Authors: J A Howell
|J A Howell|
|CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012)|
One year ago, two bullets from a .45 caliber pistol ripped away any hopes Dillan had of a future with her fiancé, Jamie. On the anniversary of Jamie's death, the appearance of his estranged twin brother, Trey, leaves Dillan wondering what other secrets her perfect fiancé was hiding. When Trey learns of his brother's death, Dillan takes pity on him and gives him a place to stay. Trey's erratic behavior and a series of suspicious phone calls lead Dillan to believe that Trey knows more about the circumstances surrounding Jamie's death than he's letting on. With all leads exhausted and Jamie's murderer still on the loose, Trey is Dillan's last hope for finding the truth. Sometimes the truth hurts... but in Dillan's case it could kill her.
A novel by
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2012 J.A. Howell
All rights reserved.
Cover design by J.A. Howell
Cover photo Courtesy of David Nanchin
Edited by Andrea Stewart
This is for you, Dad. In life, you taught me how to view the world with a sense of humor and a bit of fun. From your death, I learned that even the most painful times soon fade, but those you love always remain with you.
This is also for you, Mom. You have always let me blaze my own trail, despite neither one of us knowing where I was headed, and you were always there to give support when I needed it. Following in your footsteps has taught me to be strong through those harder times in life. And the love you have given me, has made me appreciate every single day…good or bad.
I will always and forever love you both.
First and foremost, my wonderful husband Robert. Thank you for always being supportive of my dreams. You have always been there to cheer me on and keep me going—never ever doubting me. To Andrea, working with me to edit Mistaken and giving me honest feedback and critiques. You’ve truly helped shape Mistaken into something I am proud to present to the world. Your friendship, dedication to helping me see this through, and the hours you spent pouring over my manuscript will never be forgotten. Kay, for the years you spent reading my stories after school. I never paid attention in math class because of it, but you had me writing nearly every day from middle school on through high school to keep you entertained. You truly taught me the joy of sharing my writing and helped spark my dreams of sharing with even more people. Thanks for believing in that dream and helping it grow. To Madi, thank you for staying up listening to me read parts of Mistaken to you over and over, though you and I haven’t known each other for as many years, your friendship and encouragement means the world to me. To Michele, thank you for beta-reading and getting Mike to as well. You are such an amazing and supportive friend and I’m glad we met. To Dana and Chris thanks for also being there to encourage me, inspire me and help me with ideas for Mistaken. To my family, your excitement over this venture of mine was contagious and kept me going even though the thought of finally putting my writing out there for the world to read is slightly terrifying. To my family- all of you, thank you for allowing me to be me, and encouraging me to finish this. To Ricky, Patrick, Karen, Katie, Doris, and John, thank you for your encouragement and excitement as well. You all have been wonderful cheerleaders and I am so happy that I have become a part of your family. To Hannah, thanks for the times you spent letting me vent about my writerly woes and concerns
You would make such a good therapist and are a wonderful friend. To my online and offline writer buddies, thank you all so much for your words of wisdom, encouragement, and taking the time to share your knowledge with me. To all my friends, listed here or not, thank you for inspiring me. You are the reason I keep writing.
As Jamie watched the seconds tick by on his leather wristwatch, it never occurred to him just how soon he would die. Death was the last thing on his mind that evening. He turned his attention back to the grey ring box that sat open on the white-washed wooden dresser. The ring that was enclosed inside caused glimmering shapes to dance across the walls as the single marquis-cut diamond refracted the light from the wobbly ceiling fan. He tucked a neatly written note just underneath the front of the box, a thoughtful smile pulling at the corners of his mouth as his mind wandered to his girlfriend, Dillan.
It was just after 7PM, and she would be arriving home from work within minutes. He had planned out everything meticulously. From her favorite little black dress that lay on the bed with the stiletto heels he loved to watch her in, to the dinner reservations at Porter's on Fifth for 8:30 PM. Tonight would be a night that she would always remember.
He checked himself in the mirror one last time, fixing the collar of his dark blue dress shirt, and running his fingers through his short black hair. Then, giving the bedroom one last glance, he headed into the living room. Jamie’s watch now read 7:08 PM.
At 7:12 PM, keys rattled against the front lock before Dillan's form appeared in the open doorway. She bounded into his arms as soon as she saw Jamie, her white linen dress flowing around her. Dillan’s silky auburn hair brushed his face as he caught her in his arms and kissed her. Jamie pulled her slender frame close, breathing her in as a calming lavender scent enveloped him.
“You know I love how you look in that shirt,” Dillan's giggle twinkled in his ears as she pulled away, looking him over. The color of it was such a striking contrast to his icy blue eyes. Or so she told him every time he wore it.
“I know.” He squeezed her hands, smiling at her as she leaned in, softly kissing his lips.
“What are you up to mister? Hmm?” Her hazel eyes narrowed at him with the suspicious excitement of a child on Christmas Eve.
“I thought we could go out to dinner tonight, I'm sure you had a long day at work.”
“I did, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are up to something.” Dillan tilted her head as she draped her arms over his shoulders. “You forget how hard it is to lie to me, babe.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Dill.” Jamie put on his best angelic look.
