My mind spun and I tried to grasp at any thought, any memory to give me the sense of feeling grounded. Feeling solid. Instead, years of worry and pain bore down on my chest, smothering my urge to scream. My urge to flee. The stranger’s eyes were unyielding as they locked onto my own. His words continued to bounce around my confused mind.
I had noticed him earlier, watching me. My morning paper and the rich, smooth aroma of roasting coffee beans were all that separated the space between us. I took comfort in the tip tapping of fingers on laptop keys as fellow coffee shop patrons worked on future bestsellers or, more likely, checked the latest tweets. Potential witnesses if this man proved to be crazy.
The jingly notes of the Christmas music faded under the crashing waves pulsing in my ears. Blood surged at the insistence of my pounding heart as he walked toward me. By the time he reached my table, the low murmur of coffee shop chatter drowned under the sound of my own heartbeat.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” he had said. “But I have a message. She’s…she’s quite, um, insistent.”
I felt a pinch between my brows as I opened my mouth to speak. After a moment he must have realized that nothing was going to come from my parted lips and he continued.
“Anya wants me to tell you that she hopes you and Darren are happy.”
His eyes swam with kindness and a hint of pride. My mouth eased open further as if to catch the tears swelling too quickly to the surface. A smile spread across his face and I realized he believed he had delivered comforting news from beyond.
Pressing my lips together, I swallow down the bark of fear throbbing in my throat. With great effort, I was only able to curl up the right side of my mouth, but the lie of it was too much and it fell back into a grim, straight line.
“Thank you,” I finally managed to say and he walked away.
His steps were light. Those of a man who had done some good. I knew my steps would never be that free again as the weight of fear now pumped through my veins like concrete.
…she hopes you and Darren are happy.
Heat prickled my skin, but I shivered as I recalled the stranger’s words. Words meant to ease the suffering of loss, but I knew all too well Anya’s true intention. What she had implied.
If she knew that I was now involved with her husband—her widow—then she surely knew that I was the one who killed her, too.