Because I’m Watching: New Excerpt

Because I'm Watching by Christina Dodd is a suspenseful thriller set in the quaint—and deadlycoastal town of Virtue Falls (Available today!).

She had survived, but she is still held captive…

Of her memories, her loneliness, her delusions. But are they truly delusions?

The survivor of a college dorm massacre, a woman accused of her lover's murder, Madeline Hewitson is haunted by ghosts and tormented by a killer only she can see. At night, she works, writing and drawing the monster that slithers through her imagination, and living in fear of those moments when the doors of her mind unhinge and her nightmare lives in the daylight. 

A seasoned military veteran, Jacob Denisov lives alone in his small, darkened home, sleepless, starving, and angry. Every day he lives with the guilt that comes from his own failures and the carnage that followed. When neighbor Madeline Hewitson drives her car through the front wall of his house, she breaks his house—and his life—wide open. Forced to view the world outside, Jacob watches Maddie, recognizes a kindred spirit and wonders what she fears more than herself. Has someone caught her in a twisted labyrinth of revenge and compassion, guilt and redemption, murder and madness? 

When Maddie's imaginary killer takes form, she fights, screaming her fear and defiance. But will she be strong enough to triumph, or is the killer she fears no more than a shadow, an illusion … that watches?

CHAPTER ONE

Two years ago

Old Broadmoor neighborhood of Colorado Springs

Upstairs at her desk, Madeline Hewitson heard the back door open and close. She stopped typing.

“Hey, honey, it’s me!” he called.

She smiled. “Welcome back!” she answered.

He was home.

Easton Robert Privet was the best thing that had ever happened to her, and he was home. His law office was in downtown Denver; after they got together she had offered to move into his high-rise condo and spare him the commute to the suburbs. But without being told, he had understood that to write interesting, riveting novels she needed to concentrate. She needed space around her, the sounds of birds, the smell of grass, a place to plant some flowers. He had bought an estate in a gated community with a guard and hourly security patrols because again, he understood she needed to feel safe.

What he didn’t understand was that he made her feel secure.

Her brother Andrew was a good guy, but he’d grown impatient with her. He had told her to grow up, to get over her depression and her terror.

Not Easton. When she woke at night, rigid with fear, he was there to cradle her, to whisper encouragement: The monster is gone. You were brave. You risked your own life to try to save them … because of you, the monster is dead.

Maddie traced the dark stain that marred the smooth grain of her walnut desktop.

Blood.

It wasn’t surprising that it was there; it was surprising there wasn’t more.

Andrew said she should have the desk refinished, have the bloodstain removed. But to Maddie, that would be a desecration, so every day as she wrote, she would touch the stain, acknowledge the passing of her friends, and try very hard to forgive herself for not dying, too.

After witnessing those deaths, she had not imagined she would ever find the courage to live again. But Easton had given her that courage. He saw past the brave front she presented to the world, to the cowering girl caught in a cycle of fear and self-loathing, and he loved her. He had helped her break free of the past. With him, she was learning to move forward.

She shut her laptop and stood, ready to head downstairs. Easton had left early this morning on a business trip, one of those fly-out, fly-in things that he did on a regular basis. He seldom talked about where he was going; he took his pledge of client confidentiality seriously, and this morning when he woke her to kiss her good-bye, he had looked unusually grave. So it had been one ofthose cases, probably an ugly child-custody situation.

He’d landed at Colorado Springs Airport about an hour ago, called, and told her he would pick up dinner somewhere. They would eat, he’d ask how the book was coming, she’d ask how his day had gone. He would say, “Fine,” even when it hadn’t, and she would keep it light and cheery. Everything about living with Easton was so normal, so all-American white-bread average, and so much more than she had ever hoped for.

Downstairs, she heard him speaking to someone in that special, soothing tone he used when addressing a frantic client.

She sat back down in her chair. When he was on the phone, he didn’t want her listening in. She put her fingers on the keyboard and prepared to sink back into the story.

He gave a half shout followed by an odd, off-pitch squawk.