Dillan wasn’t buying it, they’d been together too long for either one to successfully lie to the other. She slowly pulled away from Jamie, crossing her arms over her chest as one eyebrow perched high on her forehead. The more inquisitive Dillan’s expression became, the harder it was to hide his amusement. He lifted her small hand to his lips and kissed the back of it gently. It wouldn’t be long now before she found the ring waiting for her in the bedroom.
“Why don't you get ready to go?” He glanced down at his watch, “I made reservations for 8:30. It's 7:15 now.” With a playfully dramatic sigh, Dillan gave up her interrogation, leaning in and kissing his lips once more before walking past him toward the hallway. Jamie turned, watching her as she sashayed away. Dillan threw him one last devious smile before disappearing down the hall. Only a few more minutes now. Everything was going as planned.
Jamie turned away from the empty hallway, and began to shut the front door. It stopped abruptly as a large fist with grimy fingernails gripped it from the other side. The door suddenly swung forward, and sent Jamie stumbling back into the living room.
“If you’re looking for money, my wallet is sitting over there.” Jamie’s voice faltered as he nodded toward the kitchen table. Jamie could hear his own pulse jumping loudly in his ears as he stared up at the tall, menacing stranger towering before him. He couldn’t disguise the anxiety he felt at the sight of this man. He quickly pulled himself up, his back bumping into one of the side tables, sending a picture frame to the floor with a crash. The man stared back at Jamie, a callous smirk playing across his leathery face and deepening the set creases around his mouth. He took a few steps into the apartment, remaining silent. The stranger’s hand reached into his worn black blazer, the light catching the handle of a gun as his fingers curled around the grip. Jamie knew he was backed into a corner and his options were limited. Maybe the stranger did just want to rob him, but that notion didn’t seem very likely.
“You mean to tell me you don't recognize one of your old friends?” His words grated harshly in Jamie’s ears.
“I’ve never seen you in my life. What do you want from me? I have money. I can give you money,” Jamie pleaded, glancing around the room. The kitchen was a few steps away. Maybe he could grab a knife. He cautiously took a step back.
“I don’t want your money. I want your life.” The stranger’s hateful dark eyes bore a sense of resentment that Jamie didn’t understand. Jamie took another step back, thinking he might be able to reach the knife set from there. He knew that there was a very slim chance that it would even matter at this point. Jamie looked back at the stranger, whose expression remained unchanged, his eyes fixed on Jamie as he slowly raised his gun. The steel barrel glinted in the light as it pointed straight at Jamie’s chest.
“There has to be some other way.” Jamie’s hand reached backwards as he tried to edge toward the kitchen counter. In the same moment, he noticed Dillan stepping into the hallway, clearly heading towards the living room. A second, chilling fear struck him as he realized that the stranger might kill her too. He couldn’t let that happen. Without another thought Jamie lunged for the butcher’s knife on the counter.
“Nice try, Alex.” The stranger smiled grimly. At that exact moment, the purpose of this man’s visit became as clear as the fear in Jamie’s eyes. He had realized who the ominous stranger was. He knew why the stranger had come to find him and as the bullets ripped through his chest, he knew his life was about to come to an abrupt end. His body lurched backward violently, absorbing the shots before collapsing against the hardwood floor. Jamie’s eyes stared up at the ceiling, widening with each breath he couldn’t take. His heart beat erratically, like the gears of a machine coming apart. The world around him seemed to be doing the same.
“Jamie!” Dillan’s voice pulled him back. She threw herself onto the floor next to him, glancing toward the doorway, only to see the back of a large figure as it exited the apartment. She didn’t understand.
Bewildered and frantic, Dillan eyed the growing pool of scarlet blood seeping out of Jamie’s chest and soaking through the deep blue fabric of his shirt. Her favorite shirt, the one that brought out his eyes. Her muscles locked as her screams remained trapped in her throat. She was paralyzed by the scene of horror spreading before her.
This can’t be real.
Gurgled coughs snapped Dillan out of her frozen state as Jamie’s chest heaved. She didn’t have the luxury of being scared. She had to help. She had to save him.
“Jamie, hang on!” Dillan’s hands pressed against the free-flowing wound as she pleaded with him. The hot liquid flooded over her fingers. Too much. He was losing too much.
“I love you,” Jamie forced a faint whisper as blood sputtered from his lips, its metallic taste invading his mouth. Each breath felt like he was breathing in razor blades, and each breath became harder to take as he choked up more and more blood. Jamie managed to look up into Dillan’s eyes, his wild gaze holding hers, full of pain and disbelief.
How was this it?
He couldn’t leave her like this. He didn’t want to, but as death’s cold hand tightened its grip on him, his world began to fade away once more. Dillan’s face…her voice… everything slowly faded as reality went out of focus.
“I love you too, Jamie! Don't leave me! Hang on!”
Jamie could barely make out her screams as the darkness wrapped around him. He wished he could grant her last request. He didn’t want to leave her. But as his watch struck 7:25 PM, the light faded from his eyes.
He was already gone.
Dillan let out a sigh as she closed her laptop, looking around her cluttered home office. It was a quarter till seven and she hadn’t finished any work. She had been lost in her own head all day, unable to focus, unable to accomplish anything productive. Her eyes fell to the sparkling diamond on her ring finger.