A Sample Chapter from The Letter by Marina Martindale
Stephanie Ellis groaned in protest as the alarm intruded into her sound sleep. "Isn't this supposed to be Saturday?" She moaned once again. A pair of arms embraced her, and she felt a warm body cuddle next to hers. An unshaven chin brushed her cheek.
"Yes, it's Saturday. You can go back to sleep if you'd like, but I have to go to the office for a few hours."
She turned over and smiled. "Do you really have to go? I can make it worth your while if you'd like to stay."
"Hmm…hold that thought." His hand ran up and down her side and there was a playful tone in his voice. "I won't be there all day you know, but didn't you say something about going shopping with Vanessa?"
She grinned. "No worries. I'll call her and cancel."
He shook his head. "No, don't go cancelling your plans on my account. I really do have to catch up on a few things at the office, but I'll only be a few hours."
Her fingers lightly brushed his thigh. "Will your boss be there?"
She gave him a mischievous look. "Well in that case, who's going to know the difference if you show up a little late?"
He laughed as he brushed a strand of her long, brown hair away from her face. "You little vixen, you."
Thirty minutes later he hopped out of bed, took his glasses from the nightstand, and headed off to shower while Stephanie dozed off. She woke up a short time later to his kiss on her cheek.
"Afraid not. I'm heading off to the office now."
"Okay, Danny," she mumbled. "Thanks for letting me sleep in."
"Now what kind of a host would I be if I kicked you out of bed just because I messed up and got behind at work? I'll be back in a few hours and then I promise you'll have me all to yourself for the rest of the weekend."
She smiled. "Sounds good."
"And I appreciate you being so understanding. I made plenty of coffee, so help yourself whenever you get up. I also have some eggs in the fridge and there's plenty of cold cereal in the pantry, so make yourself some breakfast before you leave."
"You and Vanessa have fun. I should be here by the time you get back." He kissed her goodbye and headed out the door.
* * *
Stephanie felt a slight jolt when she opened her eyes again. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was a few minutes past nine. Vanessa would arrive within the hour. She quickly headed off to shower, emerging a short time later in her bathrobe. Walking into the kitchen, she filled her mug with coffee and stepped into the living room, but when she picked up the remote and pressed the power key, the TV didn't respond. After a few more tries she realized the batteries were dead. She removed the old ones and headed back to the kitchen.
"Holy cow," she muttered as she opened the junk drawer. Inside was a haphazard collection of rubber bands, bolts and screws, loose papers and a screwdriver. She carefully rummaged through and soon uncovered a package of batteries. Grabbing two of them, she rushed back to the living room, only to discover they were the wrong size. She sighed and returned to the drawer. More loose items were stashed in the back, but when she pulled the handle something jammed, preventing her from opening it any further. She reached into the back, feeling her way along a small booklet that had somehow gotten itself wedged. She jiggled it back and forth a few times until it finally gave way. A moment later she carefully removed the owner's manual for a blender, along with a few loose papers which were beneath it. As she took a closer look, something fell to the floor.
"What the hell?"
An ornate valentine card had landed next to her foot. She turned the booklet over. A handwritten envelope, addressed to Danny, had somehow adhered itself to the back. The handwriting looked feminine. The return address identified the sender as Martha Morrison, and it had been postmarked on the twelfth of February. Her heart sank into the pit of the stomach. Who was Martha? And why had she sent Danny a valentine? As she picked it up, the she noticed a handwritten note on the inside flap. The handwriting matched the envelope.