Read As Good as Dead Online

Authors: Beverly Barton

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense

As Good as Dead (9 page)

BOOK: As Good as Dead
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"I'm sure it's what I want." Jazzy slid back her chair, stood and gathered up their empty plates, stacked them and put them in the sink at the same time Genny picked up their cups. "Do we need to go into Granny Butler's room the way we did the last time?"

"I'd prefer to do it mere. I always feel closer to Granny and her powers in her old ro-om."

Out of the corner of her eye, Genny caught a glimpse of Reve's furrowed brow, her wrinkled nose, her pursed lips. The expression of skepticism and disapproval. "Give me a couple of minutes to prepare, then you two come on up." She looked right at Reve. "I know you don't believe, but come upstairs anyway. Consider it an adventure. Or perhaps a learning experience."

"She'll become a believer," Jazzy said. "Just give her time."

Genny offered them both an understanding smile, then left them to go upstairs. The moment she entered the semidark bedroom, the scent of roses assailed her. Granny had always worn rose-scented powder, and although she'd been gone for a good many years, her scent lingered. Of course there were times, when the scent was very strong the way it was today, that Genny felt her grandmother's presence.

You 're here, aren't you? She didn't expect a reply.

Hurriedly she lit the array of white candles situated throughout the room, then pulled the curtains to darken the room completely, except for the positive light given off by the candles. After arranging two chairs at a small, antique table, she sat in one of the chairs, folded her hands in her lap and waited, her mind settling into a meditative state. Readings were not like visions. During a vision, the images were clearer, sometimes so clear it was as if she were watching them through the lens of a movie camera. But when she did a reading, she seldom received clear pictures. She usually simply felt things, sensed things and sometimes heard a voice inside her head.

While she waited for Jazzy and Reve-she knew that despite her misgivings, Reve would come-Genny concentrated, all her thoughts on the look-alike redheads. Almost immediately she sensed a deep yearning to protect the twins. Protect the babies.

Babies?

Pure white light surrounded Genny. The innocence of newborn babies. Completely vo-id of any evil. Love. Maternal love. A desire to nurture and protect.

Whoever had given birth to the twins had wanted them, loved them and believed she had to protect them. But from what? From whom?

Genny focused on Jazzy and Reve again instead of the mother, willing herself to move forward into the present and out of the past. She couldn't even be certain that it was the real past she sensed, anymore than she knew for certain it was a past that Jazzy and Reve had shared. But her instincts, which were seldom wrong, told her that the two women we-re twins and the powerful maternal love she sensed did indeed come from their birth mother.

"Are you ready for us… for me?" Jazzy asked.

Genny opened her eyes. Jazzy stood in the doorway, Reve directly behind her.

"Yes, please come in." She motioned to the chair on the opposite side of the antique table. "Sit here, Jazzy." She nodded to a rocker in the corner. "You may sit there, Reve."

Both women did as Genny had instructed. The vibrations from the sisters-the twin sisters-bombarded Genny. Jazzy was eager, hopeful, almost giddy with excitement. On the other hand, Reve was anxious, uncertain, fearful.

Genny laid her hands, palm up, on the table, closed her eyes and repeated the name "Jasmine" several times. By using that one name, she hoped her gift of sight would connect only with that one person.

"Happiness. Love. A rejoicing over good news," Genny said.

"That means the DNA tests will prove we're sisters." Jazzy sneaked a peek at Reve.

"Two who are one. Forever linked. A bond that cannot be severed." Suddenly the bright, clear light in her mind grew dim, darkened. Gray shadows filled Genny's consciousness. She tried to will the negative thoughts away, but they persisted. Grew stronger.

"Fear. Fear of discovery. Anger."

"Who's afraid of being discovered?" Jazzy asked. "Is it Aunt Sally? Has she been lying to me all my life?"

"No, I don't believe it's Sally."

"Then who?"

The gray mist within Genny's mind turned black. Black swirls of malevolence. "I sense a strong combination of love and hatred, of desire and rage." Genny tried to see who emitted such powerful emotions, but she could not pin them down, couldn't even discern if the person was male or female. But she did know-without a doubt-that these disturbing feelings were connected with Jazzy. And with Reve. The twins. "There's danger. Great danger."

