Authors: Kay Glass
Taste of Grief
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
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To Maggie Weik Lee- thank you so much for your efforts to
make Adrian the character he is. Any misconceptions about Wicca and witchcraft
are solely the author's errors and not hers. And to Toria Kinz for her help
with research- Lizbeth's scenes wouldn't be the same without her assistance! And
to my Betas- the book wouldn't be the same without your input: thank you beyond
all words. To those who have been there, quietly- and some not so quietly-
supporting me in my endeavors. I can never thank you for that feeling- no mere
words express it. May I always live up to the expectations you have, and may
each book transport you to Diandra and Lizbeth's Bethany Beach.
The wind was brisk, carrying the briny smell of the nearby
water in its wake. The ocean was tempestuous, the waves rolling, ever
increasing in speed. The storm made the air feel electric, the small hairs on
the back of Diandra Malone's neck standing to attention. She stood on the rear
deck of her Bethany Beach home, hands clutching the railing, head thrown back
with her eyes closed, just taking in the wildness of the night. Storms had
always appealed to Diandra, and this one was definitely a wonder to behold. The
September night carried an unusual chill due to the wind coming off the water,
and even though her flesh was raised in goosebumps she reveled in it. A
moodiness that was very unlike her had struck her, and the thunder matched her
internal rolling anger. The lightning matched the screaming that went on inside
her head. The impending rain substituted the tears she refused to allow to
Lizbeth was in the bedroom feigning sleep. Diandra knew it
for the lie it was, but she let her keep pretending. She knew every inch of her
lover's body as well, maybe better, than she knew her own. Things had gone well
between the two of them for a few weeks following the trauma that nearly
destroyed all their lives in August. It was business as usual but somewhere along
the way Lizbeth's perfect façade had cracked. She flinched away from Diandra
any time she was caught off guard and a new wariness was forming lines around
her suddenly cautious blue eyes. She didn't touch RaeLynn nearly as often or as
easily as she used to, and the baby was cranky and temperamental now because of
the shift. Next to Diandra, Lizzie was her favorite person.
In her own way, Diandra had learned to be just as cautious
with Lizzie yet somehow she always made things worse. If she accidently brushed
up against Lizbeth and felt her stiffen she would jump back, her reflexes
faster than the human eye could follow. That usually turned the stiffening of
Lizbeth's body into a flinch, fear evident in her face. These days nothing went
right when Dia tried to fix the problems. If she walked into a room it seemed
Lizzie had forgotten something elsewhere. They no longer cuddled on the
loveseat in the parlor, and Lizzie never wrapped her arms around her anymore.
She stayed out later and later working on a case, and some nights she even
slept at the office.
The last night she'd done so, Diandra had Eamon sit with
RaeLynn and she went to check on Lizbeth without her knowing. Scanning the
parking lot, the security cameras stood out sharply to her preternatural eyes-
they might as well be glowing for how obvious they were to Dia. Dodging them,
she slipped silently to the window of Lizbeth's office, and her heart broke for
what she found there. She feared she'd find her lover with someone else, but
somehow the sight of Lizzie sleeping on the sofa, tossing and turning in an
uncomfortable sleep was more heartbreaking than losing her to another lover.
The dim office light shone on Lizbeth's cheeks, painting the trail of tears on
her face a delicate golden shade, and outside the window, hands pressed to the
glass, Diandra cried with her.
Reflecting back upon this, Dia watched lightning strike the
ocean not too far into the distance. The air smelled of salt water and ozone,
and the air crackled with electricity and menace. Oh yes, the weather fit her
mood perfectly. Although her eyes were wet her cheeks were dry as she refused
to allow the threatening tears to fall. Suddenly the bottom dropped out of the
sky and a downpour soaked her in moments. How fitting, she thought sullenly.
Mother Nature was crying the tears she would not shed. Her copper hair was
dripping into her face, a frizzy mess that ran in rivulets down her neck and
into the sodden black robe that hung open around her pale, naked body. She knew
she should get inside and watch from the safety of the living room, but
recklessness rode her and kept her frozen where she stood. The emotions rolled
through her body, one after another: love, heartache, pain, fear, anger, grief,
regret. The cycle of emotions whirled faster and faster, choking Diandra,
clenching a fist around her heart and stealing her breath from her lungs.
She felt alone, and wanted nothing more than her lover's
arms around her to comfort her and take away her pain. Now a torrent of
pictures filled her mind, battling for priority over the emotions still warring
in her. Lizbeth's face when Jonah's heart was ripped- still beating- from his
body, every time she pulled away or walked away, each look of fear that crossed
Lizzie's face, and the image of her crying in her sleep on her office sofa. This
final image was too much for Diandra to bear. Throwing her head back, face
tilted up into the rain, she screamed her sorrow to the sky.
Lizbeth had her phone set to vibrate to wake her the next
morning. She slipped quietly out of bed and grabbed the clothes she'd set out
the night before. There was a lump under the covers next to her and she heaved
a quiet sigh of relief that once again she would be able to evade Diandra. Instead
of using the bathroom attached to the master bedroom she crept down the hall to
the guest bathroom to dress and prepare for the day. The coffee maker had been
set the night before so as soon as she filled a travel mug and grabbed her
briefcase she would be out the door.
