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       Convinced (A Women’s Suspense Short), p.1

           R. Barri Flowers
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Convinced (A Women’s Suspense Short)


  CONVINCED

  A Women's Suspense Short

  By R. Barri Flowers

  Cover Image Copyright 2013 by StockLite

  Used under license from https://www.shutterstock.com

  CONVINCED is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business establishments, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  OTHER BOOKS BY R. BARRI FLOWERS

  FICTION

  Before He Kills Again (A Veronica Vasquez Thriller)

  Dark Streets of Whitechapel (A Jack the Ripper Mystery)

  Dead in the Rose City (A Dean Drake Mystery)

  Forever Sweethearts (A Love Story)

  Justice Served (A Barkley and Parker Mystery)

  Killer in The Woods (A Psychological Thriller)

  Murder in Honolulu (A Skye Delaney Mystery)

  Murder in Maui (A Leila Kahana Mystery)

  Persuasive Evidence (A Jordan La Fontaine Legal Thriller)

  Seduced to Kill in Kauai (An Exotic Thriller)

  State's Evidence (A Beverly Mendoza Legal Thriller)

  TEEN FICTION

  Christmas Wishes: Laura's Story (A Young Adult Holiday Fantasy)

  Count Dracula's Teenage Daughter (A Transylvanica High Novel)

  Danger in Time (A Young Adult Time Travel Mystery)

  Ghost Girl in Shadow Bay (A Young Adult Haunted House Mystery)

  TRUE CRIME

  Mass Murder in the Sky: The Bombing of Flight 629 (historical short)

  Masters of True Crime

  Murder at the Pencil Factory: The Killing of Mary Phagan 100 Years Later (historical short)

  Murders in the United States

  Serial Killer Couples: Bonded by Sexual Depravity, Abduction, & Murder

  The Pickaxe Killers: Karla Faye Tucker & Daniel Garrett (true crime short)

  The Sex Slave Murders: The True Story of Serial Killers Gerald & Charlene Gallego

  * * *

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Convinced

  Death by Trial and Error – Bonus Excerpt

  Seduced to Kill in Kauai – Bonus Excerpt

  About the Author

  CONVINCED

  The school bus dropped Cassie off at the corner just a stone's throw from her house. School had been let out an hour early after some kids got sick from a bug. She expected to find her mom lying on the couch watching television or taking a nap.

  Cassie saw her dad's car parked in the driveway next to another car that she didn't recognize. She was surprised her dad was home, since he usually didn't get home until dinnertime.

  Cassie entered the house, assuming her parents and their visitor would be in the kitchen or family room. But she saw no sign of them.

  "Mom..." she called out. "Dad..."

  There was no response. Where was everybody?

  Cassie climbed the staircase and headed for her parents' bedroom. The door was closed. She put her ear up to it, listening for sounds.

  She heard nothing.

  Cassie thought about going to her room, until she looked down and saw something red oozing out from beneath the door of her parent's room.

  She opened the door slowly and screamed.

  She saw her mother and a man lying on the bed. They were both naked. He was half on top of her, between her legs. They were both covered in blood, which had spilled to the floor.

  As Cassie digested the horrific scene before her, she spotted something else. Her father was lying fully clothed on the floor near the door. A pool of blood surrounded his head. Beside him was a shiny gun.

  * * *

  Gazing into the goblet of red wine, I fought back the painful memories of yesteryear and honed in on my husband, Evan. We were sitting at a table in a seafood restaurant overlooking the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. He was resplendent as always in a navy designer suit and purple tie, part of the perks of being a successful hedge fund manager. His handsome face exuded confidence and integrity, belying the deceptiveness that lurked within.

  It was a month before our tenth anniversary and I should have been happy as a lark that we'd made it this far. After all, my parents' marriage had ended devastatingly when I was just eight years old. My father had caught my mother and her lover in bed and snapped, using his revolver to shoot them both to death, before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.

  The vision of that tragedy haunted me to this day. And, along with it, a gut feeling that my parents' curse of extramarital sex, secrets, sins, and betrayal had been passed on to me as though my birthright.

  I stared at Evan and knew in my heart that he was seeing another woman. He denied it, of course. Said it was just my imagination and insecurity.

  Was it? Or was I being played for a fool just like my father so many years ago?

  My hands trembled as I nibbled on smoked salmon. The signs had been there for a long time. Phone calls at odd hours, late night meetings, numerous business trips, unexplained charges on his credit card, the redolence of expensive perfume on his clothing, and Evan's inability to look me in the eye for longer than a few seconds at a time.

  Yes, I was convinced he was having an affair, giving some woman what he hadn't been giving me very much of lately. But who the hell was she?

  I looked at the table next to ours. An attractive strawberry blonde-haired woman was sitting with a man, laughing and chatting. In spite of this, it seemed like she couldn't take her big blue eyes off Evan, as if she'd rather be with him.

  Maybe she was his lover. Hadn't he insisted we eat at this restaurant when I'd chosen another, as if to be in the same space as the woman he was sleeping with?

  I looked over my shoulder at a dark-haired woman sitting alone. She sipped a cocktail and hadn't touched the food on her plate.

