It’s always wonderful to be noticed … or is it?
To those around her, Maggie Callaghan appears to have the perfect life…a handsome husband, three beautiful children, and her own business. But beneath her thin veneer lies a dark past and self-doubts. When evidence of her husband’s infidelity surfaces, Maggie leases a cottage on the Maine coast and prepares for her inevitable divorce. But a serial killer is on the hunt—and he’s marked Maggie as his next victim. Now her beachside retreat is the focus of an undercover FBI investigation targeting the murderer who’s left a trail of bodies across two states. As lies and secrets are revealed, Maggie realizes her life depends on knowing who’s protecting her—and who’s got her in his sights.
Maggie stood awkwardly at the back door, grateful her children were tucked far away from them. Muffled TV dialogue floated down the hall and spilled into the dimly lit kitchen.
Disbelief washed over her, then humiliation, but it was anger that finally settled around her like a warm fog.
Her husband stood with his palm open, her wedding band set—including the ruby anniversary band Alex had given her the night Hannah was conceived—winked menacingly in the soft light. He hadn’t said a word since pulling them from his pocket.
“How dare you go through my things, Alex.” Fury boiled inside her and spewed out with the words. “I may not be living here, but it gives you no right to—”
“That’s right Maggie you aren’t living here. But that sure as hell isn’t because of anything I’ve done.” Fisted around the rings, Alex’s hand shook with fury. “I’ve given you everything. Worked my ass off for this family to provide a loving home for you and the kids. And what did you do? Throw it all away because of some foolish notion that I’ve got another woman.”
Maggie looked over Alex’s shoulder, praying the television was louder than her husband’s voice. “Alex, that’s enough. You’re going to scare the kids.”
“The kids? You walked out on them last week and now you’re worried about our children? Are you shitting me?” Alex paced back to the sink, his voice calmer when he turned and spoke, “Really Maggie, I don’t even know where to go with that one. All I keep thinking is how selfish you’re being.”
Maggie couldn’t hold back her laugh of disgust. “Now isn’t that the black pot talking.”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t get it. You’ve never gotten it. This marriage has never been about me, Alex. Everything that’s happened in our lives has been orchestrated by you.” Her arms crossed instinctively over her heart, fortifying her resolve. Maggie had opened the door and now she had to be brave enough to walk through it. “The move from Connecticut the year my mother died? Since I was still finishing my Master’s and Luke was brand new, I’m thinking that wasn’t for me…oh, right Tom had a professional opportunity you couldn’t pass up.”
She tapped her finger on her temple as if she hadn’t been stewing for months over every hurtful thing Alex had done over the years. “How about when you and Tom opened your own firm and you had to work all those hours building your client base? Seems to me that was right after I started work at Summit, which left me juggling the boys and a new career.”
She snapped her fingers at him. “No, wait, I’ve got it! Maybe I was being selfish the year you and Tom decided to expand the firm?” She held up a finger as if contemplating the idea. “Mmmm, no, that wasn’t it. I’d just signed the ownership papers on the clinic, and suddenly we didn’t have enough money for my expansion.”
Maggie glared at him, too pissed off to swallow the venom dripping in her words. “So don’t tell me I’m being selfish in all of this. I’m finally taking care of me. And I thought long and hard about how to make this less confusing for our kids. There were a lot of straws gathering in my basket before the whole sordid mess with Denise. That’s just the one that finally broke our marriage.”
Alex stepped toward her, anger and resentment glinting in his eyes. “Mags, I can—”
“Don’t, Alex.” She threw her hand up between them, cutting him off. “I just don’t think I can stomach any more empty platitudes and promises you’ll never keep. Not tonight. Not ever again.”
Maggie turned to leave, but Alex seized her arm, wrenching her hand from the knob and startling a gasp from her. “Don’t you walk out…”
Familiar fears, long buried, wound around her throat and squeezed. She swallowed hard, pushing them down as fast as they’d grabbed hold of her. She’d decided long ago that she’d never be a victim again. The man next to her wouldn’t make her cower.
“Let go of me.” The words, ground out through clenched teeth, sounded feral, even to her.
