Split Decisions - Read the First two Chapters

Sometimes you want something so badly you are willing to abandon everything you've ever known--including yourself. 

Disclaimer: For those of you who have read She Belongs to Me, there’s a spin-off to the romantic-suspense bestseller. Though there aren’t any spoilers in this excerpt, you can bypass and read more about it here

Also, if you’ve read my books, you know that I deal with a lot of real-life scenarios, some of which we don’t like, but they still exist. I do not, however, go into any graphic detail; I simply attempt for the reader to feel the character’s thoughts—good and bad. That said, welcome to the first peek of Split Decisions.


Jaynee awoke with a start, salty tears streaming down her cheeks, burning her already chapped lips. She attempted to swallow, but didn’t have enough saliva to moisten her mouth. It’d just been a nightmare. The nightmare she used to have nightly after her father committed suicide. Though, she hadn’t had it in years. Not since Jordan had taken her away from her previous life, providing a stable home, love, and strong arms to shield her from the demons that haunted her.
Unfortunately, Jordan wasn’t here, and her surroundings were all too real. Pinpricks of sunlight streaked through the corners of the shaded windows, illuminating the dust motes dancing in the air.
The room was still dark in most spots, but she could almost make out her surroundings. It looked like a cabin of some sort. The walls were a dingy off-white or possibly just stained from years of exposure, but the ceiling and trim were dark wood along with the slatted floors. A musty scent permeated the area, irritating her sinuses, but she couldn’t even scratch her nose.
Cuffs still secured her to the four bedposts. What kind of sicko would do such a thing? Her arms and legs ached from the position they’d been in all night, and she had to go to the bathroom something awful.
When she opened her mouth to speak, nothing but a croak escaped, leaving a trail of lava in her parched throat. “Hel-lo?” Though her voice had cracked, she attempted to sound friendly. Screaming or sobbing wouldn’t do any good. Not that she had the strength or vocal cords anyway.
She wasn’t in the city; only the country would be as dark as it’d been last night when her assailant brought her here. Even if she screamed her head off, no one would hear. “Please,” she tried again. “I really have to use the bathroom.”
The door opened finally, the hinges protesting in a lengthy screech, begging for oil. Her captor entered the room still wearing a black ski mask, gloved, and the same dark jeans and thick overcoat he’d had on the previous evening. He wasn’t too tall or heavy. If given the chance, she could probably take him. Jordan had taught her a few things. But as long as he had the gun trained on her, she’d have to be submissive.
His gauntleted hand unlocked just one of her wrists. Then placing the key in her hand, he stepped back. Obviously she was to unlock her other restraints. She didn’t waste any time. She unlatched her left hand, then both of her ankles. After rubbing them to increase circulation, she jumped out of the bed on the opposite side of her detainer. He motioned with the gun that she should move to the door on the far side of the room. She did as instructed, opening the door to a small bathroom with just a sink and toilet. No window. She quickly relieved herself. It felt incredible; she’d actually been in pain.
When finished, she opened the medicine cabinet and cubbyhole under the sink, finding nothing usable as a weapon. Both rooms were completely barren, stripped of everything. The abduction had not been a coincidence, but premeditated.

