Sandra Deakin allowed herself a low groan as she entered the graveyard. The usual group of men were late going into the church tonight and at least two of them looked her way. Normally, she timed it so that she didn’t have to see them.
Father George’s gaze swept over her. It was fleeting but full of disgust. She stuck her chin out, even though her heart rate increased as she remembered the force of his hands on her body. His actions had left her in no doubt as to how he felt about her. But he couldn’t stop her coming to the graveyard to walk her dog. Her hand involuntarily tightened on the lead in her hand. Pickles was a typical Labrador who would sell her out for a handful of treats, but they didn’t need to know that.
Terence Birch was last to enter the church, and he stared at her for a good minute after the others disappeared from view. She held his gaze and allowed her true feelings for the creep to show on her face. She knew all about his despicable antics as well.
Despite her bravado, she still breathed easier once they’d both entered the church. As strange as it seemed, this was her place to refresh, to clear her head; and after the last few days, she needed it.
Only hours ago she’d received another one of those poisonous emails. She’d read it and filed it away, telling herself that it was just another nutter who didn’t like the job she did. There were plenty of them. She ignored the fact that this particular hater had been contacting her for years. Perversely, she used that same fact to reassure herself that he’d never acted on his threats, but she also had to admit that the messages were becoming more aggressive, more vocal. She had recently considered telling her husband, but she knew he’d make a fuss and insist she involve the police.
She moved slowly among the headstones, reflecting on the week. It hadn’t been a good one. A disastrous dinner party and two meetings that had got her nowhere.
She still cringed as she remembered the dinner party from hell a few nights earlier. A fun evening of light entertainment, they’d said. That wasn’t what she’d got. Instead she’d been faced with a group of women who had wanted much more from the evening than any of them had let on. Not one of those ladies had been happy with what had come out of her mouth. Add in the incident with a hostile and aggressive husband and the evening had been both ugly and unsettling.
And then there were the meetings. It was because of the first one that she’d been forced to subject herself to being the after-dinner entertainment of frivolous women who couldn’t handle the truth. If only he had seen things her way and agreed to hold off on his plans. She wouldn’t now be scratting around for work and accepting every engagement that came her way, to pay the bills.
The two of them didn’t even operate in the same circles, but he wanted to silence her anyway. It made no sense for him to be trying to put her out of business. She could only imagine he was motivated by some kind of professional jealousy. Her body gave an involuntary shudder when she remembered his last words to her. Jealousy in the hands of a narcissist was not something to be taken lightly.
She paused at a crypt in the middle of the graveyard and placed her palm on the stone. Her issues with that insufferable man weren’t going to be resolved with one evening dog walk. Maybe she’d talk to her husband, Will, about that too.
She resumed walking as Pickles got the scent of something ahead.
And the other meeting, well…
The snap of a twig sounded behind her, cutting short her thoughts.
Instant heat filled her as confusion shaped her face. The moisture dried up in her mouth as she tried to make sense of the chilling sight before her.
‘You,’ she whispered as the dog lead fell from her hand.