Voices

cover mockup2 Voices_KJaneVoices by Kathryn Jane
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Voices

She’s desperate to stop a killer…. 

Rachel Meyers has been on the run long enough—hiding from more than just death. But now the murders happening around her are forcing her to take a stand and the only person she can trust to help is the man she ran away from. Her husband.

He’s desperate to have his wife back….

Quinn Meyers has spent two years searching for Rachel. Now she’s back, scared and asking for help. But Quinn wants answers. Helping her is a given, he won’t say no, but he also won’t let her go again. Not without a fight.

Desperate love…

Quinn’s body still aches for Rachel, even though he’s guarded his heart since the day she left. Her continued secrecy is tearing apart any hope of saving their marriage. But more than love is at stake if Quinn and Rachel can’t find the killer.

EXCERPT

VOICES by Kathryn Jane

 

There was no word for that sound. Yet her soul recognized the reverberation of air and energy being hurled from deep inside the human body—the macabre cadence of death’s dance.

Chapter 1

 

Adrenaline rocketed through Rachel’s system, driving her out of the stall with feet pounding the hard-packed dirt. Every step a promise for the fallen man.

Bellowed warnings of “LOOSE HORSE!” mixed with shouts for an ambulance and the echoes of other boots.

She dug for speed—had to get to him first.

Silent.

Still. A crumpled heap of humanity.

Rachel dropped to her knees. Must be quick, before anyone gets too close.

Positioned at the top of his head, she placed a hand on either side, hooked her fingertips under the jawbone to open his airway. Her thumbs eased his eyelids down as she blew a soft breath across his face. You will not die here.

Maintaining the classic position—as though merely stabilizing his cervical spine—she concentrated, used every scrap of energy she had. Drove power down her arms, deftly sending it through her fingertips to his barely quivering heart. You will not die here.

And he didn’t.

With a gut-deep moan of pain, his chest rose, and not a moment too soon.

She didn’t move when the first aid attendants arrived, puffing and blowing from the long run.

“Taking over,” said the woman who knelt beside her, and they carefully switched positions while keeping the man’s head and neck immobile. Rachel backed away, melted into the gathering crowd.

Bits and pieces of onlooker comments registered as she slipped away. And one answer to the question of what happened, stood out.

“Spooky popped him from the nearside. Kidney shot.”

Apparently the man had been on the left side of the horse, the safest place to be, but had still been kicked. And the power of a direct blow to the lower back from a beast the size of Spooky could certainly be enough to stop a heart. No point wondering if other forces had been at work.

And, chances were, they’d have gotten him back with a defibrillator if she hadn’t been there.

The tunnel vision started. No good deed went unpunished, she thought, as the residual effects of intervening swamped her. Weakened by the energy drain, and shaking from the adrenaline dump, each step became an effort as she worked her way back toward the stall she’d been mucking.

Her breath caught when she spotted a city ambulance and a police car pulling up at the end of the barn.

Crap. She slipped in alongside the racehorse she’d left tied to the wall.

“Sorry, pal.” She wrapped her arms around his neck, buried her face against the soft hide, and tried to settle.

“Rachel?” Don, one of the sweetest, kindest trainers she’d ever worked for, stood outside the stall frowning at her. “You okay, girl?”

She shook her head, and promptly slithered down the horse’s front leg into the straw.

She woke up to the sharp smell of rubbing alcohol. She pushed the damp towel away from her face and met her boss’s concerned look.

“You okay, kiddo?”

She grimaced. “Yeah. Delayed reaction, I guess.”

His smile was sympathetic. “No biggie. Why don’t you rest here a minute? I’ll finish that stall while you get steady. Won’t be able to do much else for a bit anyhow. At least not ’til they ship that guy off and the shedrow gets clear. Then the cops will harass everyone with questions.”

Her flesh went cold. “He died?”

“No, no. Relax.”

Her heart banged against her ribs. “Then why the police?”