Chapter 1

Three Weeks Earlier

Jaynee’s alarm squawked its annoying morning greeting as she awoke with the thought, I am thirty-nine and I love my life, I love my life, I love my life.
Crawling out of bed, she repeated the mantra. What’s not to love? I am married to a wonderful husband, I have four beautiful children, and I have published six bestsellers. What’s not to love?
And yet, as she padded her way to the master bath at five a.m., her heart felt heavy. She refused to accept the word that best described her disposition. She couldn’t be the “D” wordshe couldn’t be depressed. Maybe depressed wasn’t the right word, melancholy, that sounded better.
There was a time when she didn’t wake before noon, years ago when she had to work until two in the morning. Not that her previous life was better, it wasn’t. She’d made numerous terrible decisions in her youth. Only one choice was an excellent decision: marrying her husband. Her life had been a whirlwind of afflictions, tragedies, and disappointments up to the point of him walking into her life.
Four days was all it had taken her to fall head over heels in love. Jordan had said it was the Thunderbolt, and she’d felt it, too. When he’d asked her to marry him in less than a week, she struggled with the correct decision, certain he would hurt her as everyone else had done in her life. But in the end, she’d made the right decision. Trusting in Jordan had been the smartest thing she’d ever done; he had never hurt her. That had been almost eighteen years ago, but now she was turning forty in less than a month.
Forty. Yikes! That was part of her problem. It wasn’t old for a man, but she felt ancient. She was now older than her mother had been at her wedding, she thought wryly. The faded cream-colored dress trimmed with lace that her mother had worn that day had been outdated and old-fashioned. Deep worry lines had etched her perfect, always stage-ready face, making her mother appear older than she’d ever had.
Was that how she looked now? she fretted. Did she look as old as her mother had?
Gazing intently at her reflection in the mirror, she searched for new wrinkles. She had very few, thankfully. Her skin was light, but olive undertones made her appear younger than she was. Also, only a couple of gray hairs, something she’d inherited from her grandmother who’d passed away four years ago at age ninety-two. She plucked them out as soon as they reared their ugly heads, hoping she wouldn’t go bald in the process. Turning sideways, she inspected her body. She was still in good shape anyway. Her figure was petite and shapely, typical of her Portuguese heritage.
Warm arms surrounded her as she stood motionless, transfixed on her image. She glanced up at her husband’s face in the mirror, attempting a smile, hoping he wouldn’t perceive her despair.
Mornin’, babe,” Jordan murmured, pressing his lips against her neck. “Why are you up? It’s Sunday. Freshen up and I’ll meet you back in bed.”
It was Sunday. How had she forgotten? Another symptom to add to old age, Alzheimer’s disease. Great! At least she wouldn’t remember turning forty if that happened.
When they’d first married, they didn’t have to freshen up before making love in the morning, but that time had departed. And even though she was turning forty, Jordan was forty-five.
Not that it mattered. Time had only intensified his good looks. His laugh lines, a result of always smiling, served only to make him appear more distinguished. His physique, solid and trim, didn’t appear forty-five either. His hair had grayed around the edges, but again that only made him look more mature, sexier.
Jordan crawled under the covers, proceeding to nuzzle her neck. He worked his way over her collarbone with tiny kisses. “Mmm, Jaynee, you smell good enough to eat.” His warm breath caressed her shoulders, sending shivers down her body.
A deep sigh escaped her throat. He was wonderful. She never felt anxious when Jordan was here, when he was holding her.
But summer was over, the kids were back in school, and she had too much time to contemplate and wonderwhy do I feel so unfulfilled? She knew it wasn’t Jordan. She didn’t want anyone else. She just felt empty, dismal, and she hated to admitdepressed, but couldn’t pinpoint why. Her insides felt torn in two as if she were missing an integral part of herself. What more did she want?
Jordan lifted her chin. “You okay, love?”
Nodding, she buried her face into his chest. She was currently, but wasn’t certain where she’d be tomorrow. She had to decipher what was wrong, and she needed to do it fast.

