Excerpt Three - Day Three
LEAVE YESTERDAY BEHIND
by Lauren Linwood
Let's set the stage for today's excerpt:
Actress Callie Chennault has been confronted by a knife-wielding stalker late one night. He’s in love with Jessica, the character she’s played for a decade. Callie decides to turn the tables and give him what he wants—Jessica, at her sexiest.
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Callie Chennault vaulted to fame on the nighttime soap Sumner Falls, but after a decade of playing the same role, she is ready for a new acting challenge. When Callie is attacked by a stalker on the streets of New York, she takes a leave of absence from the show and returns to her roots in Aurora, Louisiana, to heal both physically and emotionally and determine her next career move.Excerpt 3
Former professional baseball pitcher Nick La Chappelle has also come to Aurora to lick his own wounds after a messy divorce. A Cy Young winner and one-time ESPN broadcaster, Nick longs for the quiet of a small town in order to write murder mysteries under a pen name.
Sparks fly when Callie believes Nick is taking advantage of her great-aunt’s hospitality, but they resolve their differences—and surprise themselves by falling in love. Their bond is tested when both Nick and Callie become the focus of a serial killer nicknamed Lipstick Larry. Can they outwit a murderer bent on seeing them dead and survive to build a lasting relationship?
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She’d never seen the need to use any type of bodyguard. For God’s sake, she was just a soap star. Soap fans were friendly. They didn’t really treat you like a movie star because you came into their homes every weekday. They thought they knew you. Fans considered you family.
But fan was short for fanatic. She knew she’d just run into the motherf**ker of all fans.
What would work?
He said he wanted Jessica—so Callie would unleash her alter ego’s persona in all her glory. Maybe Jessica could get her out of this situation.
Immediately, her posture changed. She tilted her head as she pressed her lips together, sealing the color. The Jessica juices began to flow. The flirtiness. The sexiness. The pout.
“You are a very interesting man.” She ran a slender hand along the arm without the knife.
Don’t think about the knife.
“We need to get to know one another better,” she said huskily. Whenever Jessica wanted something, she turned on all her charm. “What’s your name? I want to know all about you.”
She observed the uncertainty in his eyes. He’d been calling the shots a moment ago. Yet in the space of seconds, Jessica was now in charge. This creep may have thought he wanted Jessica, but he had a tiger by the tail.
“Simon,” he whispered.
“Oh, I love that name. Simon,” she purred. “It sounds strong. Masculine. Sexy.” She ran a manicured nail down his chest. He shuffled uncomfortably.
Good. She’d hit the right button. She was in Jessica’s element. She couldn’t worry about not having a script. Flying by the seat of her pants with some knife-wielding fanatic. She was in full-blown character. Stay in control. Keep in the zone.
She moved into him, away from the wall. She became the aggressor, the one wanting something. He was the nervous one now.
“I’m glad we ran into one another, Simon. Would you like to get a drink? I’m mad for whiskey sours these days. They make me . . . lose control.”
“No,” he said unsteadily. He stepped back, but Callie moved right back into his space.
She placed a hand on his arm. “Then what would you want to do?” She ran the back of her other hand along his cheek.
The thought revolted her, but she realized the hand with the knife had totally gone limp, as if he’d forgotten it was there. Keep going with the flow.
But without a script, who knew where this train wreck was headed?
She studied him a moment. She’d suck it up and kiss the bastard. Then somehow she’d get away. Maybe she could knee the creep in the groin to disable him. Or lightning would strike Stupid Simon dead. Really, really dead.
“We barely know each other, Simon. Don’t you want to go somewhere quiet? We could talk awhile.”
He frowned. “You barely knew Alec or Ricardo. That never stopped you before, Jessica.”
She smiled seductively as she played with his lapel. “You know so much about me. I don’t know a thing about you.”
“Would it make a difference?” he asked, a sad look haunting his eyes.
She let Jessica consider his question. “Sometimes,” she answered. “I’m fond of money. I won’t hide that fact, Simon. Power. Position. I like a man with all those things.”
“I can take care of you,” he said earnestly. “I can do it better than anyone because I love you more than all the others. Let me love you.” He put a hand behind her neck and pulled her close.
Warning bells blasted in her head. The survival instinct of fight or flight kicked in, pouring adrenaline into her bloodstream. She willed herself to keep improvising. She’d done something like this a thousand times in acting class. She could do this.
