Have you ever had somebody show up at your door who you really didn’t want in your house? That’s the heart of the story that I’ve been writing for the past month or so. You may have heard me mention it once or twice on social media. I’ve called it REET. I know…it’s not much of a title, right? But it’s simply my writer’s shorthand for the story’s main character, an older woman named Marguerite. She’s funny and feisty, and definitely has a mind of her own. And since the storyline is now firmly in place, and I’m sailing along in Chapter Five, I thought I’d share the Prologue with you. This book is different than what I usually write. Women’s Fiction? Yes. Suspense? Absolutely! Be sure and read all the way to the very end of the Prologue, and you’ll see what I mean. But first, go back to the very beginning of this paragraph and re-read the first sentence. Finished? Okay! Now, as you read the Prologue, here’s a little something to think about…

If you were Reet, would you open the door?

Prologue

If the UPS driver hadn’t been running late, she would have taken time to peer through the peep hole. But Reet didn’t bother checking, never gave it even the slightest thought as she hurried to the front door. Marguerite “Reet” Carey was tired of waiting. Thank God the package had finally shown up. What did it say about the state of the world if you couldn’t put your faith in something as simple as a text alert Out for Delivery! popping up on your phone? Any sane, normal person (Reet lumped herself into this category) would assume it meant delivery that very same day. But the text alert had arrived yesterday, and she’d been waiting nearly twenty-four hours for that nice UPS driver who drove their neighborhood route, and always showed up at her door with a smile on his face, a friendly nod, and a You be sure and have a good day!

Well, and it was a good day, now he’d finally arrived. She’d been in the hallway, on her way to the bathroom, when the doorbell rang. She saw him, a blurred shadow through the frosted glass side pane, shifting back and forth on his feet, waiting to apologize in person for the late delivery. Reet reached for the knob. She would be gracious, accept his apology, put aside her worries now the package had arrived. Tiffany’s birthday was tomorrow, and birthdays didn’t wait.

Birthdays were special, especially when it came to sweet little girls about to turn five years old. Reet was determined to make her granddaughter’s birthday dreams come true. A fancy cake with frosted pink roses and Happy Birthday Tiffany! in elaborate swirls. Balloons, party hats for the three of them, streamers. And the vintage ballerina doll, an exact replica of the one she’d had growing up, which she’d ordered weeks ago and coming all the way from England. A sparkly ruffled tutu, jointed legs and arms, a jeweled headpiece as a crown. She couldn’t wait to see Tiffany’s face when she unwrapped her present. Tiffany loved ballerinas and that little girl deserved to have an extra special birthday. Especially given the past few months, and all the things she and her brother LJ had been through.

“Thank God,” Reet said, yanking open the wide wooden door. “I thought—”

The words drained from her mouth as she came face to face with the man.

Not the UPS driver, or his substitute. Not a stranger, either. He was broader, bulkier, since the last time she’d seen him, and sported a buzz cut which, surprisingly enough, looked good on him. But four years had done nothing to erase the sullen scowl on his face or vanish the dark glint in his eyes, a warning not to cross him.

And she wouldn’t…so long as he didn’t cross her threshold.

“Hello, Marguerite. Been a long time.”

Not long enough. Reet gripped the doorknob tighter. The faster he was off her porch, out of their lives, the better off they’d all be.

“Aren’t you going to ask me in?”

“No.” Reet planted herself firmly in the doorway, cursing her recklessness for not using the peep hole. If she’d seen who it was, she would have thrown the lock. The door was sturdy, good solid wood. The deadbolt would have held fast. He had no business at her house. No business in her life, or any of their lives.

Lloyd Walsh could go to hell.

He scruffed a hand against his head, as if trying to stir up random thoughts inside an empty brain. Shifting on his feet, he peered over her shoulder into the house beyond.

“Where’s Dee? She here?”

“No, she’s not,” Reet said, despite the fact she hadn’t planned on volunteering information. Hopefully, once Lloyd realized it was the truth, he would go away.

“That’s not what I heard.” His voice, a deep baritone, dropped into ominous range. “I heard Dee and the kids been staying with you.”

“I said she isn’t here. She isn’t…and she hasn’t been,” she replied, slightly fudging the facts. Her daughter DeAnna hadn’t been here for more than a week.

“You’re lying.” He stepped closer, planted one foot halfway over the threshold.

“I don’t appreciate being called a liar.”

“What about the kids?”

Reet’s heart jumped into her throat. Thank God she was alone in the house, that her grandchildren weren’t here. They’d missed the bus this morning, and she’d dropped off Tiffany and her big brother LJ at school more than an hour ago.

“How many times do I need to say that DeAnna isn’t here,” Reet said, summoning up all the bravado she could muster. “And even if she was, this is my house, not hers. I’m the one who gets to say who can come in, and who can’t. And I don’t want you here, Lloyd. You have no business being here. You need to leave.”

“Think so?” His eyebrows arched high above the smirk on his face. “What I need, Marguerite, is you to quit telling me what to do.”

Bullies thrived on thinking they could get away with intimidating others. Lloyd Walsh should think again if he thought that was going to work on her. Obviously, he had no intention of leaving, and Reet had no intention of letting him get under her skin, or into her house. She’d had quite enough of him swaggering his way through their lives, bullying her daughter, doing his best to destroy their family. The best way to deal with bullies was to stand your ground.

“We’re done talking,” she said. “You need to leave.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” he said with an odd smile. “In fact, I think our little conversation is just getting started.”

“Go away.” She moved to shove the door closed, but he proved too fast.

Reaching inside his jacket, he pulled out a gleaming piece of cold, hard steel, which he pointed at Reet.

Gun in hand, he forced his way inside.

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