She knew she was being cowardly but couldn't bring herself
to deal with the paranormal strangeness of the life she now led. She hated
being this way, but until she resolved things in her own mind it was just too
difficult to be home right now. So she slunk through the house like a thief,
praying she'd make it out before RaeLynn woke- one cry from the baby had
Diandra up and moving before the child could emit a second.
Turning the corner of the staircase, she peered behind her
to make sure there was no movement from upstairs. Her work shoes were carried
in one hand as she tiptoed in just her stockings to make even less noise.
Facing forward, she let out a yelp of surprise and threw her shoes, reaching
behind her for her gun. Diandra's hands lashed out with eerie quickness and
snatched the two shoes before they could make contact with her face. She calmly
held the shoes out to a startled Lizbeth, looking amused as she watched to make
sure the gun hadn't cleared the holster.
"What the Hell, Diandra. I could have hurt you,"
Lizbeth yelled indignantly. She yanked the shoes away from Diandra and,
realizing there was no need for quiet any longer, held onto the bannister with
one hand while using the other to slip into the loafers.
Diandra shook her head, sadness filling her eyes. "I
took the liberty of calling Alexar. He's not expecting you at the precinct for
another three hours. Like it or not, we need to talk." She turned her back
and headed for the dining room where a tray bearing a ceramic carafe, sugar,
creamer and two stoneware mugs waited for them. Without looking back to see if
Lizbeth was following, she called over her shoulder, "And I think we both
know I was in no danger."
Lizbeth eyed the door with a measuring look, but decided it
was a wasted effort to make a run for it. Besides, slinking away like a dog
with its tail between its legs was one thing- actively running after being
caught was another. She couldn't bring herself to be that cowardly. Slowly she
shuffled to the dining room, taking the mug Diandra offered with a whisper of
thanks. She sat down reluctantly and took a sip of the coffee, registering that
it was made exactly the way she liked it- sweet and light. Damn, she was really
starting to feel guilty.
"So," Diandra began, "would you like to tell
me why you felt the need to sneak out of the house like a teenager trying to
avoid being caught by her parents?" One perfectly arched eyebrow was
raised in question and she twirled the mug back and forth from hand to hand,
careful to avoid sloshing any coffee over the side.
Lizbeth refused to raise her head. She couldn't bring
herself to meet those lovely lilac eyes and see the hurt in them. "I
merely wanted to get to work, that's all. I couldn't sleep." The lie rolled
easily off her tongue but Diandra wasn't fooled.
"Bullshit," she said softly. "You've been
slipping out of the house before we wake every morning for two weeks now. I've
tried to give you space to sort things out in your own mind, but I cannot do it
anymore. If I'm so horrible, if you're so afraid of RaeLynn, if you just don't
want to try anymore, no one is forcing you to stay. But go before you hurt us
Lizbeth looked up in surprise, and the guilt grew worse as
she watched a single tear slide down her lover's face. "Dia, no- I don't
want to leave. It's just…" she trailed off, unable to make herself speak
aloud of her fears.
"It's just that you're afraid of us now. I get that.
But we didn't hurt you, and we never would. Hell, Rae healed you. What's so
scary about that?" Her confusion was obvious, the hurt lacing the edges of
her words as she tried to understand.
"I don't know," Lizbeth whispered. Her emotions
raw, everything she felt was in those three little words. Guilt, sorrow, fear,
puzzlement- all of her feelings were laid bare before Diandra. "I don't
know why I'm so afraid. I was dead. I remember the aching terror of being shot.
I remember how badly it hurt, and how the pain ebbed away until I just… let go.
I was hovering overhead." She locked eyes with Diandra, begging her to
understand. "After I died I was hovering above my body. I saw what you did
to Jonah, and that scared the Hell out of me, even more than what you did to
that… assassin. Then RaeLynn placed her baby hands over me and I woke up, like
it was just a bad dream. I don't have a single fucking reminder of it except my
memory. No scars, no pain, but I'm still screaming inside, Dia. I remember my
death in such vivid detail that I can feel the pain of the moment if I let
myself, but there's not a mark on me. Shouldn't there be some physical
reminder?" An edge of hysteria had crept into her voice, and her fear lay
heavy and metallic on her tongue. She forced herself to swallow, and washed the
taste down with a sip of the coffee.
Diandra smiled gently before tentatively reaching for
Lizbeth's hand. She didn't draw away, which Dia took to be a good sign,
although there was a slight tightening around her eyes. Still, after sitting
quietly a moment, Lizzie squeezed Diandra's hand in her own. "Lizzie,
baby, you wouldn't know it to see me from the outside, but I've been living in
my own Hell since that day. I killed my husband with my bare hands. Nine years
we were married and I just killed him like he'd never meant anything to me. He
shot you and I saw no recourse but to rip his still-beating heart out of his
body and destroy it because he destroyed you. I wanted to try and save you but
I was helpless. The Council would kill me for sure if I turned you because you
didn't give your permission. Then I would be dead and you'd be raising RaeLynn
alone. Either alternative sucked."