Alex pulled his hand from her arm as if he’d been burned. “Mags, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…” He squeezed the rings in his fist. “I just want—”
“That’s just it, Alex. It’s not about you,” she said, yanking the door open. “For once in this relationship, it’s going to be about me!” Maggie slammed the door in his face and raced down the stairs.
She’d heard it all before. There was nothing he could say that could make up for his selfishness throughout their marriage.
Her trembling hands fumbled with the car key, missing the mark several times before unlocking the door. She hadn’t thought the past could rear its ugly head so unexpectedly, but Alex’s grip on her arm had opened old wounds she’d thought were long healed. Her heart raced as fast as the engine carrying her into the night.
The headlights tunneling through the darkness bounced along leaves drooping low over the road. The blackness hung heavily around her, opening only long enough to let her pass before closing in again behind the Audi. It matched her mood.
Maggie drove unseeing, gripped in the nightmare of the past. She didn’t believe her husband would have physically held her at the house or actually hurt her to make a point. After all, this was Alex Callaghan, the man she once loved. Still the thought that it might have happened burned hot in her gut.
The unexpected burst of a siren made her jump. The night behind her pulsed red and blue. She checked her speed. It was barely over the posted limit. Even blinded by fear and anger, Maggie was sure she wouldn’t have gone through any stop signs.
More urgent than the first, the siren wailed again. Veering off the road, she shuddered at the sound of tires crunching over gravel. Emotions boiled into a hot lump, pressing uncomfortably in her throat. She tangled her nervous fingers together, trying to control her anxiety. She hadn’t been stopped by the police since she was a reckless teen.
She stared at the rearview mirror, but saw only the police headlights throbbing in time with the pain at her temples. The shadows of the trees darted menacingly around her car. She startled again at the tap on her window. With a tremulous smile she pressed the button and the cool air flooded in on the beam of light pointed at her face.
“Is something wrong officer? I wasn’t speeding, was I?” The bouncy cadence of her voice frustrated her and she tried not to flinch away from the bright shaft from the flashlight in her eyes.
“Were you aware your taillight is out?”
“I had no idea”
He swept his light into the back seat. “We’ve also had a report of a burglary near here. The description of the vehicle at the scene matched yours. But they reported a male driver. Obviously you’re not him.” He turned back to her with a smile. “You haven’t seen anyone on the road have you?”
“Could I see your license and registration? Just protocol.”
Pawing through the glove box and her wallet, Maggie produced the requested documents. His full mouth curved in a genuine smile that softened his features and made her acutely aware of his probing gaze. Had she passed someone and not been aware?
“Give me a minute to run this.”
He walked back to the cruiser and Maggie closed her eyes against the tremor of nerves jumping in her stomach. She reminded herself firmly that she wasn’t a teenager on a joyride and she hadn’t been drinking, but then guilt wasn’t always a rational response.
“Ms. Callaghan, the car isn’t registered in your name.” He smiled as he handed back the paperwork. “It’s registered to a Mr. Alexander Callaghan.”
Even in the muted beam of his headlights she could see the warmth in his eyes, but it did little to settle her quivering muscles. “Oh, that’s my husband.”
His gaze traveled to her white fingers, now wrapped around the steering wheel in a steel grip of nerves. Giggling uneasily, Maggie wiggled her left hand in the air. After the hours in the sun at the beach, the offensive white band of skin was barely visible. “We’re separated, but not divorced. I’m currently living over at Rocky Point Beach.”
The officer’s concerned expression softened to a look of understanding. He nodded, the compassion sparking in his dark eyes. “I figured it was something like that. You might want to get a new registration in your name, one with the correct mailing address.”
“Yes, thank you. I’ll do that.”
“And I did write a warning for that taillight.” He handed a ticket to her. “You’ll need to get it fixed. And just be careful and watch out for any strangers on the road.” The officer touched his fingers to the brim of his hat. “I won’t keep you any longer. Have a nice night.”
Maggie locked the car doors, working to control the anxiety lifting the hairs on the back of her neck. She didn’t stop shaking until she was tucked in bed behind the bolted doors and windows of her little cottage.