A wise woman once said that love is life’s true purpose. If that’s right, why does it hurt so damn much?
My name is Natalie McMasters. I’m twenty-one, short and blonde (OK, it’s bleached), formerly a pre-law student at State and a private detective trainee at my uncle’s 3M Detective Agency. And I’m totally ratchet because I’m in love with two people, and I have to give one of them up.
It’s been an unusually warm spring. It’s a fine, sunny morning in early May, and I’m driving my Z-car down a long gravel driveway through an oak and pine forest. As I enter a spacious clearing, a sprawling, modern home appears ahead, nestled in a riot of red-, white- and pink-blooming azaleas, rimmed by a border of electric blue hyacinths. I deeply inhale the heady floral aroma, as if the sweetness will somehow purge the bitterness from my soul. The upper windows of the A-frame overlooking the circular driveway are mirrored, so I can’t tell if Rebecca’s watching me.
She must be, because there’s a loud click as I approach the front door, and it pops open. The heat of summer hasn’t arrived here in the South yet, so the louvered windows on the first floor are open.
I haven’t been back to see Rebecca since I was shot in this house last year. Naturally, that makes me uncomfortable, because I’m not sure she even wants to see me. As I enter, her tinny voice comes from a hidden speaker.
“I’m in the office, Nattie. Come on up.” Her tone doesn’t tell me if she’s glad I’m here, but at least she didn’t order me out.
The house smells of hyacinths inside, too. On my right, an elevator in a glass and wrought iron tube in the center of a circular staircase gives access to the second floor. I sidestep it, taking the stairs instead. At the top, I turn into a spacious office, and Rebecca comes to greet me, her arms wide for a hug, her waist-length, coal black hair rippling and flowing behind her. She’s thirty-something, with high cheekbones and coppery skin from her native American ancestry, and her white doctor’s smock does little to hide her curves. She is absolutely one of the most gorgeous women that I’ve ever met—the sight of her always takes my breath away, like a fine work of art will do.
I can’t help but glance at the floor as I near her, but there’s no trace of bloodstains or other evidence of the tragedy that unfolded in this room last autumn. She must have hired professional cleaners. Moving to embrace her, I see a deep sadness filling her onyx eyes, and I know why it’s there. I was here when she got it.