It was the perfect place to disappear...
When Kacy Macgrath's life crumbled two years ago, she changed her name and escaped to her grandmother's cottage in Ireland. Here she lives anonymously, with no reminders of the past -- except the terrifying images that continue to haunt her dreams. Images of the stormy night her husband, Alex, walked out on her -- and fell into the raging waters near their Long Island home. After his death, Kacy uncovered secrets about Alex she was better off not knowing, so she ran away. Now someone is watching her.
Braedon Roche has traveled across an ocean looking for justice -- to expose Kacy Macgrath as a master forger who, along with her late husband had nearly destroyed his career as an art dealer. What Braedon doesn't expect is his undeniable attraction to the fragile widow hiding behind a web of deceptions. But Braedon isn't the only man following Kacy. A savage killer stalks from the shadows, chipping away at her sanity, and trapping her in an unspeakable nightmare...
“I don’t want a divorce, Alex. I want a husband.”
Lightning flashed as the glass pane shook with the force of the wind. Kacy felt it vibrate under her fingertips. Rain pounded against the French door, running in rivulets down its face, partially obscuring the wildly gyrating trees outside. The path to the beach, beyond the trees, was totally invisible, the downpour acting like a moving curtain, obliterating almost everything.
“I am your husband, Kirstin.” Alex’s voice was tense, a low counterpoint to the fury of the storm.
She turned to face him, alarmed at how his use of her first name could sound so wrong, so foreign. “Maybe in name, but…”
He cut her off with the wave of a hand. “In all ways.” His eyes narrowed, telegraphing his meaning.
She shivered. “It isn’t like it used to be.”
His smile was slow, almost lazy, and it didn’t reach his eyes. “Well, perhaps it’s time you learned to be a little more adventurous.”
She clenched her fists, wondering how she’d managed to get herself in this position. By marrying a stranger, the little voice in her head calmly announced. Thunder rattled through the living room. The lights flickered, went out, and then came on again. She squinted as her eyes adjusted. “I need someone who loves me, Alex --”
“Loves you?” His look changed to derision. “And that’s why you eloped with someone you hardly knew? Come, Kirstin, be honest, you married me for the same reason I married you.” His hand snaked out and he jerked her to him, his tongue tracing the line of her lips. “You want me, Kirstin.” He pressed against her. “You want this.”
“Alex, I…” She tried to push him away, to find the right words, to face the reality of what he’d become. “Not like this, please.”
“Fine.” He stared down at her, his jaw tightening, then he released her, his handsome face mottled with anger. “Have it your way.” The words exploded from his lips and he pushed past her, throwing open the door. Rain lashed into the room, instantly soaking them both.
“Where are you going?” She placed a timid hand on his arm. She’d never seen him this angry.
He shook off her hand and turned, his hair already plastered to his head. “Out.”
“But the storm…” She gestured toward the torrent of rain pounding the paving of the patio.
“It beats the hell out of being here, with you.” Each word was clipped, designed to wound. She flinched as if she’d been struck, watching helplessly as he headed out into the storm.
“Alex, wait.” She followed him, the wind snatching away her words. He was only a dim shadow now, moving down the path toward the beach, illuminated at off moments by a flash of lightning. She took a step toward his retreating figure, surprised at the strength of the wind. For every step forward, it seemed to beat her back two. She sniffed, her nose filling with rain and tears.
Coughing, she fought her way forward, urged on by the dark silhouette of her husband heading for the beach, feeling the wet sand suck at her feet. Alex was almost to the dock, his frame bent at the waist as he tried to maneuver. Their little sailboat bobbed violently in the roiling ocean. Surely he wasn’t going to try to go out in that?
“Alex,” she screamed. Again the wind tore away her words, throwing them back at her with an almost angry savagery.
She neared the ocean’s edge, still a hundred feet or so from Alex and the boat. He’d managed to climb out on the dock. In the recurring lightning, she could almost make out his features. It was like watching him in strobe lighting. There and gone, there and gone, there and…
A violent clap of thunder split the night. For an instant, Alex was illuminated clearly. Behind him, green in the eerie flash of light, a huge wall of water served as a backdrop. There was a roaring sound and she opened her mouth to scream.
One minute he was there, and the next, with a flash of the strobe, he was gone, leaving nothing but darkness and rain. Again the lightning lit the beach, but this time it was empty.
