Death is easy. It’s living that’s hard. This is something known to every homeless person, and Taren Gasparini is no different.
Childhood is anything but blissful when your mother is a drunk and the town whore. Everything she ever cares about is taken from her, including her baby brother—and her innocence at the hands of her mother’s many boyfriends. She becomes an expert on survival, especially after her mother, in a fit of jealous rage, tosses Taren out when she is only thirteen.
Hauling herself up from the gutter, she meets the man of her dreams who gives her the only moments of joy she’s every known, but when he’s killed in his native England, she’s alone again and no longer has the will to survive. With her last few dollars, she buys a train ticket to Chicago. There, on the shore of Lake Michigan where she met her lover, she says a final good bye and steps into the murky water.
Cordova Perry is a dangerous man in the business world. He takes what he wants and cares little for the damage left in his wake. What he scorns most is weakness, like the weakness he sees in the half-starved woman he fishes from the lake.
Still, he has given his word to a dying friend to find Taren and help her. What he finds is a proud, wretched woman with more strength than he realized and suddenly he wants give her a chance at something better. Even after he sets her up with a home, a chance to go to school and finds her brother, he feels he needs to do more. But with a vicious mother and an angry boyfriend out to control Taren and her new-found wealth, can he save her?
Can she save him?
Word Count: 40,675
The key wouldn’t fit the lock. Fumbling in the dark, he tried to find the right one, wondering why the porch light wasn’t on. Taking a step to the right, he heard the crunch of broken glass under his shoe. Was that the light bulb? It was too hard to tell in the darkened shadows of the doorway.
Cord ran a shaking hand through his hair. He was as nervous as a boy on his first date. He’d read Taren’s short note and listened to her message at least a dozen times on the trip back to the states. Nowhere did she say that she loved him. She only wanted him to return. What if she didn’t love him? What if he were wasting his time?
Unaccustomed to doubts, Cord shoved them to the back of his mind. He finally found the right key, slipping it into the lock on the front door. Across the lobby was the elevator that would take him to the top floor. Would that be home?
He walked slowly, the excitement fading to trepidation. He detected a strange odor, stepping onto the elevator. It smelled of alcohol – not such a strange thing, given that it was New Year’s Eve – but there was something else, too. He’d smelled it before, during his college years and it was an odor that only meant trouble.
It suddenly occurred to him by the second floor that something was wrong. Maggie ran a pretty tight ship as a building manager. She’d never stand for broken light bulbs or the smell of burning crack in her lobby or elevator. Something just didn’t feel right.
When the doors opened on the fourth floor, the first door he saw was Maggie’s. He knocked softly, hoping she would be at home to assure him that everything was all right. When there was no answer, he moved down the hall toward Taren’s place. He could see that the door was ajar, could hear people moving around.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he realized that Maggie was at Taren’s, probably visiting before the women went out for an evening on the town. Although, when he drew closer, he realized that something was definitely wrong. The voices he heard were angry, full of malice and one of them was Taren’s.
His step quickened, his mind racing. The next voice he heard belonged to the man he’d had the police remove on Christmas night. When he heard Taren’s startled cry, he broke into a run.
The partially open door didn’t stand a chance. Cord kicked it so hard that it flew back, crashing against the wall. The hinges tore loose and the door hit the floor with a thud.
There was a collective gasp from the occupants of the room as all eyes turned to him. All he could see was the glimmering blade of a knife, just inches from Taren’s face. The only sound he heard was the rush of blood pounding in his ears as rage heated up his brain.
Cord had been in tense situations before. He knew that cooler heads would always prevail. At this moment, however, he wasn’t thinking. All he knew was that Taren was in danger from a man with a knife. He charged head-long into the room.
“Cord!” Taren screamed, but it was too late.
This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 30 July, 2011.