Workaholic real estate agent Carol Brock can't seem to find a good man. Her first husband cheated with a law clerk less than half his age. Then she found herself in a string of bad relationships with unscrupulous men, including a con man and art thief, who shredded her professional reputation and strained her relationship with her college-age children. Carol has sworn off men and is determined to reclaim her life and career on her terms. But, when Boston’s most eligible bachelor, restoration specialist Devin Elliott, puts in an offer on a charming Victorian, Carol admits she’s attracted. Devin’s offer unwittingly unleashes a psychopathic rage in an ex-girlfriend that spills into Carol’s life. As she and Devin try to stay one step ahead of violence, Carol must decide whether she's ready to risk her heart again.
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By the time Devin arrived, Carol had regained her equilibrium. She was a mama bear now, and someone was threatening her and her cub. And that someone was not going to get away with it.
“Devin. Funny way to wrangle an invite to my place.” Carol smiled warmly at him and took his coat. “Detective Guzzo, meet Devin Elliott. Devin, this is my daughter Ashley.”
Devin shook Guzzo’s hand and then turned to Ashley. “You are the spitting image of your mother. If I’d met her at your age, I would’ve married for sure. Alas, I didn’t and have remained a lonely bachelor all these many years.”
Carol laughed in relief. “Thank you, Devin. You just made my day, my week, and the month.” She ushered them all into the living room. “Ash, can you take the coffee orders please? I’ll get something to snack on. I think we’re all a bit hungry at this hour.”
Guzzo started asking Devin questions and noting his answers in his old-fashioned paper notebook. “So you split up with Ms. Wendover exactly when?”
“If memory serves, it was in June 2006. I couldn’t see myself going through another summer with her. She was getting very clingy and manipulative and needed to know where I was every minute of the day. She was planning our life and future together without ever asking if it was what I wanted.” Devin spoke as he watched Carol and Ashley organizing some hors d’oeuvres. He looked back at the detective.
“You told Carol that Allison trashed your condo just after you broke up. Tell me about that.”
“Now that I think about it, it was cold and calculating. She knew I was out of town. She had called my office on the pretext she needed to reach me. They thought I was still going out with her and told her where I was.” Devin took a cracker with smoked salmon and cream cheese from the plate Ashley set on the coffee table. “When I got back, my place was a disaster. Insurance covered most of it, but it was weeks before I could even live in the place. She had unplugged my fridge, opened the door and turned up the baseboard heaters full blast. The place reeked.”
“How do you know it was her?”
“She was the only person in Boston, other than a good neighbor, with a key. Also, there was no sign at all of forced entry.”
“Did you report it to the police?”
“I did. Some cop came over, took down the particulars and left. No-one ever came to dust for prints. I guess he figured, same old, same old.” Devin reached for another cracker. “Relationship gone bad and ex-girlfriend takes it out on the couch with a large knife. I finally got a case number when my insurance company pushed it.”
“Do you remember the officer’s name?”
“No. It was over six years ago.”
“Okay. Let’s go to last Sunday at the open house.”
Carol relived that day as Devin outlined Allison’s fury at his presence. Ashley looked at her mother with wide eyes as the story unfolded.
“You must have been blindsided, Mom,” she whispered. “Why didn’t you call the police after she called?”
Detective Guzzo looked at them both. “Good question, Ashley. Why didn’t you?”
“Devin and I thought she was just blowing off old steam. Jennifer had warned me otherwise but we convinced ourselves she would just go away when presented with the facts and a legal notice. Apparently, she’s delusional. She never moved on.”
“I don’t need a psych evaluation to tell you this: you all need to stay well under her radar until we can figure out next steps. She knows your cars and knows where you live. My experience and that butchered offer tells me she’s capable of physical violence, and it sounds like she’s escalating her behavior. We’ve seen too many cases like this. We can’t ignore these signs. Is there anywhere you could go for a few days until I can make a case and have her brought in?”
Carol, Devin, and Ashley all looked at each other. Devin spoke up.
“We could go to my farm upstate. The trick is to get out of town without her being able to follow us. She knows about the farm, but she doesn’t know exactly where it is. She was too much of a city girl, and my parents weren’t particularly fond of her. She was never invited.”
Mary Metcalfe is the author of three published novels –Winds of Change, New Beginnings, Road to Tomorrow – and currently at work on her fourth. She and her long-time husband live in the foothills of the Laurentians in Quebec,Canada with a small herd of cats and a Canadian Eskimo dog. Their daughter is a published literary non-fiction author.
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