The dock, the boat…Alex.
They were gone.
Kacy fought against the wind, its strength almost a physical blockade. Driven by fear, she pushed forward, finally reaching the edge of the water. She screamed his name over and over, certain that he was there, that the storm and the lightning were playing tricks on her. Her eyes searched the horizon, looking for something, anything.
Oh, God. Alex.
She realized she was still screaming his name, and with a force of will honed from years of practice, she shut down her terror, forcing herself to find calm. Panicking wouldn’t help him.
Nothing was going to help Alex, the little voice sang in her head.
She walked into the surf, feeling the powerful pull of the water, jumping to avoid the crashing waves. She stared into the pouring rain until her eyes ached, hoping for a sign -- hoping for a miracle. Only when the waves threatened to swamp her did she retreat to the beach.
She shivered as much from horror as cold and wrapped her arms around her waist.
“Alex,” she called again, this time knowing it was hopeless. He was gone. Forever.
She sank on the sand, sobs ripping through her, the sound of them adding to the cacophony of beating surf, rain, thunder, and wind. She pounded the ground with her fists until her fingers and palms were bloody, her hair whipping around her, tangling in the wild wind.
Everything she loved went away.
And this time, as always, it was her fault.
All her fault.
The wind blew and the waves crashed, the water sucking at her, its greedy fingers carving a channel around her, until she was left totally alone on an island in the sand.
Lindoon, County Clare, Ireland - two years later
Kacy Macgrath sat on the stony promontory and stared out at the ocean. Sky, mist, and sea melded together, obliterating the horizon, the somber coloring reflecting her mood.
Gulls darted back and forth between land and water, their cries echoing off of the rocky cliffs. Mac chased each and every one, joyfully barking and leaping into the air, blissfully unaware that he was physically incapable of catching one of the darting birds.
Kacy sighed. Maybe Mac had the right idea. Perhaps ignorance was bliss. She stood up, brushed off her skirt, and whistled for the dog. Mac bounded over to her, pushing a cold nose against her leg. The wind whistled across the meadow, the sound melancholy in the half-light. She shivered, suddenly grateful for the enveloping warmth of her fisherman’s sweater.
She turned to face the tumbled ruins of Dunbeg. The shape of the old ring fort was obscured by the mist, tendrils drifting in and out of the fallen stones. Centuries ago the fort had served its owners well, defending them from invaders and protecting them from the harsh Irish weather. There was something romantic about it. A sense of timelessness. She shook her head at her own fancy and turned her attention to Mac, scratching the dog behind his ears. Mac’s liquid brown eyes smiled up at her.
Kacy smiled back. “I think it’s time you and I were heading for home.”
The dog wagged his tail in agreement and took off in the direction of Sidhean, a blur of black and white against the flat green and gray of the rocky meadow. The cottage wasn’t visible over the rise, but Mac knew it was there. He stopped about fifty yards away and turned back, barking as if to say, “Where are you?”
“I’m coming. Just let me get the basket.” She turned back to edge of the cliff and bent to retrieve the remnants of their picnic. Mac barked again, but something in the tone sent a shiver of anxiety up her spine. She jerked upright and spun around, heart pounding, looking for something out of the ordinary in the shadows of the misty twilight. Nothing moved.
Mac arrived at her side, his teeth bared, a low growl issuing from deep in his throat. She laid a hand on his head, comforted by the silky feel of his fur. “What is it, Mac? What do you see?”
Her eyes darted around the clearing. In the far corner of the fort, against the stark contrast of the stone wall, something shifted, moved. She closed her eyes, stepping back involuntarily. Mac growled again.
She sucked in a breath and blew it out forcefully.
This was silly. There was no sense in jumping at shadows.
“Shadows,” she repeated the word out loud, and opened her eyes, ready to face whoever was out there.
The fort was empty.
Nothing was there.
She stroked Mac’s ears. “It was just our imagination, a trick of the mist.” She spoke more for herself than the dog. Still, she could feel him relax. “Probably just a gull.” She forced herself to sound positive. Mac wagged his tail.
“Come on, let’s go home.”
Excerpt from AFTER TWILIGHT by Dee Davis, Copyright ©2001 by Dee Davis. All rights reserved. Reprint only with permission from author. Please contact .