Litha Adams cleared her schedule, deciding to spend the day at home. She needed a break from her chaotic life. She picked a perfect sunny day to relax and just hang out in the garden. Nothing prepared her for the sudden appearance of Ethan Garner. She had walked away from him and spent every day since, building a life on her terms. By day's end, she had another problem. Strangers were in her home. Litha found herself locked away with Ethan as interlopers hunted for treasure. Then came the realization that she was their target. They were hunting for her.
Working the soil was a source of comfort for Litha Adams. She liked to feel the rich black granules slip through her fingers. She liked the sense of accomplishment she felt when something as small as a minuscule seed erupted from the earth to produce an edible crop or the vivid canopy of colors that lit up the back wall of her estate. She had purchased Enchanted Island specifically for that purpose. It was an eleven thousand square foot brick-front colonial on ten acres, complete with its own private lake, which she kept well stocked with ladyfish, spadefish, and Alabama darter.
The estate was a collection of steep undulating hills, surrounded by ten-foot sugar maple, loblolly pine, and yellow buckeye trees, which closed off visibility from neighbors and passersby. Once you turned off the residential road, drove up the long shaded driveway, and passed through the tall black iron gates, there was an immediate sense of isolation. The vast green acreage, the colorful gardens, bubbling fountains, even the man-made lake, was serenity for Litha and the few guests she allowed at her home. The irony was that her quiet oasis was barely a heartbeat away from the bustle of downtown Atlanta.
“Ms. Adams,” said a voice behind her.
Litha sat back on her heels, removed her lavender rose patterned garden gloves, and waited for her assistant to continue. She rarely took time to do anything for herself, rarer to work in the gardens. She needed a breather from the chaotic treadmill of her life. Instead of hitting the office before sunup, she decided to work from home and sneak in a little solace. She had already run five miles and punched off a dozen emails before telling Courtney, her assistant, to change her schedule. Courtney reported to the house instead of the office and every appointment had been canceled, except one. Even that had been re-routed to the house.
“You have a visitor. The guy didn’t give his name, but he says you know him,” said Courtney.
Litha twisted around and glared at her. “What?”
Courtney shrugged. “He’s at the gate. He insists on seeing you.”
“Here?” confirmed Litha. “You’re saying some random man just drove up and wants to see me?”
Putting her hand on her narrow hip, Courtney nodded. She wasn’t just Litha’s assistant, but her closest friend. “Shaun has him at the gate. I already spoke with the guy. I asked him to leave his name and a card and I’d have you contact him, but he insists on talking with you himself.”
Courtney was impeccably dressed in a tasteful, mid-calf, ice-blue sleeveless dress. She wore her hair natural, kept it cut low and perfectly tapered on the sides and at the nape. A hint of red on the edges of her hair set off her toasted-chestnut skin, which was flawless. She had high cheekbones, full lips, and a sultry come-hither voice that made most men stop dead in their tracks. She was also a closet comedienne, with a wicked sense of humor, who had the ability to lift Litha’s mood no matter what was going on. But when Litha looked at her, she didn’t see that spark of wit bubbling behind her dark brown eyes.
“What does he look like?” She imagined some half-crazed man hanging from the twenty-foot gates. There were dozens of charitable organizations always chasing her down; ladies auxiliaries, educational funds, and church groups inviting her to either speak to their masses, lend her name to their cause, write a check in support, or all three. No one had ever tracked her to the house. Litha had hired personal security eight months ago and kept a guard at the gate twenty-four hours a day. She also had a man present in the house at all times or by her side whenever she left.
Courtney considered the question and shifted her iPad to the opposite hip. “If I may say so . . . he’s fine. He’s well dressed. He’s driving an
Affalterbach. Speaks well. He’s very clear about your association.”
Sighing, Litha slapped her hands together, sending up a small plume of dust. She brushed off her jeans and pressed her hand against the front of her t-shirt. “And he won’t give his name?” asked Litha.
“No. Shaun wants to know how you want to handle it. He’s ready to dial 9-1-1; he’s just waiting to finish the call.”
Litha looked back at her unfinished work. She’d been planting larkspur and penstemon for added color in the garden. Small black containers waited to be transplanted. “I’ll go see what the guy wants,” she decided.
