Authors: Elaine D Walsh
by Elaine D Walsh
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Barks Out Loud, Attn: Permissions Department, P. O. Box 3471, Riverview, FL
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, and incidents are
either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely
2013 Elaine D Walsh. All rights reserved. Published by Barks Out Loud and
associated logos are trademarks of Barks Out Loud.
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9855663-4-0
[FIC 044000 Fiction / Contemporary
Women, FIC 045000 Fiction / Family Life,
FIC 008000 Fiction / Sagas
design by Rick Turylo
What others are
“Where every word
felt like gold”
into an emotionally rich story”
- Jamie Tingen,
award winning author of Butterfly Messages
my father, Dennis W. Walsh, who has given me throughout my life his unconditional
love and who taught me what the meaning of ‘family’ is truly about.
Table of Contents
Tess Olsen stared at her calamari appetizer’s lightly
browned breading, lamenting the fact that Randall Wright wasn’t going to be
likewise fried when the state of Florida finally put him to death. What kind
of execution was lethal injection anyway?
She certainly would prefer it if he experienced thousands
of volts of electricity buzzing through his body, turning his blood into lava
and boiling his brain in his skull. Wasn’t it the least he could do for the
victims’ families to choose electrocution over lethal injection as some measure
of restitution to them all? And why did the state give him a choice in how he
was going to die?
Randall Wright hadn’t given his victims a choice in how
When she found out that Florida had buckled under pressure
to allow lethal injection after a couple of “botched” executions, Tess knew he
would take the easy way out and opt for the needle. So what if some previous
death row prisoner might’ve suffered during his execution when flames were seen
shooting out of his head. Served him right. Unfortunately, it had turned out
to be the damp sponges tucked between the metal headgear on the prisoner’s
skull that had caught fire.
Why give murderers the same send-off bestowed on beloved
pets and pump too much poison into their veins? Give them the same cruel death
that cows at some slaughterhouses receive—a bullet to the head. Only, the cows
were innocent; Randall Wright was not.
She’d give anything to witness it. But maybe that wasn’t
such a good idea. It would force Tess to see her mother. As the wife of
Randall Wright, Alish Olsen Wright no doubt would be there, and Tess had vowed
not to see her mother until he was dead. Until Wright took his final breath, he’d
be a menace to Tess and an obstacle to normalizing her relationship with her
mother. Soon, his hold over her mother would be broken and his perpetual
presence in her own life extinguished.
His death assured that. Anyway, that’s what she’d banked
on for years.
Her mother called this thing between herself and Randall
Wright love. Tess never found herself awash in inexplicable emotion, losing
control of her head in lieu of her heart the way her mother had. And she made
sure not to, structuring and scripting her relationships to avoid the same
“A penny for your thoughts.” Ben’s interruption yanked
her back to their intimate dinner.
She squeezed his hand resting on the white linen
tablecloth. “It’ll cost you more than that.”
He smiled, his brown mustache shifting across his face at
a slight angle just above his goatee. He wore the two trimmed so close to his
skin that the hairs appeared dusted onto his face.
“I’d pay whatever you ask.”
“You’re too easy, Ben. A girl could take advantage of a guy
“That’s what I’m counting on.”
Ben spoke with a vulnerability that unsettled her, but not
the way other men she dated might: smirking and hinting, racing through dinner,
expecting dessert in her bedroom. But then again, she picked her dates for
their ability to play a specific role in her dating script: dinner and light
conversation, followed by sex. Dates fell into bed, not in love, with her.
Physical longevity coupled with emotional brevity; that was the perfect recipe
for any relationship.
Ben hadn’t expected sex. They were on their fifth date
and he’d yet to show her how aroused he was by her, far behind the timeline
other men followed. The beginning of intimacy marked affairs lasting three or
four months. Her longest had lasted six. With her long legs, copper-colored
hair that swept the top of her shoulder blades and hazel eyes, Tess possessed
the physical appeal to sustain a steady stream of suitors.
She wondered what kind of lover Ben was, but suddenly that
thought unsettled her, too. Sex had never unsettled her before. But when
she’d first met Ben at an art gallery, she’d sensed something different about
him or possibly in her. She hadn’t quite figured it out yet. It was something
that defied her vocabulary. She recalled her conscious thought the day they’d
met not to ruin things by inviting sex.
But if she didn’t invite it with the obvious signals she
was so used to sending, eventually he’d pursue it. They all did. It was part
of the script.
But so far, Ben was more attentive to her personality than
to her body. His intense interest in conversation rather than sex unsettled
Tess, and all the past scripts of her short but passionate affairs were useless
to her now.
“Excuse me. Your champagne.” The waiter presented the
bottle they’d ordered, then stripped the foil from the cork. The white jacket
he wore matched the tablecloth. His handsome looks appeared chiseled from
stone, like Michelangelo’s David. Tess mused to herself he’d be more appealing
dressed as a Chippendales dancer than as a tabletop’s twin. Probably another
wannabe actor waiting to be discovered for his talents instead of his looks.
