Déjà Vu: St. Barts Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17

Inspector Marcel Privé was bone tired. He hadn’t been home in four days, surviving on catnaps in the police station as he oversaw the clean up following the hurricane. Just one life lost, a tourist who decided to go surfing. Darwinian, muttered paramedics as they retrieved the grotesquely swollen corpse from the beach beneath Le Toiny. He rubbed sand clotted eyes. Just a few more loose ends, then he could go home to Ana. His family was fine, his house undamaged. Others weren’t so lucky. Makeshift shelters would soon empty but magnanimous island residents would have refugees as houseguests for weeks, if not months.

The words on the report blurred. The coffee had stopped working. He blinked, and this time the words came into focus. A phone message from Sergeant Tom Adams, his friend from Toronto. It was dated the day of the storm. He reached for the phone and prayed it wasn’t already too late.

***

Alex nibbled on a pop tart as she went over her list. The rental car had been picked up by the mechanic. It sustained some storm damage from the wind and the water and falling branches. The villa people would look after the place for the next little while. Bliss and the baby were fine. Lennon, she sighed. He was another story. She’d hoped he’d gotten over his anger when they bonded over the baby. But once Bliss was in the hospital, he backed off. Too busy making phone calls and travel arrangements and fussing over his new niece to resolve the impasse between them.

Well, she was busy too. Louie wanted her in France to do some interviews and to stop in Hollywood to go over preliminary casting suggestions. Back into her unreal life, she thought, then laughed. Half a year ago, would she had considered living on St. Barts and being involved with a famous family to be reality?

Packing. That’s all that’s left. She would take a couple of her nice new outfits, maybe use them for press. Maybe buy something in Paris. She shook her head in disbelief. Shopping for clothes in Paris!

Suitcase ready, Alex was gathering the electronics for her carry-on, being careful to back up all her scribbling to the Cloud first, when the doorbell rang. Her heart raced. Lennon? Had he come to say goodbye? She hadn’t told him her plans but Bliss knew. Hell, on such a small island everyone knew everyone else’s business. She opened the door with a welcoming mile that quickly turned to puzzlement. It was replaced by horror when the man at the gate said in a growl, “My wifey! I love you Alex.”

***
Her head hurt. Alex could feel no-seem ums nibbling at her ankles and toes. Funny, she thought fuzzily. They don’t tend to come out during the day. Wasn’t it daytime? Wasn’t she packing to go to France to promote her books?

She tried to open her eyes but there was no light, only blackness. She tried to squint but it made no difference. She couldn’t see a thing. It was darker than night. It was as if she was under the covers. Not covers. A blindfold? No, she thought trying to focus. She would be able to feel a blindfold over her eyes but she could still blink and squint and see. If there were anything to see. What then? She flashed to her meeting with Madame X and came up with the answer. It was a hood. Her head and face was covered with a hood. She inhaled in panic and a foul smelling fabric pressed against her gaping, gasping mouth. That answered what. A hood.

Where? She could hear the familiar sounds of the waves crashing on the beach in the distance, smell the ocean. Her villa. That was where.

Who? She shook the cobwebs from her brain. Her head hurt. A spike of pain at the temple. Who? Focus, Alex. She’d been packing. The doorbell. A strange man. Wifey. He’d called her wifey, like the stalker in Toronto. The man who had cut out the still beating raccoon heart and left it, like a present, in the lobby of her building. Like a cat leaves a dying mouse for its owner. Her stalker. She was in St. Barts. And so was he.

Alex felt a wave of adrenaline surge through her body. She wanted to run but she couldn’t move. Her arms and legs were bound to something. She wriggled her shoulders. The bed post perhaps? Some kind of wood abraded her back. Her breath came in raspy pants. She tried to scream but only could call up enough oxygen, enough saliva for a grunt. A pitiful plea for help. It was enough. She felt the presence of another person. Body heat radiating at her right side. A man spoke with a French accent.

“I’m glad you’re finally awake. I was afraid I hit you too hard. But now you’re awake. Now we can get started.”

There was a low giggle, obscene in its intent and she blinked as the hood was removed from her head. It was night because the bedroom lamp was on. She confirmed she was tethered somehow to the bedpost, tied tight enough to prevent her legs from buckling in shock. The shutters were drawn. The night air moist against her sweaty skin. She glanced up through her lashes. The man was dark and unshaven. He was tall, about six feet she guessed. He looked scrawny but strong. The bicep by her face was taut. His breath smelt sour, as if he had never heard of floss. She glanced up further and saw he was watching her with strange brown eyes. The pupils dilated into pinpricks. The whites criss-crossed with red veins. The skin on his face was raw, as if he’d been in the sun for days without a hat. He smiled, betraying yellowed upper teeth, the lower ones stained brown with nicotine or… She dared not think what else would have stained someone’s teeth that colour.

