“Oh, Seth, it’s gorgeous!”
Amy Harrison cradled the velvety blue box with both hands, brown eyes wide, mouth open in a wide grin. The red heart caught the light with its many facets. Amy turned the box this way and that, trying to catch her breath. Seth had never given her anything like this before.
“I had it specially made,” Seth said.
Amy met his blue eyes and hurled herself into his arms. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Here, let me put it on you.”
Seth took the box from Amy’s trembling hands. She turned and gathered her long blonde hair into a bunch over one shoulder. Seth’s hands coming around from behind sent a shiver down her spine. The necklace was cool against her skin. Amy reached up and touched it gently, still unable to believe Seth had given her something so expensive.
“Better finish getting ready. Our reservations are in an hour,” Seth said.
Amy ran into the large walk-in closet and fetched the new dress she had purchased for the occasion. Not only was it Valentine’s Day, but it was also their fifth anniversary. Amy shimmied into her cream-colored dress and examined her reflection in the mirror.
Suddenly, she felt as though she was going to faint. The necklace was hot against her skin and it glowed a sickly red, the color of dried blood. Strange images, sounds, and feelings filled her brain. Amy put her hands to her head to stop the onslaught.
A blonde woman with brown eyes. Low laughter. Hands flailing. Terror. Pain.
“Hey, you about ready?”
Amy yelped and turned to face Seth. She backed away, putting up her hands to ward him off.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?”
She backed into the wall and slid to the floor. The woman’s face, full of pain and fear, wouldn’t let Amy be. Seth had his hands on his hips and glared at her as she continued to move away.
The woman looks like me!
Amy shook her head, trying to clear the images and feelings. Seth reached for her and she allowed him to help her to her feet.
“If we don’t hurry, we’ll be late. It cost me a lot of money to get these reservations on Valentine’s Day.”
She stared at Seth as he walked out of the room. Her chest tightened and tears trickled down her cheeks. The complete disregard for her well-bring stunned Amy. He was usually so attentive and nurturing. She couldn’t believe he was more concerned with the restaurant than he was with what may be wrong with her.
How long was I standing there?
Amy stood on shaky legs and her shoulders slumped when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her pretty dress was wrinkled and her eyes were puffy and red.
“You have five minutes to get down here or I swear I’ll go without you.”
The anger in Seth’s voice nearly sent her into hysterics. The evening that had started out so beautifully was turning into a disaster. Worried that Seth would do exactly as he promised, Amy grabbed her travel make-up kit and tossed the basics into it so she could apply a little something while they drive to the restaurant. She had wanted to put her hair up but there was no time.
Amy ran to the door and stopped short when she realized she was barefoot. She turned back to the closet and rummaged through her shoes for the pair she had planned on wearing out to dinner.
“I’m walking out the door!”
The anger in his voice made Amy shudder and cringe. Part of her was indignant and tempted to let him go to the damn restaurant by himself. An evening at home alone would be preferable than an evening out with an angry man.
But she had been looking to forward to the evening out. Seth had spoken of nothing else for the past few weeks. And he had given her the gorgeous necklace.
Amy caught the reflection in the mirror and the red heart still glowed. She reached up and tried to unhook the clasp but she couldn’t get it to budge. Amy grabbed the heart-shaped diamond which felt hot to the touch and yanked the chain. The necklace stayed tight around her neck.
Fear of the gift from Seth battled with fear of the man himself, something she never thought possible.
When she heard the front door open, Amy grabbed a pair of shoes and bolted out the door of the bedroom and down the stairs, holding on to the hand-rail, fearing she would slip and fall.
She watched as Seth walked down the front steps and around the side of the house to where their vehicle was parked. Amy grabbed her every day purse off the end table by the door. She had planned on taking her cute evening bag but it was upstairs in her closet and she couldn’t get it now.
Seth gunned the engine so loudly it made her jump. Still barefoot, she made her way to the car. Amy hunched her shoulders, trying to make herself as small as possible. She refused to look at Seth as she slid into the passenger seat.
While they drove to the restaurant, she put her shoes on and tried to apply a little make-up but her hands shook too badly. After several attempts to put on mascara, she gave up and sat back, hoping Seth would make a joke or let her know in some other way that things were fine.
Seth sat like a statue in the driver’s seat, refusing to even look at her. Amy wanted to reach out and hold his hand but his stiff posture and forward gaze kept her hands folded in her lap.
When they reached the restaurant, Amy stepped from the car, feeling very out of place. Other ladies were walking through the parking lot dressed in their evening best, hair expertly coifed, faces primped and polished to perfection. Amy felt like a lumbering fool as she shuffled into the restaurant after Seth. As she watched the other happy couples sharing hugs and gentle kisses as they walked arm-in-arm, Amy hung her head even lower.
Seth marched up to the hostess and demanded to be seated at once. The flustered girl checked their names and led the pair to a table toward the back of the restaurant. Seth took his seat and looked everywhere but at Amy as she gingerly took her seat, hoping no one would notice just how out of place she looked.
