Authors: Annette Brownlee
Tags: #Adventure, #Paranormal
Book One in the Spirit Savers Series
Published by Ruby Boots Publishing
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Cover design by Tatiana Vila – Vila Design
Copyright 2012 Annette Brownlee All rights reserved.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy.
Visit my website at
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To my beloved Jake, Nicole and Elizabeth, thank you very much for your support, enthusiasm and patience as I explore the paranormal and continue to bring weirdness into our home. And a hearty thank you to Sandra for your sage advice and regular doses of light and laughter.
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Dear Readers: If you encounter typos or errors in this book, please send them to me at:[email protected] Even with many layers of editing mistakes can slip through. Thank you! Annette
“This isn't working.” Chaos resisted the urge to throw her pencil across the room. The client wanted a cactus garden combined with a water feature. In Santa Fe the cactus garden made sense. The water feature, not so much. It was proving to be a challenge. Not that she wasn’t used to challenges. She was and she should be happy for the design work. It beat mowing lawns and trimming hedges.
A heavy knock on the door pulled Chaos from her design. The plan was due to the client by the end of the week but she wanted to deliver early. Almost Halloween, her landscaping company was swamped with the winter lawn conditioning and sprinkler blow outs. She’d asked Paolo, her crew leader, to come over after he’d left the bar and pick up the design. Another knock – this one harder, heavier, more insistent. “Hold on Paolo, I'm coming.”
Chaos pushed her dining room chair back and headed for her front door. “You’re early,” she said, swinging the door wide open.
“I didn't know you were expecting me.”
Chaos's heart jumped a beat. Damn. It wasn’t Paolo. “The Jerk,” as she’d come to call him, grinned at her. A bear of a man, he reeked of drugstore cologne and whiskey. The neighbor of a landscaping client, The Jerk enjoyed sitting in his driveway and watching her work. It was so creepy she’d started skipping the client’s house and letting her team handle it. And now here he was. In the pale light of her porch, he looked eerily inhuman.
Chaos pulled the door to her trying to reduce the opening and his access to her home. “Um, how did you find my address?” She didn't even remember the guy's name. He’d told her once. She’d intentionally forgotten it as soon as he’d said it. She just knew he was someone she needed to steer clear of. The signals this guy gave off rang loud and clear. She heard them and she trusted her gut on this one.
“I asked Smithy how to find you,” the guy said. He smiled a wide toothy smile but his eyes remained hard.
Chaos didn’t buy his smile for a minute. Smithy, his neighbor, didn’t have her home address. She was unlisted. This meant that this guy was following her. She gripped the door and pushed it closed another few inches.
"I’m busy right now, sir. If you want Ace Landscaping to take care of something for you, please contact Paolo, my crew leader. Here,” with her free hand, she reached into the back pocket of her cutoffs. “His number is on the card,” she said, holding it out for him to take.
He didn't take the card. He just stood there staring at her. Something was definitely wrong with this guy's eyes, she decided. They were as hard as black river stones and just as cold. Every muscle in her body tensed.
“How come you don't come by Smithy's anymore?” he asked, once again flashing her that yellowed toothy smile.
A cool October breeze blew into her home, rustling papers on her table and scattering them to the floor. The wind brought his smell into her home. The stink of cheap cologne it wasn’t enough to cover the stench of sweat and whiskey emanating from him. Chaos started to close the door. She was done with this guy. Warning bells were ringing so loudly in her head she wanted to scream.
“I have other clients to take care of. My crew leader handles the day-to-day lawn care.” It wasn't entirely true, but she didn't want to tell this guy that she didn't go to Smithy's anymore because he was always there sitting in his driveway staring at her. The hair on her arms tickled a warning. Her instincts told her to be nice. He was huge, at least six feet tall. If he became violent, there was no way she would be able to defend herself. At five two, she was strong from working outside all day but this guy towered over her and outweighed her by at least a hundred and fifty pounds. “If you want to tell me your name I can have him contact you.”
“It's Bill,” he yelled. Spittle sprayed from his mouth. The scent of whiskey slammed into her face.
“I've told you my name before,” he said, softer this time. He’d put a large, thick palm on her door and while he wasn't pushing it further open he wasn't letting her close it either.
Chaos noticed he had black dirt beneath his fingernails. “Bill,” she said, stressing his name. Her heart hammered like a rabbit on the run. “I'm expecting someone any minute.” She peered to the right where her cell phone sat a few feet away and decided it was too risky to try to grab it. The guy, Bill, would no doubt take the opportunity to push his way in. She stood her ground and blocked his path. “I’d like you to leave.”
With one quick push, he shoved the door open. The powerful movement knocked her off balance. Chaos stumbled backward. It was enough to give him the freedom he needed to enter her home. Bill took a long step through the door and closed it behind him. Her pulse crashing in her ears like ocean waves during a storm, Chaos lunged for her cell phone. She wrapped her fingers around it. Backed against her bookshelves, she flipped it open and pressed nine and one before Bill was on her. She watched in horror as her phone crashed to the floor and skidded under the couch.
She considered screaming, but it would be a futile effort. No one would hear her. Northwest of Santa Fe, her home was off a side road near the Santa Fe National Forest. It was isolated. Her closest neighbor was about half a mile away. She had to accept that she was on her own.
“Bill, you need to leave,” Chaos said, trying to not show fear. Icy fingers clawed at her insides. Caving in to this bully or letting him feel like he had the upper hand would be the end of her. She’d dealt with his kind before. She knew this could get bad fast. She’d seen it happen too many times. Still, she had hope. Maybe she could reason with him, or find a weapon to defend herself. She needed time.
