Heart Of Evil Page 47

They were in the backyard, five days after the event in which Ashley had briefly joined her ancestors in death, convalescing in one of the giant swinging hammocks Cliff had just erected in the back. They could look out on the river as the cool breezes soothed them. It was a pleasant place to let the days go by while they were both ’’in recovery.’’

’’The very sad truth about humanity is that we\ve always known how to carry hatred through time immortal, so it seems,’’ Jake said. He gnawed on a piece of grass, just as he had when they were teens. ’’In Griffin\s case, I don\ believe that he really had any kind of gift. He would have grown up knowing more about his family\s history than anyone else we all know the little secrets of our own lives better than others. I think he was crazy, that he did just hear voices in his head. He may well have been schizophrenic. He probably showed all the signs when he was younger. It\s just that he was so functional, no one saw it. He learned all the tricks.’’ He rolled slightly to look at her. ’’His secretary said that she heard him in his office talking the day that Marty and Toby were killed. She did, too. When the police went into his office, they found out that he had a recording to play that went on for various lengths of time. That way, people would always swear that he\d been in his office because they\d heard him.’’

’’He was a CEO of a major company.’’

’’Highly functioning. Ashley, the past didn\ make him bad. The past made him self-righteous. He did believe that he was like a god, or an avenging angel, to take what he wanted because of the perceived ill that had been done to him.’’ Jake smoothed back a piece of her hair.

’’I walloped Cliff,’’ she said.

’’He\s forgiven you.’’

’’But I really love him. He\s family. How could I have been so easily fooled?’’

’’Fear for someone else you love. That\s a pretty strong motive, Ashley. Honestly, I\m getting to know Cliff really well again, and he has forgiven you.’’

She smiled. ’’So has Beth.’’

’’Beth didn\ need to forgive you. She knew that what happened wasn\ your fault.’’

’’It wouldn\ have happened if she hadn\ been here.’’

’’But that\s life. The good with the bad,’’ he told her quietly. ’’And, hey! You know, of course, that the cops found Ramsay. He wasn\ doing anything evil he was just trying to find courage in a bottle down on Bourbon Street.’’

’’Poor Ramsay. He might have been the victim.’’

’’He might have been. But, sadly, what happened worked well into Griffin\s hands. Ramsay he\d have had to have coaxed. He knew that Charles would be lured by the promise of a beautiful woman. Ram say well, until he went through this period of trauma Ramsay was a good-looking fellow. I\m glad you turned him down.’’

’’The feeling just wasn\ there,’’ she said. She shuddered. ’’I turned Griffin down once, years ago. He\d asked me to be his escort to some kind of advertisers\ function.’’

’’Thank God you turned them both down,’’ he said, his tone husky. He pulled her closer and faced her. ’’Beth is well, and Cliff is well, and I\m the one in the worst shape feel sorry for me!’’ he commanded.

She laughed. He didn\ mean it. He was full of bruises and cuts, but he didn\ seem to mind them.

Nor did he seem to mind that others were handling the press, the paperwork and all other pieces of business that had to do with the case being over. He didn\ seem to hurt too badly when they were alone at night making love, and he didn\ wince at all when she kissed his bruises.

’’You\ e thoughtful,’’ she said.

’’We still have one more piece of business,’’ he told her. He rolled off the hammock, drawing her with him.

’’Where are we going?’’

’’The cemetery,’’ he told her.

She pulled back at that, but just for a minute.

’’And we\ e going to... Oh! I see!’’

They followed the path to the Donegal tomb, but they didn\ stand in front of it. Jake led Ashley to the tomb of the long-dead World War I hero, and he and Ashley sat.

’’Emma, your husband loves you,’’ he said. ’’He loves you desperately. He loved Harold as well, and he\s grateful that Harold was there to rescue you. He knows that you held your love for him in your heart all of your life, and he knows that you were treated cruelly. He just wants to love you.’’

’’Your turn,’’ he told Ashley.

’’Marshall Donegal, you get your little ethereal backside out here! You\ e afraid to face your wife. You\ e afraid that she grew beyond her love for you, because life became so hard once you were gone. Come on, you two kids I think this is it. Your chance at...your chance at eternal happiness,’’ she added softly.

At first, nothing.

And then slowly, very slowly, and like pale illusions in the bright daylight, they both began to appear. She walked slowly from the path;he emerged from the side of the tomb.

She eased out to him.

He took a step.

They ran into one another\s arms.

In the daylight, so locked together, they faded into the sunlight.

There were tears on Ashley\s cheeks.

Jake smoothed them away. ’’Hey, they\ve found their eternal happiness,’’ he told her, lifting her chin and dusting her lips with a gentle kiss.

She smiled.

’’And I\ve found mine,’’ she told him.

Yet, as the kiss grew passionate, it was suddenly disrupted.

’’Jake!’’ Jackson called from the house. The tone of his voice was urgent.

Jake sighed. ’’Well, that\s my world now, I\m afraid.’’

She didn\ release him;she held him close for another minute.

’’Jake, your world is now my world, in so many ways.’’

They kissed again.

Jackson shouted again.


Jackson was a decent fellow. He\d just have to wait.

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