Searching for spine-tingling romantic suspense?
Enjoy this week’s #saturdaysuspense editor’s choice, Against All Odds.
About the Book
Two years after a violent break-in left Elizabeth Seymour widowed and with blood on her hands, she’s finally starting over in the little town of Avalon, Ohio, with her daughter, Haley. She has the house of her dreams, a good church, and friends she can rely on. Everything seems to be falling into place—until she receives a threatening note from Veronica Sadowsky, the sister of the man Elizabeth shot, the same woman who tried to ruin her life once before. This time, though, Veronica won’t stop until she gets revenge.
When Elizabeth’s home goes up in flames, she turns to family friend, Doctor Gilbert Callahan, a widowed father of three. He invites her and Haley to stay with his family. As Veronica draws Elizabeth into a game of increasing stakes, she and Gilbert only grow closer, learning to trust and rely on one another. But Elizabeth’s presence in Gilbert’s home endangers his family and creates tension with his oldest son. Preserving peace in the house is hard enough, but when Veronica comes after Haley, Elizabeth will risk everything—including her life—to get her child back.
Clouds slid across the sky as Elizabeth peered through her windshield. Great. A storm right in the middle of an already chilly day. It was always cold in March in Ohio; she looked forward to summer. Of course, that meant near unbearable heat because of the humidity. Such is life. Besides, where she grew up in Maine was colder.
She hung a left onto Sycamore and pulled up in front of the high school. Avalon was a small enough town that the school housed every grade from fifth on up. The elementary school was just a block away. Haley jogged across the grass, weaving between a few dozen other students, her ponytail swinging. Elizabeth greeted her with a smile but only got a murmured hello in response. Teenagers. Haley pulled a novel from her backpack and started reading as soon as she had her seat belt on. Well, at least she was raising a book lover, and reading was one thing they had in common.
“We need to stop at home to drop this stuff off.” Haley didn’t look up from her book. She pointed at the backpack and gym bag between her feet.
“You can’t leave it in the car?” Elizabeth glanced at the digital clock below the dash. “Your doctor’s appointment is in less than an hour.”
Haley glared at her. “No, Mother, I can’t. What if it gets stolen? Plus, I’m gross. I haven’t had a shower since last night.”
Elizabeth groaned. “You can freshen up a little, but make it quick.” Ugh. No wonder her own mother had practically gone crazy on a daily basis; she’d raised two kids. Elizabeth turned onto Pelican Street, slowing for the dip at the first intersection. Her neighbor, Vanessa, waved at them from her mailbox, and Elizabeth waved back. Her brownstone came into sight. It was a beautiful little house. The dream had finally come true. Even though she was still renting to own, it was still the house she’d always wanted. Too bad Jack wasn’t here to see it.
Haley jumped out of the passenger seat almost before Elizabeth stopped the car. She flipped the engine off and followed her to the porch, closing the back door quickly behind her.
“Hurry up, bunky,” she called after Haley as the fifteen-year-old bounded for the stairs with her bags. Heavy footsteps thumped around on the second floor. Am I raising an elephant?
Upstairs, the shower started. Elizabeth ruffled through her purse. Where were her keys? She rolled her eyes. How much you wanna bet? She opened the door and pulled them from the outside lock. I’m turning into my mom. She dropped them into her purse and pushed her fingers through her copper brown hair with a snort. So like the absentminded professor sometimes. Elizabeth grabbed the mail, calling a quick hello to Mr. Helmheckle next door.
A plain envelope rested on top of a store ad. Her brow furrowed. What was this? She tossed the bills and ads on the end table and tore the strange envelope open. Who would send her a single folded piece of notepad paper?
There were two typed sentences:
You thought you could hide? No, I’m watching you.
Her feet rooted to the carpet.
God, no. She stumbled back onto the arm of the chair. She stared at the words till they blurred. Not here. Why here? It was supposed to be over. Avalon was a safe haven. Her eyes slid closed. Lord God, why’s this happening again? How had Adam Sadowsky’s sister, Veronica, found her again? Granted, Columbus was only an hour’s drive, but still. She hadn’t wanted to go too far away from Dad and Darlene, not to mention her sister, Jenna.