“Water,” she croaked. A sopping washcloth was held to her lips and she sucked on the fabric, almost grateful. Her lips were parched. How long had she been standing there? It was midday when she answered the bell. It was night now. The same night? She didn’t know. She felt the cold clammy material between her thighs and thought it could be the same day, or the next day. She obviously soiled herself.
The cloth was taken away and returned, dripping tepid water. She slaked her thirst again and tried to think.

“How did you get here?” The question came out in a whisper. A whimper.

“I’m smart,” said the man. “I fooled everyone. I found you. And now I’m here. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. We’re meant to be together. You’re my wifey.”

Alex felt a familiar tide of panic rising again and battled it back down. Think.

Nouns. Hood. Ropes. Bed. Stalker.
Adjectives. Scared. Panicky. Alone.

Verbs. Run. Fight. Neither seemed likely.

Imperatives. Think. Reason. Stay calm!

“Who are you?”

“Your husband of course,” said the man, punctuating his answer with that disturbing giggle. “You’re the wifey and I’m the husband. Alex and me. Everybody knows. I’ve been patient. I’ve been waiting. Then you wrote those love letters to me and I knew now was the time.”

There was a pause and Alex could see his eyes had closed. The man was shaking his head as if disagreeing with an internal voice. “I knew. And so I came to you. But then you left again. And I followed you. And now I’m here. We can be together, like we’re supposed to. Like your love letters.”

“I never wrote you love letters,” she said in a calm, firm voice as if talking to a confused child. Play along until you can get away, she thought. Don’t antagonize him. She remembered the anti-rape classes at university. Stay calm and run away the instructor had advised. Don’t be a dead hero. Dead! No. Not dead. Calm. Dead calm.

The man was holding something up to her face. Tattered copies of her books. She could see the pages had been highlighted in yellow and pink. Study notes? No please, she thought and closed her eyes tight to stop the tears.

“Your love letters. To me.” He held them in front of her face as an offering. “To me!” he added emphatically, then smiled widely, baring those unsightly teeth.

“I brought you presents,” he said, his voice now eager as if a student with a stubborn teacher. He cupped her chin with
one calloused grimy palm and turned her face to the bed. Displayed in perfectly synchronized lines on the white duvet were bondage tools. Alex thought back to Madame X. The ball gag. The spreader. Various dildos. A whip. A cane. She choked back a sob. Calm. Stay calm, then run. He’ll have to untie me if he wants to…to play. If he wants me to co-operate. He’ll have to release my arms and legs. Focus, Alex.

“The love letters explained everything,” he said fingering through the pages. His nails were yellow and chipped and there was a line of clotted material trapped beneath the edges. He peered closely at her face. “Did I do okay? You like your presents?”

“Very much,” she said, working to free up enough saliva for speech. “If you untie me I can show you how they work.”

That obscene giggle was her answer. “I know how they work,” he said chidingly. “It’s in the love letters. See! Page eighty-one.” He picked up the dildo and wiggled the black rubber in front of her face.

He reached for the cane. “Page two hundred and sixteen.” He swiped it across the air in front of her face and she recoiled reflexively.

“Book two, page seventy-nine,” he said picking up the ball gag and caressing the straps. “That’s my favourite.”

Before Alex could react, she felt his fingers at the back of her head and the rubber inserted into her mouth. She gagged against the cold, hard surface. Don’t throw up, she warned herself. You could choke to death on your own vomit. She willed her breaths to slow, her eyes to narrow slightly, the panic abating. He doesn’t want to hurt you, she told herself. Well, at least not really. Just want to play-act some of the scenes in your books. She swallowed hard remembering what she’d written. They’d been explicit, some said pornographic but the bondage and s and m she’d written about had been acted out in the context of loving relationships. Two consenting adults. This was anything but consensual.

The man sat down on the bed and started disrobing. Throwing a grimy T-shirt and pants to the floor, then pulling down his underwear. His erection was so hard it looked painful. He reached down to caress himself. “This is for you Alex. Only for you wifey.” He leaned closer, rubbing the stiff shaft against her thighs and stomach, grunting and breathing heavily. She clenched her thighs together intent on denying him access. If only she could raise a knee, thought Alex, testing the bindings and finding no purchase. Focus on breathing through your nose, she reminded herself as another thread of bile threatened to engulf her palate.

