Jake rolled into his drive and climbed wearily from his car. Even though it was his day off, it had been a long one. Parts of it, though, had been entertaining. He was especially fond of the times he lit Jill’s fire. No shrinking violet there, he thought. He didn’t know why that pleased him. It just did, and he was too tired to think about it.
What he wanted now was a little ESPN and a little peace and quiet, although seeing his mother move about in the kitchen he doubted he’d get much of that.
“Did you eat?”
“Yeah. Mary Lee made her famous barbeque and took it over to the new neighbor’s.” He wished he could have bit his tongue off.
“Is that where you’ve been? What’s she like? Is she married? C’mon. Give up the details.”
Jake sighed. Better to answer her, he thought, than have her hound him hairless.
“That’s where I’ve been. She’s divorced, has two kids who are appealing as hell in spite of their ornery mother and she’s planning on turning the place into a riding camp among other things.”
There, he thought, hopefully that would keep his mother off his back for a while.
He was wrong.
“I think I’ll bake a pie and take it over first thing in the morning.”
“Ma. . . .” Jake said and then snapped his mouth shut. It would do him very little good to try to discourage his mother.
“Never mind. You’re gonna do what you’re gonna do.” He stalked into the living room and flipped on ESPN. He hoped his mother would leave him alone.
His hopes died as she followed him into the room.
“You know Jake, you are always comparing the women you meet with your ex-wife. Not all women are like Rhonda. She was a real piece of work. Greed, lazy and a natural born liar are her trademarks. Now you’ve got another one, just like her after your hide. I would hate to see you alone, but I’d hate it more if you teamed up with that nasty Steffi Brandt.”
“Ma, Rhonda is part of my past. I’d like to leave her there. As far as seeing Steffi. . . we’ve gone out a few times, but there’s nothing there, so don’t worry. We’re friends.’
Helen Logan snorted at her son. “If you believe that, you’re just stupid. I’m gonna go make that pie and check out our new neighbor.”
“Ma! What on earth would I do with another woman in my life,” he walked over and kissed the top of her head. “I have you to drive me nuts. Now, I’m going to sit here, watch some sports, and then head off to bed. Zach elected me to give him a hand over at the new neighbor’s.”
Helen patted his cheek and headed for the kitchen. As she rolled out her pie dough, a small smile played around her lips.
She thought tomorrow would be rather interesting.
The storm woke Jill. She reached for her phone and flipped it on, checking the time. Great! Three in the damn morning!
Thunder rolled and lightening sizzled outside her window. She decided it would be wise to check the house, make sure all is secure.
Climbing out of bed, she snagged her robe from the back of a chair and securing the belt, made her way into her sitting room.
Her cell phone buzzed and she checked the display, a grimace of distaste flashing across her face.
“What do you want and how did you get this number?” she barked into the phone.
“Heard you got yourself a real nice house and some big plans,” Noah slurred. “You owe me, Jillian. You owe me big. You give me twenty grand and I’ll forget your number and the fact you have my daughters.”
Jill laughed into the phone. “Threats, Noah? I don’t owe you a blessed thing and if you actually believe I’m going to give you money on the hope you forget about us, then you are delusional.”
“Your pal the judge made damn sure I didn’t get a dime, Jillian. I went through a lot to get that money. Earned every penny and you’re gonna give it to me.” Jill caught the danger in his voice.
“You earned it?” Her own voice became deadly quiet. Had Noah started that fire? Was he responsible?
Noah said nothing for several seconds and she thought she lost the call until his laughter rang harshly in her ear.
“I earned it putting up with you and those two squalling brats. You sucked as a wife, Jillian. Always whining about money. You hoarded it. Never wanted me to have any fun. Oh yeah, Jillian. You owe me and I’ll be around to collect. Don’t disappoint me.”
“Sure, you do that, Noah and I’ll have your ass tossed in the slammer so fast your head will spin! Get this and remember it! I don’t owe you anything! I’m not afraid of you! Don’t call here again! Don’t contact the girls! Just stay away or you will greatly wish you had!”
He was still sputtering as she terminated the call.
She realized that her words were true. She didn’t fear him.
Sighing, she got to her feet, intending to check on her daughters.
The storm raging outside was nothing compared to the storm raging within her.
Worrying her thumbnail, she walked into her daughters’ room, wanting to be sure the storm didn’t disturb them.
Charlie raised his head, gave a half-hearted thump with his tail, and snuggled back on his paws.
Jill was relieved to see the girls sound asleep, Bree snuggled into her blankets in her usual curled up position and Megan sprawled all over her bed.
Jill tucked the blankets around Megan and wandered back to her room in search of some aspirin. That call from Noah upset her more than she cared to admit.
She would, of course tell Marcus about the phone call, but it worried her. How did he know these things?
She found some aspirin and dry swallowed them, and then snuggled into her bed.
The storm thrilled her. It was cozy in her nest of pillows with the plump quilt cradling her. The knowledge that her own walls surrounded her thrilled her even more than the storm.
The rain beat tiny fists against the windows while thunder rolled and lightening sizzled. The wind, tore at the doors with such ferocity, Jill raised her head and looked, expecting to see them blow open.
Lightening flashed and she bolted upright in bed. Her stomach clenched and fear raced up her spine with clammy hoofs.
Standing at her doors was the figure of a man. A slightly built man. Every inch of the man threw out rage.
In the glare of lightening, she could see his hands clenched at his sides, his legs spread wide, and his feet planted as if to do battle.
“Not Noah,” she whispered. “Too short, to slight to be Noah.” She didn’t know why that calmed her, but it did.
She bolted from her bed, racing toward the door wanting to check the bolt, but in the next lightening flash, she could see the man was gone.
Terrified now, she ran into her daughters’ room and checked the doors. She did the same, checking on her guests.
Marcus and Devin, alerted by her running feet emerged from their rooms. Jill, almost colliding into them let out a small scream.
“My God! You two scared the life out of me!”
Marcus looked bemused. “May we ask why you’re tearing from room to room like a crazy woman?”
Jill took their hands and led them further down the hall, not wanting to risk the children hearing her.
“I was almost asleep,” she whispered. “It sounded like the wind was going to tear the doors off leading from the verandah into my room. I raised my head and in the lightening, I could see a man standing at the door.” Jill took a deep breath. ”It wasn’t Noah. He called. Noah called earlier. I was going to tell you in the morning. This wasn’t Noah. He was too short, too slight.”
Marcus and Devin exchanged glances. Jill wasn’t exactly a fanciful woman.
“I didn’t imagine this. He was standing out there! I know what I saw!”
Marcus patted her shoulder. “I believe you, sweetie. Calm down. We’ll discuss this in the morning. Vinia and I will be staying over until Monday. I mean to get to the courthouse and file the necessary papers. I am curious about one thing. How did Noah get this number? Would one of the girls have given it to him?”
Jill shook her head. “They won’t speak to him. I’d know. Bree may not tell me, but Megan would spill the beans.” Marcus sighed. “I’ll get his number from you tomorrow. I’ll have someone run his number and find out who he’s been talking to.” He hugged Jill tight. “We’ll get to the bottom of this, but for tonight, let’s try to get a little more sleep.”
Devin patted her cheek on his way back to his room. “Try not to worry, kiddo. Dad will get to the bottom of this, but I think you should consider getting an alarm system in here. Just to be on the safe side. Ya know?”
Jill waited until the two men returned to their rooms and then did a last sweep through the house.
Knowing everything was secure; Jill returned to her room and fell into a fitful sleep dreaming of Noah chasing her and the girls, a large blade flashing.