Chapter  1

 She looked up at him from the tubful of warm, frothy, peach-scented
bubbles, her
violet-blue eyes fixed on the face of the man kneeling so attentively
beside the tub.

Taking a single white rosebud from the bouquet he had brought her,
Sharon Kramer's most persistent suitor delicately settled it in the hint
of her full cleavage revealed by the thick bubbles.

"I'm so glad we got that silly misunderstanding cleared up, sweetheart,"
he murmured as
he leaned over to kiss her full lips. "But then..", he traced one finger
along the curve of her
cheek, "it's always so much fun to make up from a lover's spat."  He
brushed a light kiss
on the crown of dark red curls pinned loosely atop her head, then got
up. "I'll take care of these," he said picking up the bouquet of eleven
white roses, "then let myself out."

As he started to pull the broad white door closed, he paused to take one
last look around at the appointments of the large bathroom, things only
wealth could afford.  Things like the plush winter white carpet or the
two small Waterford crystal chandeliers that hung from the high ceiling
or the raised imported round black marble tub with three low steps
leading up to it.  Like the matching black marble counter that went
around the entire circumference of the large round bathroom.  Like the
ten graceful jade vases filled with white roses perfectly spaced at six
foot intervals on the counter, their beauty reflected in the floor to
ceiling mirrored walls.

"Just, two more things, Sharon," the tall, debonair young man
said looking at
ivory-skinned, red haired beauty lounging in the tub. "Don't ever say
"no" to me again,
and..." he felt inside his coat pocket and touched the small plastic
bag, the item it held still
vaguely warm. "...and don't ever look down your nose at anybody again.
sweetheart." Blowing a kiss to the silent girl staring at him, he drew
the door shut very

Completely unhurried the tall young man dressed in dark slacks and a
black turtleneck
sweater went noiselessly down the broad "open fan" staircase.  Exiting
out the front door,
he wasn't alarmed by the fact that the entire neighborhood was in total
darkness; not even
the moon was out.  Punching in the "set alarm" code on the security
system panel by the
door, he stepped out, then made sure that the door's dead bolt was in
place and the lock on the door itself was set.  Then he put the keys
back under the upper left hand corner broad black doormat and strolled
calmly down the front walk.

Reaching the black florist's delivery van parked at the curb, he paused
just long enough to peel off the smooth magnetic letters that spelled
out "Custom Floral Fantasies" written in flourished gold letters on both
sides of the van.  Getting into the van, Sharon Kramer's
visitor tossed both the magnetic letters and the bouquet over his
shoulder, then carefully
checked his appearance in the rear view mirror.  Throwing a final
disdainful glance at the
huge house with graceful white columns framing the double front doors,
he put the van in
gear and drove away.  In the total darkness caused by the city-wide
blackout that had
started almost two hours ago, the van, its headlights dark, vanished
into the night.


Tommie had started her vigil at ten thirty last night, sitting in the
high backed rocking chair
by the open double bedroom windows, the cheap sheer peach colored
curtains drawn back so she could see the driveway.  Even the soft, warm
summer breeze that came softly through the windows could not dispel the
fear that chilled her as she endlessly rehearsed what she knew she had
to say to Derek.  But it wasn't until five thirty the next morning that
she saw the Caprice pull into the driveway.

She knew that amorous gleam in his eye when he came into the bedroom a
few minutes
later, took her in his arms and began fondling her through the almost
sheer dark blue nylon nightgown.  She didn't know whether it was the
fear of what this man, her husband, might do to her, or her own
revulsion of her cowardice to do what she knew needed to be done that
finally unlocked her throat and let the words spill out.

"No, Derek," she said, managing to wriggle free of his grasp, and back
away. "Not right

"What did you say?" his voice was ominously soft as something "clicked'
inside him, his
brown eyes narrowed to slits as he moved toward his wife.  "Did you just
say "no" to me?"

"Y.yes I did," Tommie said, looking up at him. "I need to tell you
something." She
hesitated. "I..can't..I won't help you anymore."

Yanking his jacket off, the six foot two inch man advanced menacingly on
the frightened
woman now unwittingly backing herself against the wall. "You know what
will happen to you if you don't, don't you Tommie?"

"I don't care anymore," she shouted at him. "Anything...even jail would
be better than
this...hell.  No!  I don't care what you do to me, I won't do it any
more.  I won't! I won't!"

Black, boiling rage welled up inside the man who could have been a model
for GQ, and
ignoring his terrified young wife's screams, slammed his fist into her
face once, twice three
times.  The last hit knocked her down, but his anger was too hot, his
rage too black for him to notice that for several seconds she seemed
almost dizzy as she lay on the floor, her gown wildly askew.

"Get up!" he screamed.