On Fridays I’m going to share a chapter a week from one of my books. The first book is Souls Lost. If you wish to purchase it to read faster, you can find it at your favorite retailer. Find chapter 1 here.
Taran didn’t think he’d ever get through the door. Zoe’s family home was one of the larger ones on the west side of town, those homes that had been built mostly in the seventies when the locals had had plenty of children and those children weren’t running away as far and as fast as they could to places they’d heard about but never seen. As such, it had a large oak front door carved by hand by a local craftsman and sold cheaply to the builder. The varnish was peeling but the color remained, darker than ever, giving it an aristocratic feel. The storm door with the screen in the top half looked practically new, the white paint perfect around all edges.
Zoe, too, looked good, standing behind the screen which Taran held onto, his hand beginning to sweat as he wondered if she’d ever move back to let him in. Her hair was long and brown and fell haphazardly around her face in a look that commercial models worked hours for. Her skin was paler than he was used to, but she lived in a place that rained more days than not, or so he’d been told. Her jeans were worn, white threads covering her knees indicative of a hole starting to wear. She had on bright red socks which matched the plain red T-shirt she wore.
Her deep brown eyes had met his, already slightly moist just with his asking to talk to her, but her foot moved back an inch and then her body turned slightly as if letting him go by. He still had to brush too close to her passing through the doorway, feeling the feather light touch of her arm or perhaps her breast, a thrill running through his body that he didn’t care to look too closely at. She smelled of pine and ocean and something exotic as if she’d traveled not across the country but across the world.
The living room wasn’t large by modern standards but was decent sized for the era, the long narrow room that held a real fireplace, a modern gas inset having been added more recently as the family had become tired of buying firewood, lighting fires, and then cleaning up the ashes after a cozy evening.
Zoe gestured to the room beyond the door. The furniture there was more worn, the brown sofa looked as if it would be at home in his own second hand house with cushions that didn’t look very soft but looked lived in and loved. Loved was something Taran couldn’t say for his own furniture. He walked in and waited for Zoe to claim a seat, which she did on the end of the sofa.
In front of him was a sliding glass door, the curtains open to the rain outside. Taran absently brushed his shirt, feeling for stray drops that dotted the fabric that hadn’t yet absorbed them. There was a brown tweed recliner on the other side of the door across from the sofa. He chose that, sitting on the front edge so he didn’t slide back and look as if he’d come in for a nap.
When they were both settled and Taran had taken out his notebook, placing it awkwardly on his knee, which forced him to lean over as if he were a third-grade girl protecting her secret coloring book. He stretched his back and looked at Zoe who was watching, not saying anything, her eyes giving nothing away.
“What brought you home the last time you saw your mom?” Taran asked.
Zoe drew in a breath like a shield against the pain Taran was certain he was causing her. She sipped from her glass, which was a tall, thin, clear plastic thing that held some sort of milky brown drink with ice. He shuddered at the thought of iced coffee. Coffee was made to be hot in his world, no matter what people might do outside of Corbin Meadow.
“My mom had asked me to come visit. She said we hadn’t had any girls’ time since I’d gotten married about five years before. Tyler couldn’t get off work.” Zoe paused as if she wanted to add something.
Taran waited, wondering what the pause was about.
“So I came. I used up a week of my own vacation which meant Tyler would probably go off somewhere without me.” Again that pause, that slight frown, irritation almost from the lines on her face, like she didn’t want to know what Tyler might have been up to.
“Mom and I had some time here and over on the Outer Banks. We stayed in Kill Devil Hills, if you need that. It was a place we’d been to before. Mostly we talked about girl stuff, caught up. Mom was thrilled with the fact that she’d gotten the zoning approved for the condos, and when we were here she was pointing out all the new buildings that were going in on the edge of town,” Zoe finished.
Taran remembered. There had been a frenzy of building when the tech company, Jack Lyle, came in. It was headquartered in Iowa or someplace distant and not very interesting, the kind of place that surprised him a high tech company would evolve in, computer guys liking the easy living and liberal morals of the West Coast. The company had rebuilt one of the furniture warehouses for their business, but there had been a need for more housing and a new development had gone in on the south edge of town. It had included the condos as well as some homes.
Another gas station had been started and there was the plan for a small commercial center with another coffee shop, a fancier one than down on the Saunders’ place, but that was still waiting. Without Jodie Mason-Hyer to spearhead the zoning and to put pressure on the mayor and the rest of the council everything seemed to have stalled, as if she’d done the building by sheer force of will. Taran hoped the empty spaces would fill eventually even though she was gone.
“Did your mom seem worried about anything?” Taran asked.
“She’d been upset about Beth, I mean really upset. I think that’s what had started her wanting me to come visit. Amanda had just died by the time I got out here, and whatever healing my mom had done over Beth was just crushed by what happened to Amanda. Mom wasn’t close to her like she was with Beth. I mean Amanda wasn’t much older than I was, but the fact that Amanda was close to my age set Mom off. I think that’s why she was so eager to take me out of town to do something,” Zoe said.
Again that hesitation. Taran thought there were things she wasn’t saying, guilt she held close, but not the guilt of someone who had killed people. Zoe hadn’t been there when Beth and Amanda were murdered. He could verify that but was pretty certain that she was telling the truth. Her trip to see her momma had been a short one.
“But your Mom came up with the idea for a visit after Beth was killed?” Taran clarified, wanting to be sure he was on track, that someone couldn’t have been watching and waiting for Zoe and had gotten to town first.
Zoe closed her eyes, thinking. “I’m pretty sure. I mean she was always asking me to come visit, but I’m pretty sure that what made me decide to come was that she said something about not waiting too long to get together. Like Beth’s death had reminded her that things happen and we needed to see each other.”
Taran nodded and made a note.
Zoe was staring past him, lost in thought. “Almost like she knew.” The whisper lingered in the air between them.
Chapter 10 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.