  Was she the one he was bedding? Maybe it wasn't just my imagination that Evan's gaze seemed to wander beyond me in her direction more often than not. I could only wonder what voiceless language his mistress was articulating behind my back.

  Was it part of their seduction to cheat in plain view? To make a complete imbecile out of me right under my nose?

  I honed in on Evan's gray eyes as he sipped his white wine. He smiled at me, but said nothing, as if it would be wasting energy better used for the woman he really wanted to be with.

  Our waitress came to the table. "More wine?" she asked.

  "Excellent timing," Evan said, sliding his goblet toward her.

  She beamed at him, allowing Evan a good look at her considerable cleavage while she bent down to pour the wine. Evan seemed mesmerized, apparently not caring that I was anything but amused.

  Maybe she was the one. Why not have an affair with a starry-eyed, sexy waitress who was outside his social circle? Since Evan loved coming to this restaurant, it wasn't implausible to think he could have met his lover here while she served up his favorite meal of stuffed lobster and salad.

  "How about yours?" she asked me as though an imposition.

  I waved her off. "I'll pass."

  She gave me a look of disappointment before flashing her sparkling white teeth at Evan and sashaying away.

  "Are you all right, honey?" he asked as if genuinely concerned.

  I shrugged. "Why wouldn't I be?" In fact, I was seething at the thought of him cheating with someone like that waitress or one of the other women in here and not having the guts to admit it.

  "How's your shrimp?"

  It was just like him to dodge the obvious issue by asking a mundane question.

  I shrugged. "Shrimp is shrimp."

&nbs
p; "True. Maybe we should've gone to the other place after all."

  "I have no problem with the food here." Just the company.

  Evan's cell phone rang. "I better get that."

  I moved the fork around my plate, watching Evan's facial expressions as he talked about business. Was it really a business call? Or something of a decidedly personal nature? I suspected he and his lover had devised some sort of secret code words to use when communicating with unwanted ears listening.

  Who was she? Was she sharing her most intimate thoughts with him?

  Evan threw his head back with laughter from something the caller said. He rarely, if ever, seemed to laugh like that when we were alone. So what was so damned funny?

  I imagined his lover was turning him on, telling him what they would be doing right now if he were there with her. Maybe she would be going down on him. Or want him to go down on her before they made love and came together powerfully.

  The thought really pissed me off. I didn't want to lose my husband to some tart.

  Evan had never complained about our relationship or sex life, so I couldn't understand why he sought out other women for fulfillment.

  * * *

  As soon as we got home, I confronted Evan with my suspicions.

  "Who is she?" I demanded.

  He favored me with an innocent gaze. "Who?"

  I wasn't in the mood for his games. "The woman you're sleeping with."

  He smiled and ran his hand along my cheek. "You're the woman I'm sleeping with."

  His lips brushed mine and, for a moment, I lost sight of everything but the intense desire to be with my husband in every way that a woman needed a man.

  Then I saw the faceless woman in my head. The one Evan had forsaken his wedding vows for. She was laughing at me for being such an idiot.

  I backed away. "Are you having an affair?"

  Evan sighed. "I thought we'd already been down this road?"

  "We have and I want to go down it again."

  "Why do you torture yourself like this?"

  My eyes became slits. "Because I don't want to be with someone who's cheating on me." Nor did I want him to be with anyone other than me.

  "But I'm not," he said in earnest.

  "So you say."

  He put his strong arms around me. "Be reasonable, Cassandra. We've been married for almost ten years and I've been faithful every one of them, I swear it. You're beautiful and I love you to death. If I wanted to be with anyone else, I'm man enough to say so."

  I wondered if I had allowed my instincts to get the better of me. Maybe he wasn't a carbon copy of my mother. Or other adulterers who wanted the best of all worlds and believed they could get away with it without paying a price.

  I looked him in the eye. "Do you promise I'll always be the only one for you?"

  His warm breath fell on my cheek. "Yeah, I promise that you are the only woman I'll ever want to call my wife and lover."

  My lashes fluttered yearningly. "So prove it."

  Evan wasted little time doing just that. He held my cheeks and kissed me passionately, leaving me breathless with a tingling between my legs that only he could alleviate. My suspicions were put on hold for the night as we made love and cuddled ourselves to sleep. It was a nice way to end a tension-filled day.

  * * *

  A week later my best friend Joanne Rochester stopped by. We sat on the patio drinking cocktails. Joanne was currently enjoying a long distance relationship and seemed perfectly content, as if being far apart from each other most of the time was the only way to make a connection work.

  I felt anything but content about my relationship with Evan, finding it unbearable whenever he had to go out of town for business. I still had a feeling he was hiding something and was determined to find out what.

  Joanne wholeheartedly disagreed. "You've got to stop obsessing about this, Cass. Do you realize what you're saying?"

  "Unfortunately, I do," I had to tell her. "Evan's sleeping with someone. I can feel it in my bones."

  "Well, your bones are wrong. Evan would never cheat on you. The man worships the ground you walk on like no other man I've ever known."

  My eyes widened as if this were a revelation to me. "He does?"

