Sunday, October 16, 2022

Read Chapter 1 of The Ex Who Wouldn't Die by Sally Berneathy


Barnes and Noble

When Amanda's lying, cheating, scam-artist husband, Charley, saves her life in a near-fatal motorcycle accident, she can almost forgive him for dragging his feet on their divorce. Then she discovers he'd been dead for several hours at the time she thought he rescued her. And not just dead…murdered.

On the good side, at least they are no longer married.

But she's the primary suspect in Charley's murder and, as if that isn't bad enough, Charley's ghost shows up in her apartment. He was rejected, kicked back, not allowed to go into the light. The situation was bad enough when he was alive and trying to charm his way back into her life, but now he claims to be unable to go more than a few yards away from her. She can't even be certain he isn't peeking when she undresses for bed.

Even death did not them part.

As Amanda puts her life in danger in an effort to bring Charley's murderer to justice and send him into the light or the dark or anywhere away from her, she learns her knowledge of Charley's misdeeds is only the tip of a toxic iceberg. Charley blackmailed his murderer, blackmailed Amanda's father, lied about his family being dead when he is actually related to half the town of Silver Creek, Texas, and, with his treachery, has stirred up secrets that will change Amanda's life.


Chapter One

Amanda accelerated around a sharp curve, leaning her shiny black Harley Night Rod so low, the toe of her boot touched the road. Coming out of the curve, she watched as the speedometer climbed…70…75.
She leaned forward, letting the wind flow over her rather than against her, savoring the sharp curves of Highway 259 as it wound upward through the Kiamichi Mountains, letting the thrill of speed and danger crowd out anger, desperation and frustration.
Eighty-five…and still climbing. The trees along the roadside flew by in a rush of green.
Too fast.
She knew that.
It was better than getting drunk to escape her problems. No hangover the next day.
She could handle the speed. She'd been riding since she was a teenager. She could handle the motorcycle and her demanding mother and her ditzy sister. She could handle everything life had thrown at her except Charley Randolph, her almost-ex-husband. He'd held that title for fifteen months and counting. Today his scumbag lawyer had finagled another postponement of the final divorce hearing for his scumbag client.
Charley had sworn he'd never let her go, and she was beginning to believe that could be the only time in their two-year marriage when he'd told the truth.
She veered around a particularly sharp curve, leaning so far over, she fancied she could feel the heat of the pavement through her thick leather pants. Adrenalin suffused every cell in her body. This was great. Another hour or two and maybe she'd calm down enough to stop plotting Charley's demise.
She'd planned this weekend getaway to a log cabin nestled deep in the Kiamichi Mountains to celebrate the divorce she thought would happen and mourn the marriage that had never really happened. Now she could only hope the peace and serenity of the mountains coupled with the exhilarating ride getting there would soothe her murderous anger.
She gave the throttle another twist.
Blow out the cobwebs, focus on the joy of speed, of the wind rushing past her and the trees along the roadside turning to a green blur.
A sharp curve twisted to the left just ahead. She pushed gently on the foot brake, and a chill darted down her spine. The pedal was mushy. The bike didn't slow. Something was wrong.
Not a good time or place for the brakes to go out. Her muscles tensed as she feathered the hand brake. The bike gradually slowed as she swept into the curve. She let out a long breath and relaxed. Everything was fine. The hand brake controlled ninety percent of the braking anyway.
No, everything wasn't fine.
The back wheel wasn't gripping the road the way it should.
She hadn't noticed any sand or oil on the highway, no irregularities in the smooth surface. This shouldn't be happening.
But it was.
Halfway through the curve, Amanda held steady, slowing as quickly as she dared, making a Herculean effort to maintain control of herself and the bike.
It wasn't enough. The bike slid toward the side of the road, the side of the mountain.
She lost control—of the motorcycle and of her own pounding heart.
She slid toward the side of the mountain.
The adrenalin was gone. The euphoria was gone. Even her anger at Charley was gone. Her entire focus became survival. A blanket of calm fell over her, shutting out sound, scenery, bringing her world down to nothing but the bike and her.
Seeming to move in slow motion, she thrust away from the cycle, leaving the beloved bike to roll on its own, down the hill, anywhere but on top of her body.
And then she was tumbling, freefalling down the mountain, blue sky replaced by green grass replaced by blue sky, over and over. Her shoulder slammed into a tree, the velocity of her impact bouncing her on a different course, and a large mossy rock filled her vision. She ducked her head, but the collision was unavoidable, and even through the safety helmet, she felt excruciating pain before she gratefully embraced the enveloping blackness.
"Amanda! Wake up, damn it! Do you hear me? Get up! You have to get up!"
Charley. Of course it was Charley. Who else would be demanding that she wake from the pleasant dream she was having?
"Go 'way," she grumbled.
"No, I won't go away until you get up. You have to get to the highway."
The highway?
"No, I don't." She tried to go back to her dream, to the most amazing bright light she'd ever seen, a light that seemed to promise the fulfillment of all her dreams, but Charley continued to yell.
And now he'd ruined it all. She was awake and her head ached abominably. In fact, her whole body hurt.
She put a hand to her head, a gloved hand that touched something smooth and hard instead of flesh and hair.
She opened one eye and, through a fog, peered at her hand. Motorcycle gloves. And she was wearing her helmet which had fogged from her breathing with the faceplate closed and no air being forced through as she rode.
Why had she gone to sleep in her riding gear?
"Get up, Amanda. You're hurt. You've got to get help."