If she had to guess, he was better looking than talented. New York City teamed
with the refuse of gorgeous ex-actors. She’d sworn off actors when she’d
noticed one she’d dated would admire his image in any reflective surface.
The champagne cork popped. She flinched and hoped she
hadn’t been too obvious staring, but she was sure their waiter was used to it.
He flashed a dentist-enhanced smile at Tess while pouring her champagne, then
backed away quietly. Gold-highlighted bubbles raced to the top of her flute.
Her fingers pinched the crystal stem. She expected Ben to be raising his glass
ahead of her. Men always grabbed their glasses first and initiated a toast as
if this ritual was written into their DNA.
“This place isn’t exactly the little coffee shop with the
great knishes you raved about.” He left his champagne flute untouched.
She raised her glass. “I was in the mood for something
He tilted his glass toward hers. The crystal flutes sang
a note when they touched. After sipping his champagne he asked, “So, what are
we celebrating tonight?”
“I’ve been invited to a party but haven’t been told the
She set down her flute, rested her elbows on the table and
pressed her cheeks between her hands.
“It’s that obvious?”
“There’s something going on between you and yourself that
I’m not privy to.”
She opened her mouth and then with an abrupt nod stifled
whatever words were pending on her lips. Other men she’d dated would’ve
allowed her to submerge in her own thoughts, interpreting her silence for
foreplay that the sensual surroundings of an intimate dinner suggested.
“What is it?” he asked.
Her hands slid away from her cheeks and her palms tapped
together like two cymbals. “Nothing.”
Indulging in a second sip, he peered down the barrel of
his flute with his brow cocked and his eyes calling her on her bullshit.
“I’m celebrating the signing of a death warrant.”
He set down his flute, staring and waiting for her to
reveal more of her secret agenda.
“My stepfather’s. It’s almost blasphemous to have the
word ‘father’ describe Randall Wright, but that’s the technical term for my
mother’s husband. The governor of Florida signed his death warrant, again. If
the Supreme Court doesn’t interfere this time, it’ll be the last time.”
She glanced beyond Ben’s shoulder with her chin pointed in
the kitchen’s direction. “I hope you leave some room. I hear this place has
“Why do you do that?”
“Come close to the edge, stick your toe in, but never jump
“You writers like metaphors, don’t you?”
“Why are you so uncomfortable talking about yourself?”
She sat back in her chair, concentrating on keeping any
tone out of her voice that he could interpret as defensive. She’d play it
lighthearted. That usually worked for her.
“I’ve told you a lot over five dates. You could write my
next cover letter and resume.”
“Cover letter and resume? Very pragmatic. I was thinking
more along the lines of poetry.”
Her face suddenly felt warm. She looked around the table
for something to ground her, to look at or touch. Something that could douse
the heat rising from her neck to her checks and ears.
“You’re creative. You could do so much with what I’ve
already told you. Let’s see, art major, art lover and city dweller—Atlanta,
Chicago and now New York. Favorite season is fall because in Florida, where
I’m from, there are only two—hot and hotter—and palm trees don’t turn colors
unless there’s something nuclear in the air. And you’ve heard my unabridged
views on art and the Church in the Middle Ages. So, what else is there to
She smirked and hoped it conveyed a sense of absurdity
rather than guilt. She held on to this expression while he silently studied
her until the muscles in her face grew uncomfortable. Finally, she shifted her
eyes to a couple at another table who were enjoying a meal together.
“It’s the one topic you avoid and the one I’m most
interested in,” he said.
“Just because I don’t spew out in one mouthful all the
details of a painful part of my past, you’ve decided I’m either evasive with
others or uncomfortable with intimacy?”
“It’s because every time you brush up against any
conversation that comes close to revealing who you are, what you feel, or why
you feel that way, you make a sharp turn and head in the other direction.”
Her eyes flickered back to him, and her face set in a
defiant look. “My mother left my father, my brother, my sister and me to marry
a murderer. It’s not a place others would want to go.”
“Take me there.”
“You’re either a sadist or a masochist. I’m not quite
sure which end of the pain scale you want to be on. And if you’re neither…”
Tess shook her head.
“It’s because I’m quite taken with what’s on the surface
of this city-dwelling art major sitting across from me, whose favorite season
is fall and who has quite passionate views on art and the Church in the Middle
Ages.” Ben watched her digest this news she’d already sensed about him.
“I’m sure losing your mother still hurts.”
Tess looked at him as if she hadn’t considered this
possibility, then slowly nodded her agreement and lifted her glass. She barely
sipped from it before resting her lips against the flute’s rim to keep them
“It’s okay.” He leaned across the table and reached out
to touch and console her.
Tess waved him off and set down her glass. She stared at
the crystal salt-and-pepper shakers on the table while composing herself and
waited to hear him tell her it wasn’t necessary to continue. Women expected
other women to share the personal details of their lives, which was why she
felt more comfortable with men. They usually were satisfied with knowing only
what was on the surface. Most men didn’t feel the need to look into her soul
while insisting she look into theirs and share fears and dreams or to be there
for each other in an emotional crisis.