She found herself on her feet, staring toward the stairway. “Easton?” she called.

No answer.

“Easton?” She owned a pistol. Easton had bought it for her twenty-fourth birthday. Easton had said it would make her feel secure to own a pistol, to learn how to use it. She had learned, and she kept it … close. She groped in the desk drawer and brought out her Smith & Wesson 642 revolver.

She didn’t feel secure right now.

She released the safety and edged toward the door. “Easton? What’s wrong?”

Still no answer.

The outer door opened again. It didn’t close.

It was winter in Colorado Springs. Easton might go back out to his car. But he would never forget to close the door after himself.

Call the cops. Call the cops. Call the cops call the cops call the cops.

She scurried back to the desk. Without looking away from the door, she picked up the phone, fumbled it, caught it. She pressed the top entry on the autodial and when the 911 operator answered, she said, “I think there’s something wrong with my fiancé.”

“Who is this?”

“Maddie … Madeline Hewitson.”

“Can you tell me more, Madeline?”

Maddie stood, listening to the silence.

“Madeline! What do you think is wrong?”

As it was meant to do, the snap in the operator’s voice brought Maddie’s attention back to the call. “He made a funny noise. Now he’s not answering me. I think … I think there might be an intruder.”

“Is your address—”

Maddie put the phone down on the desk, raised the pistol to the fist-in-palm position, and using the gun as a pointer, again started to move toward the door. But a movement in her peripheral vision caught her attention, made her glance out the window. A man hurried down the sidewalk. She could only see him from above; he wore a broad-brimmed black hat and a long, dark, businessman’s coat. But the coat was open. It was flapping in the wind.

That wasn’t right. In this weather, everyone huddled into themselves, their coats securely fastened.

That wasn’t right.

Then he was out of sight.

She stuck her head out the doorway, glanced down the hallway, pulled back, and leaned against the wall. Her heart pounded painfully. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. Her hands shook in violent tremors.

She had to go down. She had to reassure herself that Easton … that he was okay.

She edged out of her office and with her back against the wall, she slid toward the stairs.

Easton was okay. Maybe he’d fallen and hurt himself. Maybe he’d forgotten the food in the car. Maybe … maybe there was a reason the cold north wind blasted through the open door and up the stairs, ruffling her hair and taking her breath.

Hurry! She needed to hurry!

But it was all she could do to lift one foot, then the other. She descended to the short landing near the bottom. She stopped there. The steps loomed as if they went up instead of down. Beyond was the kitchen where Easton was … had been …

She stopped to quiet her breathing.

Everything was fine. She was overreacting.

She sidled over to the entry and peered into the sleek kitchen.

The room was empty. She didn’t see anything unusual. Except the outside door was open. And a crimson stain on the tile floor … was moving, filling the lines of grout, and flowing toward her.

And that odor. She recognized the odor. It smelled like nighttime, like dust under her bed, like broken pleading and a man’s smooth voice, oozing with pleasure as he vivisected her friends.

She heard a noise, a scratching.

She froze in place, her breathing silent and shallow.

He was going to find her. He was going to kill her.

Then a thump.

She jumped.

Another thump. A movement from behind the island. Red-stained fingers groped the corner of the cabinet as if seeking her.

She recognized the ring. His ring. Easton’s ring.

Yet still, for one long terrible moment, she hesitated.

The door was open.

She was afraid.

She didn’t want to see …

Then she ran toward him, rounded the corner of the island, saw her friend, her lover, stretched out on the floor in a spreading puddle of blood, his throat cut.

His eyes were open, but death’s gray blanket had already covered him.

She knelt. She took his hand. “Easton,” she whispered. “Easton.”

But she didn’t speak too loudly, in case the killer was still nearby.

When the police arrived, she still held the pistol in her hand.

Electronics are working. First test run. Subject afraid, insane, malleable.

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Christina Dodd.

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Readers become writers, and Christina Dodd has always been a reader. She reads everything, but because she loves humor, she likes romance best. She is married to a man with all his hair and no Corvette, but many Craftsman tools. They have been married since the earth’s crust cooled.

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