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Come Hell or High Water: A Psychological Thriller | Book 3 | The Water Series (Ebook)

Come Hell or High Water: A Psychological Thriller | Book 3 | The Water Series (Ebook)

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About The Book

Book Three | The Water Series

Dexter meets Mrs. and Mrs. Smith. They’re the perfect neighbors, the perfect parents, the perfect couple. If it weren’t for that one thing…

“I’ve been studying her for weeks. I know how she takes her coffee, the color she prefers on her nails, the way her mouth moves when she sleeps. I don’t know what she looks like when she’s happy. But I will.” 

When Cheryl Steinbeck-Edwards makes the decision to get in a car with a potential contractor, meticulous hitman Jude Riley and his lovely wife Kate, it appears to be the perfect partnership. Turns out, nothing is perfect, and getting in that car was a poor choice, to say the least.

When Kate decides not to kill the woman, as she and her husband agreed, a series of events, some might even call it karma, conspire to turn their worst fears into reality.

In the tradition of Gone Girl and Behind Closed Doors comes a gripping, twisting, furiously clever read that demands your attention, and keeps you guessing until the very end. For fans of the anti-heroine and stories told in unorthodox ways, Come Hell or High Water delivers us the perfect dark and provocative villains.

Read a sample

Chapter One

AFTER 

Life often has a funny way of leading you around to where it wants you to be, at least that’s what I’ve come to find. Speaking of finding things, I know I shouldn’t be here. It was a risky move, coming, but at the same time—a promise is a promise. I said I’d take care of this, and I’m determined to hold up my end of the deal. Still, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

Get in. Get out. I repeat this to myself over and over, step by step, until I reach the front porch. When my foot hits the first stair, I pause and glance backward over my shoulder. I just need a moment. The sun is bright today, but the sun is deceptive. It isn’t warm; there’s a chill in the air, and it’s the kind that stings when it hits my skin. The wind whips my hair, covering my face; it has little concern for anything that stands in its way. I brush it back and climb the remaining steps. If only it weren’t so cold out. I might’ve stayed put; I might’ve changed my mind. I might’ve gone back home to you. 

Ring the bell, I say to myself. Lift your finger and push the bell. I know what to do; I just can’t make myself do it. Thankfully, the decision is made for me. Before I gather the nerve to press the bell, the door swings open, and something shifts—and it isn’t the wind. It’s something within me, and that something feels a whole lot like my resolve. I swallow hard, trying to dislodge the lump that’s formed in my throat. It doesn’t help. Turns out, a little saliva has nothing on fear, and so the lump remains. Also, I’m standing face to face with him, and it feels like a long time coming. 

Up close, he’s different than I imagined. That’s not to say that I really imagined much. I guess I’d just expected a little more from her, is all. Someone not so… ordinary looking, would be one way to put it. If this is her type, then what do I know? Maybe it’s the gray that peppers the dark hair at his temples, or maybe it’s the way his smile turns downward, but he seems older than I thought he’d be. 

He doesn’t speak immediately. He greets me with a nod, and we stare at each other in some sort of silent standoff, sizing one another up, or at least I assume that’s what we’re doing. I wonder if he can read the sleepless nights on my face, or see the effects of the twelve pounds that I’ve lost in just two weeks alone. Can he see the guilt in my ashen face? Can he feel the sadness in the pit of my stomach? Does he see the despair in my eyes? Does he know that I’m a failure, as a mother, a wife, a friend? If he can, he doesn’t say. He simply moves to the side, allowing me to slip by and into his world as though we’ve known each other our whole lives. 

For a moment, I consider that he isn’t the man I’ve come to see. But as I pass, I notice in his expression a mild curiosity, the kind she described, and I realize it’s definitely him. Also, that I shouldn’t have come. 

What are you doing, Kate? It’s your voice, not mine, that I hear and it suddenly becomes clear—really clear—that no one knows I’m here. Still, I can’t help myself. I showed up for a reason, and I know I won’t be able to forgive myself if I don’t see this through, and so when he rounds the corner, and he beckons me to follow, I do. Better to get it over with and get on with your day, his posture seems to say. 

The inside of the place is darker and stuffier than it looked from the outside. I was pleased to see when I Googled the address, that he offices out of an old home. I’ve always had a thing for old houses, and this one does not disappoint. From the curb, it is apparent it is well kept, but in here, it feels empty—lonely—in need of something I can’t quite name. Just like her.

