Authors: Scarlett Finn
‘I’m a woman before I’m a doctor, Colt, and I’ve been physically attracted to you since I first saw you. There’s an air about you that hypnotises me.’
‘Are you always this honest?’
‘I try to be,’ she said. ‘You can’t ask for honesty if you’re not willing to give it.’ Working her hand gently, she began to massage him through the denim. ‘I was personally curious, I wanted to know if I had any effect on you.’ Withdrawing her hand, she was ready to move away, but he snatched her wrist and pressed her against him again, pushing his hips up in the process.
‘No one told you to stop,’ he murmured and on her commencing to massage again, his own hand moved to her hip and up to the curve of her bare waist.
Take A Risk
Copyright © 2015 Scarlett Finn
The right of Scarlett Finn to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
First published in 2015
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
To Aubrey C,
The story of life is not always just.
Your story was cut short when you still had so much to say.
You’ve taught us to listen to the words of the ones we love, as we never know when they’ll be torn from our side.
Thank you, Bright Angel, for teaching us to appreciate the gift of friendship and family.
For you, we will keep listening and never forget.
Ah, my April, what would I do without you? There is no one but you to thank for this one. As always, you have toiled through with me and been there for every stage of this adventure.
I know that at times things are tough, and at times I am tough to take. But you are always there to share with me the times which are good, and those which are not so good. You underestimate the impact you have had on my life and on my career, even when belief fades you are there to brighten it again.
I thank your hubby and your Hobbes for all the time they sacrifice with you, so that you can cheer me on. Long may all of our adventures continue.
‘Without evidence that this person intends to do you harm, Doctor Cutler, there’s just nothing we can do.’
Officer Ronson had been pleasant enough. Lyssa sat on one side of the bare desk with her best friend, Suzette Blossom, clutching her hand. Ronson and his young partner, Miguel Chavez, were probably sick of the sight of her. She’d been in this station half a dozen times over the course of the last four months and every time it was at the prompting of Suzette. Lyssa didn’t see any point in reporting each incident, certainly not anymore.
‘This is ridiculous,’ Suzette said. ‘She’s being terrorised.’
‘With all due respect Miss. Blossom, flowers being placed on someone’s back stairs doesn’t rank highly as being indicative of imminent harm.’
The officer was doing his job, and he had a point, but it was more than that. ‘What about the phone calls?’ Lyssa asked.
‘You said it had been a couple of weeks since he called,’ Ronson said.
‘Maybe your secret admirer isn’t as amorous as you fear.’
‘He prowls around outside her house,’ Suzette exclaimed, flattening her hands on the table.
Lyssa soothed her friend with a hand to her shoulder. ‘It is disconcerting to know that someone is in my yard.’
‘In the times you’ve called the police out to your home no one has been found on your property,’ Ronson said, consulting the file in front of him. ‘The same as the suspicious cars you and your friend have reported.’
‘You think I’m crazy,’ Lyssa muttered.
‘She’s a god damn psychiatrist! If she was crazy she’d be the first one to recognise the symptoms,’ Suzette said. ‘You people are supposed to protect the innocent.’
‘Keep filling out your diary,’ Ronson said, pushing Lyssa’s black notebook back to her. ‘And if you’re threatened or attacked then please call nine-one-one.’
‘What use is that after she’s been attacked?’ Suzette asked.
Her best friend was fiercely protective and saw how close to the end of her wick she had become, but flipping out wouldn’t get them anywhere. Lyssa took her purse from the floor and slid the strap up her arm as she stood up. The policemen stood up too and Lyssa had to take Suzette’s hand to bring her to her feet.
‘Thank you for your time,’ Lyssa said, picking up the notebook and tucking it into her purse with one hand. ‘We’d appreciate you leaving a note in the file that we reported this.’
‘Sure thing,’ Ronson said, smiling for the first time, no doubt because these women taking up his time were leaving.
Chavez opened the door for them and she took a silently seething Suzette through the precinct and out onto the sidewalk where the sun was beating down. Their car was parked around the block and to get her friend out of the sun and away from curious eyes, Lyssa cut down the alley at the side of the police building.
‘We should report those guys,’ Suzette grumbled.
‘Wait until we’re in the car before you lose it, Suzie,’ Lyssa said. ‘We’ll go somewhere nice for lunch.’ To calm her down a little, not that Lyssa would say that out loud, Suzie had a short fuse at the best of times.