He lowered his head. She shut her eyes.
Don’t think. Just do.
He smelled of spearmint gum and Old Spice. She didn’t know they still made that. Her dad had worn the cheap aftershave for years. The scent threw her for a moment. Then his lips touched hers. She tightened her mouth as he clamped his arms around her.
Where the hell was a cop in New York when you needed one?
And then he pulled away. She didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath till she gulped at the air.
“No. This isn’t right,” he said to himself, as if she wasn’t there. “It’s not supposed to be this way. I need to feel your love. I need to feel you.”
Callie popped off, “It’s not like we can do the dirty right here on the street.” Immediately, she knew it was a mistake. She could tell by the shock on his face that she’d blown it. She’d had him believing that she was Jessica. Then big-mouth Callie Chennault blurted out from nowhere and ruined everything.
She licked her lips and stepped smoothly back into Jessica. “We could go somewhere more private, Simon. I love a bed with satin sheets.”
A hard look crossed his face. The non-descript little fan turned angry. Very angry.
She knew all about angry. She’d run when this same light came into her father’s eyes.
Callie took off, letting things slide from her shoulders to hit the pavement behind her, hoping they would trip him up.
“Bitch!” he roared above the rain.
She ran no more than fifteen yards when he caught her. His hand locked on her arm as he swung her around and smacked her hard. Her cheekbone exploded in pain. Before she could call out, he’d punched her hard in the gut, knocking the wind from her.
He was dragging her. She was aware enough to feel her hip bumping along the pavement. Her eye had begun to swell, but she saw they’d entered an alleyway. They went a few yards before he lifted her, slamming her into the wall.
Panic flooded her as he pressed against her, holding her wrists as he forced his tongue inside her mouth.
She gagged and began to struggle, but her claustrophobia kicked in. She couldn’t breathe. The dark, tight space enveloped her. She thought she might pass out.
The stinging was almost incidental. An afterthought in the back of her mind. Something was terribly wrong, but a break in her synapses wouldn’t let her brain process the information.
Suddenly, her legs went rubbery. She slid down the wall. Simon moved away from her, and the cool of the night hit her. Her butt hit the concrete, and her vision started to blur as a burning sensation began along her side.
“You’re like all the rest. You’re not really Jessica. You just pretend to be Jessica. You aren’t perfect at all.”
She recognized the contempt in his voice as he walked away, his hand swinging by his side, the knife dripping. She was confused. It was blood. Her blood. It hit her. He’d stabbed her. More than once.
She reached a hand up and touched herself. Blood flowed. Sticky. Messy. She needed help. Callie had never been more helpless—alone, in the dark, the thunder rumbling angrily as the rain continued to come down now in sheets. She could hear the rats scrambling through the garbage behind her.
She couldn’t die. She wouldn’t die. She had too much left to do.
Things began to fade to black. Not good. She needed to move where she would be seen. Could she stand?
She tried and almost passed out. Okay, standing’s out. But she could crawl. She pushed herself to the alley’s entrance and then collapsed on the sidewalk. She was so tired. So cold. The warmth of Sun Burst pose no longer flowed through her. Every breath hurt, and she had to force herself to do it. Breathe. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
She could hear Rodney Yee from her yoga DVDs encouraging her in his quiet tone. Breathe in. Breathe out. Follow the movement of your breath.
But it hurt like hell, Rodney. Bet he never tried to practice yoga while bleeding profusely. She couldn’t inhale deeply. Instead, the air came in shallow spurts, like a panting dog in the sweltering heat of a Louisiana summer.
She quit struggling. She knew it didn’t matter anymore. She wouldn’t make it. And it pissed her off to think that every obituary would shout that “Jessica Had Died.” Not Callie Chennault. Every picture accompanying every article would be of Jessica. Not her. She’d lost her identity in a character so long ago that no one knew the real her anymore.
Even if someone passed by on foot, they wouldn’t stop for a bloody, limp Callie. She was a stranger, not the sophisticated beauty on the cover of In Style or Entertainment Weekly, the cool blond with the fiery lips and temperamental attitude.
No, she would die alone on a New York sidewalk. A no one.
Callie took one last, painful breath and gave up.
(excerpt continued on Thursday)