Blood on Skates
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by Christine W. Murphy
Description: Someone is trying to kill Dr. Michael Boccelli's wife. Trouble is, she's already dead. Michael, hounded by a journalist determined to prove he got away with murder, hides in a small Minnesota town helping his brother Conway run his roller rink. The ink still wet on her divorce papers, Catherine Kirby needs a place to stay while she gets back on her feet. She arrives in the middle of a frigid November to find that her best friend's husband Conway has given away the upstairs apartment she was promised. At first, Kate's biggest problem is figuring out who gets the bed. After Conway is attacked, things get complicated fast. Someone obsessed with Michael's late wife has been murdering women. The trail of bodies stretches across the country, a trail that coincides with Michael's wanderings. When the facts become known, Michael cannot deny that he's obsessed. The killing has started again, and the blood leads straight to him. An unbalanced man accused and cleared of murdering his wife and child. A serial killer on the loose. Kate is betting her life that they are not one and the same.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: August 2004
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [358 KB]
Reading time: 237-332 min.
"This is an engaging romantic suspense because the hero is unique as he carries so much baggage. He struggles with his feelings for the Kirby duo and finds it difficult to function in the final confrontation. Fans will appreciate this intriguing tale of love between two wary scarred veterans still suffering from relational battle fatigue syndrome while they battle a sly killer from Michael's past. Christine W. Murphy furbishes a strong character- driven thriller."--Harriet Klausner for Amazon
"GOD, WHAT A HUNK."
Catherine Kirby winced and moved away from the twenty-something women who ogled the man across the roller rink. She had to agree. No denying he was beautiful in a dark sort of way.
At the sound of snickering, Catherine winced again. Her move down the metal rail hadn't gone unnoticed. While the women continued their graphic discussion of the floor cleaner, Catherine couldn't help but wonder what they would say about her when she was out of earshot.
"Better than that cola commercial guy," said a tall redhead in orange spandex, licking sugar off her lips.
The smell of cinnamon assaulted Catherine's nose before Elaine appeared. Her friend handed her a warm cinnamon bun, the frosting sticking to the napkin. Much as they had watched boys pass by ten years ago, Catherine and Elaine observed the man finish his chores.
"What do you think of Michael's buns?" Elaine asked.
So his name's Michael. "You're the one obsessed with back ends. I was admiring his biceps. Do you think he has to work out every day to get muscles like that?"
"You single girls. Only one thing on your minds," Elaine scolded. "I was referring to the sticky buns. Michael talked Conway into trying a new recipe."
"Sure you were," Catherine replied, hoping the natives wouldn't notice her face turning red. Elaine always did know how to catch her off guard. "No one should look that luscious in blue jeans and a T-shirt."
In a town populated by Scandinavians, Michael was a dark angel from a Renaissance painting. When he bent to retrieve his supplies, the girls who hung on the rail let loose with a coordinated sigh. How did he achieve that magnificent five o'clock shadow at this time of the morning?
Catherine straightened and took several controlled breaths. The warm, wet fantasy of making love with a tall, dark stranger was reflex, the result of two years of celibacy. Judging by his easy smile and bulging muscles, Michael was pure blue-collar—an uncomplicated male. When he bedded one of the spandex crowd, he probably didn't bother to learn her last name.
"Speaking of buns, how is Conway? I do appreciate you putting us up."
Elaine waved away her thanks. "My dear heart is fine. Your little one seems to be making up for lost time."
Elaine nodded toward the snack bar where Catherine's daughter sat. Perched on a stool, Tanya swung her feet back and forth while filling her mouth with warm pastry.
"My independent girl. I didn't realize she was up and dressed."
Elaine nodded. "She sure likes to do for herself, and doesn't seem at all upset by her change of circumstances. Unlike her mother."
The ceiling seemed to lower and the air thicken. "I don't want to talk about it. Not yet."
Elaine said nothing. Catherine exhaled.
With a sigh, Elaine pushed away from the rail and unhooked the chain to the rink entrance. "I have orders to stay off skates, but your daughter is expecting you out there."