Jaynee bounded down the stairs as she heard Jordan tromping up them. “Jaynee, we’re gonna—
“Right here…” They’d almost collided on the bend. “You know the problem with turning forty?” she asked while he dragged her in his wake.
He smiled down at her. “Um, yeah, or at least I did five years ago. I think I forgot.” Jordan always joked about memory loss. But she suspected he forgot things when it served him, like school functions and teacher conferences.
She laughed as he opened the door to their F-150, lending her a hand as she hopped up onto the running boards and sank into the leather seat of his lifted four-wheel-drive truck. “It takes twice as long to look half as good.”
Jaynee,” he said, pausing and resting his hand on her knee, “you look twice as good. You’re One Hot Momma,” he sang the words of the old country song he loved.
He closed her inside the cab next to her twelve-year-old daughter Johanna. Johanna’s twin brother Justin was in the back with his seven-year-old twin siblings Jacob and Jeremy.
They were the six Js. Corny as it was it was still cute. It’d become rather difficult when Jordan yelled at the boys, however. Usually it came out as, “JusJac—I mean, Jeremy”. Jeremy was the problem child. He was always catching his father’s wrath for something he did or didn’t do.
Justin, her only introverted child, was lost in his music. He had about five minutes before Jordan insisted he remove his earphones. Jacob sat in the middle, interested in everything, eager to please his father. And Johanna, well, she had her father wrapped around her finger, along with all the teenaged boys in the neighborhood already chomping at the bit for her to be old enough to date. The problem, Johanna didn’t look twelve. She looked sixteen, even though Jordan insisted she not wear makeup and never allowed her to leave the house in anything too revealing. There was simply no way to mask her curves and beauty. She was also a tomboy. She enjoyed horseback riding and motorbikes, and yet, could be prissy as a princess. In summary, she was identical to Jaynee as a teenager, sans all the horrible circumstances. There would be no reason she shouldn’t accomplish anything she wanted.
What would her daughter want in life? Jaynee wondered. Would she want to marry and settle down, or would she choose a different path?
As if hearing her unspoken question, Johanna nudged her. “Did you ask him?”
Jaynee shook her head, and her daughter released a heavy sigh.
“What are you girls whispering?” Jordan asked from the driver’s seat.
“Nothing important,” Jaynee offered, attempting to postpone the discussion. “Johanna just wants to do something with her friend. I told her we’d discuss it tonight.”
She couldn’t lie. Years ago she’d tested their marriage simply by trying to keep something secret; she’d never made that mistake again. But they needed to be alone, not in front of their children for this conversation. Johanna didn’t understand this. She couldn’t appreciate that if she wanted Jaynee to campaign for her, they needed to discuss matters in private.
“Well, I think it is very important,” Johanna retorted.
Jaynee glared at her, imploring her to stop. “Honey, I didn’t mean it’s not important; it’s just something we need to discuss later.” The fact was she wanted her daughter to have alternatives in life. Jaynee’d had several modeling and singing opportunities when she was a teenager. But terrified of failing, she’d walked away from them. Instead, she’d dated idiots and ended up in horrible situations. If she’d made just one of those other choices, she wondered how different her life would have turned out. Her mother had a decent singing voice, even made it on the country charts a couple of times. But her voice was better, and the couple of summers she’d spent traveling with her, she’d always been asked, “So, when are we going to see your name in bright lights?” Jaynee would smile and stare down at her feet. The thought of groupies and stalkers harassing her scared her to death. But then, she’d always wondered, what if.
Jordan patted Johanna’s knee. “Stop fighting with your mother and tell me already.”
“I’ve been offered an opportunity, Daddy.” It was always ‘Daddy’ when she wanted something. She forgot her father used to be a detective, a good one too. Johanna paused, waiting for the word “opportunity” to sink in. “There’s this agency…”
Jaynee caught Jordan’s expression, his brow already furrowed. He wasn’t much on opportunities unless they included academic scholarships, and based on Jaynee’s mother’s history, the word “agency” probably hadn’t thrilled him either.
“Well, the owner…” Johanna cast her eyes at her lap, pulling at an imaginary loose thread on her dress.
Jaynee turned her head to conceal her smile. Her daughter had about two seconds to finish.
“You see, he wants to train me to be an actress.”
As Jordan stopped at an intersection, he made eye contact with Jaynee. She was correct, of course; this wasn’t the place. He was clearly trying to contain his immediate “no” to avoid a conflict before church.
“He assured Mom it wouldn’t cost anything,” she prattled on, oblivious.
Jaynee sighed. The little terror was bringing her in on this, as if she’d had ongoing conversations with the agency.
Jordan’s face reddened, obviously searching for an explanation why she’d do this behind his back. “Jaynee?” His voice cracked in his confusion, since they discussed everything as a couple, as she’d insisted when they first married.
“Nothing has been discussed, Jordan. The owner called and asked if he could train Johanna. I told him we’d talk. I wouldn’t sign her up without speaking with you first. You know that.”
He exhaled a breath. “Jo, your mother is correct. We,” he gestured to himself and Jaynee, “will discuss this, and then the three of us will sit down together, later.”
Johanna crossed her arms. “That means no.”
“No, it means we’ll discuss this later.”
“But you’re just gonna say no,” she pouted.
“If you insist on having this conversation now, you’re correct; my answer will be no. But if you behave like an intelligent young lady and allow your mother and me to discuss this, thenwell, I don’t know what will happen, but at least you won’t get an instant ‘no’. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Dad,” she mumbled. She knew not to push him. Jordan doted on his children, but stood firm in his decisions and wouldn’t tolerate disrespect. “I can’t wait until I go away to collegeout of this state. Far awayNYU,” she grumbled under her breath.
Jordan ignored her and Jaynee stroked her arm, wanting to tell her I told you so. Jaynee and Johanna got along okay, but the last few months had been difficult. Jordan had mentioned that Johanna was becoming a woman, and it was never good to have two women in one household. He would know. He’d grown up with two older sisters. Because of this, as much as he was one hundred percent male, he had a better understanding of female behavior. He would laugh and inform Jaynee it was what made him such a great husband. She agreed. But then couldn’t help but wonder: If I have such a great husband, why do I feel so awful inside?

