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The Common Thread

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The Common Thread

  Table of Contents


  By the Author


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two


  About the Author

  Books Available From Bold Strokes Books


  Dr. Nicole Coussart and Katie Finan seem to have no common thread, but the one they discover will change both of their lives. Nic has lived a privileged life as the only child of two physicians, but she’s not happy. Her career as an ER doctor isn’t just like on TV, and she’s convinced she’ll never find a woman who lives up to her high expectations. Katie has struggled since running away from home as a teenager. Now the father of her children has been shot and the killer is after her. As these two women’s worlds become tangled, a secret is uncovered that sends Nic spinning into the arms of DEA Attorney Rae Rhodes. Rae helps Nic make decisions that redefine her life as she learns to live and laugh and love for the first time.

  The Common Thread

  Brought to you by

  eBooks from Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

  eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

  Please respect the rights of the author and do not file share.

  The Common Thread

  © 2014 By Jaime Maddox. All Rights Reserved.

  ISBN 13: 978-1-62639-248-9

  This Electronic Book is published by

  Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

  P.O. Box 249

  Valley Falls, New York 12185

  First Edition: September 2014

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.


  Editor: Shelley Thrasher

  Production Design: Stacia Seaman

  Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])

  By the Author


  The Common Thread


  So much of who I am and who we all are is completely out of our control. It’s fate, or luck, or destiny, but it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the environment into which we were born. So, I would first like to express my eternal gratitude to the God or Goddess who sent me to the right place, at the right time, and to the right family. I feel rather fortunate that it’s all turned out okay.

  It’s been a while since I’ve called Philadelphia home, and although I can still find my way to Dalessandro’s for a cheesesteak, I needed a little help with navigating the landscape of today’s Philly. Thanks to my BFF, Jim Renna, for all his help in that regard. My alpha readers are two dear friends, Nancy McLain and Margaret Pawling, so not only do they help me with my writing, they do it over lunch. My notes have been, on occasion, written on cocktail napkins. Thanks to them for their encouraging critiques. Much thanks and appreciation also to Carsen Taite for reviewing the courtroom scene to make it more realistic.

  The staff at BSB is professional and make this easy, and I would like to thank them all—Rad, Sandy Lowe, Cindy Cresap, Stacia Seaman, and everyone else for the their work on getting the design and printed pages ready to go. I had no idea in my mind about this cover, so thanks to Sheri for her vision. Most especially, thanks to Shelley Thrasher for her editing prowess. She’s like a shot of lidocaine to ease the pain.

  Finally, all my love and gratitude go to the three people who share my house and continue to tolerate me while I write and travel to faraway places in my mind. Carolyn, Jamison, and Max really rock.

  Yankee: A dedication to you could be longer than the book itself, so I’ll get to the point.

  Thanks for keeping it interesting. I love you.

  Chapter One

  Shots in the Dark

  Billy Wallace rolled off Katie Finan and let out a loud groan. A well-placed knee to the groin had him reconsidering the direction his hands had been taking. They were now off Katie’s breasts and hanging before him, a belated attempt to protect his manhood.

  “What the fuck are you doing?” Katie screamed at him, as the adrenaline coursing through her veins roused her from sleep. In the span of a single breath she was transformed from unconscious to wide-awake, an ability developed during her old days on the streets. She’d spent enough time in bad places to learn self-preservation skills like sleeping lightly and groin kicks. Predators often struck in the dark of night, coming for her money or her food, or something else. Like Billy, she often sent them away moaning in pain. Often, but not always.

  Pulling her knees to her chest, Katie flipped her head and threw her mane of black hair over her shoulder. As she leaned against the bedroom wall she studied Billy. What was she going to do about him? Placing the fifth finger of her right hand into her mouth, she began to gnaw at the nail.

  He’d knocked on her door a few nights earlier, fresh out of jail and with no place to spend the night. A year had passed since she’d last seen him, almost five since they’d last shared a bed, but how could she refuse him a place to sleep? Billy had taken her in when she was homeless, fed her and clothed her and kept her safe. He’d really asked nothing from her then, not even sex, and rarely asked for anything over the years. He usually had an ample supply of cash, every dollar illegally earned from selling drugs, and when things were going exceptionally well, he showered unwanted gifts on her and their children, trying to atone for all his inadequacies as a father and partner.

