This Ring excerpts

 Chapter One


Emma put the car in park, closed her eyes and sat there.  Was she really going to do this?  It wasn't too late to turn around and go back to the city, was it?  All that was back there waiting for her were lies, deceit and heartache.  Sighing, she opened her eyes and looked at what was going to be her home for the next month, maybe two, if she came up with a way to make some money.

In front of her was the cutest little white cabin she?d ever seen; just as it looked in the picture.  The trim was a dark blue and wasn't at all faded, as she had been afraid it might be.  With photo shop and all the camera magic out there now you could never rely on a picture.  But this was.  If the inside was the same as the photos, this place wasn't going to be too difficult to get comfortable in.  Of course that wasn't taking into account the noise, or lack of noise.  Was it really possible to live without an ambulance or fire truck siren blaring at regular intervals?

Gathering her courage she opened the door and got out.  It smelled, well, fresh: that part wasn't going to offend her in any way.  There weren't a lot of trees around the cabin, but the few pines that stood looked so healthy they could have been props designed to give the scenery a wilderness nuance.  The trees on the other side of the parking space however were gigantic in her eyes.  You didn't find trees that large in the city.  Closing the door, she pushed the key fob and locked it: city or not most of her world was in the car and she wasn't leaving it unlocked anywhere.  

Pulling the house key from her pocket she slowly climbed the white stairs and stood in front of the door, almost afraid to go inside and see if the other pictures were true. 

When she stepped through the door, she was overwhelmed with warmth. The small two bedroom cabin was warm and woodsy.   The d├ęcor was a mix of rustic and Victorian, two styles she never would have thought would blend well together, but it did.  It was small, but more than welcoming, somehow it just whispered 'come in and relax'.  Relaxing was the last thing she thought would happen after the recent events, but maybe, just maybe with the aura of this place it might happen.

Her next thought was Allen would get a kick out of the quaintness of this place.

Then reality returned.

If she were sadistically inclined she'd think 'bloody slaughter', but she wasn't, so hoping he lost all of his top clients, her clients, would have to do. Financial ruin was close enough to bloody slaughter for her. Allen deserved some pain and knowing him as she did, his bank account dwindling would cause him agony like nothing else would.

As she stood there looking out at the lake: something that serene and beautiful should have brought her a quiet peace, but she couldn't find that yet.  How could she? In the last forty-eight hours she had packed up her apartment, put most everything into storage, withdrew her life savings; which turned out to be mediocre, found the listing for the cottage, called to rent it, and then packed up her car before even checking other possibilities. Apparently humiliation and a broken heart was amazing motivation for getting things done in a hurry.  She'd even swindled a bargain price by agreeing to keep up the lawn and flower beds?not that she had much on her resume in either area, but how difficult could it be?  Add the fact that it was now September; she figured there couldn't be all that many flowers to fawn over at this point.

Feeling numb for the last two days, she moved like she was on auto pilot back out to the car to get her things.  As she unlocked the car she heard her phone ringing.  Just a few days ago she would have dove for the phone with the adrenalin pumping?ready to dive into the latest PR nightmare and spin it into something useable.  Today, she barely glanced at the case sitting on the seat.  If it happened to be one of her clients, rather her ex-clients they would call the office and be directed to a new publicist:  if it was Allen-it could just keep on ringing.  In the last day and half he had called her hourly.  By now he should understand that she was serious when she said it was the last time she'd ever speak to him.

Dropping her bags on the sofa, she went back over to the window and saw only a blur. She did not want to cry any more-not over him, not ever again.  If there was a way to turn off the pain and forget the images burned into her memory: she?d do it in a heartbeat.  He wasn't worth it.  So what if she'd wasted the last two years of her life on a man that was lower than pond scum in her mind, live and learn?move on.

The phone rang again.  Turning around she looked over at the sofa, debated about taking the chiming thing back to the car.  She wouldn't even give him the satisfaction of doing that. 

Leaning her forehead against the cool glass, she closed her eyes and tried not to picture Allen, naked and in their bed with her own assistant.  How could Cindy do that to her?  How could he?  She wanted to blame Cindy, had tried to, but by the end of a long crying session she knew deep down that it wasn't her fault.  Allen could be rakishly handsome and charming when he wanted to be.  He?d honed the skill over the years dealing with media and celebrities, and he was one of the best polished con artists money could buy.  She could forgive Cindy, just as long as she never set eyes on her again.

Opening her eyes, she groaned as her mind automatically shifted to the other revelations she'd discovered.  After she'd kicked him out, with nothing more than the clothes he'd hastily put on and his phone, she'd dug through all of his stuff and found evidence that Cindy hadn't been the only one.  Of course the jackass had made video tapes of his numerous female conquests so the evidence was very conclusive.  Her heart had hammered in her chest as she fast-forwarded through the recordings; only slowing to a relatively normal beat when she hadn't found any evidence of her in them.  A small consolation, but better than worrying for the rest of her days that her naked body would appear on the internet.

After that she'd gone to see Allen for the last time: returning his precious videos to him in a large trash bag with all of his clothes. The fact that they weren't in one piece and smelled of the expensive perfume he'd bought her was just a little bonus that made her feel a hair's breadth better.  

The end of that story brought her here; with no clue at all about what she would do from this point on.   Eyeing up her bags, she decided to go and pick out her bedroom.  It wasn't a master suite or anything?actually the whole cabin wasn't as large as the last suite she'd stayed in, but it was private, comfortable and far enough away from the city that she hadn't even heard a single noise that came from anything but nature herself.  Setting the bag on the dresser, she went over and sat on the bed, pleased that it was soft.  The comforter on it was a little outdated in pattern, but wasn't tattered and worn overly much.

Sighing she laid back in the bed and closed her eyes.  Every part of her was exhausted and weary.  The last few nights hadn't been very restful; sleep was a hard thing to find when your world was spinning faster than a merry-go-round.  This was the first time she felt like it had come to a halt, allowing her to breathe again.