Authors: K M Gaffney
|The Guarded Widow|
|K M Gaffney|
|K. M. Gaffney (2011)|
The Guarded Widow
-Two years after her husband’s accidental death, Olivia Jones has successfully rebuilt a stable, loving home for her four young sons. Alone, the way she prefers to handle life. Then a series of disturbing events shatters her safe world. Lies begin unraveling as her husband’s past comes back to haunt her. Against her better judgment, she must rely on an arrogant, local police officer for answers to her questions. Out of desperation, she is forced to open her home, entrusting him with her family’s safety. Will she ever trust him enough to let down the guard around her heart?
-Gavin Rafferty had never met a stronger willed, more organized woman in his life. He certainly never meant to become enamored with the attractive, single mother and her sons. But he did. Olivia’s ability to handle her boys and her life impressed him. Her cool demeanor and pretty face attracted him. But it was the brutal attack on her life that enraged him. After unearthing incriminating secrets buried with her deceased husband, and witnessing the extent unto which someone intended to keep them hidden, Officer Rafferty vows to protect the young widow by standing guard, twenty four-seven.
The Guarded Widow
K. M. Gaffney
Copyright © 2011
Cover Image www.123rf.com
Other Works by K.
Forsake All Others
A furious snowstorm was rapidly blanketing the stone farmhouse as Olivia stared through the glass of the living room window, mesmerized by the huge snowflakes swirling, dizzy descent. Nearby, tall proud tree branches appeared to be bowing down gracefully, threatening to splinter under the weight of the heavy, wet snow. Periodically throughout the storm her four young sons, who were simply enthralled by the accumulating inches, would take turns begging their mother’s permission for an opportunity to romp amongst the winter wonderland. But the temperature, which was currently hovering at an unmercifully painful thirteen degrees, was predicted to plummet even lower during the night.
“Ten more minutes to play and then it’s time for bed,” Olivia wearily called out while watching the image of her home in the reflection of the glass window pane.
Within seconds Michael, the second eldest, tore through the living room before sliding around the bottom of the staircase in a futile attempt to outrun his younger brothers.
With a heavy sigh of exhaustion, Olivia sincerely hoped her husband, Tom, possessed enough common sense to wait out the severe weather at a hotel, rather than risking the drive home through a blinding snow storm.
Ten years of marriage and four sons later, their already tenuous relationship was now considerably, perhaps even irreparably, strained. The older boys, Tommy and Michael, were in school full time while a year remained until the twins, James and Luke, could join their older brothers. So time alone together, as husband and wife, had become virtually nonexistent. Although lately, Tom had become increasingly more attentive, stressing the need to carve out time for just the two of them, as a couple.
Tomorrow, they’d hopefully have this desperately needed day together, weather permitting.
“Boys, time for bed! James, please stop scaling the outside of the staircase,” Olivia admonished as she attempted to steer two active bodies up the flight of stairs. “Mom, the phone’s ringing. I bet Dad’s calling to say good night,” Tommy, the oldest of the four, bellowed from the kitchen.
At the tender age of nine, he’d recently begun interceding on behalf of his younger brothers by trying to step in and parent them. The result being, his mother was frequently issuing him gentle reminders that, believe it or not, she could handle it.
“Let it ring!” she responded, curtly. “We’ll call him back after you’ve all changed and are ready for bed.”
As they reached the landing at the top of the stairs, the ringing ceased only to begin again, almost immediately. Olivia sighed; she really wanted to get the kids into bed as she was quite ready for some alone time. But whoever was trying to reach her wasn’t taking no for an answer, nor did they seem to be willing to leave a message on the answering machine.
“It must be Tom,” she murmured to herself, already descending the staircase.
“Boys, I’ll be right back up. Please get changed, brush your teeth, and then you can talk to your Dad once everybody’s ready.”
The ringing started again. Just as the answering machine was about to click on she swept into the kitchen, picked up the phone and dropped her voice into a low sexy tone.
“I don't think we’ll be having our time alone tomorrow.”
On the other end of the line, there was a long uneasy silence until an unfamiliar masculine voice stated, “Good evening, I’m looking for Mrs. Olivia Jones. This is Lieutenant Robert Porter with the Vermont State Police. May I please speak with Mrs. Jones immediately?”
She inhaled sharply, anxiety trapping air within her lungs as she sought to answer him. “I’m Olivia Jones,” she managed to whisper.
Lieutenant Porter promptly responded. “Mrs. Jones, there’s been a car accident involving your husband, Thomas Jones. It occurred late this afternoon, just outside of
Once a normal semblance of breathing resumed, Olivia swallowed hard against the lump of fear threatening to rise up in her throat. Refusing to allow herself to panic, she sought to gain control of her emotions.
“Lieutenant, right now there’s a terrible snowstorm battering central
. I won’t be able to make the trip up to
for at least a day or two. I’ll need time to arrange childcare for my children. May I please have the telephone number to the hospital where Tom was transported, so I can speak with a doctor?”
Lieutenant Porter paused, carefully weighing his words.