"Stop. Please, stop. Don't do this." Reve jumped up from the rocking chair.

"Who's in danger?" Jazzy asked. "Reve and me?"

"Yes, both of you. But-Oh, God! Jazzy, I sense the greatest danger for you." Genny gasped, then slumped over, her head dropping to the table, cushioned by her cupped hands.

CHAPTER 6

He stood alone in the shadows of autumn twilight, the sky overcast with gold, and thought about Dinah. In the beginning, after she'd gone away that first time, it had been years before she came back to him. Years he'd been able to live in relative peace. And then she had reappeared unexpectedly, still as beautiful and alluring as ever. He had stupidly thought they had been given a second chance to be together and that this time she would really love him. She had pretended not to know him, but he'd understood that she was simply playing a game. Being the whore she was, she'd made him pay her for her favors.

He'd paid her handsomely those first few times, but unfortunately found the sex less than satisfactory. That was when he came to understand what he had to do. Only by repeating the past could he achieve the fulfillment he craved, the pleasure only Dinah could give him. So they had played out the same scenario that time and then again and again with every return visit, both of them acting out their parts from memory.

After half a dozen recurrences, he had considered keeping a diary, marking down the dates and places But he'd thought better of the idea, and the only record he kept was in his head. If anyone had ever accidently come across such a diary, they might not have understood. The police wouldn't understand. They would think he had killed numerous women-over twenty in all-when he'd actually killed only one woman. Dinah. The authorities wouldn't care that he'd been justified in killing her. They wouldn't believe that it really hadn't been murder. No one would understand that he had to keep killing her over and over again because she wouldn't stay dead.

For the past few hours, he had been unable to get Becky Olmstead out of his mind, despite his best efforts to forget her. He always went with his heart in these matters, because his heart always knew when the woman he desired was Dinah. But allowing his mind to rule his emotions when it came to protecting himself was what had kept him safe all these years. No one had ever connected him with any of the bodies found in the river.

Thankfully, Dinah had never come back to him in Cherokee Pointe, and he'd never sought her out in his home area. But he feared that things had changed, that Dinah had chosen to tempt him beyond all reason in his own backyard. He had hoped Becky wouldn't turn out to be Dinah, but he was beginning to believe she was. Dared he risk going to her and confronting her?

What choice did he have? Once Dinah came back to him, she wouldn't leave him alone. What he didn't understand was why she'd returned so quickly, only a matter of days since they'd last been together.

Soon-very soon-he would have to seek Becky out. Once he'd fucked her, he'd know for sure whether or not she was Dinah.

Reba Upton parked her black Mercedes at the back of the mountaintop chalet so that anyone who happened to drive past wouldn't see it. As nervous butterflies jittered in her stomach, she flipped down the sun visor and inspected her face in the mirror. She had taken special care with her hair and makeup and had worn her pink cashmere sweater set with a pair of winter white slacks. He'd told her she looked especially lovely in pink.

She'd been wearing a pink silk bed jacket the first time he'd visited her in the hospital while she was recovering from her heart attack this past spring. That visit had been the beginning for them. Odd that she had known him for years, had been friends of a sort with his late wife, and yet she'd never thought of him as more than an acquaintance. In all the years Jim and she had been married, she hadn't looked at another man, despite knowing Jim cheated on her frequently. She'd been so in love with her husband, so totally, devotedly in love.

Reba opened the door and got out of the car, then glanced at her wristwatch. She was early. But once Jim had left the house, supposedly to go to the club to have dinner with some of his political cronies, she'd been so eager that she'd dressed and left less than half an hour after he had. She suspected he wasn't going to the country club. In fact, she was ninety-nine percent sure he was driving straight to Erin Mercer's cabin, straight into the arms of his latest mistress.

