MARRED Excerpt – Sue Coletta

ONE

Sunday

1:30 P.M.

I used to believe people were inherently good, if only at their core. I saw the brokenness of the homeless. The, if only he caught a break. . . I respected the overachiever in the football star, hoping for Daddy’s approval even though he knew he’d never get it. I saw the heart of the sinner. The souls of lovers. The shattered dreams of an abandoned child. I saw good in evil. Spirit in the unholy. The complexities of love, marriage, life. Hell, I welcomed the challenge. I had hopes and dreams and affirmations. I did.

And then, that all changed. My views shattered. Or maybe, my eyes finally opened.

That’s what Niko would say. Though now, devastation also fills his eyes. He no longer looks at me as his optimistic wife who loves life. I miss our blissful marriage. I miss our baby. I miss my blindfold. Oh, how I wish I could put it back on. Most of all, I miss. . . me.

Now, I’m just trying to survive. And so, I go through life on autopilot.

***

Clutching a load of laundry I hobbled down the stairs. A white-hot pain shot to my right knee and folded me in half. The basket of clothes tumbled down the stairs– socks, T-shirts, jeans, shorts and Niko’s sheriff’s uniform strewn about the living room floor.

I fell back against the stairs. Twined my arms around the railing and stared at the white lines on my forearms left by the knife. The thick scar on my neck tugged at the skin as I straightened. Even after three long years and hours and hours of counseling, one small reminder– the sight of my scars– made me relive that night over again. I still could not get past what that man did to me.

The phone startled me when it rang.

I didn’t want to answer, but when you’re married to the Sheriff that isn’t an option. I raised the receiver to my ear. “Hello?”

“Who’s this?” a man queried, his voice fuzzy as if he were disguising it.

“Who’s this? You called me.”

“I think I have the wrong number.”

A dial tone sounded.

That was weird. I loaded the clothes back in the basket and then turned to walk down the hall when the phone rang again. I’d had it with this guy. I darted over and answered with a firm, “Hello.”

The same voice said, “Sheriff Quintano, please.”

“Didn’t you just call here?”

“Sheriff Quintano, please.”

“He’s not home. He’s at work. Who is this?”

The line went dead.

“Jerk!” I slammed the handset in its cradle. Again I picked up the laundry basket and headed down the hall. A sudden chill sheathed my arms in goosebumps as I realized I had just announced I was alone in the house.

As if I had willed it the cordless phone’s musical trill resonated down the hall. Ruger and Colt jolted to their paws and took notice. I winced, not wanting to answer. Once it rang a third time I hurried over, hissed, “I told you he’s not home. What do you want from me? Why are you calling back?”

“Do you want to live forever?”

A cold sweat broke across my back as my heart slammed against my rib cage. “What’d you say?” I prayed I hadn’t heard him correctly, tried to convince myself this could not be happening again.

He repeated, “Do you want to live forever?”

He found me. How did he find me? I’d been so careful. I hadn’t left a forwarding address. Our phone number was not listed in the book. The neighbors had all asked where we were moving to and I’d been careful not to tell any of them. All I said was north, and left it at that. I’d done everything right. Everything I could think of to make us fade into obscurity. And yet, he called.

As if it was on fire I dropped the handset into its cradle, disconnected from the past.

Sprinting from room to room, I closed and secured all the windows and checked the locks on the front and back doors. Bolted upstairs and pressed my foot on the security bar in the sliders. Colt and Ruger watched me zip around the house not knowing what was wrong. Ruger finally laid his head down on his paws and went to sleep while Colt bound over and stayed on my heels.

I had just returned to the kitchen table when the phone rang again. My gaze locked on the handset. And I froze. Colt’s face ping-ponged between me and the phone as he put the pieces together in his mind. He then trotted over and knocked the receiver off its cradle, gently clasped it in his lips and carried it over to me. I knew he was only trying to help, using his training to aid me, but at that moment that was the last thing I wanted him to do.

Slowly I raised the handset. Didn’t speak, just listened to someone breathe on the other end of the line. I slapped my hand over my mouth and held back screams. I refused to give this man the satisfaction of knowing he was terrifying me. But I also couldn’t hang up. His breath held me hostage. My fingers lost feeling around the handset, knuckles white from lack of blood flow. I was in his command, unable to move.

