Deadly Sins; Lust – Cheryl Bradshaw

Lust (n.) a passionate desire for something; a sensuous appetite regarded as sinful Cairns, Australia 3 a.m. Marissa Calhoun slid her narrow, black, four—inch heels off her feet, dangling the straps from her fingers as she walked along the wooden planks on the promenade. A week before, she had arrived in Australia to celebrate the upcoming wedding of her good friend Layla. It was her first visit “down under,” and although the night’s events hadn’t gone as planned, she’d grown to love the vibrant, laid—back feel of the city of Cairns. What had started as a group of longtime friends out for a bachelorette party had dwindled down to one, and she found herself all alone, finally. A few hours earlier, downtown had been humming with boisterous activity, people popping in and out of bars, listening to music, sharing a few laughs with friends. With exception of the screeching of bats hiding in a fragrant mango tree nearby, the streets were weary and quiet now. Most people had retired to bed, but Marissa wasn’t ready to call it a night just yet. Sleep could wait. Her conscience, on the other hand, couldn’t. It was restless, struggling with a secret she’d been keeping that charred her skin like it was being branded over and over again. Marissa didn’t like secrets. She wasn’t good at keeping them, either.

It wasn’t like her. It wasn’t how she was raised. But she’d been keeping one nonetheless, trying to convince herself that in this singular instance, deception was better than destroying the man she loved with a bitter truth she knew he’d never understand. Now in her thirties, she’d finally married, and life was much different. Evenings out with girlfriends all but ceased to exist anymore. Her husband Nick was more of a “dinner and a movie at home” guy than the “night on the town” type. He liked her to be around when he returned from work, and she’d indulged his fancy because Nick made her happy. With him, she had finally found love unlike any she’d ever experienced before. Tired of walking, Marissa sat in front of the lagoon, a beach—like swimming hole along the city’s foreshore. She dipped her toes into the cool saltwater and swirled them around, creating a small, circular whirlpool with her big toe before patting it out with the bottom of her foot.

During the day, the lagoon was brimming with families and tourists. Tonight it was hers, and hers alone. Or was it? Marissa swore she spotted a brief flurry of movement behind one of the colorful, lamp —lit trees in the distance. She blinked and stared at the area for a moment, and then shrugged, deciding it was nothing more than one of the curious—looking, long—legged birds that frequented the area. Or perhaps it had been a moment of drunken stupor, and she should have been doing what her friends were probably doing—sleeping it off. The cool chill of the evening’s spring breeze swaddled her face, and she closed her eyes, drinking in the freshness of the air. When she opened them, the same tree she’d eyed before cast a shadow in what appeared to be the shape of a person. “Hello?” she said. “Is someone there?” A tall figure stepped out from behind the tree, his face cloaked beneath a dark hoodie. Without uttering a word, the figure stumbled a bit and then took a couple steps in her direction.

Her first instinct was to panic, but as she watched him stagger toward her, she noticed something—he seemed just as drunk as she was and far too lanky to trifle over. Still … Something about him seemed off … and strangely familiar. To ease her concerns, she said, “Nice night, isn’t it?” It looked like he’d attempted a nod, but he was still too far away for her to tell. “What brings you to Cairns?” she continued. “Are you a local or just visiting the city?” The man stopped and crossed his arms in front of him. He said nothing. And this time, Marissa’s nerves kicked in. She stood, attempting to remain calm. “Well … my friends are waiting for me down the street. You have a nice night.

” The man looked over his shoulder, canvassing the establishments along the esplanade. None of their lights were on. Not a single one. He looked back at her, tilting his head to one side. They were alone. A sense of unease disturbed Marissa like a phone call in the middle of the night. The last time she’d felt that way she’d returned to her car after a movie with Nick and found a note taped to her windshield—a letter left by her jilted ex—lover, the third she’d received in a week. The note was a simple one. This isn’t over. We’re not over.

We will talk about this. Stop avoiding me. She’d looked over her shoulder for weeks afterward, feeling guilty for the reason she’d broken things off with her ex—not because they didn’t have a future together like she’d said, but because she’d met someone else, Nick, a detective in Park City, Utah. She assumed it was the reason the notes had stopped. Marissa wiped the sand from her hands onto her dress and walked away, keeping a close eye on the man as she did. For now, he made no movement. He just stood on the sidewalk as if frozen in place. She shook her head and turned. Weirdo. Footsteps slapped against the pavement, fast and hard: twenty feet, then fifteen, then ten.

He was close. Too close. Instinct kicked in, and she broke into a sprint, but before she could make it out of the lagoon, the fabric on her dress was yanked from behind, ripping. He tackled her to the ground. She grabbed at her attacker, but his strength far exceeded hers. His hand clawed into the back of her head. Grabbing a fistful of her hair, he plunged her face into the water, pressing down. Her muffled screams bubbled into the water. He held her there for a moment and then pulled her out, only to thrust her back down and pull her up again. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time she’d been jerked back out of the water that she realized her attacker was yelling.

