Psychologist Abigael Gallant fought her way back from her ex-husband’s brutal attack that killed their daughter and left her blind. Now she “reads” audio books, runs with a guide at a local track, and has a thriving practice that specializes in treating the newly disabled. The last thing she needs is another man in her life.
Enter Detective Luke McCallister, a cop forced into counseling a year after a gun blast during a meth lab takedown robbed him of his hearing. Luke is fighting hard to stay on the force, but computer work and fingerprint analysis are not what he has in mind. Initially reluctant to Abby’s therapy, Luke’s barriers tumble because Abby sees deeper into him than anyone ever cared to.
Though Luke’s lip reading is excellent, he refuses to “listen” to Abby’s warning that his romantic overture jeopardizes her professional ethics. But when break-ins and threatening computer messages escalate into a physical attack on Abby and her guide dog, Luke walks a fine line between cop, protector, and lover. Unable to deny their physical attraction, Abby and Luke tiptoe around their personal baggage and enter into a delicate relationship.
Then Abby is kidnapped. While Luke puts his life at risk to find her, Abby discovers the ghosts of her past are back to haunt her, and the man she once loved was as much of a victim as she.
The complaint still weighed on her mind, and she worked late into the evening, burying herself in current files to free her mind. Stressed and tired, she almost fell asleep at her desk. Time to call it a night.
She called for Daisy, who’d been in the back yard for the last hour. “Come on, girl.” She waited, leaning against the doorjamb. “Come, Daisy.” Abby was dead on her feet and wanted to go to bed. She whistled and cajoled, but still no Daisy.
A noise in the far corner of the yard drew her attention. She never ventured past the chairs on the patio but knew the grassed area stretched almost thirty feet deep, enclosed on three sides by a high wooden fence attached to both ends of the house. A locked gate on the right side let the yardman enter with his key. The sound persisted, now identifiable as Daisy’s whimpering. What happened? Abby felt her way along the boxwood hedges bordering the house until she came to the fence.
One foot in front of the other. Working her way around, she followed Daisy’s mewls as they grew louder.
Thirty feet to the left corner. A splinter from the fence slivered into her finger. She barely felt it as she continued along, hugging the slatted enclosure. Daisy rustled in the grass, her whines more pronounced.
Movement on the other side of the yard. Daisy expelled a warning growl and shifted in what sounded like an attempt to rise, followed by a grunt and a thud as she dropped to the ground.
“I’m coming, Daisy. I’m almost there.” Then, another sound from farther back.
“Who’s there?” Abby cocked her head to listen, but all she heard was her own heartbeat thundering in her ears. The fine hairs on Abby’s arms stood erect like sentries warning of impending danger, exactly like the day in her office building.
Footsteps in the grass advanced toward her.
She stood pinned against the fence, ears pricked to the sounds.
“Please answer me,” she said, her words no more than a whisper. “Why are you doing this? Tell me. Maybe we can solve the problem. If it’s something I’ve done…”
But what? What can I do to make it right? Is that what I should say?
Nothing she’d ever done merited this intrusion on her life. She wouldn’t beg, and she’d be damned before playing the role of victim again. She wanted to scream. But as she stood frozen, a Pompeii victim in her own yard, her vocal chords were as paralyzed as her body.
The steps in the grass came closer.
A shift in the airwaves. That indiscernible feeling someone sighted doesn’t notice but a blind person is conditioned to sense. To hear. The difference between a closed room and wide-open spaces. Whoever invaded her home came with a purpose, and he stood right in front of her. She felt his heat.
And she smelled cloves.
She wanted to push him aside and run, but who was she kidding? One thing running on a track with a guide, another on unfamiliar, uneven ground. Before she could say anything, a gloved hand reached around her throat and squeezed, trapping her words inside her. She pushed his hand away and started to scream, but he grabbed hold again, snickering under his breath. His other hand pressed hard against her mouth.
“Shhh,” her tormenter whispered. “Shhh.” The force of his body crushed her to the fence. Evil radiated from him, surrounding her like the devil’s fire. She looked straight at him, conjuring up an image of his height and the mass of his body, but not his face. Never his face. How safe he must feel knowing she saw nothing more than the blackness of night.
She tried to wriggle away, to raise her knee into his groin, but she couldn’t move, her strength no match to his. His hand tightened around her neck, cutting off her air supply. She drew a ragged breath into her lungs. Not enough to scream.
His breathing rose and fell like someone in a deep sleep whose heart beat half the rate of hers. The pungent smell of cloves made her want to gag.
She lunged at him, pushing her body off the fence with as much force as she could muster, but lack of oxygen rendered her light-headed, and her body went limp. Breathe. She was slipping away. It can’t end like this. Not like this. Breathe, Abby, breathe.
He released the pressure on her neck enough for her to suck in a breath of air.
Whispering, he said, “Shhh, or your dog is dead. Understand?”
She nodded, and he slid his hand from her mouth. She gasped another pocket of air. Then another. He stroked his fingers over the contour of her chin and neck, over her breasts, and down the front of her body. She shoved him away, shivering. He snorted.
Neither moved until he backed away, one step at a time. The fading sound of his footsteps retreating into the house.
Then nothing. She tried to cry out, but her voice came out in a raspy sob. She didn’t doubt for a second that if she screamed, Cloveman would return and kill Daisy with pleasure while she listened helplessly.
The front door opened, then slammed shut, and the night’s silence roared once more. She took a step but lost sense of her surroundings, as if she were levitating in space, her internal compass devoid its magnetic field. That hadn’t happened since the beginning, when space was a black hole, swallowing her into its emptiness. She reeled from the alien effect but regained her balance when she heard Daisy’s pitiful whine.
“Daisy, talk to me, baby. I’m here, talk to me. Tell me where you are.” Still lightheaded, she took tiny, careful steps toward her dog’s whimper, wishing she had her cane. About five feet inside the backstretch of fence, her foot touched Daisy’s body and she fell down beside her.
The hair on her dog’s neck felt warm and sticky. “Oh, my God, Daisy.” Abby patted her way to what felt like a gash on the side of Daisy’s head. “It’s all right, girl, it’s all right. I’m going inside to call the police. I’ll be right back.” She rubbed her friend’s neck, backing off, afraid of aggravating a wound she couldn’t see.
Retracing her steps along the fence, adrenaline pumping, she reached the sliding glass door. What if the door slamming was a ploy and he waited inside? But why? He could have killed her outside if he wanted to. Why didn’t he go out the way he came, through the garden gate? She couldn’t think about that now. She didn’t care. She rushed through the patio door to the phone and punched 911, explaining the situation and begging them to send someone immediately.
Polly Iyer was born on the coast of Massachusetts. After studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, she traveled to Italy, lived in Atlanta, and now resides in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina in an empty nest house with her husband and a drooling mutt named Max. Writing novels turned into her passion after careers in fashion, art, and business. Now she spends her time being quite the hermit in comfortable clothes she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing on the outside, while she devises ways for life to be complicated for her characters.
Click here for an interview with: Polly Iyer, Author of “InSight” and “Hooked”