Friday, January 13, 2012

I Have A Secret: Chapter One Sneak Peek

I Have a Secret
Sloane Monroe Series #3  

Chapter One Sneak Peek 

Doug Ward stood on the ship’s deck and gazed across the calm waves of an evening sea.  The cool ocean breeze brushed past his face and clung to it like little particles of mist, but he didn’t seem to notice.  The scotch in his hand was his fifth of the night, or the sixth or seventh—he couldn’t remember.  Most nights he drank until he passed out, and tonight would be no exception.  He’d drink himself into oblivion if it meant never hearing another one of his classmates sing the karaoke version of M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” 

Twenty years had passed since anyone called him “Douggie”, but tonight he’d heard it shouted from every corner of the stuffy room that contained him.  All he wanted was to get away from it, so he left the crowd at the costume party behind to sing their hearts out while he pondered the long list of life’s regrets in solitude.  Rounding out the top five was his decision to take the high school reunion cruise in the first place.  But there was little he could do about that now. 

 Two more days, he thought, and this trip will be all over.

Doug’s memories of high school had faded through the years until he hadn’t remembered much of anything.  It all seemed like the blur of someone else’s life, as if the experiences he recalled weren’t really his anymore.  He had flashes of memories here and there, but only one solid enough to stand the test of time.  And that was the one he’d tried his hardest to forget, but no amount of alcohol would ever drown it out.  Not completely. 

Often times Doug thought about what he’d change if he could go back in time and do it all over again.  He envisioned himself at the fork in the road and often thought about what it would have been like had he chosen to go in the other direction.  Maybe he wouldn’t have gone through life with all the nightmares that plagued him, or the secrets that gnawed at his insides like a thief in the darkness trying to find his way out of a dense, black fog surrounding him on all sides, 

“There you are,” a voice said behind him. 

Doug rotated his body around and faced Trista, his wife.  She looked exquisite in her black satin vampire gown that hugged every curve of her petite frame.  Her cocoa-colored hair fell in loose curls around her shoulders, and her lips were stained the perfect shade of red.  It didn’t matter how many years had come and gone since they’d married, she still remained the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. 

“I’m sorry, honey.  I just needed a moment alone,” he said. 

“Everyone is looking for you,” she said.  “They want to know what happened to the life of the party.”

He rattled the ice cubes in his glass around and shook his head.  “You know I haven’t been worthy of that title for a very long time.”

She shrugged. You can’t help how people remember you, Mr. Prom King.  And I thought you should know your queen is getting lonely in there without you.”

Doug managed to crack a smile.  He hated to disappoint her.  “I need a few more minutes, okay?  And then I’ll come in.”

Trista wrapped her arms around him, stared into his eyes and whispered, “I’ll be waiting,” and then she brushed her lips across his and turned and went back inside. 

Doug winced when she touched him.  Not because her affections were unwanted, but because he knew how much he’d let her down over the years.  He hadn’t lived up to the man he should have been—not as a husband, a father, any of it.  And yet she stayed while he wasted away.  He knew he didn’t deserve her, and that made him feel even worse.

So many times Doug tried to pick himself up again, for his wife and their kids.  But no matter how many twelve-step programs he went to, it always ended the same way, with one eyeball staring down the bottom of a bottle until he’d finished every last drop.  Most nights he woke up in his bed not knowing how he got there, and he’d turn and gaze upon Trista who was snuggled up next to him.  In those moments of serenity he vowed the next day would be different.  But when the sun rose and brought a chance to start anew, he was too weak and couldn’t get out the door without at least one drink.     

Doug turned back and stared out to the sea again, but the night had bathed the sea in black, and he couldn’t see much of anything anymore besides the mirrored glow of the moon across still waters.  He sighed; it was time to go back inside.      

Beside the door a shadow emerged and gravitated in his direction.  Doug hunched over to get a better look, but his eyes played tricks on him, and everything was a haze.  “I’m coming in now, sweetie.”  

The figure halted.  Doug squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again, but the image in front of him was still a blur.  Several seconds went by and neither moved.  He shook his head back and forth at a rapid rate and tried to jolt back into reality.  And then it occurred to him—whoever lurked there seemed too tall to be his pint-sized wife.  

“Is that you, Candice?” he said.  “Because I’m still not interested.  I love my wife.  You have to stop this—right now.”

The figure shook its head but did not speak.

Candice was known in high school as the girl all the guys slept with, and being told no wasn’t part of her limited vocabulary.  Doug had resisted her for most of his senior year until one night when she showed up on his doorstep.  It was like she knew he’d been left all alone.  With his parents gone and Trista away at cheer camp, Candice pushed her way into his house.  Doug tried to say no, he wasn’t interested, but Candice tossed her head back and laughed while she unfastened the belt on her jacket, grabbed both sides and spread it all the way apart.  Doug gasped.  She was stark naked.  She let the jacket drop to the floor and took her pointer finger and curled it back toward her.  That was how she always got her man.  She had the best body of any girl at school—one that none of the boys could resist—and she knew it. 

Since the first day of the reunion cruise Candice had stalked him, showing up at the same excursions he was on with Trista and making obscene gestures whenever Trista glanced the other way.  The mere sight of her made Doug’s insides feel like they were on a continual roller coaster, and he just wanted to get off.  On the second night, Candice had even cornered him in the hallway and slammed him up

against one of the guest rooms.  Doug had more than his fair share of drinks that night, but he’d managed to shove her off him before he stumbled down the hall to his cabin where Trista was waiting. 

And now, there they were.  Doug stared at the figure, sure it was Candice.  She stood, silent, like she was waiting for something.  What kind of game is she playing now…he thought?  “It is you, Candice, isn’t it?”

The figure shook its head and accelerated toward him, and for the first time in years, Doug wished he was in control of all his faculties.  The figure wore a long black robe with a mask that looked like they’d just attended a masquerade ball with Marie Antoinette.  Doug reached for the mask, but his hand swept the open air, not catching anything in its grasp. 

“Who are you?” he said.  “And what do you want?”

The masked person displayed a long, shiny object.  Doug panicked.  He tried to lunge to the side, but instead he stumbled backward, and the knife plunged into his chest.  Doug’s drink tipped from his hand and fell overboard into the icy depths below.  Before he had time to react, he felt another sharp pain to his abdomen, and then another.  He wanted to fight back, but he was drunk and helpless.  The third jab cut deep, slicing straight to the heart, and as the life drained from his body and the blood spilled out, staining the deck below, he

managed to utter one single word: “Why?”

The figure withdrew the knife from Doug’s body, pulled him in close and whispered a single word—the last one he’d ever hear: Revenge.  He pressed his hands into his gaping wounds and slumped over, trying to stand, but it was too late.  Within seconds, Doug Ward was dead.  


1 comment:

  1. Very intriguing read! I'm looking forward to its release!