Jaynee ordered pizza, and they picked it up on the way home after a day of hiking. It was too far to leave once they returned to the house. They lived in Stanfield, North Carolina a small town forty-five minutes southeast of Charlotte.
After dinner, Jordan collapsed on the couch, turning on a political analyst he’d recorded.    Jaynee sauntered over to the sofa, allowing him to pull her down as he stretched the full length of one side of their sectional. She tucked her head under his chin, hungry to feel the warmth and comfort of his arms. “I don’t want to watch TV.”
He twirled her hair around his fingers. “What would you like to do?”
“Well, I’d like to go to bed, but we have to discuss Johanna.”
“Can’t we go to bed then talk afterward,” he said in his seductive southern drawl.
She couldn’t resist the giggle that escaped. “Somehow I don’t think that will work.” Jordan wasn’t good about staying focused when his mind was on other things.
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Let’s go.” Flicking off the TV, he sat her upright. He stood up then extended his hand. As long as they’d been together, it still sent a flutter through her when he offered his hand and led her upstairs. After kissing the kids goodnight and listening to their prayers, they readied for bed at their individual sinks.
Jordan caught Jaynee as she rounded the corner, folding her into his arms. He kissed her on the lips, then leaned back to look at her face. “Before we talk about Johanna, tell me what’s going on with you.”
“What do you mean?”
He huffed lightly, shaking his head. “You’re sad, I can feel it. I just want to know why.”
“I’m not sad.” How did he do that?
“Well, maybe you’re not sad, but you’re not happy.”
Shrugging out from under his arms, she crawled up on the bed and scooted to the headboard. Anytime they had large discussions, this was their MO. Jordan’s eyes were guarded as he slid in beside her. He held his back ramrod straight, ready for impact.
Everything else took a back burner at his distressed expression. “Jordan, what’s wrong?”
Clinching his jaw, he ran his hand through his hair. “I haven’t seen you like this. Just talk to me, okay?”
Jaynee inhaled a deep breath, not sure how to begin. He was apparently thinking something awful, as if she wanted to leave him. It made her want to make him admit it, but she decided not to upset him more. How should she start? Not with the, you-know-I-love-you speech, that wouldn’t go over well. He would read too much into it. She had to structure her words perfectly.
“Jaynee,” he implored. “I was a detective, remember?”
How could she forget? He’d been shot at, at least three times that she knew of. Thank goodness he’d finally quit. But, once a cop, always a cop.
“Jordan, I swear nothing is wrong.” She bit her bottom lip, not certain how much she should reveal. “I guess you’re right, though; I am melancholy. I wake up feeling dismal and empty.” The last word came out in a whisper; she hadn’t wanted to admit it to herself either. “But not when I’m with you. Only when I’m alone.”
“But you were like that this morning?”
She gulped and gazed down at her lap. “Yes.”
He nudged her chin up. “And I was here.”
“It’s not you; I love you. I swear it’s not you.”
He nodded, but she could see he wouldn’t accept it. Jaynee scooted up on her knees in front of him. The last thing she needed was for him to doubt their relationship. Taking his head between her hands, she stared into his eyes. His gaze dropped, unwilling to maintain eye contact. He was so tough, and yet he could be so breakable. She would never let happen what had happened almost thirteen years ago. His lack of confidence had almost destroyed them. He’d actually told her to leave if that was what she’d wanted. It wasn’t what she wanted, not then, not ever.
“I’m serious.” She dipped below his lowered head so that she could see his face. “You promised not to ever do this again. How can you doubt for a second how much I love you? If you’re such a great detective, look into my eyes and see that I’m telling the truth.” He peered up then.  “I love you. I will always love you. I’m just a little depressed, but I don’t know why.” She paused, and then emphasized each word. “But-it’s-not-you. Please comprehend that and help me figure out what’s wrong.”
His eyes widened at her appeal. He’d always wanted to take care of her, and she’d just made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Okay…just one question, and please be honest.” He stared into her eyes now, his own personal lie detector. She hated when he did this. But wanting to settle his ridiculous fears, she conceded by looking him squarely in the eyes. “I know you love me. I don’t doubt you love me. But, are you still in love with me?” he asked bluntly.
Instantly her eyes wanted to withdraw at his absurd question, but she held focus. “Jordan, I love everything about you. I love the way you know something about everything, the way you watch TV and laugh all by yourself. I even love that ridiculous noise you make when you’re brushing your teeth. I love that you’re a great father…that your favorite day of the week to make love is Sunday, and I love that I can’t even be sad without you noticing. Yes, I am still in love with you, you absurd, insecure man.”
“I’m sorry, but that does make me feel better. Now. Why are you depressed?”
The word depressed obviously hadn’t thrilled him. She hadn’t meant to use that word. She’d been denying it to herself even. She curled up into his arms, her head against his chest. “You’re going to laugh.”
“I doubt that,” he mumbled, still serious.
“I feel old, as if this is it. The best I am ever going to look, the best I am ever going to feel. And you, you look incredible. I always see women checking you out, even at church.”
He released a short, forced laugh as he tilted her head up. “Are you crazy? Guys are constantly checking you out. You don’t see it because you don’t give them the time of day—thank you for that by the way. But, darling, you look fantastic. And you know I can’t keep my hands off you. Is this because you’re turning forty?”
“I knew you were going to laugh.”
He brushed her hair away from her face. “Well, I don’t understand why that would make you depressed? You know how much I’m attracted to you, isn’t that all that matters?”
“Yes,” she admitted, sighing. She knew she couldn’t explain it. Her head dropped as she felt her eyes start to mist. Her stomach felt like an empty pit, as if a gaping hole kept stretching deeper and wider that she didn’t know how to fill, as though something were missing. Her heart tightened in her chest, and a feeling of sorrow rushed through her for no reason whatsoever. It had never happened when Jordan held her; she was getting worse. What was wrong with her?
Jordan tilted her chin up. “Is there more?”
“No.” She sighed again, pushing back the feelings.
“That doesn’t sound very convincing.”
She nuzzled against his bare chest again. “Can we talk about something else or nothing at all?” Nothing at all would be good. Tomorrow she’d figure everything out.
“Are you okay with this thing with Johanna? Have you checked it out?”
She couldn’t believe he’d let the subject drop, but felt relieved. “It has good reviews and bad, like most businesses. But from the moment I told him we wouldn’t pay a dime, he didn’t squabble. He’s so assured of her getting contracted, he’s willing to take a chance.”
Jordan’s eyes narrowed. “Contracted doing what?”
“They do everything…modeling, acting, singing.”
“And do you want this? You’d have to accompany her everywhere.”
She felt her lips curl up at the prospect. She did want this. “Yeah, I think it’d be fun.”
“A chance to offer her the opportunities you never had?” he hedged.
This is what happens when you expose your heart and soul. “I’m not interested in living vicariously through my daughter, if that’s what you’re insinuating. But yes, it would be nice for her to have choices I never had.”
Jordan’s expression turned again. His features saddened as if she’d thrust a knife into his heart. He couldn’t hide his emotions any more than she could.
She pressed her hand against his cheek. “Jordan, I’m talking about before we met. Of course, as much as I hated my life before you, if I hadn’t made every stupid decision, if every bad thing hadn’t happened, I would never have met you. And you, my love, are the absolute best choice in my life.” She pressed her lips to his, hoping to end this discussion.
Somewhat mollified, he pulled her down until they were horizontal. Conversation over, she guessed.
He nibbled his way to her ear. “Prove it.”