Her throat felt like it was clogged with peanut butter. She tried swallowing. It can’t be…
Print didn’t lie, though. What would they do? Go back to Maine? Or up to Chicago? Haley had hated when Elizabeth had pulled her from school during Christmas break. Readjustment at Avalon’s Lincoln High had taken her more than a month. Heck, Elizabeth’s own readjustment at a new clinical therapist practice had been difficult, too. But if Veronica was here…
The doors! She turned the deadbolt lock and raced to the back door, locking it as well. Afterward, she folded the note again and stuffed it into her pocket. The police were the best people to go to. Of course, Veronica being on the loose again meant she must’ve been released from jail sooner than Elizabeth anticipated. She leaned against the counter. The number for Jack’s old partner should still be in her address book. Perhaps she could get a hold of him. Of course, he might not still be a private investigator. He’d been getting close to retirement when Jack had died.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs as Elizabeth cleared the kitchen doorway, and Haley rounded the corner. She couldn’t think about it right now. Obviously, she needed to tell her, but after the appointment. The doctor’s appointment—she had to get that done. Then she could focus on what to do. She glanced at her watch. Ten minutes to get there. Haley held a compact in one hand while she combed her fingers through her hair. She was wearing makeup. And earrings.
“You’re seeing the doctor, not a boy,” Elizabeth reminded her and rolled her eyes. She glanced out the door. No one there except Yvonne at her house across the way. She moved out to the porch, and Haley swept past her.
“There might be tons of cute guys there. The doctor might be a boy.”
“Really?” Elizabeth gave her a sardonic look. “I’m sure the doctor’s old enough to be your father.” She locked the back door
and pushed ahead of Haley. A gust of air blew past, and she shivered again.
“Gee whiz, Mom, what’s your problem?”
“Nothing.” She paused. “Wanna race?” Without waiting for an answer, she jogged to the car, glancing around. Haley was right behind her. No way would Elizabeth be caught by surprise. Not like before.
“Please, Mother, you’re embarrassing me.” Haley tilted her head. “How do you know the doctor’s not young, like me?”
Better to embarrass her than to be caught off guard. “A fifteen-year-old doctor?”
“It could happen,” Haley said with a shrug as she got into the car.
“Yeah. On TV.”
Elizabeth glanced in the backseat before she climbed in herself. She pressed the switch for the door locks. “I told you to hurry. You’re going to be late.” She backed from the driveway and glanced at Haley. Back to reading again. Good. Maybe she wouldn’t notice Elizabeth’s nervousness.
Rain splashed off the windshield and hood, and a quiet rumble of thunder echoed through the air. Elizabeth pulled into the office parking lot and glanced behind the front seats. No umbrella. Really? Could she be more scatterbrained today? Maybe the rain would stop by the end of the doctor’s appointment. But she didn’t want to be in there forever, either. They ducked through the deluge into the building, and she signed Haley in. They took seats across the waiting room.
Elizabeth glanced at her daughter. Haley needed to know Sadowsky’s sister had found them. Not now, though. She caught sight of a mascara smudge near Haley’s eye and licked her finger to wipe it away.
“Mom, I’m fifteen, not four.” Haley pushed Elizabeth’s hand away and took her compact out.
Elizabeth giggled. “I thought you wanted to look good for all those guys.” A couple with a three-year-old boy sat across from them, and an elderly woman old enough to be Elizabeth’s mother sat on Haley’s other side. “You know, the ones that aren’t here?”
“You’re embarrassing me again, Mother.”
“That’s what us mothers do, sweetheart.”
Haley rolled her eyes.
Elizabeth picked up a magazine and leafed through it. Doctor Wilson usually didn’t make them wait too long, but she needed to do something to keep her thoughts from returning to the Veronica situation. Sadowsky’s sister would eventually come after her, and she needed to be prepared. After the appointment, she and Haley would drive up into Athens to get a couple canisters of pepper spray.
“Ms. Seymour?” Her head snapped up. A medical assistant stood beside her with an apologetic smile. “We apologize, but Doctor Wilson just got called out on a personal emergency. We can reschedule, or she can see Doctor Callahan.”
Elizabeth stared at her for a second. Doctor Gilbert Callahan—her friend Anna’s son. Wonder how much he’ll talk to me. The quiet brooding type usually appealed her, but they’d known each other for months now, and still he’d barely said a dozen words to her.
Haley nudged her. “Mom, he’s my best friend’s dad. He can’t be my doctor. Ew.”
The medical assistant laughed. “I’ll check what appointment times Doctor Wilson has open later in the week.” She started tapping at the tablet in her hand.
Elizabeth turned to Haley. “He’d only be a substitute.”
“Still. Ew. That’s just too weird, Mom.”
The medical assistant looked up from the tablet. “Doctor Wilson’s next slot is a few weeks out.”