  He propped himself against the dresser, breathing deep. Even doubled over, he was a big man, almost twice her size, and his presence seemed to fill the small room. Other than the dresser supporting him, the only other piece of furniture was the double bed, its blankets now on the narrow strip of floor separating them. She understood why people feared him. If he peeked up, his face would be handsome, but his good looks hid a lot of ugliness inside. His temper was well known, and in an instant his smile could turn menacing. No one crossed Billy, except for Katie. She’d never accepted attitude from him, had demanded to be treated with respect, and to her, he’d never been anything but kind.

  Suddenly, she felt a twinge of guilt for the plans she’d been making. She’d found another apartment here in Philadelphia, more modern, in a better neighborhood, with a bigger yard for the kids and a cozy porch overlooking it. In a few days she’d sign the lease, making a move that was as spiritual as it was physical. She was leaving this life, and all she’d been here in this neighborhood, and moving on. She’d never look back. If Bill
y had been released from jail any later, he’d have come here looking for her and found the apartment vacant, or with new tenants who’d have turned him away into the night.

  Was that so wrong? They weren’t together as a couple, and he’d never been a great boyfriend or father. In fact, she’d already really left him five years earlier, when she moved out of his place. Tired of drug deals and parties, infidelity and broken promises, and wanting a better life for her children, she’d found her own apartment. It had been a big blow to his ego, but he’d been man enough to allow her to walk away without a fight, admitting to her that she was doing the right thing for their kids.

  Katie had spent the years since then gaining a confidence and independence she didn’t have when she first met him. A job as a nursing assistant at the clinic gave her an income and helped her to develop self-esteem. Her coworkers were intelligent people—physicians, nurses, x-ray technicians, business women—and they spoke and dressed and acted in a manner Katie had forgotten existed. It came back to her, though—proper English, respectful interactions, manners, and dress—and after a few months at the clinic she felt as if she’d never left home.

  Over the course of their time apart, Katie had slowly come to understand that she wasn’t in love with Billy. Now that she was beginning to understand what real love could be like, she was beginning to wonder if she’d ever really loved him at all. Billy had been good to her when she needed someone to protect and shelter her. He’d taken care of her, and she cared for him, but she now questioned whether she’d mistaken much-needed affection and attention for love.

  After leaving home and hitting the streets, Katie had never really been close to anyone. Her school friends were living lives far different from hers and couldn’t begin to understand the world beyond their clean homes and high-ranked schools, the world of violence and crime, drugs and alcohol that had become Katie’s. After Katie’s first brushes with the law, the parents of her friends had cut off the contact that had for years sustained her. At the age of fifteen, she’d found she was truly on her own.

  With her support structure gone, Katie developed new relationships. These new friends didn’t play music on the piano or field hockey after school. They didn’t study and work on school projects. They drank and did drugs together, and when she was intoxicated with one drug or another, that camaraderie was all Katie needed.

  She couldn’t even remember her first sexual encounter. She recalled getting high with a bunch of people at a party and, upon awakening the next morning, felt the telltale pain and bleeding that told her she was no longer a virgin. She’d probably been raped, and she really didn’t even care. All she wanted was to get high again.

  Over the years before she met Billy, she’d slept with a parade of men. If they shared their drugs, she’d share her body. Only after she became pregnant with her daughter did she clean up her act, realizing the responsibility growing daily within her. Wanting to become the kind of mother she’d had, she gathered all her courage and pulled herself together. Still, she remained isolated. She’d learned not to trust, and in the world in which she lived, that meant keeping to herself. Sure, she knew the parents of her children’s friends, and people at church, and her neighbors. At work, she liked everyone, and they all liked her, but none of them had ever really gotten to know her. Not until a few months ago, when Jet Fox began working at the clinic.

  Just the thought of Jet brought a smile to her face and filled her heart with happiness. Katie felt she could talk about anything and laugh about nothing with her. Jet was the first friend she’d made in fifteen years, and now Katie was beginning to develop feelings of a deeper nature, feelings that both thrilled and terrified her.

  Katie thought back to that first date with Jet. Was it only two months earlier? After an April shower caused a power outage, closing their clinic for the day, she and Jet had decided to share lunch. They talked for three hours, and Katie found her spirits flying as she rushed to the kids’ school to pick them up that day. Where had the time gone? Katie didn’t know, she only knew it was the most delightful lunch she’d ever shared, the most pleasant time she’d spent since childhood.

  Since then, Katie and her children had spent some part of every weekend with Jet, picnicking in the park and exploring Penn’s Landing, driving to Rehoboth, walking and playing Frisbee on the beach, hiking in the mountains, cooking out at Jet’s apartment, and watching movies on her television. Katie’s children, Chloe and Andre, adored Jet as much as Katie did, but lately she’d begun to understand that there was something more stirring within her than the attraction of friendship, and as she looked at Billy, she knew that something was called love.