Monday morning arrived, and Jaynee got out of bed feeling lighthearted after the previous evening. Her husband, however, rolled over and pulled the cover over his head. “That’s what happens when you stay up all night pleasing your wife as if you were in your twenties,” she teased.
“Humph, I’d like to see a twenty-year-old…” he grunted from underneath his makeshift tent, the remainder of the sentence muffled, but she got the gist.
Jaynee trotted downstairs to brew coffee, woke the children, helped with breakfast preparations, and then constructed lunches for five people. From there, who knew, but she felt optimistic. She had several ideas for a new book bouncing around in her head, and that kept the bleakness at bay.
Her husband meandered downstairs; the promise of coffee worked like a charm. Wrapping his arms around her, he dipped his head to her ear. “Would you like me to call in sick, Jaynee? I get along pretty good with the boss,” he said through a chuckle, his warm minty breath encircling her, sending chills down her arms.
Jordan owned a construction company, which had grown over the years. He didn’t have to go into work; he had two partners. But he’d said he couldn’t let them do all the work. “Besides, if I don’t work,” he’d mentioned once, “You’ll get sick of me.” Well, that wasn’t true. Even though she enjoyed her alone time, she missed him when he was gone. But, it was the only way she would get any writing accomplished. She couldn’t concentrate when the family was home. She hadn’t written all summer, she realized; that must be her issue.
She turned in his arms. “If you want to, but I feel pretty good. Can I take a rain check? I have several ideas I want to attempt.”
“If you insist, but call me if you change your mind.” He grabbed his coffee, two blueberry muffins, and his packed lunch, affording her another kiss before leaving.
Her youngest sons gagged and choked on their food, her oldest tossed Jordan a lifted chin as a grown man would do, and Johanna blew her father a kiss, waiting for the door to close before she pounced. “Well…what did Dad say? Can I go?”
“Yes, Johanna, we’ve decided to allow you to go as long as it doesn’t interfere with your grades or family life.”
“Yay,” she squealed. “Thanks, Mom. You’re the best!”
The best, the words echoed in Jaynee’s head for a couple of seconds. “Come on, troupe. Let’s go.”
After she dropped the kids off at school, she headed toward her favorite coffee shop, deciding to attempt some writing. The Coffee House overflowed with its early-morning caffeine junkies.
The owner, Veronica, caught her eye from behind the counter. “Mornin’, Jaynee, haven’t seen you in forever. Kids back in school?”
Jaynee nodded. “Yeah…how’d you know?” Veronica wasn’t only her barista; she was one of her biggest fans.
Veronica topped off another customer’s coffee with whipped cream and leaned over the counter. “It’s been the same for years. I miss you over summer vacations and holidays.”
Jaynee offered a smile. “I didn’t know you were paying attention. I’ll have the usual,” she requested, approaching the counter.
“I always take notice of my beloved clients, in particular those who also happen to be one of my favorite authors. When are you writing another book?” she asked designingly.
Jaynee shrugged. She understood what Veronica was after. An opportunity to announce she knew her so that people would question her. She wasn’t anything special; she’d published six novels. Most popular authors nowadays had anywhere from ten to a hundred.
Jaynee accepted and paid for her vanilla latte, hot. It didn’t matter that it was August. She always drank her morning coffee steaming and her afternoon coffee iced.
While sipping her coffee and chewing on a muffin, she checked her personal email. A couple of links to her personal Facebook page, comments on her recent addition of family pictures, and messages from her mother.
Though her mother had retired from the entertainment business, she’d retained her stage name, and most of her five thousand friends were actually fans. Jordan hated when she made comments on their children’s pictures that strangers could see them, so she’d asked her to comment in private. Her mother balked, of course, but in the end, agreed. She knew Jordan wasn’t someone to trifle with.
When they’d first met, her mother loved Jordan. But after realizing he wasn’t willing to placate her, she’d turned cold. It didn’t bother Jaynee. She knew her mother’s personality; everything had always been about her. She tolerated her because she was her mother, and other than her uncle’s family, she was all Jaynee had. Thinking about her mother always depressed her. She needed to stop lamenting and write, or she’d be back where she was yesterday.
The first words were always the hardest. How to commence. Set a scene? Introduce the main character? Jaynee knew what she wanted, but not how to begin so she started web surfing.
Without warning, bleakness saturated her core. Emptiness filled her insides, making her feel as though she would break down and cry. She Googled inconsequential things: the weather, recipe ideas, anything to occupy her mind.
But the questions that plagued her remained. Who was she? What did she want? Why was she miserable inside when everything in her life was perfect? Why did she feel as if she were missing a significant part of herself? What more did she want? She had everything she’d ever wanted.
Deciding to search for an answer that didn’t exist, she typed her pseudonym, Jaynee Jordan. Pages popped up indicating her profile, her novels, her picture. Was this her?
Not satisfied, she typed her married name, Jaynee Monroe. Only a few entries: her Facebook page revealing a couple of profile pictures, her name as co-owner of Jordan’s company. But mostly links about the attempted murder and subsequent coma of Detective Jordan Monroe’s wife. The reminder of the shooting sent a chill through her, but it had happened almost thirteen years ago, and she’d always been adept at suppressing painful memories. She’d done it her entire life.
Staring at her laptop, she realized she was Jaynee Jordan, author of a few novels and Jaynee Monroe, wife of Jordan. What else was there? What else did she desire?
She attempted another entry, Caycee Jaynee Evans, her entire maiden name. But before she could put the second ‘E’ on Jaynee, Google’s drop down box filled with suggestions for Caycee Jayne. Ever inquisitive, she clicked return without putting the last ‘e’ on her name, allowing Google to run its search. The page exploded, stating millions of results were available.
After clicking on the first link, Jaynee gasped.