“I'm not leaving until you give me what I came for.”
“I'm not going to do that,” Chaos said shaking her head. She met his eyes and stared at him with all the defiance she could muster. While she couldn’t hold him back, she hoped he’d realize she wasn't going to be easy and worth the fight. Apparently he thought it was worth the fight because he advanced on her. She balled her fists and swung as he got within arm's reach.
Her fist crunched against his jaw. Pain sliced through her fingers, traveled up her wrist and grabbed her by the neck. She’d forgotten how much hitting someone hurt. The blow didn't faze him. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her back, slamming her against the bookshelves behind her. She kicked. The toe of her work boot caught his knee. Bill twisted his meaty fingers into her t-shirt and threw her to the ground. Chaos hit the floor hard. The air rushed from her lungs. She gasped, trying to catch her breath. Bill took advantage. Like a vulture waiting for an injured animal to take its last breath, he was on top of her before she could draw air. Chaos felt the sharp sting of his hand against her face. The smack infuriated her. Kicking and writhing on the floor to get away from him, Bill grabbed one of her long braids and yanked it. Tears filled her eyes. Smiling, he placed one hand on her chest and one hand on her braid, effectively pinning her to the floor. Chaos looked for an escape and found none. She was wedged between her coffee table and her bookshelves with a two hundred and fifty pound man on her. She was screwed.
Shoving the coffee table aside, Bill straddled her. Releasing her braid, he grabbed her face in his free hand and forced her to look at him. Underneath him, Chaos stilled. She needed to save her energy. There’d be a moment when she might be able to escape. She needed to relax and wait for it. Squeezing her face in his hand, Bill leaned in close to her. His calloused fingers pulled at her skin. One quick jerk of her head and she’d have his fingers in her mouth. She could bite them off. Chaos decided against that move. He was bigger than her and the pain to his fingers wouldn’t stop him. It’d just infuriate him. She’d lose that fight. Panting from exertion, his hot breath filled her nose and mouth.
“You’ve been flaunting it in my face for months,” he hissed. “I come over to say ‘hi.” I ask you out and you ignore me. I tried to be nice but you don’t pay any attention. Maybe you don’t like nice. Maybe you like it rough.”
“Maybe I just don’t like you, asshole,” she said, not afraid to look him in the eye. She felt his fist connect with her cheekbone and wondered if he'd busted her face. Pain speared her cheek, her eye socket throbbed. It rattled her teeth. A sob filled her chest. Chaos swallowed it whole. She wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. God, where was Paolo? He said midnight, after the bar closed. It was eleven o’clock. The odds of Paolo getting here before this guy finished with her were between slim and none. She’d learned at a very young age that fate sucked. You were on your own in this world and bad things happened – often. Feeling the weight of her Mother’s necklace against her chest, she said a silent oath. Not tonight. Nothing bad was going to happen to her tonight.
Taking a deep breath, Chaos brought her knee up behind Bill. The motion shoved him forward so he was nose to nose with her. Red faced and sweaty, he smiled a horrid smile at her and angled for a kiss. Chaos reached forward. His balls were now within reach. She grabbed them as tightly as she could. She squeezed and twisted. Lurching back, he howled and punched her in the throat. Chaos couldn't breathe but she didn't let go either. I’m going to die with this jerk’s testicles in my hand, she thought. She squeezed harder.
Bill must have realized the only way to get her to let go was to break her wrist. Still howling, he grabbed the hand that held his jewels in both of his hands and twisted. Her small wrist snapped like a pencil. She felt the pain shoot through her arm. Tears involuntarily streamed down her face now. He’d made her cry. Fury replaced fear.
He rose to his knees and started unzipping his pants. “No need to grab for it, baby. I have it right here for you.”
Chaos gagged at the sight of it in his dirty hands. Pinning her down with one forearm across her neck he worked the button and zipper on her cutoffs. No way. Not tonight. Not you. Out of the corner of her eye, Chaos spotted a lamp cord. The lamp was on the small table beside the shelves. It was behind her a bit but if she stretched her arm she might be able to reach the cord.
Reaching under the table, her fingertips brushed the lamp cord. She felt her shorts slip down over her hips. She had to work faster. A few more millimeters and she'd have it. She shifted slightly, the pressure from his arm virtually cutting off all air. Afraid she was going to pass out, she struggled to move quickly. As the edges started to blur, her fingers found purchase on the cord. Chaos started pulling on the cord. Please. Please. Her shorts, despite her kicking, had reached her knees. She willed her fingers to move faster. Inch by inch the lamp moved closer to the edge of the table. One more inch. She saw it hovering on the edge of the table. Chaos jerked the cord. The lamp fell onto the floor beside her. Bill didn’t pay it any mind. He was too focused on her. Without oxygen filling her lungs, blackness crept in.
“God damn it,” he grunted.
Her shorts were stuck on her work boots. Bill released the pressure on her neck. Straddling her, he turned to work her clothes off. Now or never.
Chaos grabbed the lamp and smashed it on his head. It was a cheap thrift store glass lamp and she'd only counted on it to buy her a few seconds. She prayed it would stun him long enough to give her time to run. Instead, the lamp shattered. Glass scattered like buckshot. It flew everywhere. It sprayed her face and chest. It landed with dainty plinks on the wood floor beside her. Wide eyed, Bill looked stunned and then furious. His eyes narrowed and a low growl vibrated deep inside his body. She was done for. He cocked his arm, balled his fist, and got ready to punch her. Grabbing a shard of glass off her chest, Chaos slashed at his face. Bill lunged backward as her arm arched through the air. The glass sliced across his throat. Chaos gasped and closed her eyes as the blood drenched her face.