And there it was again—familiarity. The answer to the question about what was happening and why. With her ears clogged with water, she couldn’t discern his voice, not entirely. Through panicked tears Marissa managed to snap her head back, catching the face of her attacker for a split second before uttering the last words she’d ever say before her head was plummeted into the water one final time. “I can’t believe … it’s … it’s you.” CHAPTER 2 Jackson Hole, Wyoming One hour later It had been almost a year since Cade’s college—age daughter Shelby had died, and most days, the guilt I felt still consumed me like a bottomless pit I couldn’t escape. Some days I wondered if I’d always feel that way. Other days were better, filled with brief respite, moments of happiness mixed with a splash of calm. But those precious moments were few and fleeting, like a butterfly one tried to catch, but it always got away. It wasn’t my fault that Shelby had died.

It wasn’t me who’d pulled the trigger. But a selfish man I’d once loved long ago had, and living with the realization that she’d lost her life over his need for revenge hadn’t been easy. My relationship with Cade had altered too. He was quieter now, wrapped up in thoughts and memories of Shelby that he didn’t always feel like talking about. I imagined he thought if he did, I’d feel even worse, and he was too good of a man to put me through it. And even though his love for me was without question, the lack of communication between us had created a gap I feared would never be filled. I was sitting across from Elodie. She was my shrink, a woman I hadn’t seen in a long time. At present, she had one leg crossed over the other, her hands folded in her lap over her white pencil skirt, and a grin on her face the size of Manhattan. “Sloane, did you hear me?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “What did you say again?” “What brought you in to see me today?” “I just thought it was … you know … time for us to catch up.” “All right. Anything in particular you want to talk about?” No. Yes. I don’t know. In conversations like these, difficult and full of the retching of emotions, I stumbled over my words, often feeling suffocated when I tried to release them. “I … ahh … yeah. Shelby.” I pressed my sweaty hands onto my jeans and looked away, staring at the beige wall instead, anything to avoid eye contact.

The last time I’d been there, the wall was barren. Now a rectangular black—and—white canvas print of tree branches took up almost the entire space. The branches looked bereft and hollow, the way I’d been feeling inside. The print seemed ill—suited for a shrink’s office, but I supposed she saw it differently than I did. “I see,” Elodie said. “I saw Shelby perform violin once. She was a talented young woman.” I liked Elodie. She was the kind of therapist who eased in and didn’t push. She let me say what I wanted to say and omit what I wanted to omit, which usually led to me saying more than I’d intended.

It was part of her charm, an art form she’d perfected. She waited. I attempted to string together a simple sentence. “I’ve struggled to connect to Cade the way we used to before Shelby died.” “What feels different to you?” “I don’t know. Everything. I mean, things are okay. We’re still planning our wedding, and he treats me the same way he always has. But I feel like as long as we’re still here, waiting for his house to sell, everything is a constant reminder of the daughter he lost.” “Does he talk to you about her?” I shook my head.

“We talk about everything but her.” “Do you talk to him about Shelby?” I sighed. “Not much.” “Why not?” “I’m not sure I would be able to keep it together if I did, and I don’t want him to see me like that.” “Like what?” Vulnerable. “You know,” she said, “allowing him to see you for who you are isn’t such a bad thing. Is it?” “I still have a lot of guilt over what happened, I guess.” “Have you been doing anything to work through it?” I shrugged. “I’m here. That’s something.

” “It’s a good place to start.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “Have you ever been to yoga?” Yoga? Why were we talking about yoga? “A few times.” “I’m not talking about classes on stretching.” “What other kind is there?” “There’s a man who lives in the city. Kalu Amaro. He teaches a couple of meditation classes each week. His classes are about connecting to yourself, loving yourself, learning to let go, to forgive yourself, to forgive others.” My phone buzzed inside my pocket. I ignored it.

“Would you ever consider trying something like that?” she asked. “I don’t know. Maybe?” She walked to her desk and pulled a card from a drawer, offering it to me. The front of it said Inner Yoga, Mind, Body, and Soul. My way of working through things had always been jiu—jitsu, a more hands—on, aggressive approach. Yoga seemed too quiet, a practice that would push me more into my head, not pull me out of it. I took the card and tucked it inside my pocket. My phone vibrated again. “Sorry,” I said. “I should have turned it off.

” She swished a hand through the air. “If you need to see who’s calling, go ahead.” I removed my phone and eyed it curiously. I had two missed calls from Nick Calhoun, a detective—and a man I’d been engaged to when I lived in Park City. We’d worked together to solve Shelby’s murder, and aside from a text he’d sent months ago asking how I was doing. I’d not heard from him since. He was married. I was engaged. He wouldn’t be calling unless it was important. I slung my bag over my shoulder and stood.

“I need to make a call. I’m sorry.” She seemed unfazed. “It’s all right. These things happen. I’d like to see you again. Next week?” “Let me see what I have going and get back to you. And I’ll … ahh … consider giving the meditation class a try.” She smiled. “If I can add one more thing before you go?” I nodded.

“Cade might not be talking to you about Shelby because he’s waiting for you to bring her up when you feel like you’re ready. Maybe you need to open the door and give him the chance to walk through it. Just … something to consider.” It was so simple and yet so profound at the same time. And to think it had only cost me one hundred fifty dollars to hear it.


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