Read At Peace Online

Authors: Kristen Ashley

Tags: #romance, #crime, #stalkers, #contemporary romance

At Peace

At Peace

Kristen Ashley

Published by Kristen Ashley at
Smashwords

 

Copyright 2011 Kristen Ashley

 

Discover other titles by Kristen Ashley:

 

Rock Chick Series:

Rock Chick

Rock Chick Rescue

Rock Chick Redemption

Rock Chick Renegade

Rock Chick Revenge

 

The ‘Burg Series:

For You

 

The Colorado Mountain Series:

The Gamble

Sweet Dreams

 

Other Titles by Kristen Ashley:

Penmort Castle

Three Wishes

 

www.kristenashley.net

 

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* * * * *

 

This book is dedicated to my nieces, Jill
Caroline Wynne and Karen Christine Wynne

The sweetest, kindest, funniest, most
beautiful and precious girls ever born.

And I’m not prejudiced.

 

* * * * *

 

 

Chapter One

My Neighbor

 

I stared at the dark ceiling and listened to
Axl Rose demanding to be taken to Paradise City.

The song was sweet, as was the AC/DC, Poison,
Whitesnake and Ratt that had preceded it but it wasn’t sweet
at…

I turned to look at my alarm clock on the
nightstand…

Three thirty-three
in the morning.

The party had started at twelve
twenty-two. I was okay with that, seeing as it was a Friday. I
figured in this neighborhood they’d cool it at one thirty, maybe
two. I also figured, if it went beyond that, Colt would go and have
a word. Alec Colton was my neighbor; he lived across the street and
one house down. He and his girlfriend, February Owens had a new
baby and he was a cop. I couldn’t imagine he’d put up with a trip
down memory lane, 80’s hard rock style, until nearly four in the
morning, not with a new baby and all that entailed to your sleep
schedule (or lack thereof).

But the music hadn’t stopped.

My neighborhood was quiet or, at least, it
had been for the four months Kate, Keira and I had been living in
it. It was February. Who had loud, late parties in a quiet
neighborhood in February?

At least Kate and Keira were at sleepovers.
If they’d been home, I would have lost it way before now.

But, I lost it…

I looked at the clock…

At three thirty-four in the
morning.

I threw back the covers and went to the
bathroom, snatching Tim’s old, plaid flannel robe off the hook on
the back of the door. His Mom bought him that robe. He’d had it
before we’d been married. Now it was soft as plush, worn in but not
worn out and it was still super warm.

Shrugging on the robe, I stomped out of my
room, through the open plan study into the living room that fed
into the dining area that fed into the kitchen. Then I went to the
side door in the kitchen where a tangle of footwear littered the
floor.

Both Kate and Keira were early bloomers. They
were now both my height, even Keira, though she was only fourteen,
and we all wore the same shoe size. I yanked out Keira’s hot pink
wellingtons with the big daisies on them and pulled them over the
thick socks I had on to ward off the night chill. I jacked the
thermostat way down at night, saved on heating, saved on utility
bills. Money wasn’t exactly flowing and raising two teenage girls,
money was an important thing to have. Then again, it was even
without two teenage girls, though I hadn’t really known a time in
my life when there weren’t kids in it. One day I was a kid, the
next I was a wife and mother.

Never regretted it, not a single day, not
until one year, three months, three weeks and two days ago. Then I
didn’t really regret it but life sure as hell changed.

I disabled the alarm, unlocked the side
door, stomped into the night and stopped dead.

I had no idea where the music was coming from
but I wouldn’t have expected it to be coming from my next door
neighbor. This was because whoever that was, they were never home.
In the four months we’d lived there, I’d seen a shiny, black, new
model Ford pickup truck in the drive a few times, maybe two, three.
I’d seen the lights on in the house once. Other than that, no one
home.

But now, it was lit up like a beacon, the
music was way louder standing outside. So loud, it was a wonder the
windows didn’t bow out with the sound.

But there was no shiny, black, new model Ford
pickup truck in the drive. Instead, clear as day because of the
lights blazing from the house, I saw a shiny, red, new model
Porsche.

This all struck me as a surprise. No word, no
sound, no nothing from that house in four months and now it was lit
up, loud music blaring and there was a non-American car in the
drive. As far as I knew the only neighbor on the block who didn’t
own American was February and she owned a convertible Beetle.
Everyone else, including me, had American-made.

And no one on this block could afford a
Porsche, not in their lifetimes.

Even living there for such a short time I
knew my neighbors because this was a small, Indiana town. We’d
lived there a week and we’d met all our neighbors. They’d come over
with cakes, cookies and casseroles. We’d been invited to Christmas
parties. We waved and called hellos, or good-byes, or even walked
over to have a gab if we were out shoveling the walks or getting in
our cars to go somewhere or we were coming back. We chatted when we
ran into each other at the grocery store, post office, Frank’s
restaurant or a high school basketball game. Kate, Keira and I had
lived there four months and it felt like we’d been there fourteen
years.

But I didn’t know my neighbor with the shiny
Ford pickup who lived next door and I didn’t know them because they
were never home.

Now, whoever they were, I was going to meet
them.