Making my way through the hall, I wonder if he lives here, in this old house, with the loneliness and the unnameable things. I almost ask, but he ushers me into our final destination, a second living area which has been converted into an office, and I think better of it. The room is smartly decorated, which makes sense, considering his connection to her. But maybe I’m projecting. If so, I’ve certainly come to the right place. I laugh softly at the thought, maybe because I’m nervous, or maybe it’s the book that catches my eye. 

In any case, there’s not much to the space, aside from a desk, a small couch, and an armchair. He clears his throat and then shuffles his feet, and it suddenly occurs to me that I haven’t got all day, and I probably ought to get on with it.

He doesn’t say so, but his straight back and upturned mouth give the impression that he holds all the answers one could ever need, tucked neatly into his back pocket, and it momentarily crosses my mind that maybe I don’t really want to know them after all. 

I can feel his eyes on me, which is why I meet his gaze. His expression appears to say that he expects I’ll be comfortable here, and I hope he is right. Does he know I can’t decide whether I’ve come to kill him or simply to satisfy my curiosity? It’s hard to say. What I do know is the intensity with which he studies me also makes me want to go, to press rewind and reverse every mistake I’ve likely just made by coming here. But I won’t. I can’t.

When I step further into the office, he follows. I glance toward his desk. I don’t see any therapist-type things on it— there aren’t files— and there aren’t pens or notepads. Instead, it’s covered in books, stacked neatly in rows. I inhale, and if life-changing had a scent, it would smell like this. It’s The Great Gatsby that caught my eye. The irony of the past, beckoning. “It was my father’s,” he says, clearing his throat, and I don’t know if he’s referring to the book or the desk, and I don’t ask. 

I shift, but I make a mental note to get a better look at the selection of books he owns before our time is up. It’s interesting; I don’t know what I’ll find on that desk, only that it’ll be something brilliant, probably something a little uncomfortable, like Lolita or The Scarlet Letter, the type of book that stretches the reader. He sees me looking, and he smiles. I know that whatever is in those stacks, I won’t find anything simple or cozy or sweet, but rather something in your face— direct— the kind of book that asks something of you. Set your feelings aside, it says. Let me take the lead; I’ll show you how this goes. 

He closes the door behind him, and I wonder whether this is customary—a convention to make me more comfortable— to get me to open up, because it doesn’t appear there are any other occupants in the house. Also, up close, he’s tall. Taller than I realized. Taller than you, even. He moves quickly across the room, like a cat, and takes a seat. He doesn’t motion for me to sit; he just assumes I’ll know what to do. He’s all business, until he isn’t. 

“Would you care for something to drink?” he asks, raising his brow. “Tea? Coffee? Vodka?”

His voice is low; it resonates somewhere deep inside, bounces around and lodges itself just where it wants to be. Like yours. I glance at an imaginary watch on my wrist. “It’s a little early for vodka,” I say. 

“Just barely,” he tells me, and the words catch on his lips and hang there. I don’t respond. I study his hands instead. They seem like capable hands—like yours, like hers, I think. He folds them in his lap; he isn’t one for small talk. When I look up, I shift my focus to his face. I’m trying to get a sense of the direction he’ll take, but all I see is nothing, and I can’t guess which way things will go. He knows her, too. “So—Mrs.—”

“Water,” I interject, and my voice comes out smooth, just the way I wanted it. 

“Water. That’s right. I remember now from your email,” he says and then he pauses to look up at me, peering over his glasses as he does. “What an interesting name…” he adds and then he furrows his brow as though he’s just remembered something long forgotten. I’ve seen that look before. You have it down to an art.

Still, he doesn’t take his eyes off mine. “But I bet you’ve heard that before.”

“A time or two, yes,” I answer, averting my gaze. I don’t mean to look away, but those eyes of his, they burn. They’re the kind that see through you, and I don’t particularly want to be seen through. He nods curtly, and he waits before he speaks again, although I’m not sure for what. 

“Anyway,” I say. “It’s Ginny,” I mention, because silence seems like the wrong way to go. I offer the name because I need something to fill the space, but also because it feels good rolling off my tongue. Ginny. It’s a girlish name, one that reminds me of someone who’s perpetually young— bright— sunny and happy. A person named Ginny could never do anything bad. I picture her in my mind. She would be nothing at all like me. 

