Judgement by Fire
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by Lydia Grace
Description: What happens when old sins demand redemption? Hold on to your chairs as Lauren is about to find out what this all means. Lauren, a love-shy wildlife artist and the two powerful men who love her are caught in a sinister triangle of deceit and betrayal when old sins demand redemption. What would you do if a madman is out to get you? Find out in Judgement of Fire as Lauren slowly comes to realize all is not as it seems.
eBook Publisher: Red Rose Publishing, 2007 2007-08-09
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [368 KB]
Reading time: 239-334 min.
It was fully dark and beginning to snow again when Lauren pulled into the parking space behind her own cottage, tired and stiff from the long day and the hours of driving. However, it was a relief to be back, and she sat in the car for a few moments with the window open, breathing in the fresh, chill air redolent of the pine forests, and letting the country silence seep into her mind.
Lauren had called in at a country store on her way home, and hefted the paper sack of groceries on one hip as she did a juggling act with purse, briefcase, newspapers, and key ring. She picked her way carefully over the icy patches and the newly fallen snow, already looking forward to lighting a log fire, drinking hot coffee, and returning to her easel. It was evidence of how tired she was that she didn't realize the cottage door was slightly ajar until it began to swing inwards as she pressed the key into the lock.
Suddenly shivers ran down her spine. She'd heard people talk about being so nervous that the hair stood up on the back of their necks, but never understood the meaning until this moment. While it wasn't unusual for friends and neighbors to drop by, the ones who were welcome to come in would invariably use the back door, getting the key from under the big plant pot on the step. They would never, ever leave the front door open like this.
Her heart pounding, Lauren slowly pushed the heavy door further open, reaching in to flick on the light switch as she did so and time seemed to stand still as she surveyed the ruin of her home. Everywhere she looked, there was destruction. Her beautiful Afghans and the hand-quilted cushions lay shredded on the floor. Paints squirted from their tubes in long worms around the floor, the walls, even the ceiling, and in some places mixed with cereals, sugar, and coffee, apparently the entire contents of her kitchen cupboards. The bed settee and her favorite armchair leaned towards each other at crazy angles; their legs smashed, stuffing hanging like internal organs from their mutilated bodies.
Lauren suddenly realized she was holding her breath, hoping that between this heartbeat and the next the world would right itself. That her cottage would return to its usual, slightly unkempt, but comfortable state, and the terrible vision she was having would recede to being just an illusion brought on by tiredness, by too many headlights flashing in her eyes as she drove home from Toronto.
She let out a deep breath, breathed in again. Nothing changed. With unnatural calm, she carefully placed the sack of groceries and her briefcase and purse down near the door, and walked slowly into the large studio-cum-living room. Everything was broken, smashed, defiled. Pictures torn from the walls, smashed or slashed, even, and she sobbed a little as she picked this up from the debris, the tiny picture of her parents' wedding that she'd had framed.
In the kitchen, the destruction was absolute. A monstrous hand had torn open cupboard doors, smashed glass inserts, and swept dishes, cups, bowls, tins, pans, jars, everything out of cupboards and onto the countertops and floor. The coffee maker hung drunkenly from its electrical cord; the broad pine planks beneath it sprinkled with a mishmash of coffee grounds and shards of glass from the smashed glass decanter.
Lauren raised her eyes towards the stairs, but wasn't sure she was ready to go up and view whatever horrors waited for her up there. The blood was roaring in her ears as she walked numbly over to her easel and tears began to fall as she saw the great slash marks across the face and body of the bobcat she'd worked so hard to portray. Then it felt as though the beating in her chest came to a walloping stop.
Pinned to the ear of the painted bobcat was one of Jon Rush's business cards. Lauren felt the room spin around her. Surely even he wasn't so angry after that last interview that he would do this? What kind of cold-blooded, vengeful monster would that make him?
A rustling sound, and the swish of the cottage door being pushed open, made Lauren's already overstretched nerves jump. She'd never even thought to check: what if the animal that'd created all this destruction was still here, still in the cottage, waiting for his opportunity to wreak the same havoc on her defenseless body? Lauren's eyes scanned the floor by the easel, where her heavy worktable had been tipped over, scattering all her paints, brushes, cleaning solvents, and the set of sharp craft knives she used for scraping paint. In a swift movement, she snatched up the biggest of the knives and turned to face whoever was intruding into the cottage.
Jon Rush stood on the doorstep, his face pale and shocked as he surveyed the devastation. In a few strides he was across the room, his arms rose to comfort her, and then he saw the knife in her raised fist.
"Lauren?" he asked the question quiet in the heavy silence of the cottage.
That was when Lauren realized her antique grandfather clock, probably her most prized possession, no longer filled the room with its comforting measurement of passing time. Looking beyond Jon's tall figure to the spot beside the door where the clock normally stood, Lauren let out a small gasp of sorrow as she saw its beauty smashed, the mahogany case and etched glass door little more than shards, the brass pendulum and chain hanging out in a knot.
Suddenly, it was all just too much. Lauren simply didn't want to know any more about this, her mind refused to accept it and screamed for release. The world began to fade and she felt her knees buckle; strong arms caught her, swung her up and carried her towards the door. She laid her head on his solid chest, breathing in reassurance from his strength and no longer caring that she might be surrendering her life to a madman who had just destroyed her home.