The man kept rubbing against her, eyes closed. But then they snapped open and he growled. “No! For wifey!”

She looked down to see he’d gone limp. It infuriated him and he started yanking on his penis, trying to will the blood back into his now slack member. His eyes blazed and he yanked the back of her ball gag, smashing the rubber hard into her teeth. “You are my wifey!”

She braced for the blow but it never came. Instead, he backed away again, eyes closed as if resuming to an argument only he could hear.

She stood there, waiting and waiting and nothing. The smell of the ocean air would occasionally drift into the room, fighting with the foulness of the man. Foul won, every time. Her head throbbed. Her legs and arms spasmed as her limbs fought to be free from their unnatural positions. She may have dozed for a second. A concussion, she wondered, because when she opened her eyes he was there, millimeters from her face. Erect again.

“It’s your fault wifey. You have to show me you love me.”

She blanched at the belch of fetid breath and then felt the panic rising, her bladder let go as he held up the knife.
Be quick, she thought. An artery and it’s over. Don’t toy with me, not with a knife. She knew he was good with a knife, after the raccoon.

She waited for the hot spurt of pain, the crest of blood but instead felt him drop to her feet, sliding the blade beneath the bottom of her pants, cutting up one leg, pausing at the crotch, then down the other inseam. He moved to the outside of the leg, using the razor sharp blade to glide through the material, not even snagging on the waistband. Once done, he peeled off her pants, and the knife moved upwards, repeating the procedure on her blouse. Following seams from waist to shoulders to neckline. The thin white material fell to her feet and she was left in her underwear. She could feel him breathing against her cheek, his breath was hot and moist. “Wifey,” he whispered and she felt the tip of the blade against her breastbone, easily cutting through her bra. Down it dipped, cutting through her underpants leaving her naked.

Nouns. Skin. Knife. Breeze.

Adjectives. Cool. Moist.

Verbs. Run. Fight.

No, not working. Again, she willed herself, as she felt the tip of his tongue trace her jawline. Don’t flinch. The knife. Remember the knife. Calm. Go away to someplace calm. Ignore the trail of saliva, sticky on her shoulder. Calm. She thought, flexing against the ropes. No give.

Calm. Happy. Where to let her mind wander? Not where, she thought, swallowing down vomit bile as the man touched her breast. Who, not where. Lennon. Think about Lennon. The sun glinting off the sea as he surfed. His supple fingers kneading dough. The concentration as he painted her toe nails, adding happy faces while she slept. The whisper of a smile against her hair after making love. She went to her happy place, trying not to whimper, not to see, not to feel as the man clumsily experimented with his array of toys.

***
Alex awoke in a sterile white room. She was still bound, she thought struggling to raise her arms. No, not ropes now. A tube in her arm. A needle in her skin. She saw the needle. The tube. Her arm leaden but unbound.

Nouns. Medicine. Hospital. I.V drip.

Adjectives. Safe. Rescued.

Verbs. Sleep.

A soft voice with a French accent woke her. “Mademoiselle Whitmore? You can hear me?”

“Yes,” she croaked. The policeman who invited her to the Cinco de Mayo barbeque. Inspector, what?

“Inspector Privé,” he said, as if he’d heard her unspoken question. “You are in the hospital. Yves Gerrard is in custody. You have been injured, but you will be okay. The doctors say the damage is not bad. Some stitches. A concussion. Some bruising.”

“The knife?” she managed to croak.

“He didn’t use the knife, at least not on you. He injured himself instead.” His voice was soothing, his eyes calm.

Alex waited for the wave of relief. Of compassion. There was only fatigue. A weariness of the soul. She was alive. She had survived. Where was the joy? The policeman with the kind voice and the gentle eyes was talking again. Asking her whom he should call.

“Louie,” came the answer. “In my cellphone. Call Louie. He’ll be waiting. He’ll be worried.” Struggling to form words with a thick tongue, she slumped and fell back asleep.

When she struggled some time later to the surface of slumber, she heard voices. The policeman she thought, recognizing his velvet, accented tones and who else? An assertive nasal whine. Louie, her agent. She listened as she lay, still too weary to interact. The policeman was apologizing.

“I would have seen the message, I would have known sooner, I could have stopped it…if it hadn’t been for the hurricane.”

“’Nuff said,” answered Louie. “What’d he do to her? She looks pretty banged up.”