“She needs this physical done by the end of this month.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t get her in with him any sooner than the middle of next month.”
Elizabeth cast a sympathetic look at Haley. “Sorry, babe. It is what it is.” She nodded. “We’ll go ahead and do this today with Doctor Callahan.”
“I don’t believe this,” Haley muttered, her arms across her chest.
It was another fifteen minutes before someone called Haley back. She and Elizabeth followed the medical assistant to an exam room, where she took Haley’s vitals. She handed Haley a cup with a lid for a urine sample.
“The bathroom’s right across the hall. Just leave it in there when you’re done, and let us know.” She turned to Elizabeth as Haley slipped out the door. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
“It’s all right. She’ll get over it.”
The assistant smiled. “Our phlebotomist will draw some blood, and Doctor Callahan’s nurse will do stamina tests,” she said as Haley returned. “The doctor will be in to discuss the results. Do you have any questions?”
“How long do you estimate?” Elizabeth asked.
“About forty-five minutes, give or take.”
With a sigh, Elizabeth nodded. Maybe the rain would quit by then. At least Athens’ superstore was open twenty-four hours. Haley followed the medical assistant from the room, and Elizabeth settled into one of the plastic chairs, picking up another magazine. She read one article, and then a second one. When the medical assistant brought Haley back, Elizabeth was surprised the minutes had already passed.
“How’d it go?” Elizabeth asked when they were alone in the room.
“Fine.” Phone in hand, Haley didn’t look at her.
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “For once, could you not act like I’m the Wicked Witch of the West?”
Haley rolled her eyes.
The door opened, and Gilbert walked through on his ever-present cane, accompanied by a nurse. Elizabeth watched him cross to the little sink to wash his hands. Turning, he leaned on the counter. His white coat hung open to reveal a green polo shirt and khakis. A touch of gray accented his sideburns but otherwise disappeared into his light brown hair. Freckles dusted his cheekbones. One of his best features—it made him look all the more handsome.
“Hi, I’m Nurse Reynolds,” the woman said and shook Elizabeth’s hand. “I’m assisting Doctor Callahan with the physical.”
Elizabeth shook her hand. “Sounds good.”
He gave each of them a small smile. “Hi. I know, this is weird, but it’ll be over in a minute.” After they finished the physical around a half hour later, Nurse Reynolds took her leave. Gilbert peered at her chart over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses. “Everything looks good. I don’t see why you can’t try out for cheerleading. Just be careful.” He flashed Haley a smile and turned it on Elizabeth. Their eyes met briefly, but he looked away.
“We’ll see if I even make the squad.”
“Just do your best. The rest is in the hands of the Almighty.” Clearing his throat, he turned to Elizabeth again. “If Doctor Wilson has any reservations, you’ll hear from him, but I don’t think he will. Any questions?”
“N-no, I don’t think so.” Why had she stuttered?
“All righty, guess I’ll see you guys later.” He started from the room.
“Gilbert, can I spend this whole weekend with Kaitlyn?”
“If it’s okay with your mom.” His gaze passed over Elizabeth’s face again. He gave them a two-fingered salute and disappeared through the door.
Elizabeth stared after him for a minute and heaved a deep breath. “Let’s hit the road, bunky.” They’d never talked a lot, though their few interactions had been pleasant enough. Time always seemed to be a problem. Between both their busy work schedules and single parenthood, they didn’t have much time to get to know each other. Gilbert was a nice guy, too, if quiet. She’d like to get to know him.
“Why’re you guys so awkward?” Haley asked as they climbed into the car.
Elizabeth shrugged. “He’s pretty quiet if you hadn’t noticed. Plus, we don’t know each other that well.” She started the engine and pulled out into traffic.
“Don’t forget about Kaitlyn’s birthday party this coming weekend,” Haley said as she pulled the seat belt across her chest. “You’re invited to the skating party on Sunday, but she’s having a slumber party the night before.” She paused. “I can go, right?”
Elizabeth gave her a look. “I never said you couldn’t. I’m going to a Bible study at Anna’s house on Saturday, so I’ll talk to her more about it then.” Should she let her go knowing Veronica was after them again? She shook her head. They couldn’t stop living their lives over it. They just had to take precaution.
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About the Author
Becca Hart felt the calling to be writer at the tender age of 15 and earned her Associate of Arts degree in English in 2013. Born and raised in a small town in northeast Ohio, Becca makes her home in southern Colorado in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. You can find her on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and her website at https://beccahartauthor.wordpress.com/