“You’re not going to mope around all evening are you?”
Amy glanced up at Seth and looked right back down at the look of disgust in his blue eyes.
“My ex was a drama queen. I never thought you’d be one too,” Seth said.
She was stunned. Seth never talked about his ex-wife. He always claimed it was too painful. The poor woman had been brutally murdered while on a hike.
Amy’s skin crawled when she remembered a newspaper article she had read soon after she and Seth had started dating. The detective stated that he always brought up cold cases on the anniversary of the death in hopes someone would come forward with information. This particular article had been about the death of Diana Harrison and the date had been February fourteenth.
The face Amy had seen earlier that evening flashed across her vision again, this time accompanied with a tattered black and white visage that had graced the single page article on the death of Diana Harrison.
The necklace grew warm against her skin where it nestled between her collar bones. An overwhelming urge to get up and run from the table brought Amy to her feet. She glanced around for the quickest route to the door.
What’s wrong with me?
“Do you need directions to the powder room, Miss?”
Amy turned to face the waiter and nodded quickly, hoping Seth believed she needed to use the restroom. She walked off in the direction of the bathrooms, staring at her feet the whole time.
This what be what a panic attack feels like.
She burst into the restroom and found it blessedly empty. Amy locked herself into a stall and tried to gain control of her racing heart and scattered thoughts. Once again, she tried to remove the necklace and it was stuck fast.
The woman’s face—Diana?—made another appearance. Amy shook her head, trying to make the woman go away but she was not to be denied. Diana’s face solidified and her brown eyes were wide in terror and her mouth open in a silent scream.
Amy put her hands to the side of her face. “Why are you doing this? Just leave me alone!”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine, just talking to someone on the phone,” Amy told the voice outside the bathroom stall.
“You sound a little freaked out. Is someone bothering you?”
“No, just a snotty co-worker. Nothing I can’t handle.” Amy just wanted the voice to go away.
Amy left the stall and gave the woman what she hoped was a convincing smile. Amy walked calmly to the sink, ignoring the instincts that screamed at her to tell the other woman of the strange visions and the feeling of impending danger.
“Hope this co-worker of yours will leave you alone. Looks like you could use the rest,” the woman said.
“I’m sure she will.”
Amy left the restroom, dreading the walk back to the table and Seth. He swirled a glass of red wine and looked even more irritated than he had on the drive over. Amy reached into a reservoir of strength she didn’t even know she possessed and forced a smile to her face. It must have worked because Seth visibly relaxed as she sat down. Amy grabbed her wine glass and tentatively raised it, determined to make this Valentine’s dinner a special one.
As the evening wore on, Seth was more his talkative self, regaling her with stories of his youth, sending her into peals of laughter. The wine helped Amy to relax and by the time dessert arrived, she was enjoying herself and was able to put the strange events of the evening behind her.
When they walked to the car, Seth had his arm around her waist and Amy basked in the feeling of his arms around her.
“What do you say we go for a walk by moonlight? We can take that little path through the woods you like so much,” Seth suggested.
“The one with all the fireflies? Oh, yes, lets!”
Amy loved that section of the woods. It was peaceful and smelled of earth and reminded her of a happy childhood spent outdoors. There was nothing she enjoyed more than being in nature.
Seth drove to the parking spot. The trees rose from the ground and seemed to touch the sky. The light from the full moon blocked most of the stars but Amy didn’t care. The moon would give them enough light to see and a romantic walk was worth not seeing the constellations.
They walked hand-in-hand down the twisted dirt trail. There was not a single soul but the two of them and that suited Amy just fine. The fireflies danced among the trees and brush. Amy had never seen a firefly before moving to the south.
“This is a very special evening, you know.”
Amy turned to face Seth and smiled. “I know.”
Seth merely smiled but it never touched his eyes. A trickle of fear made her stomach muscles clench.
“She liked to walk on this very path and would laugh much like you at the fireflies. I never did understand the fascination. They’re just bugs after all.”
Amy didn’t know what to say. The last thing she wanted to hear was that he had brought his ex-wife to this same spot, a spot Amy thought was special and only theirs. But she was transfixed. Seth towered over her, hands reaching for the necklace at her throat.
“She makes a lovely jewel, don’t you think?”
“Diana.” Seth whispered the dead woman’s name as he caressed the heart-shaped diamond. “When they found her body, I had her cremated and made into this necklace. It took them so very long to find her. I never thought they actually would.”
“You did what?” Amy tried to back away but Seth grabbed her, forcing her against a large pine tree, his eyes full of passion.
“I was so scared they would know it was me. So scared. But they never did and now it’s too late. They’ll never be able to prove anything. Not now.” Seth gazed down at the necklace, naked hunger in his blue eyes.
Amy tried to scream but he already had his hand over her mouth. His head bent close to whisper something in her ear.
“You know something? I think you’ll make a lovely pair of earrings.”