The voice from behind them made both women turn, still hand in hand. Miguel Chavez came out of a side doorway from the police station into the alleyway, alone. He took the time to look up and down the alley before he approached them.
‘Come to belittle us some more, have you?’ Suzette sniped.
‘Ronson is old school,’ Chavez said. ‘He thinks stalking is a new fad.’
‘And you don’t?’ Lyssa asked.
‘I know… something about it.’
‘Like that you’re not going to get very far here until you’re hospitalised or dead, short of coming up with concrete evidence that this lunatic is on your tail.’
It was nice to be believed if nothing else. ‘So you’re here to tell me to stop wasting my time and yours?’ Lyssa asked. ‘Forgive me, but if I don’t report the prowler’s actions then he’s getting away with it. What else am I supposed to do?’
‘Visit someone who can help,’ Chavez said and handed her a business card. Black cardboard with curly red writing on it listed the address of a nightclub called “Risqué”. If the outline of the woman draped along the side of the card was anything to go by, it was a strip joint.
‘A stripper?’ Suzette asked. ‘You want us to go to a stripper?’
‘No,’ Chavez said, moving in closer and lowering his voice. ‘Go there tomorrow night, eleven PM, ask at the bar for Trapper.’
‘Trapper?’ Lyssa said.
‘Trust me; he’ll be able to help. Though if anyone asks where you got this information don’t use my name.’
‘Why not?’ Suzette asked. ‘Is he a superhero? A mercenary? Or a sniper, who will take this guy out with one shot? Pow!’
Lyssa tried not to laugh at her friend, and gave her hand a squeeze to settle her. ‘I don’t want to be the cause of anyone getting hurt.’
‘Trapper’s not security,’ Chavez said. ‘But he will solve your problem.’
‘How will he do that?’
Chavez walked backward toward the door and then disappeared inside, leaving Lyssa and Suzette staring down at the business card.
‘What do you think?’ Lyssa asked.
‘Is it too early for a drink?’ Suzette asked.
Taking her friend’s lead, they went back to the car and drove to their favourite restaurant only a block from the hospital Suzette worked at with her fiancé. Once they’d ordered and received their drinks Lyssa took the card from her pocket and placed it on the table.
‘Is he setting us up?’ Lyssa asked.
‘I don’t know. But I don’t like the clandestine theatrics.’
‘He’s a cop,’ Suzette said. ‘He’s probably got all sorts of contacts. If this Trapper guy can help then he’s worth checking out.’
‘Are we there yet? I mean, are we really that desperate?’
‘You’re a prisoner in your own home. I want Lyssa back, my Lyssa, the real Lyssa, the Lyssa who wouldn’t think twice about wandering the streets at three AM. The Lyssa who would face off with bikers and boxers, who convinced an abusive husband to turn himself into the cops and be honest about his despicable deeds. Where is the Lyssa whose greatest aspiration was to write self-help books for us poor women clueless about the male mind?’
Lyssa smiled. ‘I haven’t given up on that.’
‘No? You walked away from your marriage because your husband wouldn’t support that dream.’
‘Archie didn’t like to see me taking what he perceived as risks,’ Lyssa said. ‘He didn’t have confidence that I knew what I was doing.’
‘Observing men in their natural habitat used to inspire you and when was the last time you went on one of your crazy crusades?’
‘Studying male sexual behaviour can be done at any time. I suppose I haven’t been motivated recently.’
‘Because you think a stalker is watching your every move,’ Suzette said, leaning back to let the server place their salads in front of them and disappear again. She leaned forward and took Lyssa’s hand. ‘I don’t blame you. It must be terrifying to know some nut is obsessed with you. But you’ve put your life on hold for him.’
‘I do find myself… concerned. But he’s hardly a stalker, maybe he is just an admirer and doesn’t mean any harm.’
‘After your divorce from Archie you bought that beautiful townhouse in the city and set up your practice. You promised me that taking on patients was a stopgap to help you pay the bills while you wrote your books. Writing was always your passion, the only reason you went to medical school was to appease your father.’
‘That’s not entirely true,’ Lyssa said, used to hearing her friend’s rhetoric.
Her parents had scrimped and saved all of their lives and expected their only child to use her intelligence wisely. Watching her graduate had been their greatest achievement. Though their happiest day was probably watching her marry the rich plastic surgeon… shame that hadn’t lasted. Telling them that her marriage was over had been the hardest day of her own life.