I stomped through the snow, hearing it
crunching underfoot even with the music. The top of the snow had
refrozen with the frigid night but I didn’t feel a thing, I was too
angry. I had to work tomorrow, be at the garden shop at eight which
was only a few hours away. I’d been woken up with AC/DC’s “Hell’s
Bells” and had been tossing, turning and fuming ever since. Now my
blood was boiling and I was going to have to take care not to lose
control. I had a temper, unfortunately. I didn’t blow often but
when I blew, I
blew.

And one of the
reasons I was angry was because if Tim was here
he’d be doing this. He’d have done it three hours ago,
approximately halfway through “Hell’s Bells”. Tim liked his sleep
but it wasn’t that. He didn’t tolerate anything that might bother
his girls. If it woke me up, it would wake him up and he would know
I’d been disturbed and that would tip it for him and he’d be out
the door like a shot. He’d take his gun and he’d take his badge and
he’d take his pissed off, big man, hotshot cop attitude and he’d
put a stop to it, make no mistake.

Fuck, but I missed him.

I made it to my neighbor’s front door and
didn’t delay. I lay on the doorbell and knocked on the door,
knowing they’d never hear one or the other and even with both it
would be a miracle to be heard over that sound.

It was now Van Halen. David Lee Roth was
singing “Panama”. Another of my favorites. It was a memory song.
Good times were had when that song was played, good times being
ruined by that song being used to piss me right the fuck off.

I knocked louder and kept my finger pressed
to the buzzer.

“Hello!” I shouted to the door.

It was thrown open, the blazing lights from
inside blinding me for a second, then I focused, my blood cooled
about a hundred degrees and I stared in complete shock.

“Who are you?” she asked on a shout over the
music.

Holy shit, it was Kenzie Elise.
Kenzie
Elise
.
Kenzie freaking
Elise.

I’d seen nearly all of her movies (except
when she started to branch out and do those crappy art house films
which made little sense to me or the critics, even though she was
doing them trying to become known as a
actor
rather than a rom com sweetheart and she kind of
failed at this endeavor).

I loved her movies, especially the rom coms
(the thrillers were pretty good too). I loved her. She was
awesome.

But now, with her standing in a crackerbox
house, in a crackerbox neighborhood, in a small town in Indiana, I
was staring at her in shock.

Kenzie Elise couldn’t be my
neighbor.
That was impossible.

But there she stood, tall because she was
really tall anyway but she was also a step up and she was wearing
sky-high, platform stripper shoes with straps that wound up her
skinny calves. And skinny they were. She was ripped; every muscle
in her body could be seen. As could her breastbone, prominent and,
I had to admit, immensely unattractive. I could see all this
because she was wearing an emerald-green, lace teddy, deep-cut down
her non-existent cleavage, high-cut up her bony hips. She had to be
ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty pounds underweight. So skinny, it
was a little scary. But she had that trademark mane of wild, long,
strawberry blonde hair, cornflower blue eyes and cute-as-a-button
face.

And she was standing in the doorway of the
house next door, the blue eyes in her big head on her stick-figure
body staring down at me.

“Who are you?” she repeated and I jumped,
coming out of my trance.

“Um… your neighbor,” I replied. “Could you
turn the music down?”

“What?” she shouted but when I was going to
respond, her blue eyes left me and looked over my head.

I saw lights flash on the house and I turned
around to look too.

A shiny, black, new model Ford pickup truck
was turning into the drive.

Shit!

I turned back to see she was smiling, really
pleased about something. Her face had gone soft and knowing in an
intimate way that made me feel highly uncomfortable.

From the look of her Daddy was definitely
home. I was big time third wheel of this particular party and I
needed to get out of there.

“Listen, can you turn the music down?” I
asked on a shout but she ignored me, her eyes riveted over my
shoulder.

I’d seen the lights go out and now I heard a
door slam.


Excuse me!” I yelled over the music,
getting a bit desperate. “I live next door,” I lifted my left arm
to point at my house, “and your music is really loud. Can you turn
it down?”

“Hi lover,” she purred and how she purred
over that music I couldn’t imagine but she did it.

I turned around and froze.

Standing behind me was a man, a big man, big
in every way. He was tall, taller even than Tim and Tim had been
six foot two. He was also broad; his shoulders in his black leather
jacket were wide and unmistakably powerful.

And he’d been beautiful, once. It was plain
to see, under what he was now, that his features had once been
perfect, high cheekbones, an appealingly sharp slant to his square
jaw, a strong brow. Now there were lines coming in arrays from his
eyes and more around the sides of his frowning, full lips.

And there were also scars down his left
cheek, two from about a quarter of an inch under his eye that
curved over his high cheekbone coming closer together and ending
where, if he had a dimple, his dimple would be. These scars were
not puckered or disfiguring outside of the actual marks. They just
marred the faultless male beauty that had once been his face,
making it, with the addition of the lines, rugged and interesting
and more than a little scary.

All of this, with his dark, unruly, way
overlong hair, was enough to make him look sinister in a
compelling, magnetic way.

And then there were his eyes. Sky blue
eyes.
Sky
.
Fucking.
Blue.

Kate and Keira had their father’s gray-blue
eyes, striking as they were framed with Tim’s long, dark lashes.
I’d never seen eyes as beautiful, as striking, as breathtaking as
Tim, Kate and Keira’s.

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