Chapter 2


From his vantage point on the restaurant’s second floor, he could see everything Caycee did. She was sitting alone, but she wouldn’t be for long. A new man had already noticed her and got up to make his move. It happened the same way every time. They’d see her, recognize her, and then move in for the kill. Of course, they could never appreciate the woman she was, the woman she could be if only she would recognize what true love was.
Yet here she sat, dressed to kill, looking for love in all the wrong places. And this was her favorite place. As prestigious as it was, the restaurant catered to all lifestyles. Many a businessman would visit this establishment. The proprietors enforced no dress code other than pants and a collared shirt, and even that rule could be broken if someone of influence walked in, or if they drove up in an expensive enough vehicle.
The five-star institution served the finest steaks and largest potatoes on the strip, and after dinner, a cigar bar awaited patrons. Because of this, highly influential and down-home businessmen alike dined as equals.
She could go anywhere, but she always started here. As if waiting for someone to appear, as if the man-of-her-dreams would arrive and sweep her off her feet. The man she wanted never showed, so she returned every night, waiting it seemed, as imposters propositioned her.
Eventually a brave charlatan with nothing to lose would approach. Tonight, he was a man over average height, just shy of six feet. Approximately two hundred pounds, well built, with light brown hair, he looked like her normal preference. After slipping off the ring from his left hand and tucking it into his pocket, he made his move.
Hours passed as they laughed and toasted oblivious. And then, when there was nothing left to say, they left the restaurant together, his arm wrapped around her shoulder protectively, off to their next stop which would be some jazz bar or the like.
By two a.m., she’d lost interest and turned down the man’s offer of festivities elsewhere. He wasn’t the one, and so, she would return tomorrow or the next evening. Always within sight, always out of reach.
What would happen if she found the right one, would it end then? Would this obsession be over? Would a normal, healthy life present itself? Was it insanity to mourn for what he had never had?