"I'll hurt a lot less if you'll leave me alone and let me go back to sleep."
"No! You can't do that! Listen to me. Look at me and listen to me."
She pushed her faceplate up and lifted her gaze to see him kneeling beside her, streaked blond hair shining in the sunlight, blue eyes concerned, his khakis and white Polo shirt immaculate as always. In the background, she saw trees and rocks and grass and sky.
Huh? Where the hell was she and why had she been sleeping outside in her riding gear?
The accident. She'd lost control of her bike, skidded going around that last curve, skidded as if she'd hit sand or oil.
She lifted herself painfully on one elbow. "What are you doing here? I knew you had something to do with it! You were following me, weren't you? This is your fault! Somehow, this has to be your fault!"
"I didn't. I wasn't. I swear. I think I'm here to save your life. You've got to make it back to the highway so you can get help."
Amanda blinked and looked around her, trying to focus through the fog inside her brain that couldn't be dispelled by anything as simple as opening a faceplate.
"All right," she finally agreed, as she had learned to do when Charley was making some irrational demand. Agree to anything just to shut him up then do as she pleased. "Okay. I need to get to the highway."
"Good." He rose and stepped backward.
"Go on," she urged. "I'll be there later."
"Damn it, Amanda, this is no time to be stubborn! You're hurt! You'll die if you don't get help!"
Amanda had to admit, she didn't feel so hot. She'd taken quite a tumble, and her desire to go back to sleep probably wasn't a good sign considering how hard her head had hit that rock. With a sigh, she tugged open the zipper of her jacket pocket and fumbled for the cell phone. "Call 911," she said, offering it to Charley.
"Great idea!" He reached eagerly then drew back with a strange sad look. "I can't."
"Oh, for crying out loud!" She started to punch in the numbers, but of course there was no signal this far into the mountains. She shoved the phone back in her pocket.
"Fine. You get your way again. I'll walk back to the highway." She tried to rise, but pain shot through her left ankle, and she fell back with a groan. "I'm just going to lie down here for a minute and take a short nap, and then I'll have the energy to walk."
"No!" Charley shouted. "You'll die!"
"And you can't stand for me to escape from you even in death! Well, I can't walk. I think my ankle might be broken."
"You may have to crawl," Charley conceded.
Familiar fury rose in Amanda's throat. "You could give me a hand!" she snapped. "You could carry me! You could at least let me lean on your shoulder!"
Charley grinned, looking like a mischievous boy. Which he was. A 32-year old child. "You always want to be independent. You're always saying you don't need any help. Guess you'll have to prove it now." He took another step backward, up the mountain.
"Why, you worthless—" Her words ended in a groan as she again tried to get to her feet. Every muscle and bone in her body protested, registering their complaints with sharp stabs of pain.
"Worthless what?" Charley taunted, moving farther away and still grinning—triumphantly, she thought. "Come on, Amanda, you can do better than that. Remember the time I hocked our wedding rings to pay off my gambling debt? You had some pretty colorful names for me then."
Amanda unleashed a few heart-felt invectives, but Charley continued to step backward.
"What? I can't hear you. Did you say you still love me?"
"You are the most despicable creature on this earth! I only thought I hated you before this! What kind of monster forces an injured woman to crawl?" But she was crawling, or something like it. Using her arms and her uninjured leg, she inched her way toward him, every movement an agony. Each time she gripped something with her right hand, a pain knifed through her shoulder. Fortunately, her anger at Charley provided something of an anesthetic.
"You're going to pay for this, Charley Randolph." The rock she'd wedged her right foot against gave way, and she clung to a small tree with only her right hand, the pain in her shoulder excruciating. Blackness crept around the corners of her mind, but she shoved it away, replacing it with righteous fury.
"All deals are off," she panted when she'd stabilized her position. She reached upward, dragging herself along, as Charley continued to move backward, away from her, up the hill. "I'm no longer offering to give you two-thirds of the property just to get away from you. I'm taking half of everything and all of my business. I earned ninety percent of everything anyway! I'll fight you in court if it takes another ten years!"
"I won't sign the divorce papers, Amanda. I won't give you half. I won't let you divorce me. If you keep trying, you'll end up with nothing. Not even the cat." And still he smiled that infuriating smile.
"Damn you to hell! Damn you to living with my mother and never going deaf for all eternity!" The bush she grabbed hold of had stickers so sharp they pierced her glove and her palm, but she ignored that relatively minor pain and continued to move. "We don't even have a cat! That's just like you to take something we don't even have! I hope the next woman you sleep with gives you leprosy!"
"What was it you threatened to do with that rusty serrated knife when you caught me with Becky? Cut some flowers for a bouquet?"
"Cut off your penis and put it down the garbage disposal! And it was Megan! I didn't know about Becky until now!"
Charley continued to taunt her, and Amanda continued to climb, determined to reach him and throw him back down the mountain. So much for moving past her desire to kill him.
Then after an eternity, he stopped, and she realized the highway was inches from her face. With a gargantuan effort, she pushed herself erect, careful not to put much weight on her left ankle.
Charley beamed. "You made it, babe! I knew you could do it!"
She lunged for him—and fell onto the surface of the highway.
"Amanda, wake up. We have to talk about something," he said, his tone suddenly serious, but she was already drifting into the blackness, her last ounce of energy expended. "Amanda! You almost died! He tried to kill you! He'll try again! You're in danger!"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...