“You can see the bruises on her face. He must have struck her. On her thighs and abdomen, cane marks. They will heal. There may be a little scarring according to the doctors.”

Alex could hear the policeman sigh. “The problem will be emotional. This type of attack. Recovery can take time. She should get therapy to help her, with the memories.”

“Has she said anything?”

“Asked for you.”

“I took the first flight from France when she didn’t show up as planned and didn’t answer her phone. A good thing too.”

“She didn’t say anything about calling her family in Canada. Or notifying her friends here. Alex has made friends on St. Barts. We should let them know. They’d want to help.”

She struggled to surface from the heavy down of sleep.
“No.” It came out less forcefully than she planned. There was something wrong with her throat. No matter. Try again. “Don’t. Not Lennon. Not Bliss. I want to go home.” The tears welled up, spilling over onto her cheeks. She felt Louie take her hand. “I want to go home. Where it’s safe.”

“To Toronto?”

She shuddered in response. Toronto was where he’d first found her. Where he’d left her the present of the raccoon heart.

“No, to Manitoba. To Stonewall. Where he can’t find me. Please Louie.” She managed to open her eyes blinking away the tears. “Take me home.”

Twenty-four hours later, she was en route overriding doctor’s orders who’d warned against her travelling while in such a fragile state. Alex didn’t care. She needed the cocoon of the familiar. She nodded when told Yves Gerrard’s family had given him the money and his passport, no questions asked. They had wanted their familial embarrassment to disappear. Didn’t care where. Didn’t care who he might hurt. Wanted him gone and because his family was wealthy, they had the means to make it so. She answered the policeman’s questions so he could fill out his report. She’d listened to the doctor’s entreaties for her to wean off the pills and get therapy. She’d even left a note for Bliss.

Now she was home. The Winnipeg airport felt strange. Only Louie’s arm around her waist was familiar. He’d retrieved her luggage from the villa from where she’d left it…before. He’d arranged the flights and the rental car. Now she was staring out the window at the passing fields of canola, the heads of the stalks already reddish brown in the early fall light. They drove past the Stony Mountain penitentiary on the way to her hometown. Would her stalker end up in a place like that? Surrounded by bars? Or would he go to a hospital to be treated for his obvious problems? Alex didn’t know. Hadn’t thought to ask in her sedated haze. She hoped he got help, not just punishment. He hadn’t cut her, that counted for something. That counted for a lot.

Her mother greeted them in the driveway, face crumpled in concern. Alex wasn’t sure if her ma was more worried about the state of her daughter or the strange bantam-chested, fast-talking big city agent who had taken charge of the situation. Within minutes, she was sitting by the fire in the chair with the bad springs. It had been her favourite perch, a place she would read as a child. As she sipped her hot chocolate, she listened as hostess and guest made awkward small talk. Her mother left them alone for a minute. Louie held her hand. Who knew he could be so gentle? Focus, Alex.

“I’ve made the first appointment with a therapist. The best in the province. A woman. I thought that might help. She’s coming to you. It’s more expensive, but I thought until you’re better. Anyway, she’ll be here Wednesday.”

He paused. Alex could feel his eyes searching her face for the appropriate response. “What day is today?”

“Saturday,” Louie said.

Just three and half days then since she’d opened the gate and found the man and….don’t. No.

Nouns. Home. Safety.

Verbs. Sleep. Don’t dream. Sleep.

She shook her head to focus on Louie’s goodbyes. Threw her arms around his neck, startling the small man who’d been her tower of strength. “Thank you. For everything. I’m sorry about France and the meeting in Hollywood.”

They were almost the same height so she could see his Adam’s apple working in his throat. When he spoke, his voice was stripped of its usual aggression. “I’m the one whose sorry, kiddo. I thought we could keep you safe. But you are now. You get better and worry about everything later. I’ll be in touch.”

Alex sat there, by the fire, smelling in the familiar scent of potpourri in glass jars and slightly stale cat litter. The familiar pattern of the flowered wallpaper above a blue chair rail. The lampshades were still covered in their plastic dust shields. She was home. Safe. Why then did she feel so sad?

Chapter 18

“What do you mean she’s disappeared?” Lennon frowned at Bliss.

“She’s not answering her cellphone or her email. Alex should have been in France by now. I know she had an interview booked with Le Figaro yesterday. But she hasn’t gotten back in touch. Nothing new has been posted on her blog. Usually there are links to articles and interviews. I hope she’s okay. I wanted to let her know about the date for the Baptism. She’s going to be Abby’s Godmother after all.”

