Fictional Kevin and I are collaborating on a novella of suspense that we hope you all will enjoy. We are alternating writing and posting a chapter a week until the conclusion of Double Seduction. If you missed the opening chapters, find them here: Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three. And now…
Chapter Four: Switch
Something wasn’t right. Mel had tossed and turned all night worrying about it. Thinking she would get a little background on David before things went any further, she Googled him. She began by searching the e-mail address he’d given her. It led back to his blog. No surprise there. Next, she searched “Fictional David” and again she was directed to the blog. But as she scrolled down, she discovered the list also included comments he’d made on other blog posts, and mentions other bloggers made of him. Interesting. He was a frequent commenter. Mel soon realized she wasn’t the only female blogger David had been flirting with. Not cool.
Her eyes were drawn to a comment he had made on a post written by a blogger who called herself “Bread and Roses” – an obvious homage to Rose Schneiderman, a pioneering feminist. Mel clicked on the article to see what had provoked such a venomous response – “Don’t blame men, just because you’re an ugly bitch.” What the hell? That didn’t sound like the David she knew. The thoughtful article championed work equality for women. The comment was way out of line. Mel was surprised the author hadn’t deleted it. She kept scrolling through more of the comments and mentions. Nothing else grabbed her attention. Still, Mel was unsettled.
This week, things had changed with David. Last evening’s e-mail was more personal than ever before. He had told her more about himself than he’d revealed in his blog and asked her the same. And he’d compared her to Savannah. Favorably. She blushed, thinking about it. Nevertheless, the vile comment left Mel feeling a little shaky. She’d mention it to Anton later this morning.
As soon as the sky lightened, she gave up on sleep. It was a day off from work but that didn’t mean a day of relaxation. She pulled on her cold weather running gear, laced up her Asics and set off at a brisk walk to warm up. Four fast miles later, she had burned off the nervous energy that had kept her awake last night.
Coffee, an apple and a bowl of oatmeal and she was ready for the rest of the day.
She was early for her session but she knocked anyway. Anton would be ready for her. She was his first client of the day —the way she was every Tuesday and Thursday.
Anton Petrescue opened to her with a smile. “Melody, please come in,” he said, standing back to let her pass.
She entered the foyer of his workspace and took off her shoes. After leading the way into the main room, he gestured for her to have a seat on the comfortable sofa against the far wall.
“I’m finishing up an important live chat. It won’t be more than a few more minutes, my dear. Make yourself comfortable or help yourself to tea, if you like. You know where to find everything.”
“I’m fine, Anton. Thank you,” she said.
Mel folded her legs beneath her and sat at the end of the sofa closest to where Anton’s desk was situated. She watched him walk gracefully around the large modern table and drape himself into the oversized chair behind it. The sleek monitor blocked her view of his face as he nimbly typed on the keyboard before it. True to his word, he finished up within a few minutes.
“Melody,” he said, sliding out from behind the desk. “Tell me what worries you.”
He strode over and in one fluid move, lowered himself to sit cross-legged before her.
Melody chewed her lower lip. “Is it that obvious?”
Anton nodded sagely. “Yes. That little line that forms between your brows…” he said, pointing. “It gives you away.” He reached for her left foot, began massaging it gently. “Tell me.”
He was hitting all the tender spots in her foot, surely a sign of stress. She winced and he eased up the pressure. With a sigh, she began, “I’ve met someone…” And she told him all about David, the blog, the recent escalation in their communication and sharing her private information.
Anton frowned. “You say he already has a girlfriend? What are you thinking? You of all people should know how that feels, Melody.”
She grimaced. “I know. I know. It’s just that we… we clicked. Maybe it will remain just a friendship, I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Anyway, I came across something weird and I don’t really know what to make of it.”
She explained about the hateful comment. “Should I be worried, Anton?”
He pursed his lips and stroked his full beard. He was quiet for a moment. “Why don’t you show me?”
Mel followed him to the computer where he reawakened it from sleep. He gestured for her to have a seat. “Go ahead. Log in,” he instructed.
She did as she was told and slid aside so Anton could have a look. He scrolled through the list, frowning as he moved the mouse. “I must admit, it doesn’t inspire confidence.”
He glanced at Mel sideways. “What about social media? Does he have a Facebook or Twitter?”
Mel shook her head. “I didn’t find anything like that.”
Anton shrugged. “Well, I suppose he could have it under his real name with a different e-mail, keeping it separate from his blog. You know, for privacy reasons.” He paused, concentrating. “Let me try something.”
Mel rose from the chair to let Anton have a seat. She paced while Anton stared at the screen, clicking, scanning, clicking, scanning. Finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer.
“Anton, what are you doing?” she asked.
He held a finger up. “Wait.”
“Hmm. This is interesting,”
“What? What is it?”
“I searched the image. The one he uses for his blog avatar.” He gestured to the monitor. “I found a Facebook page. Is this your man?”
He slid away from the desk so Mel could have a look. There was the familiar pencil drawing. She scrolled through the Facebook posts. Photos of a handsome dark haired man, a striking resemblance to the avatar. A lovely woman? Two little children? What the hell was this?
“Look, Melody, it’s a different name. Kevin Campbell. Husband of Marion, father to Sean and Sarah….”
“Oh my god.” She kept reading. “Wait a minute. It says he lives in upstate New York. David lives in Pennsylvania. Not that far from me, actually. This can’t be him.”
“Ah, well then,” Anton said. “Perhaps David came across the image and decided to use it for his blog profile. So he could remain anonymous. There are many reasons —legitimate reasons— he might choose to do that.” He reached for her hand, squeezed it. “Just be careful, my dear.”
“What’s wrong with me, Anton?” Mel asked, covering her face with her hands. “I don’t know this guy. And yet I’ve opened myself up to him and I’m not really sure why.”
“Melody, there’s nothing wrong with you. You want what we all want — a chance to connect with another soul on a deep and personal level. Sometimes that means taking risks.” He stood and took her hands from her face and held them between both of his. “You see the best in people — an admirable quality. But you aren’t naive, my dear. Just honest, open, gentle. And thanks to your ex-husband, you’ve learned to protect your heart. I am not worried about you. Now, come with me,” he said, leading her to the center of the room. “You don’t pay me to be your therapist, Melody. You pay me to teach you to fight. Are you ready?”
Melody took a deep breath, braced herself and raised her arms. She nodded. “I’m ready.”
Continue reading: Chapter Five