“Somebody called 911 instead of on-site medical and they got all excited, saying the guy had been attacked by a known killer. Idiot. So the cops got sent, along with the paramedic wagon.” He shrugged. “Might be a good thing in the long run. Everybody knows that horse is like a loaded weapon. Maybe they’ll finally nail the guy who made him that way.”

She raised her eyebrows and he grimaced. “Guy’s got a rep for, well…” He went to the door, looked out, and then pushed it shut.

“He abuses horses?”

“Seems like.”

She swung her legs over the side of the cot with care. “Why hasn’t he been reported?”

Don filled two cups with coffee, dropped a couple of sugar cubes and a spoon in hers, then handed it to her. “Somebody did once and nothing ever came of it. Nothing good anyways. Kid lost his job, ended up disappearing—probably left town, moved on to another track. So don’t get any ideas about talking to the cops. Let somebody else do it.”

No worries there. The last thing she needed was to show up on law enforcement radar. She shrugged for emphasis. “They’d never listen to me anyway. I’m just a barn rat, and female to boot. She started to get up. “I’d better get back to work.”

“You sit tight for a few more minutes. Make sure you’re steady.” He had an odd expression on his face as he left.

Something was off. She glanced around the tiny room. Plain leather racing bridles with shiny bits hung in a row on the far wall, while the training tack was draped over the hook near the door, waiting to be cleaned.

She dragged the tub of dry laundry toward her, and with automatic motions, rolled bandages, then folded and stacked rub-rags. The flesh at the back of her neck suddenly chilled as though a breeze had slipped into the room. Her gaze tracked to the rag on the cot where she’d woken up. She picked up the torn square of white bath towel and stared at the dark brown smudge of her pasty face makeup.

Sonofabitch. Even if he hadn’t seen, hadn’t realized her coloring was fake, he’d picked her up from the floor of the stall and carried her, hadn’t he? Must have noticed she wasn’t nearly as heavy as she looked. Would he keep his observations to himself? Most likely, but combined with the other stuff…

No choice.

Grabbing her backpack from under the chair in the corner, she took a quick look around, checked for anything that shouldn’t be left behind, gulped down one last mouthful of coffee and reached for the door knob. Time to go. Quickly, while everyone was distracted.

She ducked through the barn’s side exit and into the early morning drizzle. Hidden between the huge metal manure bins, she tugged the bottoms of her jeans out of her gumboots to smooth them down and cover the tops. Then she put her pack on backwards unzipped the main compartment and dug out a thin green raincoat. She dragged it on and yanked the hood up to partially hide her face before making her way through the barn area gates.

Rachel followed her well-rehearsed escape plan to the letter. Within thirty minutes she was in a shopping mall washroom, toeing out of the size-twelve boots to reveal beige, cotton slip-ons. She shed the raincoat and backpack, popped the snaps of the enormous plaid work-shirt, slid out of it and the faded jeans. It felt damned good to be down a couple of layers to the khaki cargos and matching shirt.

Next to go was the ball cap with the attached curly black ponytail. When she undid the elastic, her own dark brown hair cascaded to cover the darker dyed underside. She slung a canvas messenger bag over her shoulder, and leaving her outerwear and backpack hanging in the stall, stepped out to look in the mirror.

The streaky makeup had to go. Using a cloth soaked in a special solution, she went to work on first her face, and then her hands, to remove the dark and expose her pale skin. She switched the dark gray contacts for green, and with a sigh, tied her hair back up and donned a blond wig.

Fifteen minutes later, she left the mall with a shopping bag full of new things.

Three buses, a train and a cab ride later, she was in the airport washroom doing another identity change. This time she dragged off the double layer of spandex that held the foam padding in place. In the blink of an eye, she changed from a size sixteen to a size eight. She pulled on one of the new outfits, hot pink capris with a matching jacket over a white tank, slipped into white flip-flops and wiggled her toes, happy to be free of the bulky disguise for a while.