He echoed, “Do you want to live forever?”

I gaped left, then right. He could be outside my home hiding in the bushes. If I didn’t respond he might come inside. He could have stalked me for days, weeks, months. Maybe he’s always been here. In the shadows, just out of reach. Watching. Waiting. Planning.

Why, oh, why was this happening again?

Razor-sharp pains shot to my right knee, ribs, arms and stomach as though I was reliving the ordeal. “What do you want?” I cringed, awaiting his response.

He laughed a demonic bellow.

I wish Niko had killed him that night. I wish his guts had splattered all over my living room walls, dousing me in his death. I wish I saw him take his last breath and his evil soul plummet to hell. Then maybe I could finally breathe again. How he survived still baffled me.

32 thoughts on “MARRED Excerpt – Sue Coletta

    • Not for a while I’m afraid. It’s still sitting on several agents’ desks.Then it has to get sold to a publisher and then it’ll be at least a year until it comes out. Traditional publishing is a hurry up and wait game. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a great thing that we have options today, isn’t it, Jazzfeathers? We can pick and choose the path that seems best for us. At my age, I’m in a bit more of a hurry than many, so self-publishing was a better choice for me. (Plus I’m a bit of a control freak, and like being able to make all my own decisions.) Hope you are having good luck with the trad-pub; route. You should share some of your excerpts with us. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • As a friend of mine told me (she’s interested in self-publishing) there’s a way for each one of us and each one has their own way 😉

        I’ve just started querying and looks like it isn’t going too bad… at the moment.

        I’d like to share some excerpt, but I don’t write mysteries.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Neither do I, per se. I write chiefly romantic suspense and some poetry. This isn’t a mystery blog. It’s for all writers of all genres, almost. (No heavily erotic themes or political works). So, please, feel free to contact me at mmeara@cfl.rr.com and let me know what you’d like to share. We can probably accommodate you!

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  1. Wow, that is tense! Really enjoyed the build up, good luck with the agents. I’ve been that route (had 2 agents, but no sale) and gave up on that idea when the indie scene took off. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have loved to have had a traditional deal, but you can only wait so long.

    Liked by 1 person

          • Not exactly, that’s how long I kept on trying to get something published; there was more than one book. There was also a gap between agents when I was writing non fiction, of which I did get 2 published (un-agented).
            I just felt 15 years of submitting to publishers was enough on the fiction front.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, that is a long time. Admittedly, traditional publishing isn’t for everyone. There are so many rules, as you know. If your book doesn’t sit squarely on a shelf– like mash-ups of genres– that you’re sunk. That’s why the Indie route is so great. Ultimately, I’d like to be a hybrid. Which is basically what you are, since you were traditionally published first. To me, that’s the best of both worlds. But I feel being traditionally published first is the right thing for me. Then I’ll branch out into self-publishing, too. That’s the plan, anyway.

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              • Well it works for me; I learned the ropes as a traditionally published author first, and I do think that’s stood me in good stead for going indie, so good luck with that route.
                I had the thrill earlier this year of my first book earning out, so now I’m actually making some money on top of my original advance, though I have to say I’ve done mega amounts of marketing, and I’m rarely caught without copies about my person to sell to the unwary 😉

                Liked by 1 person

        • See, 15 years would put me at 85. If I’m still here! (Which I plan to be, btw, but I’m just sayin’…) I don’t want to wait until I’m 85 before I see some success. So in my circumstances, being an indie was just a better option. And working the “crowd” locally is getting to be more and more fun every day, too. But…if I were still a sweet, young thing like you guys, I might do it differently. I’ll be pulling for you all the way, no matter which path you take!

          Liked by 2 people

            • Different dreams, and different circumstances. It’s not a one size fits all kinda thing. I like your idea about being a hybrid. And the nice thing about being indie is, that’s always an option. It can happen. But my goals are different from most at this stage in my life, so I just did what looked like the best thing for me. I feel sure with what I’ve read of your work so far, you’ll find that agent/publisher you need, and you’ll be “out there” soon, in exactly the way you’ve decided you want to go. I believe it will happen, and I’ll be cheering you on all the way.

              Liked by 1 person

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