Catherine looked up after finishing her second cinnamon bun to find that Tanya was not only wearing skates, she was heading toward the rink. Tanya didn't give her a glance, but held onto Michael's hand. By the time Catherine chose traditional skates and laced them up, Tanya stood in the middle of the rink with Michael firmly in her clutches.
Like Bambi on the ice before the fall, Catherine inched her way across the carpet to the rails that surrounded the rink. The metals bars stopped her uncontrolled slide across the floor. Her unprotected knees banged into the lower rail and her chest into the upper.
Tanya was alone now, dragging herself along using only her arms, her legs straight—riding the rails. Tanya needed a hand to hold. She had been doing fine when she skated with Michael. Catherine took a step onto the rink. Both feet shot forward. Her elbow banged on the rail when she reached back for it. She spun around to clutch the metal bar.
Her back to the skaters, she didn't need to hear the snickers to realize how ridiculous she looked—knees knocked together, feet spread apart, back end stuck out at an undignified angle. Only her arms hooked over the rail kept her rear off the floor. To add to the atmosphere of total humiliation, the sound system came on. The skating amazons now moved in time to "The Macarena."
"Isn't this fun, Mom?"
Catherine grunted. Tanya grabbed her mother's bottom and pulled herself around. Great, just great. She had been no help whatsoever, and now she was in the way.
The stupidity of what she was doing hit her. She was bound to break a leg. Catherine lowered herself to the floor and began to unlace her skates. With a swish, a pair of in-line skates whizzed past then returned to stop in front of her.
At that moment, Catherine could have wished to see even the statuesque redhead. However, the legs before her weren't encased in spandex, but painted in too-tight denim. Michael, floor cleaner and object of bored housewives' fantasies, stood over her and smiled.
He couldn't be more than a couple inches over six feet, but from her place on the floor, he looked like a giant with an exceedingly broad chest and a perfectly dimpled chin. His jet-black hair curled softly over his ears and down his neck. With an impatient gesture, he brushed a strand of hair out his eyes and crouched down to her level. Balanced perfectly on his skates, he watched her, one eyebrow cocked. He had the deepest, darkest, brownest eyes she'd ever seen.
"Giving up so soon? Your daughter will be disappointed."
Her fascination with him vanished, the pain in her banged elbow replaced by the stab at her heart. "I'm not giving up and it's not too soon. You have no idea how long I've been trying."
Michael's smile vanished. His previously smooth brow wrinkled before all expression left his face. Her rush of tears took even Catherine by surprise. The man was talking about skating and she was talking about her entire life. Before she could apologize, he skated away.
* * *
PANIC THREATENING, MICHAEL FLED the hysterical woman. He'd tried to be polite to her. He owed Conway and Elaine that much. She was Elaine's best friend and Conway had saved his life more than once. But now was not the time to return the favor. He didn't need an unbalanced woman in his life, not one with a child—not again.
He didn't turn on the lights when he entered the control room, but navigated by the green panel glow. After five days of the chicken dance, "The Macarena," and "YMCA," he was ready to endure the country western tape. A flick of the switch and the skaters slowed to match tunes Michael remembered hearing for the first time thirty years ago at The Home.
Through the window that separated the control room from the main rink, he watched the skaters. They all slowed except Tanya. She continued to pull herself around the rink without paying any attention to the pulsing music or to the jaded young women who came to spend their mornings working off breakfast.
He couldn't see the girl's mother or remember what Conway said her name was. She couldn't be as helpless as she appeared, bursting into tears like some kid. She attended college with Elaine so she must be at least thirty. Miss Waterworks had a younger, more vulnerable look than Elaine—one that went perfectly with her little Meg Ryan hairdo and her New York clothes. Who went roller-skating in wool?
The tape gave him time to check the exits. In a couple of hours, he'd open the front doors for a group of preschoolers and their moms. Until then, no one had any business coming in.
When he returned to the control booth, Michael caught sight of Elaine's friend again. She bent to remove her daughter's skates then straightened her hair, her palm lingering over the little girl's cheek. He ignored the tightening in his chest.
He caught himself humming along with a corny old song. Mama's in the graveyard, Papa's in the pen. Or was it the other way round. He couldn't remember and had no idea which sounded worse. A series of impertinent bangs on the front door ended that ridiculous line of thought.
Copyright © 2004 Christine W. Murphy