Immolation Chapter Five | Family dinner

But first, a real life moment…

While the hubby is getting Speedy down for the night, I figured I would steal a few minutes to deliver a snippet of IMMOLATION chapter five.

Writing was completely sidelined this week by a couple of other projects (ah, the plight of the real-life authoress). Not only has Ryan started a new work assignment — which means a complete schedule change for our whole family — but I’m also moving my Thoroughbred to a new barn.

The work it takes to move my horse always surprises me. I’ll be doing rough board (or, selfcare), so there’s prepping the barn, finding a hay supplier and getting feed, then moving all my stuff (why one earth do I have three saddles, two bridles, three winter blankets, countless saddle pads and scads of other miscellaneous stuff for one horse?), then finally moving the actual animal. Oy…

ANYWAY, I digress. Here’s a taste of the novel for you!

Immolation chapter five snippet

“I am so sorry about Jarrod,” Liz said, squeezing Ramona’s neck. “I knew he could be impulsive, but unreasonable? I’m shocked!”

“Careful, you’re going to make me drop Brett.”

Liz seemed unconcerned, releasing her and returning to the counter. “I don’t care what he says, you haven’t done anything wrong. I may only be in charge of event and exhibit organization, but I’ll sic the museum lawyer on this whole mess first thing Monday morning.”

Pulling her necklace from under her shirt, Ramona dangled it in front of Brett playfully. “I don’t know what to think, I’m still just in shock.”

“Understandable. What I’m dying to know is who on the museum staff backed him up so Security would escort you out. I can’t ask, of course. But I’d love nothing more than to hunt each one down and give them the third degree—”

“Liz, I think you’re more upset about this than I am.”

“That’s because you’re passive-aggressive and I’m plain aggressive. And Caleb! I can’t believe him. He seemed so nice, especially at the club. He must have just fooled both of us — or he’s a sociopath.”

“We don’t even know if he was upset — we’ve only got Jarrod’s word on that. And given what happened on the dance floor, I’m not sure I trust his word anymore.” Ramona paused. “Do you think passing out set everything off?”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You were on your own personal time.”

“But Liz, it wasn’t just unprofessional. It was downright unsensible.”

Liz was silent for a moment. “I don’t know. I guess it’s possible.”

“Speaking of, are you sure you didn’t see Caleb slip anything into my drink? I still don’t remember a thing.”

“No. But I was a little tipsy by the time I found you guys. In hindsight, I’m glad I joined you two, just in case.”

Michael walked back inside, a plate of steaks in his hand. He obviously was tracking the conversation and gave both women a stern look. “I’m still not impressed with you two. You know better than to get drunk at a club in Manhattan.”

“We didn’t get drunk,” Liz said with a roll of her eyes. “Ramona just had a reaction. It was a fluke.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, obviously not placated but dropping it anyway.

Brett squirmed in Ramona’s arms, so she set him on the floor. He scurried back into the hallway and out of view. “I don’t know, maybe this isn’t worth fighting. Maybe Jarrod is telling the truth.”

“No he’s not – don’t even think that. Which reminds me, you should document every time he unprofessionally infringed on you. It’ll make suing him easier.”

“I’m not going to sue him!”

“Everyone does these days, why shouldn’t you? Especially after this whole mess.”

“Even if you don’t sue,” Michael said, “it doesn’t hurt to keep a record. In case he gets some crazy idea to blame you for something else.”

“He won’t blame me for anything else,” Ramona said. “There isn’t anything else he could blame me for. We’ve always had a good working relationship.”

“That’s your problem — you’re too trusting!” Liz said, handing Michael the bowl with the finished salad. “You really should be more skeptical. Just treat people like your work, don’t trust anything until you can verify it.”

“Okay, now you’re just being ridiculous.”

“Not ridiculous, protective,” Michael said, going toward the dining room table. “And she does have a point.”

Ramona shook her head. “You two were made for each oth–.”

Brett’s scream from the hallways cut her off.

“I’ll get him,” Ramona said, already moving.

“Don’t think we’re done with this conversation!” Liz called after her.

Hiding her grimace, Ramona stepped around the corner. Brett sitting in the entryway, pointing at one of the tall, narrow windows beside the door.

Squatting down to his level, she looked out the window. Night had fallen early – a sure sign fall was on its way. There was nothing but blackness. “What did you see, little man?”

Brett fussed, still pointing at the window.

Looking again, Ramona didn’t see anything. She reached for Brett.

A man’s face appeared on the other side of the glass. She froze. He smiled, then mouthed a single word she couldn’t hear but instantly recognized.

It’s him.

She didn’t recall screaming, but she fell backward in her start. In the next breath, she scooped up Brett and shot away from the window as Michael and Liz came running.

“What is it?” Michael demanded, looking from Ramona to the door.

She was hastily handing Brett to his mother, standing in front of her petite friend. “A man, in the window.”

“Could you see his face?” Michael said.

“Yes. He was staring at us. H-he said my name.”

Expression grim, Michael disappeared from the hallway. Within seconds he returned, snapping a magazine into his duty pistol as he moved.

“Is that really necessary?” Liz said.

“It’s not normal for someone to be looking into windows,” he said. “Take Brett, grab a phone, and lock yourself in the bathroom. I’m going around back.”

Never had Ramona been so grateful that Michael was a cop. She ushered Liz and Brett toward the bathroom on the other side of the kitchen. There was a cell phone on the counter — Ramona grabbed it and shoved it in her back pocket. In the bathroom, she locked the door and slapped the light switch. Darkness engulfed them.

Brett started crying. Liz murmured soothing words to him, her voice shaking slightly.

Pulling the cell phone from her pocket, Ramona poised to call 9-1-1. But there was no sound, nothing. Except the pounding of her heart in her chest.

They waited.

Minutes felt like hours. Sweat beaded down her back, making her shiver. Quiet footsteps came from inside the house. They tensed.

A soft knock on the door. “It’s me. We’re clear.”

They both let out the breath they had been holding. Ramona unlocked the door.

Michael was instantly inside, turning the lights on. He reached for his wife with one arm. “I didn’t find anything. Ramona, did you recognize the guy?”

“You’re going to think I’m nuts, but I’m pretty sure it was the same guy from the museum a week ago.”

 “Are you sure?”

She nodded.

“Did you tell anyone you were coming here tonight?”

“No. I haven’t talked to anyone but you guys and Jarrod today.”

Michael and Liz shared an uneasy look. “We need to report this,” he said. “If you have a stalker, this may be a sign he’s escalating.”

To be continued…

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