Coming here two to three nights a week was tiresome. It was only to watch Caycee make a fool out of herself repeatedly. She would sit within range of the bar, flipping her shoe on and off her heel, tossing her hair over her shoulder, and then casually letting it fall again while pretending to read some article in a news journal. All feminine subterfuge meant to attract some unsuspecting man into her lair. Caycee didn’t need money; she had plenty. But she liked having someone take care of her. She enjoyed the idea that she could overwhelm a man until he became so infatuated, he would offer her the world. Then she would chew him up and spit him out.
She was particular at least; she didn’t allow just any man to take her home. She would wait until she found the perfect prospect then string him along until she tired of him. What did she want? What was she looking for? She could have anyone she wanted. Hadn’t she proven that? Her day would come eventually. Would it be over then? Would life return to the way it was before Caycee?

Caycee rolled out of bed, stumbling blindly to the bathroom. The room was dark, even though it had to be nearly noon. She felt the pounding in her head and parched mouth within seconds of standing up. Why did she do this to herself?
Pouring a glass of tap water, she swallowed four ibuprofen capsules in an attempt to escape the pain; though she knew it would never disappear completely.
Last night had started like every other night. First, they recognized her. Next, they would ask the bartender what she drank. Finally, they would introduce themselves toting two drinks, professing to be her biggest fan. If they were younger, they would talk about how they’d been listening to her music since high school, as if that should impress her. If they were older, they’d prattle, “I remember when that song came out I was…”
Always the same and it ended the same. They’d spend the evening talking, and then the man would offer, “Let’s get out of this place.” The stranger would take her to some quaint little bar, and when they could think of nothing else to discuss, it was always, “Would you like to come back to my place?”
Caycee never accepted. She knew they just wanted a trophy. Though she wasn’t as famous as she used to be, they would still enjoy boasting with their friends, “Guess who I slept with?” Well, she refused to play that game anymore.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror. She looked good for almost forty. She hadn’t even had to have surgery done.  Her manager had mentioned she needed to go under the knife if she wanted to stay current, but she no longer cared. She had more money than she knew what to do with, even though money had never been important. Her entire life she’d wanted nothing but love and respect. She’d wanted to prove she could be someone, not the unloved and unwanted person she’d been before she was famous.
Only two people had ever loved her. Her grandmother and a man she’d met eighteen years ago, a little over a week before her twenty-second birthday. She had only known him for three days, and on the fourth, he’d proposed. She remembered their short-lived romance as if it were yesterday.
He was in town on business and had stopped for dinner at the steakhouse she worked. He waited hours for her at the bar, insisting she go out with him. Just coffee she remembered. She’d finally conceded and they’d talked for hours. Never once had he’d suggested anything inappropriate; he hadn’t even kissed her on the first night. Then he’d shown up the next night, and they had sat on the beach eating ice cream. He’d requested to go to her house so they could talk, and that’s all they’d done. He’d never pushed her for sex. In fact, she’d tried and he’d told her he wanted to wait until she could give him everything, heart and soul. Something she hadn’t been prepared to do then or ever since. On the third night, while waiting for him to arrive she’d been attacked by thugs hired by her ex-boyfriend to frighten her from dating anyone. She’d stayed at his hotel that night. Again, he’d not attempted to have sex, but insisted he loved her. The next morning, after revealing her past, in an effort to be closer to him, he’d asked her to marry him. Instead of saying “yes”, she’d asked for a couple of minutes, and after realizing she couldn’t trust her decisions with men, she’d said “no”.
She’d needed to sort out her life before making further mistakes. She knew he would fail her, as everyone else had done in her life. Accepting her rejection graciously, he’d insisted he would fly down every weekend if she allowed him, content to wait.
That same day, she’d packed just a few of her favorite items, called a taxi to take her to the airport, and moved to California.
She had a small savings, which she’d emptied entirely. She had enough to get a new apartment, and she knew she could get a waitress job anywhere. She’d never forwarded her address or returned home, even to see her grandmother. She’d left her past behind and had started on the adventure of a new existence.
Now, as she gazed in the mirror, she wondered if she’d made the right decision. Not once had any man made her feel as he had in those few days. She’d dated plenty, several men had even proposed. Each time, though, she’d broken off the relationship.
