here on our trip. I tell Zoe the place was being rented by one of my clients. She seems satisfied with my answer and tells me she needs to remain in New York for a few more days. I'm disappointed but anxious to get back to visit Rosemary. I ask if she is all right with me returning home without her. I haven't been to Rose's grave site since she passed away. Zoe agrees, thinking it will be good for me. I place the spare key to the apartment in her hand, teasing, "Don't destroy anything." She laughs as she kisses me on the lips, promising not to burn the place down with her cooking.
Startled by the sound of shattered glass, hastily I hop out of bed and head downstairs with Zoe in tow. I see Dathan in the kitchen bending down picking up pieces of broken glass. She apologizes profusely as she frantically picks up the pieces. I see blood dripping from her fingertips and rush to her aid. She flinches in fear as I touch her shoulder and she pulls away quickly from my grasp. I step back calmly, telling her it's OK, that I'm just concerned about her hand. She looks at me and then at Zoe with panic in her eyes. Zoe smiles at her as she grabs a paper towel and wets it in the sink. She asks Dathan if she can wipe her hand, calmly saying, "I just want to stop the bleeding." The softness in her voice seems to calm Dathan as she eases toward Zoe, allowing her to inspect her hand. I grab a first aid kit from a kitchen drawer and set it on the island for Zoe. Dathan eyes me suspiciously, as Zoe continues to work on her cuts. I'm curious what this poor child has been through to be so leery of me.
I excuse myself and head back to Sheila's apartment, determined to get answers. Dathan's behavior has me concerned. I pause in the hallway and send Riley a quick text. I then tap lightly on Sheila's door. It takes her a few seconds to answer. "What has Dathan done now?" she asks abruptly. Surprised by her comment, I ask if she has a few moments to discuss Dathan. She opens the door, allowing me entry.
I take a seat in the floral chair once again and she takes a seat directly across from me with her legs and arms crossed. I recap the incident I just witnessed and ask if she minds telling me how she came to foster Dathan. She asks me, "Why the concern?
I reply, "I just witnessed a child fearful of me for no reason. Anyone would be concerned by that."
She seems hesitant to speak. I assure her the conversation will not leave this room, and I sit intently while Sheila begins to explain, "Caiden, I'm not sure it's a good idea for you to get involved. Dathan has some unresolved issues. She was adopted by a young couple the Kyhles, fourteen years ago a few days after she was born. Her birth mother had a nervous breakdown and was unable to care for Dathan. It was never a legal adoption, but the Kyhles were desperate for a child and agreed to take care of Dathan until her birth mother was fit to care for her. Everything was going fine until the Kyhles died in a mysterious house fire about three years ago. Dathan naturally took their deaths hard and became withdrawn.
"Dathan's only living relatives were her grandmother and uncle, who stepped in and provided for Dathan financially. Her grandmother visited Dathan once a month until she herself became ill. The uncle visited when he could, but his schedule was unpredictable, and he didn't get to see Dathan as often as he would have liked. We arranged for Dathan to visit her grandmother a few times, but it became hard on both of them. Dathan sensed she wouldn't be around long. The thought of losing another loved one was too much for her to handle, so we made the decision not to see her grandmother anymore. Dathan's grandmother took the news hard, and I believe it slowly killed her inside. We received word she passed away last year. I couldn't bear the thought of putting Dathan back in foster care, so I have had custody of her ever since the Kyhles' untimely death."
I am saddened to hear Dathan's story and ask about "hys" birth parents. Sheila looks at me oddly, explaining she doesn't know the identity of Dathan's parents. Everything was done outside the system, so there are no records available. Sheila adds Dathan's biological grandmother and uncle visited, but never gave their names. I offer to look into it for her, but Sheila declines, stating things are starting to get back to normal for Dathan. She says once Dathan is ready to find her birth parents, she will consider my offer. I can't argue her point and smile graciously. I excuse myself and head back to my unit to find Zoe and Dathan laughing while having tuna sandwiches. I'm relieved to see them both happy.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Secrets of the Dark Rose"
Copyright © 2018 T. J. Wolfe.
Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Lost Boi, 1,
Chapter 2 Accusations, 9,
Chapter 3 Bad Blood, 18,
Chapter 4 The Good Doctor, 26,
Chapter 5 Skeptical, 35,
Chapter 6 Unleashed, 43,
Chapter 7 Jaylon's Joy, 52,
Chapter 8 Revenge, 61,
Chapter 9 A Father's Love, 70,
Chapter 10 False Prophecy, 81,
Chapter 11 Test of Faith, 91,
Chapter 12 Assumptions, 101,
Chapter 13 Unrequited, 108,
Chapter 14 Reconnaissance, 114,
Chapter 15 Mind Play, 122,
Chapter 16 Translucent, 132,
Chapter 17 Leverage, 139,
Chapter 18 Paranoia, 148,
Chapter 19 Egotistic, 161,
Chapter 20 Malcontent, 173,
Chapter 21 Amada Criança, 181,
Chapter 22 Sins of the Past, 197,
Chapter 23 Redemption, 209,
Chapter 24 The Apocalypse, 224,
About the Author, 239,