She and Courtney took a narrow cobblestone path that rounded the east end of the home. As they stepped onto the paved driveway, Litha noticed the shiny black car idling outside the gate. The heavy tint on the windows made it impossible for her to see who sat in the driver’s seat. Shaun stood at the edge of the guard’s house holding a cell phone.
The extreme security measures hadn’t been her idea, they’d had been put in place at the insistence of Ed Mitchell, the Chief Operating Officer of her company. He was afraid that the recent protest at the company could spiral out of control. After weeks of cajoling, begging, and pleading, Litha finally conceded to a personal escort, the fortress-like gates circling the property, the armed guard, handpicked drivers, and the fleet of secured vehicles. Her personal staff had swollen and been required to submit to extensive background checks, polygraph exams, take basic training in selfdefense, sign rigid confidentiality agreements, and had been taught to remain on alert at all times. Litha agreed to all the changes even though they resulted in every facet of her life being utterly and completely invaded.
A walk to Starbucks for an iced coffee was an act of defiance. Ed and the entire team would spin into action, hustling about in a fury trying to find her. When they did, they'd swoop in like a SWAT team to form a secure bubble around her. Slipping away occasionally was her way of keeping her sanity, retaining her independence, and proving to Ed that his concerns were unwarranted. It was also her way of reminding all of them that she was the one in charge.
Courtney slowed her pace then touched Litha’s arm to halt her. “I . . . I don’t know about this,” she said. “Maybe it isn’t such a good idea. He didn’t look crazy, but you never know.” Then deciding. “I’ll have Shaun just get the guy’s name and number. He’ll have to be satisfied with that. Ed would kill me if anything happened to you. The protocol . . .”
Litha held out a hand. “Whoa. Stop.” She turned to Courtney. “Has
Ed been harassing you about what goes on in my house?”
“Not exactly harassing,” evaded Courtney. She was uncomfortably aware of the tension that had developed between Litha and Ed Mitchell recently. She wanted to stay clear of it. “You know him,” she urged, “Ed’s all about rules and has his ideas about how things should run.”
Litha sucked her teeth, crossed her arms, and said, “I haven’t abdicated control of my life to anyone. If Ed Mitchell thinks any differently, then he’d do well to remember who owns the company, who he works for and this house. If I choose to walk to my gate, then I will.”
Not offended by Litha’s directness, Courtney pursed her lips, snapped her fingers. “Alright, Boss Lady.” She stepped aside and pointed toward the gate.
At their approach, the car door opened. Shaun’s hand swung to the gun on his hip. “Sir, please stay in the car.”
Ignoring him, a tall, well-built man stepped out in a crisp, tailored suit. He had skin like whipped dark chocolate, a broad regal nose, a firm jaw, and narrowed eyes that went immediately for Litha.
She stopped. Her heart thumped in her chest so hard it hurt. In a quaking breath, she huffed, “Shit.”
“You okay?” asked Courtney, protectively stepping between Litha and the gate.
The man closed the door, letting her see the full measure of him.
“Sir, please get back in the car,” said Shaun. “I’m going to have to call the police if you don’t comply.”
“I’m fine,” said Litha, regaining her composure.
She willed herself to steady and pinched her hands closed for a moment to stop the shaking. Imagining herself a bar of unbendable steel, she stepped around Courtney, walked toward the gate. Wrapping her fingers around the bars and she stared at the man for a moment.
When the man took a step forward, Shaun pushed his hand into the stranger’s chest and warned, “Sir, I’m serious. All I have to do is hit ‘send’ and I’ll connect with the police.” He held up the phone.
In a voice that had turned cool and hard, Litha said, “Shaun, put the phone away. Let him through.”
For More Information
K. S. David lives in the Mid-Atlantic with her husband, their three children and a menagerie of pets.
New storylines are constantly running through her head and she keeps notebooks tucked in pockets of the car, the nightstand and makes voice recordings just about all day long. She's addicted to true life mysteries and crime shows, both of which marry well with a great romance. Some of her favorite things are long walks, reading in bed, baking and of course, writing her next novel.
For More Information