“Any meal I don’t have to cook tastes like gourmet fare.”
After preparing her own breakfast burrito, she joined him at her kitchen table. This was her third time with him today.
This morning, he’d accompanied her to church. That had brought back memories. Years ago, he’d ridden with her and her father. His family didn’t attend. Since becoming an adult, he’d developed his own habit.
After going home to spend time with his mother, he’d come back to accompany Lacey to the Hiwassee Valley Pool and Wellness Center. She was still dealing with a cough. Her usual heavy-duty aerobic workout would have been pushing it. But swimming slow laps in the dome-covered heated pool had given her just the right amount of exercise.
Now he was back for supper.
“I still wish you weren’t staying here alone.” He frowned at her across the table. “This stalker situation makes me nervous. How’d you get hooked up with this creep, anyway?”
“He wasn’t always a creep. He was nice at first. He was going to church with me and everything, had even joined a men's Bible study.”
Jason took a bite of his burrito, his eyes still on her. He was waiting for her to continue.
She sighed. “About four months into the relationship, he started getting possessive. I’d catch him with my phone, scrolling through my texts. He’d ask me where I’d been and who I was with.”
“Those aren’t good signs.”
She shrugged. “His last girlfriend had cheated on him. I’d been there and knew what it was like. So I tried to be understanding. Eventually, it got bad enough I couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Two months. First, he sent me flowers and left me notes and phone messages, begging me to give him another chance. Then the notes and messages grew creepier and stalkerish. He wouldn’t stop, so I got the restraining order.”
He pursed his lips. “I wish the police would put a tail on him.”
“That’s not going to happen without more to go on. In the two weeks since I got the restraining order, he’s made himself scarce.”
She took a bite of her burrito. Jason had already finished his.
“How about entertaining me now with your romance horror stories so I can finish this before it gets cold.”
“I don’t have any. Not the Fatal Attraction type, anyway. I like to keep life uncomplicated.”
Yeah, she did, too. It just hadn’t worked out that way.
Some time later she walked him to the door. He turned to face her, hand resting on the knob.
“You’ve got my number. If you feel uneasy, call me. I don’t care if it turns out to be nothing.” He stared down at her, a warmth and intensity she’d never noticed before in his gaze.
She swallowed hard and nodded. He looked ready to say something else. Or do something. Like kiss her.
Was it possible the attraction she felt was returned?
It didn’t matter if it was. He liked to keep life uncomplicated. A relationship with her would be anything but, especially while Ivan was free.
He finally gave a sharp nod and walked out the door. After checking the locks and turning on the outside lights, she sat on the couch to watch TV. Nessie curled up in her lap.
Cassie maintained her spot on the windowsill, peering between the vertical blinds. She probably hoped to see a raccoon or possum wander through the side yard.
Suddenly, the cat jumped down and ran to the next window. She worked her way around the edge of the blinds and slinked across the sill. After jumping to the floor again, she darted to the adjacent window, which overlooked the back yard.
As Lacey watched the cat, the hair prickled on the back of her neck. Nessie jumped down to disappear under the couch, as if sensing something, too.
Lacey turned off the lamp, then crept toward the kitchen. First thing tomorrow, she’d call about the alarm. Meanwhile, the doors and windows were locked.
When she flipped the kitchen switch, the house fell into darkness.
The rear door light was out.
Dread showered down on her. She picked up her phone to call Jason, then hesitated. She’d taken him away from his ill mother enough today.
Instead, she dialed 911. Maybe she was calling for nothing. But she didn’t think so.
The odds the rear light had burned out in the past fifteen minutes were slim.
Which meant someone had unscrewed the bulb.
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