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BORN TO DIE
by Lisa Jackson

Genre: Suspense, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

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Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.

Tonight, Shelly Bonaventure thought, she’d come out the loser.  Make that a loser with a capital “L”; the kind kids made with their thumb and forefinger held up to their foreheads.

She unlocked the door of her apartment, threw her purse onto the entry-way table and felt a sudden, searing pain scream through her guts.  

Gasping, she doubled over, her insides on fire.

Suddenly.

Out of the blue.

“Oooh,” she moaned as the pain subsided enough that she could stumble to the couch.  “What the hell?”

Still queasy, the pain in her abdomen slightly lessened she took in several deep breaths.  Was the pain bad enough to call 9-1-1 or should she head to the ER herself?

“Don’t be silly,” she whispered, but an uneasy feeling that something was very, very wrong stuck with her.  “Pull yourself together,” she said and kicked off her high heels.  Either she’d drunk too much, eaten the wrong thing or her period was coming a few days early.  

No way.  Not with pain like that.

She closed her eyes for a second, beads of perspiration collecting on her upper lip.  She would take some Pepto if she had it and if not, just suffer through until morning.  As she swiped at the sweat, she glanced around for her cat.  “Lana?” she said and heard no response.  Odd.  The cat usually trotted out of whatever hiding spot she’d claimed when she heard the front door’s lock spring open.

Huh.

“Lana?  Come on kitty . . .” Again she listened; again she heard nothing.  Oh, well, maybe the calico was just playing games with her and would spring out from a darkened hallway to scare the liver out of Shelly.  It had happened before.

Yet . . .

Slowly she made her way to the bathroom, nearly tripping on the rug she’d bought . . . Oh, God, had it really been seven years ago.  “Come out, come out wherever you are?” she sing-songed to the cat.  “Momma’s home.”

Clunk!

The sound came from the patio.

Startled, Shelly whirled.

Was there a shadow on the patio?

Oh, God.  Heart in her throat, she stepped forward and peered through the sliding door where she saw that the shadow was only that of a palm frond catching in the wind and dancing in front of the porch light.

“Idiot! Stop being paranoid.”    

So what was the noise . . . ?

The cat?  Where?

Her nerves still stretched a bit, Shelly convinced herself it was nothing.  Probably the old guy in the unit above hers, Bob Whatever.  He was always dropping something.

Another wave of nausea swept through her and she clenched her teeth until the pain subsided.  God, what was wrong with her?

She held onto the back of the couch, let out her breath, then glanced around the living area.  Had she lived in this one-bedroom apartment for nearly a decade, watching as the years tumbled past, the lines in her face became more pronounced and the roles she’d hoped to land slipped through her fingers?

Ever since her divorce from Cameron . . .

She wasn’t going to dwell on that piece of ancient history.  Not tonight.  A positive attitude, that’s what she needed.  And maybe something to calm her stomach.   She’d just had a little too much to drink at Lizards, the bar, named more for its clientele than any real reptile that was less than two blocks down the street.  Cutting loose, telling herself she was going to embrace the big 3-5 that was bearing down on her, she’d overindulged.

But just a bit.

Right?

How could she help it, when the guy she’d met had heard about her birthday, then bought her several mai-tais and had seemed really interested?  Really interested.  He’d been handsome and sexy and spoke in a voice so low it caused her spine to tingle a bit.  He’d almost seemed familiar and when he’d touched the back of her hand, she’d experienced a definite tingle of anticipation.  His gray eyes had been intense, striated a deep, midnight blue, his lips blade thin, the slight shading of his jaw only emphasizing how male he’d been.  And then that smile, crooked and most definitely sexy as he’d talked to her.  Yeah, he definitely had the bad boy routine down pat.  She’d even mentioned to him that he had a killer smile and he’d found that comment amusing.  He’d said he’d never heard of it described that way and chuckled deep in his throat.

She’d had fantasies of what he would look like without his shirt, how it would feel to have his lips press hot and urgent against hers, how she would tumble oh, so easily into bed with him as his strong arms caught her.   

Yeah, but you left him in the bar, didn’t you?

To come back here.  Alone.

Of course she’d walked away.  She didn’t know him from Adam.  And getting out when she did was probably a good idea, really, considering the fact that she was feeling ill and had a five o’clock wake up call that she wasn’t about to miss.  

Her agent had weaseled an audition for a role on a new drama to be aired on Fox in the fall.  The casting call was being held early tomorrow and she intended to look her best.  Better than her best.  Because if she didn’t land this role, it was over . . . well at least until she wangled her way onto Dancing With The Stars or some other reality-vehicle that would help jump start her flagging career.  

If she could just shake this lousy feeling.  Good lord, was she actually perspiring?  That wasn’t good; not good at all.

After all, this television series could be her last shot, considering Hollywood’s attitude about age.  

How depressing was that?