Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the fictional desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing.
In the current story, the body of a local realtor is found beneath the wheels of an inflatable figure of a Santa on a motorcycle. The realtor took great delight in ferreting out secrets, and everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Could she have discovered a secret someone would kill to protect? There will be suspects galore, including a psychic, a con man, a woman trying to set up an online call-girl service, and the philandering sheriff himself. Not only is the victim someone he had an affair with, but he will also have to contend with an ex-wife who has moved back in with him and a jilted lover, both with their own reasons for wanting the realtor dead.
We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Let the mystery begin! Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end! If you don’t want to miss further chapters, please go to the blog and click on “sign me up” on the right sidebar to get notifications of new chapters.
(If the Christmas theme seems unseasonal, well . . . considering how long it takes to write a book at the rate of a chapter a week, in a few months, the season will catch up to us!)
Chapter 15: Lydia Gavin
by Pat Bertram
Sunday, December 23, 2:20pm
Lydia sat by Zazzi’s pool, soaking up what rays she could. She had helped Zazzi open the umbrella over the patio table, but since it was too cold to sit in the shade, she’d moved a chair out into the sunlight.
Lydia stared up at the pale blue winter sky and shivered with delight at the thought of that burning ball overhead. Did the Goddess love fire as much as she did? Is that why she had created so many suns?
Lydia smiled, remembering the flames curling around the hideous living room furniture. She had lied to Zazzi about not being in the house when the fire had started, but she saw no reason to tell the truth. Zazzi sure as hell wasn’t being honest with her. Lydia might not be a cop any more, but she still had her cop’s nose, and that nose told her whatever business Zazzi operated didn’t bear scrutiny. Still, the woman had made her welcome and offered her a room for the night, which made Lydia think kindly of her. And anyway, Lydia had to admit her own life no longer could hold up under a close examination.
With Nancy and her prying eyes and magpie mentality out of the way, though, she was safe, at least for a while.
How much had Nancy known? In her mind, Lydia went over every detail of her husband’s death, and couldn’t see where she had slipped up. No one knew of her husband’s abuse, not even Seth. When she and Seth were naked together, she’d kept the lights dimmed so any welts and bruises wouldn’t show, and if he’d inadvertently aggravated the injuries, he’d mistaken her groans of pain as moans of pleasure.
She’d vowed that the beating her husband gave her for having the affair would be the last time he’d ever hurt her. Things were okay at first after she got kicked off the job—he’d liked the idea of a slave wife—but then came the day he’d lost a big case. He’d blamed her, of course, saying that she’d never be a proper lawyer’s wife. He’d raised a hand to her. She dashed away. He caught her at the top of the stairs. She pushed. He fell down the marble steps. Cracked his head. She stared at him for a moment, wondering if she should call an ambulance—he’d probably be okay with immediate care. Instead, she sneaked out the back door, went for a run, and left him to die.
Dozens of people had seen her jogging in her fuchsia shorts and lime green top, and though she’d been questioned, the cops never suspected her. Why should they? She had an alibi and she’d always played the loving wife in public.
But Nancy had found out. Or had she? When the realtor said in that oh, so ominous voice, “I know you killed your husband,” could she have been merely fishing?
It didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered but those lovely dancing flames. Even Seth’s love had never ignited her the way the heat of the fire had.
As she’d watched the flames devour the furniture, the stone Lydia had seemed to melt and flow like lava, and suddenly she’d been awash in a volcano of molten tears. She’d never known such life. Love. Ecstasy.
She’d managed to wrest herself away from the flames and rush outside before her new love could hurt her as much as her past loves, and although she wanted to continue her enthrallment with the blaze, she couldn’t bear to be around the gawkers. What could they know of the love that now burned in her heart? Only the paltry excitement of destruction kept them riveted to the scene.
Lydia had wandered off in a daze, and hadn’t come back to herself until Zazzi had confronted her. She’d managed to hide her rapture behind cop’s eye—that cold calculating look was not something you ever forgot how to give—keeping her secret safe in her heart.
Lydia stared up at the sun, and took a deep breath. The air smelled deliciously of smoke and ashes and charcoal and burnt offerings. Is this what the Goddess smelled every day of creation? Lydia stretched, like a cat on a warm hearth, and wondered where to go from here.
Home, probably. She could no longer remember why she’d come to Rubicon Ranch. Had she come just to be near Seth? To try to get back together with him? To get even? To remove her competition? To warn his new love of his philandering ways?
It hadn’t been hard to find out about his affair with Nancy. She’d simply followed him one day when he left the sheriff’s department and seen him meet with the realtor. She’d only made an appointment with Nancy to see what Seth preferred over her, but had stayed to watch the fun when she realized Seth had met his match.
Were all men so blind they couldn’t see what was in front of their very eyes? She had deeply loved Seth, wanting only the best for him, and he had thrown her away, calling her a vituperative bitch. Yet Nancy, who didn’t love him, and who truly was a vituperative bitch, he had kept.
But now she was through with men and their incomprehensible needs. She had found something better. Something that would never let her down. Something that would forever burn in her heart.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+