Lennon thought back over the week and a half since Bliss had the baby. Alex was there at the hospital for the next couple of days but he was preoccupied what with Bliss fighting a post-delivery infection. Then there were travel plans for his Grandma Judith. Phone calls to Raisa and Misha and his father. Updating Liam and Linus. Reassuring Charlie, the new frantic dad who was pulling out all the stops, using all his connections to get to St. Barts to see his daughter. Making sure the restaurant and villas had weathered the storm. That his crew was okay.

The list was endless and it explained why he’d been able to avoid Alex. As soon as the visitors arrived, he was ferrying them from the airport to the hospital, getting Bliss and the baby settled. Putting together a fucking crib and a change table. Buying diapers and baby bottles. Catching up on news and now, when he had a chance to catch a breath and finally go see Alex and figure out what was next, she was gone.

“She should have told me.” He hated that whiny tone.

Bliss shrugged, moving the baby to the other breast. “Would you have listened? You made some assumptions, little brother. If you’d given her a little more time, not been so impatient.” She felt a pang of pity as his forlorn expression. “I know. It’s hard to be patient when you’ve found the one.”

“The one what?” Judith asked as she strolled into the Great Room. Their grandmother’s spine was as straight as ever, her blue eyes as alert. Her hair was pure silver now, woven with strands of gold but still an impressive and an impressively attractive woman.

“Hey Great Grandma!” Bliss said with a grin. “Charlie’s on burping duties.” He snatched his daughter and gently brought her to his shoulder, whispering endearments as his hand circled on her tiny back. “Oh right. Mummy brain. Your question. Lennon’s in love.”

He felt his Grandmother’s gaze settle on him, the same look that wheedled out his childhood secrets. How he’d snuck out of the house at night to go surfing. How he’d swiped a bottle of vodka from the freezer. Judith had made him down two shots in quick succession then held his head when he threw up. Lesson learned.

“Who is she?”

Lennon shrugged, wishing the baby would cry or Bliss would burst into hormonal tears. Any kind of diversion.

His sister filled in the blanks, explaining how Alex’s perfume had been the catalyst for Lennon’s infatuation. Their friendship and how she watched her brother fall in love for the very first time.

“Call her!” Judith ordered. “It’s time I meet this young woman.”

“Can’t,” mumbled Lennon. Stop talking about it. Stop asking questions. Let me get my head around the fact Alex is gone, maybe for good. How could he feel so bereft? How could he miss something he never really had? She hadn’t taken him seriously. She hadn’t looked at him as a possible partner. Just a fling. Insubstantial. He left the villa without saying goodbye.
***

Judith and Bliss stared after Lennon in disbelief. “He’s hurting Grandma. Alex left a note thanking me for being her friend and best wishes for the baby. It felt like a forever goodbye. Alex didn’t leave word for Lennon. I know they had an argument but she’s not like that. There’s something else going on.”

Charlie ruffled her curls. “Enough Miss Marple. The baby’s out so you should get some sleep while you can.”

Mother and child settled, Charlie and Judith sat on the daybeds drinking in the view. “Lennon in love! Do you like this Alex?”

“Very much. Smart. Funny. More intimidated by fame than intrigued. Weird considering she’s more famous than most people we know.”

“Oh no,” groaned Judith. “An actress? Worse- a model?”

Charlie grinned. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. She’s a writer. Has three best selling novels and a Hollywood deal. I was hoping for a shot at directing.”

“What do you make of her taking off like that? Vacation over and it’s back to work?”

“St. Barts wasn’t a vacation. Alex was here to do a little writing but Bliss told me it was mostly to get away from a stalker. Some kind of scare in Toronto. Marcel knows all about it.”

There was a tiny cry from the baby monitor and Charlie leapt to his feet.

“Leave Abigail be. She’s just settling down.”

Charlie answered with a shameful grin. “Sorry. It’s just I can’t stop wanting to hold her. I still can’t believe she’s real, that she’s ours. Hell, I still can’t believe Bliss is mine. Well, not mine but in my life.”

“I know,” said Judith. “It’s amazing when you find someone who’s your other half. Like Sven and Sunny.”

“We should have asked you about naming the baby after Sunny. Sven said it was okay but we should have asked you too.”

“It’s perfect. Though it was strange to think about visiting a girl called Abby on St. Barts again. Dredges up memories.”

“Is it still hard for you to come here? You do every year.”