  Katie knew that Jet was a lesbian, and Jet’s sexuality was causing Katie to reconsider everything she’d ever thought of herself. Sex had never been important to her before; it was just something she did to make other people happy. She didn’t need feelings or attraction. She’d never felt desire, until she began to lie in bed at night and imagine Jet next to her, with her mouth and hands on her body. Then, Katie lost her senses, and when she slipped her hands into her panties she found herself wet and ready. Thinking of Jet she could make herself come. She was beginning to seriously believe she might be a lesbian, too.

  “It’s fuckin’ hot!” Billy complained as he stood. Not surprisingly he’d decided to forget she’d assaulted him.

  It wasn’t really that hot, but it had rained and the humidity was high, making it seem much worse than it was. And the small apartment had no ventilation, sandwiched as it was between two others on the street, where no wayward breeze ever blew through.

  “Baby, when we get your inheritance, we should buy an air conditioner and a whole house to go with it.” He was standing in the doorway of the twelve-by-twelve-foot room, his large frame taking up an enormous amount of Katie’s personal space, and even though the lights in the room were off, the glow of the streetlight through the front window allowed her to see his smiling face.

  His comment made her uneasy, and she shifted her position to look at him, challenging him. He was smiling, attempting to charm her, but that tactic had ceased working years earlier. Katie was moving because of the inheritance. It would give her the means, for one thing. But even if she did nothing with it, just kept the money saved for her children, she couldn’t trust Billy with it. He’d stolen from her before—not actually taking her money, but borrowing it with promises to return it when things turned his way. Yet they never did turn, and she knew if she allowed him he’d spend every last penny she had.

  “Billy, you’re not getting any money from me.” It suddenly occurred to her that his release from jail might have something to do with the fact that her thirtieth birthday was just days away. That was the day Katie would receive the balance of the trust established for her when her mother died. Could he have somehow arranged to get out of jail so he could swindle her, spend this last installment like he’d spent the others? That money had been for Katie’s expenses while she was in college: enough for an apartment, food, clothing, as well as books and tuition. She’d seen little of it, though—Billy had used it for payments on a sports car that the police later confiscated.

  The judge had arranged the trust to be distributed in small amounts when she was a teen, then in larger allotments when she was in college, with the balance issued on her thirtieth birthday. Katie was never quite sure how much money was there—it was all so confusing. There was no life-insurance policy, no retirement plan, no savings. Her parents had been a struggling middle-class couple when her mom was killed, trying to pay the mortgage and Katie’s tuition at a Catholic school, car payments and cable bills and still save enough for a few days of vacation each summer at Wildwood, New Jersey. No, there was no savings. The money came from the lawsuit her father had filed against the delivery company whose truck had killed her mother. The judge, in his wisdom, had mandated the award be put into the trust, for he had concerns about her dad’s ability to keep the money safe for Katie. He had receive
d a small award, too, but the majority of the money went to Katie. When all the deductions were added up—attorney and trust-fund fees and prior payments—she no longer had any idea what was left of the three hundred thousand dollars she’d been paid to make up for the loss of the only person in the world who mattered to her. Her lawyer managed the trust for her, but she didn’t feel comfortable talking to him. Bruce Smick had been a friend of her mother, and Katie was ashamed for him to know how she’d screwed up her life. Although he obviously had her best interests in mind, it would have been far better to deal with an anonymous and uncaring stranger who had no ruler with which to measure how far she’d fallen.

  For years she’d dreamed of buying a house with her birthday money, the kind she grew up in, in a working-class neighborhood where gardens with flowers bordered every finely manicured lawn. It wouldn’t be a big house, but it would have a big kitchen, where she and her children could hover over school projects and homework. It would have three bedrooms—one for her, one for Chloe, and one for Andre. Her children needed their own rooms. They were getting too old to share such intimate space. And just maybe her friend Jet would sleep over on occasion. She hated when Jet came to this house, seeing the weathered houses and littered lawns that surrounded hers, and the people in the streets who monitored her movements as she came and went. So they spent most of their time at Jet’s apartment, in a neighborhood just a few miles and a whole world away.

  When she got her money, she’d pay a first and last month’s rent, and a security deposit. If she had the money for those fees, she would have already left this place. Soon, though, she would. Just a few more days.

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