“Okay then, Ginny—” he starts. I know I am supposed to maintain eye contact, and so I do. It isn’t easy. “You’ve come a long way,” he says, and he’s only partially right. 

“Yes,” I tell him.

“And you mentioned in your email that you have something of mine?” 

“Yes,” I say, bending down to remove the book from my bag. I look up at him, and suddenly it seems odd that he didn’t ask for it at the door. But then, I knew he wouldn’t. He may not be the kind for small talk, but he’s not impolite either. He watches me carefully. I lean forward and hand it to him. 

He takes it from me carefully, as though it might slip through his fingers. I watch as he studies the cover and flips it over in his hands. “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” he whispers, running his fingers along its edge. He glances up suddenly. “Where did you get this?” 

“I found it on a bench in the park…” 

“Which park?”

“Downtown.” 

He cocks his head. “Where downtown?” 

“Lou Neff…”

“Huh,” he says. 

“I was running the trail—I stopped to stretch and there it was…”

He flips open to the title page. “And you saw my name here,” he says pointing. 

I grit my teeth. “I Googled you. I hope you don’t mind.” 

“Not at all,” he tells me and exhales. I hear relief in it. “This book is very special to me.”

“I figured as much…” I say. “Seeing that your name is inside.” 

He looks away again, and it doesn’t escape me that maybe he knows I’m lying. 

“It says, I love you always. I figured it might’ve been a gift.”

“Yes,” he replies. “It was.” I can see that he doesn’t want to say more—that he isn’t going to— but at the same time, I’m not ready for the conversation to end. 

“I’m glad it’s found its way back,” I say.

He nods, I smile. “Anyway—seeing that you’re a therapist and all, I was wondering if you might have time for a quick question?” 

He nods once again, as though maybe he were expecting as much. He doesn’t tell me I’ve come to the right place. He doesn’t reassure me, not like most people would. He isn’t trying to sell me, and I respect this about him. 

“I’ve been wondering how one knows…” I start, and then I stop and twist my hair around one finger. I pull it tight and then let go. “I was wondering how one might know—or—rather, I guess what I’m trying to say is—” I pause to take a deep breath. “I was wondering how someone really knows when it’s time to end a relationship.”

He tilts his head, like this is the most interesting thing he’s heard in a long time, when we both know it isn’t. “That’s an interesting question.” 

I offer a nervous smile. “An interesting question that has an answer?” 

“Well,” he begins, and he pauses to rub his jaw. “How long have you been asking yourself whether or not you should end things?”

“Eight months, two weeks, five days.”

He raises his brow, drops his hand. “That’s pretty exact.” 

“Yes.”

“Are you always so precise?”

“Lately…”

“I see,” he says. Then he narrows his eyes, his gaze boring holes through me. “And what would you say has changed?”

“Everything.”

“I see,” he tells me thoughtfully, but he’s wrong. He doesn’t see. 

When I don’t say anything he adjusts his glasses. “Do you want to extrapolate?” he asks, and there isn’t any emotion on his face as he says it, and I want to know more about how he hides his emotions so well. All of a sudden, he reminds me of you, and I’m not sure what to make of this either. I’m not sure what I expected to find, coming here, only that somehow this revelation isn’t helping any. 

I shrug slightly and then tuck my hands between my thighs. “I just thought maybe there was a way to know…”

“Do you still love this person?”

“More than is good for me,” I reply, and the words slice through my insides on their way out. 

“And yet you feel unsure as to whether you want to stay in the relationship,” he states. Then he pauses, again. He likes to leave space between his comments, crevices one can just fall into. It’s a minefield, navigating all that space. It’s a question, but not a question. It’s brilliant, is what it is. 

I nod my head. “Yes.”

“May I ask why?”

“I guess you could say it’s no longer compatible with my lifestyle.” And there it is, each syllable taking all of me with them when they go. I don’t know what I feel as they hang in the air between us. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Maybe I just needed to say the words. Still, I wish I could take them back, suck them in, make it not so. But I can’t. Turns out, most things, you can’t take back—what’s done is done.

“I’m sorry,” he tells me, and it’s genuine. 

“Me too,” I say, and I look away.

“Letting go of someone special can be very difficult.” 

I swallow hard, and the tears come even though I don’t want them to. It’s like everything that’s happened—it all hits me at once, and I can’t help it. Not this time. I wipe my cheek with the back of my hand and then I meet his eyes. “Tell me about it.”

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