  "Of course! I've seen the way he looks at you; how he brightens up when talking about you as though no other subject on earth were more important. If that isn't true love, I don't know what is."

  Once again I felt my stance begin to soften. "Maybe I am being overly paranoid. Can you blame me, though?"

  "You have a right to be suspicious after your mom took a lover and caused your dad to go ballistic." Joanne lifted her glass. "But every spouse isn't a natural cheater. Evan certainly isn't. I just wish I could be so lucky to find someone nearby like him to share my life with."

  For an instant, I pictured Evan and Joanne together. They had always been flirty toward one another to the point of hugs and touches. Had it gone farther than that?

  Was she the one Evan lusted after, only to find a more than willing lover?

  I looked Joanne in the eye. "Just how much do you like my husband?"

  She flinched. "Are you asking me if we're having an affair?"

  I tasted the drink musingly. "Are you?"

  Her face flushed with anger. "I can't believe you'd even ask me that!"

  "So the answer is no?" I needed to hear her say it.

  "Oh, for heaven's sake, of course we're not having an affair!" She licked her lips. "You're my best friend and Evan's your husband. That's a line I'd never cross. I'm insulted, frankly, you would even think it."

  I sucked in a deep breath, wishing I could take it back. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. I never meant to accuse you of—" The words stuck in my throat. "I've just really been stressed out about this lately."

  "That's obvious, but you need to stop it! You can't let these unfounded suspicions make you crazy, especially to the point of alienating your best friend."

  I touched her hand. It was trembling. Or maybe it was mine.

  "Can you forgive me?"

  She sighed. "Only if you agree to get some help."

  Our eyes met. "You mean a therapist?"

  "Yes. It's clear you're not going to be able to get over this alone. I don't want to see you become so consumed with these irrational thoughts that you lose touch with reality."

  I had seen a therapist earlier in my marriage to deal with the same issue. It had worked for a while, but the effect had clearly worn off.

  Or maybe it was because my belief that Evan was cheating had merit.

  "I'll make an appointment," I agreed with some reluctance.

  Joanne smiled. "Good. In that case, I forgive you."

  I smiled back, feeling our friendship was back on track again. But my fears about Evan having an affair remained as steadfast as ever.

  * * *

  I sat in the therapist's office, already having second thoughts about being there. After all, why should I be psychoanalyzed for wanting to be in a faithful marriage with the man I so desperately loved?

  But I'd made a promise to Joanne and would keep it.

  Doctor Hannah Swanson sat across from me, hands clasped on her lap. She was only a few years older and had the type of sophisticated beauty and soft voice I could imagine Evan being wildly attracted to.

  "Tell me why you think your husband is cheating on you."

  "It's just an instinct," I said, feeling perspiration forming in my armpits.

  "Well, has he done anything to trigger such feelings?"

  I mentioned some of the vague things that had given me cause for suspicion, such as the constant phone calls, supposed business dinners that didn't include me, and his travel schedule.

  "You realize there could be a perfectly logical explanation for everything you've said, don't you?" she asked.

  "Yes, but it doesn't stop me from believing that Evan's cheating on me."

  "Even though you have no proof whatsoever?"

  "Well,
I can't imagine him admitting it to my face," I said sarcastically.

  Doctor Swanson looked down at her notes. "Have you confronted your husband with your concerns?"

  I nodded thoughtfully. "Yes."

  "And...?"

  "And he denied it, of course. Evan's very good at playing like he's totally innocent. Just like I always thought my mother was—till I found her in bed, dead with her lover, both of whom my father killed."

  She winced. "I'm so sorry about that."

  "So am I." I was sorrier for my dad, who didn't deserve to be treated that way by someone he worshipped. I didn't deserve it from my spouse either.

  "And so you feel that because your mother was unfaithful to your father, you've inherited an unfaithful gene or something?"

  "The thought has crossed my mind," I conceded, no matter how foolish it seemed. Then I tried to clarify. "I think I might be susceptible to being with someone who treats me with the same disrespect and dishonesty."

  Doctor Swanson peered at me. "If you found out your husband was definitely cheating, would you still want to save the marriage?"

  I had to think about it. Since Evan had never come clean, I had put all my focus on needing to hear him admit it, rather than what I'd do if he did.

  "I don't know." That was a lie. I did know. I loved Evan and couldn't imagine being with anyone else.

  That was clearly how my father felt when confronted with the notion of living with a cheating wife or without her. He'd found neither option acceptable.

  "Do you ever have homicidal thoughts should your husband admit to having an affair?" she asked directly.

  I nearly melted under her penetrating gaze, understanding that acknowledging such could do more harm than good.

  "No, not at all," I lied again. "I'd never hurt him."

  "That's good," she said. "Normally I'd recommend you hire a private investigator to follow your husband around, if only for your peace of mind. But, in this case, I believe you would only be throwing away good money."

  It was my husband's money to throw away, so I wasn't averse to doing so, especially if it meant learning the truth.

  "I need to know for, as you say, my peace of mind," I told her.

  Doctor Swanson took a breath. "My professional opinion is that you probably have nothing to worry about."

  I cocked a brow, wondering if she had heard a word I said or if she'd simply chosen to ignore it. "Really?"

 
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