With the padded suit and all stuffed into the big bag, she swung out of the washroom and into the concourse with a smile on her face. She checked the departures board, saw a commuter flight to Portland leaving in about fifteen minutes. It would do. On that short flight, she’d think about her next move.

 

Chapter 2

 

Two weeks later

 

Quinn dumped coffee cups and soda cans into the sink, crammed leftover donuts into the fridge, then cranked up the air conditioner to clear the smell of sweat and fear from the room. Six more clients had come through his office today. Men shaken to the ground by setbacks triggered by July 4th fireworks. Heroes. Very human heroes still struggling with the aftereffects of war. One after another, they’d left. A little stronger, and back in control.

Shaking off the lingering connections and the weight of their burdens, he wondered about those he hadn’t heard from this week. Had post-traumatic stress disorder created havoc for them? Their families and others? PTSD’s tentacles reached much further than the individual with the diagnosis.

He sat at the wide desk in the business half of his office to finish the day’s notes and wrap up his week. It had been long and brutal. For the first three days, he’d advised, encouraged, and reassured those worried about what would come with nightfall on Wednesday. From the cracks of simple firecrackers to the big booms of elaborate fireworks displays. Sounds that could trigger anything from debilitating flashbacks and horrible nightmares to isolation behavior and suicidal thoughts.

He’d put heart and soul into preparing them with tools and strategies designed specifically for each man’s unique circumstances.

Then, Thursday and today, he’d dealt with the fallout. Helped them get their lives back in order, file the setbacks, and move forward. He glanced across at the pool table, thankful so many were able to spill their guts with a cue in their hands—one of the things he’d been right about when he’d set up his practice. A game or two worked just as well as a walk and talk, and much better than the old-fashioned therapist’s couch. At least for those he dealt with.

Quinn was finishing up his notes when his brother came through the open doorway. A simple raised finger had Trent wandering silently to the window to wait. It only took a minute.

Closing the file, and leaning back in his big leather chair, Quinn asked, “What’s up?”

“Your phone’s off.”

“Busy day.” He sighed. “Still cleaning up after the fireworks.”

Trent’s mouth twisted into a pained expression. “Crap. Gotta be hard on your people. Everyone okay?”

“So far. Some setbacks. A few family members a bit shaken by flashbacks they’d thought were over. Doesn’t seem to matter how often they’re warned about recurrences, they’re never expecting their loved ones to react the way they did in the beginning.

“Then, of course, the guys feel like shit for scaring the wife or kids, and the circle continues.” He scrubbed at his face. “But a couple fared well and couldn’t wait to tell me about it.”

“Gotta feel good.”

“Yeah. The moments I live for. When a man stands there with a shit-eating grin on his face and tells me he watched the fireworks with his kids and never once felt a need to dive under a parked car.” He tipped his chin. “What’s up?”

Trent smiled. “I was at the hangar when I started getting messages because your phone was off. Figured I’d hop over and touch base.”

Quinn thumbed the beeper on his belt and it made a soft sound. “Battery’s not dead, so if there was an emergency, my service would have called. Must mean Mother wanted me for something.”

“She wasn’t the only one,” he said as he scrolled through his Blackberry. “Angie’s text was the first, in all caps, ‘DO NOT BRING QUINN HOME.’”

Dad. Quinn put a hand to muscles gone tense at the back of his neck.

“The next was from security. ‘Contact base immediately for important message re: Quinn.’”

He sucked in a breath. Rachel.

“Mother’s message, was of course an order. ‘Bring Quinn home, now.’” He grinned. “And Dhillon’s, in all caps like his mother’s, but followed by many exclamation points, ‘SHE’S HOME!!!!’”

“Rachel.” Without another thought, Quinn snapped the laptop shut, slid it into a case, and circled the desk. Fire and ice flashed alternately through his system. Joy and dread. Love and…

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