Hey guys. HAPPY MONDAY! I’m feeling generous today. Check out a sneak peak of the first chapter of the 3rd book in the LIKE A DREAM SERIES
Howling winds brush against Amelia’s window, taunting Aaron. He would give anything to get a whiff of the two a.m. breeze instead of being trapped in a room, inhaling the same suffocating stale air as Leona. Sweat emanates from his pores and clings to his clothes. Leona, livid, shifts her glare from Aaron to Amelia before she finally steps back and leaves the room.
Aaron’s eyes remain glued to the door until he is certain Leona is down the hall; then, he goes into the bathroom and splashes cold water on his face. He looks into the mirror—his reflection stares back at him, and he seriously considers punching it in the face. At that moment, he understands his own fury and realizes he was about to kill Leona with his bare hands. That realization changes everything.
He goes back to bed and holds Amelia in his arms until she falls asleep. Then he eases out of bed, takes his phone out of his pocket, quietly strolls out onto her back porch, and makes a call.
“What time is it? Are you alright son?” Mason asks through a yawn.
“It’s pretty late, Dad. But I wanted to let you know that I’ll be at Amelia’s for a while, maybe even a few days. I’m really worried about her, and I have to make sure she’s safe.”
“Safe? Safe from what? I’m worried about you, Aaron. Just hours ago, you lost your mother—I think you should be with your family.”
“I’m fine. If I need anything I’ll call, but just give me a couple of days,” Aaron whispers.
“I don’t know what’s going on with Amelia, but I know you guys are hiding something. Is there anything I need to know?”
Aaron bangs his head against his fist and responds, “No. I’ll talk to you soon, Dad, I love you.”
“Alright…I guess. I love you too, son. Goodnight.”
Aaron hangs up abruptly and paces back and forth. He wants to break something—anything. He hates lying almost as much as he hates Leona. He knows his dad can never know what is really going on here. If he did, Aaron would be forbidden to step foot anywhere near Amelia, and that can never happen. He moves from the porch to their favorite tree. Fallen leaves dance through the air as the cool breeze awakens the backyard. Every event that has come to pass since the first time he saw her face races through his mind like a fast-forwarded movie. Her piercing blue eyes have so much life, even though they’re hiding the most horrific secrets.
She has suffered so much, he considers. Broken bones, contusions, and bruises—and that’s just the physical part. “What have I done,” he whispers as tears pool his eyes. I should’ve trusted my gut instead of placating her. Feeling physically ill and ashamed of himself, he pulls his phone back out of his pocket, hoping to be the one to end this for good. He knows he can’t let this go on any longer and refuses to see another bruise on Amelia’s beautiful body.
He whirls around just as a dark figure lunges for him. They tussle in the grass, rolling and punching until Aaron victoriously straddles the masked stranger and grabs a large rock. He grits his teeth and raises his weapon in the air. Suddenly, a sharp prick stabs his arm. He pauses. His sense of smell disappears. The rock slips from his fingers. Plunk! He helplessly falls on his back and stares at the dark, starry sky until it slowly fades to away.
The corners of Leona’s mouth lift into a smile. Mason hands her a cup of black coffee. She lightly blows the steam and sips slowly. Mason clasps his hands together and rests his elbows on the mahogany table.
“I can’t express how sorry I am for your loss. Gisel was an amazing woman,” Leona says and takes another sip.
His lips form a hard line, and he rubs his bloodshot eyes. Leona notices the purple, puffy bags beneath and realizes he hasn’t slept much, if at all. The only time she’s ever felt remotely close to what he must feel was when her father died. She remembers that day as if it was hours ago. She will never forget how empty she felt inside. She was aware of the puffiness and soreness of her own eyes. She understands how grief can transform the most beautiful person into a washed up entity within minutes; as if pain is something to be worn.
“Thank you. I appreciate you coming by this morning,” Mason utters.
“Amelia informed me last night, and I must say, my heart sank when I heard the news. Losing a spouse is never easy. I wish I could say it’ll get easier, but it never does. You just learn to live with it.” She takes another sip of coffee and peers down at her watch.
“Well, not to be insensitive—I never wanted to be a part of this club. I suppose nobody wants to be, but I always assumed that I would be the one to go first since Gisel was a few years younger than me,” Mason says. He wipes away a tear and looks over his shoulder. “You know, I still expect her to come walking out of the room. I can practically hear her fussing at me for putting too much sugar in my coffee…and this is just day one.” He brings a tissue to his nose and rubs it red.
Leona pats his hand. “You’ll be okay, Mason. Just take it one day at a time. If there ever was a time for you to be vulnerable, this is it.” She checks the time again and slowly rises from her chair. “Just let me know if there’s anything you need.”
“Actually there is. I got a call from Aaron late last night, and I would appreciate it if you would look after him for me. He claims to be fine, but I know he’s hurting. He and Gisel had this unbreakable bond. It angers me that he’s trying to be tough when I know he must feel lost. Nonetheless, he wants to be with Amelia, and I know she’s good for him. I hope it’s okay that he’s there.”
Leona grimaces and then smiles. “Of course it’s okay. Aaron is no trouble at all. I’ll take good care of him. Don’t worry about anything.”
“Thank you,” he says. He straightens and walks her out. She hugs him goodbye and rushes to her car. She pulls out her phone and sends a text message.
Mason turns to walk back inside, but not before blowing a kiss into the bright sky. “Rest in Heaven, honey,” he whispers.
While still puffing from a bastard of a run, Brady opens the door to his apartment and reluctantly walks in. He leans against the door and wonders just how long he’s going to have to keep up this persona. Some days are easier than others, but today feels off, and regardless of the run, he finds it hard to breathe. His line of work has always been demanding; some jobs last a few months while others may last a year. But this particular assignment vexes him. If he could crawl out of his skin, he would: that’s what bothers him the most. He takes a bottle of water from his fridge and swigs half of it in one gulp.
Being a cop was insufferable most days. He’d threatened to quit numerous times – more than he could count – every time another criminal went free. But it was all part of the job, and eventually he grew a thick skin. He’d come to accept that the justice system was warped and all he could do was his job as best he could. He’d learned the hard way that some things were just beyond his control, which is what got him through for thirty years. When he decided to retire and become a private investigator, he knew he’d found his true calling. This job satisfied the phantom itch in his life that he needed to scratch. He was so effective that he single-handily turned countless criminals over to the police. He presented them with so much evidence it was virtually impossible that the culprits were ever getting out of jail. He took pride in his success—until now.
After a year on the case, he is losing faith in himself and is frustrated that he doesn’t have what he needs to put Leona behind bars—no body, no witnesses, and no real evidence, which means no case. Navid is his only hope, but he has disappeared. If I can’t get a hold of the one person who can put Leona away, then this is a lost cause, he laments. Still, he is not ready to give up; he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if she is allowed to live out the rest of her days as a free woman. The extensive amount of time he has spent with her has only heightened his longing for justice.
His phone rings. He cringes when he sees who’s calling, but answers it anyway.
“Brady, please tell me you’ve got something,” the woman says.
He leans against the edge of the kitchen table and takes a deep breath. “Ramona, if I had anything to share I would’ve called you.”
“That witch killed my brother, Brady!
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