“Mrs. Jones, I regret to inform you that your husband was killed in the accident. There will be an officer arriving at your home within a few minutes. Officer Gavin Rafferty is from the local police precinct. He’ll be able to provide you with the details.”
The Lieutenant had barely finished uttering the words when Olivia slowly turned her head and looked out the dining room window, noticing that a vehicle was indeed cautiously navigating her long snow covered driveway.
Disbelief paralyzed her as she stared at the tall shadowy figure climbing out of the police car. As she watched him plow his way through the half a foot of snow covering her sidewalk a shocked numbness kicked in, providing a wall of protection against threatening hysteria. She looked down at the phone still clutched within her trembling hand.
“Excuse me, Lieutenant. Are you sure it was my husband?”
“Yes, Mrs. Jones, I’m sure. Officer Rafferty will be able to answer any remaining questions for you. I’m very sorry for your loss,” he stated before ending the call.
Olivia continued holding the phone to her ear, watching as the police officer ascended the snow covered front porch steps. The lamp from the dining room cast a shaft of light onto the porch where it lay shimmering over the deep boot imprints he was creating in the snow.
Before allowing him the opportunity to ring the doorbell, she mindlessly dropped the phone on the counter. She then threw open the front door, biting off words in a firm, hushed whisper.
“Come in, but don't make any noise. I don’t want my children to know you’re here.”
Solemnly removing his snow covered hat, Officer Rafferty began stomping the snow off his boots while attempting to make a quiet introduction.
“I know who you are,” Olivia muttered as she silently closed the front door behind her. Gripping the door knob within her tightly clenched hand as though it offered strength, she studied the snow dusted uniform of the police officer standing in her foyer.
“Please, don't speak yet. I need to get my children to bed and then I’ll be able to listen to what you have to tell me.”
Taken aback by the lack of emotional response to her husband’s death, Officer Rafferty merely nodded before striding into the hallway. Stopping abruptly, he looked to her for instructions.
Avoiding eye contact with him, she paused at the foot of the staircase and wrapped each of her hands tightly around the banisters on either side of her.
“Please take a seat in the kitchen, I’ll be down shortly. You must allow me to give my children one last night before their entire world falls apart,” she gasped in a voice strangled with emotion.
Inhaling deeply, Olivia released a long, slow breath and regained her composure. Then with a lift of her chin, she straightened her spine, and stoically proceeded up the stairs to her children who were innocently awaiting a bedtime story in their parents’ bedroom.
A late model black sport utility vehicle coasted down the driveway toward the home Tom and Olivia Jones had lovingly restored during their first year of marriage. As Olivia rounded the last bend, the farmhouse came into view. Gazing at her home nestled amidst the woods; she experienced a deep sense of pride. She loved the contrast of the pure white trim, encasing the large deep windows, against the grayish brown weathered stone. The result enhanced the bright white mortar which had been so painstakingly re-pointed while drawing attention to the rusty red tin roof she had insisted upon.
Thank God Tom was always so well prepared, Olivia thought as she admired her home. She’d paid off the mortgage with the money received from Tom’s life insurance policy. The blessing of owning the house outright had allowed her the convenience to continue practicing on a part time basis, which truly helped to ease the burden of single motherhood.
Time certainly doesn’t heal all wounds, but grief does start to become more tolerable with time, Olivia mused as she pulled up to the front of the house.
Almost two years. How could it be almost two years since Tom passed away?
She hurried up the wide wooden steps leading up to the wrap around porch. Only pausing briefly, to check for the house key which was kept under the potted plant on the third step. Its absence prompted a smile, confirming that her sons had arrived home safe and sound.
After unlocking the front door, she made a mental note to ask the boys about the spare key. It needed to be replaced so they wouldn’t be locked out tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m home,” Olivia announced as she opened the heavy oak door.
Once across the threshold, she immediately began stumbling over scattered shoes and casually thrown book bags which had made it no further than the front hall floor. Annoyed by the mess, she called up the stairs.
“Please come and pick up your belongings.”
Hastily rounding the corner into the kitchen, she came face to face with Tommy. He wore a wide toothy apologetic grin that seemed to say, “I’m sorry.”
Before he could even utter the words so callously tossed around, she leaned over and kissed his cheek.
“How was your day?” she asked with a knowing smile, already anticipating what his answer would be.
As the younger boys clambered down the staircase, Olivia could hear them arguing and scuffling over whose shoes remained and who had yet to pick theirs up. With an intuitive slight of her head, she momentarily listened to them before returning her attention back to Tommy.
“My day was boring as always,” he told her, rummaging through the pantry in search of another after school snack.
“Nothing happened at all that was fun or exciting?” Olivia feigned surprise, as she closed the pantry door. This action alone, signaling no more snacks.
“Nothing, Nada,” Tommy flippantly replied as he stalked into the family room, snack less, and performed an exaggerated flop onto the sofa. He settled in to watch his younger brothers, Luke and James, as they began a frenzied wrestling match over the television remote.
“Hey Mom,” Michael yelled from the front room. “I forgot tonight’s basketball sign ups. I really wanted to play again this year and this is the last night I can register.”