Caycee knew part of the reason was him, no man had ever compared. The other was her father. She’d witnessed him go from one horrible marriage to another. The first one, his wife had cheated on him. The second, her mother had abused her until he had to leave. The third, he never loved. Then finally, his fourth marriage, a wretched woman mentally abused him until he ended his life one morning with a shotgun.
Mindlessly, Caycee walked to the kitchen to prepare coffee. Why was she thinking about this now? What difference did it make? She’d made her choices. She’d become famous. Isn’t that what she’d wanted?
While waiting for her coffee to finish brewing, she booted up her computer. She typed in her password and hit enter. Next, she signed into her email, fan, fan, and more fans. Nothing important, nothing personal. She had no contact with any of her family members she’d left behind and no real friends. What did she expect?
For no reason whatsoever, she found herself typing his name into Google. Charlotte, she remembered, some outlying suburb, but he worked in Charlotte. Undoubtedly, he’d married and had children. Why was she doing this after eighteen years? His company’s website came up. That’s right; he’d said he owned a construction company. If the homes were anything like the website indicated, he must be doing extremely well.
The next link she saw was his Facebook page. Private of course, he was also a cop. He wouldn’t allow just anyone to peruse his pictures. What would he think if she “friended” him? Would he accept her request? His profile picture popped up along with a couple of him with his kids. Her heart sank. He was as handsome as she remembered. She had hoped that she’d imagined how good he looked—felt, holding her. The warmth of his kiss, his southern drawl…all of it, crashed into her senses as she studied his image on the computer screen.
Reaching out, she traced the trimmed beard leading up to his soft, but closely cropped dark hair. She imagined for a moment that those piercing blue eyes were gazing at her, that the smile he offered the camera was for her. Oh, God, and those arms, his solidly built body that had taken on three men to protect her, but had held her gently all night. He’d aged well, and her heart raced just looking at him.
Overcome with emotion at looking at his face any longer, she ventured to the next website. A newspaper article— almost thirteen years ago—about Detective Jordan Monroe’s wife who’d apparently suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was in a coma. Maybe he was single after all, she mused hopelessly. She decided to search the web page until she stumbled across his wife’s name, then she would Google her too and see what she discovered.
She found his wife’s name, but it stopped her in her tracks: Jaynee Monroe. Not possible. That’s what he’d called her all those years ago. She remembered the first night when she’d mentioned she didn’t like her name; he’d asked if he could call her by her middle name. Though not completely uncommon, Jaynee was an unusual name. But what were the chances of him meeting and marrying another Jaynee?
Caycee Googled the name Jaynee Monroe. Again, the website displaying the shooting popped up, a couple of North Carolina Incorporation’s pages, and then Jaynee’s Facebook link. As soon as she clicked on the Facebook link, Jaynee Monroe’s picture popped up.
Caycee bounded backward, the chair toppling out from under her as Jaynee’s profile picture filled her screen. Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling a scream; though, there was no one in her apartment to hear.
“It isn’t possible.” Chills ran down her arms as she scanned the other pictures. Only a few were visible, but it was evident in every picture; Jaynee Monroe could be her twin sister. Was this some elaborate scheme? Was this a joke on Jordan’s part, or worse, a sick obsession? Had he found her and transposed her face over someone else? Perhaps these were photo-shopped pictures of his dead wife.
She sent a friend request along with a quick message: Is this a joke? Who are you?
Leaving her computer, she heated up a muffin, downed it in two bites, and then swallowed a swig of coffee, followed by a handful of daily vitamins. She didn’t want to sit and stare at the computer waiting for a reply. It could take days until she or he checked their email and responded. She shivered at the thought. Maybe she shouldn’t have sent the message. Now he’d know she’d discovered his obsession. He’d seemed so perfect, and the thoughts she had earlier invaded her mind again. What if she’d said “yes”? What if she’d been his wife with those beautiful children? Then she remembered the shooting. Maybe Jordan had murdered his wife.
“No, it couldn’t be. Jordan was different,” she said audibly, her voice echoing in the emptiness of her apartment because she’d professed it so loudly. She’d made many lousy decisions when it came to men before Jordan, but she knew deep down he was always the one. The reason no man had ever measured up to her expectations. The reason she sat at that stupid steakhouse every evening waiting for him or someone like him. He couldn’t be crazy.

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