The Deadly Neighbors (The Zoe Hayes Mysteries)

The Deadly Neighbors (The Zoe Hayes Mysteries) by Mery Jones Read Free Book Online

Book: The Deadly Neighbors (The Zoe Hayes Mysteries) by Mery Jones Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mery Jones
blither an answer. But Nick wasn’t listening. He continued slowly, his voice low, like distant thunder. “It wasn’t just you and Molly who could have been hurt.”
    “Nick, I was trying to prevent a—”
    “Someone else was there, too.”
    I stopped speaking mid-sentence; my mouth hung open, silent. I finally understood.
    “You put the baby at risk. You could have hurt our kid—”
    I blinked as if he’d slapped me; my face went hot. “Nick, I would never—”
    “But you did. You wrestled like a thug. You fought over a carving knife. You got off easy with some scrapes and a concussion; it could have been a lot worse.”
    “But the baby’s fine—the doctor said so—”
    “Then we were lucky, weren’t we?”
    Yes. I supposed we were. I blinked, refusing the tears that blurred my vision.
    Nick’s eyes drilled through my skull, penetrating my aching brain. Oh, God. What had I done? Nick was right. Trying to save a stranger, I’d risked our baby’s life. I’d jumped on my father and fought without hesitation. What kind of mother was I? How could I be so irresponsible? What could I say? I wanted to run, to dissolve into the night.
    “Look, I know you didn’t mean to hurt the baby. You acted out of sheer instinct. But I’ve got to wonder, what about your maternal instincts? Where were they? Why didn’t your children’s safety come first?” Nick’s gaze seared me; I could almost smell burning skin.
    “Nick, it went so fast. I had no time to think. Of course, the kids come first. Nothing’s more important than they are.” Didn’t Nick know that I’d do anything for Molly or our baby? That I’d throw myself in front of a train for them?
    Nick’s eyes thawed a little; his shoulders relaxed. “Well, today’s over. Nothing we can do. We all survived. Let’s put it behind us and move on. Come to bed. Let’s get some sleep.” He offered his hand, but I didn’t take it. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even look at him. I was ashamed, hating myself.
    Nick watched me for a moment. “Zoe?” Then, leaning over, he kissed me, his lips forgiving me, and lifted me, his arms guiding me to my feet. Silently, he led me upstairs, leaving the remainder of mocha-almond to melt in its box. I went along passively, my head throbbing, and got into bed, where I clung to him, spooned against his familiar body, and stared at the darkness until sometime near morning, when I must have fallen asleep.

    T HE DREAMS BEGAN IN that predawn stillness, like clockwork, acknowledging my father’s reappearance in my life. In my sleep, I recognized his basement steps and felt a clammy, familiar dread, anticipating what lay ahead as I descended the steep and narrow staircase. The banister was as high as my shoulder, hard to hold on to, and I shivered, wanting to turn back, continuing anyway, having no choice. Some part of my mind reasoned that, maybe, this time it wouldn’t unfold badly. Maybe it would end well. Or maybe I could control the outcome; after all, it was my dream. But, even with that contradictory awareness, I was compelled to continue, passively following some script of my unconscious mind, searching for something long lost. Darkness stretched ahead, distorting the walls, concealing obstacles, and the air smelled moldy and dank.
    Don’t go on, I told myself. Turn and go back upstairs. My feet, of course, wouldn’t obey, couldn’t stop, and I proceeded silently, seeking I didn’t know what, barely avoiding a gaping hole in the floor, sidestepping shadows, straining to remember what I was searching for.
    And then, past the hulking furnace, beside the cedar closet, I remembered why I was there. Run now, I told myself. Run while you can. I forced myself to spin around, but it made no difference. The woman was there, in the corner, digging up the floor. Then she wasn’t in the corner anymore; she was at my back, chasing me—not running or walking, but floating effortlessly above the concrete floor. I

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