Tally Rosella, acclaimed child psychiatrist, avoids adults because their brains rant at her. When she begins a child study to connect her findings to PTSD, devious colleagues at a California university block her progress.
Army Major Cole Messer won’t admit trauma destroyed his marriage and ability to lead. His priorities: enroll his highly anxious son in Tally’s study and return to active duty.
Someone is dead set against Tally’s presence at the university, and blowback from her battles put Cole and his boy in jeopardy. Watch what happens when people struggling with shades of anxiety collide with corrupt, revengeful foes.
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“California. Recycle capital of the world,” Tally muttered as she hauled two big plastic bags across the parking lot to the garbage cans. “And I have to walk from my apartment to China to dump mine.”
At the beginning of the tricky business of lifting the container lid and hoisting one heavy bag into it, she heard, “Wait! I’ll help,” from behind her.
Startled, she let the lid drop with a bang. Owen Harper. Damn his hide. Was he watching from his kitchen window to catch me out here? Now she was cornered behind high walls, at dusk, with a mean-headed man. Tally pulled in air for courage, inhaling fetid odors instead.
Harper reached for her garbage bag, resting his hand on hers for a couple seconds before he pulled the plastic from her grip and dumped the bag. She barely had time to compose herself before she faced him and said, “Thank you.” After her minor victory with her new assistant, cutting off the corners of the woman’s bitterness, why not try it with Harper?
She handed him the second bag. “How are you doing, neighbor?” Tally avoided his eyes by checking her hands for dirt and dusting off her black pants. Does he hear fear wobbling my words?
“Fine, Tally. Saw you struggling with a heavy load. Thought you could use some help.”
“Rescue number two,” she said, holding up two fingers. “Nice of you.” Neighborly chit-chat next. “Is SLO home for you? Do you have family nearby?”
“A half sister is all. Sad to say we’re not close.” His neutral expression implied he wasn’t sorry.
With a glance at her watch, Tally tried one more entrée. “Charles tells me you’re busy all day doing interviews.”
He shrugged. “At this stage of the study, I’m usually in my car or in a VA hospital.” When she winced, he gave a wry smile. “Somebody’s got to do the follow-ups.”
“Right,” she said, unable to think of another response and feeling too isolated from buildings and people. Tally shivered, rubbed her arms and took two steps toward the opening of the corral. Harper moved as if to block her exit.
What could she do but look up into his eyes? Was he teasing her? Hoping to say more? Wanting to ask her out? Ready to attack her? God knew.
His brain screamed: Die Bitch. Die Now Bitch! Loud. Clear. With knife-sharp consonants.
“Oh,” Tally said, horrified. “Forgot. I’m the test audience for Andy’s bird show-and-tell. Better go.”
Harper turned, squinting in the direction of Cole’s apartment. Was he checking for a light to prove she was telling the truth? While he was diverted, she pushed her way around him and scurried toward the complex. “Hey, wait,” he said. “I’ll walk you back.”
“That’s okay. Thanks for the help. I’m late.”
She wanted to run from him after what she’d seen in his eyes, but she walked. Briskly. She walked because she’d learned something very important about Owen Harper. He got off on scaring her. He’d misinterpreted her downcast eyes as a submissive gesture. Damn it, avoiding his gaze had sent the wrong message.
Instead of tamping down Harper’s rant, she’d just hiked it up to a new level. Not only did he want her to die, but inadvertently, she’d cranked up his rage to the point he wanted her to die now.
Scandinavian, Army Brat, English Teacher, High School Principal, Golfer, Boater, World Traveler, Author. She delights in creating imperfect characters faced with extraordinary, transforming challenges. Her hope: You’ll devour her ‘makeover’ suspense novels in the wee hours of the morning, because her stories, settings and characters capture your imagination and your heart.
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