Someone was watching Chloe Davidson
She had the unsettling feeling the stalker was waiting to strike. But who could it be? After a heartbreaking tragedy, Chloe had relocated to sleepy, safe Lakeview, Virginia, where she'd spent idyllic summers as a child. Where handsome minister Ben Avery had welcomed her and helped her believe in more than she'd ever thought possible. Yet her fear had followed her. Chloe kept seeing a stranger lurking in the shadows. And her things were going missing. Was it just her fragile imagination? Or was a sinister somebody much closer than she ever expected?
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November 05, 2007
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Excerpt from Stranger in the Shadows by Shirlee McCoy
It came in the night, whispering into her dreams. Silent stars, hazy moonlight, a winding road. Sudden, blinding light.
Rolling, tumbling, terror. And then silence.
Smoke danced at the edges of memory as flames writhed serpentlike through cracked glass and crumbled metal, hissing and whirling in the timeless dance of death.
Adam! She reached for his hand, wanting to pull him from the car and from the dream--whole and alive. Safe. But her questing hand met empty space and hot flame, her body flinching with the pain and the horror of it.
Sirens blared in the distance, their throbbing pulse a heartbeat ebbing and flowing with the growing flames. She turned toward the door, trying to push aside hot, bent metal, and saw a shadow beyond the shattered glass; a dark figure leaning toward the window, staring in. Dark eyes that seemed to glow in the growing flames.
Help me! She tried to scream the words, but they caught in her throat. And the shadow remained still and silent, watching as the car burned and she burned with it.
* * *
The shrill ring of an alarm clock sounded over the roar of flames, spearing into Chloe Davidson's consciousness and pulling her from the nightmare. For a moment there was nothing but the dream. No past. No present. No truth except hot flames and searing pain. But the flames weren't real, the pain a fading memory. Reality was...what?
Chloe scrambled to anchor herself in the present before she fell back into the foggy world of unknowns she'd lived in during the weeks following the accident.
"Saturday. Lakeview, Virginia. The Morran wedding. Flowers. Decorations." She listed each item as it came to mind, grabbing towels from the tiny closet beside the bathroom door, pulling clothes from her dresser. Black pants. Pink shirt. Blooming Baskets' uniform. Her new job. Her new life. A normality she still didn't quite believe in.
The phone rang before she could get in the shower, the muted sound drawing her from the well-lit bedroom and into the dark living room beyond.
"Hello?" She pressed the receiver to her ear as she flicked on lamps and the overhead light, her heart still racing, her throbbing leg an insistent reminder of the nightmare she'd survived.
"Chloe. Opal, here."
At the sound of her friend and boss's voice, Chloe relaxed, leaning her hip against the sofa and forcing the dream and the memories to the back of her mind. "You've only been gone a day and you're already checking in?"
"Checking in? I wasn't planning to do that until tonight. This is business. We've got a problem. Jenna's gone into labor."
Opal's only other full-time employee, Jenna Monroe, was eight months pregnant and glowing with it. At least she had been when Chloe had seen her the previous day. "She's not due for another four weeks."
"Maybe not, but the baby has decided to make an appearance. You're going to have to handle the setup for the Morran wedding on your own until I can get there."
"I'll call Mary Alice--"
"Mary Alice is going to have to stay at the store. We can't afford to close for the day and between the two of you, she's the better floral designer."
"It doesn't take much to be better than me." Chloe's dry comment fell on deaf ears, Opal's voice continuing on, giving directions and listing jobs that needed to be done before the wedding guests arrived at the church.
"So, that's it. Any questions?"
"No. But you do realize I've only been working at Blooming Baskets for five days, right?"
"Are you saying you can't do this?"
"I'm saying I'll try, but I can't guarantee the results."
"No need to guarantee anything. I've already left Baltimore. I'll be in Lakeview at least an hour before the wedding. We'll finish the job together."
"If I haven't ruined everything by then."
"What's to ruin? We're talking flowers, ribbons and bows." Opal paused, and Chloe could imagine her raking a hand through salt and pepper curls, her strong face set in an impatient frown. "Look, I have faith in your ability to handle this. Why don't you try to have some, too?"
The phone clicked as Opal disconnected, and Chloe set the receiver down.
Faith? Maybe she'd had it once--in herself and her abilities, in those she cared about. But that was before the accident, before Adam's death. Before his betrayal. Before everything had changed.
Now she wasn't even sure she knew what the word meant. It didn't take long to shower and change, to grab her keys and make her way out of her one-bedroom apartment and into the dark hallway of the aging Victorian she lived in.