I took the girl, who was named Octavia, a dozen roses and a card. Her sister was there with her, and we all sat and talked like old friends for about an hour before Ibrought up the reason I was really there. I was hoping she wouldn’t take it the wrong way. “Octavia, I know your health insurance covers all of your medical expenses, but I thought you might want someone to talk to about coping with your handicap.”

Her voice was very weak, and her skin was flaccid and pale. “Someone like who?”


“I have a friend. Her name is Dr. Marcella Spencer, and she’s a wonderful psychiatrist. I think she might be able to help you tremendously.”

Her sister put her two cents in. I noticed she had quite a southern drawl. “We can’t afford no head doctor.”

“I would be willing to cover the costs.” Both of them were shocked, and their mouths were hanging wide open. I guess good Samaritans went out with bell bottoms and the Afro.

Octavia cleared her throat. “Why would you be willing to do something like that for me? You don’t even know me.”

“The man who hurt you . . . well, one of them at least, also hurt me as well as my best friend. In fact, he killed her and ultimately tried to kill me.”

They were utterly speechless. “Helping you would make me feel like I have undone some of the things he did wrong. Does that make any sense? Probably not.”

I was on the brink of tears. So much had happened over the past few months that crying had become almost second nature to me. “Yes, it makes sense to me, and thanks, lady.”

“The name is Zoe. Zoe Reynard, and thank you for accepting the help. Dr. Spencer helped me overcome something once, and she’s still helping me. I’m sure she will help you too.” I held the door open briefly as I was leaving, taking one last look at the young girl who wouldnever walk, run, dance, drive a car, or make love again. “I’ll have Dr. Spencer stop by tomorrow to set up a schedule with you.”

She smiled at me, and I headed for my office to play catch-up.

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For the next two months everything ran smoothly with my marriage, my business, and my relationship with my kids and my mother. Things had never been better. My business picked up considerably, probably because the CEO of the company was finally content with her own life and able to run everything in a more pleasant and efficient manner.Angelique was back in her dorm, but still watched the kids for us when Jason and I went out on dates twice a week. We made that promise to one another and held to it faithfully. We spent two romantic evenings a week alone together away from the kids and household. It was during one of those romantic evenings that Jason surprised me with his master plan.

We were having dinner at a soul food restaurant when he told me he had rented a log cabin up in the mountains for us to have a weekend getaway. He suggested we drive up that Friday, which was three days away, and spend all day Saturday looking at land for sale to build our summer home. I told him it was on and then got up from my chair, sat on his lap and starting tonguing the hell out of him. The woman that owned the place came over and asked us to stop because there were children present. I replied, “Oops, my bad!” She had no idea what the hell that meant but was clearly relieved when I returned to my seat.

I dropped the kids off at Momma’s house that Fridayafternoon. Jason had the Land Rover packed and ready to roll when I pulled up at home. We had a great drive up. It took us about two hours to get to the cabin, and I fell in love with it at first sight. It was nestled deep in the woods, a split-level with three bedrooms and two full baths. What I loved most was the huge fireplace. Jason headed right outside to get some wood so a fire would be up and going for dinnertime.

We had plenty of groceries. I went shopping the night before and purchased everything we would need for our romantic weekend getaway. I made baked chicken breasts with rice, green beans, and rolls for dinner. We ate on the bearskin rug by the fireplace. After we washed the dishes, we returned to the rug and made love for the remainder of the night.

Jason got up before me the next morning and prepared a huge breakfast. I didn’t even know his ass could cook like that. My baby was just full of surprises! First, eating the pussy day in and day out and then, cooking me an actual meal.

We spent most of the daylight hours riding around in a Jeep Wrangler with Roscoe Carter, the one and only local real estate agent. He showed us every section of land up for sale in the county. Jason and I were both worn out by the time he dropped us back off at the cabin. I tried to call my mother to check on the kids but got the machine and left the number where we were, just in case she had misplaced it. I figured

she and Aubrey had decided to take the kids to a late matinee or out for pizza.

“Boo!” Jason crept up behind me and grabbed me around the waist.

I pretended I was mad but loved his touches any way I could get them. “Jason, you scared the hell out of me! My nerves are wracked enough as it is!”

“Oh, come on, Zoe. We’re here all alone. Who else would be grabbing you?”

“That’s not the point!” I started to walk away, but he grabbed me and plopped down on the couch, pulling me down with him.

“You’re still jumpy, aren’t you?” He started kissing and sucking on my neck.

“Yes, I’m still a little perturbed by all of this.”

“Well, don’t be.” He started unbuttoning my flannel shirt. “We’re safe now, and the kids are safe. It’s all over, baby!”

“If you say so.”

“Idosay so! Now, give me my tatas!”

I started giggling while he unfastened my bra and popped a breast in his mouth. After a few more moments of foreplay, all my fears disappeared and my sexual desires took their place.

We were in the bed, even though it was only about ten o’clock, when we heard a loud rapping at the door. Jason threw on a robe and went down stairs to see what the ruckus was about. “Who is it?”“It’s the county sheriff! Mr. Reynard?”

Jason opened the door. By that time, I was at the top of the steps wearing one of Jason’s undershirts and a pair of panties. The sheriff came into the living room with one of his deputies right on his heels. “What’s wrong, sheriff? What’s this all about?”

“Mr. Reynard, we tried to call, but your phone seems to be off the hook.” I looked around and saw that the phone on the end table beside the couch had been knocked over. I probably hit it with my foot accidentally when Jason picked me up and carried me off to bed.“There’s been some trouble back in Atlanta, and a detective—” He pulled out a small notepad and flipped the cover open. “Detective Wilson asked me to drive up here and inform you about what happened.”

I came down the steps in a state of panic. “What happened? Did something happen to the kids? My mother? Were they in an accident?”

“No, ma’am. Nothing like that. In fact, he wanted me to tell you that your mother, stepfather, and the kids are all in protective custody and have been transported to a safe house. Your mother is the one who told us how to find you.”

Jason yelled it out before I could.“A safe house?”

“Yes, sir. Do you know an Allison Morton?”

“Yes, I know Allison. She’s my personal secretary at my architectural firm.”

“Well—” He took off his hat, scratched his head, and then replaced it. “Not anymore, she isn’t.” The deputy walked around the couch, sat the phone back upright, and made sure it was operational.

“What do you mean, not anymore?”

“She was found murdered a couple of hours ago in her apartment in southwest Atlanta.”

“Murdered?” I went running up to him. I had called Allison a bitch, told her to get the hell out my house, threatened to have Jason fire her, and now she was dead. One thing I knew for sure, and that was her death was somehow attributed to me, or the sheriff wouldn’t have been there, and my kids wouldn’t have been in protective custody. “What happened to her?”

“From what I understand, she was severely mutilated, ma’am. Look here, here’s the number to the station house back in Atlanta.” He ripped the piece of paper out of his pad and handed it to me. “The best thing would be foryou to call Detective Wilson. He’s waiting to hear from either you or me anyway. He can clear this whole thing up a whole lot better than I can.”

The sheriff was obviously a man who didn’t want such evil in his county. A couple of good ole boys driving drunk or getting in a bar brawl seemed more his speed. Eventalkingabout murder made the hairs on his neck stand up.

I called Detective Wilson. He yanked the phone up on the first ring after I was connected to his desk. “Mrs. Reynard, I have some extremely disturbing news for you.”

Jason was sitting beside me on the couch and holding my hand while the sheriff and his deputy paced back and forth, seemingly more nervous than anyone else. “So I heard, Detective. What exactly happened to Allison, and what does this have to do with me?”

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