But Erin wasn't just another in a long line of women her husband had bedded. No, she was different and the way Jim felt about her wasn't just lust. He was in love with this woman. He loved Erin as he had never loved her, his wife of over fifty years. She suspected that Erin was the first and only woman he'd truly loved since he'd been a very young man and mad about Melva Mae. She supposed that was why, when Dodd Keefer had begun showing an interest in her, she hadn't rejected his advances. Oh, there had been nothing more than friendship between them at first, all during the spring and summer. He had co-me to the house several times on this or that pretense, and she'd shown up in various places she'd known he would be. After losing her grandson Jamie, she had desperately needed comfort. Although Jim and she had tried to offer each other comfort, they had both needed

more. Jim had soon turned back to Erin, and once again she'd been alone. So alone.

Then right after Labor Day, Dodd had made a confession that prompted her to search her heart.

"I find that I'm falling in love with you, Reba," he'd said.

She'd stared at him, surprised by his admission, but strangely, giddily happy. "I'm flattered, Dodd, really I am," she'd told him. "But surely you've mistaken a deep liking for love. After all, I'm several years older than you and I-I am a married woman. Besides, a man like you could have his pick of women."

"I've picked you." He had caressed her face tenderly. "I've admired you from afar for many years and when you almost died, I promised myself that I would go to you and-"

"Don't say anything else. Please."

She had tried to stay away from him, tried to concentrate on the joy of having a new grandson in her life, tried to remain faithful to her unfaithful husband. During the past six weeks, whenever Dodd had called her, she'd put him off, telling him she wasn't ready for an affair. But a few days ago, she realized that her feelings for Dodd Keefer were stronger than her will to resist infidelity. She wasn't quite sure when it had happened or how, but she had fallen out of love with Jim and in love with Dodd.

Reba owned a rustic chateau high in the mountains. This had been a place where her son, Jim, Jr., and his young friends used to come to let off steam, and then later on he and his wife had used it for weekend getaways. After their deaths, Reba had thought about selling it, but instead she'd handed it over to a Realtor to lease as a rental property. Then this past summer, when she'd been recuperating, she'd hired a contractor to update and re-model the A-frame mountain house. They had finished up a few days ago, so the place hadn't been rented again.

After fishing the key from her purse, Reba climbed the wooden steps to the front entrance, unlocked the door, opened it and walked into the two-story great room. A shiver of uncertainty mixed with a large dose of anticipation rippled up her spine. Could she do this? Could she really follow through with her plans for an intimate tryst with Dodd? She hadn't been with a man in years. Knowing about all of Jim's affairs, she had finally reached a point where she couldn't bear for him to touch her and had requested they have separate bedrooms. What if when Dodd made love to her, she couldn't respond? What if she couldn't feel anything sexual? After all, she was past seventy and those fiery hormones of youth had long ago died down. What she didn't know was if her sexual desire was now cold ashes or simply dying embers waiting to be stoked back to life.

The room was cold. She felt the chill even through her white wool coat. Originally there had been a wood-burning fireplace in the chateau, but ten years ago, on her Realtor's advice, she'd had it converted to propane gas. A fire would add a touch of romance. If she'd had more time to prepare, she'd have brought candles and champagne. Maybe next time.

If there was a next time.

Nervously, Reba shed her coat, tossed it onto a plaid armchair and quickly reset the thermostat on the heating unit and turned on the gas logs in the fireplace. Glancing around, she decided that if she was going to spend any time here in the future, she needed to make some changes. The decor was much too rustic country to suit her tastes, but tourists who rented the cabins and chateaus in the mountains often preferred this old-timey look-at least that's what the Knoxville decorator she'd hired had told her.

Going through the selection of CDs stacked beside the entertainment center, she found that it was comprised of mostly older country hits. She didn't care much for country music and doubted seriously if Dodd did. As she continued perusing the stack, her gaze stopped on one particular CD that stood out from the rest. The Romantic Piano. She removed it from the stack, opened it and inserted it in the player. When she heard the soft, sweet strains of Schuman's "Dreaming," she sighed.

Only moments after she relaxed on the sofa, she heard a car outside. Her heartbeat ac-celerated. Forcing herself not to jump up and run to the door, she rose from the sofa and walked slowly toward the entrance. By the time she reached the door, she heard footsteps on the porch. She took a deep breath and opened the door.

BOOK: As Good as Dead
13.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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