Her intention had always been to study the mind, psychology fascinated her, and she’d chosen to specialise in sexual dysfunction. Since then she’d never looked back. Her main focus was male patients, but she worked with females and couples too. In her practice she had a variety of patients ranging from those with simple marital issues, to victims of sexual abuse and assault.
‘I want you to write your books,’ Suzette said. ‘Get inspired, throw yourself into an assignment, study your subjects up close, undercover, just like you used to.’
Lyssa wanted it to be that simple, but with this admirer on her tail she found herself more aware of her own movements, and her own vulnerability. ‘I’m still writing and rewriting previous findings.’
‘But not studying anyone new, or putting yourself in any new and exciting environments,’ Suzette said. ‘You’re not going to do that until we get rid of this guy. I know you, Lyssa. You have to move on from this and find yourself again.’
The only way that Lyssa could move forward was to free herself from the scrutiny of her the person obsessed with her. But going to a stranger and asking for help didn’t sit well with her. Lyssa liked to know that she was making a difference in steering her destiny. Playing the hapless or helpless victim wasn’t in her nature, and it was frustrating that this stalker had reduced her to that.
‘Ok,’ she said to Suzette. ‘I’ll think about it.’
For now that would have to do, because she liked to be absolutely sure before making a decision. Once she committed Lyssa had a habit of jumping in at the deep end. This opportunity wouldn’t be far from her mind between now and rendezvous time Chavez had indicated, and she had a whole day of patients to get through tomorrow.
All night she considered what had happened that day with the flowers being left, and then Chavez’s recommendation. Until a few months ago the fact that she didn’t watch television had never bothered Lyssa. Between med school and marriage she’d never had the time to sit down and absorb the banality of the latest sitcom. But now she regretted never picking up the habit, because without background noise it was eerily quiet.
Sitting alone in the living room of the narrow townhouse, which was situated on the first floor, she read the latest instalment of her favourite fiction series under the light of a single floor lamp. Her concentration was broken when she heard a snap outside. Although the front of her property was situated on the sidewalk, and most of the noise was ambient, she was aware of every sound and passing light.
Her favourite place to read was in the window seat of her bedroom. Sometimes she’d see wildlife in her yard or in the trees near her rear property line, which bordered a city dog park. But Lyssa had given up on reading in that location because the shadows out back convinced her she could see things that weren’t there. Given her profession she knew how to identify delusions and paranoid behaviour, but her education couldn’t help her now. She kept expecting to see the prowler in action, leaving the roses on her back stairs, but she never had.
In all the time she’d been in this house, since her divorce two years ago, she’d grown to love it more and more. And until the flowers and phone calls started, she’d always been happy here. The flowers had been a surprise at first, the calls became unnerving, and then all of her admirer’s actions had stopped, only to start again the following week. On that occasion there had been a note with the flowers, which simply said, “I see you”.
The harassment escalated in frequency, then stopped again before it returned. No pattern had been established and whoever it was had no obvious goal, except to fixate on her, to scare and confuse her. Being helpless wasn’t something Lyssa liked and she’d fought all of her life to hold onto her confidence and maintain control of her own experience while others tried to take it away. But she had a sense that this predator wanted to take that control from her.
‘I’m telling you, honestly, Doctor Cutler, I’m so horny that purple statue thing over there is looking hot to me right now.’
The steel statue was fashioned like a single teardrop flame with a similar shaped hole near the bulge in the base. For a moment, both Lyssa and her patient focused on the statue, displayed on a side dresser in her ground floor office, before she replied.
‘Let’s keep this in perspective,’ she said. ‘Your wife is still accommodating you. You said that you had sex twice last week and three times the week before.’
‘Yeah, but you don’t understand.’ Her fidgety patient ran a hand through his hair. ‘When we got together we were at it all the time, constantly, now it’s like no big deal to her.’
‘You got together when you were eighteen,’ she said. ‘You’ve been together for twenty years and had three children. Relationships develop over time, they progress. We can’t expect things to always remain the same. You’ve been doing well using the suggestions I’ve made so far to entice Harriet.’
‘The thing is, there’s this girl at work and man, oh, man. She’s calling to me. We had lunch the other day and my leg brushed hers under the table. I had a boner the rest of the day.’