“It’s gotten easier but I won’t lie. There are moments when I’m so overwhelmed. I expect to see her swimming in the pool or playing with the kids or in town, joking with the shopkeepers.”

“If it’s that difficult for you, I can only imagine how tough it would be for Sven. Do you think he’ll ever come back? Bliss was kind of hoping he might be able to be here for the baptism. We can get married in London. Again in L.A. Hell, I’ll marry Bliss in every city in every country of the world. But Bliss has her heart set on a baptism here in St. Barts, just like the rest of the women in her family. It won’t be the same without her dad.”

“I don’t know if he could stand it. It reminds me of Sunny’s father, Douglas O’Hara. He never came back after her mother died. History tends to repeat itself.”

They sat there for a moment watching the sea, sipping their coffee, lost in thought. Judith sat straight up as if galvanized by a sudden realization. “History repeating itself! Have you seen Marcel since Alex left the island?”

Charlie thought for a moment. “No. Ana came by to see the baby but we haven’t seen him. He’s been busy with the clean up after the hurricane.”

“Maybe that’s not all he’s been busy with,” said Judith. “Sven had a stalker on St. Barts before Bliss was born. A childhood friend as it turned out. He attacked Sunny and she left without a word. We didn’t find out until months later. I wonder if….” her voice trailed off, the question left unfinished, unanswered.

Charlie picked up on the idea. “You wonder if the same thing happened to Alex. If the stalker suddenly turned up and that’s why she took off without a word. Wouldn’t Marcel had said something to Bliss or Lennon?”

“Policemen can have very tight lips, but I know how to pry secrets out of them. You leave it to me. I’ll find out what happened and where Alex has gone. I did it for Sven and Sunny, I can do it again.”

“Need any help?” asked Charlie.

“I need to borrow Bliss’ red lipstick,” came her enigmatic reply.
***

“Cherie! It’s been too long.” Former Inspector Hubert pulled Judith into his arms for a long kiss. They’d been lovers on and off for years. If pressed, she would have admitted it was his presence as well as the warm weather that coaxed her into leaving Norway for St. Barts each winter. A woman needed an admirer, regardless of her age.

“François,” she replied after they broke apart, stroking his cheek fondly. He was more wrinkled than ever, spending his retirement on the water. His earlobes had lengthened. Judith smothered a laugh remembering the old wives’ tale about earlobe size and the proportion of other body parts. Luckily for her, the stories were true.

They settled on her balcony overlooking the sea. It was a grey, breezy evening and the wind sent the filmy folds of her navy negligee wafting about her legs. Her hair was loose, the way he liked it and she could tell by his avid expression that she’d used Bliss’ red lipstick to good effect.

Over a candlelight dinner of pork loin with mango stuffing and rice pilaf they caught up on the news. Island gossip. Mutual friends. And then moved onto family.

Judith cleared the table, topped up his Shiraz and settled against his shoulder with a sigh on the daybed. The stars were out, twinkling between the receding clouds. She would have to be careful. François was her lover and long time confidant but he was also a former police officer and his professional integrity was rooted deep.

“How you been helping out since the hurricane?” It was best to begin her quest for information in an innocuous manner.

“We didn’t get off too badly. Marcel barely needed my advice. His disaster plan was perfect and his staff is well trained. I made the right choice when I named him my successor. I know there were people who questioned my judgement at the time. They remembered him as a young, callow officer. But he’s matured and his training in France made him the perfect man for the job. He still questions himself though. I tell him there’s no way he can prevent every crime, but I know what it’s like to feel guilty when an innocent person is hurt on your watch.”

Time to take a stab in the dark, she thought snuggling deeper in the crook of his arm, stroking his chest as she let the bodice of her negligee gape open giving him an eyeful of cleveage. “The situation with Alex Whitmore?”

“Yes,” he answered, dropping an absentminded kiss on the rise of her breasts. “After what happened with Sven and Sunny all those years ago, it’s only natural he thought he was prepared. He did everything right but didn’t get the message about the stalker in time. The storm you know,” he added nuzzling her neck.

“I hope she’s getting help. I know therapy did wonders for Sunny but it took some time.”

“Apparently she’s seeing someone. And being back home with her family in Canada will also help her heal. Enough talk about sad things.” He untied the ribbon holding at the front of her negligee. As he bent his head to her breasts, Judith felt a qualm of guilt for using her feminine wiles. Oh well, she thought arching against his lips, that’s why God gave women wiles in the first place. Her last conscious thought as she reached for his fly was that she had to call Sven right away. Well, maybe it could wait until morning.

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